Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Off To London!

I'm leaving tomorrow night and I won't be back until midday the 9th . . .wheeee!!! I'm a little concerned about leaving my Etsy shop for a week right before the holidays, but we'll see how it goes! I tried to make it very clear that I'm on vacation and orders will ship on 11/12 (crosses fingers and hopes everything goes well!)
So, not that you'd want to take packing advice from someone who almost caused major physical damage to themselves by lugging their massive suitcase up 2 flights of stairs at Waterloo last year (see pic), but I thought I'd share some of my favorite packing tips, picked up over years of travelling to the UK pretty much yearly. Use at your own risk! ;)

1) Socks and Underwear: These take up a lot of space in your luggage, not to mention the fact that its kinda gross lugging around used undies in a pocket of your suitcase for 2 weeks or however long you're on vacation for. A great solution is to sort through your undergarments right before a trip and pull out all the ones that still fit but, for various reasons, you intend to toss anyhow. Elastic on its last legs, dyed pink in the wash, tears and holes . . . you name it. Pack all of those socks and underwear and toss them out at the end of every night. This has the added benefit of a) creating less laundry for when you get home and b) giving you a bit more room in your suitcase on your return than you had on your departure. It Win win! This trick works for PJs too!

2) Rolling vs. Folding: Rolling ALL THE WAY on this one, it allows you to pack your clothes in tighter minimizing wrinkles, saving space, and creating a better cushion for any breakables that you may want to pack in the center of your bag.

3) Layering: Coming from someone who usually vacations in the fall in London, I can't stress enough how convenient it is to pack clothes that can be layered. I usually take tank tops, tees, long sleeve tees, sweaters and coats - and when worn in combination, the number of outfits i can put together is almost endless, a great space saver if you're travelling for a long time!

4) Neckwarmers!: Shameless self promotion, but my neckwarmers take far less room to pack than a traditional scarf! They're also easy to toss in your purse if the weather changes over the course of the day. And they're quite reasonably priced too (although they can't ship until 11/12, of course ;)). Available at
Mixtape

5) Crocheting On Board!: Ok, maybe not applicable to everyone, but for those of us who like to do needlework and who are totally unsure of what kind of tools are allowed on airplanes in this day and age (when even toothpaste is an iffy proposition), listen up! There IS in fact one great yarn and thread cutting tool that is 100% plane safe, approved, and guaranteed not to cause so much as the bat of an eyelash from your luggage inspector. This secret weapon is . . . Dental Floss. Not the floss itself, but the case it comes in. The teensy little metal cutter slices right through every type of yarn and thread I've ever tried it on, quite cleanly too! Pack a little project bag w/ some yarn, dental floss, a printed pattern, plastic hooks and darning needles and you'll be crocheting quite happily at 30,000 feet.

Promise to miss me while I'm gone!

Listening:  The Clash- "London Calling"

Monday, October 29, 2007

While My Parents Are In Ireland . . .

. . . bashing their noses on the Blarney Stone (note, pic not theirs!) and emailing me about all the amazing potato dishes they're eating over there, I was inspired to attempt a potato dish worthy of being served in an Irish restaurant. I think I came close!

Potato and Corn Chowder:

2 large russet baking potatoes,whole, scrubbed and punctured with a fork and rubbed with olive oil and salt
1 large yellow onion, finely minced
3 or 4 stalks celery, from the heart w/ greens, finely minced
2 tblsp butter
1 can creamed corn
2-3 soup bowls full of vegetable broth
2 cups whole milk
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar

-Bake potatoes in a 375 degree oven for about an hour or until done
-Meanwhile, sweat onions and celery in butter until soft
-Add creamed corn, broth, and milk and simmer on low until potatoes are done
-Scoop baked potato flesh into soup and stir in cheese
-Serve potato skins alongside soup

So there.

Listening:  Ravens And Chimes- "January"

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

OHMYGOSH!!!!

See that black neckwarmer in the upper right corner of the FRONT PAGE OF ETSY?!?! Thats mine!! I got home from dinner with the boy and my parents last night (at which I whined quite a bit over the fact that I hadn't really had a sale in a few days) and I logged online only to discover that my neckwarmer made the front page!
Over the course of the night I sold SIX items! My biggest night EVER, and recieved a custom order to boot. I'm sooooooo excited! This was just the kick in the pants my shop needed to put me on track to hit my holiday goals.
Woooo hooo!!!!

