Sunday, December 16, 2007

Petaluma Crafty - Cocoa L'Imogene

Cocoa L'Imogene. A crafty kit to give or receive.

Last year, I finally took a firmer step in my promise to start making more handmade gifts. I have my own reasons for doing so, I've always been fascinated with China and Asian cultures in general. Whole blogs could be written about it. Currently, things have gone askew with imported and manufactured goods. It gets down to politics, economics, greed and moral decisions. When did giving a simple gift become a moral decision? If you've small children, it's even more frightening.

And it begs the question, isn't is immoral to manufacture items that contain known poisons? The same poisons and toxins of which we were assured by these manufacturers years ago that they would never again be used in the toy making process again?

Being a crafty sort, you may find the various components needed to assemble your "homemade" DIY gift to potentially have it's hazards. Wasn't that ribbon made in China? And it was wire with a metallic thread running through.Yikes! That nifty little painted nesting can your homemade item is housed in, (Could the paint have lead)? And what about that paint made in China, you painted that cute little wooden nutcracker tchotcke (also made in China) that adorns the gift?

See what I mean?

You almost can't escape it. It's not that I'm against saving money at the register, au contraire, but I believe that one day we are going to be very sorry. Ultimately, our bill will come due. I hope it's not more cancer or a collapsed U.S. economy we will never dig ourselves out of. China is getting wealthy, but they are also becoming the most polluted country on the planet. A big one.

Their bill? It will also come due.

I'm no different than most Americans in regard to time and budget. I may have big Martha ideas (though I pride myself on being a bit "off" than our dear Martha). But I don't have Martha's budget, or her team of assistants.

BTW- You don't suppose? Naww! Martha's 'crafty' line made in China?

It's a sword. A double-edged one. Let's say I decide I want my stationery line or my crafty dolls mass produced, because they are selling like hotcakes. I don't have a huge budget, and I know China can do it faster and cheaper to cut costs. There are even companies in San Francisco who will reproduce my patterns for cheaper too. But not nearly as cheap as China. Here is where you lose control of your product. Some U.S. companies and Europeans even know what's going on, and the potential dangers. But still, they do it.

Sometimes, they are taken advantage of with copyright infringement. It's scary. I just read that legally, China is not bound to responsibility if there is a problem with production. Let's say you've paid for production work, but haven't received your goods and it looks like you never will. Fat little you can do about it except never do business with them again and spread the word so they get a bad reputation.

Of course, that doesn't happen very often, because most business people in China are fair and smart. They want to do business with you. With that said, Overseas copyright infringement is scary and is a reality. I believe there is a lot of talk about overseas copyright law taking effect recently. This is good. Toxins in toys and good sproduced overseas are a still a reality. Only we can stop it.

All of that to talk about a simple cocoa kit recipe. Whew. Where was I? Oh yes, homemade gifts.

So last year, I started the process. It started out as an idea to thank clients and spilled over on to friends and family. I made two huge batches of Limoncello, and some hot cocoa kits. Easy! Though, the Limoncello was scary. I'd never made it and it takes a bit of time (2 mos) to go through the distilling processes. That's the toughest part isn't it? The waiting.

This year I'm doing the same, but also made some soaps that my fellow crafter in crime Anna, helped me whip up. The bath goddess, Anna, crafted a scent especially for me! I have my own scent! Just like J. Lo and Coco Chanel. Ha! It's made with Bergamot orange, almond and clove honey. I adore bergamot orange. Orange is also my company color, which is very thoughtful of Anna to include this fav ingredient. Bergamot sounds lovelier, so we'll just say that. Bergamot soap just became another homemade gifty item this season. (Thanks Anna)!

This is for those who have little time. Or perhaps you don't know a knitting needle from a pine needle. Or, perhaps just feel hopelessly lost in the world of arts and crafts. I have a recipe for you! Hot cocoa kits. Kids like it as well as grown-ups. You can customize them any which way. Last year I made triple chocolate and peppermint chocolate. But you could also do, orange chocolate, Mexican chocolate, white chocolate caramel, etc. The choice is yours.

Here is what you'll need:

Cocoa Kits


A quart jar with a lid or seal

1/2 Cup Good quality chocolate chips or chopped semi-sweet bars

1 Cup Sugar, white and or brown

1 Cup Powdered good quality cocoa (Droste is nice and has color depth)

1 Cup Powdered milk

1/2 tsp salt

Now you have the basics, you can customize with chopped peppermint candies for peppermint hot cocoa, marshmallows, dried orange, caramel, white chocolate, etc.

You simply layer it any which way you please. I layered it so that the dark and light ingredients alternated for a layered effect. Also, I put more fragile ingredients at the top layers to hold shape and texture.

Pop a homemade label on and a hand-written note. You're good to go.

Last year, After bottling so much Isabella's Limoncella, I got loopy and also made a custom label for the hot cocoa kits. I decided 'Cocoa Le Imogene' was Isabella's french cocoa cousin. Last year Isabella got a story written about her. (I still think Holly Hunter would be the perfect fit for the role of Isabella).

This year, I wrote one for Imogene as well. Everyone kept asking me about her story last year. So, it was only fair Imogene has her own history and story this year as well. It has a surprise entrance from another foodie personality of another homemade gift we're making. Since we're keeping it in the family, these Euro cousins, (Isabella's Italian and Imogene is French), meet-up with their American cousin. She's from the deep south, and something to do with cheese straws. I'll blog on that later.

In the meantime, whip up some creative cocoa kits. Handy on a cold afternoon. Everything is there, you just add boiling water. You could also make layered cookie kits in a jar or a lovely (lead-free) tin. If you can find one! It's from the heart, and that's what really matters.

So I made festive bright red, Limoncello and Cocoa last year. Oddly, people really seemed to like them. So if they really didn't like them, they should have kept mum because now they're getting another this year!

A gift card from Best Buy is always a nice alternative. Himself, told me to say that.

Have a Happy and lead-free Holiday!


Saints and Sinners said...

I love me some Limoncello!! kudos to you for making it from scratch! its the best that way!

happy holidays!

Siren Suds said...

Mmm. Can't wait for my jar. I wonder if any of my soap making tools are made in China. Not to my knowledge, though there are many cheap molds produced from China.

I don't use them. I make my own. Though they broke the mold when they made you!
Glad you like the soap!

xo, Annabanana

Petaluma Craft Mafia said...

I wouldn't expect anything less from the mermaid.
BTW- did you notice I finally put "Tiny Bubbles" on the vinyl for you? Scroll down ... way down! :-)

I thought it was Dean Martin, but it's actually Don Ho.


Petaluma Craft Mafia said...

Hey Ms. Barbe!

Sounds like we have a lovely Limoncello Lass in the house? Yes! We'll have to do some taste testing!
How are my girls in S.F.?
x0, C.