Sunday, October 30, 2011

Creation Sunday - "Fruit Puree" Muffins part 2 - PUMPKIN!

Today, for "Creation Sunday", Hillary is continuing her 3 part series on variations on a muffin recipe.

In last Week's Creation Sunday, I talked about my favorite Banana Muffin recipe and the minor tweaks I make to take it from awesome to "totally out of this world".  This week, We will take that same base recipe and create a great fall favorite - Pumpkin Muffins!

For our pumpkin muffins, we'll start with the same base recipe, which can be found here on the Post website. Again, my modifications generally follow the rules I set out in my cookie post. You're not going to believe how easy it is to turn these from a bright, summery banana muffin into an earthy fall pumpkin treat.

Here are the changes I make:
-Like with my Banana Muffin recipe, I use whole wheat pastry flour instead of regular flour.
-I add a good dash of pumpkin pie spice (or something equivalent) in with the dry ingredients.
-I use turbinado sugar instead of white sugar.
-I substitute pumpkin puree for the Bananas.  1&1/4 cups should be about right based on the number of bananas called for.  One small Banana is about 1/2 cup so 2 medium sized ones would be a little more than a cup.
-I add approx 1 tbl of molasses in with the wet ingredients.
-The one time I made these, I used low fat sour cream, but I would think that yogurt or any of the other substitutions I mentioned last week would be fine.

-I substitute Kashi Go Lean Crunch for the cereal.

Again, since this recipe is fairly low in fat, it cannot be made into pumpkin bread as the middle will not cook all the way. 

Yep, the changes are that simple.  If you think that's cool, wait 'til you see the blueberry muffin recipe!  That post may take a little longer, because I think the recipe might need the tiniest bit of tweaking, but it will absolutely be worth the wait!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Etsy Roundup - Pumpkins!

Since Halloween is around the corner, we wanted to share with you some awesome pumpkins from some extremely talented estians!

First, We have an Adorable Romper Outfit from Lil Bug's Clothing.

Next, We have a beautiful Orange Howlite Pumpkin Necklace from Rhonda's Treasures.

Third, We h ave a lovely hand knit Fall Pumpkin Hat from Handcraft Loribelle.

And, last, but not least, we have some awesome vegan friendly Sweet Pumpkin Soap by Blushie.

If you enjoyed this list, then check out "A Pumpkin of Another Color", Hillary's most recent Treasury.

That's all for today, join us on "Creation Sunday" for an awesome pumpkin muffin recipe!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

New Promotion! - Caps for Coupons!

Do you have a unique microbrew or regional soda in your area with awesome bottlecaps?  Send us some and We'll give you a special coupon code for 20% off your next order!  For more details and an address to send them to, email Hillary at or contact her on etsy.  Hillary loves creating bottle cap jewelry and wants new ones to play with! 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Recent work

Here are some of our new items and recent custom work. Expect to see the flower hairpins in the shop in the next couple of weeks.  We also hope to have some more awesome sun bottle caps for pendants soon!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Creation Sunday - "Fruit Puree" Muffins Pt. 1 - Banana

Today, for "Creation Sunday", Hillary is starting a 2 (or maybe 3) part series on variations on a muffin recipe.

I love baking and I love eating.  One of my favorite things for both is muffins.  They are mega tasty, easy to make and can be as nutritious or junky as you want.  Today, I want to share my favorite Banana Muffin Recipe, and over the next few weeks, we'll explore some variants on it.  First, if you're not familiar with Alton Brown's Book "I'm Just here for more food: Food X Mixing + Heat = Baking", I would strongly suggest getting your hands on it and reading the "Muffin Method" section.  It explains very clearly why you use certain ingredients, what they do and why mixing them a certain way is very important.  In fact, this book is an excellent reference and recipe book for all kinds of baking and I would highly recommend it.

So, for our banana muffins, we'll start with the base Recipe, "Banana Crunch Muffins", which can be found here on the Post website. I make a few modifications, following similar rules to what I discussed in my cookie post

Here are the changes I make:
-I use whole wheat pastry flour instead of regular flour to make it heartier, healthier, and, IMHO, more flavorful.
-I add a pinch or two of nutmeg in with the dry ingredients for a little more flavor.
-I add approx 1 tbl of molasses (or honey) in with the wet ingredients because it adds a little more flavor and because molasses and honey are more hygroscopic than sugar which means they help the muffins stay moist better than sugar.
-For the yogurt, it varies what I use:  I usually use plain nonfat yogurt, but I have used lowfat yogurt, vanilla yogurt, low fat sour cream and a host of other things as well.

