June 29, 2009

Little Road Trip

Yesterday, Nick and I just didn't feel like doing things around the house. We ran some errands and then decided to hit the road. Everyone's been telling us to check out Snoqualmie Falls, so that's what we did. Good choice!

Less than an hour from our house, this place was gorgeous! It was a beautiful day too. We started at the falls which sits next to Salish Lodge & Spa. We took a little walk around the lodge too, I wouldn't mind spending a night there some time.

We knew we were going to like it in Snoqualmie because we got to walk across a bridge. We're both suckers for a good bridge, haha.

Not far from the falls was the little city of Snoqualmie and the Woodman Lodge. Oh my gosh! We had an amazing burger in this cool western saloon. It reminded me a lot of when I worked at Disneyland. This place is so cool. I can't wait to go back there when friends visit.

This was a great little diversion and it only took us away from home for about 4 or 5 hours. Lovely. Now, who wants to visit?

June 26, 2009

Two Spoonfuls: Cake Decorating!

Welcome back! I realize I haven't been blogging much lately, and I apologize. I just don't think I've had much to say. I've been super busy trying to get the house in order, making things for my shops and taking a cake decorating class. I've always wanted to learn how to decorate cakes so I'm finally doing it. I've just finished the first course of the Wilton Method at my local JoAnn store. It was a nice, small group and the instructor is great.

So, as you may have guessed already, I'm going to talk about cake this week. I've had to make two cakes for this class and both times I used a cake mix. Yeah, I know, that's just the way it goes. With all the buttercream I've had to make lately, I really don't have time for a cake from scratch. This week I went with a yellow cake mix from Pillsbury. It is delicious, FYI (and only cost $1.25).

If you have a stand mixer, you know about the gunk that gets stuck at the bottom of the bowl. When my sister told me about the Beater Blade she got at Crate & Barrel, I had to get one for myself. I'm hooked! It works. Get one. NOW!!

See that? It scrapes the bowl and gets to the bottom. I love it. Thanks for the tip, Veronica.

I got some nice new cake pans at Williams Sonoma recently too. They work like a dream. I made two layers for my cake and trimmed the top with one of these. It's quite a handy little gadget. Did you know you're supposed to decorate the bottom of the cake? Makes sense, doesn't it?

For class, I had to arrive with a stack of different colored buttercream in several consistancies. I've gone through four pounds of powdered sugar in two weeks. yikes! Here's how my cake looked when I left the house. A little bland.

Here's how it looked when I got home. I had mixed up some aqua buttercream, but it was just too bold to go with the pale pink. I'm pretty happy with the look of my cake. I've now graduated Course One, on to Course Two!

The cake is yummy but I had to send most of it to work with Nick. We just can't be left alone with a whole cake or we'll eat it. haha Next week I start another course. I think it's all about making flowers with royal icing. I can't wait!


I think Jenn's been baking too, let's see what she's got going.

June 16, 2009

All Over the Place

Nick and I went on a little expedition on Sunday to see an exhibit of this man's work (which was so cool!), and did a little shopping too. We're still trying to get to know the Seattle area.

I think I've told you about my thing for fake food. I made this cheeseburger over the weekend. Isn't it cute? I thought I could stitch the pieces together and use it as a pin cushion.

I got the pattern for the cheeseburger from this book. There are some great patterns in there. I might make a chicken leg or some chocolate chip cookies next. hehe The author has a blog too, check it out here.

Happily, I sold out of the original round of coupon organizers I put in my shop, so I just made 3 more. Now, I need to get to writing the sewing pattern. If you want to see more photos of these, they're all listed on iSew now.

While Nick helped Josh do some destruction on Saturday, I went on a little quilt fabric store hunt. That turned out to be a complete bust, but I did end up with a few things. Those 3 on the right are from Pacific Fabrics in Everett, WA.

I've been very strong lately and have purchased almost no new fabric. Believe me, I don't need it. But sometimes, you just can't resist a few new things.

I've had my eye on the animal print forever. Not sure what it will become, but I love it! I must thank Nick for sitting through a visit to Keepsake Cottage Fabrics yesterday.

Now I'm back to stocking my shops, painting every surface of my new house and trying to save for a (desperately needed) new kitchen. Did I mention I'm taking a cake decorating class too? I took a one-day class back in November and loved it. This class will go for 3 weeks. I've got to bake a cake now too. phew. Busy times.

June 09, 2009

I Sew

I think just about everyone knows about the Sew, Mama, Sew! blog...right? They do a great job with their monthly themes and this month is Sewing Machine Month. Cool! I've got 3 sewing machines so I'm all over it. Anyway, they've got a little meme going on and I thought I might join in on the fun. I love to gush about my PFAFF (no one in my house wants to hear about it, haha).

