Earl Grey Cupcakes

Man-o-man I love earl grey tea. I drink two huge mugs in the afternoon at work and at least one regular sized one in the evening. I'm pretty sure I'm an addict.

So it was no wonder that I got excited when I stumbled upon an Earl Grey Cake on Pinterest. The recipe is from the adorable Hummingbird High blog.

It made the most gorgeous cupcakes.

Now, technically, it is a lemon cake with meringue earl grey frosting. Yes, I said meringue, and no, it wasn't hard.

Part of making the meringue is to pour hot tea into the whipped egg whites. Like magic it transformed into easily the prettiest frosting I have ever seen in my life. So shiny with a tinge of grey. The next time I would have probably steep the tea even stronger, maybe even overnight. It had a hint of earl grey, but my addiction requires a punch.

The lemon cake was fine.

I'm sure my blasé attitude about that part was just me. I have a problem loving lemon cake. I love lemon flavor in almost anything, but in cake it can be kind of weird. It punches up the taste of the eggs and then all I can taste is eggs. I know, I'm an oddball. Everyone else in my house thought it was just fine.

There is something about these dainty cupcakes that make me feel super ladylike. Like I could slap on a string of pearls and have you over for a cup (not a mug) of tea.


Jewels of Denial

Today Alex is a bit under the weather. But lucky you...I found this great post of hers from a couple years ago that deserved another look. Enjoy!

I was an artistic kid. Right on through college, my focus was on art, in some form. Sometimes it was drawing (I'm pretty mediocre), sometimes pottery (also mediocre), some art history, and eventually interior design.

Then I got married, had a baby and, suddenly, didn't have time to sit around a contemplate the mysteries of  cerulean blue or Basquiat. In 18 months, all my dreams of being a boho artist in NYC were dashed.

Interestingly though, creativity can't be killed. It will bubble to the surface somehow, someway. For me, it came out in cooking. I had to cook every day and I discovered that I could get pretty creative with recipes. As a result of years of playing around in the kitchen, I'm a confident and decent cook who will, often, take risks with good results.

Once my son was in high school and fed himself most of the time (Easy Mac and potato chips, mostly), I found myself in need of a new creative outlet. In my neighborhood, there was a bead shop that had the most enticing front window filled with a gorgeous array of semi-precious stones and stunning finished jewelry. After a number of weeks of window gazing, I finally screwed up the courage to go inside. I wandered around, entranced by the colors and shapes, and was pleased to find that a strand of semi-precious stones isn't all that expensive. I also discovered that (like most craft shops) the staff was completely willing to help me learn whatever I wanted to learn. I had found my new muse.

Cassandra and I have spoken before about the siren song of craft supplies. When one starts a new craft, it's very easy to become enthralled by it and want to buy all the gorgeous bits that go with the new hobby. With beaded jewelry-making, very few tools are actually needed but it's not unusual to fall into the abyss of beads. As I mentioned, even semi-precious stones (including pearls) are pretty inexpensive when viewed individually. It isn't until you have a rubbermaid container full of them and realize that it's a few hundred dollars worth that the depth of the obsession comes to light. Like with yarn, there comes a point where I had to put a moratorium on bead buying. The rule (for all my crafts) is, "Supplies can only be bought with a specific project planned."

Another issue was that, while I enjoyed the action of making jewelry, I'm not an active wear-er of jewelry. I created hundreds of necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and more - sometimes even specifically FOR myself - but rarely, if ever, wore them. I'm not a big jewelry fan. I like it on other people and I like to wear things that belonged to my grandmother or mother but, in general, I wear the same silver hoop earrings and single silver ring every day. So, for the most part, I just gave it all away as gifts. Eventually, I stopped doing this craft because I figured people were sick of getting my jewelry for every gift-giving opportunity.

A rosary made by me
So, I'm left with a big box of beads, good tools, and an occasional desire to break it all out and start again. I won't get rid of my supplies because the day will come when someone wants a necklace for a wedding or a specific pair of earrings and I'll be able to make these items without having to re-invest in the hobby. Plus, every once in a while, I love just looking at the beautiful beads and imagining what they could become.

