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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sweet Treats Saturday: Sheep... I Mean, Coconut Cupcakes

I looove sheep! Seriously, I have a sheep collection.  Well, not of real sheep, but plush sheep.  I think it ties in with my love of Ireland.  

Anyways, when I saw the blog post from Fowl Single file of their sheep cake and cupcakes, I instantly flagged it to make... and soon!  Luckily, Easter presented the perfect opportunity. Spring, Easter, sheep... the perfect combination!

I went with coconut cupcakes.  In case I couldn't get the frosting to work properly, I could use the shredded coconut to act as the sheep wool.  I ended up not having to do that (as you'll see), but I did also use almond marzipan from my local grocery store to shape the sheep face.  

Coconut Cupcakes
Recipe from Ina Garten


  • 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 extra-large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 7 ounces sweetened, shredded coconut (additional coconut can be used for the frosting, if desired)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In 3 parts, alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry. Mix until just combined. Fold in 7 ounces of coconut.

Line a muffin pan with paper liners. Fill each liner 3/4 with batter. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes (I only needed to cook it for 20, but it depends on your oven), until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a baking rack and cool completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting
Recipe from Ina Garten


  • 1 pound cream cheese at room temperature
  • 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1 1/2 pounds confectioners' sugar, sifted
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on low speed, cream together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla and almond extracts. Add the confectioners' sugar and mix until smooth.

Decorating Instructions

Now, to make the sheep.  

First, I used a star tip to make swirls of frosting all around the top of the cupcake.  I started from the center, then did little swirls all around it.  Then, I took a small piece of marzapan, about 2x the size of a pea and shaped it into an oval. 

Then I squished down one end, which then became the bottom of the face.  I took two tiny pieces of marzapan and also made them into ovals - then I flattened them and attached them to the top of the head.  

For the eyes, I used little sprinkles that I gently pressed into the face.  

Then, I took the head and placed it on one side of the cupcake. That's it! Easy peasy and oh so cute!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Railroad Revival

The hubby and I went to the Railroad Revival Tour last week, that kicked off in the port of Oakland.  I love Mumford and Sons and was excited to see them live.  The event was a lot of fun and we had a great night.  There were quirky, steampunk exhibits, a vintage train that the bands were touring on, and festival foods.  The weather was beautiful but a bit cold - but at least no rain!  And we had a spectacular view of the bay.  Here are some pictures from the show.

The first thing you saw when you entered... a cool steampunk snail that spouted fire when she pulled the reigns.

An old train they had on display

A cool fountain display of different horns

Funnel cake!

The stage

The view of the Bay

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros


Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Dress

This dress was originally pegged to be part of my Summer collection, but the further I progressed in putting it together, the more I realized it was still really a very Spring-y dress... therefore, perfect for Easter!  I found this yellow eyelet fabric that was really pretty and feminine and matched it up with Butterick 4443.

Yellow eyelet

Because of the eyelet, I needed to line it completely - not just the top half of the dress as specified in the pattern.  I just purchased enough yellow lining to make an exact version of the dress.

The pattern was simple to assemble - I was able to do all except the zipper in one night. But I'm just not a fan of putting in zippers so I wanted to wait until my patience was at full capacity.  In the end, they go in fine, but I really wonder if I need a class just to make them mindless and stress free.  Is that even possible?

The dress was fitting for Easter brunch and an egg hunt, and the California weather stayed nice for most of the day.

Playing in the grass. The Easter bunny hadn't visited yet.

On Saturday I participated in an Easter parade with my Highland dance school.  I've done it for the last few years and it's one of my favorite parades to dance in.

I'm in the burgundy kilt, front right.

My hubby took tons of pictures - good practice for my blog sewing photos.  I think they're getting better, I just need to keep training him on helping me smooth out any wrinkles before he takes the photo.  As you can see from the photos at the top of the page, it's not quite there yet, but definitely improving from before.


