Tag Archives: experiment

Candy Cane Coffee Syrup Recipe

Homemade Coffee Flavoring Syrup Gift Set

I like my coffee dark and sweet, preferably with a flavor. As I have written before, I like to experiment with making my own flavoring syrups. Since I have accumulated several favorite recipes, I suggested to Brian that we make our own gift sets for family members we would see for Christmas. Although many of them do not drink coffee, the syrups are also good in tea, hot chocolate, cider, and steamers (hot milk with a flavor add-in).

Holiday Flavors

I posted the recipe for Cinnamon Stick Syrup a while ago and found the Gingerbread Syrup recipe on AllRecipes. I invented the Candy Cane Syrup recipe, which uses actual candy canes. I much prefer this recipe to peppermint syrups I tried using peppermint oil or peppermint leaves.

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What I’m Into: July 2015

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Travel 

We made a short trip to Wyoming at the beginning of July.

Products

Method Pink Grapefruit All Purpose Cleaner is marvelous for getting grease and gunk off my microwave, stove, and counters.

Harvey Prince Ageless Perfume smells like summer and grapefruit and is my new favorite scent. As I am writing this, I just realized I must be in some sort of grapefruit-scented phase… There are definitely worse phases, though!

Around the House

I was out of my usual powdered buttermilk when making waffles, so I turned to these buttermilk substitutes.

As a kid, I always made tartar sauce out of mayo, ketchup, and relish. This month, I decided to broaden my horizons and made “fancy” tartar sauce, using Ina Garten’s recipe. Brian and I both decided that it is worth keeping in on hand to garnish the various fish entrees we have once or twice a week.

This week, I learned that grease-cutting dish soap plus hot water can unclog a toilet that has a fat- or protein-based clog. I’m not sure that it would work on paper-based clogs.

Watching

On my DVR: Rizzoli & Isles, Stitchers, Girl Meets World, selections from a Harry Potter marathon, Descendants (haven’t watched that last one yet).

On Netflix: Trying Army Wives for the first time, re-enjoying NCIS Season 1.

Listening

Brian says I soundtrack my life and I tend to agree. Highlights from my current playlist of favorites are:
The Likes of Us, self-titled album
Tyrone Wells, Best Of Sampler (especially Sea Breeze!)
Dave Barnes, Hymns for Her

Favorite Reads from around the Web

According to the NYTimes quiz, I am a Thinking/Social introvert.

How many English words do you know? This quiz estimates my vocabulary to be around 29,400, which I think is a bit low.

Exercise

Our local dog park has become a favorite evening hangout spot for us. We first took Cola when she was a timid four-month-old and she hid under a picnic table most of the time. This summer she is a slightly bolder, fun-loving one-year-old who tries to befriend all the other dogs and convince them to run with her. Two of her favorite running buddies are a wiry Italian greyhound and a peppy terrier. The dog park has not only been good for Cola learning how to socialize with other dogs but also for interacting with humans.

In recent months, she has been scared of many strangers and some of our friends whether we meet them on walks or whether they come to our house.  Since the dog park is so very fun and distracting for her, she does not mind the people there and even seems to like our fellow regulars. Next, we will try to get her un-terrified of children! (She had a bad experience with a “scary” four-year-old boy.) Video of Cola playing at the park.

Dog Park Rules Dog Park

What are you into this month?

I am linking up with Leigh Kramer to share what I’ve been into lately.

Disclosure: Some affiliate links included in this post. If you click through, any purchase you make supports this site.

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How to Propagate Christmas Cactus

How to Propagate Christmas Cactus | StairStories.com

My “Heirloom” Cactus

When my grandparents moved out of their farmhouse last year, I came into possession of my grandma’s sprawling but sadly neglected Christmas cactus. She does not remember how long she had it, but the plant is at least one or two decades old, perhaps older. I remember arriving at her house to celebrate Christmas and her eager excitement over showing me the beautiful pinkish blooms on the cactus. For as long as I can remember, it sat with a couple ferns in front of gauzily-curtained windows.

