Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Things I Want to Do: In the next few months...

...I want to:

NOTE: If you click on the image, it will link you to the tutorial. If you click on the description link, it will simply direct you to the blog/website.

1. Make some of my own rubber stamps. Here are some great tutorials.

Cut Out + Keep has this fantastic picture-based tutorial so you can learn how to "create rubber stamps on any budget, inspired by any image or pattern you like". Nice!

Alma Stoller has a great tutorial too!

2. Make one of these hip Martha Stewart macrame-ish scarves!

I first read about this in her magazine, but was so glad to hear there was an e-tutorial. Apparently the yarn of choice is Twinkle by Classic Elite.

3. Have my Mom help me sew a rice heat therapy bag, for the neck, back and uterus aches. One for me, one for her!

Sew, Mama, Sew! has a fantastic step-by-step tutorial and the fabric choice is an absolute inspiration. If I can get a sewing machine in time for the holidays next year, everyone I know will get one of these suckers!

4. Make some super hip Shrinky Dink plastic things...pendants, keychains, zipper pulls!

How About Orange has a delightfully easy tutorial AND fantastically cute inspiration for my project, donchathink!?

5. Screenprint something!

LimonVerde has an excellent tutorial, complete with permission to snack during the drying process! I vote YES.

The Craftzine blog also has a PDFCast tutorial worth checking out.

6. Make some fun little notebooks with my screenprinted paper.

Design*Sponge provides a fantastic tutorial. The paper possibilities are endless, especially considering there are now multiple aisles of scrapbooking paper at crafts stores AND fancy paper stores are also chock full of gorgeous imported and vintage-esque gift-wrapping paper and individual sheets. Ooh la la!

This should keep me busy until AT LEAST May or June, I think. Mmm, crafty!

Wish List Item #1

click on the picture for a direct link to the item

Red Scallop Cake Stand

I was never a fan of the ocean.

I decided a month or two ago, with Mr. and Ms. DiSnazzio, to make with the candy blogging over at Rock Candy Baltimore so as to prepare their customer base for the fantastic stock of sweet treats contained within their bubblegum-colored walls. I thought this would be a really delicious endeavor, as I love all candy and chocolate. How on Earth could their be anything I don't like, right?

Um, ok. Wrong.

I'm posting this here because I don't want to have a negative candy review on the site just yet. When business is good and people understand that I am just one receptacle of taste buds and not the Almighty Candy God™, I'll start posting reviews for things that don't necessarily tempt my palate. Until then, you'll get the craptastic candy blogs over here and you'll just have to deal with it.

Yesterday I set out a plate of bites for my tasting panel (read: my coworkers and me) of the Barcelona Bar by Vosges Chocolate. A potentially smooth combination of milk and dark chocolate ("deep milk chocolate"), with hickory smoked almonds and an infusion of grey sea salt, the Barcelona Bar's fragrance was delectable. It sat approximately 2.5' from my nose and tempted me relentlessly. I encouraged my Tasting Panel to come on by and sample the goods, so long as they provided me with feedback. Here's what they said:
"There aren't enough almonds, really, but the salt really tries its best to highlight the sweetness of the chocolate."

"I think this is delicious. You're first hit with the smell of chocolate and then when you put it into your mouth, the flavor changes over and over again. Yum!"

"Anything that isn't dark chocolate already has a strike against it. And I have to admit that the chocolate flavor is lacking in this. The salt isn't overpowering, per say, but it detracts from the experience."

"It's good. How much was it?
[I tell her it's priced at about $7.50/bar] Um, yeah, I wouldn't pay $7.50 for this. " It should be noted that this taster returned to her desk and began eating a Baby Ruth.
Certainly not positive endorsements across the board.

My first few nibbles of this bar were either unexciting or perplexing. I wasn't hit with the salt with my first bite, so I was able to savor the smooth chocolate and delicious almonds. The second and third bites were met with more salt flavor, to the point of crunching through a few pieces and disrupting the texture experience. The final bite was the most tragic of them all.

