Monday, March 15, 2010

New Items in the Shop!

I've been posting some more items the past couple days... here's one of my favorites.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Rosewater Macarons

Ah, the macaron. A French delicacy. A tricky cookie that has both fascinated and perplexed me for some time. I've noticed them popping up on various food blogs (Tartlette, mostly) over the past year or two and, after a bit of research, I had decided I was up for a challenge. I'd never made meringue before yesterday. I'd never piped anything from a real pastry bag, either. (Icing squeezed from a hole cut in a ziploc bag was the closest thing.) I'd read this is supposed to be a difficult pastry to master... texture depends greatly upon proper stirring(but not too much), temperature, and giving the meringue shells time to dry before baking. Oh, a scientific challenge, you say? Count me in. My dear friend, Spring, came over to help. It was definitely nice to have an extra pair of hands- and eyes, for that matter.

I think what interests me most about this particular pastry is how versatile it is. From three simple ingredients (almond meal, egg whites and powdered sugar), a lovely textural masterpiece is created. And all the options for colors and flavors... yay! I purchased the book 'I Love Macarons' when I was at Anthropologie last week. Step-by-step photos and very explicit instructions gave me the confidence to jump right into this baking adventure. I highly recommend this book, by the way, if you're interested in making macarons at home... I saw photos on someone's blog yesterday of their first attempt... I was so afraid mine would turn out equally lopsided and cracked. But, I followed the directions. I ground the almond meal with the powdered sugar. I stirred the batter "more than ten but fewer than twenty" times. I let the shells dry before baking. I had some people over at the house... I was so afraid I would get distracted and skip a step or completely fail altogether.

They baked up beautifully. I assembled the rose macarons with some vanilla butter cream and handed one to Spring and one to my sister who came by for a visit with her boyfriend. I didn't want to eat one- what if it wasn't as good as I'd hoped? But they seemed to enjoy their little pink macarons, so I ate one and totally loved every bit of it...the crispy meringue shell, the chewy center (similar in texture to the edges of a really good brownie), the ruffled little 'pied,' or foot, and the creamy filling that was comprised mostly of softened butter.

Mmm... pictures?

So, basically, I'm waiting for a few eggs to reach room temperature right now so I can begin a batch of chocolate macarons with a mascarpone and raspberry filling. I'm in love not only with the results, but the process. Lots of patience and love are required for these little guys to come out nicely.

Much less trouble than I'd expected and much more rewarding, as well. No reason not to try it yourself. :) Unless, of course, you aren't a fan of delicious foods.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Food Adventure Day

It looks like the middle of May outside... it's totally beautiful. Seventy-five degrees, sunny, light breeze... lovely. So, for a post-Valentine's Day outing, we went down to Del Mar to Venissimo, a little artisan cheese shop. We bought tiny little pieces of 4 different cheeses, a baguette, and a truffle-infused salami... very fancy indeed.

Then, we headed to Chuao, a really fantastic chocolate shop. I had a really great coupon/gift certificate (spend $10 and get $25 worth... amazing). Declan and I each picked 8 chocolates. They're incredibly rich and incredibly delicious. I'm looking forward to the rosemary-infused salted caramel chocolate, personally... but my favorite so far was the ginger ganache infused with green tea. Declan's favorite so far is the dulce de leche caramel covered in dark chocolate. He also bought some fresh red grapes at a local market this morning after a surf.

We had quite a nice little snack/lunch. Cheese, baguette, salami, chocolate and grapes... yum! If we had had a bit more time, we probably could have stopped someplace and had a real picnic. Maybe later this week, if it's still pretty out.

Oh, but breakfast! Leftover homemade raspberry and marzipan pastries. I took some great pictures, but alas, the memory card wasn't in the camera... bad noticing skills, Lauren. :( Anyway, we ate the last of those this morning.

And dinner! We're going to an Indian restaurant we've been wanting to try (Curry & More) with our dear friends Julia and Larry. More on the later, I'm sure.

Mmm... food...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Amazing news!

I'm going to start going around town to different little shops to see if they'd like to carry my line of accessories/jewelry. So far? Stopped into a shop today and the owner seemed pretty stoked on my steampunk/nautical necklaces. (Good thing I made about 8 of them the other day...)

Declan's going to help me figure out display/tags/pricing stuff... it was actually because of him that I was able to even walk into that place on my own. (Thanks, Husband, for your undying support and not allowing me to let my fear of rejection get the best of me!) That's the toughest part... "pushing" my stuff on these people. I can totally see why designers hire people to network and promote and whatnot. I need a street team. Know what, though? If people start buying stuff at this store and wearing it, people will ask them where it's from... and the someone else might want one. The most rewarding thing is to see a stranger wearing a piece of my work. The Trader Joe's customer with my knitted cuff? Totally made my day/week/life!

