Sunday, February 15, 2015

Funky Cheese Madonna or How I Used a Candy Mould to Shape Cheese... Like a Boss

What the heck?

Many years ago when Eric and I went on our very first overnight trip together we spent three weeks traveling around the Czech Republic in a rented Skoda Fabia. (yup)

Neato thing: I never noticed the reflection of a human man walking hand-in-hand with a bear cub in Eric's sunglasses before this filter was applied.  Why the filter? Ask the self-proclaimed poopy face (right).  

Of course this economy model didn't have a way to plug an iPod into the stereo, so we listened to Czech radio stations and of course there were the occasional English-language pop songs played... over and over.  Like radio stations do with pop songs. There was one that really sounded like the chorus (and title) had to be "Funky Cheese Madonna."  We learned on one of our last days in country that it was actually something like "she thinks that she's Madonna" ("She's Madonna" by Robbie Williams).

Sooooooooo, I decided to try to make a Funky Cheese Madonna for Eric for Valentine's Day.  Now what?  Well, I found a Virgin Mary chocolate mould on Ebay (like ya' do) and ordered that up in, like, October or November.  What can I say, I'm a planner.  Or prefer to be, anyway.

Then I set about to find Eric's favorite cheese, Cambozola, in Missoula or the Bitterroot.  Not so easy. This is a cheese you can get at Fred Meyer in our old neighborhood in Portland, but Toto, we're not in Portland anymore.  So every different grocery or super market I was in I would stalk the cheese section to no avail. Then I remembered that there was a wine/cheese type shop in downtown Missoula that we'd been recommended for wine.  So I looked them up on the magical interwebz, found their website and emailed their "contact us" address asking if they carried it and if not, is it something I could order.  Well, lo and behold, they replied on a weekend night! And yes they had Cambazola!  WOO!  So I went the pre-Valentine's Day Monday morning after hand therapy and bought two wedges.

I packed them in a brown paper bag and hid them in the back of the "extra" fridge in the top shelf shadows.  Then on the pre-Valentine's Day Thursday, I brought them out in the morning to warm/soften.  After they were what I thought was soft enough, I got out the mold, washed & dried it, and set about packing that funky cheese into Madonna. As it were.

I was able to get both moulds filled with one wedge with just a little extra. For the most part I removed the rind, but there's a little in there for flavor and for lack of interest in fussing with it too-too much.

When they were filled, I double checked for voids on what would be the top surface, filled any I could, then wiped most of the smeared cheese off the non-Madonna part of the mould.  Then I covered that with parchment paper, put the whole thing in a freezer bag and hid it in the crisper in the "extra" fridge.

I let it chill for many hours... like 24-ish... then I was able to pop/coax them out onto a serving stand (a wooden sushi server in this case) and re-refrigerate them until gift giving time. I am sure just a few hours would have been enough, but that didn't work for my secretive schedule.

I am so pleased with how they turned out!  First, that they turned out at all and second that they look like slightly crumbly and mossy old marble.  I had to include a shot that better shows the relief, just because.

Speaking of planning, sometime in early 2014 I was shown this material and I knew I had to make Eric boxer shorts out of it for Valentine's Day.  And luckily, I had reorganized the office/studio in November so one of the moms could stay in there over Thanksgiving weekend. I found the material and remembered/realized why I had it.

  This was also a nice backup should the Funky Cheese Madonna fail.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Funny Valentines

As far as post-worthy things going on here on the side of the mountain, their just hasn't been much.  In one of those household accidents you here about, I ended up breaking my right hand so I am busy recovering from that which includes hand therapy and a splint.  It's a time consuming process both because if I did the exercises as prescribed I'd be looking at 5-6 hours/day of that and because with my right hand limited everything takes longer - including typing*.  All that said, I did manage to dig up most of the Valentine's Day decorations and throw them up!

Mavis is sporting the arrow antlers I made her last year, but has added some bling!  She needed the extra bling, because this year the weather has been decidedly Portland-esque: rainy and overcast (as much as that can be accomplished here).  I bring this up because the dark sky and my skill level with the camera combine to make the shot dark and grainy, but at least that's pretty much what it is like in real life.