I am, by no means, a trained candy consumer nor am I an expert on chocolate (or even fine wine, for that matter). But I was trained at the school of Trader Joe's, where the quality of the merchandise has to meet fairly with the price and flavor. This is what we called "value" in the industry. And while I think that this chocolate is significantly more refined than a Hershey Bar, I don't feel that the overall value is there. The almonds were sparse, the chocolate wasn't rich and exciting, and the salt was a horrible distraction from the overall experience. And I believe that salt and nuts are an excellent combination with ice cream (Hello Buster Bar at Dairy Queen!).

About twenty minutes after my last bite, I smacked my tongue to the roof of my mouth and tasted ocean water. I had all of these disturbing visions of being pulled under the surf and swallowing a few gallons of salt water and sand when I was a kid at Myrtle Beach. There are some people, based on what I've seen in gourmet cookbooks and cooking shows, that can extol the virtues of sea salt and its depth of flavor. But when I eat a chocolate bar and the overwhelming impression of it is that it tastes like Myrtle Beach, I don't really see the merits in spending more than a few bucks on it.

Overall, Barcelona Bar, you were a disappointment.

Monday, January 28, 2008

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a WTF?!

Listening to the news this morning on the way into work, I hear that there is a large US spy satellite plummeting to Earth sometime in the next six weeks or so. Fun!

In light of this potentially tragic news, I suggest we all start carrying our umbrellas with us regularly. No one wants to be on their way to work and have a huge satellite fall onto their head. I mean, something falling onto your person that is estimated to be the size of a "small bus" would probably mess up your hair quite a bit, if not render your clothing completely unwearable.

In other news, the economy's for shit and it's cold enough to freeze your toes off outside.

Happy Monday.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Finally Finally Finally!

Oh Hooray! I've finally updated my shop with some things that make my heart happy. Please to be checking them out...post haste.

Buy Handmade

Back on the horse.

I suffered what can only be classified as a "crafty depression" through most of December. I let my enjoyment of my jewelry designing and knitting to be defined by the number of sales I made, in shows or on Etsy. Sadly, when you're banking on a hot holiday season and you literally sell one thing between December 3rd and the Baby Jesus' birthday, you really don't feel fantastic.

To assuage my pain, I gave lots of jewelry as gifts. Every piece was received with glee and joy, so this reaffirms the fact that I'm making cool stuff. I often struggle with my prices, because I really price things in such a way that makes them affordable. I tend to never cut quality, simply because I remember all those times when I'd purchase a ring or pair of earrings at a department store, only to have them degrade or tarnish within weeks. I want people to be able to care for their jewelry, and to have it last, as much as I want to find great prices on supplies and keep things affordable.

So basically, folks, I'm not sacrificing my integrity as a maker of attainable things just so a bunch of people who don't know me can pass judgment on the quality of my merchandise. I use sterling silver, I scope out amazing vintage beads, I make everything else by hand and I invest in really great merchandising materials to complete the whole package. You can trust that whatever I make will last, if you care for it, for a while. And if it doesn't, then please send it back. I'll give you your money back anytime.

On to Act II. I invested, with Christmas money, in some new supplies to start the year off right. I had trouble getting my creative brain in gear for jewelry making and was hoping to use Crafts & Kisses as the motivation to get going on things. I had to bail out of the show, as stated before, but nevertheless I told myself I'd have to create somethings before this weekend ended. And I did!

These are just a small sampling of the new things I'll be adding to my Etsy shop in the next few days. They're simple, not quite as long as my older things, and I've incorporated oxidized sterling silver into some of the designs. I've also been working hard on getting a decent collection of designs for the Sugar High line to be sold at Rock Candy Baltimore soon! The earrings are inspired by everything from lollipops to SweetTarts! So sweet.

I'm also trying to knit as much as possible, so perhaps, in the weeks to come, there will be a small sampling of knit goods available in my shop as well. Regardless of what I put up in my shop or sell in Baltimore, the fact that I continue to create and continue to feel inspired is, by far, the best feeling in the world. It makes me happy, and I've finally arrived at a place where I feel 100% pleased with me and my work.

Ok listen, I'm not trying to say don't buy, you know. Just don't worry about my self esteem getting all wonky. By all means, shop. It helps me afford new stuff, duh.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Kn-kn-knittin' in the round

With the exception of the first few rows of a garter stitch, and a quick tutorial on casting/binding on, I've taught myself how to knit. Due to the high concentration of crafty in my blood, I feel that I'm equipped to self-teach many skills related to yarn and needle. So on Saturday, after 20 minutes or so of perusing e-guides and patterns, I set out on a quest to knit in the round.

