Stella, May I know how was the snow?

2:31 PM Unknown 0 Comments

Of course you may! This year's snow came early with winter storm Jonas. As I told you last Fiddle-Faddle Friday, we stayed in all day. However we did venture to the front lawn when it finally snowed at 9:30pm. It only snowed 0.5 inches. That may be nothing to you northerners, but I have found out that any amount of snow will cause the Atlanta to just shut down. No one was on the streets and stores ran out of milk, eggs, and bread. Thankfully we already had enough meals planned for the day and we didn't need to go out and brace the crowds. We just had to stay warm, but not until we got to play in the snow and take some pictures!
Snow barely sticking on branches
This is me in my robe. I immediately called for Mister to come out when it finally started to snow. 
The most snow was accumulated on the car. Yes, I am still in my robe. 
I then changed into a proper coat and brushed my hair and then it starts to rain. 
Snow-capped lights.
Total snow on our front lawn. 
Popcorn experiencing his first snow. It was a brief few seconds, but it seemed like he did enjoy it!
As I have mentioned on this blog before, domesticated hedgehog mostly originate from Africa and so they are not built for such cold weather. If hedgies get too cold, they will hibernate. Now the European hedgehogs are built to withstand the cold, so if you know that you hedgie has been crossbred with our European friends, then your hedgehog might know what to do. However it's still dangerous to let your hedgehog hibernate since they have not been preparing to do so. Hibernation causes their metabolic rate to go up and decreased oxygen to their brains. If they stay in hibernation for too long, without being prepared, they can suffer serious brain damage and might not be able to come out of hibernation. They need stores of fat to survive hibernation and their cat food based diet they have is high in protein and low in fat. It's best to keep your hedgehog above 75°F. Some signs that your spiky ball is going into hibernation: unable to curl into a ball, cool tummy, and wobbliness. If they start doing any of those things you should start warming him up. Try skin-on-skin contact, pet-safe heating pad, or a warmed hot water bottle.
Remember to keep your pets safe and warm this winter!


Stella, May I know how you make your hot chocolate super?

8:10 PM Unknown 0 Comments

Welcome to Tutorial Tuesdays! After the storm over last weekend, I thought I would show you how Mister makes me my hot chocolate. Although today's weather here in Atlanta is quite warm, we are going to be expecting a rainstorm later. As you can see above, Mister torches my marshmallows! How super is that? We use the Iwatani Cooking Torch. With this torch, you can get the marshmallows from every angle! Normally I have it with mini marshmallows, but I thought it would be nice to change it up and this way I would be able to show you the texture more.
 I've cheated today and used the instant mix. This the Swiss Miss Dark Chocolate Sensation.
However I much prefer the Swiss Miss Simply Cocoa Milk Chocolate better. I feel like it tastes better, but it might just be the packaging. I realize that I am comparing dark to milk chocolate, but I have also had the dark chocolate Simply Cocoa one. Simply Cocoa Dark Chocolate was still better than the Dark Sensation. I make both of them with just milk (not water), so it's also not that the Dark Sensation one is made with water, as per instructions.
Even the little packets are different. The Dark Chocolate is on the left, the Simply Cocoa is on the right. It's more colorful! If however you have your eyes closed, they will feel the same.
They also have the same instructions. Empty contents into mug, add 6 ounces of hot milk, stir and enjoy. It's nice that they didn't just copy and paste the same pictures. I wonder why Swiss Miss decided not to top off the Simply Cocoa with RediWhip. Either way, I suggest topping it off with marshmallows!
Empty contents into mug. This pouring shot isn't very good, since Mister hasn't come over to help yet.
Stir in 6 ounces of hot milk. I am using a honey dipper to stir it in. It's much faster at getting the lumps out than a spoon or a whisk. I just microwaved the milk at 30 second increments for about 2½ minutes. You could just zap it for that long at the beginning, but I find that if I don't stir it while it heats, the milk scalds. This pouring shot is much better as Mister has come to help.
Target brand (Market Pantry) Marshmallows. How cute is this new packaging. I appreciate the pillow-y letters and red color. Now you might think, why doesn't Stella May just use the Swiss Miss that has marshmallows? Well the tiny marshmallows that are included just dissolve instantly when you mix it. What is the point of having marshmallows when you can't have any of those pillow-y bites?
Time to top off your mug. Since I just used one packet, the hot chocolate only comes up about half way. If you want a full cup use two packets for a standard mug. I decided against it since it wouldn't leave any room for the marshmallows! This way I get to have marshmallows fill the rest of the mug! This cup is basically half hot chocolate, half marshmallows.
Turn on the torch and start browning your marshmallows! This is a rather quick process, so make sure you keep moving the flame. Usually when Mister is doing this, I am blowing out the marshmallows that catch on fire. Just brown until you are happy. Then it's time to enjoy the super hot chocolate!


