Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Can you spare a click?

Originally I thought of making paper roses as a way to use up the huge box of paper I have leftover from making books. (C'mon, you can't just throw that stuff out!) Back in the Victorian era women made paper flowers for their homes during the months when fresh flowers weren't in season. I've used that idea to make flowers out of recycled papers- which I think is a great and everlasting alternative to fresh flowers in floral arrangements and bouquets.

A couple of weeks ago my wonderful Etsy friends talked me into entering my paper roses into the Martha Stewart DIY Wedding contest (that is happening in partnership with Etsy). The winner of the contest will be featured on her website and might have the opportunity to demonstrate their craft on her show. There are some great entries, including those of my friends and teammates. I encourage you to sign up for an account and vote/comment on your favorites. And, if you can spare a click check out my entry here where I've entered a bouquet of fuchsia roses I actually made for a recent wedding. Rumor has it that Martha Stewart will be taking into consideration the ratings and comments when choosing a winner.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Around the world and back...

As an Etsy seller I think one of the coolest things I get to do is send mail all over the world. Each time I send a package overseas or to a town I've never heard of I always feel the need to share that information with everyone I know- and although it may sound just plain weird to them, I consider it an accomplishment to sell items to someone in Jerusalem or New York City. It just proves that Etsy is more far-reaching than I ever imagined it to be and I have a sense of pride knowing that right now things I made with my own two hands are literally all over the world!

I've decided that with my office being a "command center" of sorts it is only appropriate to track my progress on a map pinboard right above my desk. I will soon be sticking little red tipped pins in a world map for every sale I make to a location, with the goal to someday have sold to every US state and most major countries! (Tokyo, Seoul, Reno, Sao Paulo, and Hong Kong being towards the top of my wishlist!) Until that gets set up I've made a virtual version on Google Maps. You can check out the full version of it here

Look out world, here I come!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tutorial: DIY Bubble Mailer

One thing I have learned from being an Etsy buyer is that creative business people don't let their creativity stop with the items you buy. Rather, they use their creative potential to it's fullest by carefully packaging your purchases in a way that ties in with their online business persona. (Ok, maybe not everyone does, but I love getting these packages the most!) A great way to customize your packaging is to make your own and if you're using reclaimed materials you're probably saving yourself a pretty penny too.

I wanted to share an easy tutorial for making your own bubble mailers. This works great to tie your packaging in with your online business, or to simply make something cute to ship goodies to your friends. Getting mail (other than bills) is exciting, but it can be even more so when it looks exciting too!

For this project you will need:
- Heavy weight paper-heavy wrapping paper, scrapbook paper, or even recycled cereal boxes
- Bubble wrap -the standard kind, not the stuff with the giant bubbles
- White glue, or a heavy-duty glue stick.
- Clear tape
- Scissors or paper cutter
- Ruler
- Spray adhesive (optional)

Step One:
Take your piece of paper and cut it to be 11 x 9 inches.
Then, fold it following the graph below. (This is for an envelope that is 5x7, for a bigger envelope you need to double the width, add an inch for the "flap" on one side, allow .5 in on the bottom and 1.5 in on the top for flaps also)

Step Two:
Cut off the pieces marked in grey on the diagram

Step Three:
Leave your paper on the table right side down. Cut two pieces of bubble wrap that are approximately 4.5 x 6.5 inches, or 1/2 an inch smaller than your envelope size.
Glue your bubble wrap bubble side down (so the smooth part faces towards you) to the wrong side of the paper inside the two 5x7 inch pieces. Try to leave an equal amount of space around each side.
I usually glue mine with spray adhesive, but white glue will work ok for this. Be patient and let the glue dry and spread white glue thinly so the paper doesn't get wrinkles and warp from being too soggy. For added security, I also recommend using clear tape at the top of the bubble wrap to prevent it from peeling up when you fill the envelope.

Step Four:
Put glue on the bottom two flaps of the paper and fold the envelope together. Press the bottom flaps together firmly and allow to dry. These will be secure if you used good glue, but if you are worried you can tape this seam. Your envelope will be connected on the bottom, but open with a 1 inch flap on the right side, and a 1.5 inch flap on the top like this:

Step Five:
Put glue on the side flap, and fold over, securing it to the back of the envelope. For additional security, tape the flap as well. (This one likes to peel up otherwise!)

Now your envelope is done! Fill it and either glue or tape the top flap shut. If you have a dark color or busy pattern you will want to affix white mailing labels on the front to write your addresses on.
These work great for me when I am in a pinch and need some packaging. Recycle bubble wrap from packages you receive or if you know someone who recently moved you can usually inherit a ton of it for free!

Happy Mailing!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Rock the vote.

Anyone else out there love to vote? Knowing that I shared my opinion, whether or not the outcome of a vote is to my liking, always leaves me with a great sense of accomplishment like my little voice has joined others to show that I care. It doesn't have to be a serious issue to be important either- who says voting can't be fun?

If you've been to my blog before you know that handmade is important to me so I am super excited to plug two different voting opportunities in the handmade community this week. First of
all, my lovely team (the Eastern Washington Etsy Team) is hosting a challenge and we need your vote to decide a winner. You also have the option of leaving a comment for the chance to win a prize. Hop on over to our blog for the current challenge and details.

And, for those of you that haven't been cruising the Etsy blog "The Storque" lately, they have a great feature called Voter that allows folks to vote for their favorite item weekly in a variety of themes. I am honored to once again be included in the Voter this time for back-to-school notebooks and journals. Check it out, and rock the vote here.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Handmade Triumph

As someone who has taken the handmade pledge, I make a good-faith attempt to gift handmade whenever possible. Although this is has been my habit for many years now, I still find myself holding my breath every time I hand over that little handmade treasure. Many people don't realize that handmade gifts are the highest of compliments because of the hard work and the massive amount of love that goes into each gift. For me, it is like giving the recipient a little piece of my heart and I anxiously wait to see if they will treasure it or trash it.

