Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Totoro birthday and felted acorns

It's honeypie's birthday!!!
She is in love with Totoro and Ponyo, (both characters from movies by Hayao Miyazaki) and she has asked for a ponyo / totoro birthday... So here I go on a full craft week to make totoro / ponyo goodies for her special day !
Today we made invitations and wet felted acorns .
In the movie "My neighbor Totoro ", Totoro, ( a forest spirit ) gives Mai and Satsuki a little bundle wrapped in leaves. When the girls open the package they find, to their surprise, a bunch of acorns for them to plant. Message: protect and respect nature and always plant for more growth. I read an article that Miyazaki made the movie to bring awareness to the Japanese Sayama forest.
 (Take a look at the totoro forest project here).
So in honor of that, we made wet felted acorns and wrapped them in felt leaves, like bundles, inspired by the movie to put into goodie bags.

Here are our invitations for our party (collaged paper)...

Got these stamps on eBay !!

Here's what you need to wet felt the little balls for the acorns...
Wool roving, warm soapy water, and a washboard.

Wool roving ( I bought mine on etsy)...

Make a little ball with the bundle. Dip the ball into warm soapy water, squeeze and roll between your hands, creating friction. Keep dipping into the soapy water, squeezing and rolling.

Roll in circular motion on the washboard.

After about 10 minutes... This is what you will have.
A nicely felted little ball.

To make the acorns , I used real acorn caps and hot glued the wool balls to the inside of the caps.


Here are the cut felt leaves to wrap the acorn bundle.

Now on to Ponyo puppets and cake !

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Goat butter and honey caramels

Martha Stewart and candy expert Beth Kimmerle were making goat milk butter, honey and sea salt caramels last month on her tv show and I was really looking for an excuse to make them!
Two things in one weekend came up... My sisters 40th birthday and a friend's engagement party!
So Perfect!!! Let's go!!
I got my candy thermometer out and went shopping for Goat butter which was not as hard to find as I thought. I found it at wholefoods for about the same price as regular butter and let me tell you that it was my first time trying goat butter and it was DELICIOUS!!!
Even honeypie could not get enough of it on crackers! So that's a "good thing"!
And now that my sister introduced me to "watermelon radishes" with butter on baguette slices ... Omigoodness I can only imagine the taste with goat butter... But I digress!
Back to caramels.

A couple of things the recipe did NOT tell this "new to candy making" gal...

~Invest in a good candy thermometer. Not a digital one. A nice one that clips to the side of the pot. It is important for this mathematical and scientific process that can quickly change taffy to brittle in seconds!!

~Do not let the thermometer touch the bottom of the pot ... This can lead to wrong temperature readings and again...( As you will see how I learned the hard way) can lead to caramel sauce and dissappoinent, as oppossed to the beautiful caramels you are expecting.

~Also... Do not fear. If by chance your caramels do not harden, you can place them back into the pot and try boiling them again to a slight higher thermometer reading and harden the mixture. ( This recipe called to boil to 250 F but they did not harden. So I re-boiled the caramels to 260 and was successful) I think my thermometer was touching the bottom of the pot the first time.

Here's the goat butter I used.

And I found this beautiful pink salt

And this Hawaiian red gold sea salt too

Watch that thermometer Like a hawk !

After an hour ... Sprinkle the salt. The caramel has to be sticky and not too dry for the salt to stick. If the caramel is too hot the salt will melt!!!

Here' s my initial dissappointment...
Caramel sauce and no time to loose!!!
What to do???
I packed some of it into a canning jar, put a pretty ribbon over some colored tissue paper around the lid and here was the first gift.
Caramel sauce for dipping fruit.

I then thought of caramel chocolate cups with toasted almonds...

Here I poured melted semi-sweet chocolate into mini cupcake tinfoil cups. Waited for it to harden in the refrigerator (10 minutes). Added the toasted almond slivers (cooled first) and sprinkled some sea salt over each one.
VoilĂ  ... Second gift.

