Recently, I was contacted by a company called NOVICA, one of the leading fair trade, artisan sites on the web.
NOVICA works with National Geographic to bring artisans around the world to you, via the internet. They offer a wide variety of corporate gifts, home decor, apparel and fair trade items on their website.
I must say, I was really impressed!
Here's just a sampling of things that caught my eye:
Right away, I knew I wanted to experience getting to know one of the NOVICA artisans and supporting them with my purchase.
I chose an alpaca wool shawl made by a Peruvian couple named Raquel and Gregor.
Through the website, I learned that Raquel and Gregor support their Andean community by employing local people who weave on looms and by hand. This was a purchase I could really feel good about!
Let me take you on a visual journey.
Here is what I received:
The package arrived beautifully wrapped.
It included a card thanking me for my purchase
and even a handwritten "postcard" from the Novica associates in Peru.
I felt like I was receiving a very special gift.
And I LOVE it!
Here's a shot of me wearing it as a scarf on Turkey's birthday.
As the holidays approach, many of us will be shopping for gifts for friends, family, teachers, co-workers…. I really want to recommend this website to you as a source for unique giftsand handmade goods. There is even an entire section of beautiful Eco-Friendly gifts for anyone on your list!
One More Thing
As I perused the website, not only did I find beautiful, handmade items and other gifts, but I also discovered that NOVICA has begun the first-ever microfinance website where customers can purchase products and lend money directly to artisans. This site, provides me (you) the opportunity to directly impact the lives of artists in developing countries. I love reading about these people, hearing their stories, seeing their pictures.… I do feel like I have truly “met” some of them. It is a great thing!
NOVICA has generously offered to give a $25.00 voucher
to one lucky reader of Ain’t She Crazy!
Here’s how you can enter to WIN!
Go over to the NOVICA site and shop around. Come back here and leave me a comment letting me know what you would use your $25.00 gift code for.
1) Follow Ain’t She Crazy!on Facebook and leave me a wall post letting me know you are a new follower. Then come back here and leave me a comment telling me you did. (If you are already following on FB, just leave me a comment here to let me know, but wall posts are nice too.)
2) Follow me on Twitter and tweet about the giveaway.
@aint_she_crazy #win a $25 Gift Code to NOVICA http://networkedblogs.com/8z1iS #fairtrade #giveaway
I told you guys I would not start the festivities until October, but we are soooo close to October, I figured, what the heck, let’s get this party started!
If you feel so inspired, please grab a button and link up.
Here is how it works. 1) I toss out a theme, which will run for about a month. 2) On Thursdays I will put up a linky and then sit back and be impressed by all your creativity. 3) Add my Theme Party Thursday button to your post or your blog so others will know where they can go to join the fun! (posting a link is just fine too.) 3) You link up your craft projects, recipes, party favors, etc. that are related to the theme. I am especially interested projects that could win me the “Coolest Room Mother of the Year” award. (If there were such a thing, that is.) ahem… 4) In exchange for your playing along, I will stop by and visit you and hopefully scores of others will too. scores.
O.K., then here are some rules: 1) Please stick to the theme (as closely as you can) 2) Only family- friendly links, please. 3) If you link up, please do your best to visit some of the other participants.
Ideas: It occurred to me the other day that I had some awesome stuff going on in years past that YOU have never seen. Don’t be shy, people. I don’t care if it’s an older post, or a project you did yesterday. Good ideas are still good!
Now then…. The theme for October is anything Fall or Halloween related.
Here is the button, which is conveniently decorated in a Halloween theme in case you have a short memory.
My First Theme Party Thursday Submission:
The kids and I made some fun treats the other day. They may not blow your hair back in terms of technical skill required, but we thought they were cute and they were definitely delish!
We mixed up a big batch of Rice Cereal Treats.
I added some orange food coloring, but I have a thing about too much food coloring, so I wimped out before I could get them REALLY orange. They were kinda peachy though. :)
I used a ton of butter on my hands to shape gobs of the stuff in to balls.
(until I remembered how well water works…and it’s not messy!)
We let them dry a bit.
Then pushed a little dent in the top, plopped a bit of frosting in it, then inserted a piece of Watermelon Double Bubble. Cool, right?
The kids really liked that part.
Then I piped on some lines to make them look more like pumpkins.
Aren’t they cute??
One of my beloved angels is never “happy enough” with cute.
So for him, I took the peachy colored treats and created this:
Yes, indeed! That is a brain in a jar.
Here’s another shot of the specimen outside the jar.
He loved it!
