Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Just got back yesterday from an amazing trip to Pittsburgh to visit friends.  I had a fabulous week of relaxing excess :D  Lot's of good food and fun.  We did everything from checking out the city and all it had to offer, to going into Amish country and taking pics of covered bridges!

Here are my favorites:
Wholey's - Amazing variety, fresh fish (as in tanks), great prices on meat, kettle corn, fudge, and specialty foods.
Enrico Biscotti - I don't remember the name of the place - it was on the strip and it was AMAZING!
Penzey's Spices - They stash their vanilla beans in cigar tubes which is brilliant.  Great variety, I think they had 3 or 4 different cinnamon options.
Contemporary Craft - This place was part museum, part gift shop, and part workshop.  They have classes by a visiting artist that changes every 3-4 months.  Additionally, they have a free walk-in studio space where visiting artists donate materials so that patrons can make something using the same materials as the featured artist.  It was an amazing space, I would love to have something like it here in KC.
Mount Washington

I'll add more when I get the pics uploaded!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Travel Quilts and Embroidery Machines

So, I'm currently working on what I'm calling the 'Travel Quilt'.  The star fabrics are sort of vintage travel with an old postcard feel, postage stamps and vintage bicycles.  I have been playing around with designing the quilt in Photoshop with the fabric samples so that I can get a feel for how it will look when it's done.  After talking to my wonderful quilting teacher, Karen, about my concerns of too much pattern and about wanting to incorporate some vintage touches like embroidery in the design, she suggested using a neutral off-white and tone-on-tone embroidery in the 6x6 blocks.

Well, let me tell you what that set in motion!  I found the most amazing site for embroidery patterns, Urban Threads, where they have some off kilter, and completely my style, designs!  I found some great Steampunk collections which would match this quilt beautifully and that I can think of using on easily a dozen other projects :)  They actually offer their designs in 3 different formats; machine, hand, and digi-art.  I love that flexibility!

Of course, I don't have an embroidery machine, so that set me spinning another direction.  I was reading reviews, checking Craigslist, Ebay, etc.  I was in love with this Singer Futura CE-250.  I found a great review here.  It is a few years old and I don't see a follow up on how much she likes it now that she's had time to play with it.  But it sounds like she was looking for exactly what I am in a machine, something that I can use my own designs with, that has a larger embroidered size hoop, and doesn't break the bank.

I just started looking at the Singer Futura SEQS-6000 and it looks like it's pretty awesome. Does anyone have any other recommendations that fit the bill?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Etsy and Facebook forays

Today I started putting some oomph into my attempt and getting my businesses off the ground!  It's somewhat intimidating because there are so many things you can do and directions you can go.  I'm starting by sharing with my friends and pushing out from the inner circle.  We'll see how it goes.  I'm cautiously optimistic.  Everyone cross your fingers!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

cakes, cupcakes, and more cupcakes!

So, what started as a birthday cake has snowballed into weekly cupcakes.. or so it would seem!  Last weekend I made the most fabulous chocolate peanut butter cupcakes.  Why were they so fabulous?  Because, dear reader, they were dipped in chocolate at the end making them reminiscent of the best Reese's peanut butter cup EVER!  I won't reinvent the wheel by reposting the entire recipe when it can be found on my favorite blog.  Visit Jenny's blog for the recipe, stay for the company.

If you aren't following this blog, you should be!  She is so inspirational.  Not only for being candid about being a breast cancer survivor, but for her unique view on the challenges so many of us face day-to-day.  She's open about her struggles, doesn't try to be perfect, but does try to learn from them and share with the rest of us so that maybe we can learn a thing or two about ourselves as well.  Reading her blog is like sitting down to coffee with a friend.  You feel at ease immediately.

Ok - a tad off topic but I seriously love her blog.  Back to the cupcakes!  I made 36 of these puppies and they disappeared in a blink.  I am not even the biggest peanut butter fan and I was in love with this buttercream.  I love swiss meringue buttercreams anyway because they are so smooth and less sweet than american buttercream.  If you've never made a swiss meringue buttercream, be advised that it does take a bit more work but the results are delectably worth it!  Let me know if any of you try it!

Blueberry Cupcakes

Apologies for this being late... I saved it as a draft and am just getting back to it....

I can't wait to tell you about these fabulous blueberry cupcakes I took to my friend's house.  His birthday was on January 22 and I was going to his house for dinner.  Knowing he wasn't a baker (to be honest his cooking skills surprised me as well), I asked him what his favorite cake was.  He said he'd been craving blueberry cake with warm cream poured on it.  Well, with that as inspiration I set out to find something that would invoke the essence of that.

