Thursday, June 28, 2007

Aspiration

I am riding the Bike for Breath next month! Joanne organized team Aspiration...and Dan and I aspire to ride 50 miles with her and Newt. Arrow, our team mascot, is more interested in sunbathing than cycling.

Arrow in the garden
Solar powered beagle

We did a training ride over the weekend, and what better motivator than cupcakes? We're hoping to convince Joanne's sister Jenny and her husband to ride with us. Go Jenny and Andy! In addition to strawberry surprise cupcakes, I made black-bottom cupcakes with chocolate ganache frosting.

Black bottom cupcakes
Mmm...chocolate...

The cream cheese filling was pretty good too.

Inside the black bottom cupcake
Inside the black-bottom

Joanne and Newt recently returned from their European honeymoon, and she brought back lots of goodies! (She always brings yummies from her travels.) The Bueno and Tronky bars have been devoured, and I've sampled the Pear Pims and Bonne Maman tartlettes...tasty!

European treats
Yummy loot

They visited the Museo de la Xocolata in Spain (a chocolate museum...wow!), and got a chocolate cookbook for me...I'll have to brush up on my Spanish to try the recipes.

Chocolate prezzies
Xocolata loot

And she also got me some pretty things in Italy: a cupcake tea strainer, lovely Florentine paper, and a floral glass necklace charm.

Pretty presents
Pretty loot

Thank you Joanne! It's time to ride our bikes now!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Some Bunny's (mail) Love

Wowza, I received the most amazing package in the mail this week! I was completely spoiled by my Knitters Tea Swap 3 partner, Kimberly of Some Bunny's Love. There were so many boxes and bundles in the huge package that I could barely keep track of it all...

First, the yarn...a skein of beautiful hand-dyed green-blue sock yarn, two skeins of blue denim cotton/wool, and two skeins of Paton's Classic Wool in such a pretty pink/red/brown colorway...and an autographed copy of the Yarn Harlot's new book!

Loads of yarn & Yarn Harlot book
Yarn loot

Then, the tea...four different kinds of lovely-smelling tea from local tea shops in Rhode Island...and an ingenious travel tea tumbler, just what I've been wanting!

Tea & tea tumbler
Tea loot

Then, the treats...coffee syrup, almond cinnamon thins, garlic peanuts, ginger candies, chocolate truffles, lavender cookies...and two delicious-smelling candles...ginger pear and blood orange...yum!

Local Rhode Island treats
Treat loot

But wait, there's more! She knew that I like to bake and sent a sugar shaker, measuring cup, and an assortment of vintage tins...lobster (or crayfish?) and little lamb shapes, so cute!

Kitchen goodies
Kitchen loot

But wait, there's still more! Kimberly also sent a stuffed toy for Arrow...and a teapot jigsaw puzzle. A puzzle! Dan loves puzzles! How could she have known this?

Toys
Toy loot

But wait, there's more! Can you believe it? Tucked inside the package were custom, handmade stitch markers of beagles. Beagle stitch markers. They are so delicately made, so thoughtful, I was completely beside myself as I unwrapped each one. They even have pawprints. Pawprints!


Beagle stitch markers
Beagle loot

And to go with the stitch markers, she sent a pair of handmade knitting needles. Doggie knitting needles! Needless to say, I love them.

Doggie needles and stitch markers
Doggie knitting loot

Thank you so much, Kimberly. I can't even imagine the time, thought, and effort you put into assembling this wonderful package of goodies. I am so touched by your thoughtfulness and generosity. And hugs to the bunnies!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Summer solstice

A fellow teacher hosted a tea party to celebrate summer vacation...yay!...so the occasion called for a summery strawberry cupcake. I made vanilla cupcakes with strawberry meringue buttercream, using the world's best strawberry jam...mmm...

Strawberry cupcakes
Strawberries 'n cream

The cupcake recipe made more than the frosting recipe, so the next day I made some chocolate ganache for the extra cupcakes.

Hidden strawberry cupcakes
Cupcake surprise inside

They may look like ordinary vanilla cupcakes with chocolate frosting, but hidden inside is a sweet strawberry...yum!

Strawberry surprise
Strawberry surprise

Monday, June 18, 2007

Flexible foods

Over the weekend I made coconut cupcakes again...I love that the recipe is so flexible. I usually leave out some of the butter...and this time I did not have enough eggs, so I substituted two egg whites for two of the eggs...the resulting cupcakes were still delicious! Some of them were topped with leftover toasted coconut, instead of the usual white snowball effect.

