Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Drapes of Wrath's Guide to PAX

Today we're going to stray from vintage knick-knackery and sewing to venture down the path less traveled into the realm of geekery. This weekend the Penny Arcade Expo hit the Seattle Convention Center, and being the nerds we are, we had to go. This is our third year attending the convention and we present to you, our loyal readers, a step by step guide to:
Step 1. "Constant vigilance" - Mad Eye Moody
PAX tickets sell out within days, or even hours, of going live (which happens 3 months before the event is to be held). So if you plan to attend you better have a game plan and cat-like reflexes. Pay close attention to announcements about when tickets will go on sale, and be ready with Eye of the Tiger on loop the morning sales open up.
Step 2. Secure Lodging
Even if you are lucky enough to live in Seattle (like we do) and could travel to PAX daily, we highly recommend making hotel reservations within walking distance of the Convention Center. Standing around in line to play video games may not sound like a tiring activity, but considering the average activity level of video game connoisseurs, even a single day at PAX can be exhausting. Having your own clean bed to nap in is greatly preferable to the vast expanses of multicolored bean bags, glistening with the sweat of who knows how many other gamers.
Public Health Hazard?
Step 3. Appropriate Attire
Seriously. You'll be sorry if you don't.
Ladies, check out this guide from Girls Are Geeks to answer the age of question: "What shall I wear??"

Step 4. Bring Your Camera
People spend all year preparing their costumes for PAX, and other conventions, and greatly appreciate their hard worked being admired in the form of endless praise and photos.

Those are just a few things to keep in mind, but the most important is to keep and open mind and have fun. There are countless demos, tournaments, workshops and concerts to go to. And remember: 90% of the people in attendance are just as shy as you, so make some new friends in these three days of judgement-free, uninhibited fun spent away from the mouse, keyboard or controller. For more pictures visit our Facebook page.
A special thanks to John Gross for encouraging and facilitating our ensured attended to PAX for the last three years.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Digital Scrap-Booking Adventure & Giveaway!

For all the crafting I do, and I have done a fair amount of crafting in my day, one of the things I hadn't even attempted was scrap-booking. I think I was mostly just intimidated by the scrap-booking isle, there are so many different papers and stickers and they certainly aren't cheap. The solution is our giveaway prize: My Memories Suite. This is a pretty nifty little program especially for a) a nerdy person like myself and b) for someone new to scrap-booking.
Drapes of Wrath calender in the future? We shall see...

First of all, it's got an extremely forgiving learning curve. It hardly took any time at all to get a hang of the interface and get going. The first thing I made, using some of the free downloads from their site, is this cute calendar. It was a snap to put together, print out, and stick that baby up on my fridge.

The actual digital scrap-booking tools are likewise, very easy to use. You can use some of the default layouts, or start from scratch. I whipped up
this Drapes of Wrath portfolio style page using a default layout, you simply click on the boxes and select a picture from your files. Once you have the pictures in you can choose a background, either and image of your own, or any of the different paper styles available. There are tons of downloadable papers and embellishments, which are like digital stickers for your projects.

You can really do pretty much any kind of project with this program, posters, cards, calender, and of course: scrap-booking. You can share your albums online, burn them to CD and print them out. I even created these cute new thank you cards that match our website style for us to include in our apron packaging. Believe me when I tell you that I am not a skilled scrap-booker and I managed to create all this stuff in just an afternoon of trying this scrap-booking software.

Now on to the best part, the rewards for all of you! Below you can use the Rafflcopter giveaway plugin to enter for a free copy of the My Memories Suite. And for everyone, you can use the code:  STMMMS91230 for $10 off My Memories Suite and a $10 coupon for downloads from their store.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Mandy's Bytes: "Nuts to Your Fruit" Zucchini Muffins

Zucchini bread is one of my favorite baked goods, it's usually on the healthy side, while still being a borderline dessert food. Cami and I whipped up this recipe in loaves a while back and I thought that it would make delicious muffins for a quick breakfast snack.

"Nuts to Your Fruit" Zucchini Muffins:
2 cups grated zucchini is about 1 and a half medium zucchinis
- 3 cups flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 3 large eggs
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups grated zucchini
- 2/3 cup canola oil
- 2 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1 20oz can crushed pinapple, drained
- 1 cup dried cranberries  - 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Next you'll need to grate the zucchini
No shredded fingers here!
using the large holes of a cheese grater, be careful not to grate your fingers. I managed to escape unharmed this time around.

Which is more than I can say for Cami, but we'll get to that later.

Next you'll want to combine the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon. Whisk all these ingredients together and set aside, for now.

Be mindful when measuring your flour to lightly scoop flour into the measuring cup with a spoon and level the top. You never want to scoop with the measuring cup or shake it to level, the bread will turn out very heavy, and not very tasty.

Then you'll need to beat the eggs with a mixer on medium until they are foamy. To the foamy eggs add the grated zucchini, sugar, oil, and vanilla.
 Blend these ingredients until well mixed, then add in the pineapple. Mix it until well distributed in the batter.

This is where things got a little crazy for us. Due to Cami having a bit of a disagreement with the pineapple can, I don't have any pretty pictures of adding the pineapple.

