Friday, May 8, 2015

A Set Back

Well, I have nothing to show for today. I was so ready to go with making something - specifically some pillowcases. I went out and bought the fabrics I wanted & found a tutorial that I thought I could easily follow.

Not everything you need.
And then I didn't realize how much stuff I actually needed.

Sewing Machine & Thread ? Check.
Sewing Scissors & Seam Ripper? Check.
Measuring Tape & Pins? Check.

I wasn't prepared. I don't have a mat nor a rotary cutters. Honestly, I didn't think I would really need them until I started to try and actually cut fabric. What made me think I could cut fabric evenly, with scissors, if I can't cut wrapping paper easily? Also, I don't have an iron. When I have clothing wrinkles, I use a steamer. Need to get that.

I can go get this stuff. But, I try to keep myself on a weekly budget with buying frivolous things. Plus, I unfortuantely got a traffic ticket I have to pay off, along with a trip to the doctor this week. That stuff is just being put on hold.

In the meantime, I am getting familiar with my little machine, which I am glad I am doing. I am learning, with scrap fabrics, the different stitches & how fast to go with the pedal. So, this week isn't a total bust.

Next weekend my dad is coming to visit! So, I'll probably won't post about anything sewing related for a few weeks. Hopefully next time I will have made something over than a little sewed up square filled with cat treats (Jean-Luc tore it apart instantly).


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Threading The Needle & Other Frustrations.

April is almost over & I didn't write anything about sewing. To be honest, April was a crazy month for me for both good & bad reasons. The good: I got a DREAM JOB working with an animal sitting company. Basically, I go to homes and play with/walk/feed people's pets while they're at work or on vacation. The bad: Don't worry about it. Just know it ended happier for me.
So, sewing. From here on out I am going to go through the motions that I did so not to overwhelm. First, the sewing machine that I own is the SY from Ikea. The reasons I decided on this one are simple. I don't know if this is going to be something I truly enjoy so I didn't want to put a lot of money into it at first & also I didn't want anything to technical. I want to learn from a simple machine & work my way up if I'd like.

Now, I should probably start by saying that the last time I used a sewing machine was when I was 13 in an Home Ec class. I made a gym bag & I cannot even tell you how it all happened. I don't recall one minute of it. I just remember that the bag was baby pink & baby blue because of course it was.

The nice thing about the SY is that it comes with a list of directions that are really easy to follow. Also, Ikea has videos on Youtube that show you how to, wind the bobbin, thread your needle, make different stitches, clean the machine, etc. This has helped my first steps immensely.

Winging the bobbin was the easiest. I am not going through those steps because it will bore you but again, you can watch it here. Installing the bobbin, however, caused me a lot of stress. I actually tried to do it, and left it for about a week because it was so frustrating. Eventually, with help from David, we realized my problem was that I took the whole apparatus a part and didn't lock it back in when really I just had to pop one little part out and replace. I always have to make things harder than they are. I watched the tutorial close to 50 times, frame by frame, until I realized my mistake. God help all of us, this is going to be all a long ass process.

I originally wanted to jump right in and start making an apron but my friend Charlie advised that I should start with something simpler, like a pillowcase. So, my next post (which will hopefully be up this weekend) will be on my triumph or failure of said pillowcase.
I had to remove Gaston 4 times before I was able to get this picture. 

 Hope ya'll are enjoying the spring! I know I am!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Caramel + Chocolate

When I was growing up, I remember my mom baking a lot. It was usually the staples - chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin cookies, brownies, etc. But every once in a while she would make these caramel bars that were heavenly. Since I have braces, I have to stay away from everything that is good, like caramels. These bars, however, are so smooth and gooey that I knew I could get away with eating them.

What you're going to need:
40-50 caramels
1/3 cup milk
2 cups flour
2 cups oats
1 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda*
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1 cup softened margarine (or unsalted butter)
1 pkg 6oz chocolate chips

*My sister sent me the recipe my mother copied down for her. It said "1 tsp soda" & I asked what type of soda I should use (thinking it meant Coke or Pepsi). So, that's good.