-I substitute Cranberry Almond Crunch for the cereal because it gives it more varied texture and flavor than using grape nuts does.
-The final touch that I add to these muffins that I think adds that perfect little extra "pop" is sprinkling the tops with cinnamon and sugar. 

Actually, I owe the discovery of the last change to my current career as a nanny.  One day, I went to work and there were overripe bananas in the house so I asked the little girl I watch if she wanted to make muffins.  As I was searching around for spices to add in, I found the cinnamon sugar and thought it might be fun for her to sprinkle that on the tops of the muffins.   I knew it would be tasty, but I found that it took my favorite banana muffin recipe from the mountain top to pure heaven.

One note about these: Since this recipe is fairly low in fat, it cannot be made into banana bread as the middle will not cook all the way (trust me).  I have made larger single muffins in ramekins with success, but I have never tried a whole batch of large muffins in a large muffin tin, so I am not sure if that would work.

That's all for that recipe, but tune in over the next few weeks for some awesome variations on that recipe (here's a hint: they're not banana, but they're just as awesome!)...

Friday, October 21, 2011

Humanitarian Beaders and Businesses Everywhere

Last year, We shared a news story from NPR about an organization that was helping women in Manilla who would otherwise have to eat  garbage or starve by teaching them to make jewelry from trash.  We got a very positive response from our readers, so we thought you all might be interested in these stories as well.

The first is about a project in Kentucky that helps refugee women earn money by teaching them how to make jewelry and helping them make the business contacts to sell it.

The next one is about two women who started a jewelry business together and then fell into selling beading supplies.  Now, through the supply shop they own, they regularly make donations to charities, help locals who need assistance and sell the work of local jewerly artists, helping both the artist and the local economy.

The last one is about a business that specifically purchases the jewelry work of low income Ugandan women who would not easily have another way to sell or distribute their jewelry.

Hillary has been a long time supporter of humanitarian efforts and said that she thinks it is fantastic that these people found a way to turn what is often considered a "luxury" or "hobby" into something that helps people in need of financial assistance.  We hope you enjoyed the stories!  Come back soon for more blog updates with interviews, new jewelry pieces and more news.  Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Creation Sunday - Handmade Upcycled Scarf Journal

It is getting ever closer to the holidays again and Hillary is making some fantastic things for her friends anf family.  However, she can't post them here until after the holidays.  So, today Hillary is going to share with you a project she made for her mother last Christmas.
My mother keeps a journal regularly and loves having pretty books to write her thoughts in.  Last Christmas, I made her this lovely book using the instructions in this video.

For my version of the project, I bought a purple plaid fleecey, flannely, scarf from the thrift store and cut it in half cross-wise.  The scarf ended up being an excellent choice because the pattern was pretty, the scarf was exactly the right width across, the fringe was a nice, decorative touch and the fabric did not fray at all. In addition to the pretty fabric, I used a dark red thread for a bit of contrast and a hand painted a black button that I painted myself with bright colors of acryllic paint.  The only thing I did differently as far as technique is that I got a small awl from my local leather-working shop to help punch holes through all the paper and fabric.
As you can see, it turned out beautifully.  This was an excellent, personal gift that was both easy and inexpensive to make.  We hope you enjoyed seeing our project and hope it has inspired you to create!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Interview with Bre of Breekola on Etsy

Today We are featuring an interview with Bre of Breekola on etsy.  Bre Is a talented quilling artist, fabric artist and all around Jack of all crafty trades. We were glad she took some time out of her day to answer our questions. 

First, Tell us about your history with arts and crafts.
I was your normal little girl growing up with dolls, playing dress-up and and playing with make-up but my mother told me I was happier when I had fresh paper, markers, and paint. When I was three years old, mom put me in ballet so I also have a history with the performing arts. I remember mom sewing my outfits, costumes, drapes and curtains when I was very young. I knew I wanted to do creative things as well. I started taking art classes for my electives in high school and had a few pieces featured in local art shows. I graduated with art awards and when I went off to college, I knew fine art had to be my major.
Much like too many others, I dropped out knowing I did not want any student loans once I reached the end. I started working full time at a desk job and sort of got off track from from art. Not only was I working 40 hours a week in an office but I was also teaching dance for 15-20 hours as well. I put art on the back burner in hopes that one day I would have more time.
Finally, a few years ago, I decided that I must make time to do crafty things because my need to feel creative was growing stronger and stronger and I felt that my skills were getting weaker so I focused on hand-made gifts for family and friends. My best friend and I decided to have craft nights once a week to get our creative juices flowing and to stock up on items to give away for mother's day, birthdays, christmas, etc...
Before I knew it I had a huge collection of things I had made. Paintings, flower pots, jewelry, decoupaged goods, and my living room was starting to look like a craft haven.

