Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Batty about this Box!

It's Halloween! (Well, close enough!) The hurricane, at least in our neighborhood, was kind. We had our power through the entire storm. The worst was our very porous, very not-waterproofed exposed brick wall springing leaks all over the place. Six soaking towels and about 15 Tupperware containers and bowls later, the walls are finally drying out. Compared to the vast devastation and suffering throughout the Northeast, we have absolutely nothing to complain about. Not even a little bit. 

It looks like school will be in session tomorrow, so I'm dashing this off before I turn to grading and lesson planning-- my two least favorite job-related activities. 

In the spirit of Halloween (and my last Halloween craft and care package  post of the season), here's the package I sent Becky!

I included a deck of Pixar Uno cards, Halloween socks, Razzles, a Cadbury Screme Egg, and decorated candy bars (a bat, mummy, and Frankenstein).

My favorite thing about this box was gluing the rubber bat's string behind the scrapbook paper, to the top of the inside of the box. That way, when Becky opened the box, a bat "flew" out.

Happy Halloween, everyone! May the Great Pumpkin visit you tomorrow, and if you're cleaning up the storm, may it be easy and fast!

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Monday, October 29, 2012

Nuts to You, Magillicutty!

By now, you know that I love fall and that John has asked me to try to send him healthy foods. I've got a whole battery of healthy recipes I'd like to try, but somehow the ones full of butter and sugar are just so much more fun to attempt!

So, I hunkered down and tried a pumpkin pie nut mix recipe from Pinterest. Usually Pinterest recipes are either excellent or awful (with almost no middle ground), so there's always the thrill of the experiment. 

Thankfully, this recipe was a winner and is a keeper. The first time I made it, I tried it with just almonds and misread the directions by putting about three times the amount of cinnamon needed into it. I tried my best to salvage it, and thought I had screwed it up for sure. When John got the almonds, he asked me for more, saying that he had "housed" the bag. (Sometimes I question if his taste buds are working.)

The second time I made it, I tried it with a mixture of whole nuts (read below for specifics). Smelling them bake in the oven is delightful and makes it feel exactly like it's mid-fall. I'd make this recipe for no other reason than to have that smell permeate the kitchen!

You can find the original recipe at Kneed to Cook. I'm copying the original below with my notes, changes, and suggestions, but please know that the original recipe is not my original content.

You need:
  • 2 cups of raw almonds (The first time I made this recipe, I used almonds. The second time, I tried it with 1 cup of whole walnuts and 1 cup of whole pecans. I rather like the mix better, but I'm also not a fan of almonds and neither is John.)
  • 3 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice seasoning (Enjoy how delicious it smells when you open up the canister!)
  • 4 tablespoons of organic agave or honey (I used honey.)
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • Sea Salt (About a teaspoon works.)
  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  
  • Line a cookie sheet with parchment or foil.
  • Into a bowl place your almonds.  
  • Then add cinnamon, spice, agave or honey and vanilla.  
  • Toss to coat each nut. (I found that this coating is too sticky and thick to really toss efficiently. I stirred instead. That was much more effective.)
  • Spread the nuts evenly on the cookie sheet.  
  • Sprinkle with sea salt.  
  • Bake for 18-20 minutes.  (When directly out of the oven, the coating on the nuts will look clumpy and spongy. Never fear! When cool, the coating will be crystallized.)
  • Let cool and serve. (Or pack and ship!  Or freeze 'em for Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas gifts. Or eat them standing up over your sink! )
That's it! An easy recipe with common, simply delicious ingredients and little prep or wait time! What's not to love?

Sandy Update: While we're directly in the path of the storm, right now, we're still just experiencing minimal rain and wind around 30 mph. Maybe there's still a chance that she'll stall off-shore? Just in case, my sister and I are laying low with a gigantic bag of Halloween candy, among other supplies. And no, that Halloween candy is not for any cute little ghosts or princesses that brave the storm for treats.

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Before the Power Goes Out!

As I write this, fat raindrops are pinging off the windows, the dryer's doing the last load of laundry before the storm, and a bowl of (finished) icing and pretzels are on the floor next to me. Hurricane Sandy is slowly churning its way toward Maryland and the rest of the Mid-Atlantic States, work on Monday has been cancelled since Sunday, and I am furiously typing out this blog post and another before the power fizzles out.

