Meetup Report: Casual and Fun

Meetup Report: Casual and Fun

sweets for me
Originally uploaded by mylaar

Traditionally, the Chicago-area crafternoon is held on the first Sunday of the month. When we started holding these free, casual meetups on a regular basis, that was the day that most people said they had an easier time setting aside. Now that my work schedule has changed, I find that I’m the one who doesn’t have Sundays free! ;_; I really love attending meetups, and crafternoons are my favourites, so this was really disheartening. I was hoping to use some of my mixed-up vacation time for this weekend, but it didn’t work out that way.

So I wore my outfit to work and bolted for the L as soon as I clocked out. This time the hostess was the lovely and amazing and awesome Jordanananana. ♥ She’s one of the coolest people I’ve ever known. Her house is small, but full of all kinds of interesting things. She was joking yesterday that every time we come over it’s like it becomes some kind of show-and-tell; I think that’s part of why it’s so fun!

Everything is very vibrant at her house. There’s a lot of colorful fabric and other supplies, organized on large white shelves, for the craft-related endeavor she runs with a friend: Qylaar. There were all kinds of interesting prototypes or ideas tucked amidst the materials–including a very cute tulip-print hippo and ice-cream cone-shaped pencil cases! She also has several Blythes and other dolls–I find it fascinating. She’s also tried her hand at sweets jewelry; everyone was trying it on and admiring some of her designs. They’re very tasteful (AND they look delicious)!

I’m not sure what kinds of crafts were done, but when I arrived I spent a while organizing her stationery with my little sister. (And pilfering a few sheets along the way–but she said we could~) There was apple cider, grapefruit soda, and birch beer, along with delicious guacamole and mango salsa for tortilla chips. We sat around and talked while looking through many sewing books for making stuffed animals. Some of the attendees volunteered to be interviewed for someone’s film project.

It had that relaxed atmosphere that I really love about crafternoons. No rushing from one place to the next, worrying about someone being late and impacting everyone’s schedule. There isn’t pressure to take lots of pictures to post online; thus no fears of outfit criticism from community members. The snacks help avoid the general “we’re hungry but how much do we want to pay to eat out and what does everyone like” sort of problem. It’s just a nice time to sit around with friends, get to know new people, and talk about lolita fashion or anything else that comes up.

I really hope that I can attend the next crafternoon in full–especially if we do something fun for Valentine’s Day! (I think we should make valentines and/or candy… of course~ ♥) But even if we just laze around at someone’s house, I know I’ll have a great time!

Sweet Treats: Macaron Review

Sweet Treats: Macaron Review

Frozen Macarons
Originally uploaded by sweetmilktea

Macarons are a rather iconic dessert in terms of lolita fashion. Beyond the obvious tastiness of these delicate cookies, the Japanese seem entranced with them in the same sort of way that they idolize many French things. In lolita fashion, the macaron has been featured in several prints by Angelic Pretty. Beyond lolita, however, macarons are the subjects for miniature, felt crafts, cell phone straps, and other household goods.

Recently, the Trader Joe’s grocery stores have begun selling macarons. Not everyone is fortunate enough to live near a pâtisserie that makes macarons, and even fewer people live near one that makes them well.

However, store-bought macarons have perils beyond that of fresh macarons. Macarons go stale very quickly–macaron-Mecca Ladurée warns patrons that the cookies are only good for two days. However, two days is shorter than many foods spend in transit to their final destination; thus most packaged macarons are stale by the time they reach the consumer. The Trader Joe’s macarons, however, are kept in the frozen dessert section–this keeps them from going stale in such a short time.

Although the cookies are not stale, they do not arrive in perfect condition. Macarons are very delicate–the cookie portion is basically a meringue with a touch of flour–and the slightest pressure can crack and crush them. Whenever I bake macarons, sometimes they shatter just from being removed from the cookie sheet. Although the Trader Joe’s macarons are packaged in a plastic tray with each cookie separated, it is not enough to keep them in shape. The tops of the cookies usually look fine, but the bottoms of every cookie in my box was totally smashed.

As these macarons are frozen, they need to be allowed to thaw–sitting out at room temperature for 30 minutes. This step is extremely, extremely important. The macarons I ate that had sat out for the full 30 minutes had soft filling and a crisp cookie. The flavors were light and un-tainted. The macarons that did not get a full 30 minutes had hard filling and (most importantly) tasted of “freezer” more than of the cookie itself–very unpleasant.

In terms of actual quality, I’d say that the Trader Joe’s macarons are not perfect, but they are better than most packaged (and some bakeries’) macarons. The cookies have a nice foot, smooth skin, and appropriate crispness, but I found that they were more meringue-like than I prefer. (This was more pronounced for the chocolate macarons than the vanilla.) They didn’t have enough of the density and texture that the almond flour should add.

The Trader Joe’s macarons are approximately $5 for one dozen macarons–6 chocolate and 6 vanilla. This is, really, an unbeatable value. Most pâtisseries charge much, much more than that this–usually $2-$3 per macaron.

Overall, I don’t think this is something I would buy again, but I would certainly recommend it to others. If you haven’t had macarons before, the Trader Joe’s macarons are a better place to start than other pre-packaged macarons. If you like macarons a lot and don’t want to spend a fortune, they’re a great deal. If you love meringues, you’d also probably really like them! Personally, I will bake my own macarons or patronize my favourite bakery–there are other store-bought cookies I enjoy that I could buy for a similar price; I don’t mind paying a little bit extra for macarons I like the taste of more.