 How did you settle on your current art form? 
I am not sure that I have settled just yet as I find that I love so many mediums in the art and craft world. I tend to knit more in the fall and winter months then decoupage or paint in the spring and summer months. My paper flowers started when I received the most beautiful bamboo vase as a gift and decided I couldn't just put it away when there weren't any flowers in it. I saw some really cute flowers and gift toppers made from newspapers in a craft magazine.. The wheels were in motion right then and there so I sat down to try my hand at it and found different techniques that worked for me and put more of my self into how they would look. Before the flowers, I had made a couple mirrors (one is in my shop at the moment, I sold the other one) using recycled wine crates and magazine paper for beads. I am always trying to find other ways to use magazines or upcycling other resources to create beautiful art pieces. I learned how to fold origami kusudama flowers a while ago and fell in love with the idea of making those from magazine pages. I can't wait to find other uses for them.. I'm constantly learning and putting my own twist on different ideas.

Do you feel that the different forms of art you have done have influenced each other? 
Oh sure but it also depends on the medium I guess. It all comes down to your personality that you have in one piece that more than likely will carry on to the next.

What do you hope to do with your art? 
I would love to one day be able to make a living by my creations, I know it takes a lot of time and work. But I have been happy to just give away my hand-made items as gifts. If that's all that I do with it, I'll be just as happy.
What do you hope that your art does for others? Nothing makes me happier than seeing other people smile or laugh and I would love to know that anything I've put time and heart into brings joy to them. That sounds so sappy but it's the honest truth. It's all about the little things in life to me, that's what's important. If a little decoupaged trinket, knit beanie, or paper flower makes someone's life a little brighter and makes them smile, I've done something right.

If there is one thing you could tell other artists out there, what would it be? 
Do at least one creative thing every single day. Big or small, it doesn't matter but if you have those days where there is so much going on, don't beat yourself up. Don't get too lazy with it because your arts and crafts won't sell themselves and they certainly can't get out there for the world to see on their own. Find something that makes you happy and become a master at it. Keep on keepin' on...
And finally, Where can we find you and your art? 
I live in Huntsville, AL and would eventually love to sell some of my things at local craft shows or independent shops but for now, Since I work two jobs, it looks like my art can only be found here in my etsy shop.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

"Creation Sunday" - Creating "boutique bakery" style cookies from a mix

In an effort to bring more regular and varied content to the blog, we are going to start a regular segment called "Creation Sunday" in which Hillary talks about what she has been creating recently.  We show off pictures of new merchandise all the time, but this will be a chance for people to see other projects such as recipes, drawings, paper crafts, etc.  Today's "Creation Sunday" is about creating "boutique bakery" style cookies in your own kitchen, with minimal fuss.

Cute little storefronts with stripey green or pink polka-dot logos, sparkling cookies, cutesy cupcakes and unusual flavors like "strawberry soda pop", "banana split", and "mocha with sea salt and caramel" are all the rage these days.  But you don't have to go to a pricey bakery or spend hours in the kitchen to get uniquely flavored treats with a professional flare, you can easily make them in your own kitchen in almost no-time.

Before I dive right into the recipes I created for a couple of different "boutique style" cookies, I wanted to share a few secrets and pointers so that, if you're so inclined, you can think about how you would create your own:

