Wednesday, July 30, 2008

DB Challenge

July's Daring Baker challenge was a doozy. It was a Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream. The host for this month was Chris of Mele Cotte .

The cake is an almond genoise with a rum syrup, praline buttercream, a layer of raspberry preserves and topped with chocolate ganache. I feel that I am a pretty decent baker, but from the get go I had problems. The first challenge for me was switching from hazelnuts to almonds since I have a food allergy to hazelnuts. As I read the recipe I saw that I needed to have my almonds skinned and toasted. The almonds I had in the house were raw, so I decided to skin them by pouring boiling water on the almonds and then popping off the skins. I then dried and toasted them in the oven. This was my big tactical error. When I blanched the almonds I only did it for 3 minutes, but doing that changed the texture of the almond. I put them to dry in the oven, but could not seem to get them to toast up. Maybe due to my impatience or to the fact that I waited to the last day to due the challenge. Either way this seemed to be where my problems started. When I went to grind up the almonds, I couldn't get them fine enough due to some of them being not toasted. From there on I went decidedly down hill. I didn't clarify the butter and I didn't put all the almond/flour mixture through the sieve. So my cake turned out bumpy and didn't really taste like almonds.

The Swiss buttercream was also a challenge. As I was beating away on the buttercream, it started to look like a curdled mess. At this point I turned off my mixer and checked with the Daring Bakers. Thank goodness for all you DBer's. I read the thread about buttercream and took the DBer's advice. I went back and turned on my Kitchen Aid mixer and walked away. When I came back it came together nicely. Finally success! The rest of the recipe seemed to go well. The praline buttercream turned out nicely and I used raspberry preserves instead of apricot. I loved the raspberry and chocolate flavors together. Overall, I learned a lot. I learned not to be in such a hurry when baking and to buy blanched almonds next time.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Day at the Zoo

So this is how we spent our day. We went to the Sacramento Zoo and Fairytale Town. The boys were not happy with us at first about going to fairytale town, but as you can see, they actually had a good time. Fairytale town is a fun place for little ones to hang out and play. I remember going there as a kid. I always loved the crooked mile and the slides. My boys are definitely on the older side and were probably the oldest kids in the park today, but we had gotten free tickets along with our zoo tickets, and decided to make the best of it. There was a lot of grumbling to begin with, but soon they were trying to see how many laps they could go around the crooked mile and pretending that space invaders where trying to capture them. They had fun, even if they won't admit it. The zoo was also a nice place to walk around. I think I prefer aquariums over zoos, but today was a nice day and the boys really needed to get out of the house.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

1000 Journals

I came across this trailer for the indie documentary called 1000 Journals. I was very intrigued. The concept was that Someguy, a San Francisco artist, sent out 1000 journals in the summer of 2000 to people with no stipulations or rules. In 2003 one journal made it back. What happened to the other 999? That is what the movie is about. It is about our creativity or lack thereof. I often struggle with how creative I am. I feel that I need to have this amazing artistic flair or I can't consider myself valid as a creative person. Sometimes creativity just flows, its how you cook a meal or how you write out a list. People are afraid to be creative, including me at times. We are afraid to be judged and how people will perceive what we create. I like the films concept and I can't wait to see it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

French Macarons

Oh how I love this wonderful cookie! This is a picture from In Praise of Sardines Flickr group. It is of Pierre Herme's wonderful macaron. I can only imagine the taste. You ask why is she talking about these cookies again? I was reading Dorie Greenspan's blog and her latest entry is about her time touring one of Pierre Herme's boutiques. Give it a read, it will make your mouth water.

Getting Creative

I have been having fun making bracelets. My cousin, Holly asked if I would remake her two black bead bracelets. Both bracelets were strung on elastic and they were a little two snug for her. I re-strung both bracelets on flex wire and added bead caps for interest and a silver toggle. I like the look of both of them. In fact, I liked it so much, that I made a bracelet at the bottom for me. I recently ordered the robin eggs blue decorator box from French General. It was filled with little lovelies including these vintage blue beads. I love the color and the look of these beads and wanted to show them off, so I just strung them on flex wire and to give some interest I added the bead caps. I love it!

