Saturday, May 30, 2009

Shopping Spree

I was a little jealous of all June's great finds so I stopped by one of my favorite thrift stores to try my luck. While I didn't do quite as well as June, I'm pretty happy with my treasures. My haul included: a cute embellished t-shirt, 2 wooden embroidery hoops, a bag of sewing notions (bias tape, twill tape & my favorite -- rick rack!), a beautiful Japanese paper wallet from Zemliya Paper Products and another Vera scarf. A few more and I'll have enough to make something like this.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Therapy for Mom

Recently my Mom has been suffering from a bout of costochondritis, a painful inflammation of the cartilage around the ribcage. The good news is the condition doesn't have serious health consequences and should resolve itself in a few weeks but in the meantime it's quite uncomfortable. There's not a lot that can be done, but heat does provide some relief. With that in mind, I stitched up a pretty heat therapy bag using this tutorial from the Sew, Mama, Sew blog.

It went together easily and, remarkably I was able to fill it without spilling rice all over my kitchen. I guess that's a good thing since after my husband tried it out he promptly asked when I would be making one for him.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Chocolate craving

Having a chocolate craving? Expecting company? I have found the perfect brownie recipe to satisfy and impress via Smitten Kitchen. It's adapted from Cooks Illustrated's classic brownie recipe and is just about as close to perfection as a brownie can get.

I didn't have cake flour on hand so I substituted all purpose flour & corn starch. All purpose flour can be substituted for cake flour but the ratio is not one to one. The general rule of thumb when substituting all purpose flour for cake flour is 1 cup of all purpose flour minus 2 tbsps, plus 2 tbsps of corn starch.

Classic Brownies
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

Be sure to test for doneness before removing the brownies from the oven. If underbaked (the toothpick has batter clinging to it) the texture of the brownies will be dense and gummy. If overbaked (the toothpick comes out completely clean), the brownies will be dry and cakey.

1 cup (4 ounces) pecans or walnuts, chopped medium (optional)
1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into six 1-inch pieces
2 1/4 cups (15 3/4 ounces) sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 325 degrees. Cut 18-inch length foil and fold lengthwise to 8-inch width. Fit foil into length of 13 by 9-inch baking dish, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan; allow excess to overhand pan edges. Cut 14-inch length foil and, if using extra-wide foil, fold lengthwise to 12-inch width; fit into width of baking pan in same manner, perpendicular to first sheet. Spray foil-lined pan with nonstick cooking spray.

If using nuts, spread nuts evenly on rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven until fragrant, 5 to 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Whisk to combine flour, salt, and baking powder in medium bowl; set aside.

Melt chocolate and butter in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan of almost-simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth. (Alternatively, in microwave, heat butter and chocolate in large microwave-safe bowl on high for 45 seconds, then stir and heat for 30 seconds more. Stir again, and, if necessary, repeat in 15-second increments; do not let chocolate burn.) When chocolate mixture is completely smooth, remove bowl from saucepan and gradually whisk in sugar. Add eggs on at a time, whisking after each addition until thoroughly combined. Whisk in vanilla.

Add flour mixture in three additions, folding with rubber spatula until batter is completely smooth and homogeneous.

Transfer batter to prepared pan; using spatula, spread batter into corners of pan and smooth surface. Sprinkle toasted nuts (if using) evenly over batter and bake until toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into center of brownies comes out with few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours, then remove brownies from pan by lifting foil overhang. Cut brownies into 2-inch squares and serve. (Store leftovers in airtight container at room temperature, for up to 3 days, or, ahem, in the freezer until your resistance gets the better of you.)

Monday, May 11, 2009


I was catching up on my blog reading and came across this amazing new site that combines two of my favorite things, sewing and volunteerism (yes, I am a giant geek).

The goal of their current project is to provide handmade rag dolls to all the residents of the Casa Bernabe orphanage in Nicaragua. For my contribution I stitched up this cutie using the black apple doll pattern found here. I'm also challenging the ladies of Sew Anyways to contribute a doll.

If you are interested head on over to the Craft Hope blog for details, a variety of doll tutorials and submission deadlines. While you are there be sure to check out pictures of their first project which delivered new handmade dresses to the Pan de Vida shelter in Mexico. And if you can't participate in this project be sure and check back often as they are soliciting ideas future projects.

Craft Hope Spreading seeds of hope one stitch at a time