This weekend, I trekked up to my beloved alma mater to see the IneligiBowl between the greatest university in the world and... Ohio State. While we didn't win the game, I tailgated with my family, saw my sister perform with the marching band, and got to drink in the excitement and spirit surrounding the contest. I'm sure everyone feels the same way about their college, but there is something so special about Penn State that makes going back rejuvenating.

And talking about marching band and football, I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about the first mobile game to be based on a collegiate marching band. (Spoiler alert: It's free and awesome.)

In Fight on State, a new iPod and iPhone game app, you are the drum major of the best marching band in the country-- nay, the world: The Penn State Blue Band! As you run down the field during pregame towards your iconic, and much anticipated, flip, you must avoid charging football players. Collect notes to gain speed and force as you M-Rob the players out of the way.

The game is completely free to download and play. In addition to playing the game, you can listen to Penn State's fight songs (as recorded by the Blue Band) and learn the lyrics. If you love the game, there is an option to donate to Penn State's THON-- the largest student-run philanthropy in the world. Regardless of your collegiate loyalties, get a free glimpse into another college tradition and download Fight On State from the iTunes App Store today!

Full disclosure: My youngest sister was involved in developing the concept and marketing, so of course, I'm a wee bit biased. I will mention that Max Besong, the designer, artist, and developer of the game is not in any way related to me. Even if I had no familial ties to the project, I would be so excited about this game. I am a band geek. I love all things marching band, and that includes this game.

If you've been keeping track: I've been promising a post about a pumpkin pie nut mix recipe for the last week. If we have power later this morning, it'll be up! I've been holding off to try to get a better picture of the final product, but I'm just going to go with what I've got. Get excited, because this recipe is easy and delicious! And it's coming your way pending Sandy's wrath.

If you're in the hurricane's path, be safe. If you're not close to Sandy, please keep the rest of us in your prayers. 

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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Oodles of Doodles

After that sad, sad Penn State game (or, an exhilarating, exhilarating game, if you're an OSU fan), I thought I'd post a little happiness while my shredded voice recovers. Enjoy my dorky envelope designs. I do not-- I repeat, I do not-- decorate every letter I send John. Above are just my favorites from a doodling kick I was on a few weeks ago.

Tomorrow: a pumpkin pie nut mix recipe! Get pumped!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sushi Mats and Roasted Piglets

Some of you may know that John loves sushi. Previously, I've sent him Rice Krispies sushi, but this time, John sent me a list of ingredients he wanted so he could try making real sushi over there. He was inspired by some of his coworkers who made their own a few weeks ago.

I trucked down to the local Asia Mart (which is the real deal-- they sell platters of roasted baby pigs in their deli) and found powdered wasabi, a sushi mat, chopsticks, soy sauce, seaweed sheets, and (my favorite item in the I-found-this-by-chance-while-I-was-stumbling-around-poorly-lit-and-illogically-stocked-grocery-aisles category) instant miso soup. I was lucky to find everything in one store, but it took 45 minutes and three different clerks before we could scape together enough English and gestures to locate all of the items.

Then, it was off to Wally World to find as many packets of Sweet 'n' Spicy Tuna Creations as I could. It's the only flavor that isn't stocked at John's PX. I looked like a crazy cat woman (which, perhaps, isn't too hard for me) as I shoveled all of their remaining stock into a shopping basket. I left no Sweet 'n' Spicy tuna packet behind. When I got up to the check out, a middle aged, jovial clerk took one look at my stash, laughed unabashedly, and said, "Um, what do you do with all of these?" Because I am proud of him (but also because I didn't want to be labeled a tuna-hoarding freak-- after all, some of my former students work there), I explained about John. The clerk smiled and said to tell John that she said, "Thank you from the bottom of my heart." She reiterated this request twice before I left the cash register. As I was heading towards the exit, she yelled after me, "Remember to tell him! Don't forget, now!"

Somehow, I jammed all of this into a large Priority box and still had a tiny bit of space left. To fill it, I put some homemade granola bars in the box. I wrapped it with about half a roll of packing tape. Overkill, maybe, but I had to overcome a language barrier, see a roasted baby pig, and act like the subject for the next episode of Hoarders, so there was no way I was leaving the safety of that package up to chance.

Oh, and have you liked our brand new Jo, My Gosh! Facebook page? Do it! Do it now! 