Ok, now it’s time for you to link up all your great ideas.
I made my own version of "fondant" for these. I'd share the recipe, but you don't want it. Trust me. These were pretty easy to do, but there is no way I would eat them.
The "eyeball" is white fondant.
The "iris" is simply green fondant
The "pupil" is one of those large Ghiradelli dark chocolate chips.
Then, of course, the red is just piped on.
I was inspired by this post at How Doe She?
so I tried my own version with mini cupcakes. This is how they turned out:
First of all, the background on theirs is SO cute. Lesson learned. ;)
This is all fondant with bits of piping, but seriously, this is not something you want to eat, which spoils some of the fun for me. Ok most of it.
I like the white chocolate in the inspiration piece better. I'll have to work on those another day. :)
Now, just so you don't think I am only showing you the "good stuff", here is my version of Frankenstein.
My kids said he looked like a Muppet and was not scary. Well, duh!
But by the time I got to him I was tired and itching to go out and spray paint something, which I did. :)
He might be ugly, but he could be fun at a toddler party, right?
Well, just so you don't feel like you wasted your time here, I am still posting a little after school snack cupcake recipe for you. The kiddies loved them (unfrosted)!
This recipe made 24 mini cupcakes plus about 2 regular sized ones.
Chocolate Chip Cookie Mini Cupcakes
1 1/3 C all purpose flour
1/3 C sugar
1/3 C brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2/3 C milk
3/4 C butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
approx. 1/2 C mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
Cream butter and sugars. Add egg, mixing well. Add in baking powder and baking soda. Next, add in flour slowly until well blended. Slowly add milk and vanilla. Add mini chips. Beat on medium speed for about a minute.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
Frost if desired. (Chocolate frosting would be yummy!)
Don't forget to come back here Thursday to link up your Fall and Halloween ideas!!
PS. I have some good giveaways lined up, so "don't touch that dial"!
I think I just dated myself.
THIS POST IS LINKED TO SOME OF THE PARTIES LISTED IN THE RIGHT HAND SIDE BAR.
I have just a couple of pictures to share with you from last week's game. I JUST got around to looking at these. Who knows what hides in my camera!
I am still annoyed by the watermark thing. Are there rules about this? Sometimes when I put it in the corner it is totally invisible, so I move it. Or if I forget to put it on before I resize for the web, it is never quite the right size. What do you do with yours? Does my "traveler" annoy you?
Thanks for looking.
Have a great weekend and tell those you love that you do.
While I am in Halloween mode, and since I just recently showed off the Apple Outfit I made for Princess, I thought I would show you this one too.
Look at the mess we made carving pumpkins the night before! I hope I learned my lesson about carving on the front steps. :)
This is a simple strip skirt made from Halloween fabric.
Of course, I made the bows to match and used some of the fabric to embroider simple patches onto the shirt.
Now that I think of it, if I disappear for a while, you might find me making another one of these for her. This was darn cute!
You may have noticed a new button in my sidebar. Humor me, OK?
Let me tell you all about it. Grab a snack and get comfy. ;)
I am aroom mother again this year.
I have been a room mother every year since my oldest started school and every year it is the same thing; scrambling to come up with new ideas, asking to see what others are doing, etc.
Well this year is different because inspiration hit me!
All of you are so creative and so talented. I have seen the pictures from your birthday parties, baby showers, Halloween parties, Christmas parties, and on and on. You impress me with your decorations, you thrill me with your attention to detail, so why not host a linky party that is all about these sorts of celebrations?
So, guess what. I am hosting one!
I'll throw a theme out there, give you a couple of weeks to get crafty and then ask you to link up your ideas throughout the month, on Thursdays. For the entire month of October, the theme will be Halloween, of course...or anything fall related.
Just stop by on Thursday and show off your handmade decorations, costumes, crafts, baked goods, etc. And while you are here, show me your holiday mantle or front porch, whatever! I only ask that you keep it family friendly and that you please stick to the theme. I'll switch it up again in November (and even give you a shiny new button, if you want it.)
And since it is not October yet, you should all have plenty of time to think of some great material. But just in case you can't stand it and REALLY want to be able to say you got in on this greatness from the very beginning, I will go ahead and put up a linky for you starting next week.
So your assignment right now is to get crackin' on some great Halloween and Fall ideas, because I SO need them!
These are by far, my favorite cupcakes I have made. I liked them a lot when I first made them, but the next day after the frosting had time to firm up in the fridge, they were even better! I will warn you, though: they are a TON of work. Do yourself a favor and make the cupcakes and maybe the yolk sauce the night before. You'll thank me later.
