Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tasty Tuesday: No Bake Cookies

What could be better than cookies that can have you in and out of the kitchen in no time flat, and you don't even have to turn on the oven? Love it!

You'll Need:
2 Cups Sugar
1/2 Cup Cocoa
1/4 Cup Margarine
1/2 Cup Milk
1/2 Cup Peanut Butter
1 Tsp Vanilla
3 Cups Quick Oats
Wax Paper

Combine the Sugar, Cocoa, Margarine, and Milk in a medium sauce pan and heat on the stove on medium heat; bring to a boil then let boil for one minute. Don't let it boil too long because it will burn.
Remove from heat and stir in the Peanut Butter and Vanilla until it's all melted together.
Measure Oats into a large mixing bowl then Pour Sauce onto the Oats and stir until well blended.
Spoon Mixture onto cookie sheets covered in wax paper.

Cool in refrigerator until set; remove from cookie sheets and store in an air tight container in the fridge.

That's it! Enjoy and Happy Tasty Tuesday!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Our First Custom Order!

While traipsing about on Twitter one afternoon, I discovered a tweet asking where to find adorable matching craft aprons. Of course, I responded, imploring them to check out our beautiful Scarlet Threads aprons. Our friends over at @CrazyDaisyKits, the twitter handle of an awesome scrap-booking site, fell in love with Lucy and Olivia, but ultimately selected Olivia to be their gift to five women who have been instrumental in the success of their website.

There was a catch, as there always is. They wanted an extra pocket. You might think this would take us an inordinate amount of time to complete a custom order like this. But, you must realize that we are resourceful! Perhaps we learned our degree of resourcefulness from the seamstresses in the village.
My mother happens to be a tremendous seamstress and she assured me that it was no problem to create the pockets. Since we are a social enterprise, we payed my mother for her work and reimbursed her for the fabric she selected. I must say the pockets turned out amazingly well and we now have confidence in our ability to complete custom orders.

Should you be looking for a custom apron vendor, look no further! We would love to create special aprons for your business. The fabric market in Beijing is second to none, so contact us with the color scheme you have in mind and we will make a mock up and send you pictures for approval!

If you simply want a pocket added to your apron, let me know and I'll talk to my mom. :)


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tasty Tuesday: Gluten-Free Granola

Hello Scarlet Thread followers! My name is Elizabeth and I'm working as an intern here in China for New Day Foster Home. Some of the other interns and I decided to have our own apron party this weekend in our small Chinese village of Qing Yun Dian, home of Scarlet Threads. Because Sarah (middle) is allergic to gluten, we've been having the toughest time helping her find foods she can eat! So we decided we needed to make her a little treat that was gluten-free, healthy and reminded her of home: granola! Using ingredients we found in the village, we concocted our own recipe for Banana Nut Ginger Granola. Here's what we came up with...

2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 cup almonds
1/4 cup honey
3 Tbs. soybean oil
1 Tb. water
1/4 cup chopped banana chips

1) With the oven rack in the middle position, pre-heat the oven to 275 degrees. Drizzle some soybean oil onto a 9-by-13-inch metal pan and coat with your fingers, then set aside.

2) Chop almonds and banana chips into smaller pieces.

3) Mix the oats, buckwheat flour, ginger, salt and chopped almonds in a bowl.

4) Combine the oil, water and honey in a small pot and simmer over low heat.

5) Drizzle over the oat mixture and stir.

6) Pour the oat mixture onto the prepared pan and spread it out evenly.

7) In small handfuls, squeeze and clump the oat mixture to form clusters.

8) Bake for 30 minutes, then stir in the banana chips.

9) Continue to bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool.

This recipe makes enough for one big bowl of granola (about 1 quart). Pour milk over it or use it to top yogurt. We've been eating it for breakfast, snack, dessert--just about any excuse we can think of. Enjoy it however you like!

Tasty Tuesday: Good Old Fashioned Banana Bread

Thanks Carrie for my warm welcome! I am super excited to be involved with Scarlet Threads and can't wait to see it grow!