The first step is to unwrap all of those caramels. I just sat and watched some Netflix & threw them in the bowl as I unwraped. It's a huge pain, but the outcome is worth it.

Gaston watched.
Next, warm the caramels and milk on low setting in the microwave, stirring often, until smooth. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix flour, oats, sugar, baking soda, salt, and egg. Mix in butter with a fork or pastry cutter until the mixture is crumbly.

Then, press half of the mixture into a greased 9x13 pan. Bake 10 minutes at 350 degrees.

 Take out and sprinkle chocolate chips over the oat crust & drizzle with caramel sauce.

Sprinkle remaining oat mixture over top. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.

Cool for 30 minutes, loosen the edges, then cool completely before cutting and removing.

I was doing a happy dance when they came out of the oven. My home smelled like the perfect mixture of oat, caramel, and chocolate & I just couldn't wait to dig in. So, you know, I didn't wait.

I probably should have waited like the directions said (always listen to your mother) but patience isn't something I have ever been good at. They definitely crumbled all over the place but I only used the nice looking ones for pictures. But seriously, delicious.

Pro tip: Once cooled, wrap in a damp paper towel to get the to the gooey deliciousness again & top with icecream! Works when they are a few days old too!

Now, you'll see me post baking posts from time to time but April is all about learning to sew. I'm going to job on the machine & figure some stuff out and hopefully get it working! This coming weekend, I'll be in Savannah for a bachelor party, so expect a post the following Monday or Tuesday!

Happy Easter!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Radium Springs Gardens

Sister & boyfriend love.
A week ago Saturday, David & I drove down to Albany, Georgia to meet my sister Crissy. She moved to Jacksonville, Florida a month ago & Albany is directly in the middle between us & her. I looked up different attractions in the area since I am not familiar & came across Radium Springs Gardens.

It was right up my alley.

I have been really wanting to explore more areas of Georgia since I have moved down here. This state is truly beautiful and full of rich history & beautiful scenery. There are seven natural wonders (including Radium Sp
rings) in Georgia & I hope that by this time next year I'll have seen them all.

new friend
So let me give you a little background on the springs. It is the largest natural spring in the state & it pumps 70,000 gallons of water per minute into the Flint River from an underground cave. The water also is at constant 68 degrees (Fahrenheit) year round. The site of the gardens is where a casino used to stand but now it's just ruins (which we didn't really realize we were actually looking at the ruins because the ruins have been turned into a sort of entrance/gate to the gardens, so). The water has traces of radium in it - which I don't really know what that means - but I think it has to do with the constant temp of the water. But the biggest lure (at least for me) is how completely clear and bright blue the water is, especially at the mouth of the cave.

The drive was about three hours there from Atlanta & it may have been a little too far for the hour or so we spent there. But, it was beautiful & I was so happy to see my sister.

 Unrelated, this was on an abandoned store wall.


photos: my own

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Little Cake

I was in Ohio last weekend and unfortunately I didn't have enough time to bake with my mom and by the time I got back to Georgia I was too tired and had too much to do to bake. However, I got the itch yesterday to make something. David is working from home all this week so to occupy my time I whipped together a little cake.

I should start by saying that I am not a big cake fan. I don't love sugary or buttercream icing & I always choose a fruit pie over a chocolate cake. For my birthday, my loved ones have always purchased me an ice cream cake instead of anything homemade. But, when I saw the recipe for this cake, I knew I had to make it. It looked too good.

This was the easiest thing I have made so I have no doubt that anyone can whip this up. I did make an adjustment just based on taste, but I don't believe it disturbed the integrity of the cake.
Instead of using frozen raspberries, I used frozen raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. I'd be lying if I said the majority of this change wasn't based on selection at Trader Joe's. However, I wasn't mad cause I knew it would still be delicious.

