Wednesday, July 30, 2008

there's always room to dream

Do you own this book? If not, it's a must.

During the earlier half of my years working for Verizon, there was a small book outlet open for business in the plaza next to my office and I was addicted to it. Sadly, they closed about five years ago and I still miss it. Mostly closeouts, and rarely anything new on the shelves, but the folks who ran the shop knew what Nabua and I liked to read/buy and we noticed that there were always new cookbooks, craft books and books on home decorating coming in while the rest of the departments collected dust. The owners would even hold the new books behind the counter for us from time to time, the books they thought we'd really like, so we could go through them before they sold them to the public. Yes, we bought THAT many books. God, I so miss having a disposable income.

The downside to frequently (read: constantly) buying so many hardcover, coffee table books was forgetting all about them when a new book would come along. Some that I've purchased have never been read. So many books made their way into my home and I'm still to this day finding treasures whose covers were never opened when I peruse my bookshelves. One of those books is "Seasonal Home" by Kristin Perers.

In one word...gorgeous.

I rediscovered this book as I was packing up our old apartment, right before we moved into our new house, about three years after I bought it. This was yet another book that was gobbled up in the bookstore, taken home, placed on the shelf and forgotten about because another fantastic book came into the picture before I could read this one. It's too bad. Before we bought our house, we rented a really, really old farmhouse and some of the ideas from this book would have been perfect for that house.
I open this book when I need inspiration. I open it when I'm in the mood to change something in my house and I'm unsure of what to do. This book completely covers my idea of the perfect home. I've tried some of these ideas already and use them in my home now, and others I have on hold for the day, ahhhh, someday, when Ben and I own our beach house. Some of these ideas are too precious to waste on a house far (too far) away from the ocean.

Buy this book. If you can't find it for sale (looks like Amazon has it used), check it out at the library. You'll thank me for it, I promise. And if anyone has this already, and especially if you study it as if it were your own personal bible, please, let's chat.

Next up:

I bought this at JoAnn a few days ago and I love it. I'm itching to whip up some aprons lately and there are a few in here that I'd love to make for myself. Have you made anything from this book yet?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

It's time for Troy Night Out again and for the past two days we've been running around like crazy getting ready. Caroline and Emily came in to hang their work in the rear gallery and everything looks amazing. The hamburger painting I talked incessantly about in past posts is hanging here with a N.F.S. sticker on it. Know why? Because it's MINE. Allllll MINE! Muahaha! On top of that, I've finally found the very best birthday gift ever for my friend Nabua and I know she's just going to love it. I know she doesn't read this blog so it's safe to talk about. Check it:

Anyway, both girls' prices are extremely reasonable for matted/framed work, and Emily is selling mounted prints for a song. Very cool. Both gals just graduated from The College of Saint Rose art department, my Alma mater and former stomping ground. I made them swear that certain faculty members weren't made aware of their show here simply because my class was chock full of trouble makers and I just know any run-in with the faculty would be, uh, let's just say it would be awkward. Eek!

On the menu this time around:

Caramelized onion dip (this ball and chain of mine is getting mighty heavy)
Sundried Tomato dip (a gigantic hit during last month's TNO)
Smoked Salmon dip (a new dip to try)
Stuffed Peppadew peppers (without the bacon this time around)
Raspberry tartlets
Lemon tartlets
Pecan tartlets
Chocolate and vanilla mini cupcakes
Caroline's chocolate chip cookies (I'm dying to try these ever since she told me she makes them with coconut and crunchy Chinese noodles)
Assorted fruit breads
Gigantic fudge brownies

Believe it or not, this is a toned down menu from last time, but I was so overwhelmed, and honestly I feel like I'm feeding the masses when I make so much food. We had people walking in just to eat last month (some people didn't even know where they were and most didn't even look at the merchandise), and while I know that's unavoidable, it's a bit on the annoying/disturbing side. Gotta love people! I've been given the green light by my insurance company to sell my dips (at the request of many customers last month) but I still don't have a mini fridge here yet, so maybe next time. Something tells me that selling dips will help out during the slow season. Fingers crossed.

Anyway, before I end this post, I want to give the recipe for the caramelized onion dip. Someone asked me for it a few posts ago and I totally forgot to share it. Sorry about that. This recipe is one of Ina Garten's and I'm writing this out off the top of my head because I've made this so many times. Her recipe might differ a bit, but this is how I make it every time:

***this is for a single batch***

3-4 medium yellow onions, sliced thinly
1/2 stick butter, salted
Olive oil
Freshly cracked black pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 brick cream cheese (at room temp)
1/2 cup mayo
1/2 cup sour cream

In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter and add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the onions and begin stirring. Because of the high heat, it's important to keep stirring the onions frequently to prevent uneven browning or burning. Add a decent size pinch of salt and pepper (to taste), and the cayenne pepper (add more if you like things spicy) and stir well. Allow the onions to cook over this temperature for 10-15 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for another 10-15 minutes. This time period might seem excessive, but the longer they cook, the better they'll me. Once the cooking time is done, remove the pan from the heat and allow the onions to cool.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the cream cheese well. Add the mayo and sour cream and mix to combine. Add the onion mixture (oil and all) into the bowl and slowly mix until fully combined. The onions should be cooled all the way, but if not, it's okay. Allow the dip to chill for several hours. I like to make mine the night before it will be eaten. Allow it to sit out of the fridge for a little while before serving.

