Sunday, February 28, 2010

Tiger Hat Giveaway!

Kim at The Brown Bulletin is giving away a tiger hat, and has a really sweet post about her little boy Kai (that's him below) and Tristan to go along with it.  You have until March 4th to enter!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Giveaways and Raffles

In the last few weeks, Scarlet Threads has been making appearances all around the web.  There was the beautiful Jill of Peeptoe Pumps and Pearls who gave away an apron on her blog.  And then Melissa at Missionary Mama did the same.  We're having a hard time keeping up with all the giveaways, so unfortunately due to the Chinese New Year holiday, we didn't mention these until they were already over. 

Argh!  We're sorry, ladies, but thank you all the same!

Oh well... there are still a few chances to get in on some action.


Elisabeth Nixon Photography is giving away the Scarlet Threads apron of your choice!  I love her "domestic goddess" picture above... very sassy.

And, the mama of one of the little boys here at our foster home, Mandi, is raising money to pay for their travel expenses to pick up her son in China.  She's started a blog called Bringing Drew Home, and an Anna apron is among the many amazing prizes you can win in her raffle. 

So ladies and gents, I think some web-surfing is in order.  Off with you!

One last thing before you go... If you want to do your own giveaway, we'd love that!  Please let us know well in advance, though, so we can be sure to get it up on our blog.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

@ScarletThreadFT -- Our Twitter Experiment

So, Twitter has become an intellectual addiction for me. It pleases my puzzle-prone brain to ponder people's pigmy proclamations in an effort to paint a picture of their personality. It isn't as comprehensive as Facebook, you can't write volumes or post millions of photo albums. You have to work to create an attention grabbing snippet that says what you mean it to say. On top of that, it has to be interesting.


I was tweeting with some folks of similar fair trade mindsets the other day, they were asking how do we compete with fashion companies who are only concerned with profit margins and who undoubtedly have bigger names, a farther reach, and deeper pockets. I think our ability to compete is inherent in our business models. I think that our products are the future because of the way they are produced. It has less to do with fair trade values, in my mind, and more to do with the paradigm shift in consumers. Believe it or not, people don’t want STUFF anymore! They want stories, conversation pieces, and above all they want to feel connected.


Like it or not globalization is here to stay. I like to think that the shift is for the better, people can no longer claim ignorance to the plight of various groups within the human family and they need no longer feel that the gap is too large or the task to great. Ironically, it is through consumerism they find a way to help. Through the purchase of, let’s say, an apron they provide a job (or a washing machine) to a person half a world away (and actually get a useful product at the same time).


So my task has become to write 140 character stories of which O. Henry would be proud. Perhaps I can channel my inner JK Rowling and weave masterful stories that will appeal to the masses! I have one thing on my side, truth is stranger than fiction.



Eileen

Friday, February 19, 2010

Fair Trade Fan Returns from Haiti!

So a few of you might remember our Fair Trade Fan Exposé from a few weeks back: Tara Jamieson was headed to Haiti to provide post-op care to earthquake victims. She’s home now, exhausted and educated. Her one week trip to Haiti was a little different from any of her other mission trips, this time she went as a nurse to provide care rather than as a Missionary who happens to be a nurse. The 16 hour days were overwhelming, and when the clinic closed for the evening they organized the pharmacy and supply room before getting a few hours of rest.

As nurse and a Christian, she started looking for ways to help immediately upon hearing of the quake. She felt that she could be useful in the situation; that she could tend to the wounded bodies and spirits of the Haitian people. Her church raised funds to pay for her trip and, before she and Johanna Congleton knew it, they were on a 10 seater plane headed for Port Au Prince with the an anesthesiologist from California, a family medicine practitioner from Illinois, and a pastor from Texas.

The experience awaiting them was grueling and after experiencing it, Tara now classifies her other mission trips as tourism. (Tara, people don’t generally go to those places on vacation, get a grip!) Part of an established facility that included an orphanage, the living quarters were much better than expected. It was at the facility’s clinic that they saw about 400 patients per day - a good portion of whom were uninjured by earthquake but in need of primary care.