The Sewing Machine meme

What brand and model do you have? My main workhorse sewing machine is a PFAFF Creative 2144 (it's no longer available, but I think it's most like this one.)

How long have you had it? I've had it just about 3 years now.

How much does that machine cost (approximately)? Ouch, I hate to say it, but I paid around $4,000 for it + another $2k for the software. (Keep in mind, there was a real estate sale involved in the purchase of this machine.)

What types of things do you sew (i.e. quilting, clothing, handbags, home dec projects, etc.)? I sew pretty much everything. Most of the time I'm making quilts, handbags, zipper pouches & that sort of stuff. I used this machine to make my wedding dress and I've also used it for curtains, pillows & such. This machine is also a full embroidery model, but I haven't spent a lot of time on that.

How much do you sew? How much wear and tear does the machine get? I sew quite a lot, it's my full time gig. I don't use it every single day right now, but I definitely have in the past.

Do you like/love/hate your machine? Are you ambivalent? Passionate? Does she have a name? I really love this machine. When I first got it, I was about 3 months away from moving to England. I quickly took every class I could to get myself up to speed, and then left the country with my machine safely crated and on a ship to join me. I had a few problems with it at first because it had been a demo. Once I got it serviced, it ran like a dream. No name, sorry.

What features does your machine have that work well for you? I love, love, love the needle up/down feature, it's by far my favorite thing. I use it constantly. This machine can also tie off and cut the thread when I stop sewing, that's a real help. The built-in walking foot works great too, PFAFF calls it IDT. My wedding dress would have been a bear without that. There are so many great features, I could go on all day...adjustable needle positions, the touch screen, being able to raise and lower the feed dogs, an alert when the bobbin is getting low. Like most nice machines, there are way too many stitches ( I think I use about 3 regularly), but what's cool about this machine is that I can program them myself. I can combine decorative stitches, create my own or add stitches to existing ones. The possibilities are awesome.

Another great feature is that I can upgrade. When PFAFF makes an update to the operating system, I just sync my machine with my computer and I've got new stitches or features. That's a big benefit.

Is there anything that drives you nuts about your machine? When I turn it on, the machine goes through a little startup routine and puts the foot down. I know it's not a huge thing, but it does bug me to have to lift it back up every time (am I spoiled?).

The other not-so-good thing is the software that works with the embroidery part of the machine. I'm reasonably competent on a computer and have found this software to be very counter-intuitive and difficult to use. I've spent a lot of time working with it and for the most part have avoided using it. I'd always wanted an embroidery machine, so it's a little disappointing. The embroidery is great, the software is not.

Do you have a great story to share about your machine (i.e., Found it under the Christmas tree? Dropped it on the kitchen floor? Sewed your fingernail to your zipper?, Got it from your Great Grandma?, etc.!)? We want to hear it! My great story relates more to my other machine, a PFAFF Tiptronic 6270. When I got this machine it was a major upgrade for me. I had been sewing on an $89 Brother from Costco for many years before I picked up this machine. The features blew me away and I wanted to put a sticker on my car that said, "Ich liebe mein PFAFF" (I love my PFAFF). I was beside myself. What made that machine even more special though was that my grandpa lent me the money to buy it (about $1,500). My grandpa passed away not long after I got it, so it means a lot to me. I don't think I'll ever part with it. Thanks, Grandpa!

Behold, PFAFF #1

Would you recommend the machine to others? Why? I would if they wanted to spend a lot of money and were planning on using it a lot. It's a lot of sewing machine. I'd definitely recommend PFAFF, though I don't really think any of the higher end brands are any better than another. I just happen to have PFAFFs.

What factors do you think are important to consider when looking for a new machine? Price, reputation, features, how easy it is to thread and change/wind a bobbin. I think it depends on what the machine will be used for and how often.

Do you have a dream machine? I believe that I currently own my dream machine, but I used to dream of getting an overlock/serger.

Then I became the proud owner of this Huskylock 905 from Husqvarna Viking (they're actually the same company as PFAFF now, I think). This machine is such a time-saver, I love it. It was an incredibly generous gift.

So, that's it for my sewing machine collection. I hope I haven't talked too much about my babies. hehe

June 05, 2009

Two Spoonfuls: Sandwich Cookie Cake

Jenn and I decided that this week we're going to mix things up (no pun intended) and try something new. I told her about this cool cake pan set I'd seen at Williams Sonoma and she suggested we do a little product review. So, I went and picked up my new Sandwich Cookie Cake Pan Set. I decided to go with the recipe on the box for a chocolate cake and quick buttercream frosting (my favorite!).