After a few months of research and TLC, the plant recovered and I wanted to propagate cuttings to share with other family members. Here are the steps I followed to propagate – or “start” – new Christmas cactus.

Preparing the Environment

First, I filled three self-watering flowerpots with with potting soil specially-formulated for cacti and succulents. I chose self-watering containers because, from my research, mature Christmas cacti do best when watered from the bottom.

How to Propagate Christmas Cactus | StairStories.com

Choosing Cuttings

Next, I examined my mature cactus and removed any dead or dying segments. (I try to do this pruning regularly.)

Then, I chose sections that were at least four segments (leaves) long and broke them off by twisting them from the main branches. You could also cut them apart with scissors or a knife. I especially looked for segments that had tiny rootlets already starting.

How to Propagate Christmas Cactus | StairStories.com

Planting

After that, I planted the cuttings, being sure to bury the joint between the first two segments. The roots will grow from those joints.

Christmas Cactus | StairStories.com

Follow-up Care

Finally, I watered the soil a little and set the pots near a window where they would receive indirect sunlight.

I watered the cuttings weekly and then gave them to my grandma, aunt, and mom a few weeks later.


Have you propagated succulents? I have not had much success with starting other varieties (except jade). Leave your advice in the comments!

 

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What I’m Into: April 2015

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Techie

The best tech tip I have learned in months: What to do when you accidentally close a tab.

I actually started playing Criminal Case before April, but have really gotten into it this month. It is mainly a hidden object game that is not so challenging that I get frustrated. Because the player is a police detective solving murders, I would not recommend it for children.

This month, I had fun using Hyperlapse to film and speed up some of the incredible storm clouds moving past us.

Travel

One Saturday, we traveled to visit my grandparents and to celebrate our family’s spring birthdays with all the family members who could come. After I assisted Grandma to the lunch table, I sat next to her and assumed that Brian would sit next to me. However, I was surprised and flattered when my aunt wheeled Grandpa in and asked where he wanted to sit, “Oh, I’ll just sit there next to Abby.” Of course I am not going to complain when my 93- and 98-year-old grandparents both want to sit with me!
 My birthday with my grandparents
Spring Birthday Collage 2015

Products

In April, I added the OPI Gel Color My Dogsled is a Hybrid to my collection. It’s a pretty aqua color that reminds me of summer and tropical water.
 OPI Axxium My Dogsled is a Hybrid | StairStories.com

For my birthday this month, Brian gave me this lovely double-infinity necklace and I love it!
 Double-Infinity Necklace |StairStories.com

Around the House

Cola is almost a year old and we started leash training her as soon as we brought her home last July. Despite all our training, she still strained at the end of the leash (or a much as we let her), pulling and jerking so hard that she causes her normal collar caused her to cough and gag. I decided she was old enough for a training collar and – for the sake of my shoulders and her neck – she needed one. The store we shop at for dog supplies did not have any training collars in her size but they did carry a Sporn Non-Pulling Mesh Harness. I was skeptical but desperate, so I bought it. Brian and I had mixed results when we took Cola on our evening walk. Cola was willing but excitedly wiggling when I put the harness on her, but it took some getting used to. There were several periods during the walk when she wriggled, flipped, and twisted trying to bite the leash or get out of the harness. Failing that, she flopped down on a cushy lawn in protest. When she was not fighting or protesting the harness, she walked sedately beside me and even voluntarily sat when I stopped at street corners. Brian and I were impressed with the improvement in her behavior. In the weeks since, she grew accustomed to the harness stopped struggling against it. She does sometimes pull toward something thrilling, like trees or other dogs, but it is much easier to walk her without her constant jerking on my shoulders and her neck.
 Cola's Sporn Stop-Pulling Mesh Harness | StairStories.com

Favorite Reads from around the Web

Blog

I have not posted much this month because teaching has grown more hectic as the semester progressed. Since I started this teaching job three weeks after the semester began, I have been planning lessons as I go and feel as though I am still catching up. The end-of-semester scramble for me has included writing, teaching, and grading all the big writing projects, double-checking that competencies have been met, tallying lab hours, and writing tests. I enjoy the work and the students but, after working all day, I have not been motivated to blog much in the evenings. Honestly, my favorite part of having a hobby blog is that I can take time away when life gets crazy!Weekends when you're a teacher #morecoffee | StairStories.com

What are you into this month?

