Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Teacher Appreciation Day

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My career is in the field of education--and I work with really wonderful teachers!  Today is teacher appreciation day (part of Teacher Appreciation Week).  In my department, we "try" to not do edible items and since there are so many teachers, we keep it really low cost.  We are giving our teachers a highlighter with this little tag at our staff meeting.  If you have a great teacher who needs an extra "thank you"--maybe this will work for you too!  Actually, the tags are generic enough that it works for lots of other people too!

Sincere thanks, no matter how simply given, are always appreciated!

To grab the full size file, click the link and look for the file named Highlight Tag.
Download File HERE

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Appreciation Marquee for Administrative Assistant Day

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Marquee clip art found here.  Font is Rockwell Extra Bold


This week is designated as Administrative Professional's week (formerly known as Secretary's week).  As a thank you to the many wonderful folks in my office who help me get my job done, I wanted to take in a small gift and note.  I thought I'd print up these theater marquee style notes, sign a quick thank you and attach them to a bag of microwave popcorn.  Could work for teacher appreciation week, boss's day or any other thank you!  You could add it to a large tub and make it a movie night gift too.

To grab the file (4 cards on a sheet), just click and look for the file titled Appreciation Marquee



Sunday, April 24, 2016

Thai Mango Sticky Rice

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If you like Thai food as I do, then for sure you've ordered the sweet mango sticky rice as a tasty dessert. Never tried mango sticky rice?  Do you like rice pudding? Then you will like this. It isn't terribly difficult, but it does take some time to prep. If you have an Asian grocery, head there to pick up the rice and the coconut milk (it will cost less and be more authentic).



To serve 2-4 people

1 c. Thai sweet sticky rice (glutinous rice)
2/3 c. Coconut milk (full fat variety)
1/2 c. Sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2-3 ripe mangoes


1. Start by rinsing the dry rice. Place the rice in a bowl and cover with water, swish with your hand til water is cloudy with starch, then drain and repeat 4-5 times until water stays pretty clear. This rice just smells so delicious--a nutty, sweet smell.  I bought mine at the Asian market because my grocery store didn't have it.  Its really different than regular long grain rice (or minute rice)--so look for the real deal. 

2. Soak the rice in water for at least 4 hours, but overnight is better. 

3. Drain the soaked rice and cook it. You can do it on the stovetop like regular rice, use a rice cooker, or go authentic by steaming the rice. I used my pressure cooker and put the rice in a flour dish towel on top of the steam tray. I steamed it for 17 minutes, but wish I had gone a bit longer since my rice was still a bit al dente. I saw some online suggestions on using your frying spatter screen as the steam tray and put the rice directly on it (and then cover with an inverted bowl). I don't have a splatter screen, but it looked like a less messy option than the dishtowel method.

4. Make the sweet coconut sauce. While the rice is steaming, mix the coconut milk, sugar and salt in a saucepan and bring to a low simmer. You just want it to dissolve all the sugar--you don't want to reduce or thicken the sauce.  Turn off heat and wait for rice to finish.

5. As soon as the rice is cooked, quickly transfer the hot rice to a bowl and pour the warm coconut sauce over it and stir. It will look really runny, but the hot rice will absorb the sauce.

6. After about 35 minutes, the rice will be thick and ready to be topped with fresh, sliced mangoes.  You can take a bit of extra coconut milk and sweeten it and drizzle it over the top.



 

I prefer the ataulfo (honey) mango, but the red mango tastes great too!

 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Aloha-My Top Oahu Vacay Tips

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Hawaii is a great place.  I spent a semester in college attending school on the North Shore of Oahu taking classes like Marine Biology, Pacific Natural History and Hula!  Hard to believe that I let over 20 years go by before I returned to paradise.  Fortunately for me, I had some good friends move to Oahu and gave me a standing invitation to visit and stay with them--so I did, 3 years in a row!

Oahu is the most populated of the Hawaiian islands, but there are so many great things to see and do there!  Everything in Hawaii has a "just go with it" feel, so most of the time I'd get up in the morning and decide what I felt like doing, and then doing it (Hint, most of the time it included the beach).

Here are some of my favorite things.

Beaches

In general beaches are crazy busy on weekends and quiet during the week, so plan accordingly.

