Not Martha

in my bag

The other week I bought a new wallet, thus wrapping up that whole lost/stolen wallet trauma from early last month. I wanted to buy another one of those flat hinged wallets you can find nearly everywhere these days, and remembered that the Frock Shop blog mentioned having some back in April. I wrote to Suzy to see if she had any left and she was kind enough to email back a photograph and reported they were very popular and she would probably be getting more in. I took a trip to the store and chose a white one for the simple reason that I’ve become frustrated with digging around in the bottom of black bags to find black accessories. The wallet is happily very easy to find, yay for the Frock Shop!

Also pictured is a little notebook with plastic covers and an elastic band to keep it all shut which Laura sent me (it’s holding up really well to the abuse of the interior of my bag so I ration the use of it’s pages), some Lakerol pastilles, a trusty Envirosax bag, and a double-zippered makeup bag from American Apparel. Not pictured is a particularly slim umbrella and a small tape measure which I carry with me just in case I stumble across the perfect couch.

· comments [17] · 08-31-2007 · categories:mumbling ·

for the love of lasagna

The first time I made lasagna in my Baker’s Edge pan I forgot to take the lasagna recipe from their site with me to the store so I used the recipe from the back of a lasagna noodle box. I had consulted my friend Maggi, a fantastic cook and a long time owner of a Baker’s Edge pan, on the best noodles to use. She recommended Ronzoni (and warned that DiCecco and no-cook noodles simply won’t fit). I cooked the noodles according to the instructions on the box and when I was ready to assemble the lasagna discovered that they were, tragedy!, too wide for the pan.

I re-consulted Maggi and discovered that she uses a method from the Barefoot Contessa of soaking the lasagna noodles in boiled water just until they are pliable. With this method they don’t cook enough to get too wide for the pan. I decided to try again and this time I took the lasagna recipe from the Baker’s Edge site (third from the bottom) with me to the store. Their recipe says to use uncooked lasagna noodles. Although it calls for a lot of sauce and only three layers of noodles, I was a bit concerned that the noodles wouldn’t cook. After a short struggle (soaked? dry? soaked? dry?) I decided I really wanted to find out if dry noodles would actually work.

The recipe filled the pan up to the very top:

Turns out I had no reason to worry, everything cooked perfectly and it tasted better than the recipe on the noodle box while managing to be easier to make and creating fewer dishes to clean. Bravo! The small spatula that comes with the pan was perfect for cutting and lifting pieces out out the pan without any trouble.

Maggi recommended that I make sure to spread the sauce all the way to the edges and corners of the lasagna noodles to avoid getting dry or crispy lasagna bits, and we didn’t have any. But for those of you who do like the crispy bits of lasagna (and I know you exist since many of you left comments in my first post about brownies) you could try a little less hard to get the sauce spread all the way to the edges, but if you do I would recommend cooking the noodles first. That way they’ll also be every so slightly too wide and the ruffled ends of the top noodles will stick up out of the pan just a bit. Sound good?

Here is a picture of a good reason to make lasagna in a Baker’s Edge pan, behold what just out of the oven lasagna looks like when the weight of 9″ x 12″ of sauce and melted cheese aren’t creating enough pressure to cause all the goodness to ooze out:

And look! Baker’s Edge is going to be coming out with a lasagna pan soon!

· comments [40] · 08-30-2007 · categories:food ·

Softies!

I have never made a softie, but glancing through Softies, Simple Instructions for 25 Plush Pals by Therese Laskey (Softies Central) reassures me that I certainly could.

The beginning of the book goes through material (fabric, filler, embroidery floss), sewing techniques, dealing with curves, takes you through a bunch of hand stitching and talks about how to use the patterns inside. The patterns are tucked neatly into a pocket in the back of the book.