I hope you guys like the dip. It's super easy to make, especially in larger batches. People LOVE it, almost too much, I guess. I served it at my Grand Opening and the mayor was so impressed he made it a point to praise me for it. Weird. I wish I could take credit for how wonderful it is.

Anyway, this post has become entirely too long. I'll end it now. Coming soon, though, will be a link for an article I was interviewed for by a local newspaper. They took my picture today. You know how much I hate that.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A major prize, a major prize! I won! I won! I won!

My mom beat me to it already, but I still want to share with you the award I won from Metroland magazine for "Best Handcrafted Gifts"! So exciting! I couldn't have done it without all of your help, really! Congrats to all of us!

Check it:

(you may have to scroll down a bit)
P.S. Please just ignore my horrible birthmark which is all but jumping out and screaming at you in this picture. I've had it throughout most of my life and I really, really hate it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Baggy goodness

My mother-in-law, Diana, recently gave me a stack of sewing and quilting magazines a mile high (lucky me, I know). I looked through some of them so far and fell in love with a handbag pattern in the August issue of American Patchwork and Quilting (by Better Homes and Gardens).

The pattern shows how to make the most adorable handbag out of two dish towels and a pair of handles. I grabbed a five pack of towels while at Target yesterday and just finished this baby up! Totally simple, really cute and the four outer pockets are really fantastic. This was my first try, but it's worthy of being sold in the shop. I can't wait to buy more towels. How fun! I couldn't locate the pattern online, but if you see this issue in stores, do yourself a favor and pick it up. This bag took me about a half hour to put together.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

One of the many, many reasons why I married him...

He apparently had a stellar time with Rachel Ray while chillin' in The Big Apple on Saturday.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Don't mess with the Queen

We had a rather interesting incident go down on Thursday in front of the shop...

I was sewing in the window nook that afternoon and happened to notice these huge clouds of bugs flying around. Being so close to the river, this happens from time to time so I chose to ignore it and move on with my day. About an hour later I looked out again and noticed even more bugs this time around and people were running up and down the street with their noses and mouths covered. I found this to be a little more than slightly weird and closed my front door while constantly keeping an eye on matters. Apocalypse, anyone?

A customer came in and said he had no idea what the bugs were, but was concerned because they were flying into people as if they felt threatened. I found that to be even more bizarre, but then again, anyone who has tried to enjoy a day outdoors knows how annoying insects can be, so I continued on with my sewing. A little later, Mike came in and told me the bugs were actually honeybees and explained that there was a small crowd of people building outside, watching the bees collecting on a flag across the street. We went out to investigate and found several police officers, the fire department, DPW and the press there with us. Everyone just kind of stood around watching the bees in amazement. I guess you hear all of the news about them disappearing at alarming rates, but yet here they are in all of their glory in Troy, NY.

The city called in a local beekeeper to remedy the situation. Her job was to locate the queen, remove her, and the rest of the swarm would then follow her to wherever she was going. They put this poor woman in a cherry picker, raised her up to the flag, and everyone stood around silently as she brushed them off of the flag into a wooden box. The bees were smoked (to calm them) after the box was closed and she brought them to her property.

As interesting and exciting as this was to witness, I can't tell you how happy I am that they didn't kill the bees. In a world where killing an animal or any creature who may act out of the ordinary or in a way we don't understand is routine, I was so worried that they'd start spraying these bees just because they were around. No one was stung and everyone on site respected them. I'm both shocked and relieved.

Anyway, Mike took the pictures for this post. I had my camera with me, but was trying to watch what was going on and make the second load of coffee jackets in time for their pickup. Besides, he can take a better picture than I can any day. As for the bees, there's still a lot of them on the flag, but according to the powers that be with the city, they're expected to disperse within the next few days.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Ask and ye shall receive

Remember when I was whining about not having anything to blog about other than the shop? Apparently the blog gods were eavesdropping.

After spending a rather beautiful day in the Adirondack region on Monday with my mom, Sandy and Mike, Tuesday came around and smacked me right on my booty. Ben woke me up early in what some might consider a state of panic and told me about the not-so-little surprise that Olive left for us overnight. She must have eaten something bad, or the heat just finally got to her, but she developed a stellar case of diarrhea and proceeded to spray it ALL OVER THE HOUSE! Every room except for Ben's office was covered. We cleaned it up, and planned to keep an eye on her throughout the day just in case her symptoms got worse.