Listening:  Ken Andrews solo playing "The Nurse Who Loved Me"

Monday, October 22, 2007

Spaghetti and Meatballs!

As I try to clean out my cabinets for my upcoming trip to the UK, I'm bound to come up with a few interesting recipes! On Saturday night I managed a fair approximation of spaghetti and meatballs . . . good enough that I think this one might make regular rotation!

Spaghetti and Meatballs:

Sauce:
1 large (28oz) can of diced tomatoes
1 small (12oz) can of tomato sauce
2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, finely diced
olive oil
salt
a few handfulls of basil, torn
1 tblsp dried oregano
2 or 3 bay leaves
1 tblsp tomato paste

-sautee onions and garlic in a bit of oil until they soften (5 minutes or so)
-add remanining ingredients and simmer until sauce becomes thick (30 mintues or so)

Meatballs:
1 package of refridgerated veggie 'meat'
1 egg
1/4 cup of italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan
salt, pepper and italian seasoning to taste

-mix all ingredients in a bowl and form into balls (I got 11)
-grease a casserole dish and lay balls in a single layer along bottom
-bake at 350 for about 20 minutes (balls will begin to brown on top)

Pasta:
Cook according to package instructions

I think the next time I make this I'm going to add a bit of shredded mozzerella in with the meatball mixture, the boy insists they're fine as is though. Either way, its nice to know the meatball technique I'd been imagining for a while works!!! Fake meat can be a bit of a pain to work with as it has no fat and doesn't crisp up the way real meat does, but the oven baked technique really does help the meatballs keep their shape.

Listening:  Stars- "Your Ex Lover Is Dead"

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Victoria Collection Is Here!

I'm so unbelievably excited about this that I don't even know where to start! As some of you may have noticed, my Etsy shop has a distinctly antique vibe lately. I find history to be endlessly inspiring, so its really no surprise to find myself gravitating towards historic elements in my work.



This new collection is, so far, the ultimate expression of my history obsession. I managed to come up with a handful or so of Victorian coins, mostly pennies and half pennies. They're genuine, they're worn and used, and all are over 100 years old. I had my dad drill holes in them, which I think might have offended his sensibilities a bit; but in the end I'd rather have a beautiful old thing that I can wear and have with me every day than a beautiful old thing that I keep in a drawer. So, pendants they are!



My first three pendants have been listed, I expect to make at least 5 or 7 more using my current stash. I'm not sure if after that I'll seek out more pennies or start on an Edwardian Collection, as I had to buy quite a few Edward pennies to get to all of my Victoria ones! For now though, I'm so excited about this new line. I'm wearing a prototype necklace that I'm keeping for myself now. I find myself doing a lot of daydreaming and staring into mirrors when I've got it on!

Listening:  Division Day- "Enjoy The Silence"

Monday, October 15, 2007

No Sooner Do I Finish October . . .

. . . than its Sampler time AGAIN for November!

After a grueling marathon session sewing last night, I'm ready to send my contribution for the November Sampler. This month I'm contributing 40 gemstone chip pendants and a very special 10 hand made coin purses! These samples also feature my brand new, professionally printed, self designed business cards! So glossy! I'm going to take a small break from The Sampler for December, as I'll be on vacation in the UK for a good week next month, so I wanted my November contribution to be really killer. I think they turned out well!

I think if I contributed the same thing month after month I'd go insane . . . and I plan to be a part of The Sampler as many months out of the year as possible! So I'm already tying to come up with ideas for my upcoming contributions. I've got a few brewing . . . so hopefully my January contribution will be even better.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Sampler!

My first round of The Sampler has come full circle! The Sampler is a great indie company that collects samples and promos from indie businesses and redistributes them to the donors as well as to Sampler subscribers and media contacts. I contributed 50 business card/magnet sets and in return, the other night I came home to a lovely fun box of samples all for me!! Some of my favorites are pictured below including a set of tags from MaryLou's Art, a claddagh themed soap from Disquieting Designs and a super awesome letterpress notecard from Flora and Fauna Press.



