Saturday, March 30, 2013

Home Made Marshmallow Peeps

     Some treats only come out at holiday time- candy canes for Christmas, candy corn for Halloween and marshmallow Peeps for Easter. Of course, Peeps are out year round now (ghosts, hearts, Christmas trees), but I still only buy a pack during Easter. They come in bunny or easter chick shape and in a rainbow hue of pastel colors. Just Born is celebrating 60 years of marshmallow goodness this year.
    Quite a few years ago I tired to make my own. Martha Stewart had done a peep and bunny diorama of deliciousness that I just had to try and make. Well, my pre teen self just didn't have the patience or culinary fortitude. All I remember is that my sugar never set and I ended up with a puddle of goo that was forever sticky.
    I re tried the recipe today and it was a success! These are super easy to make if you have a little bit of patience. You don't even need artistic ability, you can make marshmallow blobs. These taste sweeter than store bought peeps and they don't have the crunch of peeps going stale....yet.

Marshmallow for piping

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

2 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin (1 package of Knox brand)
1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup cold water
1 cup sugar

You will also need sanding sugar for coating the marshmallow, this is the finer colored sugar in the baking aisle.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, sprinkle gelatin over 1/3 cup cold water. Allow gelatin to soften, about 5 minutes.

While gelatin is softening, in a small saucepan combine 1/4 cup water and 1 cup sugar. Stir over medium high heat until the sugar is dissolved. Stop stirring and place a candy thermometer into sugar. Boil until sugar reaches 238 degrees, the soft ball stage. (Most candy thermometers will have "soft ball" written on them) It takes some time to reach this stage, be patient!

Remove syrup from heat, add to softened gelatin. Mix by hand with a whisk for 2 minutes to combine and cool. Beat on medium high heat with the whisk attachment until soft peaks form and the marshmallow mixture holds its shape. Another step that takes some time. This takes over 10 minutes of whisking. How do you know when its ready? When you turn off the mixer and lift the whisk out and you have a sturdy string of marshmallow clinging from the whisk to the mixing bowl-thats when. DO NOT under mix, you will wind up with sad puddles of goo.

Now the fun-adding sugar and forming!

I prepped three small baking sheets (the kind that go in a toaster oven) by covering the bottom of them with a fine layer of sugar. This will prevent your peep or bunny from sticking.

I chose some happy Easter could also make Easter zombie bunnies with the green. I had some red,
but then my bunnies would look like Watership Down and thats just sad....

    Use your largest piping tip you have, I had a Wilton #12, but it should be around 1/2 inch. Put the marshmallow mixture in your piping bag. I don't have the fancy bag holder, so I used a glass-works just as well. Make sure to have your bag rolled all the way down and slowly open it up as you fill it. Try and get the air out too.

Filling the piping bag

Now is the fun part! Now for the bunnies!

Pipe out a "body" for your bunny, the larger middle circle. Next add a smaller circle for the head and then a smaller circle for the tail.

Wet your fingers and gently pat down the peaks on the head and tail.

Pipe the ears, these are just long rectangles that come off the head of the bunny.

Spoon sanding sugar over the whole marshmallow creation so it doesn't stick to anything.

You can keep your goodies for 2 weeks if you seal them in an air tight container.

Who says that you have to make bunnies? You can make any shape you want. I made a Peep-o-saurus Rex!

Happy Easter!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Easy Easter Egg Retro Craft

Easter Eggs! And you don't even have to boil them!

 So, if you all have been wondering what I needed starch goes. When I was little my mom and I would make these Easter Eggs together, she learned how to make them when she was little, so I think this definitely classifies this as a "Retro' craft.
    All you need is some crochet yarn (cotton or bamboo- no synthetics!), balloons and some liquid starch. If you want to decorate your eggs, then you should round up some ribbons, Easter grass and other Easter sundries.

