Saturday, November 20, 2010

Upcoming Events I'll be Vending At

The Anachronism Steampunk Event: Oz meets Wonderland
Sunday, November 21st, 2010
Webster Hall, New York City
125 East 11th Street
New York, NY
7:30 pm - 12:30 am

For the Annual Lawrenceville Tour of Cookies:
Fe Arts Gallery
4102 Butler Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15201
Thursday, December 2nd, 2010
3:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Friday, December 3rd, 2010
12:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Sunday, December 5th, 2010
12:00 pm - 5:00 pm

I Made It! for the Holidays
Saturday, Dec. 4th, 2010
428 S. 27th Street,
Pittsburgh, PA 15203
SouthSide Works, near REI
12:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Midwinter Ball, featuring The Clockwork Dolls
Saturday, December 11th, 2010
4016 Butler St.
Pittsburgh, PA
9:00 pm - 2:00 am

Last Minute Market
Saturday, December 18th, 2010
Screw Factory
Lake Erie Building,
13000 Athens Avenue
Lakewood, OH
10:00 am - 6:00 pm

I'm already exhausted just thinking about all of these and all the work that goes into them, but I'm really looking forward to them and love what I do.  Hopefully I'll see some of you at some of these events.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Living Life Creatively

Lately there's been quite a buzz in the craft world about living a creative life.  This means different things to everyone, but I keep finding myself pondering what it means to me.  As someone trying to earn a full time living from their creativity, this topic is especially relevant to me. 

One of my favorite novels from childhood, Alice in Wonderland, contains many important lessons, one of which is that things are only impossible if you believe them to be.  This is a philosophy I always attempt to follow, especially with regard to my creativity, and the reason hearing the word "can't" is such a huge pet peeve for me.  My approach toward creating often involves inspiration from unlikely sources which results in what most people would dismiss as a crazy idea.  However, many creative people will tell you there's no such thing as a crazy idea - another philosophy which I embrace fully.  The first through fifth attempts at bringing the idea to reality may fail, but each attempt provides learning opportunities and gets you closer to the goal. 

Thomas Edison once said, "I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward."  While I'm much more a fan of Tesla than I am of Edison, I have to admit that I agree with this philosophy.

What are your views or tips toward living a creative life?  Do you have any favorite quotes that inspire your creativity?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Life Lessons Learned at Craft Shows

If you pay attention when you're out in public, especially when vending at craft shows, you can learn valuable lessons.  Some apply to your craft business, some to just life in general.  Lessons I've been learning that I'm trying to better implement are as follows:
1)  Listen.
Hear your customers.  Learn from them.  If they like what you're making except for... listen and make adjustments for the next time or offer to do custom work.  Look at each show as an opportunity to perform consumer research.

2)  Smile.
This is especially important when your day isn't going well.  People don't want to be around unhappy negative people.  Don't keep potential customers away by complaining about your day or looking miserable.  Sometimes others are having a bad day too and something as simple as a smile might make things just a little easier for them.  Even if they don't buy something from you one day, you never know when you might see them again.

3)  Pay attention.
Some items get attention from customers regardless of how you display them.  Others may not get noticed at all.  Pay attention to which items your customers are looking at and what they're saying as they do.  Make notes of what works and what doesn't and continue fine tuning your display at each show.

4)  Follow through. 
We all get busy and only have a set number of hours in each day.  Try to prioritize tasks in terms of follow through.  If I owe someone an answer, I don't want to keep them waiting and yet sometimes I get busy and let things slide.  When it happens to me I get truly frustrated, especially if having to wait for information from someone else holds me up so I'm trying to do a better job of following through myself.  With customers especially, they're more likely to return for future purchases if you do well with this.

5)  Be consistent.   
This goes along with follow through as well.  If you tell people something they will likely remember it even if you don't.  People know other people.  You never know who they'll talk to.  Due to this, if you tell one person x but do y, you can be fairly certain it will come back to haunt you.  You never want to find yourself in a situation where you told customer #1 something, then tell customer #2 the opposite and have them call you on it.  While I haven't been guilty of this, I have been on the receiving end and can tell you it's not a good position to find yourself in.

6)  Treat others the way you want them to treat you.
This lesson is simple and basic and one most of us should have learned as children.  Some of us try to live our lives according to that lesson and some people appear to have forgotten it or never learned it.  Try not to let them impact your actions.  I feel it's still important to keep in mind as I navigate my way through life.  Setting a good example just might rub off on others.  If you're nice and friendly and offer to watch a neighbor's booth while they go to the restroom, chances are good they'll do the same for you.

7)  You can't make everyone happy all the time. 
The best you can do is make the majority of people happy.  There will always be at least one person that you can't please no matter what you do.  There are always things going on in other people's lives that impact their perspective that you have no control over.  Try not to let them affect you negatively.

8)  Have fun! 
Life is too short not to find a way to enjoy yourself.  If you're vending at a craft show, I'm guessing you're trying to find a way to make money doing something you enjoy.  Even if it's an off day and you're not making money that day, find a way to have fun at the event.  Enjoy interacting with your customers.  Get to know your neighbors.  If there's music at the event, enjoy the opportunity to hear a new performer.   By looking at the positive side of things, you'll most likely have the best day possible given any situation you may find yourself in.

I realize there are many lessons I've missed but the above are themes that seem to come up frequently.  These are items I'm trying to improve my implementation of.  I am by no means trying to claim I'm an expert at them.  I am human after all and therefore imperfect.  Despite this, I'm trying to do what I can to improve.  What lessons have you learned that are particularly useful?  I'd love to hear about them.  Let's learn from each other.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Brooklyn Indie Market Steampunk Day III at the Dumbo Lofts

On Sunday, October 24th, the Brooklyn Indie Market held their third annual Steampunk Day at the Dumbo Lofts from 11:00 am to 8:00 pm.  Niffer, of 19Moons, and I were thrilled to be able to participate in the event as vendors for the second year in a row.

The prior two events had been held at their weekly location, under the red and white striped tent at Smith and Union, but growing attendance numbers and inclement weather the past two years caused the need for a larger indoor venue. 

The larger venue allowed space for additional vendors as well as the addition of a Steampunk corner and salon sponsored by Tor Books and  From the opening of the event, at 11:00 am until 4:00 pm, complimentary tea and scones were offered, books were available for sale by Mobile Libris, and readings were offered by a number of interesting personalities and authors.  More information about this portion of the event, including the line up of readers and selections read can be found on

For a small fee, attendees could take home a photographic memento created for them by Tsirkus Fotografika who employ a mobile photo lab, analog film, and old-fashioned camera equipment to create photos with a vintage appeal, much like the travelling photographers of the past.

This year's vendors included:

Ami Nyitray Designs
Barker's Herbs & Heirlooms
Sole Arts
Jenny Sparrow
Ezra's Cousin
Jen Claire
Once Lost Jewelry
I'm Handmade
RockLove Jewelry
Sultana Jewelry
Nemesis Jewelry
Ingkay & Onssay Co.
Sylvia Holden
Andy's House of Design
David Brunell-Brutman

One of the most refreshing aspects of the day was the high number of attendees in street clothes mingling with those in steampunk attire.  I always enjoy seeing a wide variety of interpretations of steampunk style at events, and this was no exception.  However, those not in costume were equally welcome and for some, this may have been their first introduction to Steampunk and hopefully they'll now want to learn more about it.  For this reason, I'm especially thankful that most participants in the steampunk subculture are accepting of anyone with an interest in the genre and don't make those not dressed according to some predefined ideal feel unwelcome. 

