BEST CHOCOLATE CAKE EVER

My kitchen is home to a lot of crafting…. crafty crafting, that is.  Culinary crafting, not so much.  But every so often the baking fairy nudges me to play with pots and pans, or in today’s case, one itty bitty mixing bowl and a four inch cake pan.  Yes, today I baked the most delicious, Thumbelina-size chocolate cake ever, and full credit for the recipe goes to The Cake Merchant.

I know, I know, you’re looking at it and thinking how unimpressive my little creation looks.  That’s okay, and I would totally agree.  The point is, I simply wanted chocolate cake.  Delicious cake, without the gooey decadence, and this recipe delivers that.  It’s moist, has great texture and just the right amount of chocolatey deliciousness.  Another bonus, it’s(can be) vegan.

Another credit to The Cake Merchant – explaining the importance of using cake strips.  Hmm… what are cake strips?  I had to look that one up.  Cake strips are placed snuggly around the cake pan just before baking, and prevent the top of your cake from forming a dome shape.  Using cake strips is especially important for artisanal cake decorating, as you would want the top of your cake to be nice and level.  I further investigated on how to make my own.

I grabbed some cotton ticking fabric and stitched it up on my sewing machine in a matter of minutes.  They really work!  Of course you can purchase cake strips, but if you have a sewing machine and some 100% cotton fabric on hand, making them is the way to go.  Fabric cake strips must be dampened right before slipping them onto the pans.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must go eat cake.

CRAFTING HEAT TOOL STANDS

Today I’d like to chat about a rather practical crafty topic, support stands for crafting heat tools.

Hand held heat devices are staples for many artists and crafters, the reliable ones held on to for many years.  But, I’ll bet the support stands that came with them were tossed in the trash long ago.  Those flimsy stands might have even been stomped on or thrown clear across the room in a disgusted fit of rage directed at the company’s design team.  Sound familiar?   Pictured below are some of my makeshift solutions that really do work.

First up, it pays to take up cigarette smoking.  Just kidding.  However, it does pay to purchase an ashtray at a local thrift or dollar store.

This weighty little jar, former vessel to some very fancy and exorbitantly over-priced yogurt, is actually the preferred holster for my heat gun.  I never have to worry about accidentally melting my vinyl table cover when I set it down after each use.

This little shard, dug up from my garden years ago, cradles my stencil cutter very nicely.

And lastly….. with a simple block of wood and two little screws, you can give some dignity to that stupid flimsy stand.

Now, before you run off and craft your own “smart stand”, take note –

I’ve got a gelli printing alternative that you won’t want to miss!

Sweet, right?

Stay tuned…..

 

 

ARTSY PASTEY

I’ve gone artsy-craftsy mad, all but creating since early January.  The trigger?   A determination to shed my comfort zone of putting too much mental energy into what I do.  I focus on purpose and end results with my craft way too often.  Making paste paper, my latest kick, has given me permission to be more relaxed in my approach to art making.  It’s somewhat like loose sketch/drawing exercises, only with paint, and is just so liberating.

So, what is it, you ask?  Paste paper is associated with book making and typically used as cover or end papers in book binding assembly.  In a nutshell, a paint/paste mixture is first brushed onto damp paper.  Patterns are then created in the paste paint using a comb, crumpled plastic wrap, a sponge or any suitable “tool” you have on hand.  The pattern and color combinations are endless.

To experiment, I did a light color wash on the back side of a few papers, and then…… the crafty gears in my head starting turning.  I thought, these papers would make for very lovely stationery and brighten a recipient’s day.

After all, it’s still winter and someone may need a little extra sunshine….

Perhaps flowers would bring a smile to ones face……

Or, maybe someone may just need a BIG hug.

The are many YouTube tutorials out there if you like to give this art form a try, but I must give particular credit to DAS Bookbinding’s video; I was instantly pasted ;D

FORCES OF NATURE

Those of you living in the mid atlantic/northeast region know that good old winter is camping out for a few more weeks.  But the power is in your hands to chase any wintery blues away.  Yes, grab your pruners, cut some branches and be your own manipulative force of nature!

Flowering shrub forcing is so easy to do.  Just stick to snipping branches from shrubs that would naturally bloom during the spring.  You’ll be tricking those twigs into thinking it’s that time already…. hehehe.  The easiest shrub of all to force is forsythia, but that’s just one of many shrubs which are suitable to work with.  White Flower Farm, a well known Connecticut based nursery, has a fabulous article about branch forcing to get you started.

My favorite is flowering quince(Chaenomeles speciosa).

I cut some forsythia branches this afternoon, which will deliver a botanical spray of beauty to my kitchen sink area in no time.  Can you spot the cute little face in the photo?

That’s my friend, Squirrel.  He and his fellow comrades wipe me out(and the birds!) of bird seed on a regular basis.  Their presence makes standing at the kitchen sink a whole lot of fun, though.

And take a look at this beauty, an Amaryllis my friend gave me a few weeks ago.  Isn’t the color just stunning?  Perfect for Valentine’s Day.

Speaking of which….. I hope yours is super sweet!

 

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