I did not pour too much chocolate in... Did not want it to overwhelm the taste of the caramel which was so uniquely special.

Found a beautiful wooden box, lined it with parchment paper and placed the caramel chocolate love inside.

And I then glued some pretty paper, added my sisters name in pretty Martha Stewart stickers, and wrapped pretty ribbon around the box! ( It would have been absolutely perfect if my handwriting was not chicken scratch ).

One more...

Here's the caramels after re-heating them and trying again for the second time. Pure success!! Yey!!

I wrapped them in wax paper individually.

And used pretty paper to seal them in a bag like Martha suggests.
Wonderful idea!!

So all in all. Scary at first but sucessful. I ended up with 3 gifts rather than my initial ONE.

So wonderful surprise to my mistake!

Delicious and... A really "good thing"!!!

Here is the recipe on the Martha Stewart website.

Friday, February 19, 2010

La Carmina author of "cute yummy time" visits

La Carmina, author of the book "Cute Yummy Time" (amongst many more things)
seems to be a pretty busy gal!!!
Imagine our surprise when she visited our blog after reading our entry in which we made some things inspired by her book!!  (Read our entry here)

We even got a brief mention on her blog!   (Read her blog here)!!

Thanks La Carmina! ^_^

Loving your book and can't wait to make more like those gingerbread penguins and the tofu pandas!
Honeypie keeps reminding me about it so soon I'll post pictures!

La Carmina says...

"My life revolves around wild Tokyo subcultures and style, especially the morbid-meets-adorable Gothic Lolita. I write kitschy-cute books, design undead-Rococo clothes, and blog obsessively about my earless cat..."

Some things that birdycake and you might not know about La Carmina...
she is...

~AUTHOR (illustrator & photographer) - I am the author of three books about Japanese pop culture and food.

~BLOGGER - I do all the writing and web/graphic design for my popular Gothic Lolita/Japanese fashion & pop culture blog, which has been featured in The New Yorker, Washington Post, WWD, Time Out NY, LA Times, Village Voice and other major publications. 

~TV APPEARANCES - Guest on The Today Show  Co-hosted the Tokyo episode of Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre World, which airs on Travel Channel and in 75 countries (details here. Subject of NHK Japan 20-minute documentary about my work in cute cooking  Co-host of Canal France 90 minute documentary about Tokyo subcultures.

~DESIGNER - Upon graduation from Yale Law, I launched my fashion company, LA CARMINA. I teamed up with Montreal-based clothing company Akumu Ink to release a series of t-shirts and hoodies. The designs are “inspired by everything coming out of Japan from its cute pop icons to its terrifying horror movies.”

(The part about being in Andrew Zimmermen's bizzare world is pretty cool...  I Love that show!)


I am off to try to find "Goat Milk Butter" to make Martha Stewart's "Goat Butter and Honey Caramels!!  Yum!

Will post pictures soon!


Monday, February 15, 2010

Valentine's day sweets

For valentine's day sweets this year honeypie and I chose two recipes from Martha Stewart's February issue of "Living".
We chose her heart pocket pies and the pink heart meringues.
The pocket pies called for a pear/raspberry mix but we chose strawberry / pear instead.

Here are her meringues on the cover...

And here are her pies...

I also added a little bit of blueberries to deepen the red color of the fruit mix.

Honeypie brushed a egg yolk /heavy cream wash to help seal the edges of the pies

Pressing the seams

We crimped the edges of the pies with a fork (which Martha does not say to do...) but I think it seals the edges better and makes for a cute little pie.

Honeypie added an egg wash over the tops...

And sprinkled pink sugar over them

Ready for the oven

And out of the oven!

And now for the heart meringues !
I used a star tip for the ridged effect and the batter was 2 egg whites, a pinch of cream of tartar, and half a cup of sugar... Beat until fluffy!
We added a bit of pink gel coloring.

My batter was a little runny... Probably needed more beating time. So piping the hearts was a little harder...

Into the oven.....

Out of the oven!!!

Hope your valentine was Sweeeeet!



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