Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Calling All Virtual Volunteers

We’ve been blessed with numerous offers of help from people all over the world, and we are very grateful! One of our supporters Natalie coined the term “Virtual Volunteer” in an email, which we loved and decided to adopt and develop.

Here’s the gist. We need help spreading the message of Dignity. We need to be able to expand our microenterprise and grow its impact to include additional seamstresses and a local business manager (not Carrie or Jacob!).

Here are some easy ways to be a Virtual Volunteer:

1. Send an email saying "I want to be a VV!" to Eileen@ScarletThreads.org to receive updates on current and future initiatives, or to suggest promotion ideas.

2. Jon our Facebook Fan Page!  Comment on Facebook Posts, participate on the Facebook Discussion Board, or “Share” the posts or pictures on your Wall.

3. Tweet! Follow @ScarletThreadFT, participate in our #WhyShouldWeCare/#ICareBecause tweet-a-thons, and/or add us to your #FF (Follow Friday) list.

4. Put our button on your blog, write a post about your purchase or what our mission means to you, or host an Apron Party (and then blog about it)! (And let us know with a blog comment if you do!)

5. Participate in our monthly themes (February Fan Fair, Microenterprise March, April Apronization, Mother’s May), further details coming.

6. Provide a recipe (with a picture that includes an ST apron) for our Tasty Tuesday segment.

7. Send in new product ideas to Carrie@ScarletThreads.org

Here are some needs for Virtual Volunteers with excessive determination and spunk:

1. Identify Fair Trade, Kitchen Stores, Bakeries, or other sales outfits (online or otherwise) who might be interested in purchasing wholesale from Scarlet Threads. (Email links and contact information to Eileen@ScarletThreads.org)

2. Identify Blogs or Businesses who would be willing to purchase an apron (at 30% discount) for a giveaway, or consider hosting one yourself! (Email links and contact information to Carrie@ScarletThreads.org)

3. Identify Fair Trade organizations with a similar heart that have a message that we should consider highlighting for our periodic Fair Trade Exposé segments (email links and contact information to Eileen@ScarletThreads.org)

4. Refer media (freelance writers) to Scarlet Threads for a potential human interest piece.

Questions? Email Eileen@ScarletThreads.org.

Together, we can make a world of difference in a tiny village.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Winner Is...! {And Apron #2 Revealed}


Pamster was the first one to suggest the name Olivia, but there were many others who also voted for it.  (Pamster: E-mail me at carrie@scarletthreads.org for your 50 percent off coupon code!)
I didn't pick the winner... I printed them all off on a list and enlisted my friends to choose their favorite.  Olivia won by several votes!  And, more than one person suggested that it reminds them of a certain little gal here at our foster home whose name was Olivia.  That seemed like another excellent reason.  :)  It seems a fitting name for this joyful explosion of springtime. 

And, here is round-two of the apron-naming contest.  (Click on the photo to see it larger.)  She's vintage and girly.  Sunny and happy.  Perfect for making your eggs sunny-side-up.  Whatever should we call her?  Leave a comment with your choice.  (Oh, and suggesting a name you previously suggested is perfectly fine... we LOVED so many of your submissions.)

Fine Print: Contest closes on Wednesday, March 31. Winner will be announced Thursday, April 1. If more than one person suggests the same name, the person who suggested the name first will win. You can also enter the contest on our facebook fan page!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Microenterprises Empowering World and Local Refugee Artisans

Houston, TX, March 24, 2010 -- Enthusiastic microenterprise supporters packed Te House of Tea on the evening of March 12 for a reception and exhibit that launched an ongoing consignment of handcrafted items from local and global artisans.

The Community Cloth and Scarlet Threads, both nonprofit initiatives operating microenterprises, co-sponsored the event during Microenterprise Month to heighten awareness of microenterprise both domestically and abroad, to highlight women’s microenterprise successes in particular, and to offer the public a special opportunity to purchase beautiful handmade goods from world and local refugee artisans. A rotating inventory of indigenous handcrafted items such as woven bags and purses, scarves, baby blankets, linens, cell phone cases, colorful aprons, and tiger hats are now available for sale to the public at Te House of Tea, a fair trade teahouse located in Montrose.

