Crafts etc

Crafts etc and Food and General and work (kinda)21 Mar 2010 01:05 am

I once had a pretty great job. (A great job that morphed into an awesome job, in fact.) But, I digress. At the great job I scanned and photographed vintage ephemera. Old scrapbooks, books, cards, diaries. I worked for a research project where we digitized old texts for researchers to use. It was an infinitely interesting job. Sometimes a bit tedious (I come by the nickname Scan Monkey honestly), but still interesting.

Therefore it was with great interest that I checked out the New York Public Library’s digital archives today. They are so much cooler than what I did. What they’ve compiled is a stunning assortment of scans and images from their huge collection, ranging from zoology to science & medicine to “cigarette cards.”

My favourite today is the menus, however. Of course. They all come from one collector: Miss Frank E. Buttolph. Astonishing. From the collection description:

The menu collection originated through the energetic efforts of Miss Frank E. Buttolph (1850-1924), a somewhat mysterious and passionate figure, whose mission in life was to collect menus. In 1899, she offered to donate her existing collection to the Library — and to keep collecting on the Library’s behalf. Presciently, director Dr. John Shaw Billings accepted her offer and for the next quarter century Miss Buttolph continued to add to the collection. Her principal method of acquisition was to write to every restaurant she could think of, soliciting menus. When letters failed, she often marched into a restaurant and pleaded her case in person. She also placed advertisements in trade publications like The Caterer and The Hotel Gazette, but just as often, published news of her collection prompted outright contributions of specimens from around the world.

She collected some 25,000 menus before her death in 1924.

Menu from the Farewell dinner for the Japanese Minister at the Arlington in 1887. I love the champagne and cigarette break.

Menu from the Fourth of July dinner at the Bass Rock Hotel in 1888.

Luncheon en route the R.M.S Oceanic in 1900.

New Year’s Dinner at the Portland (hotel) in Portland, Oregon, 1895.

Daily cafeteria lunch menu at 57 Broad Street, New York City, 1900. Look at the prices and the the way the menu is divided.

Wine list from an Elks’ dinner, on a trip en route to Buffalo in 1905.

I could spend all day finding and posting interesting menus from this archive. My only gripe is that many of the menus are for society dinners and high class events. However, they do offer insight into what was fashionable in food at the time: turtle, sauces, cigarettes and cured meats, it would seem.

I also love the design, artwork and attention to detail paid to the menus. They sure don’t make ’em like they used to. As I continue to search for inspiration for the design the of the menus for our wedding dinner, I will be investigating this archive closely, I expect.

Here are all the other archives to investigate. There is something for everyone.

Crafts etc and Food and Food: Home Cookin'07 Jan 2010 06:11 pm


My make-at-home, oven-friendly S’more kit. Based on an idea from Twig and Thistle.

So perhaps the title of this post is a bit misleading. I knew what I was getting into by making marshmallows. Candy thermometers, sticky messes and experimentation. But somehow, it still turned into a nightmare.

Oh sure, everyone says they are easy. Those people are highly talented in the kitchen though: people like Martha Stewart and the bloggers behind Smitten Kitchen and Whisk. Even with an anxious approach, I still screwed up.

My intention was to put together adorable little S’more packages as New Years gifts. I can’t take credit for the idea, it originated here, at Twig and Thistle. The main difference was that I was going to make my own marshmallows. I really regret not making my own graham crackers as well, but: next year!

The most challenging part of this was finding a trustworthy candy thermometer and the right packaging for the kit. I ended up ordering a bundle of clear acrylic boxes from a wedding favour supply company in Vancouver called Wedding Things. A company called Uline, as well as Etsy and eBay were both options, but they either sold in HUGE amounts or shipping was a bit higher than I liked, so I went with a company close to home.

The first recipe I tried was from Smitten Kitchen. I liked it as it included egg whites, which is not a common component of most marshmallow recipes. I was hoping they would make springy, less saccharine marshmallows. I bought most of my ingredients from Bulk Barn (more on that later) and made them with my mom’s KitchenAid mixer. It’s an important tool for making marshmallows, as a hand mixer may just not have enough power. But some people reported success, so give it a try.



Uh-oh. This doesn’t look right. It foamed up like a science experiment, too.

My first error: using a pot that was too large. I anticipated a huge mess, so I used a huge pot to contain the sugar syrup. This allowed the sugar mix to have large changes in temperature, and I think in the end what got me was that my thermometer didn’t get a good read, and I was anxious for the mix to hit the magic temperature of 240F. One second it was clear and bubbly…and an instant later: golden brown and smelling of burnt sugar.

