Friday, December 24, 2010

Spiced Mulled Wine + Merry Christmas!

The first time I had mulled wine was after skiing to the bottom of a mountain in Austria. Holding that cup of spiced warmth in my freezing hands and letting the steam thaw my wind-frozen face is one of my perfect little memories. Maybe it was the picturesque setting in the Alps, or maybe it was my excitement that I was only fourteen and able to drink wine in a public establishment because I was in Europe, but I'll never forget it.

Mulled wine is a hot wine-based German beverage [they call it Gl├╝hwein, prounounced like GLUE-vine]. If the idea of heated wine sounds weird to you, don't let it turn you off. It is Christmasy and comforting and warms you to the tips of your toes. It's also really easy, great for a crowd and makes your house smell amazing.

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday spent with family and friends and filled with overindulgence, board games, and lots of laughter. Merry Christmas!

Mulled Wine
peel of 1 orange
12 whole cloves
4 cinnamon sticks
4 oz brandy
[optional - replaces some of the alcohol that evaporates as the wine heats]
1/4-1/3 cup sugar [to taste]
1.5 liter bottle of full bodied red wine
[cabernet or merlot works the best]

1. Mix all ingredients in a saucepan on the stove. Heat until just simmering, stirring occasionally.
2. Reduce heat to keep wine just under a simmer. Heat for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Ladle into mugs and serve.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Crocheted Peppermint Pillow

I have to do a show and tell picture post about this christmasy crochet project I made in a class at the UCC taught by the talented Cheryl Cambras. I'm a sucker for any rendition of food in the wrong size - whether it be miniature or giant - so I was all over this huge peppermint.

With one of Cheryl's patterns, we crocheted a flat piece that cleverly swirled itself as we sewed it up into a circle. She has written all sorts of cute crochet patterns that you can check out her etsy shop. She also made an amazing front window display for the UCC with life-sized crochet figures that you can see on her blog.

Christmas is only five days away...I need to finish getting ready!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Tutorial: Make Your Own Cake Stencil

A close friend of mine recently celebrated her birthday, and as per usual she requested [and I gladly agreed] that I make my flourless chocolate cake.

Flourless chocolate cake is pretty intense and in no need of frosting, so I usually just dust the top with powdered sugar. Since this cake was for a special occasion, no ordinary dusting would do. I decided to make a cake stencil.

You can buy premade cake stencils at specialty baking shops and people/places like Williams Sonoma and Martha Stewart. Unfortunately, I decided that I needed one the night before the party. Also, I'm pretty sure that Martha Stewart would never design an otter cake stencil. You see, my friend really loves otters, so I thought that an otter should grace her cake.

So here's what I did:

Make Your Own Cake Stencils
heavyweight printer paper
exacto knife
black marker
old magazine
the internet & a printer

1. Find an image online and print it out. It can be a photo or text, whatever you want. Set the image size percentage in the print window to be the proper size for how large you want your design to be on the cake. [For a 9" cake, I had the photo take up nearly the whole page.]

2. Use a black marker to outline the prominent dark features of the photo. Remember that you will be cutting the dark areas out, so make sure that there aren't any light areas completely
surrounded by dark, because otherwise they will
separate from the stencil and you'll have multiple pieces.

3. Put the paper on top of the old magazine and use the craft knife to cut out the dark areas you've outlined.

4. Cut two small strips of paper. Fold down each end about an inch and tape the ends to opposite sides of the stencil without covering any of it up. These will be the handles you use to lift the stencil off the cake when it's covered in sugar.

5. If your cake is below the edges of the pan it's in, cut the stencil into a circle shape so it will fit down in the pan right against the surface of the cake. If it's a free standing cake, just lay it over in the place you want the design.

6. Put powdered sugar in a mesh collander or sifter. Gently shake the sugar over the stencil until the exposed parts of the cake are white.

7. CAREFULLY lift the stencil off the cake, being careful not to disturb any of the powdered sugar that has accumulated on it. Shake it off over the sink. Keep your stencil for future use!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Homemade Baileys Marshmallows

I had originally wanted to break my cycle of posting alcoholic recipes, but clearly that plan went out the window.

Christmas is right around the corner and I'm in a baking sort of mood. Ok, maybe not baking, specifically. More like a general need-to-confection mood. All the time. Hence these marshmallows.

I love the rustic look of homemade marshmallows. There is something so satisfying about their irregular brick-like shape, their pillowy fluffiness and the way they fit perfectly into a mug of hot chocolate. They're not as hard to make as you would think; all you need is some sugar, gelatin and little chemistry. So I thought I'd make a few batches to give away as last minute Christmas gifts and experiment with some flavors.

Naturally [in my opinion], I decided to start with some Baileys marshmallows. Baileys makes me think of Christmas carols, warm lights and a crackling fire. Plus, I thought they would be a delicious thing to let melt in your hot chocolate. And speaking of chocolate, why not dip them in it while we're at it? I can't think of a reason why we shouldn't.