Stella, May I know why Popcorn looks so angry?

7:46 PM Unknown 0 Comments

Of course you may. Popcorn gets angry when he gets hungry. (aka #hangry) But seriously, read on to find out why Popcorn looks so angry.
At the time of this post, Atlanta is on winter weather advisory. Stores are closed or closing early and our plans have changed to staying holed up at home. So far we have been watching a lot of episodes of Friends and now we are being a little more productive and starting to reorganize our little home.
For today's Fiddle-Faddle Friday, I thought I would show you some more pictures of the pets lately.
 Family portrait of all the brothers. L-R: Popcorn, Valentine, Oswald
 Popcorn having some popcorn while big brother watches over.
 Popcorn wants to swat the popcorn down and big brother Oswald is still just watching.
 Now that Popcorn can claim his reward, Oswald is looking a little scared.
 Oswald decides to go find the Valentine instead and scurries off.
 Popcorn angrily eating his reward. (He is not actually angry, it is just how his face forms when he is chewing. I don't think Oswald has gotten that yet, so that's why Oswald wasn't going to stick around to watch him eat.)
Popcorn is chewing here and as you can see he isn't angry anymore.
This is Popcorn not even a second later after the first picture was taken. It's just his chewing face.


Stella, May I know how you make kettle popcorn?