The cake pan set is basically two identical round pans that are shaped like those chocolate sandwich cookies in the blue wrapper that we all know about, but it says "cookie" instead of something else. Get it? They're really nice pans, as fun shaped pans from Williams Sonoma usually are. Remember, I've got this one and a really nice mini bundt pan too. I love fun cake pans!

The instructions say to use a pastry brush to grease the pans with shortening or softened butter, then dust thoroughly with cocoa powder. Well, I don't have a pastry brush, so I used a paintbrush. I also went with Alton Brown's magic flour and shortening mix to grease my pan. I figure it's the same as greasing and dusting (and that's what Alton says). I should have still dusted the pans with cocoa, I forgot that step. oops

So, the cake recipe is pretty straight forward, though the batter was REALLY thick. That seems weird when you're supposed to pour it into a pan with all sorts of little crevices and such. You can see how thick it was in the photo, look at the peaks! I'll admit, I forgot to tap the pans on the counter to release some of the air bubbles. I don't think it would have made a huge difference because of the thick batter. oops, again

I put each layer in it's own oven (my new house has a double oven...a very small double oven, but double none-the-less). While the cakes were baking, I made the quick buttercream. It was, in fact, quick, and also incredibly good. I could have eaten the whole batch. Sooo good. That recipe's a keeper for sure.

I already know from only a few uses that my oven tends to run a little hotter than it says, so I set it 5 degrees cooler. I still totally burned the cake in the lower oven. Did I mention what a rubbish baker I am? I always check things about 5 minutes early, but for some reason I didn't do that this time. I should know better when using an oven that I haven't developed a relationship with yet. Anyway, both cakes were overdone, but this one was really bad.

Neither one came out nice as far as the pattern from the pan either. They both had a lot of air bubbles, I think this was from the major thickness of the batter, rather than operator error. I tossed the crispy layer and still frosted one. It was pretty much a brownie with buttercream. Okay, but not great. So, I decided to give it another shot.

Plan B: Betty Crocker to the Rescue!

I was curious about how a store bought cake mix would fit in these pans, so I gave it a shot. I know using a cake mix isn't as cool as handmade, but hey, this cake took me about 10 minutes to make. 3 ingredients!!

I baked them on one level in the same oven this time. I watched the thermometer and it fluctuated up & down throughout the process by about 20 degrees in either direction. Not good. (I can't wait for my new convection oven to arrive).

This one, like the other, had the most issues in the "cookie" area, but otherwise came out pretty clean. I went with cooking spray this time too, just to try another greasing method.

Luckily, that buttercream recipe makes about a ton of the stuff, so there was plenty for the second cake.

This cake was lighter in color, but that's because I chose to use a milk chocolate cake mix. A devil's food or dark chocolate cake would likely mimic the look of the sandwich chookie a little better. The cake mix method seemed to fill the pans just fine, but I did end up trimming off a bit to flatten out the layers. Anyway, it's delicious! Anyone want to come over and help us eat it?


Note to Self:

1. Remember to tap the pan to release air bubbles when using funny shaped pans.
2. Betty Crocker is awesome!
3. Get a pastry brush that's not silicone so it'll work on those little crvices.
4. Always test the cake early, especially in a bad oven that you aren't familiar with.

5. More buttercream! Slather it on, don't be shy.


Hey Jenn, what's cookin' at your house? Any leftovers?

June 03, 2009

The Joy of IKEA

Since moving to Seattle I have been to IKEA 3 times. It's a great big store on only one level with covered walkways and parking (very clever for a place that gets a lot of rain). This past weekend Nick and I went to get ourselves some new couches. It was lots of fun.

We enjoyed some Swedish Meatballs. Yummy!

I got this glass jar to make my own terrarium. They seem to be all the rage on Etsy these days, and way overpriced. The jar was about $3, the moss came from our backyard. Excellent!

I always stop in the fabric section to see what's available. I got a small amount of this cool striped cotton canvas.

Here's the tote bag I made from the fabric. Nice colors, eh? It's already in the shop.

We picked out a love seat with this pretty stripey cover.

And a longer sofa with a red corduroy cover. Both were delivered and set up by the same evening. That's pretty cool if you ask me.

I'm ready to paint the family room now.

All that shopping wore me out, so we stopped for a coffee on the way home. Did you know that Starbucks now has a reusable version of their cold drink cup? It looks like the regular cup, but it's a sturdy reusable one with it's own straw and everything. I think this is a very cool thing, especially since the majority of my specialty coffee is of the iced variety. I had to get one and I love it!

Next time we hit IKEA, I hope I'm ordering my new kitchen.