Remember kids: cans are sharp.
Or of adding the dry ingredients you whisked together earllier and mixing until just combined (which is the next step by the way). Instead I have only the photo evidence of Cami's battle wound. The kitchen is a dangerous place.

All that's left now is to add the cranberries and pecans into the batter. Now you don't have to use cranberries and pecans, you can use any kind of dried fruit or nut you like. Fold your fruits and nuts into the batter until they are evenly dispersed.
Fill those babies up to the top!

You have another choice at this point, you can make muffins, like we did. Just put muffin papers in two standard size muffin tins, this batch will make about 24 muffins. Fill the cups with 1/3 a cup of batter, it doesn't rise much so it's okay for them to be on the full side.

Or you can make two loaves using 9x5 inch loaf pans. Spray the pans with cooking spray and split the batter evenly between them.

Either way you're going to bake them at 325 degrees for 50 minutes to an hour, or until a toothpick or wooden skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
I pity the fool who don't let 'em cool!

Now you may be tempted at this point to devour these as soon at they are cool enough to touch, you must resist!  You have to let them cool completely or you will find yourself trying to claw the remains of a disemboweled muffin out of the wrapper. This is messy, and only lets you enjoy about 60% of the muffin.

Once they've cooled though they are a delicious treat to eat for breakfast. Or for eating three of while you blog....  Enjoy!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Goodwill to Good Lookin': 1970's Floral Napkins

I'm going to be honest here and admit that, between the two of us, Cami is most certainly the master of the sewing machine while I am more proficient with the serger. So it is with pride that I present our latest Goodwill to Good Lookin' project during which I conquered my fear of sewing.
This apron started out with a set of twelve of these beyond awesomely retro napkins that we found at Goodwill. The colors are so fun, a classic 70's palette, but still so bright! It's hard to find vintage linens that aren't faded beyond recognition, but these were in perfect condition. And they were ideal for our Camilla aprons, which feature a three handkerchief design.
The most challenging part for me was getting the decorative stitch settings of the sewing machine to put on fabric what I had imagined, and seen Cami do without a second though so many times. After sewing many a line on my sample scraps I finally got it just right. I used a tight zig-zag to stitch the napkins together and form the pockets, and finished it off with a cute vine stitch at the waist band.
The finished product in our shop.
After quite a bit of frustration, and maybe some cursing, the apron came out looking adorable. I have a special place in my heart for this color scheme, (blame it on our old kitchen growing up: dark cabinets, orange counters, orange floor) something about the orange and yellow and chocolate brown just draw me in. You can view the listing for this apron in our shop here.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Weekly Vintage + Treasury in Yellow

Life gave us lemons this week, only in a good way! For our weekly vintage today I wanted to share my favorite new item in the Behind the Drapes shop, this totally cute set of bowls that look like lemons.
Vintage Yellow Lemon Bowls
They even have the little seeds rising up out of the bottom of the bowl, and the dimpled citrus look to the sides. I can just image eating rainbow sherbert out of these on a hot summer day. Bright yellows seemed to be on everyone's mind this week and our Pansy Ruffle Half Apron was featured in a treasury full of two of my favorite colors: purple and yellow!

We are currently working on our first ladies Custom Goth Apron, which I am very excited about, and are also still plugging away on the great organization overhaul. Expect more updates soon, and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Mandy's Bytes: Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies

The majority of baking I've done lately has been cake. I had birthday cake at the end of last month. Then I was given a dozen fresh eggs from the family I work with, so I made another cake. When I decided to bake again, I'd had quite enough cake. I went looking for something different, and when I found this phenomenal combination of red velvet cake and cream cheesiness over at Sweet Pea's Kitchen I knew I had to make them.
Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies:
- 1/2 cup butter
Not Pictured: Butter and Salt (because I was just so excited)
- 2-oz dark chocolate
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 tsp red food coloring
- 2/3 cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 8-oz cream cheese, room temp.
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Start off by preheating the oven to 350 degrees, and coat a 13x9 inch baking pan with cooking spray or butter. After the pan is prepared the first step is to melt the butter and dark chocolate in a small heatproof bowl.
Attempting this step was when I realized that a Hersey's Special Dark chocolate bar, is not quite 2 oz, so I had to supplement with some semi-sweet chips. I found it was best to microwave the mixture for 30 second increments, stirring in between, for about a minute and a half. It will be a very watery consistency when it's fully melted. Set this aside to cool for a bit.
Definitely not red yet...  hmmm....
Next beat together the sugar, vanilla, red food coloring and two of the eggs. I used gel food coloring because I couldn't find liquid, and I had to use an awful lot. The mixture still ended up looking this orange-pink color, and not very red at all.
Once the sugar and egg mixture is well combined, add in the melted chocolate. Make sure to stir it well and mix in any leftover chunks of chocolate that may have escaped the melting process. After beating the two together it finally gets the dark redish color that I was expecting all along.
Finally you want to add the flour and salt and stir it in until there are no more streaks of flour in the bowl. Once well mixed, pour the batter into the buttered pan. To me, it seemed like a pretty thin layer, and if you want a thicker brownie you might try a 9x9 inch pan instead.
Once the cake batter is in the pan the cheesecake mixture is very simple to make. Simply beat together all the remaining ingredients: the cream cheese, remaining sugar and vanilla, and the last egg. Beat these on a medium setting until the mixture is smooth, there might be a few persistent clumps of cream cheese but as long as they are small it's okay.
Action shot!
Evenly disperse the cream cheese mixture across the top of the batter in dollops. The original recipe said 8 dollops, I would suggest around 12 or so medium spoonfuls, since the cream cheese is heavy and has a tendency to sink into the batter.
Once all the cream cheese is on the batter, use a knife of the edge of your spatula to make a pretty swirling pattern all over the pan. Just don't over do it, with swirling, there can be too much of a good thing, and if you go crazy you'll just end up with pink brownies.
Bake them for 35-40 minutes or until the edges are slightly browned, and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let them cool a bit and dig in! These are just right if you're looking for a sweet treat with cream cheese that isn't too heavy.
We finally got all the supplies for Operation Pegboard so I should be posting about that in the next week or so. Happy baking!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Up-Cycling Treasuries + Giveaway Winner!