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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sweet Treats Saturday: Petit Fours

Petit fours are the perfect Spring treat! I have a couple of petit four pans with assorted flower shapes so when I stumbled upon a new recipe for them, I thought I'd dust them off.  They can be pretty time consuming, but I did take a shortcut on this batch.  I decided to omit the strawberry filling as I didn't think they were large enough to fill.  As I was dipping them in the glaze, I realized I probably could have.  Next time I make them I'm going to try it with at least half.  I detailed how they put them together in the glaze stage at the bottom.

Yellow Cake (Petit Four base)
Recipe from King Arthur Flour

2 cups sugar
3 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, soft
1 1/4 cups milk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease and flour your choice of pan(s): one 9" x 13" pan, two 9" round cake pans, three 8" round pans, or the wells of two muffin tins (24 muffin cups). You can also line the muffin tins with papers, and spray the insides of the papers.

1) In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt.

2) Add the butter and beat with an electric mixer at low speed, until the mixture looks sandy.

3) Combine the milk and vanilla and add, all at once. Mix at low speed for 30 seconds, then increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds.

4) Scrape the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl.

5) With the mixer running at low speed, add 1 egg. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds.

6) Repeat this procedure with the second egg. Continue adding the eggs, scraping after each addition, until all 4 are added.

7) After the last egg is added, scrape the bowl once more, then beat at medium-high speed for 30 more seconds.

8) Drop small spoonfuls of the batter into the petit four openings, filling each about halfway.


9) Bake for approx. 10 minutes.

10. The cakes are done when it's golden brown around the edges and just beginning to pull away from the edge of the pan. A toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.

11) Remove the cakes from the oven and place on a rack to cool before removing it from the pan. 

So many little cakes!

Poured Fondant
Recipe from King Arthur Flour 

1 cup (5 ounces) white confectionery coating or white chocolate chips
4 cups (1 pound) confectioner's sugar or glazing sugar
1/4 cup (2 3/4 ounces) light corn syrup
1/4 cup (2 ounces) hot water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
food coloring


1) In a saucepan set over low heat, or in the microwave, melt the white coating or chocolate, stirring until smooth.

2) Sift the confectioners' or glazing sugar into a large bowl, and add the corn syrup and hot water, stirring till smooth. If you're using a mixer, set it on low speed so the icing doesn't become too aerated.

3) Add the melted coating to the sugar mixture, then add the vanilla and the coloring (if you're using it). If the mixture is too thick to pour, reheat it briefly over low heat, and stir in 1 to 3 tablespoons additional water. The mixture is easiest to work with, and pours smoothly, at about 100°F.

* I added the extra water when I felt that the mixture was thickening up, as well as in the beginning as it was a very thick consistency.  It still set and tasted perfect.
In the future, I may switch the vanilla extract with almond just to mix the flavors up a bit.

To coat the petit fours, I dipped them upside down into the icing, then rotated and let the excess icing drain while holding the cake on an icing fork (I don't own an icing fork so I just used a regular fork).  Then I set it on a separate grate (over a baking sheet) to drain.

You can also slice the petit fours in half once the cake has cooled, and spread a jelly filling between the layers.  Reassemble and dip in the icing.  Due to the small size and shape of the flowers, I omitted this step.

Resting on the icing rack. Letting excess pool off.
UPDATE: Just in case you were wondering where to get the floral petit fours pan.  I originally purchased mine at Williams Sonoma, but they do not currently carry it (I believe it is seasonal).  However, you can currently purchase it from Amazon or Sur La Table.

This post will be participating in the following Linky parties:

Monday, April 18, 2011

Summer Sails Dress

Aside from some of the growing pains I had from the Spring Palette Challenge, I really enjoyed it.  I liked planning out my sewing strategy, deciding on a color palette and theme, and having an overall timeline to keep me on track.

Therefore, I decided to continue on with my own Summer Palette Challenge.  I've picked out my patterns and my color palette is primarily navy blue, yellow and a reddish/orange.  