The fashion show, presided over by the Master of Ceremonies August Wahnsinger, began at 4:00 pm and featured several designers who'd also exhibited as vendors during the day.  Following an opening performance by Lola Lola Dance Theatre the first portion featured designs by:

Artificial Intrigue
Kristin Costa
Studio Hibernacula

After a brief intermission, the second portion featured designs by:

KVO Designs
Blooms in the Night
Heartless Revival
Berit New York with hats by La China Loca

While all the designs were certainly a tribute to creativity, the spirit of steampunk, and had aspects to be admired, my personal favorites were the styles created by KVO Designs and Berit New York.  This proclamation is based on the Victorian influence clearly present in the designs, their wearability, and frankly, my own personal taste.  I truly admired several items by several of the other designers as well.  This was yet another of the events that exceeded my expectations and I'm eagerly awaiting next year's event.  Kudos to Kathy Malone from the Brooklyn Indie Market, and all those who assisted her, for putting on yet another utterly phenomenal Steampunk Day!

All of the photos I took at the event as well as those taken by others can be viewed on Flickr here.

Several members of the media attended the event this year and some of the coverage , including video of the fashion show, can be seen at the following links:  Steampunk Fashion Show Churns Out Style in Dumbo

Brooklyn Exposed: Photo Gallery of Steampunk Fashion Show: People, Designers, Merchandise

Steampunk Fashion Show Event

NY:  Steampunk Fashion Show

Time Out New York:  Steampunk Day Photos

MetroMix:  Steampunk Fashion Show 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Whirlwind Weekend in NYC

I'm finally recovered enough from my whirlwind trip to New York City to write a quick blog post about the trip.  Whenever I visit, I always come home filled with creative energy and that was especially true this time.

My friend Niffer, of 19Moons, accompanied me as we left my home outside Pittsburgh, PA to head to Nostalgia Guest House in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY on Saturday, the 23rd.  We encountered sunny days, daytime temperatures in the mid-70's, and slightly lower nightime temperatures for our trip.  We checked into our room, unpacked, changed for our evening adventures, then headed to dinner at Dao Palate on Flatbush Avenue.

After dining on delicious asian-inspired vegetarian cuisine made from fresh, local, organic ingredients, we headed to the John Fluevog shoe store.  There we tried on boots we'd been drooling over online to see how they fit, wished there would soon be a sale on the boots we liked, and took a few fun but silly pictures.  From Fluevog's we headed to Times Square to see the Gary Numan concert we had tickets to.  Emilie Autumn was scheduled to open for him and I was really looking forward to seeing her perform so I was quite disappointed when we arrived and I learned that she had cancelled.  My disappointment quickly turned to pleasant surprise, however, when we learned that Rasputina would be performing in her place.  They even played a cover of The Smiths song "How Soon is Now" which we liked even better than the original, which is not easily done.  You may be wondering which Smiths song I'm referring to, so I'll help you out - it's their song in which the predominate lyric from the chorus is "I am human and I need to be loved."  I'll bet you know which song I'm referring to now, don't you?  Following the phenomenal performance by Rasputina, Gary Numan took the stage and performed the entire Pleasure Principle album, or at least most of it.  He also performed a few new numbers, which reminded me a bit of Ministry and which I really enjoyed.

Sunday, the majority of the day was devoted to the reason for our trip - vending at the Brooklyn Indie Market's Steampunk Day on Sunday, October 24th.  My next post will include full details about the event, so please be patient.  After a fabulously successful day of vending and steamy fun, we headed back to the guest house to change our outfits, and especially our shoes (our feet were quite literally screaming their complaints at us),  then went back out in search of dinner.  The place I'd wanted to try was sadly closed, so we headed back to Dao Palate for yet another extremely delicious dinner.

Monday morning we stopped at a gluten Free artisan bakery called "Everybody Eats" and purchased some delicious multi grain artisan baguettes and other gluten free bread products directly from one of the two owners.  We'd hoped to be able to use some of the bread for our breakfast, but it's frozen so you can put it in your freezer at home and then use it at your leisure since it's preservative free.  Fortunately, Tony Bagels was just a few doors away and we were able to get breakfast there before heading to Green-Wood Cemetery.

At Green-Wood Cemetery we were greeted by the most breathtaking Gothic style gates I've ever seen.  Once we parked and got out of the car, we followed the sound of bird song to the bell tower at the gates and discovered several nests made by several lovely little green parrots, known commonly as Monk Parrots or Monk Parakeets.

We stood and watched the parrots for some time before wandering around the front part of the cemetery, enjoying the sculpture gardens, fall foliage, and a calm respite from the city.  After taking numerous photographs, with a contented sigh, and a fond farewell to our new feathered friends, we headed for home.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Zombies Invade Pittsburgh's Market Square for a Good Cause...

On 10/10/10, the It's Alive Show presented the 2010 Zombie Fest as hordes of local zombies came together to celebrate World Zombie Day.  In the past, the event has been held at the Monroeville Mall which was the main location of the original Dawn of the Dead.  Last year there were too many zombies for the mall, so Market Square has become the new home of Zombie Fest and it was wonderful to see it in downtown Pittsburgh!
These zombies used their brains to shop local.
Admission was free but zombies were asked to bring non-perishable food items for The Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank and they brought them in droves.

The day's activities included performances from live bands - The Motorpsychos, The Cheats, Icarus Witch, Del Rios, The Flying Dutchmen, and Deathmobile.  In between bands, contests such as the Zombie Olympics, a (jello) brain eating contest, an ugly pageant, and the best scream contest were held.  Throughout the day, local artists and a few small local businesses vended making the event truly a festival atmosphere.  I was fortunate to be one of these vendors and truly appreciate all those in attendance that supported me, and all the local vendors, by buying from us.  This event was a wonderful example of consumers shopping local and coming together for a good cause while having good, clean, creative, (even if it was somewhat bloody) fun. 
John Russo writer of Night of the Living Dead & George Kosana the Sheriff in Night of the Living Dead were celebrity guests in attendance and there was even a chance auction held to benefit The Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

At the end of the day, the official count was 4,590 zombies in attendance for The Walk of the Dead. This year, Pittsburgh will attempt to reclaim the Guinness world record for "Largest Gathering of Zombies" and this number should have secured the title.

10/14/10 Update:  3,489 pounds of food was collected for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank at Zombie Fest 2010.

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010

    Witch Craft: Wicked Accessories, Creepy-Cute Toys, Magical Treats, and More!

    I own numerous Halloween books, some filled with creepy recipes, some feature seasonal craft projects, and still others feature spooktacular decorating tips.  Some feature a bit of each of these.  Over the years I've become much more discriminating in my purchases and often find new titles are often sadly similar to books I already own.