It wasn't long before I was in a rhythm. Circling around, row after row, was so simple! I double checked a particular pattern to read about decreases, and then set out to close the top of my hat. I remembered when the yarn became a little snug that I would need to augment my circular needles with a set of double-pointed needles, which I didn't have. So right now I have this cute little "orchid" colored hat, all ready to finish. I'll get some DPNs soon and finish it up. I think I'm going to embellish it with a knitted patch in a complementary color, stitch it on in a cartoon-y fashion, and give it to my honorary goddaughter to keep her little head warm in this blustery cold mid-Atlantic weather.

What's next? Golf club headcovers for my Dad. He e-mailed me recently with just a link to golf headcovers sold online, and I was very puzzled. He followed it up with a few more e-mails about his preferences and the deal was set...he's my first DPN knitting project! And by the way, who knew that this man, my father, who loves nothing more than golf, food and napping would exclaim (via e-mail):

Hi Hon,

My golf bag is predominantly orange with black accents. I think I would like headcovers that are predominantly black with orange accents. By the way, knitting is my life.

That Old Knitting Fool,

Man, this world is one wacky place.

Wine + Fruit = Gay

It might come as a surprise to my readership, but I listen to The Jack Diamond Morning Show on MIX 107.3FM with great regularity. I used to think him an old tool, in my younger days, when I was smart enough to avoid the misogynistic cesspool known at WHFS 99.1 and kept my radio locked to DC101.1. But now, I guess I'm an old lady because I like him. Anyway, not the point.

The point is: This morning Jack reported that Sangria* (and all beverages made with beer/wine + spirits) are illegal to sell in restaurants/bars in the state of Virginia. AND, La Tasca in Old Town Alexandria was cited recently for selling SANGRIA, and the alcohol beverage control officer used this 75 year old bit of brilliant legislation as the reason.


I was thoroughly shocked to hear this news, as Sangria was on my list of Booze to Love. And when Jack clarified that this law actually applied to all beverages that are a combination of beer/wine and spirits, I was deeply concerned for Virginia. Sure, I can make it at home (using Bobby Flay's delectable recipe, perhaps?), but I want to be able to enjoy my Sangria anywhere [minus putting it in a sippy cup and going to the mall or something]. I suppose that Virginia realized they were shooting themselves in their own foot, because the Sangria legislation is up for reconsideration today in a VA House subcommittee. I certainly hope that the framing of this bill, which seems to be for Sangria only, will not be met with down-home racism in our State's capital. Wouldn't that be just freakin' dandy?

Finally, I'm concerned for the well-fair of other drinks. There was some debate inside our Subaru Forrester this morning about whether Baileys counts as a spirit or a liquer, but I think that the general population would agree that if you pull Sangria and our [much beloved] Irish Car Bombs off the tables and bars in good ol' Old Dominion, there will be some serious hell to pay. You know, once we scrape ourselves off the floor after retaliating with Patron and Jameson's.

What is happening to the world?

* Sangria = a wine punch typically from Spain and Portugal. Don't let Americans make their own Sangria, however, and sell it in a TexMex restaurant. I was once faced with the horror of red wine mixed with Hawaiian Punch. Uh, how 'bout NO?

Sad news...

Due to an obligation of supreme importance (that being the opening of Rock Candy Baltimore!!!!), I won't be in the Crafts & Kisses Show. I'm very sad about this, so if you want to talk about it you better bring some tissues. Nevertheless, please get yer butts to the show on February 3rd. It will seriously be great.

Here's the vendor line up:
Obviously you will be missing out on something of monumental proportions if you don't make it to this show. I will be taking attendance (from afar). *wiggles spectacles*

Many thanks to Bookish Lady for all of her kind words, kick ass marketing and hard work putting this show together. I sincerely look forward to working with her in the future!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Clorox - Going green?

Clorox is kind of synonymous with bleach, right? Well, they seem to want to expand on the image that has brought them millions of dollars by adding a whole new line of products that won't inspire you to fumigate your home or burn a hole through your favorite sweatshirt.

