plaster french macaron ornaments

November 23, 2011 § 20 Comments

Whew, enough catch-up posts from me.  Now on to some serious crafting around here, as it should be!

I am in love with French macarons.  Aren’t we all?  They’re delicious.  Divine!  And so darling.  Torontonians aren’t quite blessed to have the luxury of indulging in Ladurée on any given day.  But what we do have is a handful of gourmet bakeries that serve these pretty pastel treats.  I thought it was imperative to reward myself with three last Friday, after completing my crafts for spring issues next year.  Three teeny tiny macarons for $9 is definitely not a daily splurge!  And I inhaled them too quickly.

Immediately followed was the urge to craft fake macarons for this blog.  If I can’t buy them often, at least I can pretend to always have them!

These are so simple and quick to make, in hindsight.  But it took me two days of experimentation to figure out the right technique to make them.  My challenge were the macaron “feet”.  Macarons are such a simple shape, but no two circular discs would ever do!  They’re not that simple.  Without feet, they’d look like whoopie pies.  And whoopie pies and macarons are from absolutely different leagues.

I’ve seen some faux macarons online made of molded clay.  There are molds available that let you make your own polymer and paper clay macarons at home.  Tempting!  But I thought: $5 for a mold, anywhere between $10-30 for expensive paper clay in an assortment of colors (if I want to make plenty), shipping, handling, duty (and shipping duties in Canada are sky high)…it can be costly!

There has got to be a way to make macaron ornaments for nearly nothing!  I figured how you can make dozens for about $5.

Can I say these faux French macarons are Parisian?  Because I made them entirely out of plaster of Paris.  And all quickly done by hand, as you would bake them.  No need to spend your money on a mold, and ordering online and all the shipping fees, etc.  All you need is plaster, a bit of paint, ribbon, and any 1-1/2″ circular object with an edge.

These instructions make 12 shells (6 macarons):

1. Take two sheets of cardboard.  Draw 2-1/4″ circles, spaced evenly.  I suggest doing 6 per sheet.

2. In a disposable cup, using a disposable spoon, mix 1/2 cup plaster + 1/4 cup water + dollop of paint.

3. Quickly spoon mixture onto carboard, staying inside the circles.  Tap the cardboard against table to even out surface.  This is where it is easier to do 6 in a sheet, so you can spoon and tap the first 6, then move on to the next 6.  Dispose of any leftover mix, disposable spoon, and cup or clean thoroughly until there are no traces of cured plaster.  You cannot mix new plaster with partly-cured/cured plaster, otherwise the combination will cease quickly.

4. Let the plaster stand and dry for about 5 minutes.  When the surface is dry, but the inside is still soft, etch the surface of the plaster using a 1-1/2″ circular object with an edge (I used a hose clamp).  Do not go all the way through.

5. Let the plaster dry until you can peel it off the cardboard easily.  If the plaster is too dry at this stage, it will stick to the cardboard.  Set discs aside to dry completely.  Break off the edges of the plaster.  The edges should be rough, as these will give the look of the macaron “feet”.

6. In clean cup with clean spoon, mix 1/2 cup plaster + 1/4 cup water + dollop of paint.

7. For each disc, quickly spoon a small dollop of mixture on the centre of the disc.  Tap to even out surface, until plaster mixture reaches the edges.  You must work quickly with each individual disc.

8. Let dry completely.

9. Cut ribbon in 5″ lengths.

10. In clean cup with clean spoon, mix 1/4 cup plaster + 1/8 cup water + dollop of paint.

11. With disc facing bottom side up, fold ribbon in half and place on disc.  Quick spoon plaster mixture over ribbon.

12. Quickly place second disc while plaster is wet, sandwiching wet plaster in between.  Let dry.

Et voila — faux macarons!

bt tv clips + canadian living

November 20, 2011 § 8 Comments

Ok, so a month later, finally a recap of my first TV appearance!

I had the most wonderful experience at Canadian Living Magazine headquarters and Citytv Breakfast Television here in Toronto on October 25th!  It was a very early morning, which started at 3:45 when my alarm sounded, after which I immediately threw hot rollers in my hair, and loaded my car with carved pumpkins.  Arrival and set-up was 5:30.  Make-up 6:00.  And my super short three minutes of fame slated at 7:53 am.

This may sound odd to you — in the spring months I had actually visualized being on Breakfast Television and carving my butternut squashes.  A premonition?  “The Secret” come to life?  Ok, I’m not here to prove nor disprove the law of attraction.  However, back in the spring, I had a moment of reflection after a couple of friends urged me to pitch my crafts to the show.  I supposed if I would pitch anything in the spring, it would have to be for something six months ahead, in the fall.  I thought, if I were to make my first crafting appearance on live local TV, I’ll carve squashes.

As it goes, I didn’t bother with the pitch.  Who cares about a random blogger carving anything on live television?  The end to a reverie.