I put my mix into the gelatin in my KitchenAid mixer, and mixed. Then: problems. The candy syrup had hit the candy temperature, and was starting to solidify. It got stuck in the marshmallow mix, to the whisk and embedded itself in the mix.

This is what I liked to call marshmallow amber.



Much like real amber, right? Just missing the prehistoric insect.


The hard chunks were embedded in nearly every marshmallow, stuck to the KitchenAid mixer whisk and pretty much ruined my first batch…and nearly killed the KitchenAid. It was overheating like you wouldn’t believe, as the candy wrapped itself around the whisk and slowed the motor considerably.


While the flavour was good: kind of caramel tinged, the texture and colour were horrible, and there were still hidden chunks of candy hidden inside. Bad news.

So, I remade the marshmallows, using a new recipe. This time, no egg whites, and I relied on a more scientific Alton Brown recipe. He laid it down in terms my science background could understand. Oh: I also did not let the candy mixture get too hot, stopping at 235F. I added a half teaspoon more of vanilla, and used clear vanilla so it kept the marshmallows snow-white.


The second batch went much better. Here, cutting them. Some people use scissors, or a pizza cutter.


Giving the marshmallows a corn starch/icing sugar bath.

The first batch is on the right, the second on the left. They are puffier as I used smaller pans to make them thicker, and didn’t over heat the syrup this time. They were a bit sweeter because there was more corn syrup in them, but the texture was wonderful.

Packaged up, tied with bakers twine and…marshmallows

Given instructions and a best before date.

My recipe cards were some silly tissue paper fires. I think a grade two student may be more skilled with glue than I am.

So my tips:

  • Use a medium sized, Teflon coated pot.
  • Get a thermometer you trust, and pull the syrup off the stove at, or just below 240F.
  • Coat your stiff spatula in spray oil or wet it first before scraping the marshmallow out of the mixer bowl.
  • RESIST the urge to scrape everything out of the bowl. This is where things get really sticky. It may go against your nature of “getting the last drop”, but it will be easier.
  • Use a mix of corn starch and icing sugar to roll the slightly sticky mallows in.

I will be trying lavender marshmallows soon, much like the ones I was too full to try from The Bison in Banff.

Some other marshmallow posts:

Crafts etc and Food and General03 Dec 2009 11:27 pm

Be still my beating heart! A gift that combines three things I love: cooking, letterpress and tiny things.

A coworker saw this little book “Cooks, on Food, Eating and Cooking” at Notables and thought of me (so sweet!) so she gifted it to me. It’s a mini book, about 3 inches by 2 inches, letterpressed. Inside, quotes from chefs about the nature of food, cooking and eating. Perhaps a fun, whimsical gift for the food lover in your life?

cooks on food, eating and cooking letterpress



Crafts etc and Food27 Sep 2009 10:19 pm

Since we keep tarantulas and other insects in the house, we have a lot of containers, aquariums and Wardian cases. Now that our pets have stabilized in number, I decided to use one of the custom made tanks to turn into a terrarium.

It is a nice looking aquarium, and was custom made to fit into one the cube of those big Expedit bookcases from IKEA everyone seems to own.

I wanted two things in my terrarium: a Japanese garden design scheme, and some edible (or fragrant) plants. Terrariums are popular on home-centric blogs right now, and one does not have to look far for instructions, or inspiration. (RE: Design*Sponge’s upside down jar terrarium and how-to video, peppermags’ succulent terrarium and mini-garden, plus Craftzine’s mason jar terraria)

I visited the Ellerslie Gift and Garden Centre where they happened to be having a sale. There was also a charming cafe selling soup, coffee and teas, as well as ice cream sodas.  It’s a beautiful place, full of gifts, plants and helpful people.

ellerslie garden centre
Ellerslie Gift & Garden Centre

ellerslie gift and garden cafe
Ellerslie Cafe, inside the garden store.

edible terrarium
I got these plants for under $25, thanks to a sale. The edible plants I got were a rosemary bush and lemon balm. I also got a small Mugo pine, a plant that looked like miniature bamboo and a small fern.

edible terrarium

At home, I readied the tank. It’s quite good for a self sustaining terrarium, as it has a tight fitting lid with just a few holes drilled in it.

I laid down some gravel, bark, and then lots of dirt. I had some moss, but it just did not look right when I laid it down. Too cluttered.

edible terrarium

edible terrarium

I had to trim the unruly rosemary down, so it looked more in tune with the other plants, size-wise. The trimmed branches are now drying in my kitchen. They smell great.

