31 December 2007

Non-permanent Vandalism

Norman and I went to the Hobby Lobby today so I could take advantage of some sweet post-Christmas sale action. (Meh... I got some Advent tapers and a spool of ribbon.) At one point I lost Norman, called him, and subsequently found him staring at a wall of plain wooden letters. You know, they're about a foot tall, flat, for painting or decoupaging and hanging in a kid's room or something cheesy like that? They were arranged on this wall to say nice things like "NOEL" and "BABY" and "GIFT" and "TREE".

Norman was staring at the wall trying to figure out what else you could spell given those letters and the constraints of only four letters across. He told me so far he'd figured out "GO LIFT PINT O BEER". So I said, "Well, let's do it!" He was afraid we'd get caught, but really, I say, what could anyone do to us? This is the result:





It's probably still there. Check out the Norman Hobby Lobby if you're curious. I kind of want to go back every day until it's different, just to see how long it takes them to notice. Perhaps we will have started a revolution, and every day it will say something different! Oh the possibilities!

26 December 2007

Holiday Food Roundup

I've been making a lot of special foods for the first time this Christmas season. Some I've remembered to take pictures of; others, not so much.

Breadsticks -- Nov 30 (church-wide Advent dinner)
They didn't rise as much as I would have liked, and they were a little too sour for my taste -- definitely could have used some dipping sauce. But all 30 or so were gone by the time I went through the line, so they at least looked tasty.

Butternut Squash -- Dec 14 (Advent dinner)
Prepared the only way I knew how -- like sweet potatoes. Sliced, put in a casserole dish with lots of butter, cinnamon, and a little maple syrup. It was delicious.

Ratatouille -- Dec 22 (Advent dinner)
I actually managed to take pictures of the process here. Whoa.

Pealing my first eggplant. Skin is surprisingly thin.


Cutting into my first eggplant. It's almost spongy. And see all those little things in there? Seeds. There's really no way to remove them. They were entrenched. So I just left them.


Chopped up and ready to be salted. Apparently eggplants contain a bitter juice that is removed by tossing the pieces with a whole lot of salt, letting them sit for an hour, then rinsing them off.


Ratatouille also contains zucchini, tomato, onion, and bell pepper. Please excuse the mess and the lack of counter space.


All done! Well, kinda. I let it keep cooking at the dinner before we ate, and it got all roasty up on top. Mmmm... It turned out very salty, but everyone seemed to like it. It was an educational experience for all involved.

Christmas Dinner!

Cornish Game Hens --
Wow. Those suckers are a lot bigger than they look. We bought two, but one would have fed us just fine. I stuffed them with fresh basil leaves and garlic and poured olive oil on top of them. They turned out very, very tasty. I'm making broth out of the carcasses later. :-)

Gravy --
I made gravy with the pan drippings. I just added some flour. This turned out to be not exactly awesome, because all the olive oil rose to the top and we had to keep stirring it and/or pouring off oil. But it was also very, very tasty.

Mashed potatoes --
Believe it or not, I had never mashed potatoes before. Wow. They're not hard to make, and they're so much better than the ones that come out of a box. Of course, that could be due to the half stick of butter I put in them. Or the heavy whipping cream. Or the whole milk. Or the cheddar cheese. Or the crumbled bacon. Yeah.

[Salad, with basil leaves and climbing spinach -- Norman made the salad. It was awesome! Thanks, Jenny, for the spinach!]

Wine --
Well, of course, I didn't make it, but we'd never bought wine for ourselves before. Turned out pretty well. Oh, but we don't have wine glasses. But we do have little off-white, ceramic Chinese tea cups with no handles and a bamboo motif. Very festive. :-)

Pumpkin Pie --
I made a pumpkin pie! Also not that hard. Interesting... All these "from scratch" things that I thought were so horrible, back-breaking, and time-consuming... Not so much. Photos!

(There's only a hole in the middle because I had to stick a knife in so it could come out clean.)


Mmmmm.... Oh yeah, and I whipped up some heavy whipping cream for the top. Again, not hard. Five minutes and 3 extra pieces to wash. And oh so tasty.