- Alex

Feather Quilt Block

I am a super-fan of Anna Maria Horner. I love her fabrics, patterns, and books soooo much. So, needless to say, I let out a little bit of a squeal when I saw her Feather Bed Quilt pattern for the first time. So clever, so colorful, sigh.

If you follow us here at Mighty Distractible at all, you will know that I like designing my own quilts very much. So, sadly, I couldn't see myself following her beautiful quilt pattern anytime soon - until I started design on Little Bear's big-boy-bed quilt. His room is nature-themed, so a few feather blocks were right at home in the design. Four to be exact.

The feather blocks measure out to 9x18, so I used them as big, bold accents. Below you can see my design in-progress:

I was so excited to piece these blocks that they were literally the first thing I tackled on this quilt. They are done and laying on a table all pressed, just waiting to take their place in the big design. As I work on the other blocks for this quilt, I will admit to stopping to admire my feathers about every hour or so. Crazy, huh? But I just love them.

wait for it....wait for it...

yay! a feather!

The pattern was very clear, easy to follow, and the templates provided pieced together perfectly. This was the first time I ever actually sewed a block that was cut from printed out pattern pieces (as opposed to blocks like a log cabin or propeller). It has sort of opened up a whole new design thing for me. I would love to try my hand at designing a quilt block of this sort. Curiously, the whole process kind of reminded me of garment sewing.

I'm sure there is more to come on my quilt as it comes to life. Stay tuned....


PS - Did I mention that Anna (I like to think we are on a first-name basis now) is giving her Feather Bed Quilt pattern (and tons of others) away for FREE?

Vintage MD: Bonafide

We continue this week with another vintage post. Let your craft flag fly, high and proud!


Monday, September 20, 2010


“Craft is the word of the decade,” says Murray Moss, founder of the design gallery Moss in New York. “It went from having the most pejorative meaning to being embraced.”

photo courtesy of Die Hipster Die!
Crafting has been enjoying a resurgence in recent years. Some view it as a desire to connect with our past, or a movement to a 'softer' aesthetic, or, simply, an extension of the hipster milieu - like ironic facial hair on men. There are, as with all things that reach a tipping point, myriad theories for "why."

Perhaps it's our attempt to hold on to something "real" as our society moves farther and farther into the world of information and technology. Crafting recalls our history. Crafting results in a single, finished, imperfect product and adds a bit of beauty to the world. Crafting creates something that can't be digitized or duplicated.

Our great-grandmothers did these activities out of necessity. Frugality was the primary reason to learn to cook, bake, sew, knit, etc. But there was also a cultural need. Cooking and baking were part of the woman's "job" and women used crafting as a way to stay busy and to socialize. Sewing, knitting, or quilting in a group was a great way to spend an afternoon gossiping with the girls.

Today, frugality doesn't even come into the equation. It's rarely, if ever, cheaper to make something by hand - including a meal. Cheap knit goods from China, fast food restaurants on every corner, and mass production, means that crafting today is exclusively about aesthetics and the pleasure of creating. Interestingly, this dynamic has also created a  big gap in the perceived value of  hand-created items. A "non-crafter" has no real sense of the time, effort, and cost associated with that gift they just got or that cool piece they just saw at the shop. For the crafter, that misunderstanding of the "value" of the finished item can represent a huge blow to the ego. When you spend three months knitting a baby blanket for someone ("every stitch is knit with love!") it's tough to see it given the same reaction as the one purchased from a big-box store.

I'd like to think that, as crafting becomes more widespread and legitimized, more people will recognize the beauty and value in hand-crafted items. I got my first taste of legitimacy when I saw the movie Handmade Nation at our local film festival. But, it was an indie film with a narrow release so it really wasn't changing too many perceptions. Today, however, the Wall Street Journal Magazine helped us take a great leap forward. In the story titled "A Gripping Yarn," the WSJ editors explore the phenomenon of neo-crafting in regard to home furnishing and interior decoration. It's an intriguing article in both the subject matter (knitted chairs??) and the validity it gives to the crafting movement.