Most people who have children know that you can usually rely on them for an honest reaction. While adults will spare your feelings, a child will be brutally honest about whether or not they appreciate your efforts. So when I made the choice to craft a handmade gift for my niece that will be opened along with a mountain of other name-brand-mass-media-battery-operated gifts the anxiety was especially high. Will my week worth of creating be lost in a sea of Disney and plastic? I am happy to know that it wasn't- not by a long shot.

G, my niece, has developed a fascination with food and cooking which has grown since my parents have splurged on cable T.V. While most children will request cartoons, G squeals with delight at the sight of Food Network. She recites recipes and measurements rather than nursery rhymes and would be much more excited to meet Rachel Ray than Hannah Montana. So it seemed obvious to me to spend a solid week crafting her favorite foods out of eco-fi, a felt-like material made from recycled plastic bottles. (Greatest stuff ever, really)

I took on this project without realizing that it would provide endless entertainment for both myself, who laughed aloud while sewing a life-sized plush corndog, and my family. I would have gladly spent the time to make these had it just pleased the birthday girl, but seeing how people react to the food still has me tickled. Who knew that a felt sandwich looks real enough to accidentally pack for lunch (my husband did this before I told him it wasn't real!), or that the remedy to the Monday blues is a photo message of felt bacon and eggs? The party paused when she opened her picnic basket full of food as everyone fought to peek inside or give a felt apple slice a squeeze.

In case there was any doubt, handmade enjoyed a major triuph this week. A very happy 4 year old has been waking every morning and asking to cook with her new "sewing food" and has to be persuaded each night to put it away for bedtime. My niece loved the gift and my family has been talking about it ever since. I definitely see a sequel to this gift playing out at Christmas.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Battle of Wills

Merit Badge (for rolling with the punches) by leemeszaros
Its no secret that the women in my family are incredibly stubborn. Last night was the ultimate showdown of stubborn-ness too- the battle of wills between the crafty chick and the shop-a-holic. (No, they aren't both me.) Here's how it all happened...

Yesterday evening I was at my mom's house using her sewing machine to finish up a birthday gift for my younger sister. I end up staying late and as I am gathering my stuff to leave my older sister, the shop-a-holic, mutters "Dang. I have to go back to the store for the 3rd time today. I forgot to get something for the potluck at G's school tomorrow." Because it is the last day of preschool for my niece there is a potluck, which my sister forgot about until 8:30 pm. This is where I come in.

"Why don't you just find something here to make and bring?"
"No, I was going to bring fruit. Even though a couple other moms are bringing fruit too."
"Then bring something different, don't go back to the store again."
"We have nothing in the house I can bring, trust me. I have to go to the store."

I don't think so. A crafty person can make anything for a potluck out of what's in the cupbboards. So I take G by the hand and we go looking in the pantry for a potluck item. "Ooh! how about we make this?" G was pointing to a huge container of breadcrumbs. Tempting, but no. These were sitting next to a box of graham crackers which looked much more promising. I handed the box of graham crackers off to G and kept looking. "Cover them with frosting and call it good" shouts my Mom from the dining room (Who, by-the-way, will eat frosting on anyting and everything- even carrots.)

With the graham crackers I can make a pie crust if only I can find a filling of some kind. Score! I find a cheesecake flavored pudding and hand it off to G. Meanwhile my sister is pacing the floor saying "This is never going to work. I am just going to the store." While she is busy debating whether to grab her car keys I throw the crackers into a gallon-sized freezer bag and hand G an ice-cream scoop and tell her to smash away. "Am I just like Food Network? I'm a cooker girl!" Yes, just like food network, only without the cameras or the ingredients.

As we're melting the butter for our pie crusts my sister informs me that the party is finger foods, so I might as well stop. Since pie is not finger food she has to go to the store anyway. Will the store hurry up and close already? Problem solved- I sent G to the cupbord to find me a muffin pan instead. Mini cheesecakes are great finger food dessert. An ancient muffin pan and no cupcake liners made things interesting, but with a little tin foil and scissors we called it good.

To make pudding into a pie filling, just add less milk when mixing it up. I also added whipped cream to the filling to make it fluffy and sliced some berries for the top. Mini cheesecakes all around! These rested in the refrigerator overnight and viola! The crafty will is stronger than the urge to hit the store for the 3rd time! The secret is that my craft conscience sounds a lot like Tim Gunn "Make it work," and while I don't sew that great I think he would be proud of both my mini cheesecakes and my pillows (for my younger sister's bday which is today!)

Friday, June 12, 2009

*Bragging Alert!*

Can I just brag for a quick second... please? I just want to tell everyone how proud of my team I am! As the President of the Eastern Washington Etsy Team it makes me feel like a proud momma when the team excels and that is exactly what we are doing! We have some mighty talented folks in our bunch and Etsy is definitely taking notice.

As I said in my last post, 3 of our team members (including myself) are featured in this weeks Etsy Voter which ends on Monday. People nominate these folks (or they can nominate themselves) and Etsy Admin chooses a group of items to be voted on then featured. Studio Cherie, The Vintage Dresser, and myself are all featured for our rockin' cozies.

Today I also found that we have another 3 members featured in the Father's Day themed Weekend Deals Gift Guide. Studio Cherie (man, is she popular!), slidesideways, and myself all have some screamin' weekend deals for your handmade-lovin' dad. Team EWAET representing! (lol, ok. Maybe that one was a little much- even for me.)

We also have major treasury fever and your can find treasuries by some of our "superstar" treasury makers on both Treasury Main and Treasury West at any given time. Leanna of SeamsVictorian is really on fire with these and she is good! The ever-popular Cherie also has cornered the market on treasuries and is an expert since she is also on the Treasury Team.