“This joint event with Scarlet Threads helped raise awareness of microenterprise as a pathway out of poverty, both on the local and global stages,” said Quynh-Anh McMahan, co-founder of The Community Cloth. “We are also thrilled to partner with Te House of Tea, which has become a voice for fair trade here in Houston.”

Partnering with the two nonprofits is a perfect fit for Te House of Tea co-owner Connie Lacobie, who says that an organization selling fair trade and organic products will be more efficient and effective if it promotes these products on a larger scale. “My business philosophy is to take fair trade and organic products beyond nonprofits to more small businesses and even to corporations so that they will get into the hands of more consumers,” she says. Lacobie is also gratified to be promoting products created by local refugees. “As an immigrant myself, I understand how difficult it is to resettle in a new environment,” she said.

Scarlet Threads marketing maven Eileen Viscontini believes the partnership with Te House of Tea will give Houstonians an opportunity to connect in a small way with people in other parts of the world. “During the reception I was touched to see how many people care about social enterprise and social justice,” she said. “It really showed that once a person becomes aware of a need, he or she forms an instant connection and takes action to help. The turnout at our event reinforced my belief that people embrace the opportunity to make a difference.”

The Community Cloth is a microenterprise initiative empowering refugee women here in Houston. It targets economic, educational and social goals through the provision of seed grants, training, and peer support, and by expanding market opportunities for refugee women artisans. As a collaborative of several refugee-led and refugee-serving organizations, and their supporters, The Community Cloth works with women who create and sell handmade arts and crafts such as woven bags, knitted scarves, linens and more. Through producing and selling their wares, the women have an opportunity to express their culture and heritage, learn new skills that will assist them in transitioning to life in Houston, and obtain much-needed supplemental income for their families. All profits from sales go directly to the artisans. For more information and to keep up with the latest Cloth news, join The Community Cloth’s Facebook Group Page:

Scarlet Threads is a compassionate boutique, specializing in unique products created by talented seamstresses in rural Asia. Scarlet Threads exists to make its core vision of "Work. Dignity. Beauty." a reality in the lives of its partner seamstresses by empowering them through fair trade employment. Each woman works in the safety of her own home and is able to adjust her working hours to meet the needs of her family. By not asking the seamstresses to lower the cost of their labor and by sharing a percentage of the profits with the women, the program is able to infuse more money into the local community with dignity and compassion. Additionally, 5% of each sale goes to development projects benefiting impoverished families living in Scarlet Threads’ home village in rural China. Visit the Scarlet Threads website: http://www.scarletthreads.org/

Te House of Tea is a fair trade teahouse in the Montrose area that regularly hosts community events and features local artists.

This was our after-event press release graciously shared by Kelly (Community Cloth Supporter). Thanks to everyone who participated. It was a Huge Huge Huge success. We had about 40-50 people in the shop at all times and everyone left with a greater appreciation for fair trade and microenterprise, including me! --Eileen

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Little Taste

The names you gals are suggesting for our first spring beauty are uh-MAY-zing! How will we ever choose?!

I know I should restrain myself and save the surprise for the big reveal of Apron #2 in the naming contest, but I can't resist.

So here's a sneak peak of the official sneak peak.

I seriously can't decide what my new favorite will be! I love all the new fabrics we chose for our Spring Line, and this one is absolutely adorable in all of its kitschy-goodness.

So enough chatter... Put your thinking caps on, lovely ladies and gents, for we'll be asking for your name submissions in just a couple of days!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Name an Apron Contest

We have a Caroline, Molly, Phoebe, and a Savannah.  But there are some new girls coming to town, and they need names just as beautiful and full of personality as they are.

So for the next couple of weeks, until the official launch of the new Scarlet Threads Spring Line in mid-April, we're going to be giving you a sneak preview of what's coming up and an opportunity to name our newest aprons!

Here's the first one... She's flirty and fun, in the fresh colors of spring blossoms and Easter eggs.  But whatever should we call her?  The choice is up to you! (Click on the picture to see the details!)

