Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tasty Tuesday: Personal Apple Pie

Just let me guess. You're busy, tired and a little bit cold. Fall isn't just 'in the air' anymore, it's here and it's a little bit more chilly than you were anticipating. That's how it is here in Beijing. Summer's over, we get a few weeks of post-hot weather and then - boom, it's cold and colder. 

Of course, there are some fantastic solutions to being cold: warm food, for one. But you're tired... and busy. Here's my solution: fast, easy, warm and comforting food, in the form of a personal pan apple "pie." 

You start with some large English muffins type breads. This is what we can get in China on occasion... I don't know what you have, but the point is to use something that's pre-made and of a soft consistency. 

Next, you're going to toss a bunch of apples (the cheaper kind that have bruises in them... you're going to be mushing these up, so you might as well buy the mushier ones!), chopped, into your rice cooker. Yes, that's right... your rice cooker. This is the magic, folks. The rice cooker does SO much more than you ever thought that it could. Add sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg to taste. The sweeter you want it, the more sugar you should add. 

Turn the rice cooker to "cook" and tape the button down so that it stays "cooking." When you start smelling apples, you know that it's done. Open up the cooker and whisk the apples up a bit so that they're smaller sized, then let them sit for a bit to thicken up.

Now, spoon your apple pie topping onto your toasted bread...

Lovely looking, right? It's a personal pan pie!

Now, enjoy.

It's fast, only taking about 30 minutes from start to finish and that includes about 20 minutes no-hands time! It's easy and it's perfect to fill that Autumn craving for something cinnamon and warm. Try baking apples in your rice cooker today!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Monday Montage: The Rusted Chain

Today's Monday Montage is a lovely shop called The Rusted Chain. Beki, the owner and designer, began making custom jewelry in 2003, and has also been featured in several magazines! She is also a photographer and writer. She does speaking engagements, and in addition to this, she and her family coordinate the Kansas Barn Sale each year, which is a craft and antique festival - the first of its kind in the state! She's been featured on several tv shoes, including The Pioneer Woman! Whew!

Beki has a blog, she's on facebook, she tweets, and she's on pinterest! Most of all though, please look at these amazing pieces in her shop.

You can choose from necklaces, cuff bracelets, earrings, and other fun items. Everything can be customized to your liking, you can have your monogram, your childrens names, a quote, and more! I have a hard time not wanting everything....
Here are a few of my favorites:


My most favorite! I just need to find a few perfect words to use for this---


A few words, in their own words, about The Rusted Chain:

We are about simply inspiring jewelry.
We are about supporting local businesses.
We are about honoring God.
We are about living simply and sweet tea.
We are about fresh cut flowers.
We are about thrift stores, yard sales, and antiques.
We are about bare toes in green grass.
We are about big red barns and mason jars.
We are about savoring small moments in life.
We are about daisies, peonies and fields of sunflowers.
We are about supporting an underdog and giving to charities.
We are about friends, family and fun.


To me, this is perfect.

Just perfect.

Beki is so incredibly generous, and has offered our readers a discount for use in her shop. Use the code SCARLET20 for 20% off your purchase.

Go have a look at her products, I know you'll love them as much as I do!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fabulous Fabric Friday!

I am so excited to show you this!  I had the opportunity to go by one of the local fabric shops and check out the selection.  The shopping for fabric part of the process is probably my favorite part, I mean, who doesn’t love shopping and imagining the possibilities!  But one of the reasons I am particularly excited about this is because here in Indonesia they have a unique fabric that is beautiful and so much fun! 
The type of fabric is called Batik; Indonesia isn’t the only country that does it, but they have their own trademarks that make it special.  
 Here is an example: 
To make Batik, melted wax, usually beeswax or paraffin is applied to the fabric using a tool called a tjanting, which is a wooden handled tool with a tiny metal cup with a tiny spout, out of which the wax seeps.  They also use wax brushed on to a pre-carved wooden or copper block and that is stamped onto the fabric.  Once the wax is applied, the fabric is dipped in dye or several dyes; after the fabric is dried then it is either dipped in solvent to remove the wax without affecting the dye or ironed between sheets of paper.


Here are a few fabric samples that I bought just to get a feel of the wide variety out there. 

 I also bought this table runner at a local Indonesian craft shop; it’s a little short, but I love it! 

 So tell me what you think!  Do you like this type of fabric and what would you want made out of it?!  Do you like the patchwork like the table runner or should we stick to only one fabric? 

