Thursday, April 29, 2010

What's in the oven?

Cornbread. Baklava. And to balance that out, Kitchen Floor Salad. Recipes to follow.

Monday, April 26, 2010

This stop Insomniaville, population 1

I can't decide if I'm awake very early or up very late. I hate when Dan isn't home at night. I have this super bizarre fear that I'm going to wake up with an axe murderer standing over me (seriously happened to someone we know), so I wake up every 3 minutes and peek out from under my sleeping mask to make sure no one is there. Yep. I know. Crazy. Of course my mind starts racing about a million other thoughts that go something like this:

I have to fall asleep because I have to be up at 7:45 to put out the garbage. I hate our early garbage men.
What was that noise?!
I'm going to be so tired tomorrow.
The printer never confirmed our meeting. I wonder if he'll cancel and I can nap during the day when it's safe in the house. 
What was that?!
Maybe I should just print the invitations myself. That printer I found on Etsy just uses her inkjet. I can use our inkjet. 
I have to go to the bank and deposit those cheques. 
Was that a raccoon?!
I should really get moving on my Etsy store. 
I have to find a real job after the wedding don't I?!
Was that someone on the stairs?!
What colour envelopes should we have?
I wonder what the caterer thought of the photo of the platters I've bought. 
It's really late. I'm going to be so tired.
Was that a cat or did some other small animal just run up the stairs?!
I wonder if Mom and Dad had fun at Stomp this afternoon. 
Why does it sound like someone grinding an axe in the backyard?!
How am I going to sew labels onto the envelopes? I have to look that up on Weddingbee... Maybe I'll just do that now.

Etc etc etc. Perhaps we could rename Insomniaville Crazytown because seriously, where is my head at?! No one is in my basement. Raccoons are outside the house. The fridge makes bumps and noises all night. Jeez louise lady, settle the heck down! Overactive imagination much?!

Anyone have any tips for settling an overactive imagination?? I swear I'm really a grown up ;)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Invitation Fail

Oh gosh. The last couple weeks have been crazy. Dan and I shot an episode of a tv show (it's top secret, but I'll give you the heads up prior to air date!) last week. I spent two weeks cleaning the house leading up to it, and now nearly a week trying to recover. Good heavens. I used to work in film and television, and man, I can't believe I worked those hours for years! Kudos to the ladies and gents who bring the good stuff to my tv every day, you guys are hard working people!!! 

Now that my life is reassembling itself, I decided it was time to tackle the invitations and stop avoiding doing my map. Don't ask me why, but I had a strong aversion to doing my map and it sat as a couple of blank lines on the page for a LONG time. I buckled down the other night and got'er done. 

Next step, test out the Yudu. I've used my Yudu many times and quite enjoy it. This time.... Not so much. My capillary sheets just refuse to expose. No exposed sheets=no silk screening=no handmade by Veronica invitations. After stepping back and realizing I also will need menus, programs, and potentially little welcome booklets for our out of town guests, I came to the conclusion that even if the Yudu did work, I would likely be spending the next 3 months standing in front of the stupid thing cursing myself for this "great idea".

You guessed it, I'm on the hunt for a printer! Wish me luck!

Monday, April 05, 2010

Pavlova with Homemade Caramel

Happy belated Easter everyone! I hope you all had a terrific long weekend and ate lots of yummy food! Around here, we had a pretty quiet weekend and took advantage of the great weather to do some gardening and stain the deck. Easter dinner was just Dan, myself, his mom and brother. 

 (A little Easter centrepiece. I got the birds, nests and eggs at a little shop in Chinatown for a great deal a couple years ago! I threw in some blue flowers that carpet our backyard, I wish I knew what they were.)

Last weekend I was supposed to make a big birthday dinner for Dan's mom, but I was sick so I had to cancel. BUT I made up for it this weekend! I was asked to make a pavlova, and it was my first, but I'm so proud of the results! Here it is: Birthday Pavlova with Homemade Caramel.

Homemade Caramel
(Recipe from Michael Smith at the Globe and Mail) 
 Makes two cups

1 cup water
2 cups white sugar
1 cup cream
A dribble or two of pure vanilla extract
A sprinkle or two of sea salt
1. Pour the water into a small saucepot. Pour the sugar in a small, tight pile into the pot. 
2. Begin heating over medium-high heat but don't stir. Stirring encourages crystallization with gritty results. The water and sugar will quickly dissolve together and form a simple syrup. As the heat increases the mixture will simmer and steam, the water will gradually evaporate allowing the steam to die down and the mixture's temperature to rise.
3. When you see the first hints of colour (a pale golden brown), gently begin swirling the
pan to help the mixture colour evenly. Continue heating and swirling. The mixture's temperature will gradually rise and continue to darken reaching an even, deep golden brown. 
4. When it looks a nice caramel tone turn off the heat. This will slow but not stop the browning.
5. Carefully add the cream. It will sputter and hiss a bit. The much lower temperature of the cream will instantly drop the caramel's temperature out of the sugar-browning range preventing it from overbrowning. 
6. Turn the heat back on and stir or whisk until the caramel is smooth. 
7. Add the vanilla and salt - both will enhance flavour.

Pour the caramel into a jar and refrigerate it for several hours, until thickened. Keep refrigerated. You may rest the sauce at room temperature for an hour or so to warm it to a pourable consistency. If you're in a hurry, simply pulse and stir in your microwave.

