HabitRPG!

HabitRPG

HabitRPG is a website that allows you to turn your real life tasks and habits into a game.  You can make a list of things that you need to do every day (read one chapter of homework, go to work, go to school, etc.), and when you check it off for the day you get some experience and gold/silver for your character! If you fail to check something off on your list, you get health points taken away.

This is a great way to motivate yourself! You can even join a party to fight bosses, do quests, and make new friends. If you don’t do something on your list in that day, everyone in your party takes damage. This makes the action of not doing something even more detrimental. It’s not just affecting you!

It’s pretty awesome, and you should check it out if you like gaming and need a little more motivation to do your every day chores. They have a great community, too. There are supportive guilds for many different things–from “getting good grades” to support for mental health. It might just be the push that you need. Check it out!

365 days of photography update

February

Okay, so…here’s the update: there’s no way that I’ll finish this.

Why? Because I haven’t even started. I’m overly ambitious…until I’m not. A bunch of work stuff and school stuff has happened and I just don’t have time to look for the perfect shot. Or even an acceptable shot. So, there’s that.

I’m just not cut out for it, blog-world. Maybe another year.

My first failed project on this blog. No big deal.

Any suggestions for a new project that won’t totally stress me out? Do you have any failed projects that you’ve swept under the rug?

Valentine’s Day sugar cookies!

Valentine's Day sugar cookies

So, I tried to make these, from Lauren’s Latest. They’re basically homemade Pillsbury cookies. You know, the ones you slice out of a roll of cookie dough?

Anyway, they taste pretty good. They look a bit wonky, though. What’s love without a few bumps along the way?

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Valentine's Day sugar cookies

The ingredients are as follows:

  • 3 cups of all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 sticks of butter, cut into chunks [her recipe says cold, but I prefer room temperature]
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • dye as needed

Valentine's Day sugar cookies

  1. Stir the flour and baking powder in a small bowl; set aside.
  2. Cream sugar and butter.
  3. Add egg and vanilla to wet mixture.
  4. Incorporate dry ingredients a little at a time.
  5. Remove 2/3 of dough after you’re finished mixing.
  6. Dye the remaining 1/3 of dough red (or whatever color you want!)
  7. Roll out the colored dough until it’s approximately 1-inch thick.
  8. Cut out hearts and stack them!
  9. After you have a stack of hearts, you can get your dough that isn’t dyed and begin to cover the hearts. This is kind of tricky–I tried two different ways. First, I tried the coiled version as in the original recipe. Think “Play-Doh.” Second, I tried rolling out two portions of plain dough and wrapping it around the hearts so that it met in the middle. Really, this part is trial and error. Find what works best for you!
  10. Once you’ve covered your hearts in plain dough, wrap them in plastic wrap and set them in the fridge for at least an hour.
  11. After they’ve chilled, preheat the oven to 350°.
  12. Take them out and slice 1/2-inch rounds, placing them about an inch away from each other on a greased cookie sheet or parchment paper.
  13. Bake for 8-10 minutes, and you’re done!

Valentine's Day sugar cookies

Valentine's Day sugar cookies

I didn’t divide my dough evenly, so I had a lot of pink dough left over–no problem, though! I just made extra hearts.

I also plan on mailing some of these cookies to my boyfriend, who lives in California. I wrapped them in plain parchment paper and tied them with baker’s twine. Simple, I know, but I think they’re adorable.

Valentine's Day sugar cookies

After wrapping them in parchment paper, I put them in a plastic bag to seal them up. I’ll probably end up putting them in a plastic container, too, just to make sure they make it there safely!

Valentine's Day sugar cookies

I’ll try to remember to get him to take a picture when they get there to see how well they shipped.

Do you have any tips for mailing baked goods? Any special plans for Valentine’s Day? Let me know how you’re doing.🙂

Profiteroles–an easy and yummy Valentine’s Day snack

Profiteroles

I caught an episode of “Worst Cooks in America” on TV the other day and saw that they were making profiteroles. And, I mean…if they could make them, surely I could, right? Right. They’re easy to make, and they’re kind of super adorable. I checked out the recipe from Food Network.

Profiteroles

 

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup of flour
  • 2 eggs
  • pinch of ground cinnamon
  • ice cream
  • chocolate syrup (or make your own, if you’re up to it)
  1. Preheat oven to 425° F.
  2. Combine water, butter, and salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat and add flour to mixture; stir vigorously.
  4. Continue stirring until mixture pulls away from the pan and has combined into a lump (or a ball, whichever)
  5. Transfer mixture to a mixing bowl and allow it to cool for about 5 minutes.
  6. Beat eggs into mixture one at a time.
  7. Add cinnamon and bet until incorporated.
  8. Transfer mixture to a pastry bag and pipe 1-inch circles onto a baking sheet covered in parchment paper.
  9. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes.
  10. Allow them to cool on a rack and, when ready to serve, cut them in half and fill them with ice cream.
  11. Drizzle with chocolate syrup and you’re done!

