Friday, December 27, 2013

Love is all around us

...even as a mystery flower in a bouquet from Trader Joe's.  (I think it may be an amaryllis?)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Thursday Tea Time - Snowflake Tea!

Cost:   $5.99 at Whole Foods, Austin 
Number of teabags:   2 ounces (about 20 cups of tea)
Caffeine:   Yes 
Type of tea:   Black
Steeping time:  3-5 minutes
Add ins:  Natural Bliss Sweet Cream
Ingredients:   Black tea, coconut rasps, flavoring and almond flakes
Fragrance:  Almond and coconut
Opinion:   How can you resist a tea called "Snow Flake"?  And once you open the resealable pouch, how can you not resist the scent?  It tastes as great as it looks and smells.  Perfect cup of warm for a winter day.  
Rating:  4.5 - only because unless you order online or are visiting the Whole Foods mothership in Austin, it is difficult to find.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Upcoming Jo-Ann's Pattern Sales

New Year's Sale - December 29/January 4

McCall's patterns - 5 for $7
Vogue patterns - $4.99
50% off all thread

January 9/11 - Butterick patterns - 5 for $7

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Scentimental time of year. . .

My beautiful Scentimental rose, doesn't bloom often but when it does. . .

I always call it my Candy Cane Peppermint rose, since it will usually appear around Christmas!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Thursday Tea Time - Coal for this Tea

This week - Twinings Christmas Tea

Cost:   $3.99 at World Market
Number of teabags:   20
Caffeine:   Yes
Type of tea:   Black
Steeping time:  5
Add ins:  Natural Bliss Sweet Cream, Almond milk…nothing helped
Ingredients:  Black tea and artificial ingredients
Fragrance:   Rather astringent-y.
Opinion:    I love all the other Twinings teas, this is a major disappointment!  It says infused with the spiced flavors of cinnamon and cloves, yet they are not on the ingredients?  Only their artificial flavors are.  They couldn't spring for the real deal?  I know they have those two ingredients from their chais, which I love.    I can see why no one reviewed it, honestly or at all on their website, or if it was deleted by the webmaster.
Rating:  0

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Wednesday Work in Progress - “My life is like a stroll on the near to the edge as I can go.” --Thoreau

I was able to take this
cool class at the Pearl Fincher Museum of Fine Arts last week!

We got to play with and use these cool "toys" --

We used this in spray bottles

Don't shake this!

These were nice, indeed very "Inktense"

Inspirational (Aspirational)
In the Adult Art Classes for December, we will experiment with combining several watercolor painting techniques. Participants will enrich their artwork with a patterned underpainting, created by using stencils with liquid masque and applying watercolor paints with spray bottles. The subject matter will be added with Inktense pencils; once water is added, the paintings’ focal point emerges in bright and brilliant colors.  - Instructor:  Evelyn Bouley

I'm all for trying new techniques and getting new results.  And I thought this looked really cool.  Sorta along the lines of Kelly Rae Roberts and other collage-y artists.   I like to combine different mediums.

First you copied your design onto another piece of paper and secured in the center.  Then lightly spritz the liquid water color paint over the paper.   Using the masking fluid, you rolled/painted the texture either by using a stencil (the "seaweed"), or a roller with embossing (the tiny round circles - they really didn't show), or painting over a textured stamp and stamping (the curlycues).  I used all three.  Spritz with the watercolors again.  Remove the masking and the stencil.

Then you filled in the center design with the Inkpencils.  They were nice and bright, but I think you could also get the same effect, if not softer, using water color pencils.

This is how mine turned out.  I love all the colors!
A few little spritzing control issues, but that was more equipment/bottle sprayer malfunction.  I kinda like the extra dots of color.
I think I may work on the edges of the shell a little bit more.  The lines really don't look as red as they do in the photo.
But I do like how I was able to get different shading within the shell once I added water.  

All in all, not bad for a first try!  I will definitely play with this fun combo technique some more.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

"The three grand essentials to happiness in life are something to do, something to love and something to hope for."