First, let me just say that there are not a lot of straight up blueberry cake recipes.  Blueberry muffins, sure.  Blueberry cake... not so much.  I didn't want something as dense as a muffin, I wanted light fluffy cake.  And, although I get that blueberry and lemon pair beautifully, I was very conscientious about making sure the blueberry was the star.  Again, going for berries and cream comfort, not summery blueberry lemonade :)

I ended up deciding on a catering cake recipe I found here

As soon as he said blueberries and cream, I knew exactly what frosting recipe I wanted to try.  My friend at work had been telling me about this whipped frosting that started as a roux of milk and flour... that's right folks... I said FLOUR.  That recipe is here.

While on my quest for the perfect blueberry cake, I did come across this blueberry jam recipe to use as a filling.  I couldn't resist :)

Now, I am a gild the lily kind of a person... so I also made some sugared blueberries and candied meyer lemon peel for the garnish.  If you've never done this (I hadn't), just google it - it's super easy.

Sugaring the blueberries involved dipping in a beaten egg white and then rolling around in granulated sugar.  See - not that tough...

The candied peel took a little more effort but was totally worth it.  You basically boil them in a cup of water until soft and then you pull them out and add a cup of sugar.  You bring that to a boil and then add the peel, simmer until translucent.  Strain the peel, reserving the syrup for yummy things like iced tea, and let sit and dry out for a few hours (I twisted mine).  The last step is to roll in some granulated sugar which keeps them from sticking to each other or anything else.  Careful, if you have a lemon fetish like me you might not have any left for garnish!  I could NOT stop eating them!  Pics eventually but for now at least I got the hard bit down and out :)

Friday, January 20, 2012

German Chocolate week

So, this is, apparently, German chocolate week.  Sometime last week I got a Paula Deen article that included a twist on the traditional German Chocolate cake.  It had a buttermilk based chocolate cake, a cream based custard coconut pecan filling, and chocolate ganache.  Last Friday, I got hit up by my sis to make her Dad's b'day cake.  When I heard his fave was German Chocolate, well, ya know.....

I think it turned out to be a passable option.  However, I found it so rich and dense that I couldn't eat very much of it.  Very sweet.  I did really enjoy the chocolate frosting boost from the ganache though.

So, although it wasn't 'bad', it wasn't going to make the keeper file (Sorry Paula!  You know I love ya girl!)  Fast forward to this work's potluck.  What a perfect opportunity for a German Chocolate remake. 

I will start by saying that due to time constraints I went to the box for the cake.  Figured easier and quicker for week night baking and of the pieces I wanted to revamp, the frostings were higher on the list. 

Thus began the internet search for the perfect coconut pecan frosting/german chocolate cake recipe.

This first link get's honorable mention for having an amazing host of yummy cupcakes and ideas.  The Cupcake Project has a great post on German Chocolate cupcakes and although the presentation wasn't my fave, it does include history of the cake (which is because of the chocolate, not the country of origin). 

For my cake, these are the winners!  I'll post later and let you know how it went over with the guinea pigs/coworkers :)

This chocolate cream cheese buttercream won because I thought the tangy-ness of the cream cheese would cut the sweetness of the coconut pecan frosting.  So without further ado - THE Chocolate Cream Cheese Buttercream (and decoration inspiration) I went with.

The Coconut Pecan Frosting I used was a Martha Stewart recipe.  I have to say - this had the best caramel smell as it was cooking.  Just heavenly!

Friday, January 13, 2012


Not sure exactly if anyone really reads this but me but lately the blog I adore is Jenny's.  Today's message is more sobering but struck very true to heart on several levels.

I, thankfully, haven't had to face a serious illness like cancer but I can relate to her on so many other levels.  I have been calling 2012 my year.  I've been actively reaching for my goals instead of passively hoping they come my way.  When I first came across Jenny's blog, I was struck by her zest for life and her list of to-do's.  I've stuck around for her sense of humor in life, wise words, and cupcakes/general craftiness :)

Today's post dealt with weight loss/health which is one of my goals I'm realizing this year.  But it also dealt with the side issue of how quickly a critical word can cut you down.  She speaks of this one negative comment and how that affected her whole day and spilled over to her family.  As a mom, how often have I had that happen.  Where one thing snowballs and the people who suffer are the people around you.  I think what she's provided was a moment of grace and humility that would be hard for many of us to achieve.  My friends will tell you that I often give the advice that you can't always control a situation or another person, you can only control yourself and how you react.  She echoes this sentiment in her post and it clearly influenced her response.  This is a good lesson for today.