Monday, July 21, 2008

New Findings

The boys and I happened to be walking around Michael's the other day and I came upon this really neat book. It's called Mixed Media Mosaics by Laurie Mika. The colors and textures on the cover caught my eye. Her craft is polymer clay mosaics. They are absolutely beautiful. I was completely hooked after reading a few pages of the book. She gives great detail on how to achieve the look of her tiles. She even uses purchased porcelain tiles as well. I have never really worked with polymer clay before, but her book really inspires me to try. Another good find from her book is her resource list. I spent most of last night perusing the websites she recommends. There are a couple that stand out. First, the silver crow is an awesome website that has the neatest nichos you can purchase. She also has one section dedicated to ideas and samples. Teesha Moore is also a great website with really neat stamps. The site that I spent the most time at was Michelle Ward's blog. What a unique blog. She does rubbings with crayons and then paints over them for truly unique art. She also has a blog call the Green Pepper Press Street Team. There you will fine challenges that you can participate in called crusades. Think Indiana Jones' Grail Diary. That is the inspiration. In fact there is a website dedicated to journaling like the Grail Diary. Its all about the rubbings of in Henry Jones Diary in search for the Holy Grail. How cool! I love all this stuff. I really am a craft junkie. I think I need help.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

We're Back!

We just got back from our trip to Oregon. We had a lovely time and the air was soooo clear. After the horrible air quality we had for the few weeks leading up to us leaving, it was nice to have such clean air to breathe. We went up for hubby's cousin's wedding. It was so beautiful and they both looked so nervous, but very happy. Hubby's 2nd cousin is the groom, Cody and his beautiful new bride is Leah. They had a lovely wedding at a park in McMinnville, Oregon. What a beautiful little town. It reminds me of Napa valley. We had fun exploring the town.

This is Hubby's cousin Jill, the mother of the groom. She was a terrific hostess and we truly enjoyed our visit with her and her lovely family.

Cody is a potter by trade, and he and Leah made all the party favors.

They have rosemary planted for remembrance. Isn't that sweet. I nabbed two of them. I just love all things handmade.

Now of course I can't leave out the wedding cupcakes. They were so pretty and delicious. They were all gluten free and just wonderful. I love the cupcake idea.

We had the best time catching up with family members. J is with Hubby's uncle Tom and the next pic is Hubby's cousin Sally. She is a hoot. We all had a great time.

The next day after the wedding, we went to the Evergreen Aviation Museum, home of the Spruce Goose. What a huge plane and what history. We also were able to see the Avenger plane that my father-in-law flew in during WWII.

The next part of our trip took us to the Oregon coast. It was beautiful and cold. I loved it! We spent the day at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. What an awesome aquarium. We have been to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Seattle Aquarium and the Birch Aquarium in San Diego. I would have to say that the Oregon Coast Aquarium ranks top on my list. It is not huge like Monterey Bay, but the exhibits are really neat. It is an outdoor aquarium and the exhibits look like you are actually in their habitat. You meander around the rock formations and peak into their tanks and watch them. It really is something to see. If you are anywhere near Newport, Oregon, you definitely need to stop and see the aquarium. We finished up our mini vacation, with a drive to Roseburg, Oregon to visit some dear friends. It was a very nice and overall exhausting trip. It's good to be home.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


I opened up our local newspaper this morning and ignored the 108 degree day we have ahead and went right to the article on French Macarons. Yes, you know I am addicted to these lovely morsels. They did a taste comparison on three local bakeries and all three basically tied. Ginger Elizabeth, Hawks and Le Petit Paris were all sampled and they thought all three were really good. I have had Ginger Elizabeth's, but not the other two. Le Petit Paris is a great store and they recently added a cafe. I am looking forward to trying it out. Hawks restaurant is in nearby Roseville and I have not had the chance to try it out, but I will have to put it on my list.

We are heading out to Portland next week for a family wedding. I am so excited to get out of this heat. It has been so hot here. Our air conditioning broke down a few days ago and we were sweltering. Thankfully, I was able to get a repair guy out here yesterday to fix it. Summer's in Sacramento can be awful. If the bad air doesn't get you the high heat will.

