Thursday, May 31, 2012

Travel Clutch - Take 3

As I mentioned earlier this week, one of my best friends will soon be boarding a plane to Germany. As a small going away gift, I thought I'd make her the travel clutch that I made for myself before our trip to the States.

After making it for myself, I made one for a friend moving back to the UK.

Each time I make this little guy it looks better and takes me less time. I'm becoming quite the pro at this little case.

I followed the same steps as in the other two, the only difference was that I bought bias tape instead of making it. It turned out way cleaner.

Who's hopping on a plane next?? Should I whip up a fourth?

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012


One of my oldest friends here is moving to Germany soon. I met her when we were working in a bar together, about a month or two after I arrived in Japan.

When we first met, I knew NO Japanese, but her English was quite good. We had to use her dictionary quite often, however, to communicate. A few months passed and after ages of not needing the dictionary, we went to consult it, but it was nowhere to be found!!

We were so surprised to realize that we no longer needed it to communicate. She did't even know where or when she'd lost it. She had simply learned English.

Needless to say, she has a knack for languages and I'm sure she will pick up German in no time.

As a farewell, I wanted to bake her a cake. About 8 months ago, I threw a bachelorette party at my place for my good friend. There were just a few of us, so I made tiny cakes - one for each of us. I made the bride-to-be's a cute little ruffle cake.

Ever since making that little one, I've been dying to make a full-size ruffle cake.

It was such fun (and totally easy) doing the ruffles. (Please just ignore the top of the cake, K wanted to "help".) Just use a tip that is wider at one end of a rectangle than the other. Point the thin end out and pipe vertical lines, squiggling back and forth.

I found that it helps if you draw vertical lines as a guide. I got a bit carried away at some points, so having the lines to guide me back was helpful.

I made a pink champagne cake (minus the traditional coconut and marshmallow frosting). It was the perfect amount of girly-ness I was hoping for.

I used this cake recipe with my go-to Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe.

The cake was nice. You could taste the champagne, but it was not overpowering at all. Just there. The vanilla SMB complemented it beautifully!

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Tropical Island Banana Bread

The other day I noticed that we had a number of bananas that were getting overly ripe. I kind of wanted to bake a banana bundt cake with ganache, but gave Y the choice between that and my standard banana bread. He picked the bread (I'm pretty sure it's one of his favorite things that I make).

Ages ago, I made a caramel banana bread by spicing up my go-to banana bread recipe. I didn't feel like making caramel again, so instead I raided the cupboards and liquor cabinet to come up with some ideas.

I ended up with pecans in one mini loaf and coconut and rum in the other. Yum!!

I used the standard recipe - I even used all shortening as I had NO butter in the house (tragedy, I know!!). Then split it into two bowls and started adding away.

I have no idea how much of anything I put in. A handful or two of broken up pecans in the first one and a handful or so of coconut and maybe a few tablespoons of rum in the other. I was afraid that if I added too much liquid, something bad would happen. I think I could have added more, but not to worry the rum taste comes out just fine.

Eating this bread is like chillin' on an island of baked goods. Delicious. The pecan one is fine. Nothing too special, but hey, they can't all be winners, right?!?

Given the success of the coconut/rum bread, I'm kind of wanting to try adding other crazy things and seeing what happens. To be honest I haven't had too much experience using other banana bread recipes, so maybe this is true for all of them, but this one is amazing. With all of the junk I've added, it never gets weird; it just gets better.

We ♡ banana bread!!

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

K's Curtains - Part 2

Months ago I posted about how K was getting moved to his own room. The curtains we had in the room were useless, so I whipped up a set of sun-blocking curtains.

They helped a lot, but with the sun rising earlier and earlier, the room got brighter earlier and earlier, and K was waking up earlier and earlier. Not cool.

To alleviate the situation, we popped over to the fabric store to pick up another load of sun-blocking fabric so the curtains could have a backing.

I sewed the new fabric onto the back and they now work way better.

No curtains (admittedly it was a cloudy day when I took these photos).

Single layer of sun-blocking curtains.

Double layer of sun-blocking curtains.

As above it was a cloudy day when these photos were taken. I've since realized that the early morning sun tends to peek in through the top and sides. Does anyone have any suggestions for this?

