Wednesday, May 28, 2008

My first official daring bakers challenge

So I finally sign up for the Daring Bakers after having been intrigued by them for ages. And of course, instead of waiting for a sensible time in my life, I decided to sign up just as we're in the middle of packing and preparing for our big move. It was definitely a challenge!

My opera cake had layers of buttercream, almond cake, raspberries, white chocolate mousse, and a white chocolate glaze. With all that white chocolate I was worried about it being much too sweet so the tartness of the raspberries reassured me. I'm so glad I included the glaze. Once it hardened up, it really gave the cake and extra stability and glossyness.

I also had a personal deadline for this cake. We had a dessert auction the friday before Mother's Day and I was determined to have this ready for it. So of course, that Thursday night I was up until midnight working on the glaze, assembling the cake, tripping sleepily over moving boxes, and ignoring my husband's expression that plainly revealed his doubts about my sanity.

Late night baking or not, everything turned out swell. I was happy to trim the ugly edges off so I could taste them and make sure I wasn't auctioning off something wretched. And there were plenty of scraps! It wasn't as pretty as I would have liked. My cake layers weren't as even as they should have been. I didn't smooth them out well enough before popping them into the oven. The buttercream was from the modified recipe and it came out wonderfully.

I'm so glad I didn't completely mess my first challenge up. I was scared when I printed off the pages and pages of instructions. If you're up for a challenge, you can see the recipe at Cream Puffs in Venice.

Next challenge will be done in my brand new, kinda ugly, but with way better light kitchen at our first real home. Can't wait!

Can you tell what I have on the brain?

Links to each photograph can be found here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Bouquet of felt

I have been crafting I promise! I managed to make these felt flowers and I have about eleventy gabillion in the works (only a slight exageration).

Monday, May 26, 2008

Speaking of talents

I know I'm frequently raving about Kristen's design talents, but how cool are the new business cards she did for our shop? I think they were the perfect background for the vintage clip on earrings I found over the weekend.


So a while back I wrote about a fabulous new Somerset Studio magazine called Artful Blogging. The folks there found my comment and asked permission to use. I said sure and promptly forgot about it. Well, flash forward to Saturday when I was wandering through a craft store and spotted it on the magazine rack. They actually used my post in the comment section!
Cool, right? However, I'd posted about how I was gonna prettify my blog. That hasn't really really happened so well yet in the chaos of moving but I've got a fresh inspiration and accountability now. I did manage to go get myself a pretty new camera using my etsy earnings so far. Those earnings really only paid for half the cost of the camera - but still half!
And I took a pretty picture. Enjoy!

And in the interest of prettification, Ms. Kristen is gonna do me up a fabulous new banner. So expect prettyness! And while you're waiting on it to happen here, there's always other people's prettyness to be found at our So Sweet and So Cold blog.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

#77 done!

Meet Winnie! Our newest family member. Part airedale and part mystery and completely adorable.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Vintage cool

Now I usually don't blather on too much about my etsy shop, but this is really too cool not to share. I got my hands on a McCalls Fashion Magazine from the 70s all about embroidering your wardrobe. And the pictures in it are amazing. Here's my favorites:

I have it listed in Kristen and I's vintage shop - Miriam and Eleanor. I think I'll be putting up a bunch of vintage postcards soon too.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Today was a big big day for us. We bought a home! See pictures and commentary here. So psyched!

(Also, there's the immense satisfaction of crossing #75 off my 101 list. Something so pleasing about crossing items off a list. Of course now the list of home improvement projects just came into existance and grew to an incredible length.)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


You'd think that with the closing on our house coming up, I'd have no time for reading or watching movies. However, you'd be quite wrong. With all the knots in my stomach worrying senselessly about the prospect of being an honest-to-goodness homeowner, I need distractions!

Here's what's been distracting me lately (besides copious amounts of wine).

Darkon I liked a great deal. I love documentaries about strange little subcultures (King of Kong anyone?). This is a look at folks in Baltimore that get together every other weekend to roleplay as knights and wizards. I thought it was really well done - particularly the way they contrast all the battle scenes with shots of housing developments and daily drudgery.

I picked up The Magic Bottle cause I like the artwork of Camille Rose Garcia. And the artwork is pretty wonderful but the story is more pathetic. It tries for ridiculous and whimsical but it really doesn't seem to work.
Pop Surrealism is chock full of interesting art - including the above mentioned Garcia. I definitely prefer the less cartoony type of underground art.

Ghost Soldiers is book number 23 in my 101 goal to read 50 nonfiction books. It was a loaner from my dad and a pretty terrific read. Its all about a mission to rescue 500 of the sickest and weakest POWs who survived the Bataan Death March and lived in a wretched POW camp for 5 years. It reads like a Hollywood movie.

Friday, May 9, 2008


We watched Reno 911 Miami the other night. I laughed so freaking hard - especially at the scene above. Just looking at the picture cracks me up.

How could I forget?

