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!