21 December 2007

Branching Out

In an effort to take my little business to the next level, I've started consigning some of my items to various places. You can find my neck tie stockings at a little antique store in Fairmont, MN (hi, Mom!). You can also find an assortment of my wares at Pink Andie Beads in Mechanicsburg, PA. It's a small bead store that just opened earlier this month, which also carries a smattering of handmade goods. Check out the pictures, and see if you can spot some of my items!

And another picture that for some reason doesn't show up at the above link:


(Those are my book journals, board game coasters, and lavender sachets!)

09 December 2007

Estate Sale Shopping Hazards

Yes, you read that correctly -- hazards. Not physical, just emotional. ...This time.

I attended an estate sale this weekend (both Friday and today). It was a lovely sale. I bought lots of stuff. Books, linens, clothes, crochet hooks... all sorts of stuff. Today I went back for the half-price sale to pick up a bunch of 35mm slides for my Etsy shop. And I did. Three shoe boxes full of sets in smaller boxes. Great stuff -- it's all from the 50s and 60s, lots of travel photos and family gatherings. I'm excited about them.

However -- tucked away at the bottom of one of the smaller boxes, in a folded slip of paper were two slides of a NAKED MAN. I'm not talkin', like, no pants or something. No -- Buck. Naked. Thankfully, they were candid shots, not really posed in any way. Somehow that would have been much worse, I think.

Usually I'm a sucker for speculating about people and their lives and why they do the things they do. But in this instance, I really just don't want to know.

(Oh, and you can thank me later for not adding photos to this post.)

28 November 2007

Practical Hints for the Household

Excerpts from Godey's Lady's Book and Magazine
August, 1886


"We so frequently hear the remark from women that household duties are distasteful, and uninteresting; upon consideration, most necessary occupations in this world inevitably bore us, if we do not endeavor to take some sort of interest in them.
...
Under most circumstances at the best of times housekeeping is a disagreeable occupation, but, as it is impossible to evade it during some period of one's life, the best plan must be to extract from it every atom of interest which it is capable of yielding.
...
It is surely quite possible for any woman, possessing an average intelligence, to become, after the experience of a few months, a perfectly capable housekeeper without being "born" so; and moreover, a score of reasons could be given, if space permitted, to show why household affairs should not be devoid of interest to a clever woman.
...
A woman should not, however, only consider herself in the matter, but remember that the whole comfort of the home depends upon her cheerful performance of the duties devolving upon her. If the husband, father or brother does his duty in supplying the necessary wherewithal to supply the needs of the household, her duty and pleasure should be to add by every means in her power to the comfort of all beneath its roof."


"The average girl at marriage is well instructed in sewing. To take her place at the head of a family without a fair knowledge of this useful household art would be to disgrace her mother and herself in the minds of all their acquaintances."


(Thanks, Kelly.)

26 November 2007

Trashion Sale



As you may or may not know, I am a member of the Etsy Trashion Street Team. "What the heck does that mean?" you ask. It's basically a group of people who:
1. Sell things on Etsy
2. Incorporate recycled materials into their items (hence the "trash" part)

Well, we're having a sale! You can find out all about it here and here. (Yep, there I am! 20% off everything next Sunday, December 2nd!) Also, shopping guides!

So, as I mentioned before, buying handmade for the holidays is good. But buying handmade and recycled is even better! Check out the Trashion shops. There's some pretty neat stuff.

17 November 2007

Three Things

One:
A nice lady wrote a nice blog entry about me and Chaos Into Art.


Two:
Shout out to my mom! We make a great team.



Three:
Apparently along with the Writers, the Writers' office chairs are also on strike.

14 November 2007

Buy Nothing?

I've been hard at work (yes, still) getting ready for what I hope will be a busy holiday buying season. I had my home show last Friday (a smashing success -- thank you to everyone who showed up to support me!), and I have a booth at a craft show in a week and a half.

And because the holiday shopping season is upon us, whether we like it or not, buzz has started up again about "Buy Nothing Day". You can read all about it at the link, but the basic gist is -- don't buy anything on the day after Thanksgiving. This day was chosen because it's usually the biggest shopping day of the year, and people get up at the crack of dawn and trample each other trying to get to the bargain big screen TVs and mp3 players.