Liquid Starch
Crochet Yarn

Balloons and Bowl of Liquid Starch

  This does get a bit messy, so monitor young children and make sure the table is covered in wax paper or a throw away table cloth. Put on a smock, roll up your sleeves and pour some of the liquid stach in a small bowl.
       You can blow up the balloons to any size you want, I try and keep mine relatively small since I use mine as tabletop displays. You can shape the balloon into an egg shape after you seal the end.
       Next, take some of the crochet thread and put in in the bowl with the liquid starch. After the thread is saturated, start wrapping it around the balloon. It will be a bit hard at first and will get easier the more string you wrap around. Keep unraveling the crochet yarn and dunking it in the liquid starch. Keep wrapping your thread around the balloon. There is no set amount of wrapping that you have to do. The more yarn you have, the more "solid" your egg will be, the less holes and pattern you will have. Play around with various sizes and amounts of yarn.

Dipping the Yarn in the starch

Wrapping the yarn around the balloon.

      When you get to a point where your egg has the right amount of yarn (you can always add more-you can't take away) hang your egg up to dry.
Strive for at least this much wrapping!

The "eggs" drying

Make sure it is over some wax paper or a disposable bowl, it will drip! I used a Christmas ornament hanger, strung it through the ballook tie and hooked it on my mag-lamp (it was off of course!).
     After the project dries overnight pierce the balloon with a needle and pull it through one of the holes in the yarn.

Pop that balloon and pull it out.

      Now is the fun part! You can leave your egg as is, or you can cut a small hole in it and decorate the inside with an Easter scene. Now when you cut the hole remember-you can always take more away!

I cut a large opening out of this egg and tipped it on its side. I strung some leaf ribbon through (from my friends at Nifty Thrifty Dry Goods) and added some netting, a miniature egg and an Easter chick. Trouble getting your egg to stand? Try some buttons to add weight to the bottom.

For this simple, small egg, I added some vintage flowers around the top, dark blue and gray roving
(to compliment the brown egg) and a small faux birds nest. 

I made a whimsical egg and a more nature grounded egg, but the possibilities are endless!
  I hope you all have a Happy Easter and Happy Crafting!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Spring Part 2 and Starch

      Spring in Chicago is always a fickle thing. One day its in the 50's and people break out the shorts (and you are blinded by the paper white skin that's been hiding under pants all winter) and drive with their windows down; then the next day the temperatures dip into the 30s and you get a foot of snow.
      In preparation for the snow I got a stack of books to read from the library and a bunch of crafty things to make. I will write a full post on the crafty things when they are fully dried. A word of caution in advance....I never knew that liquid starch was so hard to find. I went to 5 different places before I finally found a bottle...the last bottle on the shelf. I would have fought someone for it-it was that kind of struggle to find a bottle. Does no one starch their collars anymore?
      I was also able to get a copy of Scarlet at the library. I absolutely loved Marissa Meyer's take on Cinderella and couldn't wait for the next book. I really hate it when authors wait a year between books! There are two more books, so I have to wait two more years to finish the series-by the time I get to the last book I will probably have to check out the whole series to remember everything.
     Oh, well, a good cup of tea and a stack of books is in order for the day!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Happy First Day of Spring and Seed Exchange

     Happy Spring! Who would know it was the first day of Spring today, its 2 degrees outside and a snowstorm nay blow through the area on Sunday-sounds like a good time to snuggle with a book, or maybe start on Halloween crafting......
     It is somehwat ironic then that I recieved my seeds from Burpee yesterday. I ordered my seeds too late this season to get everything that I wanted. Last year I had such high hopes (last year it was also 87 degress outside on the first day of Spring). The hot weather scorched my carrots, tomatoes and the deear and rabbits ate everything else. If anyone has a cure for keeping deer away-please let me know-I beg you!!!!!!
    I have sworn off carrots-no more will you seduce me with your vivid purple colors and feathery green tops. the summer squash that I got last year was sold out, so I bought an heirloom squaah-Red Kuri (the same that I made the pie with previously). It tastes just like chestnut, so while I can't grill it, it should make it into the October growing season.
    I purchased a radish that is heat resistant, which only confirms the fact that we will have a cool summer (not that I am complaining). I did purchase teo completely new things-brussle sprouts and fingerling potatoes. Note that so far, everything I bought, is in seed form. The potatoes are in potato form. I keep hearing that once you taste a home grown potato, that all the tilling and ph checking will maek it worth it-lets hope so....
    Last year I meant to keep a photo log of my little seeds from first planting to harvest-I swear I will this year! I think maybe in a week or so I can start my seeds indoors. Speaking of seeds- some of them I have more than I will possibly be able to plan. Does anyone want to exchange seeds with me? I send you some of mine, you send me some of yours???
   I hope all of your first day of Spring is more springy than mine!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day with Cake!

