Monday, March 2, 2015

The Story Time Sampler: Progress

I must say, I'm pretty happy with my progress on the Story Time Sampler, by the Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery. I'm pretty much all caught up, with both January and February frames done. Now I have a whole month to stitch both frame and scene for March. These stitch-a-longs are so much fun and this one is especially cute! Since I like to see works in progress, here's my progress over the last month (I stitched both frames together, one colour at a time):
And here they are complete:
I went with a few modifications, all inspired by the Frosted Pumpkin Facebook page or the fact that the dark green and orange threads were out of stock when I ordered my supplies, so I improvised those with thread I had in my stash (both inherited by my aunt as it so happens). The modifications I included: adding in the cat's Cheshire grin and changing his colouring (I didn't like the 2 pinks chosen as I wanted him more purple, so I used some colours from my stash, plus I gave him green eyes with black outlines), back-stitching the robin's wing for more definition and giving him a black back-stitched eye instead of green, and using French knots for the flowers. I really love how those knots look!

Now here's hoping I can finish up March by the end of the month - with everything going on, we'll see how much stitching time I actually get!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Recipe: Coconut Cupcakes

There are some exciting things happening over here... but I can't share just yet. Let's just say things are going to be very busy in the next 2 months! In the meantime, here's that coconut cupcake recipe I promised a while ago.
These are my go-to coconut cupcakes - it's a very good recipe I've been using for a number of years which always yields delicious, moist cakes. They freeze really well too. This time, since I was bringing them to a party, I wanted to ice them too. So I found a simple buttercream recipe online and substituted in some of the leftover coconut milk to give it a subtle flavour. Finally, I topped them all off with some shredded coconut for extra texture and a bit of sparkle (from the sugar crystals in the sweetened coconut). These are amazing and easy to make - I highly recommend you whip up a batch for dessert tonight!

Coconut Cupcakes with Coconut Buttercream Icing

Ingredients:

cupcakes:

3/4 cup butter (I've used both salted or unsalted, doesn't make a big difference which you use)
1 1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 cup canned coconut milk, well shaken
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 to 3/4 cup dessicated coconut (sweetened or not)

icing:

1/2 cup salted butter
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups icing (powdered) sugar
2 to 3 tbsp coconut milk

sweetened shredded coconut, to garnish

Methods:

cupcakes:

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare your muffin tin with cupcake liners.

2. Cream the butter until fluffy. Cream in the sugar. Add one egg at a time, beating for at least 30 seconds between each one.

3. Mix the flour, salt and baking powder in a separate bowl. Combine the coconut milk and vanilla in another small bowl (or the mixing cup).

4. Alternate adding in dry and wet ingredients to the butter mixture, beating well to incorporate each addition. Start with a third of the dry ingredients, half the wet, another third of the dry, the remaining wet and finally the remaining flour mixture.

5. Fold in the coconut.

6. Fill liners with batter to about 2/3 to 3/4 full. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Cool completely on a wire rack before icing.

icing:

1. Cream the butter (this time it's important to use salted).

2. Beat in the icing sugar (since powdered sugar goes stale, make sure to use a fresh bag).

3. Mix in the coconut milk and vanilla. Less coconut milk will give a stiffer icing, more will make it more spreadable. Add a bit at a time until you're happy with the consistency.

4. Ice cupcakes, dipping each in a small bowl of shredded coconut to completely cover.
Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Mini Sketchbook Challenge

Last month, I gave myself a mini challenge in my sketchbook after filling a page completely with flower doodles: fill 5 more spreads, each page different from the last. I mixed in some different techniques and finished just past my self-imposed deadline. I'm really happy with the results. Have a look - first, the challenge:
And the page that started it all:

The first spread: first page full of doodled scallops (made with my trusty black Pilot V5 Hi-Techpoint), the second page filled with my collection of washi tape.

The second spread: a simple collage using a mix of papers, followed by a doodled page filled using patterns found in the collaged papers (in roughly the same arrangement).

The third spread: a doodled page (using Sharpies) inspired by a building I saw while driving around with Pat, the second page a signature girl sketch.

The fourth spread: another fun doodle (inspired by some of my older sketchbooks) and then my favourite page. First, I doodled the black outlines, then I cut out and glued tissue paper to fill the bubbles and then I filled in the background with subtle lines (using pencil crayon).

The fifth spread: a sticker-filled page and a sketch completed solely in oil pastels.