-I almost always cook with a mix.  Scratch baking produces results like no other and is generally healthier than anything made with a mix, but, if I want to make something good, fast, using a mix saves a lot of time and effort.
-Any time I cook with a mix, I add flavor somehow.  Even if I am just making a yellow cake with the yellow cake mix, I add vanilla or rum.  For "boutique bakery" style treats, the flavors are usually unique, but they range from wildly unusual to simple, slight twists on classic flavor.  For example, you certainly could make "bacon and dark chocolate cookies", but you could also simply take a classic combination like chocolate and raspberry and kick it up a notch.  How?  What about orange Liqueur or Amaretto or Fresh mint?
-For flavors, any variety of things could be your inspiration: the season, a favorite ingredient you have in the cabinet, your favorite alcohol, something you picked up at the farmer's market, a random craving you've had or the herbs you have growing in your back yard.
-When you add flavors, the less artificial, more fresh, and more "real" you can make the ingredients, the better.  We're starting with a mix, so to get it to taste less "mix-like", it needs to taste less processed and pre-packaged.  A good way to do that is to make sure you use real vanilla, and actual juice, herbs, fruit or liquers instead of "flavoring".  "Rum flavoring", "Raspberry Flavoring" and the like all have their place in the baking world, but, for this project, we're starting with something processed and artificial tasting and trying to make it taste as much like homemade as possible.
-You can substitute ingredients that a mix calls for if you're careful.  If you substitute liquid for liquid, fat for fat, etc. you can generally get away with switching things up.  Why would you want to do this?  Because you can either add flavor (try lemon or lime juice in your sugar cookie mix) or change the consistency a little (try substituting something like half and half if you want a recipe to be richer).
-Experimentation is not a bad thing.  Don't be afraid.  The worst thing that could happen is that you have to eat cookies that aren't quite what you intended, which means OMG BAKING MORE COOKIES!

Now, On To the Recipes (these are actually recipes that I came up with, but, great minds think alike, so if this looks a lot like anyone else's recipe, it's totally unintentional):

Recipe #1: Mega-Peanut Butter Cookies

-1  (17 oz) Package of Peanut Butter cookie mix (I used Betty Crocker)
-1/4 Cup Peanut Butter
-2 Tablespoons Half & Half (not fat free)
-3/4 Teaspoon Real Vanilla extract
-1 Egg
-1/2 Cup peanut butter chips
-1/2 Cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips (I used Ghirardelli)
-1/2 Cup Mini Peanut Butter Cups

Preheat oven as directed on package.  Put cookie mix, peanut butter, egg, half & half and vanilla extract in bowl.  Mix until well combined.  I usually stir with a large spoon or spatula until it gets too hard to mix and then finish mixing with my hands.  Add peanut butter chips, chocolate chips and peanut butter cups.  Mix until candy bits are evenly distributed throughout.  When you add them, you will think that there are too many candy bits for the amount of dough and you'll almost be right, but if you keep working it until everything is even, you shouldn't have any candy "left over".  Use a tablespoon or small disher to scoop cookies on to sprayed (or greased) baking sheet.  Smash each cookie flat with your fingers or a spoon (using a fork like the cookie mix calls for won't quite work with this variant).  Bake as directed on the bag of mix.  Cookies are done when bottoms are brown and very edges of cookies have barely started to brown.  Cookies may look underdone but will solidify by the end of cooling.  Makes A LOT of cookies.

This recipe doubles nicely.  In theory, you could triple it and use all of the candy bits in each bag, but I have not tried it that way yet.

Recipe #2: Chubby Hubby Inspired Cookies

-1  (17 oz) Package of Double Chocolate Chunk cookie mix (I used Betty Crocker)
-Oil, Egg and Water called for by the mix
-3/4 Teaspoon Real Vanilla extract
-1/2 Cup peanut butter chips
-1/2 Cup Pretzel M&M's
-1/2 Cup Malt Crunchies I used Wilton brand,  but I can't find a link to theirs online.  Here is a link to a similar product.

Preheat oven as directed on package.  Put cookie mix, oil, egg, water and vanilla in large bowl.  Mix until well combined.  Add peanut butter chips, pretzel M&M's and Malt Crunchies.  Mix until candy bits are evenly distributed throughout.   Use a tablespoon or small disher to scoop cookies on to sprayed (or greased) baking sheet.  Bake as directed on the bag of mix.  This recipe also makes A LOT of cookies.

This recipe also doubles nicely. 

Aside from their full and interesting flavor, the best part of the above recipes is that they only take 25-45 minutes from start to finish, and only about 15 minutes of that is baking time.  If you wanted to add to the "boutique" feel of your cookies, you could buy or make a cute box to put them in and even label them.  I know that "boutique style" cookies in 30 minutes without spending an exorbitant amount of money doesn't seem possible, but I just had a friend tell me today that she thought the cookies I brought the last time I was at her house were from a specialty bakery when, in fact, they were the chubby hubby inspired cookies above in a cute fall colored "treat box" that I got from a chain craft store.