I planted the five plants, and laid down a “river bed” of miniature rocks. I also scattered some hens and chicks plants, for an added layer of colour and dimension. I’m not sure how well the plants will do, but I’ll be sure to report back in a few months, after our long, dry winter is underway.

edible terrarium

This is the finished tank.

edible terrarium

edible terrarium

My favourite is this teeny Mugo pine. It grows less than an inch a year!

The tank smells amazing, just like a forest. Very green and fresh, sort of like wet dirt, with hints of rosemary and the lemon balm. Sort of like the Muttart Conservatory, minaturized!

I’m excited at finally having a way to keep herbs through the winter as well. I haven’t done very well in past years trying that. If this experiment turns out well, I have plenty of more tanks to use!

Crafts etc and Food19 Jun 2009 12:53 am

potato lobster

A blogger I adore (FourFour) posted a few examples of a friend’s food art. Keeping with my lobster love lately, I really dig on this potato crustacean.

Check out more: Edith Zimmerman’s food scuplture.

Crafts etc17 Apr 2009 11:21 am

It is not often I am able to catch Mike off guard. He’s an alert one, that boy. But, I finally did it.

Years ago, I told him if I was ever ready to get married, I would be sure to ask him. Last year, about this time, I thought I might be ready. I bought a blank set of dolls and started making a matryoshka nesting doll to give to him. The ideas of small things nestled in larger things really appeals to me, and I liked the idea of adding a Ukrainian twist to things. It was nice to be nostalgic about our fabulous trip to Japan as well.

It just took me another year to be sure and to finish the dolls. It was difficult to work on this and keep it hidden. I did some when he was in California and sometimes I had to retreat to Starbucks and work on it there.

So, I sketched and painted and finally came up with this:

As I mentioned in another post, these guys are, from left to right:

  • A geisha doll. Her base/kimono is chiyogami paper, and her obi is ribbon.
  • Mount Fuji with cherry blossom trees (continuing the theme from the geisha)
  • A sumo wrestler, complete with man boobs and bum.
  • A mini Totoro. He’s a character from the 1988 film My Neighbor Totoro. Originally he was going to be a Hello Kitty doll. So kawaii!
  • Finally, the smallest dolls are meant to be tickboxes, as a nod to an inside joke Mike and I have. They say yes and no in English and Japanese.

Here is a (somewhat) detailed look at my idea from start to finish. It took me FOREVER to do, because I am no artist at all.

I started with blank wooden dolls from Etsy seller WhittleWorld. She has relocated to Singapore from Hawaii and will be starting to resell soon, which is awesome. She was very kind and provided me with an extra of the tiniest doll so I could do the yes/no thing.

My original idea was to do all kokeshi-style dolls in different sizes, but I ended up doing different themes on each. You can see my preliminary sketches below. I had to scrap many a cool idea, which was hard to do.

There were some changes, but I think it turned out well over all. My initial Hello Kitty doll that did not happen. She morphed into Totoro instead, who I think is much more adorable, even if his ears are kind of weird and flat. The bonsai trees became cherry blossom trees.

I found it difficult to get the colours to look professional. That is to say, to be cohesive and to layer properly. It must have worked, because Mike assumed I had purchased it as is. I had to do a sort of “paint by numbers” map so that I knew which colours should go down first (lighter shades instead of dark, and so on.)

I used cut out pieces from the chiyogami paper to put in the geisha’s hair as hairpieces and was going to add them to other dolls, but they just did not look right.

I had to redo the tickbox dolls twice. These were so hard to paint! I had to mount them on pins on an eraser and use a TINY brush to get the strokes right. I am hoping they say the right thing in Japanese, to be honest; I had to pull them from some rudimentary tutorials online.

After all the painting, I finished them with a varnish and waited for the right time. Men have it so hard, I do not envy them. The waiting and thinking and worrying about different outcomes was SO nerve wracking.

At some point I decided I needed a ring to show I was serious, even if it was just a toy one. I looked at many different types and almost got a vending machine ring, but ended up on Etsy again.

I got the record ring from AnalogPark, and then made my own label and shrunk it down in Adobe Illustrator. This idea was rooted in Mike’s love of (hardcore) records and DJing so I kind of did it in that style.

Okay, I’ll shut up. Here are the many, many photos:

When I turned the dolls over to show Mike the secret message (which I’m glad I did, because I could not speak or make eye contact with him I was so nervous) I took out the ring.