All I can say is- Go Team! You make me proud!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Yard + Art= Yart Sale

Really, who can avoid a really good yard sale? Even if you don't prefer digging through someone else's "junk" for a fabulous find, you can appreciate a great deal- right? I thought so. Just like everything else, this idea has been translated into the virtual world and Etsy is buzzing with excitement over the upcoming YART sale (yard + art, get it?) hosted by ESST. June 10th-June 14th sellers all over Etsy are slashing prices, offering free shipping, and including goodies with their purchases. This is virtual yard saling at it's finest people!

I was so excited to hear this huge event from last year is occurring again this year. I've been getting ready all week long for the 2nd annual Yart sale by adding new items to my shop like crazy. I am going to have a sale section in my shop with items discounted up to 40% off. I also am slipping a surprise goodie into packages with orders over $25. If you are a seller, check out this article on how to participate. If you are a yard-saler at heart and looking to find a great deal just search the term "Yart" or check Etsy's forums for people advertising their sale.

On a side note, I found out today from my wonderful friend Cherie that my made-to-order coffee cup cozies are featured in a voter on Etsy. People are encouraged to vote for their favorite cozie here. I'm not the only one from my team in there either- Cherie is entered with her eyeglasses case and The Vintage Dresser has drinking glass cozies. Go team!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Make it a double

Its no secret that I love anything in multiples... little collections of vintage items, groupings of frames in the same color, repeating patterns. How about multiple giveaways!? Count me in! I told you about Rachel's giveaway yesterday that you can enter to win a fabulous necklace from her shop, so let me introduce you now to Lindsey.
Lindsey is an amazing designer (I checked out her killer portfolio) and she has a shop on Etsy called Lost And Fawned (which I love, BTW) that is full of lovelies that will make any soon-to-be bride or hopeless romantic swoon. I met Lindsey when I first started on Etsy a year ago and have recently started following her blog where she is hosting a great giveaway. $20 to her amazing shop is yours if you pop into her shop and leave a comment on her blog that tells her what your favorite item there is and why.
So go! Do it now... you can thank me later. ;)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Beautiful Jewelry

I went out shopping with my sister-in-law (or soon to be SIL, anyway) yesterday at the mall and we had to stop into every jewelry store so she could oogle the diamonds. I have never considered myself a jewelry expert and I tend to keep it pretty simple on a day-to-day basis. My wedding ring is petite and simple and I like it that way. My SIL on the other hand carries her own jeweler's loop with her when she shops and inspects each pieces color, clarity, size, symmetry, etc. Let's just say the girl's got an appreciation for diamonds I don't usually see with people.
This has gotten me looking at everything with that same kind of eye- and one person who makes jewelry I know I can appreciate is Rachel. (Remember, I did an interview with her a while back?) And the only thing better than a gorgeous piece of jewelry is a FREE gorgeous piece of jewelry... which is just what you can get. She's hosting a June giveaway on her blog for an amazing necklace. And although I want to win it all for myself, I'm sharing the news with you because I love you too. Good luck!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Outdoor Entertaining 101, part 3

I know, I said "tomorrow" and it is more like "next week" but with a party to prep I chose cleaning the house over blogging. Shame on me. I did make it up to you though- I have recipes! And photos of the recipes. (Seriously, am I the only one that only likes to make food I can see first? I also order the items off of the menu that have pictures. That's not weird, is it?)

So, lets kicks this off. This first salad is a great one visually because it is so colorful. My family also like the sweetness of it which really sets it apart from any other salad I've had. I think it is also a great way to sneak some veggies to kids. ;)

Sweet Veggie Pasta Salad

1 16oz package of pasta (any kind, but I like farfalle aka bowtie pasta)
1 small head of broccoli, cut into bite-size pieces
1 small package of baby carrots, cut into bite size chunks
2 sweet bell peppers (I like doing red and yellow for color), cut into bite size pieces
Salt & Pepper
2 cups rice wine vinegar
2 cups sugar
2 cups light olive oil

1. Cook your pasta according to package directions until it is al dente (slightly undercooked). Adding a splash of olive oil to the cooking water will keep your pasta from sticking together.

2. Toss your cooled pasta in a large bowl with broccoli, peppers, and carrots. Add cilantro and salt and pepper to taste.

3. In a small bowl wisk together equal parts rice wine vinegar, sugar, and olive oil. (Or, put in a martini shaker and shake it up) Pour this over your pasta until it is saturated and allow the salad to sit for at least an hour before serving. Keep the extra dressing in the refridgerator for leftovers to moisten dry salad. (Over time your pasta will soak up the dressing, leaving it feeling dry)

Ok, admittedly I don't eat this next salad (anymore) because it does have meat in it, but the men love it and there are some vegetarian substitutions I do use when it is just me and hubby.

Italian Pasta Salad
1 16oz package of pasta (any kind works, or mix two smaller packages for a variety)
1 small package of pepperoni or little smokies, cut into small pieces
1 small package of cubbed ham
1 block of soft cheese, like gouda or mozzarella, cubbed
2 cups of shredded cheese, like chedder or pepper jack
1 small can of sliced olives
2 bottles of Italian salad dressing

Veggie Options:
To make this vegetarian, replace the meat with...
1 can of artichoke hearts
2 cups of button mushrooms, sliced

1. Cook your pasta according to package directions until it is al dente (slightly undercooked). Adding a splash of olive oil to the cooking water will keep your pasta from sticking together.

2. In a large bowl, add together cooled pasta, cheese, meat, and olives. Toss until they are combined well.

3. Pour one bottle of Italian dressing over the salad until it is saturated and toss the salad together again. Keep the extra dressing in the refridgerator for leftovers to moisten dry salad. (Over time your pasta will soak up the dressing, leaving it feeling dry)

Easy enough, right? Both salads are simple to make and great hits at our BBQs. The great thing about them is that they can withstand the heat of a hot summer day without risking food poisioning. Although they are better chilled, I don't have to worry about Mayo or Eggs in anything getting too hot or sitting out.