Now, while I am certainly against 1.) getting up at the crack of dawn, 2.) trampling people, and 3.) measuring your love for another human being by how much Christmas credit card debt you rack up in their name, I really can't get behind Buy Nothing Day. One day, and then you can get back to swiping those credit cards to your heart's content? Eh... It makes a great press release, but isn't there a more consistent idea out there?

Now here's something I can get behind: The Handmade Pledge. "I pledge to buy handmade this holiday season, and request that others do the same for me." You know you're going to give people gifts around Christmas. It happens. And it's fun! And by buying (or making!) handmade gifts, you can participate in all the good ideas behind Buy Nothing Day in a productive way.

Handmade gifts mean thought, care, and individualism. Buying handmade will support someone who works at what they love. Buying recycled handmade helps rescue stuff from the dump (literally or figuratively), and assures you a one-of-a-kind gift.

Here are some links to get you started:
Etsy
another handmade shopping website
Craftster (ideas and tutorials for making your own gifts)
Martha Stewart (gift and decoration ideas)
Wists.com (make an online wish list with links to any web page)


(Am I just saying all this so you'll come to my show that happens to be the day after Thanksgiving and buy stuff? No. Do I care about this because I make handmade gifts for a living? Yes. Is that the only reason I care? No.)

31 October 2007

30 October 2007

Costumes

And now, I give you Halloween 2007:




Pam Beesly as a Cat (I had a tail, you just can't see it...)


Three Hole Punch Jim Halpert

Merchandise Exchange Fall 2007 -- Part IV

This was the last weekend until April! Let's see what goodies were gathered...

-- a three-drawer plastic chest full of greeting cards and craft stuff
-- a bag of gift bags, tissue paper, and wrapping paper
-- 4 textbooks, which are now listed on Half.com for a total of $245 (I swear, some people...)

But most exciting? A commode encounter! We found 3 more commodes, bring the grand total for the month up to 15! But when we stopped for one of them, a man and woman were standing out in the yard. Well, we couldn't just keep going -- we needed it for our collection! So I rolled down the window and explained it all to the nice old man. Trash hunting is a cheap date, commode collecting keeps in interesting...
"Oh yeah, heh heh, I think I saw another one around here somewhere."
"Down at the corner? Yep, we already got that one."
"Some people'll just put anything out in their yard!"

Turns out he didn't even live at that house; he was just a neighbor.

20 October 2007

Workin' hard...

Or hardly working. Sometimes I can't tell. But besides those crewel embroidery pouches, here's what I have to show for this last week, craft-wise:




9 blank hardback book journals. To be featured at my home show and craft fairs throughout the season, not in my Etsy shop, so if you want one and you won't be at any of those events, speak up!

Merchandise Exchange Fall 2007 -- Part III

There's not really too much to show for this outing -- a few records, a few books of sheet music, a Martha Stewart Living from a few years ago, a few folding tomato cages. Good stuff, but not a great abundance of awesomeness. No, that came in the form of breaking our COMMODE record! Woohoo!

Yes, Norman and I are odd people, but collecting pictures of commodes breaks up the monotony of pile after pile of actual garbage (how dare they?). Anyway, you can see the complete commode collection here. We have 11 for the month, which is two more than last April, and we've still got another week to go!

I'm particularly proud of this one:

Wow. I mean, avocado green. How do you top that? I think maybe we should just give up and stop collecting. That's as good as it gets right there.

18 October 2007

Life can be crewel...

Yes, it's a very bad pun, but I couldn't resist. I pretty much cleaned up at the First Pres thrift store today. Neckties, napkins (read: fabric), vintage Christmas cards, envelopes, and ...
Three framed crewel embroidery panels. Two of them have already magically turned into zipper pouches and been listed in my Etsy shop.


The other got a reprieve. I actually had it out of its frame and off its board before I decided to keep it and hang it on my wall. It's so cute! I don't know if you can tell, but it's very 3D -- the little macramé basket hanger and some of the branches are loose. Adorable! It's now hanging above our kitchen sink.