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Gra-yes-la Bars!

John recently asked me to send him a package of things he actually needs (Imagine that! A care package that is useful instead of a bunch of candy and fun things!). After I jammed it full of stuff (pictures to follow after he actually receives it), there was a tiny, little bit of space left. Because I find it ridiculous to send a box that has any space in it, I've made it my mission to fill every nook and cranny so that the USPS earns every cent of that $13.50 they charge me to ship Priority.

This time around, I heeded John's plea for healthy food, and I tried out this homemade granola bar recipe.  It was delicious, quick, and exceptionally easy! You can find the original recipe at This Chick Cooks. I'm copying the original below with my notes, changes, and suggestions, but please know that the original recipe is not my original content.

You need:
  • 1 1/4 cups Rice Krispies
  • 1 cup uncooked quick-cooking oatmeal
  • 3 tablespoons ground flax seed (I left this out and nothing terrible happened...)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped dried fruit (I used cranberries for a "fall" flavor.)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped nuts (I used a half pecan/ half walnut mixture.)
  • 1/4 cup local honey, grade b maple syrup, or light molasses (I used honey.)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup nut butter (I used chunky peanut butter.) 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • optional: 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (Instead of mixing this in, I dusted it on top after pressing the mixture into a pan.)
  •  Combine Krispies, oats, flax seed fruit and nuts in a large bowl. In a small saucepan bring the honey and brown sugar. Remove from heat and stir in the nut butter and vanilla.
  • Pour the nut mixture over the cereal mixture and stir until it is well mixed. Press into a greased 8″ pan or greased mini muffin tins. (Cut into 12 bars if you used a pan.)
    Store them in the refrigerator.
  • If you want to have the chocolate drizzle on top, melt chocolate chips in the microwave in 15 second intervals, stirring after each microwaving. Add just enough canola oil to make the chips smooth and then drizzle on using a baggie with a small hole snipped in it.
Finishing and Packaging Notes:
  • I doubled the recipe (as suggested on the website) and pressed it into a 9x13 aluminum pan. I also drizzled chocolate over the top of them because... well, come on. It's chocolate, that's why. 
  • I cut all of the bars with a pizza wheel and packaged it in Food Saver bags. I was afraid of smooshing them, so I used the "gentle" setting on the Food Saver. 

By the way, have you liked Jo, My Gosh!'s Facebook page yet? Click now! (C'mon...everybody's doing it!)

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Monday, October 22, 2012

We're on Facebook!

That's right! Jo, My Gosh! has joined the rest of humanity and officially has its own page! Like us for up-to-date posts-- care packages, recipes, crafts, book reviews, teaching stories, and ramblings-- and other stuff (I haven't figured out what that will be yet, but hold onto your hat! It will be amazing!).

You can click the icon to the left, or click here and join us on Facebook!

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Baby, We Were Born to Run!

I have been in an exceptionally cruddy mood for the past two months, and I have no reason to be.  My students are great, I've been getting to see a lot of my family, and communication with John has been pretty steady. But for whatever reason, I'm in a funk. Time is passing so slowly and there's so much fun stuff coming down the pike in just a month or so.  Usually my favorite season, fall already seems like it has already lasted twice as long as the summer... and it only ends in December!

I'm a planner, so I've decided that I need to structure my life more to get out of my ridiculous slump. I've been letting things slide far too much-- normal, non-deployment Joanna would never let that happen. I am usually a force to be reckoned with (or at least, in my own, little world, that's how I am), and so that's where I need to be again. I've made a lousy choice in deciding this year to be my off year. 

Tomorrow, I'm starting with exercising. I'm going to get off my flabby butt and train for the next half-marathon. I don't think I'll ever run a full marathon. After walking the half, I just could not imagine doing double the distance. But a half is nothing to sneeze at.  And so, I'm going to train. By my birthday, I'll be able to run two-and-a-half miles consecutively at a 10-minute-mile clip. By Christmas, I want to be able to run five miles at a 10-minute-mile clip. Five miles in two months? I think that's do-able.  It helps me get to one of my 100 in 365 goals, so I'm going to stick to it this time.

And, the first time I run five miles consecutively? I'm buying myself Downton Abbey Season One. So if being healthy isn't going to motivate me, being able to escape into the lovely, dysfunctional-yet-elegant world of Mr. Bates and the rest will.