Before I leave you today I am going to share a simple dessert recipe. I like to serve dessert at outdoor parties, and while s'mores are a favorite not everyone has a place to light a fire. In lieu of (or in addition to) s'mores I like to serve bite-sized finger food desserts. Here is a simple one to make, but oh-so-delicious.

Bite-Size Mini Cheesecakes
1 box of brownie mix
1 box of no-bake cheesecake mix
1 carton of fresh berries or topping of your choice

Also need:
Mini muffin pans
Measuring spoon or melon baller
Pastry/Piping Bag (optional)
Mini muffin pan liners
1. Prepare your brownie mix according to box directions. Spoon approximately 1 tablespoon of mix into muffin tins lined with paper liners.

2. Bake brownie cups at 350 F approximately 15 -20 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Don't burn or overcook these- they should be moist.

3. Press a measuring spoon or mellon baller into the center of brownie to create a sort of cup. Remove the papers from the brownies as soon as they are cool enough to handle. Waiting too long may make this difficult! Be gentle with them so you don't crush your cups. Set these aside.

4. Allow your muffin pans to cool and line with more papers.

5. Prepare crust mix for cheesecake according to package directions. Spoon 1-2 tablespoons of crust mixture into each paper and press with your fingers until you've created a mini pie shell in each cup.

6. Prepare cheesecake filling according to package directions. If you are using a pastry bag, spoon the filling into the bag and pipe it into the pie shells and brownie cups, otherwise spoon a generous dollop of filling into each cup.

7. Top with your choice of berry (or try bits of fun-size candybars, butterscotch chips, lemon filling, or candied pecans). Press gently into the cheesecake filling, but don't squash your berries!

8. Refridgerate at least one hour and peel papers off before serving. Caution: These are addictive!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Outdoor Entertaining 101, part 2

Continuing on with my tips and tricks for your great outdoor parties this summer (Did I really just say that? Seriously, where has the time gone?) , here is edition #2 with some party prep ideas.

I have a huge family so one of my biggest challenges with outdoor entertaining is rounding up enough seating for the whole family. I think this is important because it is extremely difficult to stand and eat a meal at the same time, and although my patio table seats 6 that doesn't even cover my immediate family. The best way to deal with this is to send out an invitation- BYOC (Bring Your Own Chair) or thrift some odd chairs and benches to have handy for a large group. If you're really wanting something unique, spray paint mismatched chairs bright colors and pair with a card table covered with a vintage oilcloth table cover- kitschy fun and useful! Check out this dining room on Apartment Therapy's Re-Nest for ideas.

Especially on hot days, you're going to go through a lot of drinks. Keep your guests hydrated while keeping your sanity by prepping several pitchers of iced tea ahead of time and stashing them in the refridgerator. I love Liptons Cold Brew iced tea because when you're low on drinks, this stuff brews at lightning speed in the fridge. To sweeten your tea, ditch the sugar packets or messy loose sugar and prep some simple syrup ahead of time. (Boil equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan, and simmer on medium-low for 8 minutes. Cool and transfer to a container) I put mine into recycled glass bottles or oil and vinegar bottles from the dollar store. Get creative and flavor some of your syrups by adding mint, lemon, or fruit into the pan when your boil it. Be sure to strain it before adding to your shaker. Label them with a paper tag and ribbon.
Glass Oil Bottles by allJeweledup

If you are serving sodas or bottled drinks, make sure to keep your recycling bin in plain sight so your guests will recycle. It not only cuts down on the amount of garbage your throw out, but you're making less of an envioronmental impact that way. Remember that aluminum foil is recycleable too- so if you're using it on the grill rinse it well and stick in in with your cans. Check the recycling code on your plastic cups and party ware with your local waste management's approved recycleable items.

Nothing ruins a good party like food poisoning, so make sure you keep your foods cool. Large tin buckets are available and home improvement stores and can be filled with ice to place your drinks or salads in. And to drop the temp quickly on luke warm drinks or food, add some salt to your ice. It will react with the ice and make the ice water colder. Just be sure to have more ice on hand to replace what's in the bucket once it melts. You can even dress these up with vinyl decals on the outside or by sticking pinwheels in the ice.

That's it for today- I have some party planning and yardwork to do myself. Enjoy your parties, and see you tomorrow with more tips. Ciao.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Outdoor Entertaining 101, part 1

Let me first start by explaining that you can blame my hiatus on my garden. You see, in Spokane (where I live) Spring is really just a combination of all the seasons- sometimes occurring in one day. So between the thunderstorms, heatwaves, frost-overs, and crisp breezy days I have had to make the most out of every yard work opportunity, and some not so opportune days as well. It has been worth it though, and I have a lovely new patio to show for it. Outdoor party here I come!

I think we are programmed as children to look forward to summer all year long, and the first glimmer of sunshine I put together our new 2 person hammock and made a big old pitcher of iced tea. With the forcast set to be in the 80's and two family birthdays this week it was the perfect excuse to host my first outdoor party of the year.

Ok, I have to admit that although I am calling this upcoming weekend my first outdoor party of the year, it really isn't. Last Saturday was so nice it seemed to be the day of impromptu drop ins. Well my mother raised me right (or tried to anyhow) and at the end of the evening when 6 people and an adorable pitbull/boxer mix (Gilbert!) remained I fired up the BBQ and sent my sister to the store for some last-minute salads and we had a lovely, although chilly, outdoor dinner.

But this weekend I am going all out with the party planning and I thought I would pass along my tips and recipes so you have some new ideas in your arsenal of outdoor entertainment. Memorial day weekend is just 9 days away- are you ready? To start out, I'm going to share my Etsy picks for the perfect outdoor party. Tune in over the next several days for my ideas on recipes - including vegetarian options for the BBQ- and hostess tips and tricks. So without further ado, your essential Etsy picks for outdoor entertainment:

P.S. I cannot leave without urging everyone in the Spokane/Cheney area to drop in to EWU's BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) show that is up in their gallery right now. The paintings by Keshia Weaver-Wright will knock your socks off, and all the work in the show is for sale. If you want info on the show I'll gladly email it to you. Look for an artist interview and a feature on Keshia's work in the future.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

I've Made The Front Page!

