Friday, February 26, 2010

Free Form Friday: Flea Market Finds

Over the past few months, I've been selling my crafts and clothes my kids have outgrown at the Trax Farms winter flea market.  The last ones are next weekend, March 6th and 7th from 10:00 am to ??

One of the benefits of being there is having the opportunity to shop for vintage treasures that I can incorporate into some of my crafty projects.  The vintage buttons will be combined and layered then turned into rings and hairpins.  The vintage belt buckles will sit in my studio awaiting the perfect project to give them new life.

Vintage tin: Free (given to me by a vendor I've befriended).
Vintage buckle collection:  $5.00
Vintage buttons in Atlas Mason jars: $3.00 each
Vintage Button in large Ball jar: $5.00

Ready to run to the nearest flea market yet?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Thursday Thinking Green: Reuse Empty Plastic Containers for Studio Organization

Don't throw out your empty plastic deli containers and peanut butter jars.  Instead, wash them out, let them air dry, and use them to organize your children's small toys, items in your craft room or studio, or anything else you can think of.

Not only are you keeping one more item out of landfills by repurposing them, you also get a free storage container/organization tool.

Another plus is that they are clear so you can stack several on a shelf and see what supplies you have at a glance.

The deli containers that are made of #6 recyclable containers can also be used as shrink plastic.  Remember shrinky dinks (more details on that in an upcoming post)?

I'd love to hear any comments about other ideas for reusing/repurposing these containers.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tale Tuesday: Fade Away Part 3 aka A Tale of Two Zombies

Suddenly, the quiet of the room was shattered by the sound of a chair scraping across the floor as the woman who'd previously been sulking in it rose angrily from her seat.  Seth and Lyn immediately turned in her direction.  She began to stomp away from the table, stopped as if an invisible force field had materialized in front of her, swiveled around, and walked back to the table.  She picked up the drink in front of the woman closest to her and, in one smooth motion, threw it at the man she'd been sitting next to.  He quickly darted to the side and the drink exploded against the wall beside him.  She then turned and stomped past Seth and Lyn and out the door with the slightly damp man following behind her.  As he passes Lyn, their eyes meet and she smiles sympathetically at him.  The now drinkless woman notices Seth and Lyn staring at her, with their jaws slightly open, and mouths, "That was my drink!"

Seth turned to Lyn, his hand over his mouth in disbelief, and asked, "Did you see that?"

"How could I have missed it?  I wonder what he did to deserve that.  I'm guessing she's NOT a sane zombie."

Seth reaches across the table and moves her coffee out of her reach.  "Why do women always assume it's the guys fault?"

"Hey!" she said in mock offense.  " I also questioned her sanity.  It's just that I'd never do something like that unless I was convinced the guy really deserved it.  I can't imagine how upset I'd have to be to do something like that, though."

"You'd never do anything like that."

"I'd like to think not," she said as she reached for her cup of coffee and held it up as if she was preparing to throw it.

Seth pretended to duck as he said, "Yeah, yeah.  Whatever.  Anyway, why do women always do that?"

She paused reflectively, then replied, " Maybe society teaches us to play the victim role, more or less from birth, and conditions us to band together against men.  Or we're just all a little crazy."

"Yeah, that's it.  I always said you were all completely nuts!"  He paused, flinching as if he was preparing to be punched, then continued, " So, even though you try to be unique, when it comes down to it sometimes you're just like other women?"

"Afraid so," she said while smiling.  "I guess I'm not perfect."

He nodded his head as if in agreement, but with a mocking shocked tone said, "You're not?"

"You've discovered my weakness.  Now you must die,"  she said jokingly.

"Yeah, there's a threat.  Besides, you'd miss me.  Who'd make fun of you?"

"You know I would miss you, but I don't think I'd miss being made fun of.  I have gotten used to it, though."

He suddenly started fiddling with a cross that hung from a chain around his neck and looked wistfully off toward the far corner of the room.  "Heather would have never gotten upset with me for talking to one of her friends."

"Ah, the ex again," she said, trying to smile.  "Have you talked to her lately?"

"Yeah," he said, dejectedly.  "I called her the other day.  She hasn't gotten sick yet and now she won't even hang out with me."

"You and I get along so well, I think we'd still be dating if you could just let her go.  Why are you still so hung up on her?"

"She was everything I ever wanted in someone."

"Except for the fact that she broke up with you?"

"Well, yeah, except for that.  She had her reasons for leaving.  She'll be back someday.  We're meant to be together."

"Then why do you bother dating other women?"