    Witch Craft, a new title from Quirk books, is an exception.  The projects and recipes are all unique and seem simple to replicate.  The instructions are all clear and easy to follow.  Some projects may involve techniques you may not be familiar with, but there are links provided to web sites with helpful information to help you learn to master new skills.

    As an added bonus, one of the two editors and contributor of four of the projects is a fellow Pittsburgher and Steel Town Etsy team member.  My overall favorite project is the ruby slippers pictured at the beginning of this post and on the cover of the book.  Another project I'm especially eager to try is the Freaky Finger Food.  It will most definitely be one of the many dishes featured on the spooky buffet at our annual Boo Bash.

    The book is available in bookstores such as Barnes & Noble, and Borders, as well as on Amazon.

    If you live in Philadelphia, Seattle, or Pittsburgh, feel free to attend these upcoming book events:
    Dracula DIY at the Rosenbach Museum in Philadelphia, Saturday, October 23.
    A Halloween party at Cakespy in Seattle Saturday, October 9.
    Shaler Library Costume Halloween Bash in Pittsburgh  October 15.

    Tuesday, September 7, 2010

    Tuesday Thinking Green: TerraCycle teams up with Keebler

    This past week I purchased a package of Keebler's Sandies Pecan Shortbread cookies.  On the wrapper, I discovered that Keebler has now paired with TerraCycle to encourage people to upcycle their cookie wrappers.  As many of you know, I'm a huge fan of upcycling everything I can as I figure the fewer items that end up in landfills the better off we all are. 

    TerraCycle encourages consumers to save more than just cookie wrappers, though.  They have established trash brigades to allow consumers to earn cash for their trash for a school or other non profit group.  Through this program you can save items such as drink pouch containers, candy wrappers, home storage items (such as ziploc bags), yogurt containers, chip bag, and other items, then redeem them for $.02 each to raise money for programs such as schools.  They then turn these items into products like fencing, eco friendly fire starters, windowbox planters and other garden pots, and much more.  Visit their website for more information on this wonderful program.

    Once you learn about the program, contact your local elementary, middle school, or high school and encourage them to participate in this program.  I already send all my paper recycling to our local elementary school to help them raise money and hope to soon start sending cookie wrappers their way as well.

    Saturday, September 4, 2010

    Back to School and Back to Blog

    I know I've been absent much of the summer, but life just hasn't allowed time to blog.  My boys were home on school vacation most of June through this past Monday.  They kept the Mom taxi running nonstop, including weekly trips to Sandcastle, the local water park, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.  In between, I've been busy pursuing my photography and other artistic outlets, vending at several local shows in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Ohio, and participating in the Carrick Art Escape project.

    I first found about about the Art Escape project through a Facebook post from my amazingly talented artist friend Kathryn Carr where she mentioned she'd be participating and linked to an article in Pop City about the project.   Several local artists created varied works of art on large panels to be placed in storefronts along Brownsville road primarily, both to beautify the neighborhood and to help make vacant storefronts more appealing to potential occupants.  Originally, I'd painted a large 4 foot wide by 5 foot tall panel burgundy, and mounted photographs of various Carrick landmarks to it, but the panel ended up being too large for its final destination and sadly, the mounting tape I normally use for my photos wasn't strong enough to keep the photos adhered to the wood.  Missy, the organizer of the project, who normally prefers to remain invisible and behind the scenes in the work she does for the neighborhood has put in many hours of hard, and often thankless work, to pull this project together.  She even went above and beyond expectations and remounted my photos to a panel that would fit in the location she wanted to showcase my project in.  While they're not displayed in the same order I originally had them in, my angel statue photo is still at the top and center as the prominent piece.  The conceptual title of my piece is "Angels Watching Over Carrick" and I envision the angels as the residents of Carrick who get involved in making their neighborhood a better place, the other artists who gave so freely of their time and talents to make the project a reality, as well as the statues in the cemetery atop the hill overlooking Carrick.  The Post Gazette blog recently posted a feature entitled Painting Carrick with a few details about the project as well.  If you're in Pittsburgh, and interested in viewing the projects, start at Churchview and continue to Carrick Library on Brownsville Rd.  Carrick has a huge business district, so art panels are sporadically placed where there were empty storefronts or space availability. Below is a list of where the art is located:

    Mary Grace Nichol: Carrick Library -1811 Brownsville Rd.
    Kathryn Carr: 1824 Brownsville Rd. (across from library; next to Anthony's Pizza/ Permanent Wave Salon)
    Tamara Barker: 2018 Brownsville Rd.(across from Madeline St./ Zion Church)
    Anthony Stewart: 2018 Brownsville Rd.(")
    Malia Rosenfeld: 2018 Brownsville Rd.(")
    Leslie (Soulmate Tattoo): 2018 Brownsville Rd.(")
    Lynsey Kern: 2601 Brownsville Rd ( Hess Floral Building)
    Tommy Mason: 2608 Brownsville Rd.(Previously Artistic Tattoo business)
    Dawn Morris : 2608 Brownsville Rd.( ")
    Nichole Musser: 2608 Brownsville Rd.(")
    David Connelly: 2608 Brownsville Rd.(")
    Anthony Stewart: 2608 Brownsville Rd.(")
    Gail Matus: 2608 Brownsville Rd(")
    Joyce Wasser: 2619 Brownsville Rd( across the street from Artistic Tattoo)
    Elizabeth Vogel: 2619 Brownsville Rd(")
    Tirzah De Caria: 2621 Brownsville Rd.(")
    Hayley Gallagher: 2621 Brownsville Rd.(")

    I apologize for the lengthy post, but had I covered everything I've been up to since I last blogged, the post would be far longer.  During my blogging hiatus I also secured a DIY craft book deal and have been busily working on writing it (more on that later), so I will only be blogging sporadically for awhile until it's completed, but I will make an effort to write at least one entry a week.  Those of you who've been awaiting the next installment of my zombie tale for my Tale Tuesday series, leave me a comment if you can't wait until mid-to-late October for the next installment, and, if I receive enough comments, I'll endeavor to find time to work on it during craft book breaks.
    If you're in the Pittsburgh area, please take the time to view the Carrick Art Escape installment and let me know if you enjoyed it.  If you'd like contact info for any of the artists, feel free to let me know and I'll get in touch with them.  Thanks for reading and have a wonderful Labor Day weekend!

    Monday, June 21, 2010

    Monday Meals with Mincie: Strawberry Shortcake

    Today is the official first day of summer and, for me, no summer is ever complete without enjoying several strawberry shortcakes.  Mincie often made her own Southern style shortcakes, which were my favorite. Occasionally she'd resort to purchasing mini Hostess sponge cakes that had wells in them to hold the sweetened berries.  They were good, but not as good as her homemade sweetened biscuits.  Like so many things she made, I don't think she had a recipe for these, but the following is my closest approximation.

    Mincie's Strawberry Shortcake

    1 quart of fresh strawberries (approximately)
    1/3 cup of sugar

    1) Wash and hull strawberries.
    2)  Slice into a bowl.
    3)  Sprinkle sugar over berries.
    4)  Set aside for about an hour, at room temperature.
    5)  When ready, sugar should be dissolved and berries should be juicy.