I started off with this anchor print linen that I found at JoAnn's.  Luckily they were having a sale so I could justify it.  I also picked up Simplicity 2363 - a nice, sleeveless dress that would be perfect for summer.

I added a thin lace trim to the edging of the the dress and the neckline.

This dress makes me so excited for the summer months!  

What about you? What are your summer sewing plans?  

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sweet Treats Saturday: Chocolate Nutella Cookies

I love Nutella. Ever since a trip to the UK years ago, I've been in love with this chocolate-y treat.  These Nutella cookies were a no-brainer.

Unfortunately, I was so into making them (and it was such as fast recipe) that I forgot to take pictures until they were already baked. Oops. But they pretty much looked the same in dough form as in baked form.  Just slightly flatter.  As usual, I used a small cookie dough scoop to form the balls of dough.  I didn't have to flatten the top as the batter was pretty soft and I knew it would flatten out enough.

Chocolate Nutella Cookies
Courtesy of: Two Peas and Their Pod (as usual, another great recipe from them)
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup dutch-process cocoa
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon hazelnut extract
1/3 cup Nutella
1/3 cup milk
1. Whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, and cocoa, set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the butter and sugars. Beat on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about two minutes. Add the vanilla and hazelnut extract and beat until extracts disappear. Add the Nutella and mix until batter is smooth.
2. Add the flour mixture in 2 batches, alternately with the milk in one batch, mixing well. Chill dough for at least 15 minutes before baking. You can make the dough a few days in advance, just wrap it in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.
3. When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Take a tablespoon of cookie dough and roll it into a ball. Place on lined baking sheets and gently press down on the dough ball. Continue making dough balls until the cookie sheets are filled-leave two inches in between cookies.
4. Bake cookies for 10-11 minutes or until soft, but starting to set. Remove cookies from the oven and let cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Knit Hat for the Hubby

During our recent trip to Seattle, my hubby once again proclaimed that I don't make him nearly enough things.  Our friend had just knit a hat for a friend, so James decided he needed one too.  We stopped by a local yarn store and I let him pick out a yarn and color for his hat.  Luckily, he had good taste and picked out Alpaca with a Twist Highlander yarn.  I picked out a pattern: Jason's Tweed Hat that I found on Ravelry.  A nice, basic yet manly hat.

Hubby modeling his hat

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Spring Palette Challenge: Stripe Dress

The Edwardian costumes in Downton Abbey were the first time I had thought about the early 1900's in a way other than flappers.  I loved the costumes in the movie and had to make my own striped dress based off of Mary's striped gown.

Mary's striped dress

I didn't want to overdo the stripes, and I probably wouldn't wear a longer skirt, so I made some modifications to my own version.  I used the Sense and Sensibility 1909 Edwardian Dress pattern as my starting point.  It was easy to do follow but was definitely 'rustic' in the design.

My striped dress! Though it's hard to see the stripes from a distance.

Some modifications that I made included:
- Shortening the skirt length
- Shortening the sleeves (about 6" from the shortest fitted length pattern)
- Added the solid cuff to the sleeves
- Added a green sash to the middle instead of cutting the dress to add the middle waistband

I was worried that I would feel/look like a candy striper but I think the stripes are small enough and more subtle than the bold red and white uniform.  Overall, I think it's a pretty fun spring dress and a nice finale for my Spring Palette.

This post will be participating in the following Linky parties:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Spring Palette Challenge: Floral Dress

Remember Vogue 1233?  Yup, I finally finished it.

Front of the dress in progress
I really like the fabric, and I want to like the dress but... I may need to give it some time.   The front doesn't lay completely flat so I think I may need to tweak the design a little or adjust my button placement.

The pattern really didn't get easier as I continued to work with it.  I kept backtracking and rereading the instructions, but I still had difficulties with the collar and finishing the lining with the button panel on the inside.  