So I'll quickly continue the Carrie and Tisha story. Carrie mentioned my explaining how it came about on that fateful day that she so smoothly asked my what book I was reading. Well, (and we met in 7th grade, by the way; we won't hold the memory lapse against Carrie - we'll blame it on the pregnancy!) an almost tragic event took place in our little Texas panhandle town, a school bus carrying almost all of our guy classmates was involved in a wreck and flipped over. As this was pre-cell phone era, while everyone knew there had been a wreck, we did not know the status of our classmates, and of course, one fears the worst. In the end, graciously, no one was seriously injured.

But that event made Carrie (and myself) realize that she had no best friend to lean on during a time of trouble. Being the go-getting that Carrie is, she decided it was about time to get one then, so she made a list (seriously!) of all the girls in our class (which was only about 15) and went through crossing off girls who either already had good friends or didn't really seem compatible with her. And apparently, I was the last gal standing! Go me! And as Paul Harvey would say, and now, you know the rest of the story!

And now, on to Yummy Banana Bread!

You'll need:
2 Cups of Flour
1 Tsp of Baking Soda
1/4 Tsp of Salt
1/2 Cup of Butter
1 Cup of Brown Sugar
2 Eggs (watch out for recalled ones!), beaten
4-5 over ripe Bananas, mashed

Heat the Oven to 350 degrees and grease your bread pan.
Cream the butter and the brown sugar, then add the eggs and bananas.
Gently fold the flour, baking soda, and salt into the wet mixture until just blended.
Pour into your bread pan and rap it on the counter a couple of times to make sure there aren't any air bubbles.
Bake for 60-65 minutes, doing a toothpick test to make sure it's finished.

To add some fun to this yummy bread, you can also add your favorite nuts, chocolate chips, or fruit; whatever you like, have fun with it!

Also, this bread along with one of our beautiful aprons make a special and personable gift! (Shameless sales plug, I know!)


Monday, August 23, 2010

Welcome Latisha!

Words were flying at Eileen's Wedding.  AKA: The Tish and Carrie Reunion.

I distinctly remember the first day we met.  Sixth grade.  Her first day in a new school happened to fall on Halloween.  It was "dress-up day," and we all had on super-lame costumes.  I think the confused look on her face as she was introduced to our class is what did her in.  (Evidently her classmates didn't come to school in ridiculous Halloween costumes at her old school.  There are good reasons for that.)

But in the catty/back-biting/alliance-forming world of Jr. High relationships, she didn't have the easiest go of it for a while.  And neither did I, honestly.  I was the bookish, quiet, overly tall one (who wore weird Halloween costumes).  I felt like I needed just one good friend if I were to make it through the chaos of Jr. High, and so I finally mustered up the courage to reach out.  (I think I asked her what she was reading.  I think it was a Madeline L'Engle book.  Why is it that Jr. High friendships feel like bad first dates?)

(I'll let Tisha share with you the story of just how came to the conclusion that I needed to reach out, if she's so inclined.  It's a doozy, and probably funnier from her perspective.)

And the rest is history.  We've been best friends since.  It's that kind of friendship that doesn't require hours together each month.... we maybe see each other in person about once a year, but when we do - watch out!  Words are flying!!!  She and her husband, Seth, have lived around the world in their seven years of marriage, and as a result Tisha has a burden for economic development in impoverished countries.

I couldn't let that heart go untapped, now could I?

Now living in Houston with her husband and adorable little daughter, Gabriella, Latisha is going to be volunteering with Scarlet Threads.  I'm so excited to have her join us that I can't quite wrap my mind around what she should do, besides talk to me, but upon consulting with Eileen, I think she's probably going to be taking the lead on building relationships with new shops, boutiques, and other places that might like to carry Scarlet Threads merchandise and just don't know it yet.