For me, personally, this article represents the moment that my hobby became bonafide - legitimate and beyond scorn from those who give me "the look" when I knit in public. Now, if the NY Times will just do an in-depth article on the cost and effort to create something from scratch, maybe my sister will stop looking at my "homemade" gifts as though they're dead rats.

– Alex

What's Going On?

Over here in Mighty Distractible country...yeah, well...lots of stuff is happening. Some good, some not so good. Alex is dealing with an unexpected and relatively major health issue and I'm dealing with some intense health issues of a family member. As I'm sure many of you are aware, this can suck the time and fun out of your day. It's a distraction that neither of us is too keen on.

But, like so many of our readers, craft is our sanctuary. So, during our bumpy patches we are still making - or we'd probably lose our minds! Here are some snapshots of my crafty world over the past couple weeks...

So, please have patience with us as we focus on other things for a bit. We'll continue to post as we can - hopefully at least once a week. If nothing else, we'll re-post some vintage MD which can be a lot of fun. Keep us in your thoughts, please.


Vintage MD: Summer Recipes

Cassandra and I are both having a bit of a rough week. Nothing to get too worried about but enough of a distraction to keep us from blogging properly. So, we're going to take a very short break (we'll probably be back to normal by next week) and regale you with some vintage posts. 

Today's re-post is one of my favorites from last year - a collection of some of my classic summer recipes. We have a few weeks left before it's autumn, right?? 

Thanks for your patience, friends. 

- Alex


Original post date: Monday, June 4, 2012

Summer Chow

Summer food is the most glorious thing - especially if you try to prepare things "seasonally" as the garden matures. It's been a while since we've posted recipes here at Mighty Distractible and, as it turns out, both Cassandra and I had the same idea for our posts this week! Maybe we really have started sharing a brain.

So, consider the next few posts our homage to summer cooking. Whether you prefer cold salads or stuff hot off the grill, we'll have something to entice you and, hopefully, recipes you'll add to your collection.

Because we live in Wisconsin, a lot of the older homes (mine is 104 years old) don't have air conditioning. I heard that audible gasp... I have a large window unit that I ran for exactly four days last year. I also have ceiling fans and my house is cooled by the large shade trees in the front yard. However, the house is still too warm to eat like it's winter time. I'm rarely looking for heavy comfort foods in the summer so I have my collection of warm-weather recipes that I can whip up quickly and have in the refrigerator for snacking at a moment's notice.

Here are a few that I hope you'll enjoy.

Orzo Salad
(stolen from my dear friend, Johanna)

1 lb of orzo
1/4 C chopped green onion
1/4 C chopped kalamata olives
1/4 C quartered cherry tomatoes
 A handful of pine nuts
1/2 C chopped fresh spinach
1/4 C Feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 C olive oil
crushed garlic (1-2 cloves
Lemon juice (optional)

This makes a BIG batch that's perfect for a picnic, a potluck, or to keep in the fridge for the week.

While the orzo is cooking (follow package direction and don't cook it past al dente), crush the garlic and put it in the olive oil to soak. Prepare all the vegetables and set aside. When the orzo is done cooking, drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Put the orzo in a bowl and mix in all the vegetables, pine nuts, and cheese. Reserving the olive oil, strain the garlic out of it (now you have garlic-flavored olive oil). Mix in the olive oil and a little salt (the olives and feta are both salty so you shouldn't need much). Add a squeeze of lemon juice to brighten the flavors up a bit. Done!

This salad gets better the longer it sits. Make it early in the day and put it in the fridge for dinner. The flavors will mix and the salad will take on a whole new dimension. Also, be creative with the quantities. If you like more of a particular vegetable, put more in! This is an easily adjustable recipe depending on your tastes.

Beet Salad
(adapted from a local restaurant item - hopefully they won't sue)

This recipe is written for a single serving. Multiply it as necessary.

2 medium-size roasted beets (you can use pickled beets for a different flavor)
1 big handful of arugula
1/8 C coarsely chopped walnuts
1/8 C crumbled blue cheese (gorgonzola is good too)
1 small handful of dried cranberries
Balsamic vinaigrette

Dice the beets into bite-sized pieces. Mix all the ingredients and dress with the vinaigrette. That's it.... Great combo of flavors.