Kaiona Beach Park-This awesome beach park was never busy when I visited (weekday) and it has a parking lot as well as restrooms and showers for rinsing off.  Its on the east side of the island, near Makapu'u lighthouse and Waimanolo.  I've also had great luck picking up sea glass here.  At low tide, there are a couple of tide pools that are perfect for bobbing around in.   Are you a fan of Magnum PI? The house used as the "Master's Estate" is about 3 houses down the beach. 





Kailua/Lanikai beach--My favorite beach on all of Oahu.  The sand is so, so soft.  The water is clear and calm.  I can just sit and stare at the water all day (and I did).  Kailua Beach Park has a couple different parking lots, picnic tables and restrooms.  You can also rent kayaks here.  Lanikai is about 1/2 mile up the road, and also very, very nice--just no services and you have to park in the neighborhood.  The town of Kailua has a really nice shopping center where you can grab lunch at FatBoys or Teddy Burger, stop at Target for bottled water or postcards (and mail them from the post office right next door).  Kailua is super nice and not nearly as crowded as Honolulu beaches since so many tourists never leave Waikiki.





Water Sports

SUP Yoga with Yoga Kai-This was one of my favorite activities all week!  I took the sunset class at Ala Moana Park (near Waikiki, giant free parking lot conveniently nearby).  The beach park was pretty busy, so it wasn't your usually contemplative yoga session, but the sunset was really nice! (And as a bonus, there will probably be several weddings on the shore while you are there).  The morning class looks like it might be nice too.  I highly recommend this company and the activity!  They provided all the equipment and took photos for us too.

 


Surfing lessons--This is a blast.  I've done it twice and really enjoyed it both times.  My first visit, I used Kai Sallas Surf Pro, which is located in the Marriott lobby at Waikiki.  They provided the board, quick transport to a spot off of Waikiki that was not crowded, as well as a long sleeve rashguard and water shoes.  They had a photographer who was in the water with us.  My group had 5 people in it and I managed to get up and surfing by my second try!  They were a bit spendy, but I loved my photos and my experience.  This trip I did a Groupon with Big Wave Dave, also on Waikiki.  Even though it was a group lesson, I was the only person scheduled for that time (as a bonus, my instructor did all the paddling out for me; he just hooked his foot on my board and towed me out to the wave spot).  I had to provide my own rashguard and shoes (and I wore capri length swim/gym tights--you will be really glad you did).  BWD also had a photographer, but he stayed on the beach and used a long lens--he did shoot video too, but I prefer the photos I got from Kai Sallas.  Next time I go, I'm headed to Costco to buy the $100 surfboard and just go out whenever I want! I promise you'll want to cover up your skin for this adventure--not only for sun protection, but to keep your skin from being rubbed raw by the grippy board and sand.




Stand Up Paddle Boarding-  I did lessons from 3 Friends SUP during my first visit- really great instructor, GoPro attached to your board and a great afternoon.  For my most recent trip, I had arranged for a lesson/rental from another company...and they never showed up (Groupon made it right for me)--and while I was waiting on the beach for the no-show company, I met Matt from Paddle Core Fitness--and I joined their group for their afternoon session.  Paddle boarding is a serious core/arm workout--but I did get to see 2 sea turtles during my paddle time!  If all you want to do is paddle around quiet water, you could arrange for rentals from Aloha SUP Club--they will bring the boards to you at Ala Moana Park and pick them back up and they have good reviews online (and they promptly replied to my text when checking on rentals, sadly they don't do Mondays so it didn't work for my schedule). 




Hanauma Bay snorkeling-It will cost you about $10 (more if you need to rent equipment), but its a convenient and safe place for snorkeling.  Its a really popular place, so you need to plan on getting to the parking lot before 9am or you probably won't get a spot.  I enjoyed watching the sunrise here (I was there at 7am).

Hikes and Views

Makapu'u Lighthouse trail-Get up early and do this hike.  Its paved, 2 miles roundtrip--I've seen folks with strollers on it, but you'd want to be careful not to let the stroller escape!  In the winter/spring you can see whales.  The lighthouse is really pretty and the view of the ocean is great.  Fun fact, you will find cactus growing here--its a windy and dry spot, so the cactus do well.  Do this hike in the morning, then drive the mile or so down the road to Kaiona Beach to swim and relax!