    Sweetened Biscuits:

    2 cups flour
    1 Tablespoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
    1/2 cup butter
    3/4 cup milk

    1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
    2) Mix dry ingredients.
    3) Cut butter into about eight pieces and add to dry ingredients.  Mix butter into dry ingredients, using either a pastry blender or the back of a fork.  Butter should be about the size of small peas when blended.
    4) Make a well in the center, add milk, and mix until thorougly moistened.
    5) Let dough sit for a few minutes, then sprinkle flour on clean countertop, pat dough out into a rectangle, knead two to three times, then roll out using a drinking glass.  Cut into biscuits using the opening of the drinking glass and place in buttered biscuit pans.*
    6) Bake 10 - 12 minutes until brown on top.

    To prepare:
    Slice biscuits in half, horizontally, while still warm and place a pat of butter on the bottom.  Place top back on so both halves will end up buttered.  Allow to cool slightly, then remove top of biscuit, cover bottom of biscuit with sweetened strawberries along with some juice, and place top of biscuit on top of strawberries.  Top with more strawberries, then add Cool Whip or whip cream.  Enjoy!

    * Note:  While Mincie's method involved the use of a drinking glass to roll out her biscuits, yours does not have to.

    Sunday, June 20, 2010

    Sunday Snippets: Time has been flying swiftly for me, of late!

    For several weeks leading up to the Steampunk World's Fair, it seemed as if I was consumed by creative ideas and was in a mad flurry to finish them all.  Once the event passed, I had a few days to recover and prepare for the family vacation.  Now, after what seems like only a week, I find almost a month has passed and I've been severely lax with my blog entries.

    Since returning from the family vacation it seems about all I've had time for is spending time with my guys now that they're out of school for the summer.  I love having them home, but this year it seems like such a huge adjustment to my schedule.  Somehow, about the time August rolls around, I'm sure I'll figure out a way to arrange my schedule to allow time for my creating, writing my blog, and them.  For now, though, it's still a bit of a challenge finding time for anything other than the guys.  While I know they won't be young for long and I don't regret spending time with them, I'm going to try to carve out small pieces of time for me so I don't feel guilty about neglecting the blog and can enjoy time spent with them all the more.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010

    Thursday Thinking Green: Organic food vs. GMO crops

    I rarely use my blog to write about political issues, but our food quality and preserving choice is one I feel strongly enough to devote space to here. 

    Monsanto is on the verge of releasing GMO alfalfa.  If you at all value the quality of the food you eat, please take a moment to read this post and sign the petition linked at the end of this entry. Not only would GMO alfalfa almost certainly wind pollinate and contaminate organic crops, but there is also the potential for this to severely negatively impact small scale farmers, family farms, the eco-system, etc. The far reaching implications are frightening, but unknown, as not enough research has been done to safely introduce this product to the market. The biggest danger with allowing the introduction of GMO Alfalfa is that, unlike previous GMO introductions, this is a perennial crop. Monsanto's GMO soybeans have already resulted in creating uber-weeds that are resistant to Roundup causing new, more invasive weed control products to be created and, at times, causing farmers to implement intensive tilling farming methods - the very methods the GMO soybeans were created to eliminate.

    From the Credo action site: "Stop Monsanto's GMO Alfalfa!

    Organics are under attack again. Earlier this year, we let you know about Monsanto's efforts to market and sell its genetically modified (GMO) Roundup Ready (TM) alfalfa. The USDA has given initial signs that it is preparing to grant Monsanto approval to distribute its seed, even knowing that it is almost certain the crop's modified genes will contaminate non-GMO -- including organic -- alfalfa.

    Fortunately, the possibility of the USDA giving Monsanto the green light has caught the attention of two leading members of Congress -- Senator Patrick Leahy and Congressman Peter DeFazio. They have written a "Dear Colleague" letter, addressed to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, asking him to maintain the ban on GMO alfalfa in order to protect farmers, the environment, and the organic industry.

    If your members of Congress have not done so already, they have until the end of this week -- less than 24 hours -- to sign the letter and join their colleagues in asking Secretary Vilsack to maintain the ban on Monsanto's GMO alfalfa.

    During the Bush administration, Monsanto illegally won USDA approval for its GMO alfalfa by convincing regulators to bypass a mandatory environmental review. In response to a lawsuit by consumer groups, the courts then stepped in and banned GMO alfalfa until the USDA followed the law.

    During the USDA's public comment period on Monsanto's alfalfa application in March, CREDO Action members submitted over 77,000 comments asking the USDA to protect the organic sector by keeping the GMO seed off the market. Now, we need to generate the same kind of overwhelming response to members of Congress so they will tell Secretary Vilsack to protect organics and farmers instead of Monsanto's profits.

    Sign the petition to your senators and representative today, urging them to sign on to the Leahy - DeFazio letter asking Secretary Vilsack to reject Monsanto's application to market and sell GMO alfalfa."

    Monday, June 7, 2010

    Monday Meals With Mincie: Strawberries and Cream

    t was a bowl of strawberries and cream that began Mincie's strawberry growing hobby and led to my lifetime fascination with strawberries. When I was little, I visited her every chance I got. Each June, as soon as the strawberries from her neighbor's garden were ripe, he'd bring me a bowl of strawberries and cream. I enjoyed it so much, that it wasn't long before she'd planted a small patch of strawberries so I could have more fresh berries the following spring. By the time I was in high school, that one small patch of berries had grown to two sizeable berry patches and we enjoyed a variety of strawberry desserts as well as strawberry freezer jam throughout the year. Next week I'll share more strawberry recipes, but for tonight, here's the recipe for, what is for me, a bit of early summer childhood nostalgia in a bowl.

    Strawberries & Cream:
    1/2 cup fresh strawberries
    2 teaspoons sugar
    1 cup heavy whipping cream or milk
    1) Wash and hull strawberries

    2) Chop strawberries into a coarse dice.

    3) Cover strawberries with sugar. Use a fork to mix sugar with the berries and gently smash the berries, until juice begins to run and sugar is dissolved.

    4) Pour whipping cream or milk over berries and enjoy.

    Friday, June 4, 2010

    Free Form Friday: This weekend's vending schedule

    Here it is, fairly late on a Friday evening, and I'm just now getting a chance to sit down and write a blog entry for today.  I had a lengthy list of things I needed to do today, many of them online, and, as luck would have it, thanks in part to a mishap caused by one of our dogs and the interference of summer storms, I haven't had the internet available to me for the majority of the day.  Yesterday came and went without providing the opportunity to do much online, including writing a blog entry, thanks to the school year winding down and two boys who were so excited to have a day off due to the annual Kennywood Day (a day when area schools attend the local amusement park) that they kept me overly occupied for the entire day.  Next week, the boys only have 3 1/2 days of school left until they're out for the summer, so I'll have to make the most of the last of my "free" days for awhile. 

    Many weekends I have a packed vending schedule, but I'm especially excited about this one.

    Saturday, I'll be vending at the 12th annual Fleatique on the Mon, a wonderful event that's close to home and is always quite fun.  The event runs from 8:00 am - 4:00 pm and you can find me among the fine crafts and antique vendors that are located in Chess Park, right on Main Street in Monongahela.  If flea market vendors are of interest to you, make sure you wander over to 3rd Street where they'll be located.