   A Happy St. Patrick's Day to you all. You don't have to be Irish to enjoy St. Patty's Day, as evident by the thousands cramming themselves into downtown Chicago in various states of green dress. I never saw the point in a drunken parade or green beer- really?! I love St. Patrick's Day because it means friends and family come together over some good food and a beer. 
    Even better is a meal finished by chocolate stout cake. Chocolate and dark beer is a match made in culinary heaven. Most versions of chocolate stout cake lean to heavily to the chocolate side or end up tasting like bitter beer. This year I found a recipe at that walks the line between the two and with the addition of currents you get a chocolate stout cake that has just the right level of sweetness.  Here is the recipe, complete with pictures. It takes a *lot* of time, so you may want to bake this the day before the big event. Put on some Pogues and get down to it. 

Guinness Stout Chocolate Layer Cake


Drizzling Syrup

1/3 cup    Guinness Stout Beer (measure without foam)
1/3 cup    Dark Brown Sugar
3 tblspn  Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 tspn     Vanilla Extract (Pure Vanilla, not imitation)


2/3 cup    Guinness Stout Beer (measure without foam)
2/3 cup    Currants (dried)
1/3 cup + 2 tblspn   Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
2 ounces  Semisweet Chocolate (cut into small pieces)
3/4 cup    Buttermilk
1 3/4 cup + 2 tblspn Sugar
2 cups + 2 tblpsn All Purpose Flour
Cooking Spray
2/3 cup Unsalted Butter (softened)
4 eggs
1 1/2 tspn Vanilla Extract (Pure Vanilla)
1 1/2 tspn baking Soda
1 1/2 tspn Baking Powder
1/4  tspn   Salt
1/2 cup   Currant jelly (warmed to room temperature)

Bittersweet Icing

1 1/2 cups Heavy Cream
6 oz.  Bittersweet Chocolate (Finely Chopped)
4 1/2 tblspn Powdered Sugar
4 1/2 tblspn Cocoa Powder
1 1/2 tspn Vanilla Extract
1/8 tspn Salt
1 cup Chopped Walnuts


   To prepare drizzling syrup, combine all of the "Drizzling Syrup" ingredients in a small, heavy saucepan, whisking until smooth. Heat over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the syrup is smooth. Set aside.
Making the "syrup"

For the cake-pour stout over currants, cover and soak until plump. Drain the currants, reserving stout. Add the stout to a small saucepan. Whisk in 1/3 cup cocoa and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, add the semisweet chocolate, stirring until the chocolate melts. Cool slightly and then stir in the buttermilk.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Combine 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons flour. Coat two 8" round cake pans with cooking spray and dust with this mixture.
This prevents the cake from sticking.

Beat butter with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Gradually beat in 1 3/4 cup sugar until well blended. Beat in eggs one at a time. I recommend cracking them in a small bowl first to prevent egg shells! Beat in vanilla.

Combine 2 cups flour with baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with the chocolate-buttermilk mixture, stirring until blended. Stir in currants.
Don't worry if the batter looks slightly curdled.

Divide batter between the two pans (I used a scale to weigh my batter to equal proportions). Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooded pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes; then invert the cake onto the racks. This is easier if you have two small racks.

Poking holes for the liquid
Poke holes in the tops of the cakes with a skewer and spoon drizzling syrup over the tops. Leave on the racks until they are cool, about 30 minutes. Place one layer on a plate and spread the warm jam over it. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. 
The currant jam helps cut through all of the chocolate
While cake is chilling, make the icing. Bring cream to a boil. Place the chocolate in a heat proof bowl, pour the boiling cream over it and whisk until the chocolate melts and is thoroughly combines. Cover tightly and chill. Chill your beaters from your stand mixture at the same time too. Whip chocolate mixture in stand mixer. When soft peaks form, sift in confectioners sugar and cocoa. Add vanilla and salt. Continue whipping until combined.
The icing tastes like a really good pudding or mousse.

Spread about a quarter of the bittersweet icing over the layer with the jam on it.