If I change anything the next time I make them, I’d make them a bit bigger. They were pretty tiny.

You could make these as a sweet Valentine’s Day dessert. Personally, I made them to cope with the return of “The Walking Dead.” Once again, my Sunday nights will be way too stressful.

French macarons!

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I did it! After several failed batches, I finally made macarons. And they came out way better than expected.

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I checked out a lot of different recipes and found Beths’ Foolproof French Maracons recipe to be very effective. I followed her macaron recipe exactly, but I used store-bought icing as a filling. I wanted to focus on getting the meringue shells right before I started messing around with flavors.

Here are a few tips:

  • Room temperature egg whites work really well–if you forget to set some out, just put them in a bowl of warm water for five minutes. When the water is room temperature, the eggs will be too.
  • Work the egg whites and cream of tartar into a foam before you start adding the sugar and…
  • when you add the sugar, add it slowly. Add a little at a time, set the rest aside, and then beat the mixture some more. Repeat until all of the sugar is incorporated into the mix.
  • Make sure your meringue has stiff peaks before folding the dry ingredients into it.

Some of those might seem obvious to those who have thoroughly researched the art of macaron making, but they’re pretty important for beginners.

Oh, and almond flour is not just normal flour with almond flavoring and/or finely chopped almonds incorporated into it. I ruined at least two batches of macarons because I didn’t realize that almond flour is simply crushed almonds.

Which you can make at home if you can’t find at the store. Easily. Just buy almonds without any skin on them and put them in a processor. If you have to buy almonds that have skin on them, you can blanch them buy adding them to boiling water for one minute. After they’ve been in boiling water for one minute, pour them into a colander and run them under cold water. You should be able to squeeze the skin on one side and slip the almonds out, which you can then dry off before putting into a food processor.

Do you have any tips for making macarons? What are your favorite flavors?

February photo challenge & “open when…” letters!

Hi again. I’ve finally made up a picture prompt calendar to start my 365 days of photography challenge. I figured I’ll just make each month up as I go–it seems less overwhelming that way. Most of the prompts I’ve added can be interrupted in different ways–for February 1st, I used “migrating,” which could be a photo of migrating birds or, you know, maybe you’re moving soon and you’d rather capture a picture of clutter instead. I used a super cute blank calendar template from Smart School House. Feel free to use any of my ideas, or just make your own!

February

In other news, I’ve been working on some “open when…” letters for my boyfriend.  He lives in California and I live in New Jersey, so I like to send some snail mail occasionally. Who doesn’t like to get something in the mail? Especially if it’s not bills? No one, that’s who.

“Open when…” letters are pretty straightforward. There are thousands of ideas out there. Basically, I’m sending him a bunch of letters that begin with “open when…” and end with different situations. For example:

Open when…

  • you’re grumpy
  • I’m grumpy
  • you miss me
  • you’re stressed out
  • you got a bad grade
  • you’re worried about the future

They’re fun to write, and they’re a lot more personal than anything you could buy at the store. I’m hoping to finish them by Valentine’s Day. You can fill each envelope with things associated with the topic–stressed out? Add a few packing bubbles to pop, some chocolate, and anything else you think is appropriate.

Work and winter blues (and maybe some photography)

I work at a library. I love my job, and I love working with the public (most of the time, anyway).  Sometimes there just isn’t enough work, though, and that’s how I get sucked even further into the land of Pinterest.  There are so many–maybe too many–good ideas, crafts, recipes, workouts, you name it, and who knows what else to try. Today was a particularly slow day, and I’ve been entertaining the thought of challenging myself with 365 days of photography.

For Christmas, I got a camera. It’s not too fancy, it’s not a DSLR, but I like it and it takes nice enough pictures for me. I’m currently collecting a bunch of picture prompts to look at later on Pinterest.  When I have enough, I plan on organizing my own 365 days of photography prompts.  I’m hoping to start the challenge by February 1st, just in time for some cutesy Valentine pictures.

Have you ever started a 365 _____ challenge? Did you finish it, or did you lose track of it?  More often than not, I forget to participate on one day.  After that first day of forgetting my challenge, I start to slack.

“Well, if I missed one day, one more won’t hurt…”

It never gets finished.

This time, though? Maybe.