Friday, August 31, 2007

I Craft, Therefore I'm busy...

WHOA! Sometimes I forget that Autumn is Craft Season here in the DC Metro area (or is that everywhere? I don't know!). It's easy to remember what's obvious...things like apple butter, pumpkins and apple picking...or long walks in the mountains to observe the beauty that is the mid-Atlantic in the fall (can you say COLOR INSPIRATION!?)...or even the familiar warmth of your favorite sweater on one of those days that makes your nose chilly. I mean, what isn't to love and look forward to when this seasons comes 'round?

But I forgot the craft fairs! Lordy there are some craft fairs. And now that I'm a family member in the DC Craft Mafia (not to be confused with the Sicilian mafiosos who were just arrested by Italian police, natch), the opportunities to participate in, and not just shop at, craft fairs locally are presenting themselves with a quickness!

Naturally, I expect to see all of my readers, their friends, family and long-lost cousins at the DC Craft Mafia's Holiday Craft Fair, The Unusual Suspects.


but I'd also like to see all of you come out to say hello to me at my craft fair debut next weekend! I'm going to be at a booth with a fellow mafioso, Michael Auger of Arty4Ever, selling my wares at the Adams Morgan Day celebration! The festival is Sunday September 9th, from noon to 7pm. Not sure yet about my booth location and the other particulars, but you'll be the first to know!

More information about the day can be found at the Adams Morgan Day website.


Oh, and Happy Friday!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Recipe Tuesday: Bass lines and Basil

In true Vanilla Ice fashion, I have ripped off a recipe from one of my favorite Queens (of Food Network). Giada De Laurentiis served this salad on one of her shows and I was mesmerized. I think she coupled it with some herbed polenta, pork roast and hazelnut brittle. She makes everything look fancy! While she made that hazelnut brittle, all I could think about was my grandfather gnawing on a hunk of homemade peanut brittle, in his shorts, undershirt, suspenders and slippers on the front porch of his log cabin. I never knew you could make such a down home treat so FANCY!

I digress, though. She made a salad...Insalata Mista...which looked amazing. I had to make it! A friend and I hosted a wine party for our friends and decided to make a few gourmet dishes to serve with the delectable assortment of wine (...that we purchased at the grocery store, of course!). I decided to make the Insalata Mista.

During the course of food preparation, I think I was bombarded with a few celebratory shots of whiskey from another friend (He's from Kentucky and loves toasting shots of his native land's drink...I couldn't say no!), and roommate of my co-host, so my judgment was skewed slightly. I flubbed up the recipe just a tad but it is my steadfast belief that my tipsy mistake made all the difference!

Once I finished creating this vegetable masterpiece, I walked it outside to our patio party and waited for people to devour it. Sadly, people were in the mood for finger foods and not salad, and it was left untouched for much of the evening. I decided that my poor salad need to be AT LEAST tried, and so I plunged my fork into the big bowl and gave it a go. To my delight, it was the most delicious salad I've ever eaten. I slyly moved the bowl closer and proceeded to eat most of it, without my party guests knowing a thing.

Here is my recipe for Insalata Mista, the down home buzzed-on-whiskey version.

Insalata Mista
-------------------------------------
DRESSING:
  • 1/3 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
SALAD:
  • 8 cups arugula
  • 1 carrot, peeled
  • 1 hothouse cucumber, peeled
  • 1 small (~7oz.) jar roasted red peppers
Blend the basil, vinegar, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper in a blender. With the machine running, gradually blend in the oil.

Place the arugula in a wide shallow bowl. Using a vegetable peeler (we call them potato peelers down yonder), shave the carrot over the salad. Remove the outermost layer of cucumber skin and then shave it into the bowl as well. I find that shaving the carrots and cucumbers into shorter lengths (2-3") is easiest to eat.

Drain the excess oil from the jar of roasted red peppers and slice them into relatively bite-size pieces. Toss on top of the salad.