After Ben went to work, I closed and locked the front door before I took my shower, and as I walked toward the bathroom I heard this weird squealy cracking sound followed by the sound of running water. When I turned around I realized that the seal on my 45 gallon aquarium (that houses my elderly tropical fish) busted out in several places and water was spraying EVERYWHERE! I couldn't get it to stop and I couldn't decide on what to panic about: the contents of the living room which were then soaked, or the lives of the fish I've had for so many years and through so many moves. I ran to the basement and grabbed my bucket and siphon and took as much of the water out of the tank as I possibly could. The fish were moved to a Rubbermaid tub, after almost losing one on the floor, and they're still there as I type this. I re-caulked the tank but the seal needs to cure for at least 24 hours before water can be added. Keep your fingers crossed for me because when I get back home I'm going to fill the tank in the driveway and check for leaks. If this thing isn't water-tight I have no other options for my fish. It would kill me to just let them go, especially because, as I've said, I've had them forever (Randi we had these fish when we lived together!!!). They won't survive much longer in the Rubbermaid thing and I can't afford another tank. I wish I could find someone nearby who could adopt them if this tank situation doesn't work out. I really hope it works out. This could be a bad one.


The caulking job was successful, or so it seems. We won't know how well I really did until we see water spraying out everywhere again. Let's hope that doesn't happen. The fish survived the move and they're swimming around happily. I can't believe how tough they are! Olive is fine, too. She's just up our butts now to go out and play. Just like having a four year old.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

anything but terse

Summer. Ahh, yes.

I'm sweating.

I'm cranky because I'm sweating.

And I already can't wait for autumn because I'm sweating and cranky from sweating. Got it?

I'm kidding, mostly, but lately I just can't shake that autumn calling that inevitably rolls around at this time of year, every year. I feel so drawn to autumn weather, and if I could find a place in this world that hosts autumn weather and autumn characteristics all year round, I'm moving there for sure. As long as there are pumpkins. Lots and lots of them.

What's new with you folks? I've had a few frantic e-mails fall in here and there wondering where I am and when I'm planning on updating the blog. I was just explaining to Randi that as much as I hate to ramble on forever about the shop, I feel as though that's all there is to talk about...especially seeing as how I pretty much live there now. I don't want this blog to be all about the shop, despite the fact that it's one of the most important aspects of my life right now. To put it simply, I don't want to bore anyone. Are you bored? Please be won't hurt my feelings, I promise you.

Alas, despite my hesitation to keep my comments about the shop to a minimum, that's all I have to talk about today. See what I mean? The last Troy Night Out went well, although we didn't see the number of sales we had anticipated. Every shop at the opposite end of the street scored record sales that night, but someone invited a full band to play out on the sidewalk right in front of the businesses here and they were so unbelievably loud that people were afraid to cross the street and enter the shops here. It was awful and I really hope it doesn't happen again. Fingers crossed. I hate to be a stick in the mud, but I can't afford to lose sales. That said, even though TNO's sales were on the lighter side, we're getting quite the rush of people in lately and sales overall are amazing! I don't want to jinx anything, but I'm so grateful it's unreal.

On the brighter side of TNO, my dips seemed to be a huge hit! I had a tremendous number of people casually recommend that I open a catering business, or at least sell my dips in the shop, so now I have to contact my insurance company and see if this is going to be a problem. I hope not. While I really don't need another thing to add to my list of work, this would/could be a really decent money maker. I think I'll choose three dips a month to serve at Troy Night Out, and have those dips for sale for anyone who may be interested. We shall see how they do.

Hmmmm, let's see...what else is going on here:

* The entire supply of local honey I bought a month ago is GONE! Diana, this stuff is a huge hit here! Thanks for recommending Russ! My mom, Mike, Sandy and I are making the long trek up to Argyle to restock on Monday.

* I'm so incredibly excited for our next gallery show. Caroline Corrigan and Emily Armstrong are teaming up with some of their work at the end of this month and it looks like they're as excited about it as I am. They've made up some really nice hand-screened posters to advertise the show. I've had the chance to see some of their paintings in person and they're great. Caroline has a painting of a girl eating a hamburger and I just have to have it.

* After reading this post, I'm thinking of making some homemade deodorant of my own. I've been on the hunt for some time now looking for natural deodorant sans aluminum, and it's harder than you might imagine. The products I've tried leave me with a horrific rash and I just don't trust the armpit stone. If her recipe works as well as I think it might, I'll let you know and we can all make some.

* We're finally ready to book knitting and crochet classes at the shop so I'll be putting together a mailer to send out early next week. If you live in the area and want to attend a class, stop in and sign the mailing list, or drop me an e-mail and we'll sign you up!

* A belated HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Maggie! I didn't forget about you this year, woman, but I wasn't able to wish you one in a timely manner. I apologize. Hope you had a great time!

* Bachmann is heading out on tour again, this time with Crooked Fingers. Guess who he's touring with? Okkervil River! One of my faves. I think the closest they're coming here is Northhampton, Mass., which is a hop skip and a jump from here. The show falls just a few days before my birthday. Anyone want to take me? I'm in trouuuuuuuublllllllllle!