Anyone who is addicted to Etsy like I am knows that the front page is equivalent to the Holy Grail for an Etsy shop owner. Either being featured as a shop or a curator of a treasury is the highest compliment possible. And today, I was just paid a major compliment. Thanks to friend and fellow teammate, Cherie of StudioCherie, I was included into a lovely treasury that was featured on the front page today!

So what's the big deal? Not only did I sell the item that was featured, I have 15 new shop hearts just this morning AND our team got some excellent exposure. I must have known it was going to be a good day- I woke up super early without being tired, got extra spiffed up and had a nice little breakfast all by myself. Now, if you don't mind, I'm stepping out for some errands and to have a nice visit with my sister to round off the day.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day

Eco-friendliness is near and dear to my heart, so I would like to pop in quickly and wish you a Happy Earth Day! (Which, coincidentally is also my wedding anniversary. 3 years strong!) Do something earthy today- for me it will be weeding my garden and starting veggie seedlings indoors. What will your earth day bring?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Spreading the wealth...

I remember being in art school and trying to find an easy-to-understand tutorial on bookbinding so I could make my friend a journal for her birthday. The one I finally found was not only difficult to find, it was difficult to understand! Eventually I did learn, by pulling information from about 5 different sources and pooling them. It hit me a while back that if I had this much trouble finding a tutorial, others might as well. I did an Etsy search for "Coptic Binding" "Chain Stitch" "Bookbinding" and others and came up with no tutorials. So, I talked myself into making one.

It was an interesting process to write down on paper what my hands were so used to doing. I had to think hard to make it simple and specific at the same time. I think most people are afraid of Coptic binding because it looks or sounds complicated, but once you learn it is very easy! After coming up with written instructions, I got out my handy-dandy digital graphics tablet and created simple illustrations (which I find way more effective than photos) in Adobe CS2. I even created little arrows to show the motion of the thread. I tested this out on Hubby (who is not known for his craftiness) and he said he got it, so I have confidence you will too!

Today just felt like the right day to unveil this labor of love. It is now available in my Etsy shop for purchase, and coming soon I will have hardback, paperback, and advanced techniques to share. I'll also be grouping them together for a discounted price if you think you want to tackle all three.

Hope you all had a lovely Monday. (Perhaps so lovely that you want to learn a new skill?)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Do you remember that nursery rhyme? Mary, Mary, Quit Contrary. How does your garden grow? With silver bells and cockle shells and pretty maids all in a row. Well I have no idea what cockle shells are (I have yet to identify several packets of mystery seeds that came in my HUGE seed box) but I am starting quite the garden.

If you live in my area, you are probably wondering how I am gardening with this weather. I have spent a few days gardening in rain and hail (much to my neighbor's entertainment, I'm sure) and the rest of the time I've been starting seeds indoors inside egg cartons. I have so many left over from Easter eggs that I could plant my whole box of seeds in them!

The vegetable garden is my next big project to tackle and it's going to be a big one. The whole family is arguing at this point on how to set it up, but we have agreed to plant as much as possible to feed my household, my parents, and my sisters. What we can't eat, we'll can. Which will be a whole new adventure for me. I'm really channeling my grandpa here, because even in failing health in his 80s he still managed to tend the most amazing gardens. Hopefully he will be my garden angel and watch over my crops.

For those of you getting the gardening itch as well, I'd like to pass on some inspiration. Some "veggie dust" if you will. First, if you are limited on space you have to check out this post on Paula's blog. She is a fellow team member and has mastered the art of square foot gardening. It really is amazing! Even if you aren't strapped for space, the concept of growing 100lbs of potatoes in just 4 square feet is incredible. Find out how here on Apartment Therapy's sister site Re-Nest.

And now, on to Etsy to get you set up with all the goodies you want and need to get you in the digging mood.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Wear your food, and your faith

I've officially launched my own MySoti shop where I will be periodically uploading my artwork so you can wear it.
For those of you that haven't heard of MySoti, it is a website where designers can upload their original art to be made in to tshirts and posters. It is DTG (diret to garment) printing so the quality is much better than a transfer and they have the ability to print over 16 million colors- something screen printing just can't offer. The tshirts are great quality and there are two style options so you can pick the fit you like best. Plus, I love that I still own my designs and can set my own pricing.

Here is my first design, What the French, Toast? If you share my sense of humor, this is probably the funniest saying ever! Inspired by the Orbitz (Clean up a dirty mouth) commercial I've turned this hillarious saying into a design complete with an adorable kawaii inspired french toast. Awwww. (Click the image to be taken to the design and see it bigger)

What the French, Toast? tee by Ragnazidnar. Available from MySoti.com.

My other design, Faith, was created after some good friends of ours adopted the girl they'd always payed for. After having two wonderful boys this couple was no longer able to have children and were elated to find out they would be adopting a sweet little girl. Faith is her name and this design was made for her. After recieving such a positive response I've now turned it in to a design for everyone.

Faith tee by Ragnazidnar. Available from MySoti.com.

Thanks for letting me share my newest adventure. I'd love to hear your feedback, and please continue to check MySoti for more of my designs. :)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Artist Interview: Good4You

I'm back with another artist interview with one of my new favorites on Etsy. While looking for some natural alternatives to the medications I quit taking a year ago I ran across a great shop that sells herbal teas, baths, and salves. She also makes great custom blends so you get everything you need in one tea. Jess from good4you has kindly agreed to answer a few questions.