15 October 2007

Merchandise Exchange Fall 2007 -- Part II

Alright, before we launch into Part II, a quick update to Part I: The sewing machine I found last week --
1.) It does have a power cord and pedal -- they were hiding up inside the cover. Silly me.
2.) It has a timing problem that will cost about $175 to fix. So, it's dead. I will be taking it apart because I think that sounds fun, and I think I should know more about how sewing machines are put together. Then I will put all the pieces in the dumpster. Oh well. I tried.

On the other hand, this forced me to visit the Singer Sewing Room for the first time. It's a lovely place, and the man there was kind enough to look at the machine and give me an estimate for free. He also sent me away with a promotional 2008 wall calendar that came with stickers!

Okay, on with the exchanging. Things we retrieved this last Friday:

--about 15 white 6"x6" tiles. I smell trivets.
--length of pegboard with some "pegs". I think I will cut it down into small 9"x12"-ish pieces and use them for craft show displays.
--textbooks -- some of which I'm keeping, some of which I'm selling, and some of which have already been given away.

--various and sundry craft supplies

--a Clue game, some Bingo cards, and a bunch of comic books

--stacking build-a-crate type shelving (unfortunately, only Norman and the passengers of two other cars saw the rather amusing sight of me running across Jenkins carrying this thing)

--some really pretty necklaces (the silver star is from 1928 [the company, not the year])

--a bunch of chess sets -- only one was complete. It's way cool -- glass chess/checkers board on top, backgammon inside, and room inside for all the glass pieces. The wood set is incomplete. I'll probably drill holes in the pieces or something -- they're just gorgeous.

--more tomato cages. That's right, I now own 11 tomato cages. Luckily, they stack.

And, as always, check out the COMMODE! count. We're up to 6 for this month. I'm gunning for 10 -- that would break our previous record.

13 October 2007

Garden Update - Oct 13 (or "Nananabooboo, Minnesota!")

Yes, I'm still growing tomatoes. I got started kind of late. I didn't start the seedlings inside like the seed packet told me to. I just planted the seeds outside in April. Remember what the tomato plants looked like at the beginning of June? And at the end of June? Well, here is one of them now, in the middle of October:


That's the one I planted in the ground on a whim because there were too many plants in one pot. Yeah. At last count it had about 70 tomatoes growing on it.
Here's one now!:



It weighs 9.5 oz. Now I know that's not exactly breaking any records, but I'm pretty proud of it. I think I'm making spaghetti tonight.

Oh, and a new venture -- lettuce! Planted about 3 or 4 weeks ago:

12 October 2007

Wintertime Craft Fairs

This morning, as I was running my errands, I stopped by the Cleveland County Fairgrounds (Fairground, really... It's pretty tiny) and signed up for two craft fairs. I'm all paid up and official. It's very exciting. I'm expecting much better crowds than last time. So come out and see me!

23-24 Nov, 2007 (Friday and Saturday)
9am-5pm

8 Dec, 2007 (Saturday)
9am-5pm

Cleveland County Fairgrounds


I'd better get to craftin'!

Blog Mentions!

Yours truly is being talked up on the Etsy Trashion Street Team blog:

Interview about me and my shop

Two of my items in the latest "Trashion Outfitter" outfit

11 October 2007

Merchandise Exchange Fall 2007 -- Part I

That's right, it's that time again! Call it what you will (I've become partial to "curb shopping"), it's time to troll the streets of Norman in search of stuff that used to belong to crazy people (in my book, throwing away useful things = crazy). Two weekends ago was the first of the season. That resulted in:

--about 30 lbs of upholstery fabric (some of which is currently for sale in my Etsy shop)
--a desk chair (I'd been using a dining room chair -- ick)

--3 tomato cages

And nary a commode in sight. But I was not discouraged, because I know that the first weekend is never the best. Those people love their yards too much to set trash on them overnight.

This last weekend, however, was better. We got up early Saturday morning, and though the McIntyres had beaten us to everything good that went out Friday night, we prevailed. The haul:

--4 COMMODES!!!

