Archive for November, 2014

Jewelry photo feedback

I kinda love this.

Now, with this post, I’m really hoping for some validation. I’m not trying to have you make decisions about my business for me, but if you do have any feedback, I’d definitely appreciate it.

I’m super excited about these new, easy product photos. Do you think they are cooler than what I was doing before? Do you like the new background and morning/rainy day indirect light? Are you more likely to click on the whole piece rather than the photos showing part of a piece? Do you think these new photos are too hipster or more life-like? Do you like this one with the photo frames? (That’s me with my adorable cousin when I was 16, I think; what I mean is, these are actually my photos.)

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 10.04.20 AM

Better with 1, 2 or 3? Or are 1, and 3 pretty much both just as interesting?

So, let’s do that optometrist thing again; look right. Now look left. Can you read the letters on the very bottom? Now discuss.

The top left photo will appear in the store grid as you can see on the screenshot, right photo. When you click on it, sometimes a different picture will appear, see bottom left photo.

Thank you for your kind attention, friends. I will try only to annoy you once a week with new product updates; it’s just not right to alienate you with one every day. (Also,  it would be cheating the goal Miss Partner and I set earlier this month; since we’re not really doing Nanowrimo this year, we said we should blog twice a week instead. Yup, I am rather behind on that goal.)

The necklace is draped on my jewelry supply cabinet. Good idea or bad idea?

And now, it’s time for new stuff. (I’m starting to add my favorites to Pinterest. Check me out.)

French-beaded freshwater pearl bracelet

Peacock plumage earrings on long chain

Peacock plumage earrings with multiple strands

 

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November 30, 2014 at 11:59 pm 2 comments

‘Hood Honey Pumpkin Marshmallows and Other uses for Marshmallows

The first time I heard about homemade marshmallows was an NPR interview with the author of Make the Bread, Buy the Butter. For the last three years, I kept seeing recipes for crazy kinds of marshmallows on Epicurious (Lillet, Champagne, etc.) and a local chocolate shop (sadly closed now) was making wine flavored marshmallows. For a while, I was excited about using leftover egg whites for marshmallows, which you can use, but don’t need. What you absolutely do need is a candy/fry thermometer.

Now, let’s talk corn and avoiding a trip back to the market. Many marshmallow recipes call for light (referring to color) corn syrup. I do not want to buy corn syrup for my marshmallows. Granted, it’s not the evil high fructose corn syrup, which initially caused me to turn away from it. I want to avoid giving more money to the heavily subsidized corn industry because I want that land to grow more heirloom barley and maybe even some hops, definitely for more squash. So selfish.

I couldn’t find a photo of them with honey, so this is my dad with the bees.

Since I have denied myself corn syrup, I still need to get my invert sugar somewhere. What else is gooey and sweet and has invert sugar? Honey (or cane syrup, but I didn’t want to go back to the market, remember). Fabulous honey. We’ve been hearing amazing things about bee vomit lately, but the fun facts I love best are; Alexander the Great was embalmed with it (mellified), and it survived 3000 years in an Egyptian tomb (look for this book at your library for more fun facts about honey).

I am fortunate to have parents that keep bees in their backyard in Oakland (‘Hood Honey), and whenever I ask, they give me some. Their latest harvest is lovely and floral and a rich amber color. And an internet search tells me I can substitute honey for the same amount of corn syrup.

I love squash, especially winter squash.

I love squash.

Remember, my obsession with pumpkin? Oh, I didn’t tell you yet? I collect them to display in my house around Halloween and then I eat them all the way through May, because they last that long. Sour cream pumpkin pie (cans of evaporated milk always sounded gross to me), pumpkin butter, pumpkin soup, pumpkin enchilada, pumpkin gnocchi, pumpkin turnovers, pumpkin clafoutis, pumpkin panna cotta, pumpkin liqueur… I could go on. Of course, I have to do an internet search for pumpkin marshmallows.

The following recipe is adapted from these two: Pumpkin Marshmallow and Honey Marshmallow (Haha! Urban Poser. What a great name for a blog!).