Leave a comment with your favorite name. If we select your name as the winning entry, you'll get a 50 percent off coupon good for any item in our shop. And, you'll have the amazing honor of being the first-ever apron name bestower!  (Which is definitely a big honor.)

And don't forget, tell your friends to join the fun!  Our Scarlet Threads team wants lots of good names to pick from!

Fine Print:  Contest closes on Saturday, March 27.  Winner will be announced Monday, March 29.  If more than one person suggests the same name, the person who suggested the name first will win.  You can also enter the contest on our facebook fan page!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Tasty Tuesday: RB & R

I am harkening back to the days of yore for this week's recipe. My soon to be sister-in-law asked (not once) for my recipe for Red Beans and Rice, a dish that I fell head over heels in love with during my longer than desired stint in Baton Rouge. I'm not saying anything against that wonderful town, it's fantastic people, or my fabulous former employer other than this: Aaron lives in Houston. One day I might reveal to you the particulars of why a couple so passionately in love ended up in different cities for a year and a half. Fortunately for you, that day is not today.

You can never be too careful with red beans and rice. Proper RB&R requires careful preparation, exact measurements, and a little of this and a little of that. It might be safe to say that my culinary skills are lacking two things: precision and prescription. I find it very difficult to follow a recipe. Though my RB&R never comes out the same way twice, it always tastes amazing and authentic. The first time I made it, I used Emeril's recipe. Now that I'm a seasoned professional, I just flow.

There are a few appliances that will make your life a whole lot easier: a food processor, a crock pot, and a rice cooker. I will say that I survived years without any of these new fangled contraptions, so I'm confident so can you.

Ingredients: 2 Green Bell Peppers, 1 med-sm onion, 5 celery stalks, 2-3 + tbsp minced garlic, 2 smoked ham hocks, EVOO, butter, black pepper, cayenne pepper, bay leaves (2-3), thyme, parsley, 6 cups chicken stock, and of course 1 lb red beans (soak overnight and sort).

(Note: Emeril also adds tasso or ham and sausage, but Aaron and I prefer to have sausage on the side and for those of you who are health conscious, it provides a leaner RB&R.)

Finely chop bell pepper, onion, and celery. Add butter and olive oil to a pan and heat to med/high. Add the Holy Trinity (Cajun vernacular), season with black and cayenne peppers and garlic salt and cook for a few minutes (3-4). Add the garlic, bay leaves, parsley (2 tbsp), thyme (2 tbsp), ham hocks brown the hocks and cook (3-4) minutes. Add the beans and chicken stock.

Now you are done the hard part. If you have a slow cooker, by all means transfer your concoction and cook on medium or low for 8-ish hours. I kid you not, at this point we run an extension cord under the balcony door and move the slow cooker outside. Considered the veggies involved, it's no wonder its aromatic. (Not a joke: once I forgot to close my closet door on the other side of my apartment and my clothes for the next week allowed me to revisit my culinary masterpiece each morning.) Once the cooking process is complete, take out ham hocks and remove the meat that should be falling off the bone. Mash the mixture with a potato masher or blend or use a wooden spoon and mash against the side of the pan. Return the ham hock meat to the mixture.

The beautiful thing about this meal is that the work lasts about 45 minutes (significantly reduced if you have a food processor). And, once you get to the point of making rice you can just set your apron aside because the hard part is over!

This recipe feeds Aaron and I for about 6 meals. We usually stick some fabulous sausage (we really like Nolan Ryan brand beef sausage) under the broiler and serve it on the side. I might also mention that it freezes really well. I would recommend storing left over rice separate of the red beans.

Good Luck! May the spirit of the Atchafalaya be with you.
P.S. My fiance criticized my pictures. Said that I should have put spices in the ingredient picture. That may be true. But, there is one thing that I should explain. Red Beans might not be the prettiest meal of all time. It might look like baby food (or something else). So, there.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Welcome Dou Xuefen!

Dou Xuefen has spent her whole life in the same small village just outside Beijing.