Toss the salad with enough dressing to coat. Season the salad, to taste, with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.

NOTE: The vinaigrette and salad can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover separately and refrigerate. Whisk the dressing to blend before using.

FOR ALL OF MY FARM MARKET SHOPPING FRIENDS: Fill those last few days of fresh-off-the-farm basil with this delicious vinaigrette...it's really never better than right now!

Friday, August 24, 2007

My Inspiration.

I realized today, when I was sipping my coffee and checking out my Google Reader, that everyone has an inspiration when they blog. I mean, there is some sort of tangible motivation for people to sit down and catalog some aspect of their experience and share it with the world. It wouldn't come as a surprise to me that the people who are the least successful bloggers are the same people who feel like composing for a blog is like writing for their lock-&-key diary that they kept hidden under their mattress so their brother wouldn't read it.

::pause for a reflective moment and a shake of the fist to my journal-reading brother::

Anyway, this blog is not one of those hide-and-seek kind of blogs, nor am I committed to chronicling every aspect of my life in here, be those aspects domestically related or not. I do, however, have an inspiration for all of this and that's what keeps me coming back...or, at least, I hope it's what keeps me coming back to this place and writing this stuff down!

My inspiration for this blog, without a doubt, is my mother. My mother, for all of our tiffs and frustrations, is a woman with accomplishments and qualities far beyond your average mother. She began working at the age of 17 for the Federal Government and continued working for them, through numerous shifts of power and scandals, until she was in her 50s. A few years ago, she finally retired. My mother worked full time for all those years, having two children in the middle, dealing with everything...the good: vacations, celebrations, big events; and the bad: illnesses (including her own), deaths and all of the frustrations life brings along. My mother is a power house.

Now that I'm "pushing" thirty, I find myself reflecting a lot and trying to find a balance between who my mother was, who she is, who I was and who I am. I find that we're similar in a lot of ways, and people who know my mother remind me of this fact regularly. Work was not the only portion of life to which my mother was committed. She was a family woman, dedicated to keeping a clean, neat and organized household for her family. She was involved like every parent should be, baking cakes, sewing costumes, hosting slumber parties, coordinating Girl Scout events, and managing budgets for music boosters. She rarely complained about being tired, and if I look back I can't remember any occasions where my mother actually professed to be exhausted. She was constantly on the go, constantly involved and always available.

For a long time I felt obligated to BE just like my mother, because I didn't feel like there was any other way to be. Over the years I've negotiated this feeling and have decided that one of my favorite qualities of my mother is her creativity. If I told my mother today, sitting in her crafting room, hands buried deep in a pile of paper, glue and stickers, that she was/is my creative inspiration she would fan her hand in front of my face and say, "NO! Who? Me!? Not me! You're the creative one!" But she is immensely creative and encouraged me to cultivate that since I was a small child.

My mother, now retired, is a creative force to be reckoned with! She is an avid scrapbooker, and is in the midst of cataloging many generations of my family into unique, colorful albums. She also designs and creates beautiful papercrafts, including the cutest sets of greeting cards I've ever seen. (I'm trying to get her to sell on Etsy!) She bakes cakes, can sew like a professional, and crochets like a machine! All of this despite regular pain in her joints (hand especially) due to arthritis. All of this in an effort to maintain her mobility and flexibility just so she can keep doing this.

So when I bake something amazingly tasty, or when I craft a pair of earrings that I feel are absolutely gorgeous, or when I wrap a gift meticulously, or even when I look at my cup full of Sharpie markers, I think of my mother. I think about her big, reassuring smile and the way she would just glow with pride whenever I created something magnificent. I think about the way she honored my talent, despite all of the struggles we had with one another through childhood and into adulthood. And I think about how hard she tries to keep her mind and body charged with creativity now, not accepting for a moment the concept that somehow the world tried to tell her to take it easy.