I am linking up with Leigh Kramer to share what I’ve been into lately.

Disclosure: Some affiliate links included in this post. If you click through, any purchase you make supports this site.

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Lows & Highs: 31 Days & a Purse Remake

Welcome to Lows & Highs, a Stories from the Stairs weekly-ish feature! Feel free to join in by posting your lows and highs from the week in the comments or by posting a link to your own lows and highs blog post.

 

Low

If you have not noticed, I took an abrupt break from my 31 Days series, Abby’s Apps. I honestly lost interest in writing about apps every day and life got busy. After what I thought would be a one-day hiatus, I decided to stop altogether because I had other projects needing my attention. Instead, I plan to start writing about apps or other tech tips once a week.

 

High

I had a long weekend, thanks to parent-teacher conferences and teacher inservice days where school staff like me do not have to go to work. I spent most of the weekend sewing and cooking. I am thrilled to have finished my first purse refashion and my Halloween costume. The original purse was made of buttery-soft leather with heavy hardware; I loved the former but the latter kept me from enjoying it regularly. I removed the hardware and the leather that had holes from the hardware and remade the top and straps with this gray chevron/zig-zag fabric. In the end, I eliminated over half the original weight!

Refashioned Leather Purse |StairStories.com

I am not posting photos of my costume yet because Brian and I are keeping them secret from our college students until Friday. You can, however, see photos of our previous costumes: Waldo and Carmen Sandiego (2012), Mayhem and Flo (2013).

 

What craft or sewing projects have you been working on lately?

 

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Techie Tip of the Week

How to get same day Instagram prints | StairStories.com
 
 

 

Temporary Photo Wall Project
Our student ministry welcomed students back to campus last weekend. We had a table in the official check-in line and wanted to make our area look inviting. I printed photos from the past year and then Veronica and Lindsey arranged them on our photo wall. They were impressed when I told them Walgreens now lets customers upload and print photos from Instagram (with same day service). I ordered a number of photos from my Instagram feed and both I and the girls were impressed with the convenience and quality. One of them said, “Man, that is amazing! I’m going to print some tomorrow!”
 

 

 
2014-08-18 17.54.41

 

What I Did
From the Walgreens photo page, I logged into my Instagram account, selected the photos to print, and chose the sizes. I used 4×4 inch squares, but they also offer 8×8 inch ones too. Most Walgreens stores will offer same-day service for a little extra fee.
 
 

 

Discount
Walgreens often puts discount codes in banners at the top of the page. In addition, you can use RetailMeNot or its smart phone app to look up discount codes. I found a code for 50% off any photo order, but they change often.
 
 

 

Side Note
You can also upload photos from your computer or from your Facebook account. I have tried the former, but not the latter.
 
 

 

Disclaimer
Walgreens did not ask or pay me to recommend their photo service. I am simply sharing my experience with a business.

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DIY Coffee Flavoring Syrup

Cinnamon & Vanilla Rum

I like my coffee strong, dark, and sweet, so I like coffee-flavoring syrups. Did you know it is easy to make your own, customized syrups that taste better than store-bought? I start with the most basic simple syrup recipe and add whatever suits my taste. Both microwave and stove top work well for me, so I have included directions for both.

What is your favorite coffee flavor?