"What do you want me to do, suffer?"  Something about the look on Lyn's face convinced him she wasn't appreciating his unique humor right now.  "Hey, I'm kidding!  I just keep hoping I'll meet someone that will make me forget about her."

"Well, now that we're zombies we have more important things to worry about."

"Yeah, I feel better now," he said smirking.  "There's nothing like being undead to take your mind off your ex."

Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday Meals With Mincie: Baked Beans

Growing up, one of my favorite dishes my Gram made was her baked beans.  Often, we'd make a meal of them by simply adding baked potatoes and biscuits.  Simple, starchy perhaps, but utterly delicious.

Mincie's Baked Beans
1 cup dried navy beans
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon oil
3/4 cup ketchup
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 slices bacon

1) Rinse navy beans, cover with water, and soak overnight.

2) The following morning, drain and rinse the beans.  Put them in a saucepan, covered with water, add salt and oil (or bacon grease), bring to a boil and cook until tender, about an hour, stirring frequently to prevent beans from sticking.  Add more water during cooking if needed.

3)  Once beans are tender, drain the liquid off and pour half the beans into a baking dish.

4)  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

5)  Top beans with half of ketchup and half of brown sugar.  Use a knife to poke some of the ketchup and brown sugar down into the beans.  Do not stir.

6)  Add remaining beans and top with remaining ketchup and brown sugar.

7)  Place bacon slices on top and bake about 30 minutes.  Beans are done when bacon is cooked and curls on the edges.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Free Form Friday: Etsy Feature ClaireBaby Designs

Thursday, a couple of my items were featured on the ClaireBaby Designs blog, so I thought I'd feature a couple of corresponding items from her shop for today's feature.  These are a couple of her pinup girl design purses made from repurposed denim and Alexander Henry Fabrics.

From her Etsy profile:  "Each ClaireBaby Designs One-of-a-Kind bag is truly an ORIGINAL and I make sure that each bag has its own PERSONALITY. I scour thrift stores constantly (much to my husband's chagrin:) and buy interesting t-shirts, pants, dress shirts and anything else that I think might make a rad purse or bag. Then taking into account the design, the colors and the fabric of my beginning materials, I craft a hand made bag that will never ever be duplicated. Straps, handles, lining, closures and other features are chosen to add to the visual appeal of the bag as well as to its function.

My goal is to make a totally unique item that will get you noticed and admired. Instead of making the generic rectangular t-shirt tote with t-shirt lining, I try to add interesting fabrics and accessories to make my bags different. Different shapes, different fabrics, different colors - your ClaireBaby Designs bag will never, ever be duplicated! You can be assured that your ClaireBaby Designs bag will be a high quality, One of a Kind item that will be noticed!"

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Thursday Thinking Green: Pepsi Refresh Project Entry Solar Ivy

Solar Ivy is an environmental product I've been extremely excited about since I first learned about it last fall.  According to their Facebook page "Solar Ivy is bringing to market a novel solar energy generating system. This new system pairs the latest in smart materials (thin-film photovoltaics) with the beauty of biomimicry (resembling natural leaves) to help people live a green lifestyle."

This a sustainable product that is, in my mind, the perfect marriage of form and function. 

They currently are in the running for a $50,000.00 grant from the Pepsi Refresh Project, to "Produce and sell sustainable power producing, SOLAR IVY!" but need more votes to get them into the top 10.  Voting ends on February 28th and you can vote once a day between now and then.  Please take a moment and visit their page for the project and vote.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tale Tuesday: Fade Away Part 2

A waitress with short spiky blond hair approaches the table, puts a couple of napkins down and says, while smiling a forced smile, "Hey there!  Good to see you in here again.  You two back together?"

They both look at each other, laugh, and say in unison, "Oh, no, Beth!  We're still just friends."

Lyn smiles and adds, "It's best this way. We were a dating disaster."

Beth smiles, while a look of deep concern begins to cross her face.  "Still, one or the other of you used to be in here every night.  You haven't been sick have you?"

Seth nods while Lyn answers, "Yes, but I'm feeling much deader now."  She looks at Seth and notices he was nodding.  "Oh, no!  You too?  I thought you looked like you were, but I was hoping I was imagining things."

Seth shrugs, "At least I'm in good company.  Besides, I figure what's the worst that can happen now?  I'm already mortally challenged."

Smirking, Lyn replies, "Why sugar coat it?  We're zombies."  Beth steps away a little, looking concerned as Lyn looks at her and reassures her, "Don't worry.  We're not contagious and we promise not to eat you.  Besides, we're vegetarians now."

