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Monday
Oct102011

The King of All Hoarders Shall Wear a Gold Crown

I remember the call because it was the sort of call that makes me want to scoop my brains out with a spork.

"I found a gold bracelet on the street. What should I do?" he asked.

I won't specify who exactly "he" is since "he" doesn't like it when I talk about him in this space, so let's just call him The King of All Hoarders for now, mmkay?

So the King of All Hoarders found a bracelet in the middle of the street while walking around downtown and didn't know what to do with it. He wanted to return it to its rightful owner, but how do you do that in a busy urban area? I thought my solution was the best possible one.

"Are there any garbage cans near by? Just throw it in one."

I was serious. Based on his description, the bracelet had been worn by Vanilla Ice's mom back in 1989 and it needed to stay there. In 1989. The King of All Hoarders would be doing the owner a favor by making sure he or she never wore it again.

Of course, The King of All Hoarders didn't earn his name by throwing things in the garbage. Nooooooooo. Instead, the King of All Hoarders took that bracelet home and stashed it in one of his 22,690,426,824,624 hiding places.

And there it sat, safely surrounded by cash receipts for coffee and straw wrappers and random pieces of plastic that must belong somewhere so lets just keep them to be safe, y'know? TEN YEARS WENT BY, so obviously that bracelet was in a very safe place. If it weren't, I would have found it and thrown it away. That's what I do, after all. I wage wars against the hoarding.

I don't know what made him think of the bracelet last week. He was on vacation and just hanging out around the house because he has days he needs to burn. Apparently that made him think of all of the things he's been meaning to do for the past decade? Maybe? Regardless, for some reason he set eyes on that bracelet last week and suddenly had an urge to do something with it.

I fielded a bunch of phone calls about the whole thing. He asked if he should try to go sell it and I said, and I'm quoting myself exactly, "Go ahead. You won't get much, but at least it will be out of the house."

My "You won't get much," was based on a vague memory of what the bracelet looked like. It was 14K gold, but it was junk. Hideous, out-dated, ugly junk.

The last call about the bracelet came while The King of All Hoarders stood inside one of those stores that buys and sells gold. He didn't go to a pawn shop because he wasn't sure where to find one, but for reasons unknown, he knew where the gold shop was hidden. He stood in that store with his phone in his hand and he said, "Three Seventy-Eight."

"Have fun buying a gallon of gas with that," I replied. It's good always being the one who is right.

"No," he said. "Three HUNDRED and seventy-eight dollars," he clarified.

I was stunned silent. For a long time. Actually, I still don't have words to describe what I was thinking at that moment. I know that those words are full of conflict. Like, "YAY! Unexpected money!" but more so "Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!"

You guys, the last thing anyone should do is reward a hoarder for their hoarding. Now the King of All Hoarders will remind me of that damn bracelet every time I go through a box and try to get him to part ways with some useless piece of junk. "But, remember the bracelet? This might be worth money some day!"

I can already hear the words. I want to murder the words. With a spork.

I'll go buy myself a good one with the money he got from the bracelet.

Photographic Evidence that Vinyl Albums Aren't Worth All That Much

Sunday
Oct092011

Cookie Monster Cupcakes With Some Bonus Friends

I'm not saying you should be my friend, but I am saying that it won't hurt your chances of conning me into helping you make some cupcakes for your kid to take to school on his birthday. I'm twisted enough to enjoy projects like that, so when someone asked, she and I collaborated to make this happen:

 

COOKIE MONSTER!

The thing is, fancy cupcakes aren't really all that hard. They're especially easy when your target audience is a bunch of 3-year olds because what do they know about cake decorating? As long as the cupcakes vaguely resembled Cookie Monster, we were all good.

Apparently they did resemble Cookie Monster. At least that's what I heard.

Before I tell you how we put them together, first I must share the most bestest recipe for buttercream frosting ever. EVER. More specifically, it's a Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting, and it tastes fantastic. Homemade frostings are much easier to use in decorating (they're a bit stiffer, which makes them a lot less messy), so it's absolutely worth the five minutes it takes to whip up a batch. Bonus: the ingredient list may send you into a sugar coma, but at least you can read it. It's always good when you can pronounce the ingredients in something, right?

Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting

1 - 8 oz package cream cheese (room temperature)
1/2 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
3 3/4 cups (1 lb.) powdered sugar

Place cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat on low speed until well-mixed, about 30 seconds. Add the sugar and beat on medium speed until the frosting is fluffy, about one minute.

And now for how to turn that frosting into Cookie Monster.

First, you will need your secret weapon--frosting bags and tips. Specifically, you'll need two tips like these:

The top one is just a plain old simple round frosting tip. The bottom one, however, is magical. It's a tip specially made for creating fur and/or grass. I found it at Hobby Lobby for $1.50. In retrospect, they should have charged me a lot more for it because that thing comes in very handy. We'll get to that in a bit.

First, our Cookie Monster cupcakes.

Now that you're armed with your secret weapon, bake your cupcakes. Any old cupcakes will do, but I will say that chocolate chip cupcakes are a big hit with the short people. Next, make your frosting and tint a small amount of it black and all the rest of it blue. Place each color in its own frosting bag.

This blue gel food coloring works very well.

It was another Hobby Lobby acquisition. I think it was $2.00 or so. (Yinz, if you haven't heard of Hobby Lobby, it's like Michael's + JoAnn's + major steroids. It's worth the pain and suffering involved with driving out to Robinson.) Oh and, yes, you do have to use gel food coloring. Regular food coloring will make your frosting too runny.

Anyway, once you have your blue frosting in your pretty bag with the fur tip on it, it's time to get to work.

Start with your tip against the cupcake. Squeeze a tiny bit of frosting out as you pull the tip away and stop squeezing. You should end up with a patch of "fur" that's about 1/4" long.

Don't pull out a ruler or anything, though. Just let the frosting fall where it may as you work your way all the way around leaving little patches of "fur." It's Cookie Monster, so perfection is not necessary.

He's so furry that any mistakes end up just blending in.

As for his eyes, they are made from white chocolate melting drops. You can get them at Hobby Lobby (shocking! I know!) or JoAnn's or Michael's or even most grocery stores.

Flip them over and place a small dot of black frosting using the plain circle tip and your other frosting bag. Practice makes perfect, so don't be afraid to make a few extra.

Then just plop Cookie Monster's eyes on his face.

That particular Cookie Monster should probably have his eyes a little closer together. Hindsight is 20/20, n'at.

And now, his mouth.

Actually, it's Cookie Monster. His mouth is always filled with cookies, so why bother with an actual mouth? Let's just shove a cookie in there. Break a chocolate chip cookie in half (again, perfection is not at all necessary).

And shove it in his face.

DONE!

Once you've learned how to make Cookie Monster, there are a bunch of other things you can do, too. Say hello to my friend Oscar.

The concept is the same. Cover a cupcake with patches of "fur."

Give him a mouth using the black frosting.

Add eyes with little black frosting dots for pupils.

Add a mini red M&M for his tongue and some brown "fur" for his unibrow.

Wait. See how his unibrow is sort of gloppy and not as furry as the rest of his head? That happens when the frosting gets too warm. Toss it in the fridge for a couple of minutes to get your definition back.

Much better.

If you happen to live with a 5-year old who has decided that Sesame Street is for babies, not all hope is lost. You can still make monster cupcakes. You can even go along with her request for "Rainbow Monster Cupcakes."

Leave the frosting white. Before you put it in the frosting bag, though, place some stripes of gel food coloring on the sides of the bag.

You can put as many stripes of gel food coloring as you want in the bag, but you'll want a minimum of four.

Then carefully put your Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting in the bag.

The colors will squish together and blend and you'll end up with a rainbow effect when you make your fur.

No two will turn out the same. I think it's a good thing because then you can let that 5-year old decorate them all any way that she wants.

They're cute in their own twisted sort of way.

Once you're done decorating your cupcakes, place them in the fridge so that the frosting sets a bit. It'll help make sure that your hard work doesn't melt into a pile of goop.

Saturday
Oct082011

Three Things

Learn to take photos like that over here.

 

Win those books, some fun breakfast stuff, and a gift card over here.

 

Photo via @scarehousescott

And don't forget to go here for your Crazy Scary tickets so you can meet Miss Holly.