10:06 AM Unknown 0 Comments

Happy National Popcorn Day! As promised for today's Tutorial Tuesday, I present Mister's signature kettle popcorn recipe. Now I must tell you, this is not a simple stick-it-in-the-microwave popcorn. It will involve some exercise and patience. However it is well worth it. It's way better than the stuff you find at fairs! (I think I am just realizing how much fair food I like. Corn dogs, kettle corn, funnel cakes...) This popcorn is coated with a thin layer of sugar, so if you leave it out it won't go stale that quickly. It'll be good for a few days, before it starts going stale. I seem to always finish it so I can't tell you exactly how many days. The sugary coating also makes it more crunchy! I have always liked kettle popcorn, but I didn't know how to make it. I used to always get the packaged stuff from the store or the overpriced ones at the fair. I even resorted to sprinkling powdered sugar on top of microwave popcorn! That was not successful at all. The powdered sugar ended up all sinking to the bottom of the bowl. When Mister found this out, he set out to make it for me. He thought it was a little silly that I bake and cook, but I can't make kettle popcorn. After a lot of testing, he presented me with the best tasting kettle popcorn I ever had. Now we make it for movie nights! 
On to the recipe: you will need
Half cup of popcorn kernels
Half cup of plain ol' white sugar. I haven't played around with other types of sugar, but I imagine brown sugar or coconut sugar won't melt at just the right time or won't be able to coat the popcorn as they pop. 
 4 tablespoons of oil. This might sound like a lot and it is if you think about it. It's half the amount of sugar! But you will need this much oil to allow the sugar to melt more consistently and help coat the popcorn more evenly . If not, the sugar will caramelize and burn quicker. Also without enough oil, Mister thinks the sugar moves around in clumps and will not coat the popcorn evenly.
 Pour the oil in a large pot. This is a stock pot. It will look like a good coating at the bottom of the pot.
Add in three kernels and turn on the stove to a medium high heat. Cover the pot. When you hear three little pots, it's time to add the rest of the ingredients.
You will also want to add 1 teaspoon of salt. Balance out the sweet with some saltiness! Mix the salt to the sugar, not the popcorn like in the picture. Mixing the sugar and salt together prior to pouring it in the pot ensures that you won't have surprise salty bites.
As you can see, I added the sugar first in the picture above. But after more trials after this picture was taken, Mister has found that adding the popcorn first is better. Throughout the entire process, the popcorn popping is what takes the longest. Adding the popcorn first allows it to cook at a slight head start before the sugar. The absolute worst part about making kettle popcorn is if you burn the sugar. It will ruin your entire batch with a horrible bitter taste and then you will have to start from the beginning. So when Mister was testing different variations of the recipe, he took extra measures to preventing the sugar from being burnt. (extra oil, popcorn in first, lots of shaking...)
This is picture was also taken before we took that extra step by adding the popcorn first. You want to add the popcorn in, then add the sugar and salt mixture in. Cover the pot and thus begins your exercise portion.
With some oven mitts, shake the pot. Side to side, back and forth. and swirl it all around. The point is to prevent the sugar and popcorn from staying in one place. Mister has found that keeping the pot on the fire for four seconds, then off for two seconds of shaking is the ideal rhythm. You want to continue this on and off motion until the popcorn has finished popping. It's like the microwave kind: wait until the popping slows down to 1-2 seconds between each pop, then it's done! This process should take about 7-8 minutes. (It's about how long the sugar can be under that heat before it starts to burn. So you should take it off by the 8 minute mark.) Remember it's best to not have burnt sugar, so if you can still hear a few kernels at the bottom, but the sugar has coated the popcorn and it is about to be burnt (you can smell it) then take it off the heat. Don't wait until for the last few kernels. It's better to have less popcorn at the end then ruin an entire batch.
 In the picture, we were seconds away from burning and ruining the entire batch. It should not come out this dark. As you can see at the bottom of the pot, those bits will just continue to burn and start sticking to your popcorn. Then there will be no coming back from that. When the popcorn is done, dump it out into a bowl and let it cool. Mister likes to break it up in the serving bowl, but you can also dump it out on a cookie sheet, cool it, break it up and then put it in your serving bowl. It's just one more thing to wash afterwards. I, however, like to break off the pieces as I eat them!
 Voila! This is a better picture from a different batch.
Kettle Popcorn Recipe
yields a generous 1 person serving or 2 if you share
  • ½ cup popcorn kernels 
  • ½ cup white sugar 
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 4 tablespoons oil 
In a large stock pot, pour in 4 tablespoons of oil and 3 popcorn kernels. Turn on the heat to medium high and wait for the 3 popping sounds. It will be about 2 minutes. After the 3 kernels of popcorn have popped, pour in the rest of the kernels. Then pour in the sugar and salt. Cover immediately and start shaking the pot. Shake for 2-3 seconds then back on the heat for 4 seconds. Then shake the pot and back on the heat until the kernels have popped or the sugar has caramelized. It will be about 7-8 minutes. After 8 minutes of shaking, take the pot off the heat and pour out the popcorn. Cool and enjoy!

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Stella, May I know what you think about Shake Shack making a Chicken Sandwich or better known as Chick'n Shack?

