Holy Pink Hair Batman!

Yup, I've done it again... Six hours of bleaching and dying at my wonderful sister's salon.

It's washed up a bit from the initial color to a really lovely shade of pastel pink, which is what we were going for. I LOVE it. Johnny's warming up to it haha. It's going to be a lot of upkeep but I think it's going to stay for a while. Anyone have any really good recipes for home made conditioner? I'm going through the stuff like crazy!


Heartfelt Calendar Tutorial

I was thinking about saving this tutorial for next Christmas, but I've seen a lot of people doing something special for Valentine's day this year called the "14 Days of Valentines". I'm guessing it's a play off of the 12 days of Christmas, and I thought this might be a fun way to participate. This year I wanted to make Johnny an advent calendar since we didn't get to spend as much time together as we would have liked (he lives a little ways away from me).

I used my favorite little single truffle boxes, which you saw as place cards during Thanksgiving , as the containers for my little gifts. I drew all the numbers on them while they were flat with a green felt-tip marker. All the objects I collected or made were something from our relationship, either actually or symbolically. It was harder than I thought it would be to find 23 little items that would fit in the boxes, but it all came together so sweetly.

Now, I say 23 items because an advent calendar usually ends on Christmas Eve because you get all your regular presents on Christmas Day, but also I wanted to do something extra special for the item he got on Christmas Eve. I bought a couple paper mache' ornament bases and we decided to make them for eachother a while ago. Mine ended up being the perfect end to the calendar. It's covered in petals from the first bunch of roses he ever gave me.

Our song is "La Vie En Rose", so I found the original french lyrics online and copied/pasted and edited them to be 23 lines, with the last 3 lines specially printed to go into the ornament. (Those lines, loosely translated read, "I look inside myself and feel my heart is beating.") After I printed them I cut them into strips and was careful to keep them in order.

I wound each strip around a knitting needle to turn it into a lovely little paper curl, which I placed in each box with an item.

After everything was boxed and wrapped, I cut a bunch of little pieces of baker's twine long enough to easily tie bows. You want to make sure that the boxes are easy to get off the line, so I laid the long piece of twine connecting all the boxes on top of the little handles and tied the bow around everything, so it just needs to be tugged on and it will come off easily.

I took it to the living room and hung it on my mantle to make sure I left enough extra string for Johnny to hang it on his at home. And then I packed it carefully and shipped it off! Needless to say he was very surprised! Here it is on his mantle:

And funnily enough when he gave me my ornament he also added a little nod to our song, as well as a mini diorama that blew my mind. The background is layered photos of Lake Merritt made to look 3D, with beads for the water and a black silhouette of people kissing amongst tiny bottle brush trees. Lake Merritt is where he asked me to be his girlfriend. *Swoon*


Let's Jam!

Over the summer some of my Stitch & Bitch girls and I decided to have a jam making get-together. Laura, the hostess, and my friend Carolyn had never made jam before, but Erin, Heideh, and I were old pros and wanted to teach them. So we all got together and drove out to Brentwood to go to a farm to pick strawberries which was a total blast. Then we headed back to Laura's house to get our jam on (sorry haha).

We hulled the massive piles of berries, zested and juiced lemons, and picked lavender from the garden while a cute little chocolate lab named Charlie distracted us.

Massive pots of boiling water, bubbling batches of jam and preserves, and trays of sterile jars were everywhere. Luckily it wasn't too hot that day but the house still got steamy.

Carolyn and Laura had a great time learning a new skill, and ended up with almost a dozen jars each of some truly delicious strawberry jam.

I had enough jam at home so I ended up making strawberry preserves instead by marinating the whole berries in sugar and lemon juice until there was plenty of syrup, then cooking them down before canning. Needless to say, they didn't last long. I made pancakes every weekend and they made the best topping with whipped cream. During the party, I had extra syrup after I was done canning, so we cut up some strawberries and brownies and drizzled them with it. Delicious!

All of the recipes we used were from my favorite canning book of all time, Canning for a New Generation. (Click on the link to go to my Amazon page & grab yourself a copy!) I'm seriously in love with this book, so much so that I'm hoping to make every single recipe from it. It's arranged by seasons so I thought it would be a fun year-long challenge! Sorry for all the food-related posts recently, but 2012 was a very fun foodie year. I've got a fun Valentine's Day tutorial coming on Monday, so stay tuned!


Strawberry Malt Ball Cake!

This year my birthday (back in August) happened to land on a Tuesday which is the day my Stitch & Bitch group usually meets so I decided to make a special, if somewhat outrageous, cake to share with everyone. I'd seen this malt ball cake from Inspired by Charm on Pinterest before and I just couldn't resist. (Click the link for the full recipe and her cute tutorial for a mini bunting!)

 It's a really easy recipe because it uses a boxed strawberry cake mix, which was surprisingly good. I also used this as an opportunity for trying a new method for getting the cake to rise evenly while baking. You cut pieces of thick fabric, like an old kitchen towel, into strips wide and long enough to wrap around the sides of your cake pan, then soak them in cold water, wring them out gently, and use a safety pin to keep them in pace around the outside, then bake as usual. It keeps the edges from cooking too fast and you don't have to trim a dome off the tops, which means no wasted cake! Worked like a charm as you can see in the pics below.

 The icing was great, it's white chocolate cream cheese. Came together just like the recipe says. But it made waaaay too much. She said she doubled the recipe to ice the cake, but I had a ton left over, so I think one portion is fine. Also, next time I think I will skip putting the layer of frosting in between the cake layers to make room for more strawberries.

 I did a crumb coat of frosting with little squares of waxed paper protecting the cake plate. You just slide them out when you're all done icing. I'd have let it chill a little longer, but I was in a rush.