Each project is photographed well, gives a list of materials and what stitches you’ll need to use and has hand drawn illustrations where they are needed as well as an artist bio. The project steps are laid out clearly and the finished size of each object is given. All of the projects are adorable and will have you longing to pull out some materials and thread. The projects are arranged from easy to difficult in the book. While many are made from that favorite material for softies, felt, there are a few which are crocheted, machine felted or needle felted, with instructions on those techinques as well. There is a list of resources in the back of the book including sources for materials and inpspiration.

The book is spiral bound so it’s easy to keep open in front of you as you work (a feature I love in craft and sewing books, and Chronicle Books is really great for making books like this). It also has an elastic loop to keep the book shut, and perhaps keep your place. The tone and photos are friendly while proving clear instruction.

There are projects from names you’ll likely recognize if you follow along with the softies or plush movement such as Teresa Levy of Sewing Stars, Alicia Paulson of Posie Gets Cozy, Heidi Kenney of My Paper Crane, Shawn Smith of Shawnimals, Drissy Harris of Bigger Krissy, Lizette Greco, Hillary Lang of Wee Wonderfuls, and the book has a foreward by Leah Kramer of Craftster.

And hooray!, I have three copies to give away! If you’d like one please leave a comment for this entry with your email address (which I’ll be able to see even though it won’t show up when published).

Small print: You have until noon on Wednesday, September 5th. I’ll use the random number generator to pick three people, whom I’ll contact via email. If I don’t hear back from one of the winners by Wednesday, September 19th I will choose another random number.

Good luck!

update: Congratulations to the winners Lilfish and Elizabeth!

· comments [875] · 08-29-2007 · categories:books · craft ·

I’m knitting a sweater: I could fix this

the sweater: Ribby Cardi by Bonne Marie Burns
the yarn: Cotton-Ease in charcoal

After my long post on exactly how I managed to mess up the ribbing on the front pieces, both MadCarlotta and Amanda pointed out that I could fix the ribbing by ripping back and dropping some stitches then picking them up on the other side.

Luckily, I messed up in such a way that if I want to fix the extra wide rib along the center front I’d only have to rip out to the green dotted line, drop one column and pull it back up. The whole piece would be as the pattern called for it to be. That doesn’t seem too bad, even knowing I’d be doing it twice. While I’d made peace with wearing my pattern reading failures right there on my chest, my perfectionist tendencies are making my fingers itch to fix it.

Notes on the sleeves:

– I am to the decrease part of my first sleeve so I basted the seams together and tried it on:


Needs one more inch, for a total of 22 inches. (I’ll mostly be wearing this sweater while sitting down so I want extra long sleeves.)

[Read more →]

· comments [5] · 08-28-2007 · categories:knitting ·

Craft, Inc. part 2

Wow, a whole lot of you put your names down to win a copy of Craft, Inc. I was stunned by the number of comments left. You all certainly impressed Chronicle Books and the author, Meg Mateo Ilasco, who was kind enough to send along three more copies of the book which she signed!

The random number generator picked six winners whom I have contacted and whose names will be added to the original post when I’ve heard back from a few more. (I’ll give people a couple of weeks to respond just in case they are away on vacation.)

Thanks to everybody, it was really exciting to see all those names line up. Later this week I’ve got a few copies of a another book to give away. It’s also from Chronicle Books, don’t you just love them?

· comments [4] · 08-27-2007 · categories:books · craft ·

up to

playing with:
my inherited Third Generation iPod
It’s so old I feel like it might crumble if I handle it too much.

listening to:
Savage Lovecast
Good sex advice with a bit of harsh reality where it’s needed.

learning to use:
iTunes
Can you believe I’ve never used iTunes until now?

also listening to:
Austinland
A woman confronts her Mr. Darcy obsession, funny and light. Go read this review at Bookshelves of Doom.

seeking:
Thursday Next: First Among Sequels
Jasper Fforde’s new book, the latest story about Thursday Next set a few years after the last one.

· comments [22] · 08-27-2007 · categories:up to ·

Halloween

Is it too early to start talking Halloween? Never you say? Well great, I’ve got two things.