Look at those beautiful, buffy orange, sweet, spicy clouds!

Look at those beautiful, buffy orange, sweet, spicy clouds!

Let’s try the Joy of Cooking format, shall we?

In a small bowl, mix:

a third cup pureed pumpkin

1-2 teaspoons pumpkin spice (any combination you like of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, clove, and ginger; this way you can choose how spicy and if you want to feature a certain spice more, usually people choose more cinnamon)

Set bowl aside.

Now mix and sift:

quarter cup cornstarch

quarter cup powdered sugar

Set aside.

Line a jellyroll pan or half sheet pan with parchment paper and liberally dust with some of the cornstarch/sugar– let’s call it marshmallow dust. Leave no parchment exposed.

In a stand mixer with whisk attachment, combine (no need to stir):

half cup cold water

3 envelopes unflavored gelatin (I’ve seen vegan/vegetarian marshmallows using agar; go ask the internet)

Powdered gelatin will soften while you…

Heat in a saucepan, (small and tall if you have one):

1 cup sugar

1 cup honey

half cup cold water

It will bubble a lot and look like it’s going to boil over, so stir like mad until it reaches 240 F on your candy thermometer.

Start your mixer on low, and slowly pour hot sugar into softened gelatin. Then whisk on high for 12 to 15 minutes. In the first minute it will get really puffy. In the last minute, add pumpkin and spice mixture. The mixture will still be warm.

Pour puffy cloud of sugar over dusted parchment paper, and smooth with rubber spatula to desired thickness. Dust top with more marshmallow dust, and allow to dry and cool for at least two hours, better for four. Cut to desired shape with sharp knife and coat cut sides with more marshmallow dust. Store in cool, dry place. Eat within a week.

You can put anything you want on pancakes.

You can put anything you want on pancakes with jam.

Now let’s talk about how to eat those marshmallows within a week without getting bored.

  • Obviously, a great layer on top of your Thanksgiving yams or sweet potatoes
  • Great on hot chocolate AND COFFEE!
  • Use instead of meringue on your custard pie! Grab your torch and give it that beautiful golden color!
  • Substitute for whipped cream or ice cream on dessert! Go after it with a torch for that caramelized crunch effect and gooier middle!
  • Creative s’mores! You can use any cookie in place of the graham cracker. Go crazy and use giandua (Nutella) or bacon chocolate. Add raspberry or other fruit jam!
  • ON EVERYTHING YOU CAN THINK OF! within reason.

Happy Thanksgiving, US citizens.

November 27, 2014 at 3:39 pm Leave a comment

Oh yeah, I make jewelry and sometimes I try to sell it

You may be aware that my online jewelry store is, um, rather neglected. I really hope that is about to change.

Miss Partner created it for me long ago when she needed to build her portfolio/resume, and it was great. I may not have known at the time that jewelry was an impacted market, and I might not have known better software, but I had a grand ol’ time creating things. For a long while, Miss Partner kept busy making a Froogle feed (when Google Merchant was called Froogle, remember? No? Okay.) and had grand plans for a continuous scroll (like Pinterest). She was great about keeping up with the ever changing Google Store product categories. Since then, the store software has been discontinued and with no developers attention, become clunky and sucks to work with. The store still works, but the updating is such a pain. As Miss Partner became frustrated and stopped working on it, eventually I did, too. While she struggled with software, I struggled with the limitations of my old digital camera, setting up the lighting equipment, and finding the time for photo editing with extraction, sharpening, etc., on Photoshop. Ugh.

But now things are changing. My writing style has developed, which makes my old descriptions really irritating to me now. I’ve got a bunch of products that have never made it to the store, and, ya know, the iPhone takes pretty good photos these days. My goal is to add one a day until I have no more pieces to add. Miss Partner again promises me she will work on no other projects before this one. Again.