    Sunday, I'll be in the I Made It! Market tent in the Creativity Zone at the Three Rivers Arts Festival from 12:00 pm - 6:00 pm both vending and teaching children how to make flowers from pop cans.  They'll be able to create a flower to take home with them and will hopefully look at their trash a bit more creatively as a result.

    If you attend either event this weekend, please stop by and say hello.  Have a fantastic weekend, whether I see you or not!

    Thursday, May 27, 2010

    Thursday Travel Log: Southern Adventures

    Since I'm currently on vacation and am enjoying a bit of quiet time at the beach house before everyone else begins to get up, I thought I'd write a brief travel log entry rather than my usual thematic entry for a Thursday.

    So far, despite intermittent rain all week (that's been downright torrential at times), we've managed to fit almost everything in that we've wanted to do and have just worked around the rain.  I've checked the hour by hour weather forecast on far more times than I care to count, but I digress.  We still have two more full days here, in the Charleston, SC area, to fit in the rest of the things that were on our "things to do while we're here" lists.

    Monday, we drove into Charleston and enjoyed shopping at the open air market that is formally known as "The Old City Market".  There has been a market on this site since 1788 and the current buildings date to 1841.  A wide variety of vendors here offer everything from locally made sweetgrass baskets to candied pecans and salt water taffy, as well as a large variety of souvenir items.  A number of shops line the streets on each side of the open air market, one of which is Black Market Minerals, a favorite stop for my boys.  Of course, we had to stop in here so they could each purchase a small selection of fossils and unique rocks to add to their collections.  They also sell a number of different gemstone beads and beading supplies which I know a number of my friends would find hard to resist (those of you reading this - they also sell them online).  After lunch in Charleston, at California Dreaming - my Mother in Law's favorite, we headed back to the beach house to change clothes and head to the beach during a brief break in the rain.  At the beach, we found a number of seashells and enjoyed hunting for them until we heard the clap of thunder and decided it was time to head in for the day.

    Tuesday morning, we drove back into Charleston and took the boys to the South Carolina Aquarium while my in-laws enjoyed a boat ride over to Fort Sumter followed by a horse-drawn carriage ride around downtown Charleston.  The highlight of the aquarium trip for the boys was the new rare albino alligator they have that was rescued in the wild and then raised in captivity.  The aquarium also now has an interactive feature where the kids can "drive" an underwater exploratory robotic device inside one of the large tanks that house a number of tropical fish.  Needless to say, this was also a huge highlight of the trip for my guys.  The aquarium also has several shark and a sea turtle in it's largest tank which is always a must see.  After a successful trip to the aquarium and a visit to the gift store there, we headed back over to the open air market and enjoyed lunch at Bubba Gump Shrimp, located alongside the market.  After lunch, the boys noted that it had stopped raining and seemed like perfect beach weather, so we headed back toward the beach house and stopped only at Rosebank Farms along the way.  While they initially grumbled about my desire to stop for corn on the cob and green boiled peanuts, they quickly stopped complaining when they saw the assorted farm animals they could visit.  The rabbits and ducks had both just had babies, so we especially enjoyed visiting them.  Once they discovered they could buy bottles of Coca-Cola, they were begging me to bring them back again while we were here this trip.  After a visit to the beach, we enjoyed a meal at our beach house, made from fresh local ingredients, including the corn I'd purchased.

    Wednesday we drove to Savannah, GA, which takes just a little over 2 hours from Seabrook Island, where we're staying.  We enjoyed the River Street Shops, had lunch at Bella's Italian Cafe, then the boys headed to a toy store with my in-laws while my husband and I headed to Bonaventure Cemetery.  Those of you who know me well, can only imagine how thoroughly excited (geeked even) I was to be here.  There are few places more romantic to me than old cemeteries, with their marble monuments surrounded by plants that have resided next to them for decades, and this is especially true of Southern cemeteries filled with old oak trees draped with Spanish Moss.  Bonaventure sits on the site of a former plantation and was been a private cemetery from 1846 to 1907, when it became a public cemetery.  The cemetery is most famous for being featured in the novel "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" which later became a movie, but the statue of The Bird Girl that was featured on the cover of the novel is no longer here, having been donated to a museum to protect it after the book's popularity risked its safety.  There are still several phenomenal statues throughout the cemetery and I took a little over about 36 pictures on film and countless pictures with my digital camera here.  Once I'm home, I'll sort through all the pictures from the trip and will share them in my Flickr photo stream

    Today, the weather forecast is for sun, and a high of about 88 degrees so for now, the only plans for the day involve visits to the beach.  Here, on Seabrook Island, we never know what the day will bring, though, and that's part of the fun of vacationing here.

    Monday, May 24, 2010

    Monday Meals with Mincie: Sweet Tea

    As long as I can remember, Mincie always had sweet tea in her refrigerator, in a yellow ceramic pitcher.  While I now possess the pitcher, it's far too valuable to me to actually use for tea, so it sits in a prime location in my kitchen as a decorative piece.  My father especially loves sweet tea and their refrigerator isn't complete without it so I learned to make it at an early age.  For me, it's more of a summertime drink so I haven't had any for awhile, until yesterday.  Since then, I've been drinking sweet tea with every meal and it seemed a fitting offering for today's entry.

    Saturday, we left our home in the morning, stopped in NC for the night, then drove on down to Seabrook Island, SC Sunday.  Our housesitter is settled in and our dogs seem happy with him, so all is well at home.  Here, the smell of Star Jasmine hangs in the air while a chorus of tree frogs sings outside my window and I have a week to enjoy the relaxed pace of the South.  I can't ask for anything more, except perhaps a glass of sweet tea in hand while relaxing on the porch.

    How to make Mincie's sweet tea:
    6 regular size tea bags (or 3 family size ones - I use Luzianne brand)
    2 cups cold water
    1 cup sugar

    1)  Put 2 cups water in a saucepan.

    2)  Add tea bags to the saucepan.

    3)  Bring water to a boil, then turn off heat.

    4)  Allow the tea to steep, then pour warm tea into a quart pitcher.

    5)  Add sugar to pitcher while tea is still warm and stir to dissolve.

    6)  Fill the pitcher the rest of the way with cold water, refrigerate and enjoy.

    Note:  You can also reduce the amount of water and add ice cubes to fill the pitcher if you're feeling impatient.

    Sun Tea variation: (method I use)
    Quart sized jar or other clear glass container with a lid
    1 quart of cold water
    3 family sized tea bags (or 6 regular sized ones)
    1 cup sugar

    1)  Fill glass jar with water.
    2)  Add tea bags.
    3)  Secure lid to keep debris out of the water.
    4)  Set outside in the sun until tea reaches the desired color.
    5)  Bring inside and add 1 cup of sugar.  Stir until dissolved.
    6)  Refrigerate until cold.

    The sun will warm the water, but it will not reach high enough temperatures to kill any bacteria that may be present in the water.  If the tea looks strange - such as being extra thick or syrupy or has strands in it - discard it and try again.  This is not, however, a problem I have very often at all.