Tom Nardone, the creator of ExtremePumpkins.com and the man who introduced the puking pumpkin to the world is coming out with a book called Extreme Pumpkins: Diabolical Do-It-Yourself Designs to Amuse Your Friends and Scare Your Neighbors. It will include information on tools, design strategies, carving techniques and special effects as well as a whole lot of truly disgusting pumpkin displays. It’ll be out in early September, I can’t wait.

Martha Stewart has added some Autumn and Halloween items to the Crafts line at Michael’s stores. I am falling terribly hard for a bunch of stuff: Specimen Slide Invitation Kit, Finger Invitation Favor Kit (I love that this one won’t die), Black Gift Box Single Cup Cake Kit, Mice Silhouettes, Spider Confetti (darn cute next to the Giant House Spiders we keep encountering), and Mad Scientist Large Bottle Labels for wine bottles.

· comments [15] · 08-24-2007 · categories:halloween ·

links: the home

Really great small space shoe storage using simple magazine holders. At AT:SF.

Apartment Therapy Chicago recommends the book How Your House Works, which I think I need.

Design*Sponge’s kitchen pegboard looks really great.

How to make a fabric covered pushpin board, at AT:Chicago.

Drain Sweep at Product Dose. I need one of these, some of our drains clog easily and it’s driving me crazy.

Half pot shaped window herb planter, how clever. A AT:LA.

And now, starburst and random mirror inspiration:

at Apartment Therapy

Readers inspiration at Decor8

AT:NY, scroll down a bit

Porda Stars Mirrors at Charles & Marie

Zoe roudn mirrors at Target, also seen at AT:SF

· comments [4] · 08-24-2007 · categories:the home ·

happy happy bake at home energy bars

A few weeks ago I was sent some sample of Matisse & Jacks TrailBlaze Bake-At-Home Oatmeal Energy Bars. Perfect, I thought to myself, I can take them with me on the camping/wedding trip. Predictably with all the confusion on what to pack when you are both camping and dressing up, I completely failed to get to them. Turns out they are so easy to make I probably could have found time.

I have to admit I was wee bit skeptical about what they might taste like, I’m not a fan of energy bars. I’m glad to report I was pleasantly surprised. The Chocolate Chip flavor was not too sweet and completely satisfying as a pre-workout snack. The Cranberry Walnut bars smelled deliciously like oatmeal cookies and gingerbread as they were cooling, and maintained that flavor.

I couldn’t help myself, I baked the Chocolate Chip flavor in the Baker’s Edge Pan. The directions call for a 8×8″ pan so I didn’t use the whole pan.

You mix the dry ingredients with a few wet ingredients, of which you have three choices. The Original is applesauce and vanilla yogurt, the Vegan and/or Dairy-free calls for applesauce and a bit of water, and the Less Sweet calls for regular yogurt, water and vanilla extract. You just mix one of those choices with ingredients from the box, press it into a baking dish and pop in the oven.

For the Chocolate Chip I chose the Original wet ingredients. The bars were dense and slightly spongy — which doesn’t sound good but it was, it was more like a quickbread and had a nice chewyness to them. The texture also allows the bars to very portable for hikes or bike rides, they won’t crumble as you eat them. There are instructions on making crisper bars in the FAQ.

For the Cranberry Walnut I used the Less Sweet instructions and baked them in an 8×8 Pyrex dish. These had the same texture and plenty of nuts that added texture.

We did the ultimate test in our kitchen, we wrapped them up and put them in the fridge (per directions). If we didn’t like them they simply wouldn’t get eaten. But, they were all gone in four days. There are only two of us and we were showing restraint because we knew they were energy bars and not cookies.

I tend to forget lunch, which makes me cranky, and all last week and this week I was thrilled to find there were still energy bars ready for me to grab. One bar (the box makes nine) was more satisfying than a bowl of cereal and all the good-for-me ingredients made me happy, and noticably made my brain clearer (when compared to, say, a Diet Coke or a handful of corn chips). The bars have no trans fats, lots of fiber and protein, and omega-3s. I’m going to make these a regular item in our household.