Randi: How did you get started creating teas at home and what motivated you to open an Etsy shop?
Jess: I was inspired by a class I took 4 years ago at UMass Amherst. It was in a beautiful greenhouse. It all came together one night when my friend made me a remedy from whatever was in the kitchen cabinet. Then I started creating teas for my friends in the dorm I was living in. The process grew even larger when I introduced them at an Open Mic coffee house I ran. After graduating I naturally continued the process at my house. I opened an Etsy shop to live the dream of running a small business from my home. I also sell to local coops and natural foods stores.

Randi: You have some amazing custom blends, can you tell me a little about where your ideas come from and what the process is like making these blends?
Jess: My ideas flow naturally, like an herbal dance the plants lead me through. I usually mix them up like paint on a pallet. A little bit of this and yes a touch of this too to make a beautiful painting. The teas start with a base herb like green tea or chamomile. I then add on a ginseng for strength and/or a nourisher like nettles. Next, the medicinals come in for whatever the need of the tea may be. I then finish the tea with a sweetener like stevia, flower or spice.

Randi: Your product names are great! Which of these teas or other products are your favorites?
Jess: I love everything so much. Oh no! Please don't make me do this! Ok ok, you talked me into it. My favorites are (drumroll please) :

TEA: Natural Mystic and Pure Bliss Chai. I am in heaven with the hibiscus tartness and minty undertones of Natural Mystic. Pure Bliss Chai got me through the winter on those cold days. It warmed my heart with milk and honey.

TEA BATH: Rising Spirit. You'll feel like a goddess. Lemongrass, rosemary, lavender, sage, oats, and the spirit of mugwort! Amazing.

Rising Spirit Tea Bath

SALVE-ATION: is the best as well. I love the all-purpose salve I make. You can use it for anything. It has royal jelly in it too. Such greatness! I use it everyday, right now after some early gardening, for cuts, as a little shine to my face instead of makeup, and for dry dry skin. I love it! It took me 3 years to develop.

Randi: Anyone who visits my shop knows I am a huge wheatgrass freak, but I also love herbal teas. Can you explain the benefits of using your products, both on the body and the environment?
Jess: The teas I make complete me. Herbs are such a great way to feel full of life. They give us vitamins, minerals, medicine, completeness. I package these bundles of nourishing joy in 100% biodegradable and recycled packaging. I also use mason jars that can be reused. I try to keep in mind not creating waste, period. I print out all the labels myself with ink I get locally filled. I also use herbs from local farmers. I think it's important to keep the economy within the peoples hands and not big huge chain stores.

Randi: I see lots of new products coming in to your shop- any big plans for the future of good4you?
Jess: My plan is to educate and inspire as much as possible. I would love to see more successful artists, sustainable practices, a strengthened real people based economy and of course more love! Maybe a little box of tea can speak a thousand words? One day I will have a farm. New products will definitely come too with the inspiration. A huge flood just past full of them so I hope everyone dives in!

Randi: When you're not making herbal teas and baths, what can you be found doing?
Jess: Right now you will find me digging up a huge new garden in our backyard. Now is the time. I heard more people then ever are starting gardens this year. It's a good idea! I also sit in the forest alot. I'm also trying to be a Buddha Blossom, like my tea and see all that happens with love instead of fear. Love Is.

Randi: Describe what your workplace is like, where do you create and package your products?
Jess: My kitchen is an herbal haven. Jars of herbs galore. I pack tea in front of a window that over looks the forests of Mt. Toby. Bird seed and bread covers the sill to bring beautiful birds and squirrels in sight all day! I love being in touch with nature all hours. It shows me the inspiration!

Randi: 4 months shy of your 1 year Etsy birthday and you've managed a fabulous 300+ sales! Any advice for other Etsy sellers out there?
Jess: I have some really good hints actually. I say first and foremost look at what your favorite, most successful shops are doing. Follow their lead. It's good inspiration and motivation. Another hint is using the Renew option for your products frequently, even daily if you can. It will keep them listed up at the top of category searches. I know from personal shopping experience I usually look at the first few pages before moving on. Using Renew also saves the products hit counters from before so it's pretty sweet! It will cost 20 cents every time you Renew, I'd say it's a great investment. Etsy reaches a lot of people. Another hint is something I just started doing which is having a promotion every week. It keeps things interesting. Also, have really really good pictures. FInally, draw from the love and kindness you are!

Randi: Name 5 blogs you're following right now.
I probably follow 5 altogether, and from now on 6, which will be yours!!! This is so funny! It's going to show another side of me. I love fashion. Even though my style is totally earthcrunch grunge ninja hobo.
I follow Etsy seller Yokoo's blogs (very inspiring).
I love Leanne Marshall's clothing from project runway. She also has an Etsy shop LeAnimal. Seeing successful artists on the rise keeps me motivated.
I also check out the Style Bubble with Susie Bubble.
And with a touch of spiritual stuff, I try to follow the ACIM monk's blog. I was inspired by the Disappearance of the Universe by Gary Renard and then The Course in Miracles. The ACIM monk shows the love.
And finally shout outs to Etsy seller moonandsundries. I follow Karen's blog because she's a local motivation-inspiration as an artist. She organizes hip craft shows too attracting all sorts of people to the local artisan community/economy.

Randi: Name your top 5 favorite Etsy shops.

Jess: Yokoo, BodhiYarn, EmilyRyan, Idea2Lifestyle & ArmoursansAnguish

Randi: Thank you for giving us a peek inside what makes good4you great!
Jess: This was so fun. Much peace. Spread Love! Drink teA!

And now, some of my favorites from good4you:

Ultimate Green Drink
(Wheat grass powder, barley grass powder, beet root powder, chlorella powder, spirulina powder & bee pollen)

Positive Vibrations
Women's Tea (Nettle leaves, shatavari root, dandelion leaves and root, alfalfa leaves, gotu kola leaves, cinnamon, red raspberry leaves, red clover blossoms, rosemary leaves, vitex berries, dong quai root, stevia leaves, sage leaves and flowers.)