A few days later, he presented me with a ring he inherited from his great aunt, Pat, and returned the question. What a surprise THAT was! (seriously, he totally shocked me, I wasn’t expecting it at all)

Best of both worlds, if you ask me.

Crafts etc16 Apr 2009 01:33 am

I made this cute matryoshka doll, which is a Ukrainian nesting doll. It took me about seven months (!) to complete, from sketching to varnishing.

I themed it after Japan, because I love Japan.

(geisha doll, mount fuji + cherry blossom trees, sumo wrestler, totoro and two small tick boxes saying “yes” and “no” in english and japanese)

On the bottoms, a secret message:

I presented this to Mike three weeks ago… and he said yes.

Sorry it took so long to share the news. I didn’t want to let the cat out of the bag before certain people were told, but now word is finally getting out.

I will post details on the craft project soon.

Crafts etc11 Mar 2009 08:50 am

I have seen many craft/stationery blogs use silhouettes lately. They’re nothing new, but seem to be popular right now.

I decided to make my own. I won’t bore you with the process, but Photoshop made quick work of the project. I printed out the headshots, traced them onto some thin craft balsa wood and then simply cut the silhouettes out.

Painted and:


I think I will get some new frames and backing paper, but they seemed to have turned out pretty well.

For something more impressive, check out Jenny Lee Fowler’s silhouettes shaped from leaves on Etsy. Yeah, I know. Go now! Also, here are some instructions for a way to do it if you do not have Photoshop.

Crafts etc19 Feb 2009 01:58 pm

Maybe you know someone with one of these World War II era poster reproductions; they are quite popular these days, showing up in all sorts of different colours.

Available at Etsy through sfgirlbybay for $30.50 US, incl shipping.

However, since I’m Albertan, I tend to favour my own nostalgic PSA posters. Behold:

No more rats

I am in love with so many things about this poster. It is an image from the Provincial Archives of Alberta, and available for sale as reprints.

Alberta, if you did not know, is one of the only rat-free areas of the world and has been so for over 50 years. The other areas include the Arctic, the Antarctic and some islands. Under Alberta’s Agricultural Pest Act, anyone found to be raising or harbouring rats could face a maximum $5,000 fine or 60 days in jail.

Think of the fines if you had a rat king under your care. *Shudder.*

Available at Vivid Print for $38/$68.

Crafts etc07 Feb 2009 12:44 pm

I used to always admire the paint chip samples at Home Depot when I worked there: especially the vibrant Ralph Lauren ones. I wanted to use them for something cool…but what?

Inspired by unused frames and posts on blogs like CRAFT magazine, I made my own paint chip art.


I got the laser cut Tokyo postcard at the Mori Arts Center in Roppongi and set it over paintchips. I still have a bag of stuff from our trip to Japan last year that I have yet to go through. I’m hoping there are more gems like this in there.

So, not perfect, but cheap, and it fills a hole.

Other paint chip projects:

Crafts etc and General03 Feb 2009 09:38 pm

Calgary artists and friends Dave + Jenn have launched their website! Please visit: The World of Dave + Jenn.

A little less timely, but still relevant: Nancy Tousley of the Calgary Herald named their gallery show one of the top 12 in Calgary in 2008.

 Dave & Jenn, You're A Long Way From Sea .

side 2 of You’re A Long Way From Sea, a 2-sided painting.
Dave & Jenn, 2008.
Acrylic, resin and mixed media.

image credit: Skew Gallery

Crafts etc15 Jan 2009 10:45 am

I have uploaded the remainder of the Polaroids I have taken in the past few years. It’s interesting to see the nuances of the particular pack of film I was using at the time, in the colours and vividness of the photos. I still have a fair amount left in the fridge, waiting to be used, so I’ll add as I take new shots.

Some favourites:

Dave and Mike at Dave + Jenn’s wedding on Lake Edith in Jasper, 2007.

Connor and Mike at the same wedding. It looks like they are characters in a Western film.

Except for the meter box above their heads and the water bottle to Connor’s right. CURSE MY DRUNKENESS.

Taken on my 29th birthday in Red Rock Canyon west of Las Vegas. I was too shy to ask any hikers to take a photo of me so instead, you get this yucca. It’s a good stand-in.

One of two. There is another one of these floating around out there in the form of a Valentines card that may or may not have made it to its destination. Then may or may not have been tossed in the trash.

Oh, it’s not all bad. The photo is better than the story behind it though.

Anyhow, more photos here.

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