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Friday, October 19, 2012

The Eyes Have It!

After sending John a communal Halloween care package that had baked goods (Dulce de Leche Marshmallow Bars, Pumpkin Spice Pretzel Bites, and Cake-Mix Pumpkin Cookies) and the very specific directions to share with his coworkers and friends, I made him a Halloween package that he could (mostly) keep for himself. (I told you I love holidays!)

It figures, even though I sent each package about a week apart, he received them back-to-back. But, so it goes.

This is my favorite package because one of my wonderful friends and coworkers, Fitz, supplied the felt eyes. On the worst week ever, when I was out of work for three days with an acute sinus infection, Fitz gave me my own care package-- a box filled with awesome stuff (stickers, patterned duct tape, nail polish, candy, cute Post-Its, and those fantastic felt eyes). It lifted my spirits like I-don't-know-what. Seeing those nifty, bloodshot, and slightly crazy felt eyes, I knew I just had to use them for a Halloween box!

I wrapped the inside of the box with Wally World gift wrap and decorated it with googly eyes, Fitz's felt eyes, and metallic markers. The outside (which I completely forgot to take a picture of), was wrapped in green "Enter if you Dare" caution tape and secured with boxing tape.

The contents were a whole amalgamation of things I've been picking up from WalMart, Five Below, the Dollar Tree, and Target.
  • Candy Corn M&Ms (Yes, such a glorious thing exists!)
  • Caramel Cremes
  • Halloween-patterned tissues (I'm sure John will love using those!) 
  • a light-up plastic jack o'lantern
  • a really weird gummy critters lollipop
  • a jack-be-little
  • dark chocolate M&Ms
  • ghost lollipops (and orders to share them) 
  • Frankenstein, bat, and mummy candy bars
  • pumpkin Pop Rocks
  • pumpkin-shaped Snickers and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
And my two favorite finds (pictured above)... light-up gummy skulls and eyeball lollipops!  (Really, how nifty are those things! So strange, yet so awesome!)

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Give Me Something Good To Eat!


If you've followed this blog at all, you probably have figured out that I love holidays and I doubly love Halloween. Yesterday, John got his first of two Halloween boxes, so I can safely post this one for you to check out. I wanted this box to be filled with stuff that John could share with the guys in his barracks and the people at his command.

How I made it:
  •  I covered the inside of the box with Walmart-brand black wrapping paper like this
  • Then, using Elmer's, I glued lengths of Halloween caution tape (found at Five Below) onto the inside of the box. 
  • After that, still using Elmer's, I glued cotton spider webs and the plastic tarantulas that came with them (also found at Five Below) all over the box. This was absolutely the most fun part of making the box! (Tip: I found the easiest way to make the spider webs look especially spider-webby is to glue and let it dry, and then pull and glue new sections of the same web later. The layers separate much easier and get wispier if you repeat the process a few times.)
  • Finally, I glued the caution tape to the outside of the box and covered it in boxing tape so it couldn't unravel during shipping. 
All told, the raw materials for the decorations cost about $3 with tax (exempting the roll of gift wrap). With the gift wrap, it was about $6.

  • Dulce de Leche Marshmallow Bars
  • Pumpkin Spice Pretzel Bites
  • Halloween Oreos
  • Cake-Mix Pumpkin Cookies (As an aside, John reported that after a work week in transit, these cookies were still very chewy and fresh! And I didn't even heat seal them with my Food Saver. I was afraid I'd squash them! I just put them in Ziplock bags and squeezed as much air out of them as possible. I think they're much more resilient than they look!)
  • individual bags of mini pretzels
The hardest part about this box was playing Tetris to try to fit everything inside and close the top. But, after about 10 minutes of shifting, squishing, and praying (and I'm only half joking),  it fit and it (eventually) shipped! Yay!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

10-Minute Fall Snack

Did you know that Hershey's makes a pumpkin spice Kiss?! Me neither! I found these guys at CVS on a rainy, awful day while I was sick and waiting for my antibiotic prescription to be filled two weeks ago. I really didn't need to buy them, but I wanted to send John a care package of fall tastes (post soon forthcoming), so I grabbed the bag, and found a package of pretzels and M&Ms and braved the rain to get back to my apartment and make these pretzel bites. From start to finish, this'll take you just about 10-minutes!