And you know what? This mini challenge totally sparked my creativity! I've been doodling and drawing and cross-stitching like crazy these last few weeks. I love it! Now I just need to clean out and organize my craft room so that I can get to my paint and other supplies!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day!
Pat surprised me when he came home last night, a little later than usual. He made a few stops and came home with (my dry cleaning and) a surprise: a beautiful card and bouquet of red-streaked-cream roses.
It's funny because just a few days ago my mom mentioned that he would do something for V-day and I countered with a "probably not" since we don't usually do too much to celebrate. But my husband still has a few romantic, spontaneous gestures up his sleeve!
I love you Pat! I'm so happy I get to spend this love-filled long weekend with you!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Recipe: The Best Chocolate Cookies

For our Superbowl party, I was in charge of dessert. So I made my go-to coconut cupcakes (I'll post that recipe in a few days) and these delicious chocolate cookies.
These cookies are one of my most cherished childhood food-related memories. You should make some right now!

The Best Chocolate Cookies

Ingredients:

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided (1 12oz package)
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup icing (powdered) sugar

Methods:

1. Heat oven to 350F.
2. In a microwave safe bowl, melt 1 cup of chocolate chips by microwaving on 80% power for 30 seconds, stirring well before repeating once or twice (for a total of 1 to 1.5 minutes), until all the chips are melted and smooth. Cool slightly.
3. In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
4. Blend in eggs, vanilla and melted chocolate.
5. Combine oats, flour, baking powder and salt. Add to chocolate mixture.
6. Stir in remaining chocolate chips.
7. Shape dough into 1" balls. Roll in icing sugar, coating heavily.
8. Place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake 10-12 minutes.
9. Cool 1 minute on baking sheet before removing to wire rack. Makes about 5 dozen.

I'm really not exaggerating when I say these are the best cookies ever. You will not be disappointed!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Story Time Sampler 2015

I love cross stitching, and when I saw the latest year-long sampler put out by the Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery, I just had to sign up. This year, each monthly frame is a scene from a recognizable story - the Story Time Sampler. Obviously I love reading, so it was a given that I would get on board with this one! I think I might just have to pick up each book represented in the sampler to go along with it!

I'm a bit behind as I've been working on it sporadically, between reading and sketchbooking and spending time with my husband (smile). Each frame is also very intricate (which means slow-going) - I already had to rip out a good part of the green frame at the bottom because I wasn't looking at the pattern properly. But here's my progress so far:
I love the pastel, subtly variegated thread used for the frames. From what I've seen posted on the Facebook group, I'm really looking forward to seeing each frame filled!

My goal for today is to finish the first frame and possibly get started on the scene inside (Alice in Wonderland!).

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Collections: Royal Doulton

As wedding gifts, my parents and gramma added to my collection of Royal Doulton Dolls (ceramic figurines), bringing my total to 6 (4 large, 2 small). I absolutely love these dolls - all but the small Amanda doll (in white) are antiques as the three of us agree that the older dolls are much prettier than the new ones. Hand-painted and beautifully crafted, they are timeless pieces.
Growing my collection meant re-arranging my glass cabinet - here's a better shot with the doors open:
It's unfortunate that these photos turned out so dark and grainy - it's really hard with winter lighting, but you get the general idea. On the top shelf you can see The Last Waltz (in yellow, with coordinating pitchers, also from my mom) and Amanda (in white). On the second shelf, from left to right, is Victoria (seated in pink flowers), Laurianne (seated in navy), Autumn Breezes (standing in red) and Goody Two Shoes (standing in red, the smaller one).

The wedding gift from my parents was Victoria:
She's absolutely beautiful - the pink flowered dress is breath-taking. My gramma has both Victoria and Laurianne in her collection - they look so cute together, sitting and chatting away. Laurie Anne is my middle name (and my gramma first child) and Victoria was the name of one of my great-great-grandmothers.

When gramma heard our good news, she immediately gave me Autumn Breezes from her own collection:
She's a perfect match to Goody Two Shoes, which gramma also gave me from her own collection - the red dress, the bonnet, even the purple-blue ribbon and green trim. They look lovely together! My gramma chose to give me Autumn Breezes since we technically got married in the fall (though at the very tail end of it!).

Each of these pieces holds special meaning and memories for me - I look forward to many years of arranging and re-arranging them!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Our First Christmas

It's a little late to be posting Christmas photos, but I just had to share this one little ornament I bought this year. I just had to commemorate our first Christmas together (as a married couple) and really liked this beautiful heart I found at Hallmark:
A nice sentimental piece to remember a very happy time!