~ Joseph Addison
Wildflower Watercolor - December 2013

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Tah Dah! Christmas Cookie 2013!

Chocolate Sugar Cookie!
I found this in the April/May 2013 Cook's Country magazine, page 23.  Well worth the extra steps and effort!



1/3 cup (2 1/3 oz) granulated sugar
 -- I always mark a line underneath this, as it is not included in the cookie dough, but the cookies are rolled in it.  Actually though, I used Wilton Sparkling Sugar (Super Target carries it) and India Tree Sparkling Sugar in Red (Found at Central Market)

1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (8 1/8 oz) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (2 1/4 oz) unsweetened cocoa powder*
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided - 10, 4
1 3/4 cups packed (12 1/4 oz) brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, plus 1 large yolk

Parchment paper

I veered away from the original instructions in that I made the cookies smaller (1" gum ball sized versus a 2 tablespoon hunk of dough -- plus you get more!) and I also refrigerated the dough for at least two hours or overnight to make it easier and less messy to work with.  I experimented with different sugars - the granulated white sugar seemed to disappear into the cookie after it baked.  I did use a light green colored sugar on one batch and that  was a nice touch, too.  But I liked the coarser and bigger white and red sanding/sparkling sugars instead.

Since Cook's Country is really a scientific-y kind of recipe-tested magazine, I decided to weigh the flour, cocoa powder and brown sugar instead of using measuring cups.  Remember when the older Burda's had recipes and the ingredients were in Metric?  When I showed it to my German-speaking friend, she said baking by using weight measure would usually give a better result.  I think I proved it right!


Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and baking powder in Kitchen Aid mixing bowl.

Microwave 10 tablespoons of butter, covered in a large bowl until melted, about 1 minute.  Remove from microwave and stir in remaining 4 tablespoons butter until melted.  Allow butter to cool to 90-95 degrees, about 5 minutes.

Whisk brown sugar, vanilla and salt into butter until no lumps remain, scraping down bowl as needed.  

Whisk in egg and yolk until smooth.  

Add all to mixer and mix until combined.  Chill for two hours or overnight.

Using a little at a time, keeping the dough refrigerated in between, roll into 1" gum ball sized balls.  Roll in sugar.  Place on parchment lined baking sheets.  Flatten with with the bottom of a drinking glass.  Add a little more sugar (red) to the center, if desired.  Bake for 6 minutes, rotate cookie sheets from upper to lower racks, and then bake for an additional 6 minutes.  
Let cool and enjoy!

By making the cookies smaller, you can get at least 5 to 5 1/2 dozen cookies.  Perfect for cookie exchange parties!   They also freeze well.

*I found this at Costco - only $6.99!  Rodelle Baking Cocoa  I gave it a try, figuring Costco usually carries "the good stuff," even if I had never heard of it before.  And I was right!  The color and the scent are so much deeper and stronger than Hershey's -- I went back and bought another!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Poinsettia Post

December 11 -- So it begins!
It has been unusually cold and overcast here and predicted to stay that way through Christmas.  It may just give these guys the color push.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Santa's Workshop Wednesday Work in Progress

I can't post the final picture until they have all been received, but I will!  Can you guess what they are?

Times 16. . .

Fabric combination

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Upcoming Jo-Ann's Pattern Sales

Ha Ha!
Is the black button supposed to represent coal?!
Super Weekend Sale - December 13/16

50% off interfacing by the yard
50% off Gingher

Simplicity  - $1.99
Burda  - $2.49

Simply Creative Christmas - December 8/24

25% off all knitting needles and crochet hooks
50% off all OttLight

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Thursday Tea Time - Tea's the Season!