Thanks for joining us, Latisha!  I promise not to distract you from your work all the time.  :)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Beautiful Gift

I just came back to China after a wonderful month in the states. It was so nice to be home, and it can be hard to readjust to life here after all the comforts of home. The heat (and lack of AC), the food, the dust... it can all be a bit much, especially now that I'm pregnant and seem to be overly-sensitive to everything.

But when I came back, I went to visit our seamstress. When I walked in the door, she excitedly ran to her back room and came out with a gift.

"Your baby is going to be born in December," she said. "It's so cold here during that time!"

I nodded, and then she unfolded this beautiful gift... a handmade quilt made from scraps of many of our Scarlet Threads products.

Something about the moment made me realized that despite the difficulties of living in our little village, I'm so very thankful for the opportunity. It, too, is a beautiful gift.  The quilt is beautiful and eclectic and made with a lot of love, and every time I use it, I'll be reminded of her and our little journey together this last year... the birth of Scarlet Threads.

And just to clarify, that's not my baby.  It's still a baozi in the steamer.  :)  This little beauty is one of the babes at New Day, the foster home where I work for my "day job."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wanted: Sherlock Holmes for Fair Trade Mystery!

With all of the great blessings bestowed on our little business recently, there was bound to be some tough luck. We were poised and ready for the worst. But, after breaking the news to our fearless leader (Carrie), there was laughter. After all, it is pretty funny.

When I arrived at ** ***** ** *** (names have been redacted to protect the innocent) last month to take a product assessment and clean up our consignment space, I jumped for joy! We had sold a huge number of new products, including a Tiger Hat. I naturally assumed that it was all due to the pictures, fliers, and product displays that I set up directly following my rehearsal dinner. (That's right, I went to ** ***** ** *** after my rehearsal to set up pictures and product displays.)

Not so! When I received the sales report for the month of July, the tragedy became clear. Our products had gone missing. At first, I requested to know whether they had been misclassified. Maybe, just maybe, they were classified as "art" and not "Scarlet Threads." No, they replied, they must have been "lifted." What an adorable way to say "STOLEN." You mustn't think we blame ** ***** ** *** in the least. We are, in fact, very grateful for the opportunity to sell our products in the store and we've seen an increase in legitimate sales as a direct result of our consignment space.

Carrie got a huge kick out of this "debacle" because, in her words, "Who steals fair trade stuff? That's like stealing from small children or sticking your hand in the offering plate for change. I just find it very amusing; what are they going to do - give it as a gift with the tag: "by purchasing this product you help to empower rural women?"

That's our Carrie, turning lemons into lemonade! Turn that frown upside down!

Besides, we are moving from a "consignment" relationship to a retailer relationship with ** ***** ** *** because our products have become quite popular. Our facebook fan Julie wants us to rethink our promo taglines: "Our products are so irresistible..." I'm not exactly sure what follows that. Perhaps"...that they forget to pay." or "that they get in a rush to hostess in style, and forget to pay." Hmmm... maybe not, but we are excited nonetheless and we remain undeterred by this minor setback.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tasty Tuesday: Xindi's Traditional Chinese Meal

Our friend Xindi invited us over for dinner a couple of weeks for a traditional Chinese meal. She wanted to make some of her favorite dishes and one new recipe! For a change I got to play sous chef extraordinaire. I chopped vegetables (typically Aaron's job) and took out ingredients. Xindi did all the real work measuring and tasting to see if things how things were progressing.

On the menu this evening was cucumber salad, "carrots," and cod with a ginger sauce over bok choy. The recipe for the "carrots" and cucumber salad came directly from Xindi's mother, so I was at a loss when she asked me to read the recipe to find out how much of any ingredient to include. She translated it for us, luckily! Phew now that it's been translated I can tell you that by "carrots," Xindi means radishes. Though she assures me that in China they call radishes "carrots."