Creative people have to create. We don't know why, and sometimes we don't even know how. But despite the unknowables that exist in our lives, we never cease to stop moving. My mother never stops moving. That's why my mother is my inspiration. And that's why I love her.
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Picture Key:
  1. Mom & Me at Christmas, 2006
  2. Mom & Me atop the France Perkins Building, Labor Dept, circa 1981
  3. Mom (right) and Karen (left), sisters, 2005
  4. My mother's amazing pumpkin pie


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Quick Update!

I've updated my Etsy shop and I think you should all take a second and check it out!


Etsy
Buy Handmade
patchink

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Recipe...errr...Wednesday?

I realize that I probably have only a few subscribers at this point, so the mild guilt I feel for not posting a recipe yesterday isn't really necessary. Alas, to the subscribers that DID miss my recipe, I've decided to post one today. I mean, late IS better than never, right?

Today's recipe is one of those "kitchen sink" kind of recipes. I'm giving you specific ingredients here, because they are my favorite things to put in this dish, but it shouldn't limit you. If you absolutely can't bear to eat this dish without black olives or marinated artichokes, then by all means...put 'em in! The recipe I'm sharing was something introduced to me by a simple woman with whom I worked at Trader Joe's. She was from the wilds of North Dakota and knew how to cook every down-home dish you could possibly want. One morning she made the most delectable sausage gravy and biscuits for us at the store, all with only a small oven and one of those plug-in pans! And with vegetarian sausage no less! She made the following dish, though, for our grand opening and we served it with the most delicious chicken sausage ever. It was such a big hit, and I've made it ever since. People ask me for the "recipe" all the time, and I laugh because it's so simple.

So what is it already!?!? Pasta salad, of course! People do a lot of wacky things to pasta salad in my opinion. Too much of this, too little of that. Herbs and spices out the wazoo. I understand that making things "gourmet" is very in vogue these days, but having been raised on simple and homemade things, I can't seem to justify deviating from that way of thinking no matter how hard I try.

So here's the recipe for:
Dakota Pasta Salad

-------------------------------------

  • 2 lbs. of pasta, cooked, drained and cooled (most recently I used gemelli and cavatappi, but penne or rigatoni works well)
  • 1 "European" cucumber (these are the longer cucumbers, usually wrapped in plastic), cut into bite size chunks
  • 1 container of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (or two handfuls from your farmer's market!)
  • 1/2 bag frozen corn, or 1 1/2 cups of fresh corn, off the cob
  • 1/2 bag frozen peas
  • 2-3 cans/packages of tuna
  • 2 tablespoons onion relish (something like this or sometimes you can find this in jars at specialty markets)
  • 1 grated (as in, run it up and down the cheese grater) medium-sized onion
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 heaping tablespoons full (or about 1 cup) of mayo (I prefer good old-fashioned Hellman's)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons yellow mustard, or dijon if you're feeling fancy
Mix everything together with a big spoon, set the bowl in the middle of the picnic table, and watch people devour it!

Suggestions:
  • In my experience, vegan mayo differs little in flavor, texture and usability from regular mayo, so feel free to substitute.
  • Like I said, feel free to use artichokes, black olives, your favorite kind of tomato, or any other veggie addition you'd like. If you don't like onions, leave 'em out!
  • Tuna is what my Dakota buddy originally used, but it's not a focal point of the dish. Feel free to leave it out or substitute it with chunks of grilled chicken, diced ham or no animal products at all!
  • Feel free to add little nuggets of your favorite cheese, too.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Cupcakes!

This weekend I had the pleasure of assisting two of my most fantastic friends celebrate their daughter's 5th birthday party. While the rain poured down and we grilled with the assistance of a large golf umbrella, we managed to coordinate a fantastic party designed to celebrate the birth and life of a most fantastic little girl.