I have been trying for some time to find a recipe for Esfiha (Sfiha). Esfiha is an Arab open-faced meat pie. I first had them on a trip we made to Sao Paulo, Brazil. It's hard to describe the taste, but they are a delicious pizza like pie. They have no sauce and are topped with meat, usually lamb. In Sao Paulo, they are really popular. They have a food chain called Habib's . We couldn't get enough of these pies. They were also sold with delicious fruit juices. Not the kind of fruit juice we find here. Their fruit juices are literally pureed fruit with some water and sugar. They are really refreshing, especially with the heat they deal with there. Anywho, I found a recipe for Esfiha in one of my cookbooks called Little Foods of the Mediterranean by Clifford A. Wright. I have been wanting to make this for some time and last night seemed as good as any. I made the dough, which was similar to a pita bread dough and shaped it into rounds to rise. I then put the spices, tomato and lamb in the food processor until smooth. Then I spreaded the lamb mixture onto the bread and baked in a high heat oven. They looked good and smelled yummy, unfortunately the taste was very disappointing. The tasted nothing like the esfiha's I remembered. I will have to keep on looking.

A new product I recently tried is Aidell's pineapple bacon chicken sausage. I know, I know, that doesn't sound appetizing. I was skeptical at first, but these little sausages are my favorites now. They are just slightly sweet and have a smokey flavor from the bacon. I have used them in my Hawaiian Fried Rice and in my quesadilla's . I first take the sausage and dice them. Then I pan fry the sausage until they have a nice caramelized color to them. I remove them from the pan and blot on a paper towel. I add the corn tortilla to the pan and add shredded cheese and then the sausage. I top it off with another corn tortilla and cook until the cheese is melted. I flip the quesadilla to the other side to warm. They are delicious.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

New Look

So what do you think? I was getting tired of all the options blogger had for templates and decided to get a new template that was more cheery. I found this great site called LeeLou blogs. She does custom blog templates, but here is the kicker, she also has free templates for the asking. How great is that! I also found another free site call Simply Fabulous Blogger Templates. She also has great templates as well.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Hot Days Ahead

It's starting to get real hot here. That's the one thing about living in Sacramento that I can't stand. The heat! We have already been suffering from all the smoke from the wildfires and now the forecast for the next few days is 100 plus. I feel so bad for all the folks that are affected from the wild fires. I can't even imagine losing your house. And all the firefighters and volunteers that are helping to put out the fires and help all the people. They are truly heroes.

So since we have been stuck in the house because of the icky weather, I have been sewing. I had this idea of doing a mixed media piece that showed off this neat sacred heart Milagros. I got the Milagros when we were on vacation on Bainbridge Island. It started off with me just cutting out wool felt in a heart shape and then stitching the two together. Then I added the Milagros charm. I wanted to add a paper background, so I added some sheet music and an old page from a prayer book that my mother-in-law had. I finished off the piece with some vintage lace and washi paper. I really like how it came out.

The next two pieces I did featured a glass pebble with St. Therese and the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the center. Again, I started with a heart that I embroidered and sewed the heart onto a piece of vintage fabric. I added vintage lace, leather and burlap on the bottom piece. The St. Therese piece has vintage lace and leather as well as vintage french glass buttons. I am pleased with both pieces. I plan on framing them.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Happy 4th of July!

Happy Birthday America! I know I am a day late, but for some reason I couldn't log into blogger yesterday. We had a great day celebrating with friends and neighbors. When we first moved into our neighborhood about 7 years ago, there really weren't any children. Now, there is a whole gaggle of kids running about our neighborhood. A couple of neighbors and I organized our neighborhood's 4th of July bicycle parade. It is fun having all the kids decorate their bikes, scooters, wagons and even dogs. Even the adults got into the fun. This years parade was bigger than last years! We were able to get a local fire engine to come out and head up our parade. Everyone followed behind the fire engine and marched along the parade route. What fun! Afterward, everyone gathered at a local swim club and picnicked and swam to their hearts content. We ended the evening with friends and neighbors watching fireworks. A good old-fashioned 4th of the July celebration.

Tess was the winner of best decorated bike.

Her brother, Henry won best scooter.

Murphy and Maggie were ready to march in the parade.

Best decorated wagon (tied)

Best decorated wagon (tied)

Sean needs the latte for his ride.

His lovely wife, Georgette.

This is Barkley, he won for best dog. He really enjoyed the day.

The best part, the kids got to squirt the fire hose.

Happy Day Everyone!
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