The most popular is probably Diamond Head Hike, you get a great view of Honolulu at the top, but its a pretty brisk uphill hike with no shade and LOTS of tourists.  You have to pay to park and its $1 to do the hike.  As an alternative--drive up to Punchbowl Cemetery of the Pacific; in addition to the many military graves, it has a super view.  You could also drive all the way up to Tantalus Round Top for a great view with no hike required.

Another scenic spot is Pali Lookout (on the way to Kailua)--you have to pay to park there too, but you'll probably only be there 15-20 minutes, so its a cheap thrill.


Manoa Falls Hike-A fairly short hike near the Lyon Arboretum near Honolulu.  Pay $5 for parking (but there is an attendant, so that makes it nice for security).  You will want insect repellent and shoes that you don't mind getting muddy.
 


Places to Visit

Kamaka Ukelele factory tour.  This family owned company has been making ukuleles for 100 years.  Uncle Fred, the original owner's son is your 91-years-young tour guide (and he's awesome).  Its daily at 10:30am and free--but get there about 20 minutes early because there are only 5 parking spots in front of the store (Note:  The company is going to be moving locations summer of 2016, so check the website for details).



Pearl Harbor-This is a must do.  You make reservations to go out to the USS Arizona Memorial.  It will cost you $1.50 to make the reservations online (its near the Aloha Stadium swap meet, so maybe plan it for the same day)

Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center cultural activities--This is a fancy shopping mall right on Waikiki, but in addition to the high end stores, they offer free cultural classes every weekday.  Hula and ukulele lessons, and lei making (my favorite) and others.


Dole Pineapple Plantation-If you are either driving back from the North Shore or have been out at Pearl Harbor area, the plantation is a good side trip.  There are gardens where you can see real pineapple growing and some fun photo ops.  You can pay to go through a maze or take a train ride (but I've never done that).  I did however go into the store and get a Dole Whip and eat it on the porch.



Aloha Stadium Swap Meet-This is where you buy the cheap souvenirs for the peeps at home who are jealous that you are in paradise.  Its only open Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.  It costs $1 per person.  All the kitchsy stuff you see at the ABC stores all around Waikiki probably buy their stuff here and then mark it up.  I bought my Hawaiian "slippahs" here as well as plumeria hair clips, swim sarong, fabric, canvas purse and charms for my bracelet AND a ukulele.  They sell T-shirts too, 7 for $20.  Wear a hat and sunscreen, bring a shopping bag and a bottle of water.  The vendors are set up all around the outside of the stadium and you'll notice a mix of "the same stuff" type booths along with some unique local craftsman.  I spent about 90 minutes here and had seen it all/enough.  


North Shore- There are lots of great places to stop on the North Shore.  If you are there in the winter you can watch giant waves and adventurous surfers at Waimea Bay (in the summer there are no waves and its a giant bathtub for swimming).  Laie is a small town that has the Polynesian Culture Center (PCC for short), BYU-Hawaii and the LDS Hawaii Temple. I visited the PCC this trip; my Alamo rental car magazine that I got for free on the shuttle bus from the airport had a coupon for 1 free entrance.  I visited some of the villages and watched the shows and did some of the crafts.  I watched the longboat dance show and called it a day (there is a big luau night show too).  I went to BYU-H for part of my studies, so it was fun to visit the campus again.  The LDS temple is the first non-Utah temple that the LDS church completed.


 



Misc

Shave Ice- My personal favorite spot is near to Hawaii Kai/Honolulu--Uncle Clay's House of Pure Aloha.  They make all their own syrups (you must try lilikoi and pineapple) and ice cream.  If you are on the North Shore, stop at Matsumotos in Haleiwa--probably a long line, but its tasty stuff.

Costco-You know how much you like Costco at home?  Here too (and you won't get out the door without spending $100 here either).  Its perfect for buying stuff to take home like macadamia nut treats, but its also good for buying things like swimwear, rashguards and even surfboards!  Be sure to walk through the back deli/meat section--SOOOO different than what my local Costco carries (poi, sushi, haupia cake, dried squid). I also bought some large Costco shopping bags, which are decorated with Hawaiian designs.  I think there are 2 stores on Oahu, but I've only been to the one at Hawaii Kai (near Hanauma Bay) which is east of Waikiki.