Her grandma suggested some very beachy cupcakes with a sand and shark theme, so away we went. We baked some deliciously rich chocolate cupcakes and coated them with a glossy buttercream meringue. While everyone we knew AND their brother scoured the mid-Atlantic for cocktail umbrellas (to decorate the sandy cupcakes), we came up with nothing. Regardless, the party went off without a hitch.

There's nothing an amazing playground, water balloons, eggplant parmesan, amazing potato salad and a chocolate cupcake can't cure.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Crafty Legacy!

I've been crafting since the wee age of...well...I was probably brainstorming in utero. To the outsider, my family seems relatively normal. We lived in a boring grey house, on a boring suburban street, with relatively boring neighbors and went to boring schools. I could not emphasize enough how "normal" my childhood was, despite all the not normal things that happened along the way. Despite this perceived barren landscape, I was raised to be incredibly creative. My grandmother, Nanny, was an amazing crafter and when she passed, my mother inherited thousands of skeins of yarn, cross stitch kits, miniatures to use in a variety of projects, knitting and crochet needles, patterns, fabric, ribbon, thread, and so on. It was a crafter's paradise! I only wish I had access to a lot of it now that I'm settled. We donated most of it to local schools to sustain their art programs.

Nevertheless, my mother was bred into a fantastic crafter, albe-her methodical, mathematical and organized. She makes the most beautiful papercrafts now, and throughout my childhood allowed me to lean over her shoulder while she created blankets, quilts, dresses, fun hair thingies, and even an amazing dollhouse for me. Lucky me, I tell you.

In seventh grade, my history class was asked to participate in a special project wherein we were to create something that we could sell, for less than $1, and at the end of the project the person with the most profitable idea won. It was a creativity test that I aced! I made very simple earrings and sold out immediately! This was only the beginning.

Recently, I decided to take up beading again, specifically creating earrings. I love looking at the intricate earrings available at stores, and while they are gorgeous they are ridiculously overpriced for their quality. I picked up some supplies and a started creating. Within weeks I had over 30 earrings ready to wear. The rub: I don't wear dangly earrings. I DID, however, love shopping on Etsy.

I created a name for my designs, Patch Ink Designs. The "ink" is in reference to another one of my crafting loves...handwriting and specifically stationery. I hope to combine the two and make fantastic designs to sell. I set up shop on Etsy and within days, I had sold a few pairs! Since then, I've gifted a few friends with earrings and word spread like wild-fire...and by wild-fire, I mean "their coworkers asked about them."


With word spreading about my affordable and delightful designs, I had some Moo Cards made. They are adorable! The mere mention of my craftiness at work today inspired a coworker to ask me about hosting a jewelry birthday party for her 10 year-old daughter. Talk about a fantastic opportunity!

I hope that the cards, my earrings and my simple love for craftiness continues to make me happy and also bring happiness to people in my life. That's really all it's about (and by "it" I mean the hokey pokey AND life in general).

Recipe Tuesday!

Between my ever increasing number of cookbooks...

  • TIP: visit your local used bookstore and spend some time browsing the cooking shelves. You'll find that people throw away amazing cookbooks as frequently as they throw away tissues. I've managed to acquire 20+ cookbooks over the years, most of them hardcover, and all for under $5. Retail prices would have left me spending anywhere from $200-$400. Ridiculous!

...I digress. Between my collection of cookbooks, magazines and family recipes I have more delicious food options than time to cook. So I decided that Tuesday is Recipe Day here at Queering Domesticity and I'm going to share a delightful recipe, be it family or otherwise, with you all here. When I'm inspired, I may post a picture too. This week, I borrowed one.

Many moms make snickerdoodles. Many gourmet bakeries do too. Many coffee shops keep them in their bakery case. And many people think that they can go home, roll a butter cookie in cinnamon sugar and...VOILA!...snickerdoodles! No such luck, my friends. Snickerdoodles require the cream of tartar to give them their distinct snickerdoodley flavor.



