Bonus Blog

2016 Goals

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Happy 2016!

It’s hard to believe that it’s the last day of 2015. So many unexpected twists came my way, some good, some bad, and this blog happened to be one of them. (Don’t worry, it was one of the good twists.) I want to look back on 2016 in a similar way, so that’s why I’ve decided to set some New Year’s resolutions/goals. You, my readers, will help keep me accountable.

Blog Goals

I want to have better quality posts for 2016, and I think that starts with not procrastinating. To force me to write posts sooner and have more time to revise them, all posts will go up at noon Pacific Time (3 pm Eastern Time) on their respective days.

I’ve noticed that jewelry tutorial posts are pretty popular, so for 2016 I’d like to have more of them. Every third Tuesday, I will publish a new jewelry tutorial post.

I’ve also noticed that my Pintertest series is lacking a bit, so every second Friday, I will publish a new Pintertest post.

Other Goals

In 2015, I read 24 books, or an average of two a month. For Goodreads’ 2016 Reading Challenge, I’m planning to set a goal of 36 books, or an average of three a month. That way, there will be about three books in each of my Books and Beverages posts.

I’m also planning to get back into running, and I’ve set a goal of 300 miles for 2016. Let me know in the comments if you’d be interested in some occasional running bonus blogs!

Yellow Raspberry Jewelry is in need of a larger inventory, so my goal is to create and list one new item each week. I also want to re-photograph most of the current items, so I’ll plan to do two of those each week.

It looks like I’ve got my year cut out for me! I’m planning to stay on track with the help of Habitica (formerly HabitRPG), which is an app that helps keep you motivated to do things. I’ve been using it since 2014, and it turns your life into a role playing game where you earn coins by checking off tasks. With the coins, you can buy things for your avatar, or rewards for yourself in real life, like cookies. It basically turns that boring to-do list into a fun game.

What kind of goals or resolutions are you setting for 2016?

Books and Beverages

Books and Beverages (#8)

This is the last Books and Beverages of the year. During 2015 I read a total of 24 books, which surpassed my original goal of 15. I read just under 9,000 pages and it’s a miracle my wrist doesn’t ache from all that page turning. Over the months of November and December, I read four books and consumed countless mugs of tea and other beverages while doing so.

Books

The Firm by John Grisham

1001556John Grisham is one of those iconic American novelists, so I figured I’d give him a try. I hate to admit that I wasn’t all that impressed. Mitch McDeere, newlywed and fresh out of law school, gets a job offer that he can’t refuse. The firm offers to pay off all his college loans, give him a brand new luxury car, and even get him a great deal on a new mortgage, not to mention the salary that will become six figures in a few years. He works extra hard, like 100 hours a week hard, to impress his coworkers and bosses. Then one day he’s approached by an FBI agent and soon realizes that the firm isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The novel has good suspense and an interesting plot, but the characters are very flat and there is no character growth.

Dave Barry Does Japan by Dave Barry

9248249Dave Barry is a comedian that went to Japan courtesy of Random House for three weeks. In this book, he describes his experiences in a different culture in a humorous way. Although some of his jokes and point of view are a little offensive, overall the book is very entertaining. If you’ve ever been to Japan, you will understand and probably chuckle at a lot of things he says or exaggerates. It’s probably best not to read this before going to Japan because I think it’s best to experience the culture from your own perspective first.

The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

15724396I have been anticipating this book for a very long time. Like almost a whole year, I think. In some ways, it lived up to my expectations, but in others it did not. Magnus Chase is sixteen and has been living on the streets of Boston ever since his mother passed away in a fire two years ago. His uncle, who seems to have completely lost his mind, finds him and Magnus soon learns that his own father is a Norse god. One event leads to another and Magnus finds himself on a quest with an elf and a dwarf to stop the end of the world. They meet many gods and monsters along the way, befriending or making enemies of them. Sometimes this book was too much like Percy Jackson and the Olympians, but sometimes it was unique and surprising. If you like Percy Jackson, then I recommend picking up Sword of Summer.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

14This is the first of five books in the Hitchhiker’s Trilogy. The beginning of it has a tone very similar to that of Catch-22 that makes you chuckle because of how eerily similar it is to life. It opens with Arthur Dent, whose house is supposed to be demolished to make way for a new bypass. His friend, Ford Prefect, shows up to tell him that the world is going to end in about twelve minutes and that they should go and get some drinks. Meanwhile, on a planet called Damogran far far away from Earth, Zaphod Beeblebrox, President of the Imperial Galactic Government, is giving a speech. Through highly improbable random coincidences, Zaphod meets up with Arthur and Ford and some very unexpected and improbable events occur. It’s a very entertaining read and an amusing poke at all things science fiction.

Beverages

Stephen’s Peppermint Hot Cocoa

This is my favorite time of year to drink tons of hot cocoa. I especially love Stephen’s Peppermint Hot Cocoa. It tastes like liquid Christmas. I love to garnish it with whipped cream and a candy cane.

Gingerbread Spice Tea

Celestial Seasonings makes several holiday teas, but the gingerbread is my favorite. It tastes exactly like you would expect it and doesn’t need any sweetening.