The extra liquid of the Baileys in these marshmallows makes them slightly less fluffy than regular marshmallows. If you just want to make regular vanilla marshmallows, see notes at the bottom.

UPDATE: A very smart friend on facebook suggested mixing some Guinness into the chocolate to make Irish Car Bomb marshmallows. Why didn't I think of this??

Chocolate-Dipped Baileys Marshmallows
3 envelopes Knox unflavored gelatin (.75 oz total)
1/2 cup cold water
2 cups white sugar
2/3 cup light Karo syrup
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup Baileys
1 tbsp vanilla bean paste [really great stuff!]or vanilla extract

1 cup cornstarch
1 cup powdered sugar
1 12 oz bag semisweet chocolate chips

1. Sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water in a large bowl. Soak for 10 min.
2. Meanwhile, combine sugar, syrup and 1/4 cup water in a saucepan. Bring to a rapid boil and boil hard for 1 minute.
3. Pour sugar mixture over gelatin. Add salt and beat on high for 12 minutes. Mixture will get very thick and almost taffy-like.
4. Add Baileys and vanilla. Beat until well combined.
5. Pour mixture into a 9x9 square pan that is lined with oiled plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
6. Mix corn starch and powdered sugar in a bowl. Dust flat surface with mixture. Remove marshmallow from fridge and turn out onto dusted surface. Using a pizza cutter dipped in cornstarch mixture, cut marshmallow into 1" cubes, dusting all cut sids in the cornstarch mixture to prevent sticking. [A knife really doesn't work here.]
7. In bowl, microwave chocolate chips in 30 second intervals, stirring after each, until melted. Dip each marshmallow halfway into the chocolate and place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Refrigerate for 10 minutes or until chocolate is set.
8. Store in airtight container at room temperature.

NOTE: If you want regular, non-alcoholic marshmallows, just omit the Baileys and add only the tbsp of vanilla.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

New Merch in the Etsy Store

I've taken a little departure from my characteristic manic quilting to make a few of these cute little Square Knot Clutches.

I will be writing up a pattern for these soon [hopefully].

They also just so happen to be the perfect size for a Kindle.

Does anyone else have a Kindle? I LOVE mine!

Visit my Etsy shop to take a look.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Tutorial: Felted Super Balls

You remember super balls, right? Those little gumball-like spheres of rubber that elicit chaotic, frenzied delight in children everywhere and always seemed to end up under a large piece of furniture. Such a simple game, bouncing and chasing, but somehow so fun.

When you wrap these little guys in wool and felt them down, they become even more irresistible. They are so light and soft, they don't feel like they should bounce at all. But throwing them down onto any hard surface makes them explode skyward with surprising energy. The wool makes them quieter and a little gentler to play with. Granted, they can still knock things over, and they'll still inevitably end up under chairs and couches, but the felt will soften all blows.

I had some of these on my table at the UCC's craft fair, and there were more than a few adults who couldn't help but smile as they gave into the urge to squeeze and bounce these soft little orbs. Kids absolutely loved them. Stocking stuffer alert!

To buy roving [cleaned, combed & dyed wool], first see if there are any yarn stores in your area. They often carry it. If not, the easiest place to find roving is online. It isn't very expensive and you can get it in any color imaginable.

[P.S. If you don't want to make your own, you can buy some in my etsy shop here!]

Felted Super Balls
Materials needed:
super balls or other small bouncy ball (available at toy stores or dollar stores)
wool roving
old pantyhose
lingerie laundry bag
rubberbands or string

1. Remove any stickers or labels from the balls.

2. Wrap each ball in wool roving. It doesn't have to be extremely thick, but make sure it is evenly distributed so that you cannot see any of the ball through the wool.

3. Put the ball into the leg of the pantyhose, making sure you hold the wool in place as you push it in. Use a rubberband or string to tie off the pantyhose so the ball is held firmly inside.

4. Continue with the rest of your supplies. Put the tied off pantyhose in the lingerie bag and wash it on the hot regular cycle of your washing machine with a little bit of detergent.

5. When it's done, cut the strings or rubberbands off the pantyhose and remove the felted balls. Trim any uneven surfaces in the felt with scissors. Place them on racks to dry.

6. Bounce away!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Miss Make at the Urban Craft Center Sale

Hello dear readers [if any of you are left]. I've been back in LA for a few weeks now trying to get back into the swing of things. Apologies for my absence.

I'm really excited about this weekend. I'm going to be one of the vendors at the Urban Craft Center's annual sale / craft fair. I'll be selling wallets, clutches, and [of course] quilts with a handful of other crafters. Everything in the UCC's regular store will be at least 25% off. If you're in the LA area you should stop by! It's a great place to find some really cool and unique gifts. The UCC sale will be happening all day Saturday and Sunday, and the craft fair will be from 6-9pm on Saturday. There will be free screen printing [just bring a tshirt] and crafts. Check out more info by clicking the flyer below:

I've been spending some time making wallets to bulk up my inventory. I might have to make an extra one to keep for myself...I just love that Heather Ross Owl and Pussy Cat fabric!


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