Archive for December, 2007

links for 2007-12-19

December 19, 2007 at 2:20 pm 2 comments

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles

These little things have been my contribution to a couple of pot lucks.  Everytime I make them, I have to dig up an old journal entry (I originally got it from a magazine when Sean was having his foot surgery.  I didn’t write it down, but it looks like that magazine is “Taste of Home“).  That requirement ends here!

1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 cups all purpose flour (I have also used whole wheat flour with success)
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup minature chocolate chips
1/2 cup walnuts (optional)
~14 ounces milk chocolate (not semi-sweet chocolate) dipping chocolate
~1 ounce baker’s white chocolate (optional)


  1. Cream the butter and brown sugar until fluffy
  2. Add the flour, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla and mix well
  3. Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts.
  4. Shape into little balls and place them on baking sheets or plates lined with wax paper.  I typically make them slightly larger than bite-size, roughly 1 1/4″ in diameter.
  5. Refrigerate for an hour or until firm.  Sometimes I will pull them out after a half hour and reroll them when they can better retain their shape. 
  6. Melt the milk chocolate coating (I use a double broiler). 
  7. Dip each ball in the coating and place back on wax paper.  A dipping spoon makes this effort a lot easier! 🙂
  8. Refrigerate for 15 minutes until the coating sets.
  9. Place the white chocolate bars into a ziplock bag (ideally near a bottom corner of the bag) and microwave it for 15 seconds.  If I don’t have white chocolate, I use extra milk chocolate for the garnish.
  10. Take scissors and and snip off a tiny, tiny, tiny piece of one of the bottom corners of the zip lock bag (ideally the corner closest to the melted chocolate).  Looky here!  An instant pastry bag!
  11. Drizzle the white chocolate over the truffles.  I’ve found you don’t need many artistic skills for this step– anything tends to look neat.
  12. Place truffles back in the fridge for 5-10 more minutes until the white chocolate sets.

December 18, 2007 at 11:07 am 23 comments

Practice Makes Perfect

There is a saying that “Practice Makes Perfect”, but there should be a caveat that the practice needs to be meaningful.  I think this was displayed quite adeptly last Wednesday at Gwyn’s 3rd Birthday Party.

Gwyn’s mother was on a business trip, so that left Grandpa (aka Larry) in charge.  Almost immediately Larry encountered an obstacle.  Dairy Queen forgot to decorate the festive ice cream cake with Gwyn’s name.  And it turns out the teenage males manning the store never pursued on-the-job training in cake decoration.  Larry decided to personalize the cake himself.  He stopped by the store and picked up some pink icing.

Now, Larry also lacks cake decorating experience, so he got out a piece of bread to practice.  He worked on his whole wheat canvas briefly and then announced, “Enough practice, I’m ready!”

He squeezed icing over the cake and proceeded to scrawl blobs that were only slightly reminiscent of letters. 

Grandpa’s Cake Decoration Services

Here is a picture of the cake’s first letter.  Now I didn’t notice this until I was already home.  Look at the practice bread in the background. 

What is supposed to be a G on the cake.  The practice bread is in the background.

Larry felt confident to proceed after THAT?  🙂 

The cake quickly became a group project.  A knife was used to try to shift icing around and consultants were brought in to supervise.

Three generations try to figure out how to fix the cake

Even with everyone’s involvement and advice, the “GWYN” looked like it was written by Gwyn herself.

Good thing we had that practice bread!

Luckily, there a little known secret about decorating cakes for three-year olds.  Exclusively just for you, I’ll share.  

Three-year olds are not concerned with legibility of icing.  They just want to ingest it! 

Gwyn was as pleased as she could be with the pink scribbles.  And unlike last year, she knew exactly what to do when the candles were lit.

Gwyn blows out candles

December 17, 2007 at 1:06 am 5 comments

links for 2007-12-16

  • A web-based version of Boggle. I found this quite addictive at 2:30 in the morning Saturday night.
    (tags: boggle)

December 16, 2007 at 2:17 pm Leave a comment

Profit != Good Toilet Paper

Last week, I worked on-site at a factory for one of the most profitable companies in the world.  Most of the users still used Office 2000.  I had not seen that for a while, but from my experience, the larger organizations do tend to be slow on software upgrades.  So that did not stick out to me as unusual.  But I did find myself surprised in an unlikely place– the restroom.

The toilet paper definitely caught my attention.  Its one-ply sheets were very thin and prone to break easily when you tried to pull the roll.  At the same time, it was very un-fabric-like; it was rough. 