--box of about 80 Cliff's Notes and other type study guides (soon to go on eBay in a lot)

--2 more tomato cages

--Singer sewing machine with case, without power cord or pedal. It's going to the Singer Shop in town tomorrow for a check-up to see if it can be fixed.
--random textbooks that are now for sale on half.com

--20 or so manila envelopes (score!)

--And last, but not least, George:


His is an exciting story, and very emotional.

We pulled up to him, and I fell in love. Norman said, "We don't have anywhere to put it." I said, "I know," as I stared longingly at him. We pulled away, and I saw the trash truck coming down the street towards us. We turned, making to leave the neighborhood, and all I could think was, "They're going to put it in the truck, smash it up, and take it to the dump." And, much like a little girl leaving the pound who has just learned what happens to the dogs who stay there too long, I started crying. I couldn't help it. It wasn't that I couldn't have him; it was that he wasn't trash. Someone could still use him.

Norman pulled over to ask what was wrong, and I told him what I was thinking. He paused for several seconds, then turned the car around and sped back to the curb where we'd seen him. The truck was already there. The workers has already loaded the other things into the truck. I jumped out of the car just before it stopped and said, "We'll take that one!" They were very happy to hear this. I soon realized why -- George is very heavy. Norman and I loaded him into the trunk and went home to unload him before continuing with the rest of our route.

We figured we'd have to give him to someone we know or sell him. But I was already attached and trying to figure out a way to keep him. I soon decided to trade him out for the shelf that was already in the office/craft room closet. He sat outside in the rain for a day before this could be accomplished (I have a lot of crap) .

Upon cleaning him and drying him off, I decided he was a George. He fits perfectly in the closet and looks right at home.



Anyone need a shelf?

01 July 2007

Raw Milk Products

So we're trying to get back on the raw milk wagon, and hang on this time. We bought our first raw milk in a long time last Monday. And since I'd been reading this book, I decided to go crazy and try to make whey and cream cheese. This involves something that most people will have a hard time wrapping their heads around: you put some raw milk in a mason jar, screw on the lid, and let it sit out at room temperature. For four days. Yeah. Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of the milk sitting in the jar separating, but it was bizarre and fun to watch. Once again, the magic gets stolen from our lives everyday by the modern food industry. Well, I separated the whey and the cream cheese today. Here is the whey:



And here is the cream cheese:



And here is the corn relish I made with the whey, and stuff from the farm market and my back yard. It also gets to sit out at room temperature for several days. I expect it will be exceedingly delicious:



Anybody else got any crazy hippie ideas for me to try? I'm on a roll!

27 June 2007

To-mah-toes

I stepped outside this rather soggy morning to find that I have tomatoes! Well, kind of. They're not anywhere near eating yet, but they're so cute!


See it peaking out there? It's not quite the size of a dime.



Bug's eye view


Also -- cucumbers! These have been growing for some time now. They're lopsided, but I hear that's because the flowers weren't pollinated. Oh well.



25 June 2007

Beans and Stirfry (and Fish Biscuits)

This was a couple weeks ago, but oh well. Here is my first major bean crop.




I added three more to that, and then Norman made this:



It seems that one of Norman's favorite things to do is make stirfry. He's very particular about it. I'm particular about a lot of things, but cooking is not one of them. Mostly I figure we have to eat, and I want to spend as little time as possible on cooking and still make tasty food. Norman takes his time and makes everything just right. This is a good thing. Otherwise we'd never have anything even approaching gourmet food in the house. So, needless to say, this stirfry was awesome. The vegetables were still crisp, which apparently is the way they're supposed to be (who knew?).

While we were eating the stirfry, I was struck by how magical food really is. I mean, 2 months ago, those green beans were just seeds. And all I did was stick them in some potting soil, water them, and wait. And now they're crazy-delicious, sweet, crispy, nutritious green beans! (Can you tell this is my first gardening experience?)

I was talking with Kelly Mac at church about kombucha and kefir and all sorts of other magical things. We determined that modern nutrition just takes all the magic out of life. It's quite sad, actually.

Oh yeah, and these aren't magical, but they were pretty fun to make:



That's right, those are Lost fish biscuits. Fortunately they taste like citrus sugar cookies, not fish or dog or bear biscuits, or whatever they were supposed to be on the show. I got the idea and the recipe here.