8:51 PM Unknown 0 Comments

Of course I will let you know. But first, you must be wondering: Why is there a SMI post on a Sunday? Well, you can thank Shake Shack for releasing a chicken sandwich this week. Shake Shack has always been on the list of restaurants to try if I ever went to New York. Also on the list: Cronuts. (The original one, not the bajillions of copies that have sprouted up. Even my local market had it at their bakery.) Back to Shake Shack. The restaurant has been working on making a chicken sandwich for two years and after a successful test at their 3 Brooklyn locations, they have launched at all their locations. Yay! 
 Here's me at the Buckhead Shake Shack.
Buzzer. There was not really a point to having this. I ended up just picking up our order when it was ready. The employees just watched me take the tray. They didn't even check! What if other people had taken my order. I mean that wasn't likely since I was impatiently watching like a hawk for my order to come out. Oh and I just ended up leaving the buzzer on the counter.
 Table top reads: Handcrafted in Brooklyn, NY. This surface was once part of a bowling lane.
 Order: Chick'n Shack, Smoke Shack Double, Crinkle Fries, mustard and ketchup. (side note: their ketchup dispenses really quickly and they provide larger than average dipping cups!)
 Mister's Smoke Shack. He wasn't impressed. When I had a bite, it was dry and not nearly as delicious as...
Chick'n Shack. Crispy chicken breast fried to perfection, shredded lettuce, pickles, and buttermilk mayo all between a potato bun.
Their chicken wasn't dry at all! According to Shake Shack, they precook the breast pieces (apparently similar to a sous vide method) and dredge then fry to order. If you see them shaking a basket of seasoned breading behind the order counter, that's their chicken breading station. You can see them really coat each piece thoroughly, which I think really attributes to the crispiness. At first I didn't know about the shredded lettuce, but it  was distributed evenly throughout the sandwich. The pickles added a brightness and the buttermilk herb mayo almost acted as a dressing to the lettuce. The bun was nice and soft and nicely contrasted the crispy chicken. Each component was a well thought out and well seasoned at every bite. Overall I enjoyed the sandwich and have to say it was one of my all time favorites. It might be silly to think a simple chicken sandwich would beat out their famous hamburgers, but I think it actually might!
Shake Shack 3035 Peachtree Road NE, Suite A146 Atlanta, GA 30305


Stella, May I know how you bathe Popcorn?

5:34 PM Unknown 0 Comments

We bathe Popcorn in the sink! 
 First we fill the water with some soapy warm water and gently plop him in.
 He starts swimming around. I would like to think he is actually swimming, but it's more like paddling around with his head above water.
 We chase him around with a tiny children's toothbrush and give him a good scrubbing. The dirtiest part is always under his nails. The toothbrush is great for cleaning that, however the toothbrush is even better at cleaning between his little spines. We just use the toothbrush as if it was a spine brush and comb his spines.
 When he is done with his play time, he just stops paddling and floats.
 That's when it is time for a rinse!
Gently pat him down with a towel. All clean!

We use Dawn Ultra Dishwashing Liquid. You know the blue one with the cute animals on the packaging? We find it the gentlest, but still able to clean him. It also allows him to frolic and play in the soapy water without irritating him. Popcorn gets bathed about once a month. If he's made a mess or having an upset stomach, then we would also bathe him after he's had an accident.

If you find your hedgie afraid of baths, try having the water prepped beforehand. You will want to have the "bath tub" filled and soapy and have a bucket of water nearby for the rinse. That way your little one will not hear the water coming out of the faucet. They are quite sensitive to sound and can be easily startled when they hear that. One time, I wanted to give Popcorn a quick "shower." I think the noise from the faucet must have scared him and he took a big bite of my finger! He didn't just bite and let go either, he just kept clamped down until I massaged his little mouth to let go. That bite hurt for at least a week! So while hedgehogs look like they have cute little teeth, they still chomp down hard. Now Popcorn has gotten used to the faucet sound a bit more, so as long as we keep the faucet setting at a lower power he doesn't get upset or scared.

If you find that your hedgehog's skin is getting dry, I find that dropping in some jojoba oil does the trick. I just drop a few drops of oil between the spines and the skin is moisturized. Remember, do not use tea tree oil! Tea tree oil is toxic to hedgehogs. Tea tree oil can be found in your hand soaps, shampoos, and candles. You may think since candles don't have direct contact with your hedgehog it will be safe for them, but even inhaling it can cause harm to your hedgehogs. Tea tree oil, direct contact or inhaled, can cause renal or liver failure, and can eventually lead to complete organ failure. It's best to be safe and keep tea tree oil far away from your hedgehog.

Come back Tuesday January 19th for National Popcorn Day! I have Mister's signature kettle popcorn recipe for Tutorial Tuesday.