Remedy Sample Pack (3 tea bags each of 7 different remedy teas: Cheer Up, Natural Mystic, One Love Tea, Satisfy My Soul, Judge Not, Pure Bliss Chai & Sun Song Tea.)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Hippity Hop... the Easter Challenge is here!

As you know, the Etsy team I'm on is hosting monthly challenges and up tomorrow at 5pm PST is the Easter Challenge. My talented teammates are crafting up some Easter themed goodies and we'd love for you to go vote for your favorite. If you're over 18 and living in the us you could also win one of these lovelies by leaving a comment for us.

I wasn't going to enter but I had a lightbulb go off last minute and I cut up some pages from an old shorthand dictionary and made a recycled paper calla lily bouquet. I dyed the paper with hibiscus tea and hit the edges with pink prismacolor art markers. I also learned how to wrap a bouquet bridal-style with wide satin ribbon and pearl pins. It was pretty fun and just the first of many paper flower bouquets that I'll be putting together. I've already got a lot of interest in the paper roses and am making a corsage for my friends gallery opening in 5 weeks. Weee!

I'll see you all tomorrow with a fabulous interview with one of my newest Etsy favorites, good4you.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Spring, Indeed!

Seriously, is it really spring? I live in the "Banana Belt" of Spokane and have thankfully missed the snow showers this week but I am still ankle deep in hail most days. I've been sitting at the window patiently waiting for the tiniest ray of sun so I can get started on my yardwork. I have a 1/2 acre to rake, shovel, prune, and plant and this 30 degree weather is killing me! Can I go outside already.... please?

As if I wasn't excited enough, just look what I got yesterday. Since we met in art school I've always helped my friend Keshia stretch her canvas. Yesterday she not only showed up with 3 yards of canvas and 18 boxes to stretch them over, but she came bearing gifts. A friend of her family recently passed after a battle with cancer and she left everything in her greenhouse to Keshia and her mom. This gift was passed along to me and yesterday I inherited a 12 x 16 x7 inch box packed full of seeds! After I plant my own garden, I have enough to landscape the rest of my block!

You may not know this, but the gardening muscle has to be properly stretched before engaging in wildflower warfare on your neighborhood. So, I began a strict training program yesterday, starting with a moss terrarium. I found this little vintage pyrex coffee pot at the thrift store and it was beggin to be made into a planter... really, I heard it. This adorable terrarium will sit on my computer desk to help bring the outside in. Now all I need are ceramic mushrooms to go inside.

And, while I had gardening on the brain, I've decided to put all those book "guts" to good use and I'm expirimenting with templates to make paper flowers. I made this rose yesterday out of sheet music and just finished dying paper to make a calla lily bouquet for my team's Easter Challenge. You might possibly see these in my shop in the near future.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The strength of humility

Hello all. I would love to stay and talk today, but since my shop seems to be selling out of eco-friendly coffee cuffs like crazy, it is my goal today to make at least 5 (and bake my poor husband those cookies he's been waiting a week for!). I just wanted to share something with you that really touched my heart today.

Our team, as you know, is holding monthly challenges and giveaways and our wonderful blogger-turned-cheerleader, Cherie, has decided to feature our contestants on her personal blog. Although her items are also entered into the challenge, she has decided to take the high road and graciously promote her peers and competitors. It takes more strength to be humble than to fight for the win and her words of encouragement meant a lot to me, not only as a competitor myself but also as a friend and teammate. I hope, because she chose humility for the good of the team, that it brings her success as well. Please take a look at her blog post and learn about the team, and when you're done with that you can vote in our challenge.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Spring everywhere!

Spring is officially here. Mud puddles everywhere from the torrential downpour outside, patio furniture on sale (bought a 7 piece set AND a hammock this week!), and the Eastern Washington Etsy team has our Spring Challenge up. Check out our blog (www.ewateam.blogspot.com) to vote for you favorite item (hint: my journal is #4... j/k vote for any one of our super talented people!). If you cast your vote and leave a comment you could win the item that receives the most votes! Voting ends Friday, March 27th at 5pm PST so what are you waiting for? Go do it before its too late!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Reaching 100

I noticed this afternoon that my Etsy shop is close to 100 sales, so I've decided to celebrate by offering the buyer of my 100th item sold on Etsy a freebie. I am keeping it a surprise to make it more fun, but I promise it will be a good one! If you've had your eye on something for a while, now would be a good time to snatch it up!
Leterpress Counting Poster by sweetbeets

**UPDATE** So sorry to everyone hoping to be number 100- I logged on this afternoon to a very hefty order placed by the wonderful miss Rachel of rachel323. She will be the winner of the 100 sales prize and I'll catch y'all at the next 100. :)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

It isn't easy being green...

I'm feeling rather un-festive (is that even a word!?) today. I never have really gotten in to St. Patty's day anyway, despite green being my favorite color and pinching people a secret guilty pleasure of mine. And, while I am sitting in my springy green loft on my green laptop sipping away at my "Green Goddess" wheatgrass shake I still can't shake these ho-hums.

So, what's the matter? I suppose it just feels no different than any other day to me. I see a lot of enthusiasm everywhere on the web for shamrocks, green, rainbows, and even a nice big pint of Guiness- Not my thing. Even tonight while my husband happily munches away on his corned beef I'll surely be eating a veggie casarole of some kind and completely happy with it. I feel that I should be baking green cookies and building leprechaun traps, but I feel more like the St. Patty's Day Grinch - unenthused but so big and green that nobody dares pinch me to get me in the spirit. (Haha, ok. Maybe that last bit way a bit dramatic.)

I came to the realization that all the "good" holidays have one of a few things: family, presents, or candy. (Food too, I supposed, but being a vegetarian I usually get the short end of the carrot stick during holiday meals in my family!) I am remedying this right now by buying a couple St. Patty's gifts for myself and my family. If you need a little shove in the festive direction, here are some other great Etsy picks to get you in the mood.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Spring Fever

It feels like so long since I've been away from my blog. But I am coming back to you refreshed and with a touch of Spring fever. Although the weather in my neck of the woods has ranged from everything from rain, snow, sleet, and sideways hail these past couple of weeks that little green bud that is the beginning of Spring fever is beginning to grow.