Meet the GreenWorks line. They discuss briefly what "all natural" means to them, which is both interesting and honest:
To create Green Works™ natural cleaners we set ourselves a very stringent standard. The ingredients must come from renewable resources, be biodegradable and free of petrochemicals. Green Works™ cleaners are at least 99% natural. In certain cases we had to use synthetic ingredients, like the preservative and green colorant. But we're working hard to develop natural alternatives so the entire line can be 100% natural.
We'll see how these hold up on the countertops of real people. I've been generally disappointed with all-natural cleansers, mostly because I like the smell of hard cleansers* and because I feel like they do a consistently poor job of cleaning (ex. Seventh Generation is a joke and a waste of money). If you've used these, share your experience.

Originally found at Apartment Therapy - Chicago.
* By saying I enjoy the smell of hard cleaners, I do not mean that I enjoy sniffing substances for a mediocre high. Gosh. My father worked for an industrial supply company my entire life, so I never used a mainstream cleaner until I was 19-20 years old. So I'm used to the fumes and I like 'em, got it?!

Changing the curtains.

I woke up Monday morning and looked at my apartment, with the Christmas tree still up, papers and magazines strewn everywhere, and a mountain of laundry that would truly test the power of a 4-wheel drive vehicle. And I thought to myself…

SELF, why the hell do you think you’re a domestic goddess
worthy of this little corner of the blog world?

Here’s the thing folks…I don’t actually consider myself domestically gifted nor do I think I’ve cornered the market on this whole “queer and housewifely” thing. And I don’t really want to do that either. I want to be able to ENJOY domestic things, and not just a Saturday cleaning ritual or my [bordering on neurotic] obsession with laundry. I want to talk about why I love these things, too. My appreciation for all things domestic is not rooted in a ridiculously wacky childhood. My mother was a skilled domestic engineer AND she managed to work 40+ hours a week (not including ridiculous commute times).

I want to talk about why I took a huge detour on the road of life just to get here, to a place where I can actually enjoy things like aprons and dishpan hands. Because the feminist in me screams (sometimes) when I think about how stereotypical some of my life happens to be. Also, there’s a whole lot that happens within the walls of my apartment that is domestic but not related to the keeping of a home that I want to get off my chest too. On top of that, there are things that happen in the homes of other people that are worth discussing. The possibilities are seriously unlimited.

So I’m not a freaking goddess, ok?
(Not that any of you were pressuring me to be one, or prove I was one.)

I decided to update the look of my blog, just a bit. No longer am I the Gay Housewife™, but I am charged with the task of Queering Domesticity. Because I have that long, sordid, feminist past with all things stereotypically feminine, I’ll probably wax philosophic about my relationship with queer people and my own queer identity, because it plays a significant role in my homelife. I mean, it's clear to me that the world is clearly in need of my two cents. Finally, I’ll continue to keep you updated on my craft stuff, as it is of fantastic importance to me, and I will also commit to posting pictures more often (of just about everything).

Please stick with me, folks. Things will get better and they will sure as hell get more queer*! There’s a lot of fantastic thinking that goes on in my cavernous skull, and you haven’t heard the last of it!

* more queer? Funny word, ain't it? When I was in 7th grade English, Mrs. McCunney put me in detention because I called John Abruzzino queer. In many ways, I consider this my root. Not only was I using the word queer in a completely literal sense (in his case, he was a wacky asshat), but she was one of the most accepting and hip women on the planet [in my world at the time] and she was right to give me an extra hour after school that day to think about the lovely flower I would one day blossom into. A queer hyper-literal flower, that is.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Crafts & Kisses

I'm in it!

Hey All,

Come check out super sweet DC Crafters showing and selling their wares at Crafts & Kisses on Sunday February 3rd. The show is from 12-5 at Josephine Butler Parks Center next to Malcolm X/Meridian Hill Park in NW (The yellow mansion at 2437 15th Street NW). You'll find more than 20 crafters selling unusual handmade items and special gifts, including handknit and screenprinted apparel for men/women/kiddies, jewelry, cards, handmade books, valentines, soap and skincare products, handbags, handspun wool, pillows, pottery, and other items for walls/homes/wardrobes/bodies/brains/hearts.

There is nothing more romantic than buying handmade.
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