    Friday, May 21, 2010

    The Steampunk World's Fair Recap

    Last weekend, May 14th - 16th, 2010, the first ever Steampunk World's Fair was held at the Radisson hotel in Piscataway, NJ.  My friend, Niffer, of 19Moons, travelled with me and shared a vending room.  We arrived at the hotel early Friday afternoon and there were already quite a few participants in costume in the lobby.  After a quick, smooth check in, we unpacked the car as fast as possible, began setting up, then had to quickly change to attend the Cup of Brown Joy Tea Party being hosted by Professor Elemental

    After only about 1/2 an hour at the tea, we headed back to our room so we could finish getting set up and opened.  Our vending space was our hotel room, which was a first for us, but it worked out really well and offered us a bit more flexibility with how we decorated the space.  We already have several plans to improve things for next year.  The rest of the evening was a bit of a blur as we suffered sleep deprivation and sensory overload thanks to too little sleep the night before and being surrounded by so many amazing costumes. 

    Niffer, preparing to attend the tea party.

    Starfish Necklace by 19moons, made from repurposed materials

    Jellyfish Necklace by 19moons, made from repurposed materials

    Me, after dinner, utterly exhausted

    The majority of the participants practice the art of Trashion, repurposing watches, brass pipes, cogs, clock gears, and anything else they can find that fits the aesthetic, as they create their accessories, and even their costumes themselves.  One of the attendees we met, Miriam, had fashioned a bracelet from the bubble portion of a broken construction level she'd found at the side of the road and her cape was made from a pleated skirt someone in her apartment building had thrown away.  I had to get a picture of her as it was a prime example of trashion.

    Unfortunately, each shot I tried to take from the front was blurry.

    I can't say enough about how fantastic the event was.  There were several other vendors, all with a great variety of items, everyone we met was unbelievably kind, and phenomenal costumes abounded.  Throughout the weekend there were a number of performances by several different musical groups, as well as other entertainment events and panels.  Over 3,000 people attended the festivities over the weekend and it was wonderful to be surrounded by so many creative like-minded individuals.  On Sunday, when it was time to leave, I was actually sad to head home.  Somehow, being back in the "real" world, seems so dull without the costumed individuals at every turn and the varied, always enjoyable, random performances of Emperor Norton's Stationary Marching Band, including parades through the hallways of the hotel and a parking lot dance party at 1:00 am Saturday morning.

    A special thank you and shout out to just a few of the new friends I made this past weekend:  Marisa Taylor of  Marisa Taylor Photography, whose camera I had the privilege of using to take a shot of her (I want one now).  Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys, who bought a couple of items from 19moons and I and wore them on stage.  Brigid Ashwood, artist extraordinaire, for, well, being her, and for the tips on new supplies to try.  Chrononaut Mercantile, who not only are purveyors of a number of fine wares, but are both unbelievably nice and interesting to talk to., Madame vonHedwig & P Phineas vonHedwig whose blog offers stirring adventure tales, tinkering, madscience, salvaging, & sewing.  Voltaire, who I finally got to see live, but who I also was able to meet and speak to briefly.  He seems to truly appreciate each of his fans, and took the time to converse with each one that approached him and even posed for pictures with several of them, including myself.
    There is so much more to say about the pure fantabulousness that was The Steampunk World's Fair, but I must call it a night.  For all of you who were eagerly awaiting this blog post, thank you for your patience.  While I would have liked to have written this blog post this past Monday, it took me until now to get caught up, both on sleep and on projects that got pushed aside as I was furiously finishing projects last week prior to leaving for the fair.

    Friday, May 7, 2010

    Free Form Friday: Gearing Up for Steampunk World's Fair, Oddmall, and the end of an odd, odd, week

    Firstly, I have to say this has been a seriously strange week, even by my relatively lax standards when it comes to judging what is strange.  Several friends who also sell online, have had to deal with unbelievably ridiculous customer complaints.  In the process of answering their questions and requests for advice with how to deal with them, I've found myself getting angry and I'm not even directly involved in it.  I guess it just upsets me when I see someone trying to take advantage of another person.  Since we're all concerned about customer service, it can be a fine line between being fair to yourself and your business and adopting the philosophy that the customer is always right.  Even when shop policies say something completely contary to what the customer expects, we have to be concerned about how our reply might impact our feedback score since prospective customers read them.

    Then, several discussions have come up this past week that all center around the fine line between being inspired by someone else's work and outright copying it.  Some artisans are new and overly enthusiastic and don't see anything wrong with it because they see other people doing it.  I like to think that if their own moral compass doesn't already lead them in the right direction, they'll eventually be copied and realize why they shouldn't do it.  Unfortunately, others take this to the opposite extreme.  There are times when some artisans feel the need to claim that everything they make is copyrighted and will attack anyone else who makes anything even remotely similar.  For example, in the steampunk community there's a certain look and feel that is a unifying thread through everyone's work, particularly the inclusion of gears and often watch movements.  I have created things, with no other inspiration than the objects in front of me and the aesthetic I love only to later find that another steampunk enthusiast has made something that was virtually identical.  Some sellers would try to accuse me of copying them though I know I didn't.  How do you defend something like that?  This past week, due to undue concern about protecting myself from being copied, I unintentionally hurt a friend's feelings.  It was an honest misunderstanding, but I feel more terrible than I can possibly convey and am truly sorry.  Too bad I haven't perfected my time machine, or I'd go back and undo the conversation that occurred as a result of the misunderstanding.  I wish she could understand my perspective and hopefully, with time, things will be fine. I am constantly trying to evolve my work and include my own spin on things, so that the viewer will hear my artistic voice.  Now, I am trying to focus on this and try to put events of this past week behind me.  Eventually, it is my hope that I develop a style so distinctly unique that everyone who looks at it will know I made it, or that it was made in my style.  Andy Warhol, whether you appreciate his art or not, definitely accomplished this.  Perhaps someday, things will be referred to as "Barkeresque".  Or not.  It's certainly a goal worth striving for, though.

    I've been trying to create as much as possible lately, especially with some of the shows I have coming up, so I apologize for neglecting the blog this week, but I fear weekly posts will have to be the norm this month.  In June, things will slow down a bit and it will be easier to divide my time between writing and creating than it is this month.

    I'm off to Oddmall Emporium of the Weird tomorrow and am still busily gearing up for the much anticipated, first ever Steampunk World's Fair and am an equal mix of nerves and excitement, with a little stress over finding time to do everything thrown in.  If you attend either event, please stop by and say hello.  Niffer, of 19 Moons, will also be at the World's Fair with me.  Don't miss checking out her fantastical creations.

    Friday, April 30, 2010

    Free Form Friday: Upcoming Places you can see my wares...

    Tomorrow, I'll be vending at the Lawrenceville Little Flea.  As of right now, the weather forecast looks promising, with thunderstorms not anticipated until around 6:00 pm.  As the flea is over at 3:00, you'll be able to shop and even make it home before the storms roll in.
    Next Saturday, May 8th, I'll be vending at Oddmall Emporium of the Weird in Hudson, OH.