It was amazing, Tara said, “people didn’t know natural things about their bodies,” such as pregnant women who didn’t know what to expect from their bodies or their babies. "The earthquake brought to light Haiti’s real needs like sanitation and education.” The supplies brought into the country, aren’t being equitably distributed. Persons getting in line first are selling the supplies! But, in spite of the ubiquitous poverty, corruption, and destruction, Tara felt that “God didn’t forget about Haiti, his presence there was very real.”

Regardless of the fact that most of the patients just wanted “freebies” from the relief workers, Tara was able to see the good in the experience. She even grew as a nurse. Because she works mainly with patients suffering from acute illnesses, this trip provided her with the opportunity to sharpen her clinical skills. She was able to recognize the sick from the un-sick and to deliver care to the children who needed it most.

Tugging at her heart strings, however, was something that her team could do nothing about. One mother brought her
hydrocephalus child to the clinic desperately hoping that the American medical staff could give her some medicine to heal her baby. There was nothing they could do for a child with that condition under those circumstances; all they could do was pray with the mother for her baby. A lot of people in the medical profession are finding exactly what Tara found, “you also have to care for the soul because you can only do so much for the body.”

All in all, their trip was an exhausting success. Only seven days, it felt a lot longer which is why they rotate their relief personnel to keep them fresh. To my mind, Tara shows us that when faced with daunting challenges we mere mortals can make an impact if only we take action! That’s what impressed me most her, and about Jacob and Carrie, and the staff at Scarlet Threads - Action.


People often look at the problems in our world today and don’t know where to start. The moral of the story is: Start somewhere, take action, the rest will fall into place.


Click here, to view more of their amazing photos.

Eileen

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tasty Tuesday: Mom's Sticky Caramel Rolls

Calling all Sweet Tooths (Teeth?). Another Scarlet Threads Fan, Valerie, sent in a recipe and it looks delicious!

Things got a little hectic this weekend (with the event and all) so I wasn't able to follow through on my original plan: to make Mom's Sticky Caramel Rolls for a special Valentine's breakfast for Aaron! Don't tell him, but I am planning on making it up to him this coming weekend. Sadly, I was completely outdone -- Aaron cooked a very special meal (steak, asparagus drizzled with EVOO and topped with parmesan, and garlic/cream cheese/parmesan mashed potatoes) and even posed for pictures in a Scarlet Threads apron, which I promptly posted on the Facebook Fan Page. While not an immediate "web sensation," enough people saw the picture to gain a new appreciation for the man beneath the pattern.

"The only difference between me and a real pitmaster is the pattern." -- Aaron

Back to Mom's Sticky Caramel Rolls. I am told by our contributor that the rolls do take some preparation time, but are well worth the time and effort. I typically find that the more effort I expend, the better the final product. I'm not sure whether it is the effort itself, the results, or the anticipation of the results that effects "good taste." In fact, Valerie informed me of a second method to improve your culinary results. Valerie's research suggests that it is the Scarlet Threads apron that yields tasty results. (Note that it must be a Scarlet Threads apron, results are not guaranteed while wearing other designers, esp. Williams & Sonoma).

With that in mind, let's explore the recipe.

Mom's Sticky Caramel Rolls

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 C luke warm water
  • 2 pkg. dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 C lukewarm milk
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 C soft shortening (I like butter flavored Crisco)
  • 7 Cups flour
    **See add'l ingredients below for Caramel Sauce and Cinnamon Filling!

Directions

  • Mix 1/2 C luke warm water with 2 pkg. dry yeast, soak for 5 minutes to "proof" without stirring (I swirl the water around in the bowl a little and then after 5 min. stir with a wooden spoon just before adding to the mixture below.)