In Japan, beneath the real curtains is always a set of sheer, "lace" curtains. For K's room, we just used ones from out old apartment where the windows were 40 centimeters (!) shorter than the current windows. I wish I would have taken a photo because it looked absolutely ridiculous.

I was planning on scrapping them and starting all over when my friend suggested I just buy enough fabric to make up the difference and add some cute trim. Genius!!

This is what I did last night and I think they look quite cute.

I used different colors of pompon trim; they ended up with quite a whimsical look. I think they are adorable!!

And I'm stoked I didn't throw the old ones away - what a waste that would have been.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A few of my favorite things

According to my older brother, on my first St. Patrick's Day in Japan I called him saying, "Why does this holiday follow me wherever I go?" The four previous St. Patrick's Days greeted me with a few too many drinks and it seemed that the holiday was unexpectedly in full force over here too.
Another thing that has followed me across the world is foosball. I adore foosball.
The first time I played was at a friend's house (incidentally I met him in Japanese Society class). Following that night were three years of constant foosball playing. I came to love the game and developed quite a goalie shot. Some of my favorite memories of college are at his foosball table, which was eventually passed down to another great friend, or at the house/apartment that housed it.
About a year after moving to Japan I moved to a building with a bar on the first floor. The owner, who we now all know and love, turns out to be the Osaka Foosball Champion. Needless to say, there is a table at the bar.
Earlier this month, he celebrated the bar's 15 year anniversary. Although I didn't go out on that night, I went out on Sunday with my friend, the owners wife.
I wanted to bring along something to say congratulations with, and given our shared love of foosball and my love of cookies, foosball-themed cookies seemed a logical choice.

My favorites were the foosball tables.

I also did a few simple, non-themed ones as well.

I made balls (cake balls) to put in with the little foosball guys.

The cookies were a tad on the time consuming side to make, as I don't have a "foosball guy" cookie cutter.
I started by cutting circles for the heads.

Then I cut rectangles and
started chopping away at them to give them their shape. Finally I cut a tiny sliver at the top using the circle cutter, stuck a head on, and baked as usual.

I was afraid heads might fall off, but they baked together just perfectly. I think the icing helps them to stay together nicely as well.
Shin, the owner, appreciated them, but told me that he can never eat my cookies because it's wasteful. Those little guys better be gone by now ;)
Congratulations Shin!! Thanks for the wonderful memories (and for possibly letting me score those few points).
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Friday, May 18, 2012

Wine Tasting Bag - Happy Birthday Mom!

For ages I had heard my mom talk about going wine tasting in Michigan, but as I only ever visited home during the winter I never had the chance to go. Finally, this past June (as in nearly a year ago) K and I went for my first summer visit in seven years.

It was lovely. I love summer at home - the parks, the music, the weather and now I can add wine tasting to the list as well. It was such a fun, laid-back experience. No wonder my mom and dad enjoy it so much.

While thinking of what to get/make for my mom for her birthday, I thought that a big bag to fit the glasses, cheese and slicer, crackers, a mat for sitting on, and a few small things - napkins, etc. would be awesome. That way, the bag is always packed. When it's time to go, just pick up the bag and head out.

I called my dad and got the dimensions for the cheese slicer and the winery glasses. Then got cracking on a bag. I, originally, wanted something that my dad wouldn't look silly holding, but in the end I fell in love with this blue fabric (sorry, Papi).

I decided to make the bag fairly large with removable glass holders - all the easier for washing and a few pockets.

I started out with a whole heap of fabric as I wanted it padded and lined, but it all got together quite quickly. As always, the cutting took me AGES.

That was just the lining. I doubled it to make the outside of the bag as well.

I love how the bag turned out and with its generous size, add a few more pockets and a shoulder strap, and I reckon it'd make a great diaper bag.

Happy birthday, mommy!! (And happy wine tasting!)

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Thursday, May 17, 2012


A few weeks ago I came across this recipe for eclairs. They looked so sweet and delicious that I've been wanting to try them since first seeing them.

I gave them a go on Tuesday and unfortunately they didn't turn out as well as I had hoped. I was a bit bummed, to be honest.