Place the second layer of cake on top and ice the top and sides with remaining icing. Press nuts into the sides of the cake.

Place cake in the fridge so the icing can set. Enjoy with a glass of milk! 

Saturday, March 16, 2013


   We're going through some design changes here, so its not your mind playing tricks on you! We hope to have everything smoothed out soon with our new look, so let us know what you think-love it, hate it, think something could be improved?
   What do you to see more of?
    We are springing forward, a little late, but there is still snow on the ground, so our spring shoes get stuck now and then!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

New on the Etsy Store

   Well, I think I blew my timeline for getting Easter items up in time....I had no idea that it was so early this year. So, instead I humbly offer you the newest items to MinkCouture....

       This scarf was detailed out in a previous post about Snow Dyeing. I came up with the color scheme from "The Hunger Games". Specifically in "Catching Fire" when Katniss is dreaming of home. I thought using the snow dyeing technique with the "Girl on Fire" theme would be a nice, quirky way of paying tribute to Katniss. 

    Another "Hunger Games" inspired look, a Mockingjay fascinator. This feathered fascinator has black and white biot feathers to add a little bit of height and a jeweled button on the center to add a little bling.  I think this would go perfect with the with the Katniss' wedding dress. Or maybe just a well placed jab at the Capitol???

    I plan on doing some fascinators for various districts and I am working on a Finnick Odair inspired fascinator, hopefully I can get it up next weekend. Even though I am registered as District 3, I think fashion sense is something to be played with in any District. 

   Snow is still on the ground in most of the U.S., but spring hopes eternal, right? What better way to celebrate spring's approach than with a tiny hand knit top hat that has birds feathers and a nest on it? This would be great for Easter, a wedding, or prom. Some vintage beige netting really ties the hat together. 

I wil be skipping some seasons and I will be starting on my vintage- inspired Halloween items for an upcoming summer craft show. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Trip Out West-Part Two

    One of the nicer days was spent at the Griffith Observatory. Built in the 1930's by Griffith J Griffith, the observatory now has a lower level built entirely under the original. The original facade still stands and the rebuild is an engineering feat. In the lower level you can watch a movie detailing the renovation.
   The observatory has been featured in many movies: Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Bowfinger, The Rocketeer and Rebel Without a Cause. It is free to go to, unless you want to watch the main laser star show. The hiking trails are excellent-wear comfortable shoes, layers, lots of sunscreen and bring water and maybe a snack. You can bike, hike or horseback ride all the way up to the Hollywood sign.
  One of my absolute favorites is the hallway leading down to the lower level. A time line of the universe, all 31.5 billion years of it is laid out-with vintage celestial jewelry. It's the best estate sale you will ever go to!

2 billion years! Plenty more to go...

I thought these earrings were adorable-I must hunt down a pair....or make some!

It just goes on and on....

Spend the day hiking, wander around inside and then rest!! Its an uphill climb, so you'll be tired at the end of the day, I was!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Trip out West-Part One

In between snow storms, I was able to plan a vacation-this would be why I haven't updated in a while. That and I was sending out lots of letters for "A Month of Letters". Nothing was better than coming home from vacation and finding a huge pile of letters on my bed.....well, finding my bed was pretty great too......

Here are some highlights from my trip.

If you have a chance to go to the Los Angeles County Museum-do it! They are currently displaying a retrospective of Stanley Kubrick's films. You can see props, sets, costumes, scripts and much more in the exhibit.

Set model of the War Room - Dr. Strangelove

Costume from "Barry Lyndon"

Typewriter Prop from "The Shining"

While you are at LACMA, I highly recommend going to Coffee and Milk. Its a small coffee shop that has a delicious selection of breakfast goods, I ordered a bacon and fig pop tart. Flaky crust, fresh fig filling and sugary crisp bacon pieces on top-I'm not one for bacon makes everything better, but this was one damn fine pop tart. Paired with a rich hot chocolate-it was a fine meal to start a rainy museum day.

Notice the best part-the heart!

Stopping back in the afternoon was even better. Ever since I read about their milkwhich in the Wall Street Journal, I knew I had to try one. Take two giant, chewy chocolate chip cookies (with a hint of sea salt) and in the middle put vanilla milkshake ice cream-delicious!

A meal in itself

One museum down-many more to go!