  • Meanwhile, in another larger bowl mix together 1 1/2 C lukewarm milk, 1/2 C sugar and 2 tsp. salt. Add yeast mixture. Stir in 2 eggs and 1/2C soft shortening. Stir well.

  • Add 7 cups of flour in 2 Cup increments, using just the amount needed to make it easy to handle but a bit sticky. (First stir with a wood spoon and then with your hands when most of the flour has been added.) At some point while adding the flour you're going to think it's gone wrong ... but keep mixing it will turn out! I find having my 1 yr. old hanging off my leg begging for something and the other boys arguing helps me mix and my mind off of how scary it looks at first--heehee!

  • When dough begins to leave the sides of the bowl, turn out onto a lightly floured board to knead. Knead in quarter turns until it is smooth, elastic and doesn't stick to the board. (Quite honestly, I just knead it in the bowl by quarter turns with similar smoothness and it turns out fine without the added mess.)

  • Place in a greased bowl, turning once to bring greased side up. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm spot (80-85 degrees.) until double, about 1.5 to 2 hours. (I turn the oven on to 200 degrees with a shallow pan of warm water on the lower shelf. When at temperature, I place my bowl in the oven on a cookie sheet and SHUT OFF THE OVEN. This makes a nice warm spot for it to rise since we keep our thermostat pretty low most days.)

  • Punch down in the center with your fist, pull edges into the center and turn completely over. Cover again and let rise again until almost double in bulk (30-45 min.)

  • Divide dough into 2 halves, round up and cover. Let rest for 15 min so the dough is easy to handle. Meanwhile, grease 2, 9 x 13 glass pans and then prepare the Caramel Sauce below, splitting it between the two pans. Sprinkle each pan with about 1/2 C chopped pecans.

  • Take one ball of dough and roll out to approx. a 14 x 17 inch rectangular shape (that's the size of my big cutting board.) Sprinkle with half of the Cinnamon Filling recipe below. Roll up tight starting on the long side rolling across to make a long log, pinching together at the ends and seam to seal. Cut into 12 pieces and set in rows onto of the previously prepared pan of caramel sauce. Repeat with the other ball of dough to make two pans of 12 rolls each.

Cover and let rise until light, about 15-20 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Watch closely and make sure they are light/medium brown. Don't under cook! Immediately and carefully turn out upside down onto a foil lined baking sheet. Let cool and enjoy!

Wrapped tight in foil, these freeze great too!


Caramel Sauce

  • 1 C melted butter
  • 1 C brown sugar
  • 1 C pecans, chopped

Melt butter and brown sugar in a pan on stove, pour into 9x13 pans dividing equally. Top with chopped pecans. Place sliced rolls on top and bake.

Cinnamon Filling

  • 4 Tbsp. soft butter
  • 1 C white sugar
  • 4 tsp. cinnamon

Mix together and sprinkle evenly on rolled out dough, roll from the longer side across to make a long roll, slice into 12 pieces (I like to cut it in half and then half again and then into sections of 3 to help make them even.) Bake as directed above.

Buon Appetito!

Eileen

Boxie Goes Postal! And other fun adventure stories.

One of the things the government can't do is run anything. The only things our government runs are the post office and the railroads, and both of them are bankrupt. – Lee Iacocca


It isn’t hard to see why the above quote rings true when you visit your friendly neighborhood post office. As my father often reminds me, however, our USPS is absolutely streamlined and effective when compared to most foreign post offices. For example, in Italy you spend a few dollars to mail an envelope with a 50/50 shot that it will indeed arrive at its final destination. And in that light, please consider the sequel to our original Boxie adventure: “Boxie Goes Postal.”

On the Thursday before Chinese New Year, I couldn’t do anything right! Clearly the “fireworks” of CNY were not in my heart and clearly holiday cheer was not in the hearts of the general public visiting our post office. Isn’t it a fact that the P.O. never has enough workers and so service never appears speedy? (Whether the average P.O. employee goes “above and beyond” is not a topic to be explored in this piece.)