You'll need:
  • Bag o' Pumpkin Spice Hershey Kisses
  • 1 cup of M&Ms (Want to be super coordinated? Pick out the fall-colored ones!) 
  • Mini pretzels (the square ones work too!) 
  • A cookie sheet
  • Aluminum foil or parchment paper
  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. 
  2. Cover a cookie sheet in aluminum foil or parchment paper  and spread your pretzels over the cookie sheet. 
  3. Plunk an unwrapped Hershey Kiss on top of each pretzel. 
  4. Chuck your cookie sheet into the oven for about 3 minutes, or until it is melty but not melted. Be careful-- the inside of the Kiss is a different consistency than the outside, so the outside needs to melt a little bit more before the inside is malleable. 
  5. Pull the cookie sheet out of the oven, and press an M&M into the top of each one right away
  6. Chill in the fridge on the cookie sheet.
  7. Serve, package, and/or nosh! 
Happy fall, everyone! 

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

#24: Half Marathon's Completely Done

When John left, I made a list of 100 things I wanted to do this year. Yesterday, I completed #24-- to do the Baltimore Half Marathon! Originally, I wanted to run the whole thing, but training got away from me. 
Instead, my wonderful and adventurous friend, Ashley (whose husband is deployed with John) made the trek to Baltimore and joined me to walk half-marathon.

That's right. 13.1 miles of Baltimore streets. And, spoiler alert: we finished in 3 hours and 19 minutes. We even ran some of it. Yes, I ran some of it. I was more surprised than you are!

I am not an athletic person. Prior to this year, I'd never entertained of completing any race, much less a half-marathon; however, in May John decided he was going to run a half in his hometown, so I drove up to cheer him on. And I got massively hooked.  I was so surprised by how joyful the occasion was. People were so excited to be there, and the spectators were cheering on everyone regardless of their abilities. While I'm still completely new at races, from my two experiences in two different cities, it seems like marathons bring out the best in humanity. When John had said that the spectators and signs kept him going (and I believed him), I had drastically underestimated just how much fun that part of the race would be.

Here's some of what Ashley and I saw on our trek around Charm City:
  • A little girl was holding a sign that said, "You trained for this longer than Kim Kardashian was married." She was also yelling in the clearest, most convicted voice, "Don't be Kim! Keep going! Keep moving! Don't be Kim!"
  • A family in one of the most blighted areas we drove through was out on their front porch, banging pots and pans with wooden spoons. They were having a blast!
  • Grandmas of all shades and ages were out on the street corners yelling classic Baltimore phrases like, "C'mon, baby!"  Baltimore grandmas always warm my heart.
  • There were a multitude of signs that said something like, "Free beer at the finish line!" but only one sign that said, "Free sex at the finish line!" 
  •  A man in a bombed-out section of neighborhood was standing in front of a 7-Shop (apparently a generic 7-11) who had just bought cases of water and was handing out bottles to people. He did not look like he had the extra cash to spend on bottles of water, and yet, he was there-- an unofficial, homemade water station.
  •  We saw so many people in costumes-- a Baltimore rat handing out high-fives, a zebra and a lion standing on top of their car in Charles Village, Batman, Wonder Woman, and a hotdog and ketchup and mustard bottles who were running the race.
  • One little girl stood on a cement outcropping on a foreclosed building and was cheering, "G-double-O-D-L-U-C-K! Good luck! Good luck!" all by herself.
  • There were so many little kids standing out on the sidewalk with their hands outstretched for high-fives or fist bumps. A lot of runners ran straight past them, but I can't forfeit a cute kid's offer. And they got so excited. 
  • In another blighted block, every house had wooden signs with, "Go Mitt!" spray painted on them in red. It made me happy that people from all over the city were participating, not just the privileged. It made me happier to see the support Mitt had (because I can guarantee those signs were not for Romney).
  • There were tons of variations on the "Lookin' good, sexy!" sign, but only one 50s-ish woman who ran by them, spread her arms out, and yelled, "Yes, I am!" Gotta love confidence!
  • I was wearing a Penn State Blue Band jacket and got two calls of, "We are...!" and one "Yeah, Blue Band!" I love that Baltimore is a PSU town!
  • Thank you, neighborhood of Waverly for the candy corn and Peanut M&Ms! 
  • A little girl was standing with her grandma in a run-down section of neighborhood, holding a huge Tupperware container of Jolly Ranchers.
  • A guy playing accordion. Yep, an accordion. There were many people blasting music from their cars or houses for the runners, but only one guy was playing accordion.