In the larger bowl I whisked together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In the smaller bowl, I mixed together the eggs, ricotta, and vanilla until it was all smooth. Next, I stirred the ricotta mixture into the flour mixture and gently added the butter.
I added about a cup of the berries to the batter, gently mixing them so not to crush. From there, scrape it all into a greased 9 inch round pan.

Bake at 350* for 50 to 60 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.


I should note that my month of baking is coming to an end. David's birthday is this weekend and he is requesting an ice cream cake. I'll probably bake something else because there is something I am craving. However, to keep up with this blog's intentions I will be trying something else next month exclusively. I will say that I did buy my first sewing machine & I am going out this afternoon to purchase some supplies!

I hope you all are having a great week!


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Peach State. Peach Muffins.

One thing I love about the state of Georgia is their love of peaches. Through the months of May to August, the wonderful fruit is in season and they aren't like any I have ever tasted elsewhere. To pay homage, I made Peach Cobbler Muffins. Again, I got the recipe from Joy The Baker's cookbook. True, it's only March so the fruit isn't in season for two months but I had to try this recipe. I'm glad I did.


What you'll need                           
For the muffins:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 nutmeg
7 tbsp unsalted butter
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/3 cup milk
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups peaches (about a peach and a half)

I preheated the oven to 350 degrees and used cupcake papers to line the tin (you can also use butter and flour buy your girl didn't have time for that). In a medium bowl I whisked together the flour, sugars, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, & nutmeg. This is always my favorite part of baking because it's pretty simple and I feel like a pro baker doing it.

Next, put the butter in a small saucepan and melt until it's browned - over medium heat. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. I burnt myself twice.

In another bowl, whisk egg, yolk, milk, and vanilla. While whisking, stir in the butter. Add this to the flour mixture all at once. Fold together with a spatula. Once there isn't any flour remaining, fold in the peaches. Scoop evenly into the muffin tin. The batter was hella sticky and I had a hard time. I'll probably butter & flour the tin next time as opposed to using cupcake papers. That's what I get for being lazy.

What you'll need
For the topping:
3 tbsp cold, unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
Pinch of salt
Pinch of nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Combine all the above ingredients in a small bowl and blend with your fingers until it's all crumbly. I felt like a kid doing this with my hands and was pretty jazzed. I promise I didn't lick my fingers. Divide onto batter evenly. I didn't need to use all of the topping, probably 3/4 of it.

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until a skewer put into the center comes out clean. It was about 20 minutes in my oven. But I checked them at 15 minutes, 18, and then 20.
Muffins out!
Muffins in!

It sucks, but let cool for about 20 minutes before removing. They smelled so good at this point that I had to distract myself from burning myself (again) just to eat one. I cleaned up my kitchen at this point and then immediately inhaled one. Worth it.

Not pictured: 4 already eaten muffins.
Things to do differently:
Honestly, not much. The recipe was pretty easy & they came out killer & I am looking forward to making them again during peach season. There are a few places near my area where you can pick your own peaches so I'll definitely do that to ensure maximum freshness! Also, I was pretty excited about this recipe so I kinda forgot to take pictures along the way - my bad!

This coming weekend I'll be traveling to Ohio for an orthodontist check up (fingers crossed it goes well - I'm nervous for this one) & a visit with loved ones. I have an idea of what I want to bake and hopefully I can get my mom on board to make it with me! If not, I'll probably take a week off the baking game.

Hope ya'll have a great week!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The S'mores Brownies That Could Have Been.

Let me start of by saying one thing. I meant well. I was so jazzed about making these brownies and I totally murdered them. But as I said in my last post, I'm going to tell you about it & what I did wrong.

Recently, I bought the Joy The Baker Cookbook & was pretty stoked on getting started immediately. I figured the S'mores Brownies would probably be my safest bet to start out with & was feeling pretty optimistic.
Not pictured: Salt. Pictured: Gaston creeping in the back.
It started simple enough, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl. Okay, cool. Got it. Next, melt the unsweetened chocolate & butter together over a double boiler. I'm sorry. What? This is when I had to Google what that was. When I realized that I had to improvise, I started to panic. This is when David swooped in and showed me what to use. Great. Moving on.