Where to stay?  

I stayed with friends, in a great house in a neighborhood near Diamond Head called Kahala-so I ate at home most of the time and walked to the beach. Waikiki is the most famous section of Honolulu, but parking is HORRIBLE (expensive and hard to find--see more below).  If you can rent a condo, I'd recommend the areas of Kahala, Hawaii Kai, Diamond Head, Kailua or Laie on the North Shore).  I haven't had a chance to explore the part of the island called Koolina, which is where the Disney Resort is located, but my friends with small children love it.  

Renting a car

Yes, do it!  All the fun places are only accessible by car.  However, if you are staying in a downtown Honolulu hotel, parking will be outrageously expensive (like $30 a night or more).  I have had great luck renting through Costco.  About 8 weeks before my trip, I get on Costcotravel.com and make my reservation.  Then pretty much every day I check to see if there are better rates--and usually the cost keeps dropping for 2-3 weeks.  I've never paid more than $160 for a full week (that includes all fees and an extra driver if you need it).  The nice thing about Costco is you don't have to pay for your reservation, so each time I found a better rate I made a new reservation and then cancelled the old one.  FYI Hawaii has a law that drivers can't even hold their cell phone while driving. 

Parking

As I mentioned, Honolulu is impossible!  Predatory towing is a real problem--so if a sign says no parking, or the hours are posted when not to park, then don't!  I watched 3 tow trucks hook up cars about 2 minutes past the posted time.  I have always parked at the Waikiki Shell or on the street Monsarrat--its free during the day (no overnight).  You can park at the Honolulu Zoo for $1 an hour.  I hear that the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center validates parking, so that might be an option.  If you are outside of Honolulu, things get better.  The beach parks have parking lots or you can park along the highway.

Books I've used in the past for planning

Oahu Revealed
Oahu Top 10


Aloha my friends...go to Hawaii! Relax and ignore your email and phone--you won't be sorry!












Monday, March 14, 2016

Happy Pi Day!

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My day job is all about science and math...so of course I'm going to celebrate Pi Day (and if you consider that 3.14159 rounds to 3.1416, then hooray! Today is 3/14/16).

My good friend introduced me to Pizza Limone and a tasty pizza pie made with prosciutto and blackberry. I already know I like ham and pineapple (and pepperoni and pineapple)-and I like this one even more!
 
 I made the dough using the 60-minute bread dough recipe this morning before work and left it in the fridge. After work, I divided it into 3 balls and made 3 "pi"s. For the first pie I used olive oil as the sauce. The second pizza I used bottled marinara sauce. The last pizza I made with some pepperoni and pineapple. My favorite was the olive oil one, with the super-thin crust.
 
 I baked it at 475 on my pre-heated pizza stone for about 8 minutes (keep an eye on it if the crust is really thin). Dust the bottom of the crust and the baking pan with cornmeal to prevent sticking. I didn't have any fresh basil, but it would be delicious to put on after you take the pizza out of the oven.

Dough
2 1/4 c. flour
3/4 T. instant yeast
3/4 T. salt
1 1/2 T. vegetable oil
1 c. hot water
Cornmeal for dusting under the crust

Mix all the dry ingredients together in the KitchenAid, then add the liquid. Mix it up still it forms a wet, sticky dough. Let it rise on the counter for about 45 minute (or like me, in the fridge for 8 hours).

Toppings 1 oz Prosciutto per pizza
Olive oil and garlic (or marinara sauce)




Mozzarella cheese Blackberries (tossed with a bit of sugar)

Monday, March 7, 2016

Magical T-Shirt Makeover

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I love Disney-especially princesses, so I'm not sure why it took me so long to see the Cinderella remake last year.  Anyway, I finally got around to seeing it and loved it (ah, that ballgown!)  It was then that I discovered that Kohl's and the LC Conrad clothing line had some Cinderella inspired clothes--but it was too late to find anything but a few clearance items at my store. I really wanted this adorable graphic t-shirt, but there were none to be had. So, I took it as an opportunity to break out the Silhouette cutter and re-learn how to use it, and try heat transfer vinyl.