This week - The Republic of Tea - Tea's the Season Spiced Herb Tea - Holiday Chai

Cost:   $10.99 at Whole Foods
Number of teabags:   36
Caffeine:   No
Type of tea:   Herbal
Steeping time:  5 to 7 minutes, I went for 7
Add ins:  Natural Bliss Sweet Cream, Natural Bliss Cinnamon Cream (not recommended), or honey.  I may try vanilla almond milk next time.
Ingredients:  Organic and Fair Trade certified rooibos, cassia, ginger, cardamon, black pepper, cloves and natural spice flavor.
Fragrance:   Ginger
Opinion:    I found this at the Sugar Land Whole Foods, not on the tea shelves but on top of the loose teas in  the bulk foods aisle.  This may actually be a Whole Foods exclusive, as I didn't see it online.
Just checked the label -- it is!  "The Republic of Tea is proud to partner with Whole Foods Market by offering the first Whole Trade Guaranteed organic and Fair Trade Certified teas.  The Whole Trade Guarantee program provides more money to producers, ensures better wages and working conditions for workers and promotes sound environmental practices.  In addition, 1% of sales are donated to the Whole Planet Foundation to help end world poverty."  Drink well and do well!
I actually liked this without creamer and just honey.  The Sweet Cream was nice, but if you are trying to watch fat grams, honey sweetens it just fine.  For some reason, the Cinnamon Cream made it taste awful and I dumped it.  This is a nice chai because it is caffeine free.   It's also not overly cinnamon-y like most chais.  It has a bit of a bite to it, perhaps from the ginger and the black pepper.  It is also strong in the cardamon department.  Would I run out and get another before they are sold out?  Honestly, no.  It has a generous quantity.  This is still good and an alternative to the other herbal chai's out there.  If you see it, though, try it.  Maybe they will make more flavors in the future.  Cute label design, too -- I'm leaving it out on the counter.  (I am really taking the lazy way out decorating this year!)
Rating:  3.75
Dinged only because the price is a little high, and the fact I'm pretty overrun with chai teas right now, this doesn't really stand out beyond the others.

It's almost better to just add honey 

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Garden Update: Keep Christmas in your heart ~ and garden ~ year round!

My poinsettia from Christmas 2011 survived another summer, and its stems are turning red!  Along with some of the veins in the newest leaves.
Here's hoping for a repeat performance from earlier this year.  February

And Christmas in July. . .!

Monday, December 02, 2013

"There is a harmony in Autumn…"

Percy Bysshe Shelley

With all these crazy temperature fluctuations, this may be one of the years our oak tree will turn red, instead of paper bag brown!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thursday Tea(vana) Time

This week - a Teavana combo!   Samurai Chai Mate and Maharaja Chai Oolong

Cost:   That depends...
Caffeine:   Yes
Type of tea:   Oolong, Rooibos and Mate
Steeping time:  6 minutes
Add ins:  A little bit of sugar or honey helps make it even better.  Like a cinnamon Red Hot candy.
Ingredients:  Samurai Chai Mate:  Green mate & green rooibos blend, cinnamon, anise, cardamom, and almond, fortified with papaya, pineapple, orange, and lemongrass.  (the orange must be very minute, it did not trigger a migraine for me)
Maharaja Chai Oolong:  Oolong tea, cinnamon, ginger, clove and cardamom. 
Fragrance:    Samurai Chai - Fruity spicy
Maharaja Chai - Warm and spicy (I like this one the best)
Opinion:   My friends and I found this tea being offered as a sample on a cold, wintery day in Jacksonville, Florida.  It was hot and spicy and good.  So much we probably drank half the sample carafe when the employees weren't looking.  Teavana is known for pairing different teas, and this must have proven to be so popular, they now offer it as a blend.   If you are looking for an eye-opening chai blend, heavy on the cinnamon, this is worth a try.  At least purchase a cup in the store if you are dragging from shopping.  It may be cheaper than making your own at home. 

Drawbacks to Teavana teas -- 

They can be expensive.  And you can't purchase small quantities in the store.   I do believe they have adjusted it to 2 ounces, but that can still be eye-and wallet-opening, literally.  So between the three of us, we divied it up to avoid sticker shock.  We still did, because we bought a half pound of each.  The Maharaja Chai Oolong is available for $12.98 for 2 ounces (and one of Oprah's 2013 Favorite Things) and the Samurai Chai Mate is $5.98/2 ounces.  The blend is priced at $18.96 for 4 ounces.