I'm getting started on my round 2 sampler items . . . I've designed new business cards and this time I'm going to contribute a combo of coin purses and gemstone chip pendants. I'm also going to step up my packaging using ideas i picked up while rifling through my sampler box . . . so next month promises to be even more fun!


Listening:  Division Day- "Tigers"

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Historical Figures Swap!!!!

The Craftster Historical Figures Swap that I participated in is finally complete!!! For this swap, I sent in a list of historical figures I was interested in and my partner did the same. We made each other 3 items or so each based on those figures. My partner did all of her crafting for me based on Anne Boylen. I almost squealed when I opened my box and saw a FRENCH HOOD of all things. It was literally all I could do to not rip it out of the box and wear it at the office! She also put together a little purse holding a collection of 'Anne's things' including a B necklace, pearls, a mirror, a hankerchief, tons of fun stuff! And lastly a gorgeous sparkly stole and a bunch of Crunchie bars!
My package to her included a pirate-y Anne Bonney themed tote bag, a necklace featuring a photo of Hampton Court, a print of that photo, a red brick stitch neckwarmer with Tudor rose buttons (!) and a slew of Reeses Pieces mini bags.
A fantastic swap all around! I'm swapless right now for the first time in a while . . . I think I'll be on the prowl for a new swap soon!


Listening:  Ravens and Chimes- "January"

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Cleaning Out The Freezer

Over the last few weeks I've realized that I can no longer accurately identify some of the stuff from the back of my freezer. Basically, I had a few containers of "pasta and I don't effin' know what" and seeing as those aren't usually my first choice for lunch, I decided to clean out and restock.

I tossed everything I couldn't identify and everything I could that wasn't good the first time around (my sad attempt at bubble and squeak . . . a tofu stir fry that had gone awry). Then I made a big batch of veggie bolognaise (see below!), a batch of lentil and barley vegetable soup (recipe is in here somewhere, I swear), and a nice batch of stuffed peppers, but done casserole style. Instead of stuffing the individual peppers I cut them up and put them at the bottom of a casserole dish then topped the whole lot w/ rice/fake meat mixture and cheese. It tasted just as good and was less messy to make and eat. I'm of the opinion that getting a casserole dish out is always a good time, but this totally proved it all over again!

I'm ready to settle in for a few weeks of being able to ID my lunch!

Listening:  Goldrush - "Heaven Is My Destiantion"

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Holiday Gift Sets!

I wanted to put together a few gift options for my shop for the holidays. This is the first of them! Its a matching bracelet and lariat set with a mini coin pouch . . . no need to wrap even! Sales seem to be picking up for the holidays already, so it will be interesting to watch and see how this sort of item does!

Listening:  Division Day- "Tigers"

Monday, October 1, 2007

The most insanely amazing pasta ever. Like, seriously.

I had intended to make a veggie Bolognese sauce on Saturday night, but instead of picking up veggie ground meat I accidentally picked up a pack of veggie deli slices (is there a pattern developing here?). Instead of scrapping the whole pasta sauce idea, I thought I'd try making a veggie sauce. I remember having read somewhere that finely grated carrots could mimic meat texture, so I dug around in the crisper and came up with this:

Veggie Pasta Sauce:

3 carrots, shredded on the finest grater space
1/2 a leek, cut into a tiny confetti
2 small yellow onions or 1 large one, cut into a fine dice
1 bell pepper, cut into a fine dice
2 celery stalks, fine dice (slice lengthwise a few times, then dice crosswise)
3 garlic cloves, smashed then minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large (28oz) can of diced tomatoes
1 regular (12oz) can of tomato sauce
1 tblsp tomato paste
about 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
about 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 1/2 tblsp dried oregano
1 bay leaf

- place all ingredients up to and including olive oil in a stock pot and sweat until they begin to soften (about 10 minutes)
-Add remaining ingredients and simmer partially covered for an hour

I served the sauce mixed with whole wheat pasta, topped w/ Italian cheeses and broiled. It was insanely good . . . and I'd imagine this would be an excellent recipe to sneak vegetables into children. For all the veggies contained in it, it didn't taste remarkably "vegetable-y".

I think I might actually make more tonight. It was THAT good!

Listening:  Division Day- "Reversible"