This may be considered one of my first big flops.  I don't want to deem the dress useless though and will find a way to work with it. But the pattern was a big disappointment.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Sweet Treats Saturday: Champagne Birthday Cake

A birthday for a co-worker proved the perfect opportunity to try a new cake recipe.  Cooked Like A Champion blog had recently made a strawberry champagne ruffle cake which looked too good to pass up.  Two of my favorite things: champagne and strawberries.

The cake was so moist, and I had a lot of extra strawberry puree so I put it in between the two layers coated by buttercream frosting.

Strawberry Cake


For the strawberry purée:
24 ounces frozen strawberries, thawed

For the cake:
3/4 cup strawberry purée, room temperature
1/4 cup milk, at room temperature
6 large egg whites, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cup cake flour, sifted
1 3/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened

To make the strawberry purée, pour thawed strawberries into a fine mesh strainer set over a large bowl to remove any liquid. Save liquid for a later use or discard. Purée strawberries in a blender or food processor and set aside 3/4 cup for the cake. The remaining 1/2 cup can be used to fill the cake, top ice cream, make daiquiris or almost anything else you can think of.

Strawberry Puree

To make the cake, preheat oven to 350º. Butter and flour two 8-inch pans and line with a parchment round.

In a small bowl, whisk together strawberry purée, milk, egg whites and vanilla. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt on low speed. Add butter and continue mixing until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the purée mixture and beat at medium speed until smooth, scraping down the sides and bottom of bowl as needed. Divide the batter evenly among the pans (a kitchen scale works wonders here) and smooth tops with a rubber spatula.

Bake cakes for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans for 10 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely. 

I made an extra half bath of the champagne buttercream so that I would have enough to frost the whole outside and put in between.  It turned out to be the perfect amount.  I'm listed that updated version below, but you can also use the original recipe.

If you have a sec, go check out the original recipe page as the way she decorated the cake was just gorgeous! If I had any kind of talent for frosting a cake, I would have attempted it but alas, I don't have the skill or the patience.

Champagne Buttercream
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon champagne, prosecco or other sparkling wine
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) butter, softened
4 cups confectioners sugar

Place 1 cup of champagne in a small saucepan set over medium-high heat. Simmer for about 10 minutes, or until champagne has been reduced to 2 tablespoons. Pour into a small bowl and allow to cool.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle or whisk attachment, beat butter and sugar together on low speed, gradually increasing to medium-high. Beat until butter is lightened and the frosting is thick and fluffy. Add the reduced champagne and the remaining 1 tablespoon of champagne and continue beating until incorporated.

**UPDATE: I added a little food color to the frosting, just to give it a light pink hue, but you don't have to. It still looks lovely without it. 

This post will be participating in the following Linky parties:

Friday, April 08, 2011

Pattern frustrations

Please allow me to take this time to make a minor modification to a Jack Prelutsky poem.  Ahem.

Vogue twelve thirty-three I hate you, you stink
I wish I could wash you away in the sink.
I'd rather take baths with man-eating sharks,
Or wrestle a lion alone in the dark...

I could go on, but it would be endless... Jack did not write enough lines to convey my hated for this pattern.  And to answer your questions, yes, I did recite that from memory - I had to memorize a poem in the third grade (or was it second?) and that was what I chose.  As I've been ripping out the seams from my fabric, I found myself reciting this mantra.  Along with 'I hate you, I hate you, I hate you...'

I consider myself an advanced beginner seamstress at this point. I've made quite a few Intermediate/Advanced patterns with minor difficulties, but this pattern has just been trouble!  It all started with the two front pockets.  Sure, I can make pockets but I couldn't following their instructions.  I was tempted to just make them 'my way' but decided that I would rather continue on without them.  My fabric pattern is busy enough that it would just be adding more detail and covering up the flow of the design.