Early in her marriage, life was simple and happy. She and her husband worked as farmers and were experiencing the joy of raising their son. Their home was simple and clean with basic electricity but no running water. Dou found great joy in keeping house and working alongside her husband. But in 2006 their whole world changed when her husband was diagnosed with heart disease. He received a surgery that saved his life, but it left his heart so weakened he was unable to work. The medical bills and daily medications completely drained their resources, leaving them in a state of poverty that to that point they had never known.

Dou was left with the weight of providing for her family by herself. This caused enormous strain, not only on their finances but on their relationships. In desperate need, Dou’s family joined the Pearl Project.

The Pearl Project is an outreach of New Day Creations. The goal of the Pearl Project is to help restore dignity to families who need it most by providing money to cover medical bills, schooling costs and home repairs. Scarlet Threads believes in the value of this work and donates 5% of each sale to the Pearl Project.

Through help from the Pearl Project, Dou began working as a prep cook in New Day’s dining hall. Her health was not strong, but she could still do work on a part time basis. In 2009, she transitioned to a new role at New Day as a part time housekeeper. In addition to providing this employment for Dou, the Pearl Project has also helped Dou’s family by paying medical bills, giving scholarships for their son’s schooling, and providing repairs to their home. Through all this, their desire has never been to become dependent. Because of Dou’s hard work and diligent saving, her family has been able to pay their own medical bills for over one year. Rising out of desperate times has brought them incredible hope for the future.

They are also very hopeful for their son’s future. He is in high school now and is an outstanding student with hopes of attending college one day. Recently, his principal began purchasing all his school books for him because he noticed that Chen would set aside his lunch money every day to save for more books. The principal often tells his parents that he is a very bright young man and has a strong academic future. Dou’s primary focus is seeing that her son has every opportunity to achieve his dreams.

Dou joined the Scarlet Threads team in early 2010. She carefully folds and packages each Scarlet Threads product by hand and can do this work from home. When you purchase a product from Scarlet Threads, you become part of Dou’s story and are helping her provide for her family.

To learn more about the Pearl Project and how you can help, please email Caroline at caroline@scarletthreads.org

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Giveaway Winner!

Scarlet Threads partnered with The Community Cloth to give away a beautiful handmade scarf.  Congratulations to Ann from Ann On and On.  You won!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tasty Tuesday: Butterscotch Chocolate Walnut Bars

This Tasty Tuesday recipe comes from our Alabama friend, Yan Zhu. A native of China, Yan Zhu has lived in the USA for more than 10 years. Thanks Yan Zhu for sharing this... it sounds wonderfully decadent! Though he's not teaching us how to make egg drop soup today, maybe we can convince Yan Zhu to do that at a later date! :)

Remember, we're always looking for new Tasty Tuesday recipes, so e-mail your submissions to carrie@scarletthreads.org. And don't forget to enter our Women's Day Giveaway!

Finally(!) a warm, sunny, and fantastically beautiful weekend here in Alabama.
After spending much time outside enjoying the weather, I think the perfect way
to wrap it all up is to try a simple yet delicious dessert: Butterscotch Chocolate
Walnut Bars.

What We Need:

(This makes 9 bars of a decent size, and since money is tight nowadays, I am
also including some price information here for the ones I purchased today.)

8x8-inch baking pan (about $5)

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup dark brown sugar ($1.09/package. alt: light brown sugar is fine too)
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk ($2.48 for a dozen)
1tsp vanilla extract (alt: rum extract)

1/4 cup chopped Walnut ($1.17 for half a cup. alt: cashew, macadamia, etc ...)
1/4 cup milk chocolate chips ($2.33/package)
1/2 cup butterscotch chips ($2.33/package)

1/2 tsp baking powder ($1.47 /package)
1/8 tsp baking soda ($0.53 /package)
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup all-purpose flour

Preparation Work:

Set your oven for 350 F.

Melt the butter slowly in a pot. While you are waiting on that, measure
walnut, chocolate chips, and butterscotch chips. Mix them in a bowl
and put aside.

Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl.

Lightly grease your 8x8 pan.

Now your butter is melted, and it is time for some real work!