Basic Coffee Flavoring Recipe

Basic Simple Syrup
1 cup water
1 cup sugar

 

Cinnamon Stick Syrup
Add 1 cinnamon stick (3-4 inches long), broken into pieces

 

Vanilla Rum Syrup
Add 1 teaspoon vanilla (Mexican or some other really good kind), and
1 teaspoon rum or rum flavoring

 

Microwave Directions
Stir all ingredients together in a clear, microwave-safe container that holds at least four cups. (I use my four-cup Pyrex measuring cup.) Cook on high for two minutes, stir, and then heat until bubbling but not to a rolling boil. Stir about every minute and keep a close watch so it does not boil over. Cook at a “bubble, not boil” for about five minutes in total.

 

Stovetop Directions
Stir all ingredients together in a small saucepan that holds at least four cups. Heat to a low simmer, but not a rolling boil. Stir occasionally. Simmer for about five minutes in total.

 

Taste Test & Finishing
When the sugar is completely dissolved and the solution is thicker than plain water, you can check the flavor: Scoop up about a half-teaspoon of HOT syrup and let it cool before you taste it. If you prefer a more intense flavor, you can simmer for a little longer and consider adding a little more of the flavor add-ins. When you like the flavor, let the syrup cool.

 

If your add-ins are not dissolved (like the cinnamon stick), strain out the pieces with a strainer and cheesecloth. Pour the syrup into your preferred containers. I prefer easy-to-pour bottles. Use right away or store in refrigerator.*

 

*I always store mine in the refrigerator and have no idea how long it lasts because I use the syrup quickly!

 

 

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Pinterest 101

Abby Explains

 

Do you use Pinterest?

Pinterest has been widely adopted by individuals, businesses, and bloggers. If you were an early adopter, you may still get asked to explain it to people who have heard about it.

 

I thought my verbal explanations were a bit lacking, so I made a short explanatory video (less than four minutes): Pinterest 101*.

 

*This was a grad school project for my Computer-Aided Language Learning (CALL) class.

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Lemon Cream “Tarts” Snack

I eat two to three snacks a day, interspersed between three small to moderate meals (my mom says I eat like a hobbit). Since I try to keep a healthy blend of carbohydrates and protein, I usually stick with the same basic snacks that serve their purpose but sometimes become a little boring.

Every so often, I happen upon a particular snack that is satisfyingly delicious and nutritional. I tried what I am calling Lemon Cream “Tarts” today and they are yummy! (Yes, I realize they are not actual tarts but call them that anyway.)
Lemon Cream "Tarts"
Lemon Cream “Tarts” 
1 thin sandwich-style bun, whole wheat
2 tablespoons ricotta cheese, part-skim
2 tablespoons lemon cream*

Split the bun open and toast the the two sides separately. (They toast faster than normal bread, so watch closely.) Spread the ricotta on the bun. Gently spread the lemon cream over the ricotta. (Total calorie count: 200.) Enjoy!

*Many people call it lemon curd but that name sounds gross to some my friends and family, so I call it lemon cream. I make my own using this recipe from My Baking Addiction.

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Lows & Highs: Late Nights & College Students

Low:
This week, my low was the challenge of working cheerfully on less than six hours of sleep on Friday. I came home and took a nap before continuing with the rest of my Friday evening activity!

Highs:
2013-08-27 20.57.471. One of my highs was the reason for my lack of sleep: 9 pm Bible study followed by half-price appetizers out with students. We had 24 students at the study and I have enjoyed getting to know them!


2. I also enjoyed spending a couple evenings with my friend, Pennie, preparing for her sister’s baby shower. We chatted and painted wooden letters in her nephew’s initials and made an adorable diaper cake. I had painted letters before and Pennie had made diaper cakes, so we made a good team.

2013-08-27 21.07.52 2013-08-27 21.12.49

What were your lows and highs from the past week?

Lows & Highs is a Stories from the Stairs weekly feature. Feel free to join in by posting your lows and highs in the comments or by posting a link to your lows and highs blog post.

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