My Ex-Mother-in-Law's Perfect Potato Salad
(Thanks Joan!)

This is written for a small batch of salad.

One of the secret ingredients
3 lbs of red potatoes (Joan used some other kind - I don't remember - but I like the reds)
1 medium sweet onion (preferably Vidalia), chopped
1/2 C sweet pickle relish
A touch of Miracle Whip

Peel and quarter the potatoes. Cook in boiling water until a fork easily goes through a large piece of potato. DO NOT OVERCOOK or you'll end up with mashed potatoes. :)  Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot. Mix in the chopped onion and the sweet pickle-relish - coating the potatoes as much as possible. Leave the potatoes alone until they cool to room temperature (about an hour). You can stir them a couple of times to help the cooling along.

Once the potatoes are room temperature, add your mayonnaise and Miracle Whip. This is where it gets dicey... I've never measured the amount. I like my potato salad really creamy so, if I had to guess, I'd say I add about 3/4 C of mayonnaise and about 1/4 C Miracle Whip. That's the ratio you want - 3 parts mayo to 1 part Miracle Whip. You'll have to play with it though and decide how much you like...  Add salt to taste.

Optional - add some diced hard-boiled egg. I don't care for it but some folks like the added texture.

Orange Blossom Lemonade
(idea stolen from a local restaurant - hopefully they won't sue)

So, this is a bit of a cheat. I don't have a juicer and am not willing to make lemonade from scratch. If you are, go for it. If not, you can do it my lazy way.

1 can of good frozen lemonade - without pulp. I like Cascadian Farms Organic.
1 T orange blossom water (can be found at stores that have a good selection of ethnic foods - used a lot in Middle Eastern cooking)

Prepare lemonade as directed. Should make two quarts. Add orange blossom water - adjust (add more) if necessary to achieve a nice balance of lemon and orange. Serve over ice.

ENJOY! - Alex

Friday Finds: KnitPicks

Cassandra and I have had a long, happy relationship with KnitPicks. They've provided yarn support for most of our original designs and we go back again and again for personal supplies. I say this upfront so as to be totally honest about our love for this company.
While I do strongly believe that we should support our local yarn shops - especially those that carry local, "small batch" yarns - sometimes you just need a lot of choice or a price that doesn't break the bank, without sacrificing quality. This is where KnitPicks shines.

To this day, I am consistently amazed by the quality of KnitPicks yarns. It's always lovely to work with and beautifully dyed. I just swoon over the Harmony laminated birch wood needles with their layers of gorgeous color and super-pointy tips. Of course, they have patterns for sale but, even better, you can buy KnitPicks-exclusive patterns that are designed by their in-house designers! A lot of the patterns are also made available as kits - which great for two reasons: 1) you don't have to try to figure out which yarn to buy and 2) it's a good deal. I'm pretty sure you save some cash (especially if the kit is on sale) buying this way. And, no matter what you need for your project bag, tools, accessories, books and more, KnitPicks will have a great quality, great priced version.

I just bought this kit! Gorgeous!
KnitPicks mission is to provide quality, affordable yarns (and supplies). So, in keeping with that, they rarely do sales, unless it's to purge stock at the end of a season, because they're yarn is already quite inexpensive for the quality and choice that you get. However, right now, they're having a 40% off yarn sale so I'm adding to my stash in a bad way. Check out the Palette yarn... 

100% Peruvian wool, fingering weight.

It comes in ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY beautiful colors. Seriously. Makes me want to buy it all.

Also, they recently lowered the prices on a bunch of their needles - some as much as 26%. Makes me wonder if they're coming out with something new... Squee! Btw, their interchangeable circulars are really terrific, with a nice, smooth join and pliable cord. 

So... since most of you were probably already aware of KnitPicks, I hope that my evangelizing wasn't too annoying. When I find something I love, I really do want to tell the world. :)

- Alex

PS - They also have a killer blog and podcast!!