Make Batter:

Mix brown and white sugar with the melted butter. Let it cool a little and
then slowly add in eggs (beaten) and stir at the same time. We don't want
to make egg drop soup here. :) Next add vanilla extract and stir.

Here comes the hard part: pour in the flour mixture and chips mixture and
stir like a MANIAC. Your arm will get tired if you are like me, but don't give
up! Keep stirring until the batter is well mixed and consistent.

Scrape the batter into your 8x8, and smooth out the surface evenly.

Relax! We are almost there!

Kicking Back:

Stick the pan into oven for 30 minutes; more or less. You want the bar to be
moist and tender inside but with a golden brown top. I like to experiment with
different time settings to see how it affects the texture.

Put on a pot of coffee while you wait. :)


Monday, March 8, 2010

Women's Day Giveaway

March 8 is International Women's Day, a holiday many Americans know nothing about but one that is widely celebrated in other countries -- including China. We thought we'd kick off our celebration with a giveaway of a beautiful scarf made by a like-minded organization in the Houston area called The Community Cloth.

The Community Cloth is a microenterprise empowering refugee women in Houston. It targets economic, educational, and social goals through the provision of seed grants, training, peer support, and market opportunities for refugee artisans.

Around the world people are forced to flee their homes due to war, political violence, exclusion, and competition for scarce resources in troubled states. Those who have sought refuge in another country are refugees. Houston is one of the busiest resettlement cities in the US, and the thousands of refugees welcomed to the city each year face a number of barriers, including limited English proficiency, unemployment, physical and mental health needs, and more.

This scarf was made by a Karenni refugee woman. The Karenni are one of several ethnic minorities indigenous to Burma (Myanmar) who have been facing systematic persecution by the military junta for decades. The army has a long record of human rights abuses, including imprisoning, torturing and killing minority group members. More than 400,000 Burmese refugees have fled to camps in Thailand and have languished there for 15 years or more.

The Community Cloth is about a new start. Your support helps refugee women provide for the basic needs of their families as they work to establish new lives in Houston.

The scarf is yellow and brown with teal and red accents. It is woven, and relatively light weight; perfect for accenting your wardrobe in any season!

How do you enter the giveaway?

You get one entry for each of the following things you do:
1 - Comment on this post.
2 - Become a follower of or subscribe to this blog.
3 - Follow us on Twitter.
4 - Become a Facebook fan of Scarlet Threads.
5 - Become a Facebook fan of The Community Cloth.
6 – Add the Scarlet Threads button to your blog.

And, you get TWO entries for anything on the following list that you do:
7 - Post about this giveaway on your blog.
8 - Twitter about the giveaway.
9 - Post about the giveaway on Facebook.

Giveaway closes on Friday, March 12 at midnight CST. Winner will be posted on Saturday, March 13.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Baking Memories

Mary had a beautiful idea for grand-daughter Lily's birthday.  She sent these pictures and this story... maybe it will inspire you.  I think it's a great way to make a little girl feel like a special grown-up lady.

For my granddaughter's recent birthday, I decided to make up a "Birthday Baking Box." Of course, I started with a child-sized Scarlet Threads apron, and filled a box with baking cups, baking utensils, boxes of cake and muffin mixes, measuring cups and spoons, and many other baking items. My granddaughter Lily loved it. 

Thanks, Mary, for sharing.  It looks like you are busy making sweet memories together!  We're so glad Scarlet Threads got to be a part of this. 

And for everyone else out there... we're always looking for other great ideas and stories that Scarlet Threads gets to be a part of, so if you have any, please share!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Pandamonium: The Advent of the Apron Party

I know what you are thinking: Pandemonium is spelled wrong! Well, you are wrong, this was PANDA-monium and it was a feeding frenzy.

I purchased a book, a cupcake book, on a recent trip to Home Goods that I thought would make for a fun and adventurous girls' night, which I promptly hosted this past Saturday night. One of my favorite things about moving to Houston has been spending time with old friends and meeting new ones--Saturday was the perfect mixture.In order of arrival we had Lauren (a friend from college), DeDe (a friend & fellow swimmer from high school), MarCia (a relatively new friend), Xindi (also a relatively new friend), and Xochitl (a new friend from work).