Beth, noticeably sighs in relief and adds, "Oh, good, then.  Just coffee for now?"

They both nod.  Lyn pulls a pen out of her purse and starts writing on the napkin in front of her as Beth walks away from the table.

As she writes, Seth looks at her and says, "So, other than joining the ranks of the undead, what else is new?"

She answers while laughing, "Not much, really.  A few weeks ago, before I got sick, I went dancing with Curtis and Evan and for once, actually met a guy I was interested in.   But, he left before I could give him my number.  The next night, we all ended up going out again, but to a different club.  I saw him there and quickly wrote my name and phone number on a piece of paper and put it in my pocket so I could give it to him when the opportunity arose.  Toward the end of the night I saw him in line at the coat check, walked up to him, pulled the piece of paper out of my pocket, smiled, slipped it in his pocket and said, 'Call if you want to.'"

"Why doesn't anything like that ever happen to me?  So, did he call?"

"That's the funny part.  When I got home, I took everything out of my pockets and the phone number was still there but I was missing a flyer for a poetry slam I'd picked up earlier in the evening."

"He must think you're completely crazy!  At least he won't be far off."

"True enough," Lyn replied while laughing.  As she returned her attention to her scribbling, Seth looked over at a group of people sitting across the room from them.  Their conversation had been barely noticeable, but seemed to be getting more animated as the evening wore on.  Just as he allowed himself to wonder what might be so interesting at their table, Lyn looked up and slid her napkin over toward him.

Seth picks up the napkin and begins reading from it.
"Riding the light through the prism,
Viewing hues reflecting images of the past
A kaleidoscope of color revealing
Red from failed relationships
Fading into green of emerging friendships
The refracted variegation
Reflecting the glare of disillusionment."

Lyn shrugs, "It's been writing itself in my mind for days now.  My mood is more grey than green these days, but grey didn't really fit."

Seth smiles knowingly, "You wrote that about me, didn't you?"

"Not really, why?"

"The part about failed relationships turning into friendships."

"I'll give you that part, but it's more a reflection on where I've been and disillusionment over where I'm headed.  Though, seeing you did help inspire me to finish it, so I guess it's partly about you."  She reached over, picked up the menu and began reading it.  Suddenly, as if what she was about to say was of the utmost importance, "Hey, there's something I want to ask you."

"What?" he said, hesitantly.

"In Green Eggs and Ham, are both the eggs and ham green or is it just the eggs?"

"I think it's just the eggs," he said, obviously relieved.  "Why?"

"They have eggs and ham on the menu and I was wondering if people ever order them and ask them to make them green.  Hardly matters.  Ham's not something I eat anymore, anyway."

"Well, I'm glad you won't be ordering green eggs and ham.  I might have to move to a different table if you do."

"You will not eat green eggs and ham?  You will not eat them in a bar?  You will not eat them in my car?  You will not eat them here or there?  You will not eat them anywhere?"

"No.  Shhh!", he said through his laughter.  "Someone might hear you."

"How about some grrrraiins, then?"

"You are sooo embarrassing."

"Hey, at least I made you laugh.  Considering we're undead, I think laughter's a pretty good sign that we're still sane."

"Yeah, sane zombies.  We're quite the pair."

Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday Meals With Mincie: Biscuits

Biscuits made their appearance at most every meal Mincie made.  Occaisionally they would be replaced by cornbread or hoe cake, but that was the exception.  Always delicious and always appreciated by her family, she'd often even make up two pans, just to meet the demand for her delicious bits of dough.  Once baked and placed on the table, the whole family would pitch in to butter them while they were still warm.

Mincie's Biscuits
2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup canola (or vegetable) oil
3/4 cup milk

1)  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2)  Mix dry ingredients. 
3)  Add oil and milk.
4)  Mix until thorougly moistened.
5)  Roll into balls.
6)  Bake 10 - 12 minutes until brown on top.

Mincie occasionally just rolled these into balls, by hand, which is what I did for this batch.  Normally, though, she'd use a drinking glass to roll out the dough and the same glass also served as the biscuit cutter.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sunday Snippets: Happy Valentine's Day and a Lovely Mail Surprise

Image thanks to The Graphics Fairy

In honor of Valentine's Day, the above image is free clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy, a fantastic blog with a variety of free clip art images.  I especially love the affection these two exude and her dress which evokes images of Pride and Predjudice (or whichever Jane Austen novel happens to be your favorite).  Hopefully, you've all had a wonderful day surrounded by the one (or ones) you love.  If you're single, do something special for yourself to celebrate. 