Snickerdoodles (courtesy of Mom)
-------------------------------------
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 ¾ cups sifted flour
  • 2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Cinnamon mixture: 1 teaspoon cinnamon to 1 tablespoon sugar
  1. Cream butter and sugar, add eggs, add dry ingredients. Chill. Form into balls, roll in cinnamon mixture.
  2. Bake 8-10 minutes @ 400°.
  3. They’ll puff when baking, flatten when cool.
Go forth and enjoy!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Pull over! Now!

The chaos that is the Washington DC Metro Transit Authority has yet to inspire E and me with any sort of regularity. Thusly, we've driven to work most days since the move. Between running to our tiny storage unit, grocery shopping and just waking up a few minutes too late, we've found it to be a very needed and temporary fix.

E took a slightly different route this morning which left us meandering through an older, established neighborhood in Northern Virginia. I spotted a delightful old dresser hanging out curbside in front of a house, and then spotted the glass drawer pulls that made fancy a rather boring piece of furniture. I expressed sadness over not having antique glass drawer pulls of my own, so E whipped the car around and pulled to the curb. I bounded out of the car and began to unscrew the knobs. Some would just not budge and the dresser wasn't in a condition that warranted heaving the whole thing into the back of the car, so we managed to unscrew five big knobs and two small. Delightful indeed!

I'm planning on finding either some old rescued wood in the back of an antique shop or perhaps beating up some new wood to give it that rustic look, and creating a wall-mounted coat rack with my adorable new drawer pulls. Regardless of what I create, I started my Monday morning off delightfully excited!

Fusing the practical with the pretty!

My partner and I just moved into a brand new apartment...brand new in general and to us! The appliances are to die for! Sometimes I hug the high efficiency washer/dryer combo when he's not looking. Gorgeous and glossy hardwood floors, exposed brick in the main room and bedroom, and a sweet little urban patio out back just BEGGING for some flower pots. For the most part, things are just perfect in there.

Our landlords decided (or didn't decide...I've yet to figure out their architectural process) to leave the fuse box unpainted and uncovered. So we have a delightfully clean canvas and a big ugly, dark gray box in the middle of the wall! I decided that it would probably be best to figure out a quick fix, and as this is not in a discrete location but rather in the middle of our kitchen, I needed something practical and pretty that didn't require any sort of construction equipment.

We picked up an inexpensive bulletin board at IKEA and paired it with some cute magnetic mini file folders from Target. While not custom nor perfect, it really fits our needs, especially now that E's (my partner) work schedule is going to grow increasingly random and will require him to collect receipts for tax purposes, and our social engagements pick up as the fall (read: cooler weather) approaches.

So far, so organized!

Blog Rolling...like a jelly roll, but better!

Remember when you were a kid, and you'd tuck your arms in and cross your legs at the ankles and roll down a soft, grassy hill? Most kids do, anyway.

I did that all the time, as my front yard had a decent slope and my parents paid landscapers to make our grass fluffy and soft. It was the craziest feeling, spinning and rolling until you stopped. It made me giggle and I never seemed to be able to get enough of it.

So when I named my frequent blog zombie time Blog Rolls (other folks seem to call them blog rolls too...for some reason I've added an "experience" to the action), I was inspired by that same giggle and glee of childhood. Typically I'll start with something like LiveJournal and skip from blog to blog, website to website, clicking on things until I have a ridiculous addition to my bookmark list. Recently, through the help of a coworker, I discovered Google Reader. Of course that fantastic piece of web-based organization will only feed my feed addiction!

I wish I could say that the majority of my Blog Rolling was done on blogs with some sort of social justice bent, but they are not. I tend to start with crafts or interior design, and spin off into green living, cooking and minor home construction. I found a lot of cool things yesterday, so I'm going to post my What I'm Reading Now list here (for posterity) and also some links to amazingly cool stuff I've found on the internets.