Toasty snowball
Toasty snowballs

On Sunday Dan and I took Arrow up to Roseville to celebrate Father's Day with his family. Since I am a bit rhubarb-obsessed these days, I wanted to try rhubarb crumble cake for the occasion...I made the recipe, but did not have quite enough butter...and then I accidentally added an extra egg to the batter...maybe the mistakes cancelled each other out, the resulting cake was still very tasty!

Rhubarb crumble cake
Pretty pink rhubarb

I also made my favorite lime square recipe using Meyer lemons instead of limes, and they were yummy too! (No photographic evidence of those.) I like forgiving recipes.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Beaglefest

The most beautiful weather ever coincided with the first week of summer vacation...but sadly, I was stuck inside the courthouse doing my civic duty. I was selected to serve on a jury! *Sigh* But luckily the trial is over now, and it is still sunny...this morning Arrow and I saw a group of parrots (again) in the backyard!

Arrow went to her first Beaglefest last weekend, and there were over 100 beagles at the party! Several beagles sported bandanas (perhaps for identification), and a few were even more dressed up...

beagle in a dress
Dress #2: reversible, dice on one side, cards on the other

This stylish beagle changed outfits several times! She actually appeared quite comfortable and unhindered walking around in her dress. Tee hee hee!

beagle in a dress
Dress #1

Arrow was more interested in sniffing than socializing, but she did meet up with Huxley, a beagle friend from the neighborhood.


beagle sniffing
Hi Huxley

Other (more sociable) beagles ran and played...

beagles
Running

beagles running
Playing

I hoped Arrow would join in the chases, but she was more interested in sniffing the entire park. We participated in the "Doesn't come when called" contest, but Arrow came when I called...how strange! Some beagles just stood there when called, or even walked the other way...tee hee hee!

Dan took photos at the party, but it was hard to capture all those beagles in action! We had a great time and hope Arrow did too...perhaps she will be more sociable next time!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Almost-summer treats

1. Rhubarb crumble

Rhubarb crumble
Lovely with leftover marscapone cream

I had never understood rhubarb...a sour stem as a fruit? Why contaminate strawberries with such a thing? That is, until last summer when I first tried the rhubarb butter bars and rhubarb pie at Destination Baking Company, a little spot near Chez Arrow...mmm...the bakery has not started baking with rhubarb yet this season, so I had to take matters into my own hands. I used rhubarb from Dan's sister Cecilia's garden, plus a few frozen strawberries since there weren't quite enough tangy stems.

2. Mail from Ireland

Knitter Treat Exchange prizes
Goody bag

Sara and Isobel sent a handmade fabric pouch filled with tea, sweet fig shower cream, chocolate, and more...extra treats from the Knitters Treat Exchange. Thank you!

3. A new cupcake book

Cupcakes book
Cupcake inspiration

A parent of one of my students surprised me with this book last week...she also discovered this lil' blog! It's a small world in crafty blogland!

4. I saw a parrot while walking Arrow this morning...wonder if it was one of the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill?

5. It's the last week of school...yippee!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Coconut & chocolate

Over the weekend a couple of coworkers hosted a birthday party for a fellow teacher...another great opportunity for cupcakes! The birthday lady had tried my coconut cupcakes before, so for this occasion I decided to try the "sticky toffee" coconut cupcakes from the scent of the green bananas.

Coconut cupcake
Coconut-chocolate-coconut

I also tried to make her dulce de coconut to fill the cupcakes, but alas, the thick gooey coconut caramel never formed...after more than six hours in the slow cooker, there was an oily mass of muddy-brown coconut milk...yuck! (Where did I go wrong?) Instead I made another caramel recipe for filling the cupcakes. I found that my mechanical pastry bag not only cannot fill airy whipped cream into cupcakes, it also fails at filling gooey caramel into cupcakes. *Sigh* So I used an apple corer to remove part of the cupcake, scooped the caramel in with a spoon, and replaced the cupcake core...it actually worked out pretty well. The cupcakes were then topped with chocolate ganache and toasted coconut...kind of like another version of the Samoa cupcake...they were very well received, so I think I'll be making them again.

And every birthday party needs chocolate, right? I also made chocolate cupcakes with marscapone cream and chocolate sprinkles for the party.

Chocolate cupcakes
Chocolate close-up

I did not frost the cupcakes immediately, since marscapone cream needs to be refrigerated...and I do not like refrigerated cupcakes. Perhaps because of this, the cupcakes were a bit drier than usual...or maybe it was because I used the hand mixer instead of the stand mixer? Either way, next time I use a perishable frosting, I will try brushing the cupcakes with simple syrup to retain moisture overnight. A good weekend of cupcake-making, sampling, and learning...oh, and I went for a bike ride too!