Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

It seems the holidays have caught up with me (and judging by my stagnant Google Reader, other bloggers too).

Merry Christmas to you - I hope you are all filled with peace, joy and love. If I could give each of you a hug, I would. *Virtual hug* And then I'd feed you a bacon cookie (which turned out pretty tasty, but super, super greasy).
Sak used his precious Slap-Chop to mince the bacon.


I used this recipe, but if you make it, add a bit more maple flavor because it cooks out a lot. If that's even a term.

Sak and I have been busy. Last weekend, Sak was baptised, and we were officially made members of our church, after attending membership classes, writing a faith statement, interviewing, and finally sharing our testimony to the congregation! (A harrowing experience for the shy, to be sure.)

I nearly cried during Sak's testimony. Which is saying a lot since I wasn't even near tears during our wedding - supposedly the most emotional time of one's life. I had been worried about him, since he had refused to prepare for his "speech", and had distracted himself the week prior to keep from worrying over it. (As you can guess - I was the one who spent the week fretting, for both our sakes.) I was especially worried since he doesn't like talking about personal matters to people other than me and maybe our Bible study. Not even to his parents, and especially not to a crowd. And one's spiritual self is a very personal thing, especially when belief in Jesus meant giving up other beliefs held since childhood.

But he was very clear with his story of how he came to realize that not all Christians were quick to tell him about his pending trip to Hell. Of how he found God's love through people that really, honestly cared about him. Of how he felt that the church we had picked out together really did feel like family to him.

I guess there's just something about a man declaring his love for the Lord with simple honesty and without reserve that really just makes me weak in the knees, because I was about to lose it. By far the best Christmas present I could witness.

The other thing we've been up to is with our Bible study group. We partnered with City Team again, who told us about Bhutanese refugees that have been steadily coming to Oakland. Due to internal conflict, they had to leave their little country, which borders India, to live in camps in Nepal. 60,000 of them have been offered a new home in the US, and about 400 of them are new residents of Oakland.

Our mission was simple - help provide the families with things they need - and to explain to them what the whole Christmas thing is about. As it is their first Christmas here, I'm sure the crazy decorations and retail madness can be quite confusing. Our family, in particular, has been here only about a year, and from that family Sak and I picked the 24 year old son. Instead of wanting videogames like a typical American boy of his age - his request was simply for a jacket or a pair of shoes. We opted for the jacket since shoes are a little more personal a fit. Sak picked it out, but I included the return receipt should he not like the style.

Anyway, we always do these sorts of "adopt-a-family" things, but I think it's especially neat when you get to know a little about the family you adopt. Makes it more personal?  There was a party held in Oakland, and several members of our group went to meet the refugees in person! Unfortunately it was a workday, so we couldn't make it.  But I hear they were all very nice, and could speak English even.  Which always makes me embarrassed.  Why is it that people (who may never come to our country at all) always know English, yet so very few of us know anything BUT English.  Or at least I don't. Bahhh.

So in any case, that's what we've been up to this season - and now we shall chill with my family for a bit! Yay! Well-stocked pantry of delicious food!

Happy holidays to you! Hope you are doing something lovely and even borderline magical!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Hello Voldy!

Get it? Get it?!

It's Voldemort...meets Hello Kitty! And instead of the typical butterflies and flowers, he's surrounded by his precious horcruxes!

Anyway, I submitted this odd-looking design to a T-shirt-a-day website, so here's hoping it gets picked - because I want a cute Voldemort shirt! I am worried that the art is too simplistic - but really - Hello Kitty is all about being simplistic - right? Or maybe that's my own rationalizing?

In any case, wish me luck!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Wanted: Unique Cookies

Three years ago, when we had first moved in together and I was feeling a bit "domestic", I went crazy and made tons of different Christmas cookies for Sak's work and my work. I did the same the following year, but not last year - as I was busy working on chair cover bags instead. And Sak's co-workers COMPLAINED!

I was touched that a bunch of engineer guys would remember cookies from a prior year, so I want to do it again this year.

I have only one, "go-to" cookie recipe, which are Spritz - basically sugar cookies, but I make it with powdered sugar rather than granulated sugar.
I really love those because they aren't too sweet, and allows me to use my cute sakura cookie cutter. (Which, sadly, is the only cookie cutter I own.)