I might be walking around my apartment for the next two days like an arthritic dinosaur, but it was completely worth it! Now, excuse me as I hobble off to Miss Shirley's to introduce Ashley to fried green tomatoes. Yum!

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pumpkin Deliciousness

One of the best things about fall is pumpkin-flavored errrrrrything. On Monday, I spent all night making pumpkin cookies and pumpkin pie almonds. It was glorious and it got me out of the funk I was in. (I screwed up the almonds by misreading the recipe, so I'm not posting it here. However, I'm going to try it again, so keep a weather eye for a post about almonds in the near future.)

I found the recipe for these delicious and exceedingly easy cookies on Pinterest. You can follow the link to the original source, but I'm also copying it here. This is not my recipe, it's from Your Cup of Cake... and it's so awesome, I have nothing to add! It'll take you about 5 minutes to gather and mix the ingredients. The hardest thing is waiting for the cookies to finish baking and cool!

  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 15 oz Pumpkin Pie Mix
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Chocolate chips
  • Nuts (optional) 
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Mix all ingredients together.
3.  Bake for about 15 minutes or until the tops are a little firm.

So there you go-- a recipe to celebrate a weekend in the fall! Enjoy!

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Surprises and Experiments

Two really fantastic things happened today:
 1. The main office called me over the PA and told me there was a package for me. Package? I wasn't expecting anything. I walked down to pick it up, and when I got to the office, Ms. Welchel handed me a beautiful vase of flowers. I was so stunned, I didn't know how to react at first. Ms. Jones laughed at me and said, "He really must love you... he is attentive!" and Ms. Welchel told me it was okay to smile. So I did.

2. When I got home, I checked the mail... and there was a letter from John! 

I am the happiest girl anywhere in the world today. I challenge any girl anywhere to be happier. It can't be done!

And in other news (because, let's be real, you care more about this then you do about my flower and letter story)... I tried my hand at a delicious recipe... that I made. Now granted, all I did was substitute one cereal for another, but that's what I can handle at this point. So without further ado, here's my first recipe as a Jo, My Gosh! Exclusive!

You need:
  • 1 box of Dulce de Leche Cheerios
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) of butter
  • a bag of marshmallows

  1. In a large pot over low heat, melt the 1/4 cup of butter. 
  2. When the butter is melted, add the bag of marshmallows. Stir until the butter/marshmallow mixture is smooth.
  3. Add cereal slowly, mixing as you pour. Add cereal to taste. For me, I like a little more marshmallow and just a smidgen less cereal.
  4. When done, pour into a greased 9x13 pan. Press down (you can use a spatula or wear a sandwich bag on your hand and do it manually. Either works.) so that you have a flat, even pan of treats. 
  5. Throw into the fridge to cool.
  6. Cut into pieces while treats are chilled. 
  7. Send or eat. Yum!

I think next, I'm going to try Dulce de Leche cereal and use caramel instead of marshmallow... hmmm. Sounds like a sugar rush. Exactly the way I like it!

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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Fall Box

Fall is John and my favorite time of the year. This year, of course, John won't get a chance to see the leaves change or go cheer on Penn State football in Beaver Stadium, so I wanted to mail him a little bit of autumn. 

This box was so much fun to shop for. I am addicted to the store Five Below (which, apparently, is a Mid-Atlantic states chain). For those of you who have never heard of Five Below, I am so sorry. It's a fantastic 5 and 10... but with items that don't necessarily look like they're from a 5 and 10. Nothing is over five dollars, and they have a diverse selection of items, including some bangin' seasonal stuff. 

I found the fall paper in the Target dollar bins. There's just something about getting cute, reasonably priced stuff for John's packages. It must be the thrill of the hunt!

My favorite items in the box are the Little Debbie's football brownies (which I had no clue existed before I saw them at Wal-Mart), pumpkin seeds, and old-timey Cracker Jacks. There's some instant apple cider and ginger snaps (which my mom always has on hand during the fall), football-shaped chocolates, an expanding washcloth in the shape of a football, football napkins and plates and a Steelers cup. Rachel found a toothbrush that looks like a Penn State football player diving for a football (which just happens to be the head of the toothbrush), which is extremely cute. And then, of course, there's candy corn-- one of our weird food vices.