    The following weekend, May 14-16, is the big even I've been busily gearing up for: The Steampunk World's Faire.  Niffer, of 19Moons, is sharing the travel, adventures, and a vending room, with me.  Please feel free to peruse either of our Etsy shops and if you stop my the faire, please look for us and tell us you saw us on my blog.  I'm working on a small, free gift for those who do.

    Tuesday, April 27, 2010

    Tale Tuesday: Fade Away Part 8 aka A Tale of Two Zombies

    The next night, Lyn and Seth find themselves back at the Zombie Zone, sitting at a table along the wall.  They'd barely had time to order coffee, when Vanessa came bounding through the door, with her friend Eric following behind her.  Vanessa immediately went up to Seth, who stood as he saw her approaching.  She smiled, beaming, and gave him a huge, tight hug.  Seth, returned her hug, smiled, and said, "I'm glad you came."

    "I told you we'd stop by", then turned to Eric and asked, "Have you met Seth and Lyn?"

    Seth turned to look at Lyn, smiled, and answered, "We've seen each other."  He then held out his hand to Seth and shook Seth's hand.  "It's nice to meet you.  Vanessa has told me a lot about you."

    Vanessa sits down at the table next to Seth, leaving an empty chair next to Lyn, which Eric quickly sits in.  Seth takes Vanessa's hand, and the two begin whispering to each other, oblivious to anything else around them.  Eric turns to Lyn, smiles, and says, "So, we finally meet.  I wanted to talk to you the first time I saw you, but I had a situation to take care of."

    Lyn laughed and answered, "You did look fairly busy.  Vanessa told us a bit about what happened."

    Seth suddenly pulled away from his conversation with Vanessa, "I couldn't believe it.  I have had women get upset with me, but never anything like that.  You should be happy she didn't throw the glass."  Then, in a mock godfatheresque accent added, "You want me to, uh, take care of her or somethin'?"

    Eric laughed, then answered, "Nah.  I've got it covered.  Thanks, though.  I thought we could still be friends, but I guess she couldn't deal with it."

    Lyn, teasingly asked, "Why?  Are you the kind of guy that women can't seem to resist or let go of?"

    Softly, but seriously, Eric replied, "I'll let you be the judge of that."

    At this point, Seth looses interest in their conversation and resumes talking to Vanessa.

    Lyn, slightly sarcastically, hesitantly, asks, "So what do you do when you're not breaking women's hearts?"

    Eric, laughs, then answers, "I work for a local theater but seem to be spending much of my time trying to adjust to my new zombie lifestyle."

    "Working for a theater sounds interesting.  I used to act, now I just watch from the audience.  I can identify with you needing to adjust to being a zombie.  It's not easy being a zombie."

    "I used to act too.  For one of my auditions I recited my favorite soliloquy from Shakespeare:
    She should have died hereafter;
    There would have been a time for such a word. -
    Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
    creeps in this petty pace from day to day.
    That's all I can remember, though, and I don't remember which play it was from.  I find it oddly fitting, now that I'm a zombie, though."

    Lyn's eyes lit up, as much as they could in their undead, decaying state, and she smiled as she replied, "I know it well.  It's one of my favorites too.  It's from Macbeth, right after he learns that his wife killed herself."

    Eric is obviously impressed as he says, " That's it."

    Lyn begins to recite, finishing the quote, "To the last syllable of recorded time;
    And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
    The way to dusty death.  Out, out brief candle!
    Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player,
    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
    And then is heard no more:  it is a tale
    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
    Signifying nothing."

    Monday, April 26, 2010

    Monday Meals with Mincie: Pineapple Grape Koolaid

    For summertime meals, Mincie would often make Pineapple Grape Koolaid.  It wasn't anything overly extravagant but always made us feel special and we thought it was one of the most delicious drinks in the world.

    To make it, follow the directions on a packet of Grape Koolaid unsweetened powder, omit 1 cup of water and add 1 cup of pineapple juice, stir, chill, and enjoy.

    Please share your memories of having this drink or any other comments you'd like to share.

    I apologize for the brevity of this post, but it's been a very full and busy day and I'm sadly exhausted.  For once, I simply don't have much to say.  Those of you who know me personally know that's quite the rarity.

    Friday, April 23, 2010

    Free Form Friday: Gallery Crawl in Downtown Pittsburgh in the Cultural District Tonight, Friday April 23rd

    Come see some of my new anatomical oddities and other new items in person tonight, at the Gallery Crawl in Pittsburgh's Cultural District.

    I'll be exhibiting my wares inside the Northside Urban Pathways Gallery.  Visit The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust for full details about other stops on the crawl.  You can also download a full Gallery Crawl Schedule Map.

    Other members of the Steel Town Etsy Team will also be there exhibiting their wares as well.  Hopefully I'll see several of you there tonight.

    Thursday, April 22, 2010

    Thursday Thinking Green: Happy 40th Anniversary Earth Day! 10 Easy Ideas for a Greener World

    Show your love for Mother Earth by doing your part to take better care of her.

    Earth Day turns 40 years old today, 1 week before my husband does.  I celebrated the day by working outside in my garden, hauling composted soil from my compost pile to one of my veggie patches and then hauling leaves, weeds, and bits of trimmed dead plant material from last year's garden back to the compost pile.

    As I was working in my garden, I began pondering ways the average household can easily be more green everyday while saving the green we call money and came up with a few simple ideas.

    1)  Ban bottled water in your household.  Instead of buying bottled water, buy a water filtration pitcher and fill your own reusable bottles.  Not only will the water filtration pitcher quickly pay for itself by eliminating the need to buy bottled water, but you'll also reduce your waste.

    2)  Like to stop for coffee on your way in to work?  Bring your own travel coffee mug.  Not only will you reduce countless extra cups being discarded (you'd save 7 in just 1 week), some places also offer a discount for doing so.

    3)  Help eliminate even more waste with reusable shopping bags.  If you do end up at the store and realize you forgot your reusable shopping bags (sadly, I am occasionally guilty of this), reuse your plastic bags whenever possible, and take any surplus you're not able to reuse to a recycling station.

    4)  Pack lunches in reusable bags, with items in reusable food storage containers, and include a cloth napkin that can be washed and used repeatedly.

    5)  When cleaning around the house, repurpose worn t-shirts as rags for your cleaning.  We use them as dust rags, for washing walls, spot cleaning spills on floors, and for washing our cars.  Not only will you save money by not having to buy paper towels, you'll also give something that may have been thrown away a new purpose.

    6)  Whenever possible, walk or ride a bicycle to cut down on emissions and save on gas.  Not only will you save money on gas, you'll also reap the added benefits of burning a few extra calories.

    7)  Find a spot for a compost bin, and compost all vegetative kitchen scraps, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, grass clippings, leaves, etc.  Not only do you reduce your waste but the composted items result in rich, dark, organic soil that plants thrive in.  I often think of it as free organic fertilizer.

    8)  Plant a garden.  Even if you only have room for a few pots of tomatoes on a deck, you'll save money on your food costs and be able to enjoy fresh produce that you'll know is pesticide free.

    9) Recycle.  If your area doesn't have curbside recycling pickup, try to find recycling centers near you.  In many areas, recycling centers still pay you for items like tin cans & aluminum cans, though the price for tin is considerably lower than for aluminum.

