Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Book Review - Sweat Shop Paris

Sweat Shop Paris

I'd never heard of the Sweat Shop in Paris when I saw this book available for review on Netgalley, but it seemed so interesting that I decided to take a look at it anyway.

The book Sweat Shop Paris: Lessons in Couture from the Sewing Cafe by authors Martena Duss and Sissi Holleis begins with the story of how the sewing workshop/coffee shop first came into being.  The Sweat Shop is a place where crafters can gather to exchange ideas and rent machines by the hour to do their crafting.

I'm not sure what I was expecting, but this book is not like any other craft or sewing book that I've seen.  Since my taste runs more to the simple and classic, I probably wouldn't be interested in any of the projects in the book.    However, the book intrigued me because in addition to a sewing section, there was also a section on knitting, a section on customizing pre-made pieces, one on decorating, one on how to use different techniques like weaving leather, another with recipes, and a final one with a guide to sewing, crafting, food, clothing and general useful yet cool places in Paris.

In order to be able to use this book, you'll need to have at least the basic of sewing covered.  I'd say that it might be frustrating for someone who is just starting out.  As far as knitting, I can't judge the difficulty of those projects since I don't knit.

I would say this book is definitely for someone who's interested in the more in and edgy side of DIY and crafting.  All of the projects are unconventional and feature techniques that aren't commonly used. If it just isn't quite your style, that's perfectly ok.  As much as I love Paris, it isn't quite for me either.  I'd suggest clicking through a few of the preview pages on Amazon.  If you like what you see there, then you'll love this book.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The 7 Jewelry Essentials

As most people know, one of the easiest ways to transform an outfit is to add jewelry.  This along with the fact that jewelry is so easy and fun to buy means that most of us end up with a random assortment of jewelry.  Sure, it's fun to have a jewelry box overflowing, but also makes it difficult to find/decide what jewelry to wear.

Having a few pieces of classic jewelry that you know you can wear with most of your clothing makes getting ready easiest.  If you have just a few pieces, you'll be able to invest a little more money and get better quality pieces that will last longer.  As much as I like the trendy pieces places like H&M, this kind of jewelry doesn't have the same weight or feel as nicer jewelry.

I've put together a list of the 7 essential pieces of jewelry that I think would fit well into almost any female's wardrobe.  I tend to buy jewelry slowly waiting until I find pieces that are exactly what I want, so while I have most of these, a few of them are still on my list.

The 7 Jewelry Essentials

1. While pearls are included on almost every list of basic jewelry, they really are perfect for almost any nice occasion.  Besides just having a pearl necklace, I'd also suggest getting pearl earrings and a pearl bracelet as well.  Although you wouldn't wear all three at the same time, you'll have the option of wearing differing combinations.  I find that I can wear pearl earrings on an almost daily basis.

2. The next piece is hoop earrings.  Whether you want gold or silver depends on which metal you wear the most.  One good thing about hoops is that they are easy to wear with both causal and dressy outfits.

3. Another pair of earring that are essential are diamond or rhinestone studs.  These really can be worn with almost any outfit.  Instead of having to spend time in the morning picking out earrings to go with your outfit, you can almost always be certain that these will work with whatever you're wearing which is great when you remember you need earrings as you're running out the door.

4. While the other pieces I've included in this list are fairly basic, costume jewelry can really add personality to an outfit.  One or two pieces of really special costume jewelry can make a neutral outfit into something much more.  Take a look through vintage shops to find your perfect pieces.

5. The next piece is more personal as well.  A charm bracelet isn't exactly a dressy piece, but it is a piece that you can personalize to suit yourself.  You can pick out charms for yourself and add them to create a piece that no one else has.  This kind of jewelry is perfect for causal outfits.

6. If you don't have any of the other jewelry pieces on this list, you still really do need a nice watch.  I know that most people, including me, probably use their cell phones to keep up with the time, but in some places you shouldn't pull out your phone just to check the time.  You should have a watch because being on time is usually important!

7. Finally, I would image that most of you already have the final piece, dangling earrings.  These kinds of earrings are especially good to wear when you have your hair pulled back or in an updo for an elegant look.

Are there any essentials that you think I've left off this list?  I know that it leans heavily on earrings, so for those who don't have pierced ears, there might be some other pieces that are more important.  What do you think?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Chocolate Caramel Hearts

Since it's the first day of February, that means there are about two weeks left until Valentine's Day.  Regardless of whether you enjoy celebrating this day or not, you should certainly try making some of these Chocolate Caramel hearts.

Chocolate Caramel Hearts

I found this recipe in the August 2011 issue of Glamour.  While the instructions suggest using round pans and calls them chocolate caramel minis, I decided to make mine in heart shaped holders instead.

There are three parts to this relatively easy recipe.  It starts with a graham cracker crust, then a layer of caramel, and a layer of chocolate ganache.  I didn't think to take pictures of the process as I was making them except to take a picture as I was making the caramel.  The steps might seem difficult if you've never made caramel or ganache before, but all that you have to do is follow the directions.  I had never made either one before I tried this recipe, and I didn't have any difficulties.

Allow at least 3 and 1/2 hours to make these chocolate caramel pies.  Most of this time will be only require waiting for the different layers to set in the fridge so you can do other things in between each of the steps.

Also, if you don't want to make several small pies, you can make a 9" pie.  For this, Glamour recommends pouring the layer of ganache before the layer of caramel to make it easier to cut.

For the graham cracker crust you will need:
1 1/4 cups crushed graham crackers
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Then, mix together the crackers, sugar, and melted butter.  Divide the mixture into your mini pie pans (mine made 4 mini pies) and press out into a crust.  Place in the fridge to chill for 15 minutes.  Finally, bake for 10 minutes and let cool.

For the caramel you will need:
3 tbsp corn syrup
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp fleur de sel
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp sour cream

Over medium heat whisk corn syrup, sugar, fleur de sel, and water in a sauce pan.  Bring mixture to a boil until the color is a deep amber.  Be patient because this might take some time, but make sure to watch so that you don't overcook here.  Remove the pan from the heat and carefully whisk in the butter, heavy cream, and sour cream until the mixture is smooth.  Pour a layer of caramel into the already baked mini crusts (filling about half way.)  Let this cool for 30 minutes.  Place in the fridge for about 2 hours to let the caramel cool completely.

How to Make Caramel on the Stove
Waiting for the corn syrup, sugar, fleur de sel, and water to turn amber.

For the chocolate ganache you will need:

1/2 cup heavy cream
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate
a little fleur de sel for garnish

Over medium heat, bring the heavy cream to a boil.  Place chocolate in a bowl and pour in hot cream.  Let this sit for one minute.  Then, stir in one direction until smooth.  You will pour a layer of chocolate ganache over the chilled layer of caramel.  Place it in the fridge for an hour to set.  Finally sprinkle with fleur de sel and enjoy.

Your finished chocolate mini hearts should look something like the first picture.  As you can see, I didn't quite manage to get the graham cracker crusts completely perfect, but the taste is so good that it doesn't matter.

I will definitely be making these again!

Update: We've linked this post on The Find Some Love Fest. There are tons of links to cute Valentine's posts and more will be added until February 14th, so check it out!


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