This week has been a little slow aside from hosting our first giveaway, but you can look forward to pictures of some awesome new vintage look this weekend. And we might even have *gasp* a new apron! (I know it's been a shamefully long time since we had one of those.)

For starters I wanted to share a couple of really cool Up-cyclers Team treasuries that we were featured in this week, and then we'll get on to announcing the giveaway winner! Oooh exciting! The first one I love just because it's called "Up!' which is one of my favorite movies.

The second collection more than lives up to it's title of "Ingenious Stuff" with some really unique and creative up-cycled products like a set of garden tool up-cycled from old ski poles, how neat!

Finally, I'm happy to announce that the winner of our Apron Giveaway is Jenny who runs the shop A Bird In the Hand Art. Jenny is the winner of the lovely Build Me Up, Buttercup apron! Congratulations!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Shortchanged on Summertime

Now I'm not going to complain too much because I know everywhere esle but here has been crazy hot this summer, but the lack of summery weather inspired me for this weeks Treasury Non-Team Challenge. The treasury embodies the feel and colors of fall, which I'm sure will come all together too soon, as always.

To be fair though, I actually really like fall so across the board I'm not really too disappointed with how things are shaking out.
PS. Don't forget to enter our giveaway for a chance to win a free apron!

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Care and Keeping of Nonstick Pans

Last week was my birthday, and one of the presents I got was a very much needed set of new nonstick pots and pans. My old set was purchased from Ross and had seen some pretty poor treatment during the two years I spent living with 6 roommates. Roommates who apparently didn't have a clue how to use a nonstick pan without ruining it.
The victim, with the offending utensils.
So as I was taking my new set of pans out of the box I made a vow to keep them in tip top condition, for as long as possible. I've compiled a list here of the top five tips I've discovered for taking care of your pans.

1. Washing Your Nonstick Pans
- I've put washing at #1 because, when you get a new pan, that's the first thing you should do. Seems pretty logical, right? You don't know whose been touching those pans before they got put in the box, and if the packaging is anything like what mine came in there will be cardboard dust all over them.
- When you wash your pans you want to use hot soapy water and a gentle sponge or scrubber. Avoid using abrasive chemicals or cleaning tools that will scratch the nonstick surface (ie. steel wool).
This picture doesn't do justice to the sparkle of the new pans.
2. Conditioning Your Nonstick Pans
- This topic is different for each brand and type of pan. Some nonstick pans do not need to be conditioned. Others, like mine, do. Read the instructions that come with your pan to determine if conditioning is necessary.
 - To condition your pans coat them with a thin layer of shortening, lard or cooking oil and heat it to let the fat absorb into the porous surface.
3. Storing Your Nonstick Pans
- Pots and pans can be hung from a pot rack or stored in cabinets. However if you are keeping your pans in cabinets, they should not be stacked on top of each other as the picture above shows. They should be stacked with a soft rag or dish cloth between them to keep the bare metal from damaging the surface of the pan below.
4. Using the Right Utensils
Safe, nonstick-friendly utensils.
- One of the fastest ways to ruin a pan is by using the wrong kind of utensils for cooking. The best option is to use silicon spatulas and silicon coated tongs, whisks, etc. Plastic spatulas and spoons are also fairly safe to use on a nonstick pan. The most important thing is to avoid using any metal utinsels, be it a spatula, whisk or even a fork.
5.The "Don't" List.
- Don't put your nonstick pans in the dishwasher. It can wear away the nonstick coating and cause it to flake.
- Don't wash your pans until they have cooled. The rapid temperature change between a hot pan and the water can cause the nonstick to flake, or even warp the pan.
- Don't cut food while it's in the pan. Even if you're just checking for doneness, remove the food to a plate to cut it.
- Don't use aerosol cooking sprays. They leave a residue which essentially turns your nonstick pans to "stick" pans.

I hope you guys find this information useful as you go about your cooking escapades. And while you're here, don't forget to enter our giveaway for a chance to win a free apron!
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