*Veronica's Notes: I love love love this caramel. It's fairly simple to make. Inevitably though, about one out of four times I make it I screw it up and have to make another batch. Watch your pot carefully! It goes from caramel to burnt VERY quickly, so don't get greedy with the colour! I typically start swirling a bit early and my wrist is hurting by the end. Learn a lesson from me, don't do that. Last, when you're adding the cream, wear an oven mitt! The steam that comes off is SO hot! It's not all the much work and you'll get a lot of "Oh my gosh you MADE caramel?!" from you guests. Totally worth it ;)

(Adapted from - Banoffee Pavlova)

1 cup castor or superfine sugar (also known as dissolving or beverage sugar) 
2 tsp cornstarch
1 pinch cream of tartar
4 egg whites
1 pinch salt
1 dash vanilla extract
1 tsp white wine vinegar (or white vinegar)
1 banana sliced
Homemade caramel
Lump of dark chocolate (for shavings)
Fresh whipped cream

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil, and trace an 8 inch circle onto the surface.
  2. In a small cup or bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch, and cream of tartar. In a large glass or metal bowl, whip the egg whites with salt, vanilla, and vinegar until soft peaks form. Gradually sprinkle in the sugar mixture and continue to whip until stiff and shiny. Mound the mixture into the traced circle on the baking sheet. Flatten the top and smooth the sides using a metal spatula.
  3. Place in the preheated oven, and immediately reduce the heat to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until a pale golden brown. Turn off the oven, and leave the door slightly ajar with the pavlova inside until completely cooled.
  4. Just before serving time, invert the cooled pavlova onto a serving plate, and top with slices of banana. Cover banana with caramel. Top that with whipped cream and sprinkle with grated chocolate. 
*Veronica's Notes: I drizzed with caramel again on top of the whipped cream because I'm a greedy girl and I love homemade caramel! Pavlova is also amazing topped with fresh berries and whipped cream. You really can't mess this up other than not letting it cool in the oven properly! The four of us devoured the entire pavlova minus one slice that the birthday girl got to bring home with her. 

Friday, April 02, 2010

Cuttlewhat? Cricutty thingy? Yudu? Who do?!

When you enter the brave world of wedding planning, you simply become obsessed with DIY projects: I can make my own invitations! I can grow flowers for the bouquets! I can make my own organic make up! Okay maybe not the last one (or two for me) but I'm positive there's a bride out there who has done it because, well, we're a little nutty. We're all trying to out do each other on who put more handmade touches into our weddings, and honestly, it's a sickness I enjoy. 

My own DIY projects include: 
- our invitation suite
- our guest favours (not posting what that is yet you sneaky monkeys!)
- cake toppers
- votive holders
- menus
- escort cards
- out of town bags
..... I know there's more but I'm drawing a blank. Anyways, you get the point!

Now to make all of said projects, you need some serious artillery here. My manufacturer of choice is Provocraft. I'm pretty sure I own one of everything they make. So let's chat about what each machine is and have a looksie at what you can accomplish with it. 

This is probably a bride's best friend. Basically it's a paper cutting machine about the size of a printer. You can buy cartridges preloaded with a font and a few shapes that you plug into the machine, insert your paper, hit the button, and voila, it cuts out whatever shape you just pushed. What I don't like about this is that the Cricut cartridges are about $90 each. Ouch!!! Silver lining though, Sure Cuts A Lot is a program that works with any font as well as with Adobe Illustrator. What does this mean to you? You can download TONS of free fonts (just google "free fonts") and free vector graphics (again, google), do up your design in Illustrator, import it into SCAL and cut it with your Cricut without spending $90/cartridge. Score!!!

So if you buy a Cricut, here's an example of what it can do:

This was a Valentine's Day card I made this year using a dingbats font that was Spanish tile inspired, and some sort of floral dingbat font for the flower.

This was part of a "Welcome home" banner for my friend's baby. I made the shapes on Illustrator and then overlaid the font. I scaled the circle shape up a bit and cut it in a graphic paper, and then cut the smaller size with the font on it out of the blue. I then threaded the whole thing onto some coordinating green ribbon. Super cute!

This machine is non-computer related, it's all you! Basically you buy the Cuttlebug (about the size of a loaf of bread), and some embossing folders or die cuts. I use the embossing folders since I have the Cricut to do my fancy cutting. You take your piece of paper, stick it in the folder, turn the crank to feed it through the machine and voila! Embossed paper! 

I love embossing, it just gives such a great depth to your project. What I don't like about the Cuttlebug is that it's size limited. The folders are about 5"x7". I also don't like that you're limited to the folders that Provocraft and other manufacturers create. I haven't been able to find anyone to make custom folders, but if you know of one please let me know! What I do love is adding texture to my projects. The Provocraft folders are really reasonably priced (about $7-$10 each) and the Cuttlebug itself takes all different brands of folders. 

I mentioned in a previous post about Yudu, so I'll try to keep this short and sweet. A Yudu is basically a table top silk screener. Come up with an image, print it on an overhead, expose it onto your emulsion film, cover with ink, squeegee, done. It's fairly simple but somewhat time consuming. I love mine but haven't had the opportunity to use it to its full potential just yet. I hope to start in on Yudu-ing my invitations soon!

This is an exposed screen with a design I drew for a tank top. I've just rinsed the emulsion off and am about to put it in the drying rack. Below is my tank top in place ready to be printed on!

Does anyone else have a machine I'm missing in my collection?? Are you dying to learn a new DIY technique for your wedding or just for fun?