The first step is to make the filling. It's basically a simple vanilla pudding.

Mine ended up way too thick and not as smooth as I would have liked. I'm not sure if it is an issue with the recipe or something I did. One potential issue is that I used leftover egg yolks from last week's cake, so maybe they had lost some of their liquid?

The next step is to make the pate a choux.

I've done this many times in the past and it has always worked out. It did this time as well, but they didn't bake up all beautiful like Sweetapolita's. Mine were uneven and simply not cute.

They plumped up a bit after filling them, but still there was nothing cute about them.

The final step is to glaze them. I mixed in about a tablespoon and a half of water and it was (what I thought) a good "glaze" consistency. When I put it on however, it just slopped down the sides all runny and sad.

In the end, they tasted ok. I certainly wouldn't say they were amazing, but they weren't bad either. Just kind of...meh.

I'm halfway curious to try them again, but I doubt I will because in my opinion, they just weren't worth it. I'd just as soon make cream or pudding puffs where you don't have to worry about prefect shapes.

If you give it a try and yours work out, please let me know. I think I'd be way more inclined to give them a second chance!!

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Felt Teddy Bear

Ages ago, I mentioned that I teach English to a few girls twice a week. I thought I posted about some of the crazy things I've made for them, but I can't seem to find it. Did I totally make that post up in my head?!? That would be weird.

Anyway, the deal is that they get points every lesson for correct answers, etc. and at the end of the lesson they get to buy little prizes. They can save their points and when they get to 200, I will make a small felt toy of their request.

The requests have varied from Santa's face to macarons. The latest was from my most "creative" student. She wanted this Teddy bear's head.

It's not perfect, but not too far off. She comes for her lesson tomorrow. Hopefully she likes it!!

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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Making the Maker's Mark

Yesterday marked the 15th anniversary of a dear friend's bar. His wife, one of my best friends, asked if I could make a cake that looks like a Maker's Mark bottle for the occasion. I couldn't pass up the chance to celebrate and have another go with Marshmallow Fondant (MMF).
I figured that since the shape is a bit simpler than Thomas, it shouldn't pose too many issues. It wasn't particularly difficult, but again took ages to complete.

Just like the Thomas cake, I started by baking and freezing two square cakes. The next day I made the MMF. I died a tiny bit red, some a cream color for the label, and the biggest chunk I did in a pale yellow. My plan was to paint the bottle so it would look a bit more glass-like. Starting with a pale yellow gave me a good base color for the brown paint.

The following day I did up the icing and everything was ready to go for Thursday night.

The first thing I did was trace the bottle onto one of the cakes (can you see the upside-down faint red outline on the photo below??).

My friend was hoping to feed 20, so I knew the cake couldn't be the actual size of the bottle. I gave ample space around the sides and started chopping away. I then laid that piece on top of the other cake a cut it up. Then I used the scraps to make the top of the bottle.

Next I glued all of the pieces together and started carving away at the cake so it was a bit closer to the shape of a real bottle.

Once it was all covered in buttercream, the whole cake was put back into the freezer for a bit.

Finally it was time for the MMF. Just like last time, I was a bit scared that it wouldn't turn out well. With MMF you have to work quickly, so no photos of this part of the action.

Once it was covered in the light yellow, I measured and cut out the label and then the same for the wax. Once those were on, I wrote the label. It's a tad messier than I was hoping for, but those markers aren't always the easiest for details. Also I was shaking like crazy the entire time - this didn't help much either.

Once that was done, I got to painting. I mixed vodka with brown gel coloring and it worked perfectly. (It is only half painted in the photo.) The vodka evaporates over time, so there is no strange taste or anything. And with that, the cake was done for the night.

MMF needs time to dry, so I let it sit until Saturday morning. I wanted the bottle to be shiny, like glass, so I put a super thin layer of oil over the bottle. It worked quite well.

I didn't go out last night, but Y did. He said the cake was nearly gone by the time he arrived. My friend sent me the photos from the bar and said that her husband loved the cake and that it was a hit!! Yahoo!!

Although I couldn't be there to celebrate that night - plans are in the works for a boozy night next week - I'm stoked I could still play a small role in the celebration.

Congratulations Shin!!!