This all started last week when, much to my delight, I found a dozen Crocus' growing around my recycling bin. To be honest, I wasn't sure at the time what they were but a quick call over to my greener-than-green-thumb mother revealed that those little white blooms were the beginning of a lovely springtime garden.

Feeling optimistic, I started the Spring cleaning as well. (Not all because of the Crocus', mind you, I did have a home appraisal to ready myself for.) The loft which will serve as my office and studio is 90% done and painted in the most appropriate shade of springy green. To see images of my house, jump on over to my flickr set. And, while I was cleaning I came up with the most eco-friendly way I could think of for that little pest problem near our windows with no screens. I hopped on over to My Carnivore and bought myself two lovely pitcher plants that are happily eating all the bugs as I type. Good plant.

So, to continue with the cheerful Spring attitude, regardless of the winter storm warning heading our way, I will busy myself today with some embroidery. I remember as a child clumsily stitching over the pencil lines my mother drew for me on scrap fabrics and I've picked it up again quite recently. Here is the latest in my coffee sleeves, proving how much I've enjoyed this re-learning process.

AND, if you're really in the springy mood, pop on over to the Eastern Washington Etsy Team's Blog on Friday, March 20th- the official first day of Spring- and vote in our first ever team challenge. Voting starts at 5 pm PST (8pm EST) and lasts exactly one week. If you do you'll be entered in a chance to win the item with the most votes.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Do You Feel Lucky?

Well, do ya?

No, I've not suddenly lost it and turned into Clint Eastwood, I'm hosting a giveaway on the Handmade Showcase. If you're interesting in a $15 credit to my shop, pop on over to the blog and leave a comment to be entered into the drawing. The credit can be used for anything your little heart desires, as long as it's in my shop. I've been told to expect the posting sometime on March 7th or 8th.

I'd like to say that I've been a busy bee working to fill my shop for this wonderful opportunity, but unfortunately I've returned to you after a little hiatus after staying with my grandmother in the hospital. Grams is ok now, recovering nicely, but the experience left us all exhausted- both physically and emotionally. (Not going into details, but let's suffice it to say I woke up in the bathroom the night we got home not sure how long I was in there!) Thanks to everyone for their well-wishes.

I will now be diligently working to create brand new goodies for my shop, so enter your name and cross your fingers- I promise to make it worth your while. Goodbye and good luck!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Green Tea Cake Recipe

Tuesday was my bff's birthday and to make it special I headed out to Cheney to surprise her in the painting studio with cake, flowers and gifts. She's got a huge painting review and a couple upcoming shows to get ready for so the break was a welcome relief. Because she's quirky and adventurous like me I always try unique recipes out on her. She loved this one and I'm sharing it with you to try out as well.

Here's what you'll need:


2 C. All-purpose flour
1 Tsp. Baking Soda
1 Tsp. Salt
3 Eggs
4 Tsp. Matcha Green Tea Powder (Or comparable substitute)
1 1/4 C. White Granulated Sugar
1 C. Vegetable Oil
1 C. Plain Yogurt
1 1/2 Tsp. Vanilla Extract


2 1/2 C. Confectioner's Sugar (Powdered Sugar)
4 Tsp. Matcha Green Tea Powder (Or comparable substitute)
4 Tbsp. Butter (Softened)
8 oz Cream Cheese (Softened)
1 Tsp. Vanilla Extract
3 Tsp. Milk (In my case I use soymilk)

Also Needed: 2- 9 inch cake pans
Crisco or other means to grease pans
3 medium mixing bowls
Electric Beaters
Wire Cooling Rack
Spatula (for frosting cake)


-- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

-- In a medium bowl sift together flour, baking soda, matcha green tea powder (I could not get this at my local grocer on short notice, so I went with Chai Green Tea instead. A slightly "spicier" taste than the matcha but also very good!) and salt. Set aside.

-- In a medium mixing bowl, beat together sugar, oil, and eggs until smooth. Stir in the vanilla, adding extra if you wish. Beat in the yogurt until incorporated, don't over mix.

-- Incorporate dry ingredients a little at a time, mixing on medium speed.

-- Grease and flour both 9 inch cake pans. I use springform pans, but you can use whichever you like- you may need to adjust your baking time depending on which type of pan you use. Pour the batter into both pans, being as equal as possible. (This is very hard to do one-handed while snapping photos that aren't blurry!)

-- Bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on wire racks for 30 minutes before removing from pans. You may freeze the cakes after they are cool if you aren't going to use them right away.

-- For the frosting, sift together cofectioner's sugar and matcha green tea powder in a medium bowl. Add butter, cream cheese, vanilla, and milk.

-- Beat with an electric mixer until smooth. You can also add any food coloring, if you wish, at this point. (I added a bit of green to mine)

-- To assemble, wait until your cakes are completely cooled. Trim your cakes, if needed. Place one cake on a serving plate and spread a generous layer of your frosting on top. If you cake crumbs try dipping your spatula in hot water and using more frosting at once. Spread from the middle out.

-- Place your second cake on top. Frost the top and sides, decorate or sprinkle with matcha powder if desired. Serve either cool or at room temperature.

** Can also make one sheet cake if you do not choose to make a layerd round cake. Your baking time will need to be adjusted for this, so check your cake to prevent burning it or under-baking.

Hope you enjoy your cake as much as we did. Sorry, no pictures of it in action- candles lit in all it's glory but I can assure you it was spectacular. ;) Big hugs to the birthday girl. Good luck on your review and upcoming show, I'm so proud of you! (Me on the left, my bff Keshia on the right. People ask us all the time if we're sisters- we're not. We are just both super pale and have red hair.)