Then the bizarre twist of fate.  While I was in California last month, I received an email.  The short of it:  Breakfast Television.  Me.  Carving Pumpkins.  Here’s to you, universe — in my hands are the fate of pumpkins, not squashes!  Seriously, though, what are the chances that my first television appearance would be to carve some autumnal gourd as I had earlier prophesized?

More importantly, you’re probably wondering — how do I get a random email request such as this?

I could not be more thankful to Canadian Living Magazine.  I guess I have been silent here and not been revealing much about the work I do outside of this blog, until the work manifests itself in public.  This year, I have had the greatest creative opportunity to work on crafts projects with Canadian Living Magazine.  You’ve read the posts I wrote for The Craft Blog earlier this year.  But, I have also been busy designing some fun crafts for the magazine’s print issues in 2012.  The process is lengthy for print publication, and crafts ideas and articles go through a gestation period of sorts for about ten months before they are born into the world.  In fact, this month of November, I was busily crafting for the April and May 2012 issues.  Yep, despite my lull online, I’m not totally a slacker (not entirely, though I should totally pick up the pace on this blog)!

So, on with the show!  We had four segments filmed live inside the Test Kitchen (where the magazine prepares all recipes in-house).  I joined the three amazingly talented women: Austen Gilliland (Senior Editor and Craft Editor), Adell Shneer (Test Kitchen Manager), and Rheanna Kish (Food Specialist), and we each did a segment on creative Halloween ideas.

Of course, seeing that this is a month late, I just went to Breakfast Television’s site and wasn’t able to find the full episode that day.  However, I found our individual video clips.  I have no idea how to embed non-Youtube videos, so please click on each image to link to the video:

Click on image to link to video.

Adell had the first segment and concocted a cauliflower “brain” with dip.  You totally have to try this recipe out.  It is packed with cheese and absolutely delicious!

Click on image to link to video.

Me and my hair and, oh right, my pumpkins went for the second segment.  I really did not anticipate a third of the segment would become about my hair!  I wish there was time to explain the “convertible pumpkins” which let your children design and paint the features of the pumpkin.  The features can then be placed on the pumpkins for funny faces during the day and removed to make jack-o-lanterns at night

Click on image to link to video.

Rheanna had the third segment and she made some yummy sweet-salty-spicy zombie popcorn.  I could not have enough!  Sweet.  Salty.  Spicy.  You would be remiss not to try this recipe out!

Click on image to link to video.

The fourth clip of Austen doing creepy crafts is not available.  Boo.  It’s really too bad, she made awesome paper packaging for the popcorn!   On a good note, I did a search and found this clip from last winter when she shared cool crafts ideas from the book, “Create, Update, Remake”.  How timely — these are fantastic projects and gifts for winter and Christmas!  Enjoy!

bits & bobs: breakfast television, birthdays, and bullies

November 10, 2011 § 10 Comments

I know I’ve been very quiet lately for a number of reasons, both amazing and not-so-amazing.

I haven’t had the chance to share with you the wonderful experience I had being on Breakfast Television here in Toronto with Canadian Living, and the hours that followed at the Canadian Living Magazine headquarters, two weeks ago.  Amazing!!

I also celebrated my birthday on Halloween and O.T. came up for a surprise visit for five days.  Perhaps I should write a post one day about how we survive our east coast-west coast relationship.  Oh, correction — survived!  O.T. was just last week scooped up by IBM to design their computer chips in their offices outside of New York.  Well, okay, a far suburb, but nonetheless a reasonable hour and a half driving distance to Manhattan (and a seven and a half hour driving distance from T.O. — still miles better than a seven and half hour flight including transfer).  He is moving east next month!  Exciting!!

But it hasn’t been a perfect picture for me.  I have had some struggles over several months which I haven’t been able to openly share with you due to its personal nature.  However after a lot of contemplation, I believe it is a significant subject that deserves recognition and discussion.  I have experienced bullying by an individual at the workplace.  It took time to recognize and identify what was happening.  It took a good friend to point out flatly “You’re being bullied at your work”, to which I replied “Who?  Me?  Bullied?  No.  Really?  Oh.  Really.”  It took strength and courage to acknowledge, report, and overcome.  Everyday is another day to grow positively and move forward.  Let me say this: bullying among children is no different than bullying among adults.  Adults may be presumed to have stronger emotional ability to cope as victims (or that adults have solid emotional maturity not to be bullies in the first place).  However, take away the playground and replace it with cubicles, take your bully and age him by several decades, take the accomplices, the bystanders, and the targets and put a few years on them too, and it’s still the same scenario.  I would like to offer my experiences to shed another speck of light on the topic of workplace bullying to help those who are targets and encourage bystanders to have a voice. Workplace bullying should not be taken lightly and should receive more public recognition.

So I will share my thoughts on Breakfast Television, birthdays, and bullies in my upcoming posts…

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