I had to adapt it to the cupcakes, so here's the recipe I used.
3 Whole Egg Yolks
4 T sugar, divided
1/4 C. Kahlua
1 scant C. Heavy Whipping Cream
8 oz. Mascarpone Cheese @ room temp.
1+C Brewed Coffee (Strong!)
1/2 Tbsp vanilla
Cocoa Powder for dusting
Dark Chocolate for shavings, if desired
Get some water boiling in the bottom of your double boiler.
Meanwhile, put the egg yolks in the top part, but do not put it over the heat yet. Does that make sense? Add 2Tbsp of sugar and whisk until your arm falls off it's pale yellow in color. Then, place this bowl on the saucepan with the simmering water. Add about 2/3rds of the Kahlua gradually, whisking constantly as you do. Cook over the
simmering water, scraping the sides and bottom occasionally for 5 minutes.
Don't stop stirring.
Be sure to drink plenty of Kahlua while you stir.
It's all good.
After the 5 minutes, and a few shots cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes, or until it's cool.
After it's cooled:
In a mixing bowl, combine whipping cream and remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Whip until soft peaks form. (I love this part!) To the bowl of whipped cream, add the softened mascarpone cheese (stir it up a little first to get it good and soft.) and the chilled egg yolk mixture. Brace yourself, this is where it gets good. Fold mixture together gently. GENTLY, I say! Lick the spoon.
Divide this in half and cover it with plastic wrap.
You may need to lick the spoon again. But a different one, right? No double-dipping!
Refrigerate it for 1 to 2 hours. Overnight is OK if you are tired. I'm tired just writing it all down!
Measure 1 generous Cup of brewed espresso or VERY strong coffee. Add remaining Kalhua (or more if you prefer) and 1 Tbsp vanilla. Set this heavenly mixture aside.
Now watch the pictures. They should tell the story, but of course, I'll narrate, 'cause I can't shut up like to be helpful.
1)Remove the centers of the cupcakes, saving the tops.
You can do this several ways. Recently, I saw a blogger use a large piping tip to remove the centers. (Sorry, I can't remember who it was, but if you tell me, I'll link her up!)
I love this idea. I tried using a melon baller, as recommended by another blogger, but I ended up with a great big mess. Plus, I like a lot of creme filling so I like to remove a lot of the center.
Well, you know I can't stand to throw anything away, so I reused something for this project: a prescription bottle! It's the perfect size!
Make sure you cut the end off the bottle so the cake doesn't just get caught in there. You will need to pull it out relatively intact.
Note: Don't ask me how to cut the end off the bottle. I handed it to Superman and said "Fix this, you big Stuuuuud!" in my best Meg Ryan voice. And he did. End of story.
But please do wash the bottle out, if you decide to use this method. You will want to make sure there is no drug residue in the bottle.
Cut the tops off of the cores and set them aside. You'll need them in a minute.
2)Splash a little of the coffee mixture (about 1/2 tsp-1 tsp) in the hole.
3)Fill the hole with the whipped cream filling (I used a cookie dough scoop)
Note: Thank you for putting up with my late-night crappy lighting photos. You are the berries. mmwaah!
4) Put the "cap" back over the hole. Eat the leftover piece. Or feed the help (below).
5) Sprinkle with a little cocoa powder
6) Splash more coffee/Kahlua over the top. Go ahead, use it all up! I told you these cupcakes would make your head spin. I wasn't kidding.
Yeah, don't get all concerned about the order of things,
so I put the tops on afterwards in this shot, who cares?
Pop these in the fridge while you prep the buttercream.
Kahlua Buttercream Frosting
This is really hard. Are you ready?
Sift your powdered sugar. Use you cutest sifter.
Take that uber-delicious, and mighty potent cream mixture and whip in about 3 Cups of Powdered Sugar...until you think it is think enough to plop on there and not run off.
I used a #12 tip to pipe it on.
Sprinkle the top with more cocoa powder.
Top with Dark chocolate shavings, if desired.
Cover and refrigerate for a few hours before serving to let all the layers "marry".
The frosting will firm up, as I said.
Here is a diagram of the Tiramisu Cupcake for your viewing pleasure:
Warning: When you are done do not, I mean do NOT suck the frosting out of the piping bag like a nipple, because this does have a lot of liquor in it if you are not a big drinker, not to mention a lot of fat and calories. I am not responsible for what happens if you make this mistake. I'm just sayin'. You have been warned.