Monday, January 06, 2014

Do I DIY? Candy Cane Infused Vodka Experiment (and also spoons!)



Seems I make a resolution each New Year's to blog more. So here's this year's January entry!

For whatever reason (winds changing to the east, days shortening, tides being high) I was a little "homey" this year. [EDIT: THAT SAYS H O M E Y.] Also my subtle Pinterest addiction had me madly going through DIY ideas that, of course, I would never do because of a) no time and b) let's get real, I'm sure there's someone I can pay to do that on Fiverr or something. But I pinned them anyway and then found myself come Halloween just dying to MAKE something. So I made some Jello shot worms. Two hours of squeezing worms out of straws gave me finger cramps but they were DELICIOUS!! Also disgusting to look at! A perfect combo. I paired them (don't I sound snobby?) with crushed Oreo "dirt" and put them into a flower pot.

BEHOLD:



Coming off my success I decided to attempt some chocolate dipped Matzo for my friend's engagement party. Success there as well! I made a variety - chocolate peanut butter, chocolate with honey roasted nuts, chocolate with sea salt (chocolate is clearly the prevalent theme). And then I put them in little baggies. Et voilĂ !

So after those two adventures that did not drive me crazy or ruin anything I began a hunt for a perfect Christmas DIY project that I could do for my whole office and friends on the cheap side. (Don't kid yourself... if you're trying to do something for a whole office and all of your friends... it is not going to be "on the cheap side.") After scouring Pinterest (see the board here) I settled on the idea of chocolate dipped spoons with candy cane infused vodka. My first idea (which was probably the right one) was to make said spoons for everyone and then maybe one bottle that I could bring into the office for people to sample at lunch. (That might sound odd to you but I work in advertising where people actually do drink at lunch.)

So off I went to Ikea to (have an excuse to) purchase a variety of fun stopper bottle glasses and glass storage canisters. Because of course I'd be taking pictures of my project and they needed to look like the fancy mason jar photos I saw on Pinterest. (Advice One: If the picture is a mason jar, buy a friggin' mason jar. I bought the fancy canisters that snap close. Beautiful to look at but if you turn it over to give the liquid a shake... it comes out of said canister.)

Then I thought more about it and decided no... really everyone needs their own airplane sized alcohol bottle.

So after a few hours of internet scouring I found an eBay seller selling 2oz plastic bottles... perfect.



The bottles arrived and next it was time to actually get the vodka, candy canes, spoons, etc. I got my Vodka from Trader Joe's - they had some nice big bottles of "Vodka of the Gods" which is some cheap Vodka. The candy canes, spoons, chocolate, etc. came from Target (which was nicely within the time slot between Black Friday and Christmas when all the credit cards were stolen.. so yeah that happened).

[Oh Side Note - plastic bottles do NOT go in the dishwasher on the sanitizing setting. I did that and melted my first batch of bottles... but they melted nice and evenly and the lids still fit so they just looked "jaunty" in the end.)

OK now for directions! (Because the internet can use another How To Make Candy Cane Infused Vodka lesson!)

To begin with I started with these directions (primarily because it was the prettiest set of directions. So I would suggest you do that too.) (And my job is done.)

STEP 1: GET THE VODKA AND THE CANDY CANES.



For my purposes of the 60 or so 2oz bottles I needed to make I got three of those Vodka of the Gods bottles (which was 1.75L each). Then I had to do math which was not fun and involved multiple uses of the Google oz/liter conversions and I ended up deciding (calculating?) that I needed 28 canes per bottle. Also I decided that since my Vodka was cheap, I should run it through the Brita filter a few times. (I have no idea if this is legit... a friend told me she did this in college to make cheap Vodka taste better... so I gave it a shot. ALCOHOL PUN INTENDED!)

STEP 2: PEEL THE PLASTIC OFF OF THE CANDY CANES

This, by far, was the worst part of the task. They don't tell you that on the pretty Pinterest pages. Candy Canes are wrapped in hell-wrought cellophane plastics that do not peel and only stick to you and your clothes and get stuck to the bottom of your shoes for days and candy canes are STICKY. Also the stupid little hooky parts never come out of the plastic and then you have all of these candy cane heads just laying about in a Christmas massacre.



STEP 3: BREAK APART THE CANDY CANES AND CRUSH THEM INTO A FINE POWDER
[Note for the reader ... YOU DON'T NEED TO DO THIS STEP!]

OK breaking the candy canes after step 2 does come as a bit of a psychological release. And they sure are fun to snap! If you're doing this with kids, maybe make them do the snapping part because it's satisfying. Now the directions I followed called for a nice food mixer powdering and I pulled out my food mixer to do just that. However I found that in my last move I must have somehow lost the blade... whatever was I to do? As luck would have it, I had an old coffee bean grinder that I never use anymore and IT had a blade! So I ground my canes as one might ground a nice Italian roast. (I probably wouldn't recommend this ... I'm sure the blades aren't made for candy canes... but it worked.)