The box comes with some Tips, including toasting the bars (I’m so glad I have one left so I can try this), as well as a bonus recipe for Oatmeal Energy Muffins using the mix. The bars are also environmentally friendly, the box is make of recycled materials and is recyclable itself. Matisse & Jack’s is a small company, so you can feel good about where your money is going. There is plenty more info on the site.

The bars are available at the Matisse & Jack’s site, and they have a list of stores in California and British Columbia.

· comments [6] · 08-23-2007 · categories:food ·

links: shopping, beauty and misc.

The bra baby, bad name but very useful looking product, at Mighty Goods.

Kiehl’s store in Seattle offering curbside service, it may sound extravagant but you try finding a parking space at that mall after November 1st and you’ll wish every store did it.

Muji launches US site! at AT:NY.

Boss Lady recommends On My Own Two Feet: A Modern Girl’s Guide to Personal Finance. In the review they mention that the authors are smart and assume you are too, they had me right there.

Fantabulous! Blogger’s guide to online shopping part one and part two, at Design*Sponge.

How to be organized after an auto accident, at Unclutterer.

An ice cake for your dog, via AT:LA.

The Beauty Brains on why Windex won’t work on your zits, but they promise the Zeno Acne Clearing Device will.

Pictures of the Yotel at Gatwick airport on Apartment Therapy. I just heard a story about this on NPR.

This is something to try, at Makeup Alley (sorry it needs a sign in, but I highly recommend on, Makeup Alley is a good place to suss out how the masses really feel about beauty products) someone posted this recipe for making your own version of Bumble&Bumble’s Surf Spray: In an 8 ounce bottle put 2 teaspoons of epsom salts and add two squirts of a hair gel, fill with warm water. Spray on damp or dry hair. I wonder how well it works?

· comments [14] · 08-23-2007 · categories:beauty · shopping ·

functional and gorgeous

The other week I ran across a mention of the Bach Coat Hook on Apartment Therapy. I was glad to see it as I’ve spent far too much time this year looking for wall hooks and not finding any I wanted to purchase.

The Bach Coat Hook is called a kinder coat hook, it’s designed so that it won’t stretch out your clothes and leave a bump where they have been hung. The hook is make of stainless steel and it’s seamless so there is nothing to snag delicate fabrics or linings. It won’t rust and is suitable for use otudoors (this picture, which is among the random images on the home page, seems to turn a backyard fence into a spa location). It includes both a silver and black faceplate that cover the hardware and are customizable to match your interior. The second picture on this page shows a faceplate painted green to coordinate with the room. And (this is probably far from the intention of the design team but is something I’ve spent a bit of time imagining since one of the places we have hooks in our house is at the bottom of some stairs and I’m an awfully clumsy person) the tips of the hook aren’t sharp so if you should happen to bump into it (or trip and fall onto it) it won’t hurt you. The Bach Coat Hook has gotten good reviews and won the International Housewares Association Product Design Competition this year.

Note: They are having an End of Summer Special so you can get a set of six or nine hooks at a really good discount. I’m not sure how long the End of Summer Special will be running.

They’ll also be offering a slightly different style as well as smaller garment hooks soon, the smaller hooks will fit into corners and behind doors.

The Delta Design Group has some great looking storage options that I’ll definitely come back for. They have a fantastic array of bicycle and sports storage that would look great on the inside of your home. I really like the Michaelangelo 2 Bike Gravity Rack as you don’t need to attach it to the wall (good for those who rent). That same pricipal is used in the Rubens and Vermeer shelving systems which take up as little floor space as possible.

· comments [10] · 08-22-2007 · categories:shopping · the home ·

links: Seattle

What an adorable puppy! I bookmarked this because she found him at Ginger’s Pet Rescue, which will be one of the first places I look when we are finally ready to get a dog.