-------------------------
BLOGS, etc.
-------------------------
  • I was linked to this a long time ago, but I finally added the blog feed to my Reader. Not Martha is a bevy of craft, DIY and interior design linkage and ideas.
  • I found this yesterday. This woman is like the consummate housewife, crafter, mom. I love her aesthetic and am totally jealous of her craft room. Check out Simple Sparrow.
  • I have a secret crush (ok, secret's out!) on Matt Armendariz of MattBites. He also has a Flickr Feed with his AMAZING people and food photography and his photography site, which has lots of goodies as well. He's also the sweetest guy ever (we've been exchanging e-mails, natch).
  • Instructables is THE site for anyone looking to build stuff themselves. It's crafty, it's DIY, and it's really flippin' sweet.
  • I must admit my blog-crush on Amber at MyAimIsTrue. She also has a lot of cool things available at her Etsy shop: Right here.
  • CONSUME, whose mission is to show you stuff to buy that doesn't suck, is a great jumping off point for, well, stuff to buy that doesn't suck. My favorite recent post provided a link to BLT Scented Votive Candles. I mean really...what WILL they think of next?
-------------------------
STUFF, etc.
-------------------------
  • The LEGO brick cake pan...because, if nothing else, it'll make my partner happy!
  • Squirrel postcards to feed my postcard-y obsession EVEN MORE.
  • The Wilton Giant Cupcake Pan is on the wishlist of a very good friend of mine and myself. WHO WOULDN'T WANT TO MAKE A GIANT CUPCAKEASAURUS!??!!?
  • Sassy and completely boogie Wine Bottle Bags. Not that I gift a lot of wine...but I would if i had these bags, duh!
  • If you're anything like me, you know how exciting office supplies can be. Animal rubberbands because...well...WHY NOT!??!
  • Greener Grass Design has managed to cultivate some pretty sweet jewelry. I aspire to be that cool. Similarly, Re-Modern has managed to amass a collection of bags and wallets that inspire and amaze!
  • I think I'm going to get one of these for my brother when he gets his own apartment...Recycled Rubber Doormat. I know how much he loves the filth and stank of NYC streets, it's only reasonable to suppose he'll love that image at his feet while he's unlocking the door to his clean apartment.
  • If I had a front step that warranted the acquisition of a doormat, I'd pick this one...without a moment's hesitation.
  • Yee-Haw industries creates awesome original letterpress designs and they have ridiculously cute Farmer's Market cards in their shop along with thousands of ridiculously cool signs, poster and apparel.
  • My partner and I saw these Drip Clips in a local boutique and exclaimed that I wanted them. I still do. Maybe. We'll see.
  • I know we're living in a material world (hence this post, duh) but I'm not quite a Monroe-esque kind of ma-ma-material girl. But if I were, I wouldn't sip a cold beverage without these Cool Jewel Ice Cubes.
And finally, a few things I've been eyeing Etsy:

Hello! It's me you're looking for!

After significant piddlefarting* around, I've finally taken the time to start my blog. The concept for this blog was inspired by a comment made to me a few years ago by some friends. I had taken the reigns on a weekend trip to the mountains and proceeded to coordinate the domestic needs of my queer buddies. They exclaimed:

"Meaghan! You'd be a fantastic housewife!"

So here I am, cultivating a brand new space in what I consider to be a niche market. Most of my peers are out drinking, networking, schmoozing and enjoying the fancy life. I'd much rather be at home with my partner reading my plethora of knitting, cooking and interior design magazines. I lust after things like 20gauge sterling silver beading wire and wonder when I'll be able to acquire a vintage-repro bright red toaster. I'm a third generation crafter and proud to be carrying on the family legacy.

This blog is my ode to craftdom, to planning things from holiday galas to a weekend brunch, and to keeping home with and for people whom I love. Welcome!

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*piddlefarting - a Kentucky-ism stolen from a friend which means, generally, the act of doing nothing while doing a whole bunch of something yet really just doing nothing. Embrace it. It's one of them 50cent words.
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