After I had a nice powder I started adding it to the Vodka (which I had poured into one of my nice big glass Ikea canisters). It began to have an immediate reaction... a sort of mild bubbling. It was interesting. I filmed it on my phone. And then later deleted it because who needs a video of candy cane powder dissolving?

I did the first bottle in this fashion. It was a bit time consuming as coffee grinders cannot hold the bits of 28 candy canes at once so that had to be done segment by segment. Then I went to bed and saved the next bottle for the next night.

THE REAL STEP 3: BREAK APART THE CANDY CANES AND PUT THEM IN THE FRIGGIN' VODKA

Guess what! You don't need to grind the candy canes into powder. I did an experiment on day 2 because I was getting a little lazy and just put the candy cane bits straight into the vodka and GOT THE SAME RESULT as the powder. You probably don't even need to break them... they just fit better in my jars that way.



STEP 4: LET SIT

I read some directions that said to let the vodka sit for 30 minutes. And others that said 24 hours. I went the 24 hours route. It was probably done after 30 minutes... my guess is that after 30 minutes you get the flavor and the radioactive red color you're going for. And then you should strain it to get any chunky candy cane powder/bits out of it. After 24 hours the candy canes pretty much dissolve completely and there's not really anything left to strain. And now you have a potent candy cane flavor that is FULL of sugar and smells like mouth wash.



STEP 5: TASTE TEST

Because seriously, you have to try it, right?



This is where I decided that the vodka needed to be delivered with the disclaimer that it is MEANT TO BE A MIXER... don't drink this shiznit straight. (And truly, it did taste wonderful and fuzzy feelings and a Christmas hug from within when you poured it into hot chocolate.)

STEP 6: POUR INTO YOUR PRETTY BOTTLES AND TAKE PICTURES



Here is where the step by step ends because the method of delivery is up to you. But here's what I did next.



I filled all the bottles! (With my also new Ikea bought funnel.) The next part would have been where I labelled all of the bottles but I had ordered labels off of Etsy and they didn't arrive in time so.... that sucked. I was able to get a picture of final product though:



After the vodka project I moved onto the spoon project which was fairly easy. Since I had all of those stupid candy cane heads laying about I crushed them up with a hammer (because I wanted big chunks, not powder) and set those aside for sprinkling onto my spoons along with mini marshmallows.





And I melted said chocolate for said spoons. [NOTE - If you have never melted chocolate before you should watch a YouTube video about it at least. I have, in my history, burnt chocolate. It is an awful smell. It is like the death of dreams. So I made sure to watch a refresher course, melted the chocolate slow and double boiler style and then "tempered the chocolate" which is key to making the chocolate harden nicely. I didn't have a candy thermometer. I guesstimated. It worked. I recommend this video: Tempering Chocolate]



Once the chocolate is ready it's super simple to just dip the spoons in, coat them with the melty goodness and withdraw. Give them a little spin to pick up any hanging drips and lay it on a wax/parchment paper sheet. After I had a sheet of those, I sprinkled the crushed candy canes and mini marshmallows on.





After the spoons hardened they each got wrapped in cellophane and dropped into a little Christmas baggie with the little bottle of candy cane infused vodka and my gift was complete!

(And I totally overestimated and ended up with an extra bottle of the vodka... I wonder if it will last until next Christmas.)











Your mom pins this.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

John Edward show at the Marriott Marina Del Rey - 1/18/13


Friday night I (Erin) went to see John Edward, the medium known for the show “Crossing Over”, at the Marriott Hilton in Los Angeles. I went because my mother was a fan of the show and had flown down to see him in person. She needed a show buddy and I was said buddy.


I didn’t really know what to expect, actually. I guess the “one foot on the ground” part of me wanted to see the behind the scenes bits to see if there were any possibility that he could be gathering information about people as they arrived in order to trick them into believing something later. Well the skeptic part of me was not indulged. There were some forms that people could fill out as they arrived in order to join the John Edward newsletter but the information collected was minimal - the usual name, email address, do you want to be a member of “The 5” (basically his version of a fan club with member benefits). I can see how some skeptics might then say that his assistants could use this information to gather details from Facebook or other public areas of information about some people.  Yesssssss maybe. Maybe they could have used the time of his lead in (about 30 minutes of him introducing himself, describing his symbolisms that he would use throughout the evening, telling anecdotes) to do some of that research. But the  demographic was mostly upper middle class people (mostly women) in the 50-70 age range. I have doubts that people in this range are all that active on the internet.  Though some could argue that the people in this age range that are on the internet might be more likely to accidentally divulge too much information about their private lives. OK sure. It’s just generally not the feeling I got and I do feel like my skeptic feelers are decent.