Everyone needs an ego boost now and again... and being able to sell my stuff in a retail shop would really increase my confidence and validate that my stuff is, in fact, wearable/awesome.

For instance... here's a couple new favorites:

I've had fun making these, but I could NOT stop smiling after walking out of that store today... seeing a stranger as excited as I am about my work is really wonderful.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Operation: Dumpster Chair, or, "I love you, but..."

I really did love this chair when I found it, but it needed some attention. Thanks to my mom, we got it sanded in less than an hour. Had I attempted that feat on my own, I'd probably have given up by now. So... picture time!

Before: nice, but not nice enough.
After: sanded, primed, painted and adorable.
After two coats of Tiffany blue enamel, I hand-painted a little sparrow onto the back of the chair... it just needed a little something, and I think this was a good addition. So, now my dumpster chair is just like new, and I'm off to start another project.

P.S.- The cats were very interested in the chair once I brought it back into the house...

Saturday, January 9, 2010

While he's away...

I've got a lot of projects I want to finish (or at least start) before Declan comes home. Any of my project-related stories, I'm sure, will pale in comparison to his re-telling of surfing adventures, but I still want to have something to report.

1. QUILT- I've completed the second border now. The front is finished! I'm working on piecing the back together with large scraps, but alas, I've run out of thread. Again. I may also need additional fabric to finish it.

2. OPERATION: DUMPSTER CHAIR- I've got a lovely cherry-stained chair I acquired from the dumpster outside the apartment. It's in really good condition, and is quite pretty, but I don't like how it looks with my sewing table. So, it's going to receive a good sanding, some primer, and a lovely coat of Tiffany blue paint. I've been wanting to do this for awhile.

3. UPDATE THE ONLINE SHOP- I'm really getting quite good at forgetting to do this. I've taken photos of all the knitting projects I've already completed this week... but they're just living on my hard drive and not on the internet, where they belong. (I plan to do this tomorrow morning before spending the day with my dad.)

4. THE DISHES- Not washing them... organizing them. Declan thinks we have too many. Um... what? No such thing as too many tea cups... there are probably a dozen more on another shelf. But those don't count because they're part of my fancy vintage china. They're not for everyday use. And plates? Come on now... dessert plates are the greatest. Ever.

5. CLOSET- It's probably time to go through my clothes. Okay, definitely. But that's a very difficult task. I never want to get rid of stuff. I always think that I *might* need that skirt or top or pair of jeans that are old and threadbare but still fit. (Also, I really want to simplify my life and I need to be consistent and simplify everywhere.)

6. COMPOST BIN- I absolutely hate throwing away scraps when I peel/core produce. My mom gave me a little plastic trash container that I plan to turn into a little compost bin. It will live outside and I'll have a tiny can or bucket under the sink to collect scraps. I'm still indecisive about whether or not I want to purchase worms for this project. Bleh. (But, seeing as how I had to not only purchase frozen dead mice, but thaw one out and feed it to the snake today, I might just survive a walk back from the pier with a bag o' worms.)

7. TRY SOME NEW RECIPES- (This is a difficult project to complete without a husband around to feed. Good thing everyone I work with appreciates food.) One new recipe made so far. I made some sea salt toffee on Wednesday afternoon. It was so much easier than I expected, now that I have a candy thermometer that works. It would be amazing with some chopped almonds in/on it.

8. MAKE SOME ART- I don't know what yet, but something. Something that will make me happy.

* * * * * * * *

Today is my 6th full day without Declan (7th if I include last Sunday when he left). I'm doing much better than I expected. I'm still sleeping on the couch, though, because I don't want to be alone in the bed... plus, our nocturnal perpetual-dance-party neighbor has returned from his much-too-brief absence. (It's difficult to sleep through MGMT and The White Stripes blasting from a stereo at 3am.)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Cut and Sew

I've been working on a quilt for a few months now, with some help from my mom. I love the fabrics... 1930's vintage reproduction prints. Awesome, right? It's getting pretty enormous... which is exciting, but at the same time, a bit daunting. (This project reminds me of when I learned to knit and decided my first big project should be an entire sweater. I completed it and all, but it was a really challenging first project.) I've decided to jump in with both feet... 25 quilt squares and 2 full borders. I've only got one border left to complete, but I've decided to use my scraps instead of buying more yardage of a single fabric. So, I'm in the process of sewing 5-inch wide pieces of varying lengths all together and then cutting those scrappy strips lengthwise, so that I'll have two 2.5-inch strips. After the seams, the border will be 2 inches wide. Lots of work. So! Pictures...
Suki found a pile to sit on because Soto already commandeered the quilt itself... right behind the sewing machine. He's been watching each little seam I make, which is both cute and annoying. I've had to push his paws/nose/whiskers away more than a few times already.