On a totally unrelated topic, Friday I had the most wonderful surprise in my mailbox.  A good friend of mine, who I know from my Seattle days and who now lives in Denver, CO, is a phenomenally talented artist and photographer.  He recently started screenprinting T-shirts and opened an Etsy store called ModPress with the first of his designs.  I am now the proud recipient of two of these Ts.  They are extremely well made and the image is subtle.  If you don't know the reference, it stands alone, but means so much more if you do.  Plus, the Ts happen to be my favorite color and feature a poster image from my favorite zombie movie of all time.  Could this T be any more perfectly me?

I also received the same print, in a darker purple, which I layered over a purple/black striped turtleneck so I could enjoy it despite the over 30 inches of snow on the ground here and the corresponding winter temps.  Please take a moment and check out ModPress on Etsy.  New designs are being frequently added.

Yes, that's me, smilin' in my new T

Friday, February 12, 2010

Free Form Friday: Mother Nature Speaks Through the Snow

Last Friday, snow started falling in and around Pittsburgh and continued through the following day, leaving over 20 inches of snow on the ground.  I was scheduled to vend at a craft show on Saturday and had spent most of Thursday trying to finish projects for the show.  The show ended up having to be cancelled, but I now have extra inventory for the next show.  Friday my husband took the day off of work to avoid driving home in a snowy mess if the forecast was correct.  So, we headed out in the morning to run a few errands and get just a few groceries.  We stopped for Chinese takeout right before heading home and even got a little extra so we'd have leftovers for the weekend.  We were quite proud of how prepared we were for the snow storm, when the first few flakes started falling as we made our way home.

What we weren't prepared for, however, was the loss of power and virtually all ties to the outside world.  Friday night the power started flickering around 7:30 or 8:00 pm.  We decided to send our boys over to my in-laws (they have a generator) so that if the power went out, they wouldn't have to sleep in a cold, dark house.  We then gathered candles and flashlights so if/when the power went out we'd be prepared.  When the cable, phone, and internet went down around 10:00 pm, we climbed into bed under the covers where we could stay warm and watch the snow fall from our bedroom window.  As we lay there in the dark, we could hear the loud pop of power transformers blowing, sounding like gun shot in the distance.  There were occasional bursts of blue light in the sky from the transformers, as if lightning was striking as the snow fell.  The wet, heavy snow downed numerous trees all around our neighborhood, some of which had taken out power lines on their way down.  A little after 11:00 pm we lost power completely and my husband decided to stay up as he was concerned that a power line near our house might come down and start a fire.  There was much danger of that after 11:00, but he wanted to be certain in case power was restored enough for there to be any live lines.

Saturday morning I woke up about 4:00 am and came downstairs to find my husband, still awake, on the couch, surrounded by candle light.  It was quite reminiscent of trips I used to take to a mountain cabin with my friends.  Since I was up to keep watch, he wandered up to bed.  Shortly afterwards, I could hear the sound of a snow blower as my father-in-law was already up and blazing a trail between our houses.  As I sat there, listening to the hum of the snow blower, I wished we weren't so dependant on electricity.  We're so dependant on modern conveniences, it's incredibly difficult to rough it through a snow storm.  The thought briefly crossed my mind that pioneers were better prepared for something like this than we were and I wished the fireplaces were still functional in my house.  I'm guessing the previous home owner wasn't thinking of the rare occasions they would be necessary, when the decision to wall them in was made.  Mother Nature was definitely speaking loudly through the snow, if only we would listen.  Global warming is causing extreme climate change and extreme weather events like this one.  It's a shame it's become such a political issue, that deniers try to claim this is proof it doesn't exist.  Fortunately, groups like RePower America are working to spread the truth and have great information along with a fabulous clip of Jon Stewart here.  If we were living a more sustainable lifestyle, the snow storm would have been much less inconvenient.  I wonder if I can convince my husband to install some solar panels now?
Once my father-in-law was finished clearing a path, he stopped over and knocked on our door to let me know they were "open for business".  My husband announced he wasn't done sleeping and wasn't leaving the house until he was, but I opted to brave the elements to go check on my boys and enjoy a warm muffin and warm cup of coffee.  By the end of the day, 7 adults and 2 children were gathered together, happy to have electricity and the heat provided by the generator.  We remained here, all together for 4 days, until power was finally restored late Tuesday afternoon.  Cable, with internet and phone returned late Wednesday afternoon and things are now slowly returning to normal. 
We were luckier than many, as we at least had a warm house to stay in.  My boys have now had an entire week off of school and we were able to enjoy large amounts of quality family time and several rounds of board games.  I'm grateful for family and neighbors that all came together to help each other out.  The snow will eventually melt and despite the loss of a few trees and all of my boys' fish, we emerged unscathed.  I was able to salvage most of the food in my refrigerator and freezer and they are both sparkling clean, if not more empty than usual.  I'd love to hear other people's snow stories or any other comments you choose to share.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tale Tuesday: Fade Away Part 1