Don't be fooled, I wiped everything down before I took the photo.
Once the chocolate was all smooth, I added the granulated & brown sugar. Crap. This pan is way too small for all this sugar. Again, panic set in. Especially since I have to add 5 EGGS to the pan. So, I did my best & it was almost overflowing. Totally brimming the top. Why didn't I transfer into another pan, you ask? Because that would have been too easy, obviously.
Jean-Luc likes to help
After it was pretty much mixed together & there was a chocolately mess all over the stove, I added it to the dry ingredients of before. Folded it all together, added the crushed up graham crackers and poured it into the greased 9x13 pan. Dot with marshmallows & I did it! Uhh...

Trying to pose this stuff for max visual stimulation.
 Except that is clearly not a 9x13 pan. I didn't realize this until after I poured it in. Then I realized that I don't actually have a 9x13 pan (I went and bought one yesterday). I figured it was no big deal and went with it. The oven had already been pre-heated to 350* and I pushed into the oven for the 30 minutes it called for.
Time in the oven.
 At this point I cleaned up the gigantic mess I made. All the chocolate splattered everywhere, I flour all over the counter (and somehow my cat), and washed the pans I used. At 30 minutes, I took it out. No dice. Not done. Well, it said 30-40 minutes. 10 more minutes in and out? No, still not done.
Time out.
It took it almost 55 minutes to get done & I knew that It wasn't going to be the best. I stared at it for a long time before doing anything. Clearly, I know all my mistakes I made (biggest being the pan size) and thought about making a new one the next day. But, decided that wasn't needed. The marshmallows are clearly darker than they should have and it tasted more like a dry cake than a brownie.
Lessons learned:
1. Figure out what size pan you need before you begin.
2. The recipe for this on Joy's website is much easier to follow than the one in the cookbook. I feel like steps were left out in the book, honestly & actually looked it up on her site after I made these. Example: in the book it makes it seem like you add the sugars and eggs to the chocolate in the pan you used for the double boiler, the site says you mix the chocolate into that stuff in a whole other bowl. Also, the book leaves out when you add the flour/baking powder/salt to everything. I just kind of made an educated guess (and, for once, was right).
3. I need more mixing bowls that can be used for a double boiler, apparently.
4. Store baked goods in a secure area*

I'll be doing another recipe this weekend, for sure. These brownies were going to go off to David's work (along with everything else I bake because, hello calories) but this morning I found the tin foil tore off the pan & brownies everywhere. *Thanks, cats. Is there anything you guys would like to see me (try) to make? Let me know!


pics: my own!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

A Hobby for the Hobbyless.

I used to think I had hobbies. But recently it came to light that I have no actual hobbies. There is a lot of things I've tried doing and then eventually stopped (crotchet, couldn't figure out how to make anything but a scarf). There are other things I used to like doing a lot and don't do or like doing anymore (I haven't played baseball in 10 years. I used to constantly). I wanted this blog to be my hobby but once I moved to Atlanta & the weather got "bad" here, there really wasn't much for me to say because nothing was really happening.

So I decided to find a hobby that I really enjoy. I have always been interested it trying a lot of different things but there has been a lot holding me back. It was usually start-up prices, not knowing where to begin, not having the time. But, none of that isn't a really big issue anymore so I am just going to go for it - all.

Each month, I am going to try a different hobby & write about it. I'll write about failures, set-backs, and successes. This way, I can fully dedicate myself to trying one thing, for a reasonable amount of time, to see if I like it. I'll be honest with how I feel about everything, too. How hard or easy it is & some helpful hints! The benefit really is that I can really focus and buckle down with blogging. I finally have a decoration!

The month of March is going to be dedicated to baking (and some cooking, but mainly baking). I
already have something in the oven as we speak so hopefully the first post can end up on a good note!


photo: here & here