 The final layer of icing has to be pretty thick to hold the malt balls on, and you need to keep the cake cool or it will melt. I made this one in the middle of a heat wave and had to get it in the car and to the cafe where S&B meets, but it made it!

And as a final quirky touch, I made a little paper cake bunting like the ones I sell, (there's a couple left for sale in my etsy shop here) but I used strawberry Pocky as the supports.

All and all, I'd give this recipe a thumbs up! It was really sweet, but everyone had a tiny slice and it was great! I'm super interested in trying a chocolate version of this. Or I'd make my Elvis Cake and cover the outside with the peanut butter malt balls they make now. *Drools*


Eat Real Festival

This is a little flash-back to the summer, but I really wanted to post it and spread the word about my favorite food festival, the Eat Real Fest in Oakland. It's in Jack London Square every summer and has never failed to impress me. Johnny and I went and were able to try nearly everything that sounded good, and we managed to photograph each thing too. So presented here, for your foodie pleasure, is a microsampling of the best food festival around.

Pickles from Forage SF. Fermented goodness!

 Chow Fun Spring Rolls from Rice Paper Scissors. Spicy and amazing!

Steamed buns from Chairman Bao. Coca-Cola pork and Spicy Chicken.

 Egg and bacon grilled cheese from S+S Gastropub. Nom.

Beef empenadas from El Porteno. Best pastry.

Yerba Mate' infused colas from Taylor's Tonics. Amazing flavors!

 Gelatin flowers from Sweets Collection. That is made from Jello?!

Whole roast pig from Chop Bar. Dear God yes.

Grilled cheese from The Grilled Cheese Guy. Put a brick on it!

Strawberry Basil Lemonade! (I bought this jar last year & they didn't sell them this year, and everyone wanted to know where I got it!) 

Grilled peach filled with chevre from The Grilled Cheese Guy. Amazingly simple and delicious.

Kamikaze Fries from KoJa Kitchen. Favorite food ever.

The Fat Bastard from 4505 Meats. Had like 15 ingredients. 

Ice cream form Ici. Malted vanilla with cacao nibs and raspberry sorbet.

And lastly, this little guy sat on my arm while we ate a bunch of stuff, he was so cute!

... And then we rolled home and slept.


RAC Holiday Fair Recap!

I'm happy to announce that the RAC's annual Holiday Arts Festival was a complete success! I've done this fair for 4 years now so it's quite the tradition for me, and if you'd like to see my posts for the last few years here's 2009, 2010, and 2011. This year was the first time I've had a booth all to myself and I was a little nervous, but since I know lots of the other regular vendors and staff members it was just as easy-going as any other year. And this fair was extra special for a few reasons.

Firstly, I decided to make tons of fascinators and center my booth around them since they sold so well last year. I was worried that with the fair being only one day this year instead of two that I wouldn't sell as many, but it was great! 

Also, I was incredibly happy with how my booth display came out, and you'd never know it from the look of it, but it's made entirely out of oatmeal and baby formula containers from the local artist's reuse shop and some boxes, all held together with masking tape! 

But by far, the best thing about this fair was having Johnny there with me. He's been so supportive to me and my business, and we have a great time together. The fair was 1960's (Mad Men style) themed this year and the vendors were encouraged to dress up, and look at how stinkin' cute we are! I love a man who can rock a bow tie!

I've got a friend who wants to do some editorial-style photos of my fascinators for her wedding photography business, and after that's done I'll list what's left on etsy! Many thanks to everyone at the RAC for having me back again this year, and I can't wait for the next one! Also, yes, these are mostly Instagram photos, which means I've finally hopped on that particular bandwagon! You can follow me @ohthecuteness!


The biggest Thanksgiving ever!

Well, the holidays kicked my butt yet again this year but they were, as always, completely amazing. I had tons of work to do between WSPS and WCM this year, as well as getting ready for the RAC's holiday fair (which went REALLY well, photos to come), hence the posting drought. But, as part of my new year's resolution I'm going to focus more on my own business and crafting, as well as a huge project I've had in the works since last year, and as part of that I'm continuing to play catchup on here. Anywho, on to the holiday at hand: Thanksgiving!

As some of you may know I host a Thanksgiving dinner every year and invite all my friends who can't make it home to visit their families. I started it 3 years ago when my parents decided they didn't feel like celebrating it anymore. The original had 7 peoplethen there were 12, and this year there were 18 in all! It was so big I couldn't host it at my place anymore, but my best friend Karol offered to have it at his new place, since it has a huge dining room. He had been meaning to make his house fancier for a while, and having a deadline really helped. It was a mostly vegan and gluten-free potluck, and everything was delicious. The party lasted well into the wee hours and a lovely time was had by all. The only thing that would have made it better was if my new boyfriend, Johnny, could have attended, but alas he had family obligations. Here's some of my favorite photos taken by KarolVanessa, and me, and there's more on my flickr here.

I made little favor boxes as place cards for everyone. These are made to hold a single truffle and are only about an inch and a half square, and I'll be selling them soon! They're filled with an assortment of seed money from Leafcutter Designs.

My sister had just done the decorations for a birthday party and had some silver balloons left over, so we carted them to Karol's house and bought silver cups and napkins to match. Karol got this banquette especially for the occasion and I think it looked so elegant. After cooking I made silverware bundles with napkins and twine...

... And Karol grabbed mint sprigs from his garden to finish each place setting. Everything came out so nice!

I just had to toss in this pic of my lovely sister, and look! She's wearing one of the fascinators I made! I wore one too with big pheasant feathers on it, which you can kind of see below:

Karol carved the turkey and we ate delicious food and drank wine until we couldn't move, then had a fire pit in the back yard...

... And then we did a LOT of dishes! Best. Thanksgiving. Ever!