John’s assistants (the one that gathered the forms in the first place and a few others) were visible at all times passing microphones out to people and keeping an eye out for recording devices and cell phones. John used a hand held microphone not a headpiece (not ruling out a secret device in his ear but just pointing it out).


John himself talked for the whole time. There weren’t really any moments of pause but there were many anecdotes. I described it as if you were watching a non-comedic episode of Family Guy - a lot of anecdotes and tangents that eventually swung back to his main point. They were usually funny and touching and helped explain why he was seeing the symbols that he saw. (I.E. He was trying to hit upon someone being attacked by a pet - when it didn’t hit as “someone was mauled by a dog” he went into his full tale of what he was seeing, a memory of being attacked by a dog himself, to see if any of the details struck a chord with the listener. They did.)


Overall the experience was like a Hallmark card commercial on steroids - extremely touching, sentimental, sad and happy all at the same time. Lots of tears. There were 600 physical people in the room (plus assistants and techs and John) and countless non-physical people. I envision the non-physical people gathered in an audience formation as well - most of them being quiet and watching John connect to the spirit world as we watched. And then some, knowing what was up, started yelling and waving their hands excitedly in the air yelling “ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME” until John had to take notice and listen to those spirits as they directed him to find and do readings for members in his audience. If you’re going to one of these events and hope to connect, it would do you well to have some boisterous dead.


At one point there was convergence of “ME TOO ME TOO ME TOO” spirits. John seemingly made eye contact with me and said he was being drawn to my section. I averted my eyes and hoped he wasn’t about to hit upon things I couldn’t ignore but he didn’t. He was ultimately drawn to about 6-7 groups of people completely surrounding my mother and I. He’d say some details that were nail on the head for a couple and then one that didn’t make sense to them. Someone else would stand up and say ‘that was for me and some of the other stuff you said for them works for me too’. These were pinpoint details like “Someone in this section is about to have their toe amputated” not vague details like “someone has a foot problem.” This happened until my mother and I were surrounded by these little islands of standing people with microphones and their dead… shouting “OH ME! ME TOO!”  It was nearly as if all these people with similar details were drawn to their specific seats in the first place. And my mother and I as well because as the Me Too’s were happening, John hit upon a detail that would have made sense for me as well. I was convinced if he’d kept going we would have been next. Our Me Too hand waving spirits would have drawn his attention as well. But time was running out and he cut off the chain-link reading and turned to Q and A instead.


As I said, it was as if those people were drawn to those seats in the first place. I would go further and say that it was if the entire audience was drawn to that show in this time in the first place. Though only about 10 people/groups got readings during the 2.5 hour show I would bet that many of the messages made sense for a majority of the audience. Either the messages made sense or the questions people asked were questions you wanted to ask. It definitely felt like a combination of energies was happening. I’ve had similar (and more profound) experiences in large group audience settings like that and I find it fascinating.


Here are some more bullet points about the event


3 other named psychics were in the audience to watch and visit with John including Lisa Williams  (from the Lifetime show) and Char (who actually, come to think of it, was sitting a few rows behind me… and  could have been the cause of all the chain link Me Toos if they were already trying to get into her ear).

John says he believes in angels but it’s not his specialty. If you’re into learning more about angels then Doreen Virtue is his recommendation.

John’s also not a specialist in animal spirits but he says that now, after having and adoring two dogs, he has a clearer picture of pets on the other side. Prior to that he’d hear a “Woof” and that would be his cue that there was some sort of animal.

John lost a lot of weight - he’s not sick, he dieted.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Saw this here and it struck me.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Hard at work

Donatelo is such a task master!


Monday, July 04, 2011

Dangit!

I forgot this existed.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Puns I've made recently

Pun 1:

Mom: How many bottles of Syrah do we have in the box?
Me: I see two. But now we need a Que.
Mom: A what?
Me: A Que?
Mom: Why??
Me: So we can have a Que Syrah Syrah.

Pun 2:


Friend: This is the ring my boyfriend bought me for Christmas. It's a bottle opener.
Me: Is it a DeBeers?

Pun 3:


Friend: If I eat cow brains will I suck their intelligence into myself?
Me: Then you'd have a Moo opinion. But that's a Moo point.

Pun 4:

Friend: Here's a new name for our company - Political Sex Horse!
Me: I vote Neigh.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

2009 Personal Challenge Wrap Up

For the last 3 years I've been personally challenging myself to read more books and see more movies.

Here's how I did in 2009:

Books - 18 books read. A lot lower than 2008's 27 and 2007's 34 BUT part of this is due to there being no text books to read for at least half of the year. This year's books were also probably bulkier whereas in 2007 I read a lot of graphic novels and audio books.

Movies - 67 movies watched! That's a pretty decent count but in 2008 I did 75. I still win over 2007's 45 though.

In other ventures - I wrote more fiction in 2009 but way less in general (as I didn't blog as regularly as in previous years). However I have no count on that particular venture.

But a drop in the pool...

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