Inspiration T-shirt
Inspiration T-shirt from Kohls
I chose Ballerina Script.  I bought a 100% cotton tee (the vinyl works on poly/cotton too) and shiny gold Siser EasyWeed heat transfer vinyl.

Decide on the size of the graphic, pick your font (you can use a picture too) and type it up in Silhouette software.  Get it sized the way you like and then use the Mirror feature to reverse your graphic (super important, otherwise your letters will be backwards when you go to iron it on).



Set up your vinyl in the cutter. I set the cut settings for a blue blade (because that is what I have), speed 5 and depth of 24.  I did a test cut with depth 20 and it wasn't quite right and 22 seemed ok--but 24 worked just perfectly.  I used Expressions Vinyl's info sheet to figure out settings.

The vinyl has a clear transfer sheet over the finished face of the vinyl.  On my shiny gold, the back was a less shiny silver color.  I loaded the vinyl gold side down, then let the machine do its job.

Gold side down


Silver side was the back

You'll have to pull away or weed the unwanted vinyl.  Weed slowly, especially if you choose a text or design with lots of curves or small pieces.  You'll probably want a weeding tool (looks like a dental pick) to get at the small bits inside letters.  It took me about 30 minutes to weed the design.

I don't have a big heat press, just my regular Rowenta iron.  The Wool setting is supposed to be around 300 degrees.  The vinyl manufacturer recommends 305-320 for proper adhesion.  I used a laser thermometer to check the temperature of the iron surface (about 315 when I pushed the dial a smidge past "wool").  I pressed down hard for 15 seconds on each section.  My ironing board does not have a padded cover, so I just used the board--but video tutorials I watched suggested using a hard table or board under the iron.  Spend plenty of time with a ruler planning the placement of your decal.  Iron out your shirt before you adhere the vinyl--also make sure there are no fuzzies, specks, hairs etc... on the shirt. 








 I used a teflon sheet between my vinyl and the iron, but I hear parchment paper works too.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Cheater Faux Pallet Wall

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I have way too many "inspiration rooms" pinned to my boards for my bedroom.  I really like the idea of a dark accent wall behind my bed--but I've been really enamored of the rustic/modern look of weathered barn wood (I've been re-working my living room and I've built an industrial shelf with lumber and plumbing fittings, post coming eventually).  I also know I'm a commitment-phobe when it comes to decorating. Maybe its more like a short attention span for trends. My last bedroom update resulted in cute wall vinyl decoration.
 

At any rate, I was leaning toward paint since I know I can change it out really easily, as opposed to nailed-on boards.  And then I saw this bulletin board paper at JoAnn Fabric (in the "kids craft" section).

http://www.joann.com/busy-kids-learning-fadeless-designs-weathered-wood/10795243.html#q=wood+paper&start=33
JoAnn

The ideas started flowing.  The paper comes in a roll 12 feet x 4 feet and was only 7.99--if you use your 40% off coupon, it was only $5 a roll including tax.  Bargain!  I might have preferred a darker color wood, but on the plus side, this weathered color blends nicely with the rest of the paint in my room.

I measured my wall 10.5 feet across and its vaulted, so 89.5 inches on one end and 100 inches on the other.  Math was required for this project.  I calculated the rise/run of the slope of my ceiling and found that I needed to slope 4.25 inches for every 4 feet.  I needed 2 rolls of paper, so I opened them both and lined up the "boards" and used a long straight-edge to draw the angle and cut the top of the paper.



I used painters tape and clear thumbtacks to hold up the top while I used a level to make sure things weren't all skiwampus.  Once I got the first sheet up, I tacked up the 2nd sheet and carefully matched all the seams of the boards and smoothed it up on the wall.  I used more painters tape behind the paper.

I cheated behind the headboard--the paper only goes down about 8 inches behind the bed.  That left me with enough of the roll of paper to do the last bit of wall (since the wall is 10 feet and the paper combined to make 8 feet).  I overlapped the paper and once again lined up the boards and tacked it up.

So, for a couple hours total (that includes measuring, math calculations, furniture moving and pinning/taping) I've got a pretty good facsimile of a pallet wall.  I bought two rolls of paper (check that both are in the same dye lot), so I only spent $10 and I still have paper left over-enough for a "headboard" for a twin size bed maybe.