Another funny thing is that Xindi had to call her mother while making the cucumber salad and "carrots." This in itself is not funny, I call my mother all the time when I'm cooking. However, Xindi's mother convinced her that we Americans don't care for sesame oil or Chinkiang vinegar. So, all she added to the vegetables was salt, msg, and a dash of sugar. Aaron and I found this hilarious and were finally able to convince her that we love both of those commodities.
Anyhoo...here are the recipes! My apologies, Xindi's mother doesn't measure anything when she is cooking (kind of like me) and so everything is stated as "a little." We can make that more positive and say season "to taste."

"Cucumber salad: (my mom doesn't measure when she cooks. Everything is measured by "a little")
  • Buy a couple of the long and skinny cucumbers
  • Cut the cucumbers into bite size pieces
  • Add a couple of cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
  • Add a little MSG, a little sugar, a little salt, a little sesame oil, and a little vinegar.
  • Taste as you go. There is no harm in tasting a few bites along the way.
Here's a link to the Steamed Fish and Bok Choy. Trust me, it is worth it. I am not a big fan of fish, and I loved this!

Sadly, I can't find the recipe for the "carrots" but it was essentially the same as the cucumber salad except with more sugar. All I really remember is smashing the "carrots." Sous chefs get the best job! Just remember "carrots" here means radishes.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wednesday Updates!

So, we've had a few fantastic weeks! We've made friends with an awesome blog, had countless requests for information about apron parties (and a number already scheduled), and we have a giveaway going on!

Let me introduce you to our new blog-friends at Moms Wear Your Tees Blog. It's a marketing blog written by a stay at home mom who reports on interesting websites, products, and causes. Guess who she chose to report on this week? That's right, us! I think we should all travel over and leave a comment of thanks on her Scarlet Threads post. For visiting, maybe you will be rewarded by finding a coupon code to our store. (No secrets here, we gave her a coupon code for 10% off.)

Do you remember our friends at Tea and Crumpets? @Lexilooo is her Twitter-nym. Well, anyway, she's hosting Yet Another Giveaway on her blog and this time she's giving away our beautiful Penelope! Her giveaway ends on August 31st and, seriously, its so simple to enter you really can't justify not clicking over. Don't be stingy, now... share the link with friends!

Oh! And, here's another announcement. Our products have just been introduced at 7 Hopes United, a fair trade shop. Its founder, Ashley, is a huge Scarlet Threads supporter and we are so happy that she has chosen to feature our products in her shop. Actually, they are going to start bringing our adorable aprons to their local Farmer's Market where they have a permanent booth. If I ever find out where that is, I'll send you right over. Hehe.

I just wanted to introduce you to our friends! They are so amazing and without their help (and yours) our message of dignity would just be spread ... well between me and Carrie and the other lovely ladies (and gent) who make up Scarlet Threads. Who is the Preacher and who is the Choir in that relationship? You decide.



Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tasty Tuesday: Pesto Pasta with Lemon Pepper Chicken

In honor of Summer, I've decided to start my contributions to the Tasty Tuesday blog with a quick and easy, light and fun pasta. In general my recipes are an inexact science because I make everything to my taste and liking, but I will try to reign it in for those who like to follow the recipe.

You'll need:
  • 1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil
  • 1/2 lb. of Chicken breast, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • Lemon Pepper spice for seasoning the chicken; this is where my seasoning to taste comes in, so start with 1 tablespoon, then add more if you want more!
  • 1 jar of pesto sauce
  • 1/2 of a bag of small pasta; I used Bow Tie this time, but Penne or Spirals would work just fine too.
  • 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese; freshly grated tastes best, but any will do.

Cook the pasta as directed; while that's cooking, heat the oil in a pan in medium. Spice up the chicken after it's been cut up, but before you throw it in the pan.

Once the oil is hot, toss in the chicken and cook until no longer pink, stirring often in order to avoid burning.

Once the pasta is finished, drain and place back in to the pot (but not back on the heat); add the chicken, pesto, and the Parmesan cheese and toss to mix.
And that's it! Serve sprinkled with Parmesan cheese on top and a slice or two French Bread.