Aside: How often do you meet people whose names begin with “X”? How much more rare is it to have 2 people with names that begin with “X” in your house at once?

Luckily, everyone hit it off famously, and soon we were chatting like old friends and all at once. Even without our bottle of wine, we would have been laughing loudly and making a racket. I may or may not have baked two full sheet cakes worth of cupcakes and mini-cupcakes as I was slightly delusional, forgetting that I only had a twelve count cupcake pan. Such is life. I would highly recommend using D.H. Moist Deluxe cake mixes and substituting milk for water. I would also recommend reading the white cake mix box slowly; recalling that this is a white cake mix, do NOT use the full egg—egg whites only, that’s what makes it white. Sheesh, Eileen. I told you I was moderately delusional that day.

We didn’t really follow the directions, per se, we mainly just looked at the picture and looked at our ingredients and went from there. And, there was plenty of artistic license taken. I would say that the “most authentic” pandas came first, that is if you don’t have a problem oreo wings instead of arms. Artisans eventually attempted to portray the emotions of pandas in captivity giving individual sculptures sadness, glee, or some sort of derangement that caused a strange sparkle in the eye.

A major topic of conversation was, of course, the mission of Scarlet Threads. The avowed reason for our get together was to brainstorm ideas on ways to help spread the message. We talked about it, but I’m not sure how many ideas we had. Everyone agreed that the aprons are adorable, of course, and we all support the science that Valerie and Caroline put forward in their Tasty Tuesday installments that the ST aprons tend to have an improving effect on all culinary endeavors.

Now, we need your input. Is this a way to spread the message? Can we become a force to be reckoned with like Pampered Chef or Tupperware? I tend to think this is way more fun than retail and that it’s a good way spread the message behind the product (which is a darn good message).

Our very own MarCia might be the next person to host an Apron Party and I can't wait to see how it goes.
For your next girls night, consider hosting an Apron Party of your own. Leave a comment if you are interested and we can figure out a way to make this happen!

For more pictures of the action, visit the facebook fan page...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tasty Tuesday: Buttermilk Scones

By Guest Blogger: Caroline Clunk of Surprised by Joy (and a fan of our Phoebe apron)

I have searched far and wide for the perfect scone recipe and this is the closest I’ve come to the dream scone that dances around in my mind. I lived in England for a semester in college and while there, conducted a long and delicious investigation into “proper English scones.” My scone requirements are now very particular – flaky, light, not too sweet. Many scone recipes I’ve tried turn out too dense or heavy. This usually comes from over-mixing the dough or skimping on the butter in an effort to save calories. Well, that just won’t do. Use the whole stick of butter and while you’re mixing the dough, run in place.

These buttermilk scones, adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe, are delicious and a wonderful weekend treat. I tend to make them on Sundays and then have them to take to work for breakfast throughout the week. (Note: They tend to turn out best while wearing a Scarlet Threads apron and singing and dancing along to your favorite tunes.)

Buttermilk Scones

2 cups flour
3 tbs. sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. salt
4oz. or 1 stick cold butter
1 egg
½ to 2/3 cup buttermilk (the dough should combine well but not be too sticky or too dry)
½ tsp. vanilla
½ cup mix-ins (blueberries, currants, chocolate chips etc.)

Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl. Once combined, cube cold butter and use your hands or a pastry cutter to “rub” the butter into the dry ingredients, until the mixture is grainy. Stir in mix-ins. (If you’re using dried fruit, such as currants or raisins, hydrate them in a small bowl with hot water. Drain before adding.) In a separate bowl, whisk buttermilk, egg and vanilla. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir till the dough is just combined.

Tip dough out onto a floured surface. Knead very lightly until dough fully comes together and form into rectangle or circle, then cut into triangles or squares (8 triangles for average scones, 4 for huge ones).

Egg wash (1 egg beat with a little water) with a pastry brush and sprinkle with sugar if desired.

Bake 375 degrees for 20 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm, slathered with your favorite jam, alongside a lovely pot of tea.