Other than that I just pick and choose from different recipe websites, and hope for the best. In the past, I think I've done Italian Christmas cookies (round chocolate balls PACKED with spices)...
...Snickerdoodles (crowd favorite), white chocolate cranberry, peanut butter with the choco kiss on top, oatmeal raisin, ginger snap, and the standard chocolate chip.

Ginger snaps, by the way, are always the last to be eaten. For whatever reason?

Anyway, I want to mix it up again this year. Sak is on duty to recipe hunt tonight, but he tends to only pick cookies with chocolate in them. Bias!

How about a maple bacon cookie?
Something pumpkin based?
Red velvet?

One lady at church made chocolate cookies, then melted Andes chocolate mints to use as frosting. It was delicious!
I know all of you are awesome cooks - so if you could - please share your culinary creativity with this girl who only breaks out her Kitchenaid once a year! Any ideas? The weirder the better, but it should probably still taste good, I think!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas Favors

This Saturday Sak and I helped out at the Women's luncheon at church. Well, we made the programs and favors (because I love favors), and Sak helped because unlike the rest of the men at our church, he doesn't have children to watch for his wife. Plus he really likes sitting up in the A/V booth on his precious sound board. I don't blame him though, they have snacks up there.

Anyway, back to the favors!

I had 72 metal tins left over from my bulk order back in September. I copied PPG's idea of going to the Ghiradelli factory (something Sak agreed to whole-heartedly (we went to the one in San Leandro)), and came back with an assortment of chocolate squares. 250 to be exact, at 20 cents a piece. (We also came back with some other chocolate, but that was for personal consumption.)

I put three chocolates in each tin.

Then a little booklet of Christmas-related events going on at the church.

Now here comes the fun part. I bought a garland of silk pointsetta flowers at Joanne's for five dollars.
I plucked the flowers off the chain, and cut the backing off. Hot glue and one pin later, we have a flower pin!

Obviously these are super cheapy and will probably break pretty easily, but they are kind of cute and make for good filler in my tin box. Plus it was neat to see so many of the ladies wear them to church the day after! (The luncheon was on Saturday.)

Finally, the lid comes on and is wrapped up with a green ribbon and red tag. I'm not very fond of the tag design, which is our theme verse and an glitter-embossed Christmas-swirl stamp. I'm not sure why I don't like it, maybe because it's off kilter? Ah well.

We also made some programs in the form of table tent cards.

The church, early in the morning before the lights came on and people showed up!

I'm glad I found something useful to do with some of our wedding leftovers! Are you doing any holiday crafts this year?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Cosplay With My Heart

Alright, so this is ALL OVER the internet right now, but I just have to jump on board and further the sharing, because this video is epic!

(But I do have to point out that Rei's hair is not the perfect blue shade, pfft. Her hair is light blue!)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pancake Taiyaki

Okay, all that whining I did over pancakes got to me, and I went out and bought some pancake mix.
I put my taiyaki mold on our gas stove, sprayed it with a bit of PAM, and warmed it up.
We tried three different "innards" with whatever we had around the house.

First - peanut butter. Batter, peanut butter and more batter on top.
Close and cook a few minutes on each side until brownish.
So cute!
But really, no. Melted peanut butter is nasty. Never again.
Second, we used a 78% cocao bar lying around. Sak is a bitter-choco man only, so that's all we ever have.
It tasted good, but there was no sugar in either the choco or the pancake batter, so I had to dip it in fake maple syrup to make it tastier. I think milk choco would be perfect though.
And finally, I put some maple syrup directly in the fish.
Which was weird, because it cooked into the batter instead of staying liquid in a pocket. Gave the taiyaki a nice, subtle maple flavor though.
Bottom line - I need to find better fillers. What's lying around your house I could try?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Force of Pancakes

Ever since Japan and that delicious Twinkie-ized pancake of fat and sugar, I've had cravings for pancakes. Nearly every single day. It's just not right, folks.
Pancakieeeee! I miss you.

And if it wasn't for my laziness when it comes to cooking, and the fact that frozen pancakes are usually soggy and not so tasty, I'd probably be up 20 pounds instead of the five I've gained post-Japan.

And then look!

I don't know what's more random - the fact that there is Vader shaped molds, or the fact that it's Williams-Sonoma selling them. They both blow my mind.

Anyway, there's no way Sak would let me get them. I'm a kitchen gadget collector who doesn't cook.