Ramon: King of Hearts, Baby!  He gets the overly bright flash treatment.  I really need a reflector for my indoor photo-taking. I say "photo-taking," because "photography" sounds too advanced.

Last year, I received this sparkly piece of awesome in the mail!  This year it hangs in the main floor bath.

I did a Valentine's Swap with some crafty friends last year, too, and got this super-cute mailbox! It's on a shelf in the kitchen this year.

And this adorably charming little nosegay!  Someday I'll find the perfect little sweet thing to put in it for display. Something dogs won't care about.  

 I also received a lovely embroidered tote that I use all year as my reusable shopping bag for the craft store.  SO much love!  I made a Valentine bunting last year, but don't really feel like climbing up the loft ladder with 1.5 hands to retrieve it or on a step stool to hang it.

Despite my limitations, I was able to manage some making for my own Valentine and hopefully I can get some pictures to share that with you after they're received by my Valentine.  For one gift I have assembled the materials, but still haven't attempted the "construction."  This project is uncharted territory, perhaps for anyone. I could not find any information on the interwebz about how to do this with the greatest chance at success.  I hope that means that no one has bothered to try or share, rather than there is little chance at success.

*This entry may be even worse for typos than usual.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Wildlife Watch X

I'm not sure if there are more critters now that there's snow, if they're just easier to see, or if they're just more striking against the mostly white background.  It doesn't much matter, because I'm happy to be seeing them.

Dec 27: Three of the four* does ("doughs," not "duz") walking through the forest behind our woodpile.

Dec. 28: One of the three types of woodpecker we see pretty regularly, this time working the suet in the pouring down snow.

Dec 29: Go home, Bird, you're drunk.

Dec 29: The elk herd that warrants big lighted signs warning us to "WATCH FOR WILDLIFE" on HWY 93.
(I was the passenger in the car when this photo was taken.)

Pretty sure that's a white-tail deer doe butt there under the 3.

Friday, December 26, 2014

A White Christmas After All!

It was really starting to look like we'd have a brown and grey Christmas.  The weather has been really Portland-esque here in the Bitterroot lately. And while that doesn't get me down viscerally, it bums me out on the surface, because I didn't move to Montana to NOT have a white Christmas, ya' know?  BUT. Guess what we woke up to on Christmas morning... SNOW!  Yes indeed, we got our white Christmas, after all.

SNOW! And Delia enjoying one of the Beastie Grrrlz' new Christmas toys, an Unbreakaball!

A "view" of the valley through our trees and behind a piece of firewood abandoned on a chopping stump in autumn. Life interrupts chores sometimes.

Our ornament wreath and the northbound road.  That snowy hump? That's a tarped pile of gravel at the bottom of the driveway.  It's there in case we need extra traction. It's certainly not the most attractive landscape feature, but it's definitely one of the most useful.

I know it's perhaps unusual, but I've been pretty excited to see how the snow looks accumulated on the "new" fence.  Here's a taste of that!  This is where it runs behind and through the lilac bushes.

We did a Christmas Day hike into the National Forest.  Here's a view from nearby the property.

The squirrels have a highway in the forest and we crossed it!

I love "our" forest which is mostly Ponderosa Pine, but I admit to getting a special nostalgia-based thrill when we come upon a little stand of Douglas Fir.  If you look closely you might spot Eric and Betty camouflaged in this photo.

We surely missed our family and friends, but we had a really nice day.  The four of us were visited by Santa (!), we exchanged gifts with each other, we ate yummy snacks, we walked in the forest and had fetching with the Beastie Grrrlz, we all got naps, and we ate a delicious Hungarian mushroom and wild rice soup that Eric made followed by apple pie and fresh whipped cream.  It snowed more around dusk, there was some hot tub time, and some lovely wine from Matello, too.