Baking

Pintertest #3: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip bread

Nothing is more delicious than warm, freshly baked pumpkin bread on a cold, rainy day. I found this recipe on Pinterest, but made a few tweaks to it because some of the ingredients and directions didn’t make sense to me. It came out of the oven moist and delicious, just how pumpkin bread should be. You can view the original recipe here.

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The first thing that struck me as strange with this recipe is the long list of ingredients. There are 16 separate things that go into it and I decided to eliminate one of them. It calls for both light brown sugar and molasses, but I left out the molasses and substituted dark brown sugar instead of the light. It’ll still give it the same color and flavor and saves some time measuring out another ingredient. Another ingredient it calls for is pumpkin pie spice extract, which I didn’t want to go out and search for. I substituted a teaspoon of vanilla in its place, although the recipe implies you are supposed to put in two teaspoons. Since I wasn’t making vanilla bread, I went with just the one.

Another odd thing about this recipe was the wet and dry ingredients aren’t properly separated. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to bite into a big chunk of spice that didn’t get mixed in well, so I separated the wet and dry.

Despite these little flaws, the recipe does make some really irresistible pumpkin bread that has just the right balance of chocolate and spice. And who doesn’t love chocolate?

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp double-acting baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° and grease a 9 x 5″ loaf pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices. Set aside
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  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, egg, sugars, oil, sour cream, and vanilla.
  4. Slowly stir in the dry ingredients, being careful not to over-mix. Fold in the chocolate chips and pour the batter into the loaf pan.
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  5. Bake for 50-60 minutes until a toothpick comes out without any wet batter on it (toothpicks with just melted chocolate are fine).
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  6. Let cool for 15 minutes before removing to a cooling rack. It’s best enjoyed while still warm! Wrap any leftovers in plastic wrap.
Jewelry

Seed Bead Hoop Earrings Tutorial

I saw this particular earring design in a department store while browsing for inspiration. They looked like something I could make, so I gave it a shot. I made a pair for myself that was yellow and they turned out great. I’ve decided to share my secrets with you today, so I hope you enjoy.

Skill level: Beginner
Time: 30-45 minutes

Materials

  • 17″ of flexible beading wire, cut into 2 strands of 4″ and 2 strands of 4.5″
  • 8 crimp beads or tubes
  • 8 crimp covers
  • 10/0 seed beads, any color
  • 2 jump rings, 8mm (plus a few extra to use for stringing)
  • 2 earring hooks
  • Flat-nose pliers
  • Crimping tool

Instructions

  1. On a 4″ strand, string a crimp bead and jump ring. Go back through the crimp bead and crimp it with the crimping tool. Cover it with a crimp cover.
  2. String 1.5″ of seed beads.
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  3. String a crimp bead and jump ring. Go back through the crimp bead and a few other beads. Crimp the bead, leaving a little room on the wire to allow the beads to move. Cover it with a crimp cover.
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  4. With the pliers, open the jump rings on both ends of the strand. Remove one of them and set it aside. String the end back on the jump ring on the other end. Set aside.
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  5. Take a 4.5″ strand and follow step 1. String 2″ of seed beads and follow step 3.
  6. Remove both jump rings from the new strand. Take the shorter strand you set aside in step 4. Open the jump ring and string the new strand on either side. String an earring hook and close the jump ring.
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  7. Repeat steps 1-6 to make the second earring.
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The possibilities are endless with these earrings. You can use any color seed bead you can find. You could even shake things up a bit by using a different color for each strand. You could use any color metal as well. I find smaller seed beads work better, since they’re more flexible on the strand.

These are not yet up for sale in my shop, but let me know in the comments if you’d be interested in a pair or what color you might like.

Speaking of tutorials, if you’re ever in need of some awesome hair tutorials, Yvette is your girl. She posts weekly hair tutorials, and just finished up ten weeks of original hairstyles!

Jewelry

Christmastime is Here: 4 Christmas Ideas from Etsy

The sounds and smells of Christmas are in the air! To add to the festivities, I’m going to feature some jewelry and other cute gift idea finds on Etsy.

Christmas Charm Bracelet

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Since no one owns the rights to Christmas, I can legally sell a Christmas themed charm bracelet. Which is awesome, because I love making charm bracelets. Just like all my other charm bracelets, this one has a good balance between charms and colorful beads. It makes for a great way to celebrate Christmas in style.

Gingerbread House Earrings

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Christmastime means it’s time to decorate gingerbread houses. But maybe you don’t have the time or patience to decorate one. No worries, because you can wear gingerbread houses as earrings now! I like these earrings and the cute factor they’d bring to any seasonal outfit.

Mustache Ornament

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Photo by Lenny Mud.

Maybe you have a friend who’s really into the mustache craze. Or maybe you just want to buy a funny gag gift for your brother. Whatever the case, I think this cute ceramic ornament by Lenny Mud does the trick. Lenny Mud also has lots of cute mugs and giftable items that you should check out.

Engraved Rolling Pin

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Photo by Rolling Woods.

With this rolling pin, you can make cool designs in your Christmas cookies. It makes a perfect gift for your holiday baking friend. Rolling Woods also has lots of other cool Christmas designs in their rolling pins, and you should definitely check it out.