Can’t wait to hear from you!  Happy Friday!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tasty Tuesday: Batam, Indonesia Style Lasagna

Truthfully, Indonesia doesn’t have it’s own style of lasagna – the recipe is actually my dad’s, and he’s from Arkansas, but I thought it might be fun to share the ‘joys’ (Note the hint sarcasm) of trying to create a Western meal in an Eastern country.  So here we go:

Step 1: Gather the Ingredients
Meat: Normally, I put some kind of sausage in my lasagna, adds a different flavor to it that I like.  I prefer a Sage or Italian kind, but Indonesia is 80% Muslim, and they believe that pork is an unclean food, so pork products are extremely rare and for all realistic intents and purposes non-existent. 
Second choice then would be hamburger, or minced beef, as they call it here.  Minced beef can be found in 4 of the legitimate grocery stores here (There are 5 total.), but you need to make sure that you go as soon as they open because they let the meat sit out uncovered.  Technically, the grocery stores open at 10 a.m., but realistically, they open whenever they feel like it, so it could be 10:15 or 10:45, but rest assured it will NOT be by 10 a.m.  Also, the highest quality of beef that you’ll get in the grocery store would probably equate to 80/20 – not that it’s marked, it’s a surprise!  Yay! (Note a slightly stronger hint of sarcasm.)
Come to find out, the best place to buy minced beef isn’t a grocery store at all!  It’s the distributorship that supplies the high-end hotels! Of course! (Yet another, slightly stronger hint of sarcasm) Once you have found said distributorship, make sure to call before you go up there, because there is no guarantee that they will have any minced beef available.  If they do, they only sell it in 2-kilogram packs –which for my conversion averse friends is 4.4 lbs per pack. 
Alright! We’ve got 1 ingredient!  Are you having fun yet?
Lasagna Noodles: This one is surprisingly easy; all five grocery stores carry no cook lasagna noodles! Sweet, moving on!
Pasta Sauce: Another surprisingly easy one! All 5 stores carry at least one brand of pasta sauce; so I would say take your pick (of grocery store) and take what you can get (whatever pasta sauce they carry).  I feel like we’re on a roll now.
Spices: I like to jazz up my pasta sauce to my taste, so we’ll need Italian spices, like basil, oregano, thyme, bay leaf, - these are not found fresh anywhere on the island, so we’ll go with the dried version, of which you can find in 2 of the 5 grocery stores and consistently only in one.  I also love garlic, but pre-minced garlic is not in any of the grocery stores, so we’ll buy a couple of cloves and get ready to have sticky, garlic-y fingers.
Fresh Veggies: I also like to pack my lasagna with good veggies.  The only lasagna worthy vegetable found in the groceries is carrots; I have found celery two times in the 3 months that I’ve lived here, but I wouldn’t count on it.  So in order to get good fresh veggies, we must go to the market, the Wet Market as the locals call it.  It is an open aired market that offers everything – fruits and vegetables, fresh beef, fish, chicken, etc.,  and when I say fresh, I mean caught or butchered this morning and hanging out on the table; they do try to cover the fish in ice, but the whole (head and claws included) chicken and half a cow are just sitting out on a table.  So go early in the morning, wear closed-toe shoes, and be prepared to haggle because they will triple the price because of lack of Indonesian language skills.
Mozzarella Cheese: 2 of the 5 groceries carry mozzarella cheese; one of which carries pre-shredded cheese, but it is literally 3 times more for one cup of pre-shredded cheese than for a ball of mozzarella cheese, so get out your cheese shredder (which you brought with you from America because they don’t sell them on the island either).
Ricotta Cheese: 1 of the 5 stores sells ricotta cheese, but unfortunately it’s not consistent, so let’s just hope we get lucky the day we go shopping!
Parmesan Cheese: Fresh Parmesan cheese is not sold on the island, for that you will need 4 hours and a ferry ticket to Singapore – and keep in mind that Singapore is the 5th most expensive city in the world.  If you are willing to settle for bottled Parmesan cheese, it cannot be found in any of the grocery stores; it can be found at a grocer distributorship – not the same one that you bought the meat at, mind you, a second one.  

Alright, I think we have finally scavenged for all of our ingredients!  To summarize: We went to the fresh Wet Market first thing in the morning, then to 2 grocer distributorships, and 5 grocery stores. 

Step 2: Order Delivery from Pizza Hut (Yay!) because you’re too tired from running around all day to cook!  Ha! 