Broken light streams in through shuttered windows as a solitary figure sits, sipping coffee, in an otherwise darkened room.  The newscast from the television above casts an ominous glow on the worn wooden counter in front of her.  Her mind begins to wander as she sips reflectively.

Suddenly, something the news anchor said caught her attention and she started to listen more intently.  "A state of emergency has been declared as widespread reports of the outbreak of the H2N2 virus come in from around the globe.  The virus has become commonly known as the zombie virus, or zombie plague, due to the effects of the infection on its victims.  While the first reports of the virus came from farmers claiming pigs and cattle had become zombies, it quickly spread to the human population and has officially become an epidemic.  There is no known cure at this time.  Residents are advised..."

"Nothing new," she thought. "It's been the same story on every channel for weeks now." 

She began to listen again on the off chance the news anchor might say something original, "The victims of this plague, which the general public are referring to as zombies, differ greatly from the zombies of film.  Despite the fact that once the disease runs its course the victims are effectively dead with their bodies in a state of delayed yet constant deterioration, they are amazingly unaltered from their appearance and personalities prior to contracting the disease."

Bored with the lack of originality in the broadcast, she returned her attention to her coffee and once again became lost in her own thoughts.  The plague caused an overwhelming craving for grains and vegetables, especially heads of lettuce.  Those infected could often be heard requesting grains in a cry that to many sounded like a moan.  She wondered if perhaps, in the past, there had been isolated cases of infections prior to the widespread outbreak. The cry for grains could have easily been misheard as brains and overzealous zombie hunters would have killed them without asking any questions.  Thus began the widespread misunderstanding and unnecessary fear of zombies.

From behind her came the sound of a door opening, then closing with a thud.  She barely noticed, but found herself thinking how the illness had felt like a door closing her off from many of her friends, as various members of her circle fell ill.

A young man, in his mid-20's walked through the door and was immediately drawn to the woman sitting at the counter.  Her dark hair fell in ringlets past her shoulders.  He thought to himself how much it reminded him of the twisted ribbon on a present.   "Twisted, ha! Yeah, that's pretty fitting," he continued to think and smirked as he approached her.

Suddenly she heard a voice over her shoulder, jerking her back to reality.  "Lyn?"

"Seth!" She smiled as she noticed how his chin length dark hair still fell over his dark, brooding eyes as it always had.  Her eyes darted over his pale skin, sharp angular features, and strong jaw. Even with his skin a lighter shade of pale than usual and dark, almost purple, circles under his eyes, he still had an air about him that would get almost anyone's attention. 

She jumped down out of her seat.  "Do you want to grab a table?"

He nodded and they walked across the room together toward the many empty tables along the opposite wall.  Suddenly, he looked at her as if he was seeing her for the first time and gasped as he noticed how pale her skin was.  "You okay?"

"As good as can be expected," she said as they sat down at the table.  "You know, I always pretty much take the good with the bad, but I never expected the bad to include decomposition."

Monday, February 1, 2010

Monday Meals With Mincie: Hoe Cake

Traditionally, hoe cakes were cooked over coals on wide hoes, while taking a meal break when working in the fields.  Mincie would often make hoe cakes in a small cast iron skillet, for lunch or a light dinner, served with sauteed zucchini or yellow summer squash and buttered kernel corn.  The squash and corn came from her freezer, having been put up over the summer when they were in season.

Mincie's Hoe Cake

7 Tablespoons white self-rising cornmeal (preferably Aunt Jemima's)
1 teaspoon flour
3/4 cup hot water

1)  Mix together cornmeal and flour.
2)  Add water, a little at a time, until mixture is soupy like thin pancake batter.
3)  Spray 6 inch cast iron skillet with non stick cooking spray and heat on high until oil is hot and smoky.  Turn heat down to medium and pour batter into skillet.
4)  Cook until brown around the edges.  Turn out onto a plate.
5)  Coat bottom of skillet with vegetable or canola oil (can also use bacon grease). 
6)  Invert hoe cake and cook until browned on bottom (the part that was originally the top).

Serves 2, or 1 with a few leftovers. 


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