True or False: People at the P.O. generally form commiserative bonds in line due to their collective experience of long waits and dissatisfaction. (Answer: FALSE)

I stood in line for 30 minutes awaiting “mini-boxie” from Perryton (as Jenny aptly named it—perhaps it was made from Boxie’s remains?), which contained our goods for sale at Te House of Tea’s CNY party. The line had not moved. One gentleman had been at the counter for a solid 20 minutes with the clerk making repeated trips to the “abyss” that is the back of the post office only to return with the same question. Being me, I found this dynamic very amusing. So, when the gentleman turned around and looked at the line of people, I smiled and (unfortunately) winked. Then things seemed to come straight out of Hollywood.

{The gentleman, GM, walks directly towards me.}
GM—“You winking at me?!”
{Blushing, with my hands raised in defensive posture.}

Me—“No, sir.”
{Anger in his eyes.}

GM—“I didn’t think so!”

At this point, the random guy (slightly creepy already) next to me decides to diffuse the situation.

RG—“You having a bad day, sir?”
{GM looks directly at me.}
GM—“It’s the trash you see these days.”
{RG to me.}

RG—“I think he is having a bad day.”

This was my first experience with the term “going postal.” Thankfully, he was still handling his affairs at the counter when I left, or I may have had to call Aaron to come pick me up. I have to admit, however, I learned my lesson. No commiserating at a place as frustrating as the post office, and from now on NO WINKING.


The products arrived, the event was excellent, and I learned a lesson. That’s success!!

Eileen

P.S. My brother reminded me that I do have an awkward wink. I’ve never been good at it.

P.P.S. The United States Postal Service does not approve of the term "going postal".



Sunday, February 14, 2010

Fair Trade Event Results!

Te House of Tea, Scarlet Threads, and The Community Cloth Unite!


Te House of Tea, a fair trade tea shop in Houston, invited Scarlet Threads and The Community Cloth to join them for a Chinese New Year/Valentine’s Day event to elevate the fair trade spirit within their shop. More than happy to oblige, no less than six Community Cloth representatives (including two artisans and one very adorable kiddo—can you tell they had the upper hand?) turned out to sell their wares while I represented Scarlet Threads by manning a table laden with Aprons and Tiger Hats that change the World.

Lucky for our organizations, and Te House of Tea, The Loop Scoop ran a piece leading up to Valentine’s Day promising folks a “unique non-corporate” option for Valentine’s. Now, I’m not sure how many people turned out for the actual festivities, but I’m told by an insider at TLS that a number of people read the article. (Yay! Thanks for spreading the word, folks!)

Sunday morning arrived and Aaron and I loaded the car with our products and folding table headed for Te. One member of a University of Houston student finance organization showed up in support along with a student-led microcredit organization from the University of Thomas. Making contacts with these folks, as well as The Community Cloth founders, was possibly even more of a success than selling aprons and tiger hats! Should we choose to expand, I am certain that our friends over at the MicroCredit program will point us in the right direction. And, we discussed potentially partnering with The Community Cloth for future events.

As is typically the case, family and friends of all three operations (Te, SC, and TCC) converged on Te. Aaron, my parents, brother, and dear friend Xindi were all in attendance. Xindi, originally from China, saw our Tiger Hat display and exclaimed, “I used to wear one of those!” Sadly, even though it was a fashion trend that she embraced prior to the age of five, she remained determined not to put one on her head for a sales pitch. Sad day, she would have looked adorable.
Scarlet Threads thanks Te House of Tea for a wonderful day. Our products will be found on a semi-permanent basis at Te starting March 2010. So, if you are in the Houston area, stop in for lunch--1927 Fairview.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tasty Tuesday: Showdown of the Macs and Cheese



Dear Friends,

Carrie and I discussed doing a Tasty Tuesday posting several weeks ago. I must admit that I was SO excited about having an excuse to try new recipes! I usually pick something out of my Julia Child "The Way to Cook," but tonight I needed some comfort food. My favorite being mac and cheese. Pasta snob, I am, but one of my guilty pleasures is Kraft Mac & Cheese. I think that the reason I love it so, is that my mother is an AMAZING chef and never allowed us to have that "boxed junk." Tonight, I'll agree with my mother: Let's go gourmet!