I'm really up to 22 nonfiction books for my 101 list! And its so dumb I forgot to include this one caus eI've been talking about Animal, Vegetable, Miracle constantly ever since I read it. I loved it! It really had me thinking about local agriculture and personal food choices. My husband is an eensy bit scared of my new zeal. I don't see myself going overboard, but more local ingredients in our meals isn't a hard change to make, and if its better for us and our environment, why wouldn't we?

Seriously, go read this book! Its educational and super interesting.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Other readings and watchings

I thought I was reading Nocturnes for a challenge, but apparently I wasn't. Still, it was a fast read for being a relatively big book. All creepy-ish short stories, many were less than 10 pages long. I appreciate an author who can pack a punch into such a short space. The one that has stuck with me the most though was the first rather longer tale with the unfortunate title of "Cancer Cowboy" - way better than it sounds.

My little brother is my library fairy. He works in the library so now and then when I pop in to pick up my reserved books, I'll find a surprise for me. The Rabbits was the most recent one. It is a kids book but its so freaking ominous and dark. The art is beautiful and the message is haunting.

As for watchings, we have managed to see some things in between all the packing and pitching out. Lars and the Real Girl has been on my to-see list for a while. It was quirky and interesting. I though Paul Schneider who played the brother was pretty terrific in it. It was a very sweet story.

We managed to watch the first season of The Shield as well. I like it! I'm not a big fan of Michael Chiklis, but he's good as the mostly detestable Detective Mackey. My only complaint is the character of Julian. He doesn't seem real and there's so very little backstory on him that it seems like he just popped into existence. Almost like they just decided they needed a gay cop so they threw one in without thinking too much about his character. Maybe that will be rectified in the next season.

My do-gooder aspirations

Much of my mental efforts on this house-buying of ours has been spent thinking of ways to live a bit greener lifetsyle in our happy home. My plotting has led to these schemes:

  • Using a clothesline in the summertime. I can see where the last resident had one strung up before. Now I just need to pick up a length of cord and some clothespins.
  • Riding my bike on way more errands. Our apartment is near lots of things, but it generally requires a trip across a scary bad road to get to these things (except for my beloved local Chinese place). The house is in a fabulous neighborhood. All I need is to outfit my bike with a basket and then I can ride it everywhere - to the local co-op market, to the splendid wee grocery store with the fabulous wine selection, to the shops on High Street, and even to the bar (well maybe that's not the best idea).
  • Gardening! I'll be growing my own veggies and herbs. I'll be canning some of them too.
  • Composting for the gardening. We'll have no garbage disposal in our sweet old house which is fine with me cause we'll have space for a composter. Any suggestions for the best kind? I'm thinking an enclosed one would be best since we'll also have neighbors.
  • Buying most things we need for the house second hand. Partially for the environment but this is also gonna benefit our bank accounts. Plus it feeds my terrible Craigslist addiction.
  • Using homemade cleaners. I'm researching this one right now. I'm also curious about homemade personal care products.

If you're looking for green living inspiration, my two favorite blogs on the subject right now are Environmentastic and Tiny Choices.

101 List - Reading Progress

I've finished 2 more nonfiction books recently. I believe nonfiction reading will now be an ingrained habit, and one I enjoy. Hurrah for the 101!

Bury Me Standing is all about the history and current situation of gypsies - mostly in Eastern Europe. It was fascinating. One theory about why the gypsies are so held in contempt is that historically gypsy families were used as slave labor in many countries and the stigma has stayed with them. Another interesting bit of knowledge is that the stereotype of the roaming gypsy is caused mostly by the refusal of many town officials to let gypsies settle or be considered a real part of their community even when they've lived in one place for generations. I thought this one was a really good read, and I think I'll be looking for some additional reading on the topic - possibly about gypsies in the U.S.

The Family that Couldn't Sleep starts with a family in Italy that is plagued by a disease that robs the victim of sleep until they die. Sounds like something out of a episode of House, don't you think? The author does an interesting job of relating information about the various forms of this and other prion-caused illnesses - from scrapey in sheep to mad cow disease to kuru, It gets a bit more technically science-ish than I'm comfortable with in some places, but then turns back to the interesting backstory of the various investigations and discoveries of these diseases.

And I read the next Anne book - Anne's House of Dreams which is highly appropriate since my husband and I are purchasing our first home in 8 days (eek!). For a while I was pondering why everything has to turn out for the best in every one of these books, but then I just accepted that this is part of the reason I adore them. Yes, Montgomery includes deaths in her stories, but all other hardluck cases always turn out okay in the end - although sometimes in unexpected ways.

I'm determined to purchase the whole series for myself one of these days, and I think it'll be the issues with the Marlene Dietrich-esque Anne's on the cover. Although she looks nothing like the Anne in my head, I think they are much prettier than the cartoony covers they've done in more recent years. And when you're giving a book hard-earned space in your own bookshelf, I firmly believe covers are important.