I topped it off with Runner's World and some orange tissue paper. Usually I wrap each item so it takes John a little longer to go through the package and enjoy each surprise, but I didn't have any wrapping paper that wouldn't clash with the rest of the package. ...And then I realized that's a little ridiculous.

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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Send a Message in a Bottle!

When I was in college, my awesome youngest sister, Becky, would send me 2 liter bottles filled with all kinds of fun stuff-- letters, pictures, pom-poms, confetti, stickers... It was the best thing to get a "You have a package!" message in my mailbox and pick up up a plastic bottle filled with an explosion of happiness.

Fast-forward eight years. Because school has been crazy and the weekends are just as nuts, I've been subsisting on Diet Pepsi to get me through the days.  I realized I had a lot of plastic bottles (and normally I don't because I try to avoid soda as much as possible) and decided to surprise two of my favorite people!

If you're shipping one out of the country, you'll have to write out one of the one-pound-or-under customs form (it's small and green). You'll also have to endure the post lady looking at the bottles, up at you, and saying, "Honey, where in the hell do you get time to do this and put all this crap on them?" Just shrug and smile. She's kind of crazy.

  • $1.95 per bottle (for shipping)
  • clean plastic bottle with a twist-on top
  • scrapbook paper
  • stickers
  • plastic packaging tape
  • Elmer's glue
  • letters
  • hole punch
  • small items that can fit down the neck of the bottle (pictures, clippings, pom-poms, small Tootsie Rolls, etc.)
  1. Cut a strip of scrapbook paper that fits the bottle where the label should be. Glue in place and let dry.
  2. Fill your bottle with letters, hole punch confetti if you'd like to, add whatever else you think is cool, and decorate the bottle with stickers.
  3. I wrapped the whole label in packaging tape after I wrote the addresses. This is an optional step, but I would recommend it. I also taped down the bottle cap with packing tape after twisting the top as hard as I possibly could.

This project is the perfect reason to splurge on some soda! Enjoy!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Crying Over Spilled Beer

I knew deployment would be tough. But no one told me I'd find myself in my living room crying over a 30-second Sam Adams commercial. That's just ridiculous, even by my standards. I get why-- John's a beer enthusiast, and he really loves Sam Adams.

On one of our first dates, we were hanging out with a bunch of friends at a Blue Band reunion. He had to step outside and asked me to grab him a beer if there was a lull at the bar. "No problem," I said as coolly and smoothly as I could, not having a clue what kind of beer he'd want to drink. I hate beer. I avoid drinking it at all costs. In fact, in my whole life, I've only been able to down one very small glass of green beer. I have regretted it for the last 5 years.

I stood at the bar, awkwardly, waiting for a bartender. You can probably guess that I'm not the pushy, showy type, so bartenders rarely notice me. That's usually because I look like a soda drinker... which, coincidentally, is mostly what I drink at bars anyway.

So there I am, standing, trying to get the bartender's attention and simultaneously cursing the free enterprise system, hating the entire beer industry, and wishing I were in Communist Russia. Why so many kinds of beers? Why not just one kind of beer? And one of our mutual friends and soon-to-be beer savior, Mark, walked up and before he could say anything, I pounced.

"I have no idea what to order John!"

"What was he drinking?" Mark said. I am not a careful observer of things like that. I knew he had a glass of beer. After seeing the vacant, clueless expression glass over my face, Mark came to the rescue. "Okay, get him a Sam Adams. He likes those."

So simple.

And I did. Once a random girl called a bartender over because she felt bad for my ineptitude. Seriously, I'm a pretty ignorable, forgettable person, especially in a dark bar. You'd think it'd be the opposite, since I virtually glow in the dark, my skin is so pale.

Probably about an hour or so later, John and I decided that we were way too awesome together to be single anymore. I'm not going to credit the Sam Adams entirely, but it couldn't have hurt. (Mark--thanks, buddy!)

Back to the commercial: there's no reason why a Sam Adams spot should make me tear up like I'm watching the Lifetime Network. And yet, I could feel tears burning the corners of my eyes as some guy-- I'm assuming Mr. Adams?-- plunged into and then exploded from a dunk tank full of beer.