Life is sweet.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Making Traditions

As I was decorating for Christmas something felt different.  I realized that this is our third December here in the Bitterroot, but really only our second holiday season.  The first year we went back to Portland for the week of Christmas and didn't really do any decorating at the house, so 2013 was really our first Christmas in our new home. When decorating this year, I realized that I was putting a lot of things "where they go" for the first time.  It was a bit odd, but also comforting: we're starting our new traditions in our new home and not just the things you consciously decide will be traditions, but they things that just naturally reoccur and make themselves your traditions.  It's nice.

That said, there's not much to photograph and share.  I may as well, just insert a link to last year's posts about holiday decorating.*  So instead, I'll just post a few of the new decorations or new ways we used "old" decorations.

Last year I started using my silver tinsel tree just for my Kermit the Frog ornaments, but I didn't have a tree skirt.  Eric let me use the Kermit collar from a childhood costume his mom made to make this skirt!

I decided to use the gold tinsel tree as a pet tree.  We have foot prints for Olive, Ella, Betty, and Delia and a blown glass ornament representing Pearl that was given to me years ago by a dear friend.  I'm going to need a tree skirt here, too. Hmmm.

Last year's ornament wreath has found a home on the new fence!  Right at the bottom of the driveway.  And yes, that's about as white of a Christmas as we may have. The heck?

Now we have some Santa action: the nutcracker is for Eric's childhood and the Santa mug was given to me by my grandmother; this year I bleached and dyed the bottle brush tree hat.

I was lucky enough to host some crafty friends for some bottle brush tree crafts the first weekend of December. I had plans of taking lots of photos, but instead I just had lots of fun. Sometimes you gotta just live in the moment rather than capturing the moment for posterity.  These are part of my results from that day.  I'm truly bummed I didn't get photos of what my friends made, because there was some serious awesome going on!

My first complete bottle brush tree project.  Bleached and "snowed" and set into a thrift store salt shaker and inserted into a 2-quart blue mason jar.  It goes great with all the other aqua trees!

I used some thrift store brass candle sticks as bases for a trio of trees for our '70s-inspired bathroom. They sit in the window sill and wit the back lighting I wasn't able to get a decent shot.

This year we added Krampus to our "alternatree"!

I think that this decoration is only partly done. I have ideas, but haven't figured out exactly how to execute them, but in the meantime we have a bunch of candy canes hanging on our clothes line!  Sadly, this snow is long gone.

We're preparing ourselves for the disappointment of a non-white Christmas, but... there is still hope!

Lately the weather has been rather Portland-like and dangit, I WANT SNOW!

* see what I did there?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Wildlife Watch !X

We've caught our local flying squirrel visiting the bird feeders several-to-many times several times since our initial meeting back in January 2013.  But I finally got some (crappy) photos of my own!

I was sitting in the hot tub the other night and heard the scratching of wee claws on the tree by the deck on which the bird feeder hangs.  I was cruising pinterest on my phone and tried to use the light from the display to see. No dice.  So I texted Eric to ask if he'd turn on the deck light. He did, but I saw nothing, but a swaying bird feeder.

The two lower light smears are it's eyes!

When I went back into the house, I grabbed my digital camera and tried the and turned the deck light. There it was sitting on the swaying feeder!  I turned the light back off, but the results were less than satisfactory with the "night vision" setting.

Obviously the night-vision setting wasn't going to yield results, so I resorted to the old fill flash. At least, I think that's what it's called.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Wildlife Watch V!!!

So there I was minding my own business, throwing balls for my own dog in my own yard on my own Thursday afternoon when I noticed a dark movement in the sky near the house.  What did I see?  A BALD EAGLE LANDING ON A TREE RIGHT BY THE HOUSE!

See that majestic profile view he threw me?

Luckily, I had my own Galaxy S5 in my own pocket so I could take my very own crappy photos of that BALD EAGLE SITTING IN A TREE RIGHT BY MY HOUSE!

Annnnnnnd in case you didn't get enough majestic bald eagle poorly captured by camera phone here's a shot of  it looking right at me. Just like Paul McCartney did this summer. Right. At. ME.

This was not my first ever bald eagle sighting, not even here in the Bitterroot, but it is the closest I've been to a still one annnd IT WAS AT OUR HOUSE!