    10)  Save energy and money by installing items around your house like low flow showerheads, CFL bulbs, and even switch timers.  When your household appliances need replaced, purchase those with an Energy Star rating.

    I hope you're doing something special to help dear Mother Earth today and would love to hear your thoughts and any easy suggestions you may have.

    Tuesday, April 20, 2010

    Tale Tuesday: Fade Away Part 7 aka A Tale of Two Zombies

    The next night, Seth is sitting at the table in the center of the room, parallel to the window, with a bouquet of flowers under his chair. Anna walks in, sees him, smiles, and approaches the table.  Seth returns her smile, while reaching under his chair, grabbing the bouquet of flowers, then standing and handing them to Anna.  "Hi. I was getting so hungry I was starting to worry that I was going to have to eat these."

    Anna beamed, smelled the bouquet, and laughed as she said, "It's a good thing I got here when I did, then.  Thank you!  These are great! I was looking forward to seeing you tonight, but I wasn't expecting flowers."

    As they both sat down at the table, Seth said, "I was looking forward to seeing you tonight too."

    Anna, smiled and replied,  "I'm glad you asked me out.  No one has ever given me flowers on a first date before. I usually only get them after a fight."
    Seth grinned and said, "Stick with me; I'm willing to bet that you'll get them for no apparent reason more often."
    Anna said, "That would be nice."
    Seth suddenly blurted out, "So, do you want to stay here or go somewhere for dinner?"

    Anna seemed slightly off guard as she replied, "Oh, I hadn't really thought about it. Dinner would be nice, though. I didn't have time to eat before I came.  But, could we go somewhere dark?  I'm not in the mood to be stared at."

    Seth nodded, "I know a place we can walk to from here that's dark and zombie friendly.  What do you say we get out of here, then?"

    Anna, sighing with relief, "Sounds perect!"
    The two stand, and walk to the door. As they approach the door, Seth steps in front of her and opens the door, holding it for her.

    Anna beamed and said, "Thank you. What a gentleman, I’m impressed.  You may be undead but you definitely get points for politeness."

    Seth laughed and they walked out the door and down the sidewalk to an Italian restaurant close by.

    They are seated, across from each other, at a small square table covered with a white tablecloth. In the middle of the edge of the table is a lit votive candle. As they sit, gazing into each other's eyes, Seth reaches across the table and gently grasps Anna's hands.  "I just have to tell you that I'm really glad I met you. It's been a long time since I met anyone I was interested in at all.  I'm just sorry I didn't meet you before I became a zombie."
    Anna answered, "Well, I'm glad you feel that way. I'm glad I met you too and I don't mind that you're a zombie."

    Seth suddenly changed the subject and enthusiastically asked, "Are you close to your parents?"
    Anna replied, "My father still lives in Georgia, but my mom doesn't. My parents divorced when I was in high school."
    "That's hard for me to imagine. My parents are still together."
    "It always seemed like they had the perfect marriage, but suddenly they decided they weren't happy anymore. They're both remarried now and I stay in touch with my father and step-mother, but I never really see or talk to my mother anymore."

    Seth, concerned, asked "Why not?"

    "I was always close to my father growing up and have always blamed her for what happened. Besides, I don’t get along with my stepfather at all. It’s easier this way."

    Seth, still concerned, replied, "I could never do that. I'm really close to both of my parents, and I really admire their relationship. I hope to someday have a relationship like theirs."

    "Yeah, well, that's a nice dream. I don't think that really happens much anymore, but I hope you someday find what you're looking for."

    Seth smiled, and answered, "Every time I meet someone new, I hope so."

    Anna blushed slightly, spoke softly, and simply said, "Oh."  After a brief reflective pause, she added, "I just hope that even though we're zombies we'll have time to find out."

    Monday, April 19, 2010

    Monday Meals with Mincie: Mickey Mouse Pancakes

    While Mincie did make pancakes from time to time, I actually associate pancakes more with her son Mick, my father.  As I was making these for my boys yesterday morning, I decided they needed to be today's blog feature, even though they technically aren't a "meal with Mincie" item.

    There was a period of time when Dad worked an early shift that ended around 3:00 pm and Mom worked a night shift so dinner duties fell to Dad.  At the time, grilled cheese sandwiches and pancakes were his specialties, so we often had them for dinner.  One night, we were presented with pancakes Dad dubbed "Mickey Mouse Pancakes" which were a normal size pancakes with two silver dollar size "ear" pancakes attached.  To be honest, I think they were an accidental creation caused by putting pancakes too close together on the griddle, but he passed them off as something he intended to do and we ate them up (literally).  Since then, pancakes are rarely made in any of our houses without at least a few of them being shaped like Mickey Mouse.  My boys and I have even invented a few shapes of our own.  During the fall we make pumpkin shaped pancakes and during the winter we make Santa heads and snowmen. 

    Buttermilk Pancakes
    1 egg
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 Tablespoon sugar
    1 cup buttermilk
    2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

    1)  Beat egg.

    2)  Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar; add to egg.

    3)  Add buttermilk and oil; beat until smooth.

    4)  Pour about 1/4 cup batter onto hot griddle or skillet, then about 1/8 cup (silver dollar size) at each side of the top of the larger pancake so that they're touching and look like mouse ears.

    5)  As the pancake cooks, bubbles will form and pop.  Turn when the popping bubbles start to leave small craters on top and the edges look cooked.

    Sunday, April 18, 2010

    Sunday Snippet: Last Week in Review

    Once again, life interfered with my visits to this now slightly neglected blog and this past week flew by and was over before I knew it.

    Taxes are partly to blame as I waited until almost the last minute as usual and it took me most of Tuesday and Wednesday to complete both my Federal and State taxes.  When I wasn't working on them I honestly had no creative energy and couldn't seem to convince myself that writing blog entries was on the agenda.  So, sadly the only blog posts this past week was the lone Wordless Wednesday entry.

    Thursday, I was fortunate enough to have to report for Allegheny County jury duty.  Happily, I was not selected for a jury this time around but I still had to spend my entire day sitting in a room in the courthouse.  Again, the day robbed me of all creative energy so not only did I neglect the blog but also neglected creative projects that have been swirling around in my imagination.

    Friday, I spent my morning outside, working in my yard, and getting one of my vegetable beds ready to plant lettuce and snowpeas.  I also spent a bit of time snapping some shots of my Magnolia tree.  A thunderstorm was forecast for the afternoon so I quit working just in time to run to the post office to mail an Etsy order and pick up a few groceries we needed then returned home with about 1/2 an hour to spare before the boys arrived home on the school bus.  I quickly loaded my car for the Lawrenceville Little Flea I was scheduled to vend at on Saturday, then retrieved the boys from the bus stop just as rain drops began to fall.  A loud clap of thunder sent the boys scurrying inside as fast as they could go.  No sooner had they settled in when heavy wind caused a power outage that lasted until a little after noon on Saturday.  The flea market in Lawrenceville ended up being cancelled due to weather, so even that part of my week didn't go as planned.

    Now, I find myself at the beginning of a new week, fully intending to make the most of the week.  Hopefully I'll even keep up with my blog posts this week.

    While the first picture represented a new week full of possibilities, this one represents the week that was.


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