Then came the collar.  For some reason, I just could not grasp the instructions that the pattern gave me.  I tried every which way of basting it on. Right sides facing, wrong sides facing, one right, one wrong, folding it over ahead of time, laying it flat... you following? Nothing worked!  Finally, i just flipped it inside out, stitched it on and attached the button lining separately.  I may have a few grey hairs from this endeavor, and my hands are covered in pinmarks and seam ripper stabs.  If it weren't for the fabric and the overall cuteness of the dress, I probably would have scrapped the whole thing.  But I swear, this pattern will not triumph over me!  I'm close to completion, but not without some blood, sweat and tears.  I will win in the end.

I will.


Her eyes hide a secret: This pattern will make you scream!

Alright, enough with my rant. What are your pattern woes?  Did you ever encounter a pattern that tried to get the best of you? Who won?  Please tell me I'm not the only one who's faced this situation.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Can't get any warmer...

Another knitting post!  As I mentioned, the past week has brought wonderful weather in the Bay Area - hitting the high 70's almost daily.  And yet I continue to knit... this time with the bulkiest yarn and needles I've ever worked with.  Malabrigo's super bulky yarn and size 19 needles.  I was making Phydeaux's Asterisque Cowl from the pattern copy that I picked up at Stitches West back in February.  I had intended to work on it sooner, but I had a hard time finding size 19 needles - only one yarn store in my area carried them without requiring a special order.

Monster needles and uber thick yarn.

My girlfriends and I had a True Blood marathon to introduce one of them to the show and to prepare for the upcoming fourth season.  As I've already seen the show all the way through, it seemed like a good time to work on a fast knitting project.

And fast it was!  I was able to whip this up over the course of about four episodes.  Before we started the show, I had to look up a tutorial on how to do the daisy knit stitch.  Once I watched it through, I was set.  It was really easy to do but just complicated to understand on paper.  The biggest pain in this project was the combination of the bulky yarn and bulky needles.  I'm looking forward to doing another one of Phydeaux's patterns, and I've already set aside some slightly less bulky yarn to knit with.

The finished wrap. I just need a fancy brooch to go with it.
This post will be participating in the following Linky parties:

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

How cute is this kitty?!

The Sew Weekly is hosting a giveaway for 30 days of pincushions during the month of April.  Today's giveaway is a super cute Lucky Cat Pincushion.  Seriously - how adorable is this?

Lucky Cat Pincushion

To enter for today's giveaway, I'm linking back to the No Sew Hat Pincushion Tutorial.  The link teaches you how to make your own hat shaped pincushion.  The tutorial looks so easy, and if you're a hoarder like me (well, just a craft hoarder... I mean, doesn't everyone have felt lying around their house?), then you're pretty much ready to make this easy pincushion!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Spring cleaning

Yard cleaning that is.  Our house has some planter boxes on the side yard that have just been calling out to me... well, the weeds had been.  We removed the weeds that were filling them and were left with some perfect garden space.  It gets a decent amount of sun - a few boxes get full sun and the rest partial.  I decided to try my hand at gardening again.

Before... death valley?

I prefer low maintenance plants, but I've been itching to have my own supply of herbs and maybe even a small amount of veggies.  The only thing that had survived the previous owners' garden were a few little strawberry patches.  That would be the base for one of my vegetable boxes.

One of the strawberry patches

One problem I have with gardening (aside from bugs, worms, snails, etc) is that like painting, it's fun until you really get going, but when it's too late to quit, the fun is long gone.  The light morning sun had suddenly become glaring and hot, and what seemed like a few plants had turned into dozens.  However, it's so satisfying seeing your filled planter boxes with the promise of things to come.

Tomatoes galore! As well as some peppers and squash.
The herb garden. Just your basics: basil, thyme, parsley, etc.

We figured out how to turn on the complex sprinkler system, so hopefully my garden won't be too neglected.  I just need to make sure I get out there to check on it regularly and keep the weeds at bay.  Fingers crossed that the plants thrive and love their new home!

After! The filled planter boxes.

Just some flowers that made their way into the garden.

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