Sniff Sniff, tonight my fiance left me for "the field." Heartbroken though I am, instead of moping around (though, I am doing my fair share of that) I chose to host a competition between two Mac & Cheese recipes that I found on the Food Network. The contenders are Paula Deen's The Lady's Cheesy Mac and Alton's Baked Mac & Cheese.

I may as well warn you, I do not recommend attempting this feat. With two very similar recipes (both halved) under simultaneous preparation with no sous-chef, it is a miracle when it turns out right!

Luckily, success. Both turned out great! Now, obviously both have there good points. There really are no bad points. Paula's recipe is much simpler than Alton's, and tastes simpler. If Mac & Cheese could have a delicate flavor, Paula's would be termed delicate. Alton's has a lot more zest and spice. I'll admit that I was skeptical of the ground mustard, not being a mustard fan in general. However, his Baked Mac and Cheese had great flavor and was much more of a carnival in your mouth than anticipated.


Being not a fan of onions, I removed them from Alton's recipe. Note that many of the comments on the recipe also advise either their removal or reduction. And, instead of panko bread crumbs, I used my own homemade bread crumbs (which are pretty darn simple to make).

As an aside, I started making my own homemade bread crumbs in order to save perfectly good bread that my absolutely amazing fiance bought stale and on sale. Often we'll buy french bread and we can't finish the whole loaf, which is not awesome left over. Since joining the McKean clan I have been on the look out for savings. Surprise surprise I found another efficiency: baking/spicing and food processing. Voila! Bread crumbs. I do hope Allen is proud of me...

Buon Appetito!

Eileen

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Like the Last Piece of Pie

So this is my good friend Caroline and her yummy apple pie.

Anyway, it was de-lish.  I'm sure wearing the Caroline apron had something to do with the final product.  It's a well-known fact that these aprons make everything taste better.  (How's that for false advertising?)

Anyway, I named the Caroline apron for my beautiful friend Caroline, because it is in her favorite colors.  But the sad piece of news I got from our lead seamstress this week is that the fabric market is out of this print.  So, we won't get any new stock of the Caroline...  I'm a little sad, because it was one of my favorites.  But on the other hand, it just means we'll have to do something new!

So, that means if you've been eyeing the Caroline (the apron, not the friend *wink*), you might want to move fast, as we only have about 25 left in stock.  There are still a few more days you can use the IdealValentine coupon code (15 percent off), so now's a great time to buy

It's sort of like a good apple pie... if you wait too long to get your piece, it's all gone.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Home Heating In Our Village

Popping Up All Over

It's fun to see Scarlet Threads popping up in little corners of the web.  I saw these pictures of Gwen's adorable little Tiger, and even found out about a giveaway going on at The Markmiller 5.  (Though, admittedly too late to give you guys a chance to enter. Sigh.)

Sarah, a graduate of our foster home and a terrifyingly cute tigger.

Oh well.  I can't keep up with everything.  But, if you've seen any other little corners of the web where Scarlet Threads has popped up, please let me know!  I'd love to share them with others.

And, we've thought about starting a Tasty Tuesday here at Scarlet Threads, with yummy recipes you can whip up in your favorite apron. I'd love your submissions and suggestions... especially recipes that don't require complicated ingredients, as there is a much better chance that I can try them out in China.

So, for our first Tasty Tuesday recipe, I bring you Grandma Ople's Apple Pie.  I love this recipe!  And Jacob does too, and he doesn't particularly enjoy a traditional apple pie.  It reminds me of caramel apples.  So yummy....