I’ve reached my goal of adding a product today and want to share it with you. I’m trying a new procedure for product photos, and I hope you’ll give me some feedback. Better on 1, 2 or 3? Am I giving you nightmares about visiting your optometrist?

So, tell me; what do you think?

So, tell me; what do you think?

November 24, 2014 at 4:12 pm Leave a comment

Confession and Obsession

I confess that I steal fruit.

It all started about five years ago. Our beautiful orange cat Alyosha had moved on to cat heaven, and we found our tolerable apartment infested by rats. They were attracted to the fruit falling off the neglected trees in the neighbors yard, and invited themselves in for a further feast in our home. For weeks, we bitched about it to friends while we very carefully put all food away,  closed cabinets, scrubbed incessantly, and left traps for the rats and insects (the fruit flies were really bad that year, too, because they were also feeding on the fallen fruit; they turned a few batches of cider to vinegar– sad face).

One day, I believe it was Miss Partner who said, “We should just harvest that fruit.” Ding! I went to work, and Miss Partner went picking. I came home to twenty pounds of plums and a handful of limes on the kitchen table. “What should we do with them?” Miss Partner asked. I cracked my knuckles or rubbed my hands together (this is more likely) or stroked my non-existent beard. I went to the bookshelf for our recipe books, including the Ball Canning bible Miss Partner bought just in case of apocalypse. Then I made pie, cake, sorbet, jam, and dehydrated some to prunes.

The new hunter, Krausen; so far he's demonstrated much skill with slugs, grasshoppers, and lizards.

The new hunter, Krausen; so far he’s demonstrated much skill with slugs, grasshoppers, and lizards.

Eventually, we caught the rats, and employed a new hunter. We also continued to unburden the trees the neighbor continued to neglect. This practice went on for years. We got tired of squeezing through the gap in the fence and put a stealth gate in the fence, water their apple tree, weed a small area, and plant other crops on the land. Then one of the other fences failed, making my activities more observable by a neighboring apartment complex. I also got tired of walking through the weeds to get to the abandoned compost bin and moved it closer to our stealth gate. That was probably the last straw right there. Somebody told on us. One day, we couldn’t open our stealth gate. We found someone had screwed 12 feet of board to the bottom of fence, effectively locking our gate. Miss Partner and I looked at each other, voiced our indignation, and then our understanding, and laughed that they wasted so much board trying to lock us out when we could just squeeze through the fence or walk around the block through their parking lot. Since then the owners hired landscapers to clear the area of suckers and weeds and trimmed the fruit trees, but that is all.

IMG_2776

Admitting I have a problem is the first step, right?

So that was the beginning. What began as a way to reduce vermin by taking their free food has become a free fruit and canning obsession. It has led me to buy 25 pound bags of sugar from Costco, comb the ads for deals on canning jars, ask my friends for their jars, and mass this collection of preserved goods that is great for birthday and holiday gifts (made with love and sugar; what could be better).

"Would you like some tomatoes?" Ella CSA asked me. "Yes," I replied. The next day I find 50 pounds of tomatoes on my porch.

“Would you like some tomatoes?” Ella CSA asked me. “Yes,” I replied. The next day I find 50 pounds of tomatoes on my porch.

These days, I try to get free fruit more honestly by asking for it, offering my time to help with a harvest, or house sitting. I do less trespassing and more public tree picking early in the morning. I walk the streets and look for trees dropping fruit; that means nobody wants it, right? I have promised Miss Partner will not have to bail me out of jail for my transgressions.

November 23, 2014 at 4:24 pm Leave a comment

Abject Failure; Candy Corn in Chocolate Chip Cookies

Star anise and cinnamon implied...

Star anise and cinnamon implied…

... but not actually there.

… but not actually there.