Now after all that, I wouldn’t leave you without a proper recipe! So below is my dad’s version of lasagna, Enjoy and Thanks Dad!

Italian or Sage Sausage – about 1 pound
Lasagna noodles – cooked according to directions if not “No Cook”
Large Jar of Pasta Sauce
Chopped Garlic – to taste
Seasonings (basil, oregano, thyme, etc.) fresh or dried – to taste
Fresh chopped Veggies – like carrot, zucchini, and eggplant
Mozzarella Cheese – 3 to 4 cups, shredded
Ricotta Cheese – to taste
Parmesan Cheese – to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Brown sausage, drain grease.  Add pasta sauce, spices and chopped veggies and garlic. Heat on medium until heated through then simmer on low for as long as you want; my dad normally simmers his all day to let all the flavors come together, but 30 minutes is just fine too. 
In a rectangular oven dish, spoon a little of the pasta sauce in to the bottom of the dish and spread evenly – this helps the lasagna not stick to the dish.  Then place a layer of lasagna noodles on top of the sauce, then add another layer of sauce, then add a layer of mozzarella cheese and ricotta cheese, then a layer of noodle, a layer of sauce, then mozzarella and parmesan cheese – continue like this until you reach the top of the dish.  Finish off with a layer of mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese. 
Bake at 350 degrees F for about 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on how deep your dish is. 

I don’t have a photo of this lovely recipe, (I was too tired to make it, remember – I should have taken a photo of the Pizza Hut box!  HA!) so I will leave you with a photo of lovely Batam!

Cheers and Enjoy!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Monday Montage: Kathryn Schauer Photography

Sometimes Mondays can be tough, so let me help brighten your day with gorgeous photos from Kathryn Schauer Photography.  Once upon a time ago, Kathryn did a little work for Scarlet Threads to help us showcase our little beauties.  Here is an example of her handiwork for us a few batches ago:

Since then Kathryn has focused her work on her two passions: kiddos and pets.  She is currently donating some of her time towards taking photos of adoptable pets in shelters to help them find their forever homes.  She is also a member of Hearts Speak (http://www.heartsspeak.org/ ), which is a collaboration of photographers, artists, etc. who work together to reduce the number of adoptable pets who are unnecessarily euthanized each year. 
Here is a sampling of her work:

Beautiful aren’t they! 

For our Scarlet Threads clients interested in hiring Kathryn, she is offering a discounted session fee of $50 (regularly $125), and she is also going to donate 10% of total purchases back to the Scarlet Threads Adoption Grant Fund!  Simply mention Scarlet Threads when you contact her. 

And here’s how! 

Here’s one more to part with!  Happy Monday!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunday Snapshot: Meet Deng Jie

I'd like to invite you all into Deng Jie's home...

Pardon the vines, and come into the open door. Deng Jie is probably in the back room, her sewing machine humming away, creating something lovely. She'll come out as soon as she hears that you have arrived. And tell you that of course you haven't bothered her, she's happy to see your new ideas, and hear the latest Scarlet Threads plans.

There's a good likelihood that Deng's husband is also in the room, helping her with whatever she's busy with at the moment. He puts buttons on, hems and pulls seams. They work as a team when he's not out driving or working and really seem to have a great relationship.

Deng and her husband have two children, one is grown and their young son goes to school nearby. In the last  year, Deng Jie became a grandma! She looks after her little granddaughter on occasion, and the other day when I was at Deng's, her granddaughter was taking an afternoon nap... check out the little quilt that she's sleeping under! Recognize the fabrics? 

Deng is amazing at shopping for fabric. She can get the best deals and knows just how much fabric to buy to make the aprons in our shop. 

And then, after buying pounds upon pounds of fabric (which her husband kindly helps to carry when he joins us on the fabric trips), Deng sorts it and it sits in her home in piles... lovely, lovely piles. 

As Deng gets to work on making aprons, there is a continual pile of scraps in the corner. 

...but the final product of all of this mess is pure loveliness!

One of the other things that Deng Jie does during the day is breed little bunny rabbits. She has a few older males and females and lots and lots of little babies who she sells when they get big enough.

 Aren't the babies adorable?

Oh, and did ya'll know that Deng Jie and Huan Mei are next door neighbors? Beautiful ladies, indeed.

Have a happy Sunday and don't forget to stop by the shop and pick up some of Deng Jie or Huan Mei's lovely creations. They would make amazing Christmas gifts, wouldn't they?!

Ni Hao Yall