They are also famous for the up-sell.  The clerks are super-scoopers, meaning they will go over the 2 ounce minimum.  Every.Single.Time.  I think they learn that in training.  It has happened to me in all their stores.  So be forewarned and pushy right back by having them get closer to 2 ounces.  They will sigh and roll their eyes. But at least you won't be paying them an extra dollar or two or three.   (Wanna bet what you purchase online will be charged and weighed exactly to measure?)

I also used one teaspoon of each tea.  Truth be told, Teavana doubles or almost triples the amount of tea they use in their samples.  And super sugars it.   That's why they taste so good and get you on the hook.
So if your bag instructions say 1 teaspoon or 1 1/2 teaspoons, try doubling it.  Or if you are using a large mug, triple it.  

Rating:  3.5, only because doing the math makes my head hurt and it is pricey, and I have to be vigilant to make sure I don't over-buy.  Drinking tea should be an enjoyable experience, along with purchasing it.   
That all being said, I would probably get the Maharaja Chai again and combine with another cheaper brand of mate, such as Trader Joe's Organic Yerba Mate.  Make my own Teavana tea combo!

Samurai Chai Mate
Looks pretty!

Maharaja Chai Oolong
(I can see why this is Oprah's Favorite)

Chai for a chilly day

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Rolling in the Dough

My latest find from Costco - $19.99.  ( It also comes in gray)  That's usually the price for just the mat itself anywhere else.  The rolling pin is bonus.  

I can't wait to try them both.  I especially like the circle side to help me roll out my pie crust more accurately and evenly.  And maybe this will help encourage me to make cookie cutter cookies again. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Fronty Foggy Friday

Unretouched (color!) photograph taken by me this morning at Stewart Beach, Galveston.
Our cold front is on the way!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thursday Tea Time - Chai this!

Number of teabags:   20
Caffeine:   Yes
Type of tea:   Black
Steeping time:  5 minutes
Add ins:  Natural Bliss Sweet Cream
Ingredients:  Black tea, low-fat alkalized cocoa powder, spices, natural dark chocolate flavors with other natural flavors
Fragrance:  Chocolate-cinnamon
Opinion:   This is THE tea to drink to keep your appetite and calories under control.  I tried it during
the 2 PM snacky hungeries and it kept me away from the cookie jar. (I'm talking to you, Whole Foods Candy Cane Chocolate sandwich cookie!)   A great lower calorie, lower sugar substitute for hot cocoa, with the health benefits and caffeine kick of black tea I knew this was a winner when I grabbed the last box on the shelf.
Rating:  5 - I went back for more, even with or without the incentive to help meet the minimum purchase requirement for our Thanksgiving turkey!


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

By cultivating the beautiful, we scatter the seeds of heavenly flowers...

Moonflower seeds and pods

Words are also seeds, and when dropped into the invisible spiritual substance, they grow and bring forth after their kind. ~ Charles Fillmore

Monday, November 18, 2013

Portable Snowman!

Disclaimer - No actual snowmen were harmed in the making of these water bottles : )

How cute is this!?  And I am sharing the link to make these cute labels, courtesy of my sister and her website.

Perfect for school parties, get togethers and even toting around for yourself during the holidays.  She's even using this design for another clever upcoming project, so be sure to check back to her blog.

Here's some of her tips for best results:

- Make sure your printer has the option to "print to edge of paper" or something to that effect.  On my printer, it is one of the effects for printing photographs.
- Use regular printer paper NOT cardstock.  Cardstock will make the labels pop open like Santa's buttons after too many cookies!
- Use the thin dark blue lines as cutting guides.  There will be extra to slice off on the last label.
- Use Sticky Strip to fasten them on.

Have fun!