Now, I’ve visited numerous customer sites and a variety of different industries — I’ve been to mines (and wouldn’t you expect sketchy toilet paper in a tough environment like a mine?), dairy plants, food testing labs, automotive plants, computer manufacturing sites, pharmaceutical sites and government agencies.  So I think it is notable when I say, “This site had the worst toilet paper.”

And I’m not talking bad about this company behind their back.  It took me two days, but I shared my observations with my hosts and they had to agree (how could one argue?).  Of course, opening the toilet paper topic did prompt an awkward moment.

At one point, one of the trainees was telling me about a different organization and she used an analogy.

“They go through [engineers] like you go through our toilet paper!” she declared.

Suddenly I was self-conscious and flustered.  “What? How do YOU know how much toilet paper I use?!?” 

“Because…” the trainee said, “I’ve used it…  I know how thin it is.”

Ah…. I breathed a sigh of relief.  I guess I should have known.  If the company was going to invest in the restroom, they probably would have upgraded the toilet paper before they installed cameras to monitor the toilet paper usage of their guests.  🙂

December 12, 2007 at 3:00 pm 6 comments

links for 2007-12-12

December 12, 2007 at 2:18 pm Leave a comment

Penn and Vicky’s Bear

The last weekend in September was “Take a Child Outside Week” (and actually, I’m sorry to admit I did not know that week existed until one Ryan Somma alerted me).  Of course, I was traveling most of that week, but on the very last day, I took five-year Penn out for a quick hike in celebration.  I choose Poverty Creek as our destination and as we drove there, we saw a black bear running along Forest Service Road.

I was, of course, thrilled for Penn.  But I was also a little miffed.  It was my first LIVE bear that I have seen in the area and I have hiked tons and tons and tons of miles (I saw a dead one once on Potts Mountain).  Penn’s done a lot of hiking for his age, but no where near as much as me and he already gets to see a bear?!?!  No fair.  🙂

Anyway, now our bear sighting is included in the’s interactive “Black bears in the Roanoke and New River valleys” map:

Penn and Vicky’s Bear on the Map

We may only be the third most famous hikers in the world… but we’re slowly working on increasing our exposure.  🙂

December 11, 2007 at 12:00 pm 4 comments

links for 2007-12-10

December 10, 2007 at 2:20 pm 2 comments

More on Ritzy’s Fantasy of Lights

So maybe the Christmas Dragon isn’t exactly unique.  There were still a lot of displays at Ritzy’s Fantasy of Lights which were new to me.  I was particularly impressed with some of the animated displays.  As I navigated the one-mile route through Garvin Park, I occassionally made the poor car behind me wait while I took pictures, so I might as well share some of my favorites.

A sampling of the displays, with a biker in the foreground.

An elf skateboards a half-pipe with moderately more success than Jake Brown

A cool flag, lion and lamb

A golfer swings and hits his ball

Christmas light cow

This one could be unique– a race car with the state of Indiana drawn on the door

My favorite animated one– Santa throws a hook shot over the road.

More pictures of Evansville, Indiana (including their Fantasy of Lights) can be found on my Flickr site.

December 10, 2007 at 12:00 pm 4 comments

Attack of the Christmas Dragons

Last year in late December, I was on a business trip in Wichita, Kansas.  Even if I can’t rollerblade or geocache, I do try to get outside and explore places when I’m on a trip.  So the week before Christmas, I found myself wandering the streets of downtown Wichita looking at Christmas lights.  For the most part, the light entities were expected– toy soldiers, wreaths, lollipops, trees.  Then I came across something I thought was pretty unique.  A Christmas… Dragon.  I snapped a picture of it:

Christmas Dragon in Wichita, Kansas 2006

Last week, I visited Ritzy’s Fantasy of Lights in Evansville, Indiana.  It is a drive-thru display of lights in Garvin Park brought to you by numerous volunteer groups including Easter Seals, Kiwanis, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, National Electrical Contractors Association and local Teamsters.  Alone it’s pretty impressive, and with my previous experience, it managed to expose Wichita as not being as unique as I had originally thought:

Christmas Dragon in Evansville, Indiana 2007

It turns out the concept of Christmas Dragons isn’t all that outrageous either.  A quick Google search uncovers a healthy population.  There is a Christmas Dragon play.  You can get a Christmas Dragon cross-stitch pattern.  One artist uses dragons each year in her holiday cards.  And in case you want to lead a class in drawing your their own versions, there is an article on “How to Draw a Christmas Dragon

How about that?  Kansas and Indiana may not sound like glorious destinations, but together they revealed one of mythology’s most fantastic creatures is alive and well… and apparently Christian.

December 9, 2007 at 6:45 pm 4 comments

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