There is a mostly full bag of Pumpkin Spice Candy Corn that is still sitting on the kitchen table after date night (and I mean definition 2; a weekly get-together of a core group of friends that is pot-luck and games or out for dinner and a movie). While candy corn is Miss Partner’s favorite Halloween candy, she flinches at it being pumpkin spice without any spices in the ingredients list except sesame oil. (Sesame oil? Weird.) To her, they are an abomination, and they are not being eaten. What to do to use them up…

Somewhere on the inter webs (probably a post from Serious Eats or Epicurious on FB), I saw a recipe for Halloween Candy Butter Cookie Bars. Did you know before chocolate chip cookies there was no chocolate and they were called butter drop do cookies? (For more info, this is a good article and so is this.) From these two little info tidbits, I decided to try candy corn chocolate chip cookies.

I carefully opened up the punished-red-and-white-checkered-cookbook with a cleft in the cookie section for my base recipe. I substitute bacon fat for shortening (because I will not use shortening), and a splash of bourbon instead of vanilla; this version of the dough is extra amazing (This is important to me, because I am a dough-eater and bowl-cleaner when desserts are being made. My parents are probably sad they taught me this). The candy-corn-abominations are a complimentary flavor to the spicy bacon and bourbon addition, so dough tastes great and even better after an hour in the fridge.

Usually, when the dough is good, the cookies are great; and they are still good, but the candy corn melted causing this project to be a calamity:

IMG_26721. Cookie texture. The candy corn broke up easily from Jezabel’s beating (my dark red stand mixer). The small pieces act like toffee. WIN. The big pieces that remained melted into a big, glassy, tough to chew interruption. LOSE. (This did not bother my band members.)

2. Liberation. I’m sure there is a more appropriate word (separation? dismount? severance?), but you’ll get the idea. Trying to get these cookies off the double layer cookie sheets was a pain. The cookies broke because the force required to remove the cookie was less than to remove the inadvertently-created toffee. The spatula would encounter the toffee and rip the rest of the cookie in half or fifths. Waiting longer for the cookies to cool didn’t help this much; the cookies might have been stronger, but not approaching the strength of the sticky candy-corn-toffee.

IMG_26713. Cleaning. The candy corn toffee stuck to the spatulas and cookie sheets and is a pain to get off. Lots of water, lots of scrubbing. For the rest of the dough, I lined my cookie sheets with parchment paper.

After noting the state of the candy corn after being exposed to 375 Fahrenheit for 10ish minutes, it occurred to me my candy thermometer could have informed this experiment; 375 F is not in the confection zone, it’s in the fry zone. Of course, little bits of sugar, corn syrup, air and yellow 5 would completely lose shape at that temperature. Oops. Searching the inter webs would have showed me “softbatch” cookies are the way to go with this project.

IMG_2674The addition of parchment paper inspired another experiment. The melty bits of the corn came off easily and had that beautiful gradient and glassy look. IMG_2676It would make a fantastic garnish to stick on some cupcake or mousse. I threw some candy corn on the parchment and baked for five minutes. It looked really scary bubbly but quickly settled into that glass-like state and in 3 minutes was cool enough to touch. It spread quite a bit. I would recommend three minutes and lots of space between candy corns, but breaking up the candy glass is easy, only it creates lots of sharp bits. Well, so do your teeth. Chew sugar glass with care.

I still had candy corn to use up, so I decided on another experiment; a baking project that slightly exceeds the confection zone (230-310 F on my candy thermometer). Blondies with butternut squash and candy corn baked at 325, perhaps? Yeah, they still melted… BUT they are a soft, oozing caramel instead of gum cutting glass. WIN! Especially with pumpkin ice cream and glassy decorative melted candy corn! Mission accomplished, sort of.IMG_2682

My kitchen mantra might protect the pocket book, reduce waste, and keep you from food poisoning, but my substitutions do not always result in resounding success. Abject failure is a little melodramatic. There were some things that worked, like small pieces of candy corn for small toffee effect and parchment paper to keep the candy from sticking to the cookie sheets. Magic was still made in the form of blondies with candy corn at 325 F.

The candy corn season is over. Perhaps, next year, I’ll try the soft batch cookies. Or I’ll just send the leftovers with Miss Partner to work so her coworkers will devour them.

November 9, 2014 at 11:37 pm 2 comments


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