I bought frozen mini pancakes a while back thinking it was pancake minus all the calories since I would obviously only take a few to work at a time to prevent overeating. But mini pancakes just aren't the same, there's not enough pancake flavor/fluffiness/magic in the little things! So I fed them all to Sak's brother when he was here. He didn't mind.

I think I just have to go with making them myself. And when I say by myself I mean from a pancake mix box.  Do you think I could cook pancake mix in my taiyaki mold? Sak's a little peeved at me for buying it in L.A., making him check his luggage just because of my giant pan, and then not using it once. Ehh..
(source) Same pan that I have!
I think it'll work. Then I can fill it with maple syrup and butter! Or nutella! Or bananas and melty choco! Mmmm.

Custard flavor!

How do you like your pancakes?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Craft Room: Clean and Tidy

Dude. I cleaned my room!

(Demotivational Poster says "Blogging: Never before have so many people with so little to say said so much to so many")


It took awhile, but it's so much better than before. All my crafts are organized! I made myself a guide for easy reference. Or a map for potential thieves to easily find the expensive crafts. (Pro tip: Go for the button maker. $$$)

Now, I'm not totally finished. I have several drawers of "action figures" that I don't know what to do with. I think I'll just leave them there until we move somewhere bigger, then I'll get some display cases?

I also have a makeup and jewelry drawer I need to go through, and I'd like to fix up my "ribbon and stringy things" drawer a little nicer. Oh! And I need to put more posters and art up on the walls. It looks sad and uninspiring as is.

Likewise, Sak has three boxes, one bin, one basket and one drawer of "cords, controllers and CDs" to organize. He hoards media and electronics like I hoard, well, everything else.
Some of his "stuff". Though I admit the Star Wars CDs are mine, I'm uh, "gifting" them to him.
In any case, I'm excited that the house is (mostly) clean. This means I can do projects again!

How long does your house stay clean after a good scrubbing? I think we average about a week. Sad!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Greetings, not Gratings!

It's funny, I think the biggest change I've seen in myself over the last year is the ability to "bite the bullet and decide". I used to be notorious for never finishing anything I started, simple because I was never satisfied and could always think of ways for the item (whatever it was) to be improved.

Thanks to too-much-responsibility-at-work and wedding-planning, old Penga is no longer! Now I finish said item, and if it's not the best - well, at least it's something rather than nothing. I'll consider it a character improvement to not be as wishy-washy.

That said, here is the design for my slightly random Christmas postcards. (Postcards, because I am cheap.)
Get it? Get it?

It's uh, a holiday food pyramid/Christmas tree. My favorite is the yams since it's kinda creepy looking and has something of a poop shape. Plus I love yams. Candied yams. Mmmm.

I tried to think of classic holiday type foods, but I'm sure I've forgotten some. Did I encompass your favorite? And the green and yellow rectangles are green bean and corn casseroles. I just had to point that out because it's hard to draw a casserole and I think they look kinda whack.

On the back it says "Season's Gr-eat-ings", which Sak says no one will understand because they will pronounce it like "gratings" instead of "greetings". Whatever!
Anyway, I ordered them nearly free from Vistaprint. I just paid the ~3ish dollars for uploading my own design, and the cost of shipping. A total of ~10 dollars for 100 postcards. Yay!

I frakked up though, and made the image too small, so the actual size on the postcard probably won't be very impressive. Ah well. I just hope they don't come out too pixelly. The preview screen in Vistaprint always bugs me because it makes the image look more pixelated than it actually is. And considering I uploaded a full-fledged photoshop file and not some compressed Jpeg means any lacking quality is not my fault. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Anyway, anyone want a postcard? (If I already have your address you can just assume you'll be getting one. Unless you don't want my cheap postcard. We have an opt out program, no worries.)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Star Wars Pop-Up Cards

Last time we spoke a little about Christmas cards, and I'm still no where near close to an idea yet. Boo.

It also doesn't help when there's amazing, AMAZING cards like this out there:

Star Wars pop-ups! And you can get free templates from here. All ready to color and everything!
Boba Fett!
A Jawa. Sak was one for Halloween as a kid once.
What? Star Wars not your thing? (Of course it is, denier.) Well the master-pop-up-creator also has other types of cards, like this lovely lotus flower:

Or a crazy shark:

And many others!

Though I will definitely be making some of Robert Sabuda's awesome cards, I think they are bit too intensive for mass-produced Christmas cards. So the hunt continues!

Did you like pop-up books as a kid? I used to ruin mine by playing with the paper pieces too much. :P