John has got to start liking craft beers with no budgets for media campaigns.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Bootiful Treats, Part Trois

This is my last post about Halloween candy, I promise. Previously, I've posted about Frankenstein's Monster, mummy, and bat candy bar covers.  It will definitely not be my last post about Halloween. Soon, I'll share the Halloween care package I'm sending John next week! Have I mentioned that I love holidays? 'Cause I do!

Ready, set...

 I made a whole pumpkin-head-ful of these cuties to send to John so he can share them with his coworkers. They were so easy to make (especially while binging on cruddy TV. Yes, Revolution, Go On, and The New Normal, I'm looking at you!) and once you get into a rhythm, you can finish a whole bag in no time. It took me about an hour to get all 50 pops done.

Cost: 50 cents or less! (It depends on what you already have at home and what kind of lollipops you're partial to.)


  • black marker or Sharpie
  • orange ribbon
  • regular tissues (do NOT use the ones with lotion!)
  • Charms lollipops or Tootsie Roll lollipops (Charms gives the ghosts lumpy heads. That's what you see in my picture. Tootsie Roll pops makes them look more "normal.")

  1. Cut a length of ribbon about 6 inches long.
  2. Take a pop and a tissue and cover the lollipop from the "ghost's head" down.
  3. Right below the "head," tie the ribbon and trim the ends.
  4.  Draw two eyes and an open mouth with your marker.
  5. Rinse and repeat for as many ghosts as you want to make! 

So there you go! Four types of ghoulish monsters and ghosties to treat someone to! 

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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Bootiful Treats, Part Deux

 Yesterday, after posting about my Frankenstein's Monster template I promised more candy bar wrappers , and if there's one thing I don't do, it's disappoint.  So without further ado...

I cannot take any credit for the ideas for these amazing candy bar covers. I found the ideas and template at this amazing site.

Because the directions for both of these and the template for the bats are listed on the site, I won't add anything at all except for these 2 notes: 

  1. I used regular tape to secure the mummy's wrapping on the back of the candy bar; however, for the bats, I used double-sided tape for a cleaner finish. 
  2. And, to help mitigate some of the time it took to cut out the bats, I decided to cut off the bats' feet. I don't think it changes the look at all, and takes less time... which equals, more bats! :-) 

Each candy bar costs just over $1 to make-- especially if you have all of the materials to begin with. (And you should have the googly eyes from yesterday's craft, anyway!) 

Make one or two and throw 'em in a bubble mailer! They're sure to make someone smile! 

Stay tuned tomorrow for part three of "It Came From Underneath the Wrapper!"

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Monday, October 1, 2012

Bootiful Treats!

Finally, it's October! I thought September would never end! (I'm pretty sure September was actually 60 days this year, not 30!) It's time to celebrate one of the best months of the year with candy and crafts!

I've been working on Halloween treats to send to John and his coworkers for the last weekish. I couldn't stand how cute the candy bar covers were, so I showed John over video chat. They're not longer a surprise for him, so I can share them with you! (And then you can make them ahead of Halloween, too!)  Follow along for a free template!

The perfect thing about candy bar covers is that you can do one, or a whole bunch! I decided to do a bunch of 'em to ship to John and his coworkers, but you could always just do one to surprise a friend!

I decided to try my hand at creating my own candy bar cover. Kit-Kat bars are the perfect size for a monster's head. Click the picture of Frankenstein's Monster for a PDF template! It's a Jo, My Gosh! exclusive! 

Cost: $2 (or less, depending on the materials you have at home)
  • $1ish for the Kit-Kat (less if you buy in bulk)
  • $1 for 100 googly eyes (found at Five Below) 
  • scissors
  • green, black and grey paper (I used cardstock, but construction paper will work, too.) 
  • clear tape 
  • adhesive googly eyes
  • red and black markers
  1. Download and print the template. Cut out the face, hair, and neck bolts.
  2. Trace each part on the corresponding color paper and cut it out. 
  3. Center the monster's face on the front of the candy bar and then tape the seam in the back.
  4. Center the monster's hair on the top of his head and then tape the seam in the back. 
  5. Secure each neck bolt by taping it against the side of the candy bar. Once taped, fold the bolts backward to make them stand out from the monster's face.
  6. Draw your monster's face, add a scar or two, and stick those googly eyes on!

Tune in tomorrow for another candy bar template!
 Happy Fall!!

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