H&M is coming to U Village, so much more believable than Northgate. (also)

Sugar is opening a retail store!

The Georgetown Castle at the Mid Beacon Hill blog. I love the horrifying stories that go along with this building.

Must go visit the Click! Design That Fits store.

A story about Seattle’s Roller Derby, yay Meredith and Jen!

Imbibe vists Roslyn.

The Real Story of Leavenworth.

· comments [2] · 08-22-2007 · categories:seattle ·

I’m knitting a sweater: a stupid noob mistake and a grandiose demand

the sweater: Ribby Cardi by Bonne Marie Burns
the yarn: Cotton-Ease in charcoal

Somewhere between the last sweater update and this one I’ve managed to finish both halves of the front, start a sleeve, and discover I’ve made a devastating stupid noob mistake. The mistake caused me to create extra wide ribs along the center front of the cardigan. Here you can see the top of the right front panel with the sleeve and neck shaping. That rib on the right edge (where the zipper will go) is supposed to be only four stitches wide:

The mistake came from knitting while sipping wine and watching Dr. Who in the evenings, this combination obviously does not serve me well. With some help from far more experienced friends I figured out that I was reading the pattern incorrectly. [Read more →]

· comments [35] · 08-21-2007 · categories:knitting ·

Craft, Inc.

I’ve done my time with small business books. When I started thinking about opening a small business I sought out various how to publications with titles like Doing Business in California, How to Start a Crafts Business and various Nolo publications. All of these things seemed to touch on setting up a workspace and pricing for wholesale without actually giving me any clear picture of the world I needed to learn about, and most of the books were published before people were selling things on the internet so there was a whole chunk of options not covered. Craft, Inc. is the book I was looking for back then, and it’s a book I’ll clutch tightly as I grow and expand my business.

If you are considering starting a business Meg Mateo Ilasco works through all the the things you didn’t know you needed to know about, giving you a clear picture of what you need to do. She takes plenty of time to talk about how to protect your creative property and what you need to do to become official, marketing plans, financing, all the things that can be overwhelming when jumbled in your head are covered in an organized manner and with a clear voice that makes everything seem so much less terrifying. She addresses businesses that are a single person working in a spare room, through hiring publicists and outsourcing production. How to set prices, how to sell wholesale, when to attend trade shows, and when to show at them, what the heck Net 30 Terms are, and how to sell online. There is lots of talk about websites, online communities, how a blog might help your businesses with tips from Grace of Design*Sponge.

Throughout the book there are interviews with business owners that I was eager to read – Jill Bliss, Rena Tom, Lotta Jansdotter, Jonathan Adler and Denyse Schmidt are just some of the names. It’s fascinating, and quite soothing, to hear about how they got started and grew their businesses.

Meg Mateo Ilasco certainly has the experience – her custom wedding invitation business grew out of side works he was doing while in grad school and she now has a shop full of amazing stationary, books and textiles. She has a blog called Designer’s Library and has written two previous books, The Space Planner: A Home Decorating Design Workbook and You Can Wear It Again: A Celebration of Bridesmaids’ Dresses. She’s also the person behind the Mod Economy sales that occasionally make me wish I’d stayed in San Francisco.

The book is designed well, with the transitions into interview sections or lists clearly defined. The pages are laid out cleanly and reflect the friendly but informed tone of the book. The list of resources at the back is full of sites I know about (craft fairs, crafting communities) and sites I need to know more about (societies, trade shows, outsourcing).

You can read more reviews of the book: by Ahn-Minh, Home by Sunset, Oh Joy! and a very thorough review at Venus.

You can buy the book on the Chronicle Books website, and also at Amazon.

Lucky you, I have books to give away! The excellent people at Chronicle Books gave me three shiny new copies to give out. If you’d like one please leave a comment with your email address below.

I’ll use the truly random number generator to pick three people. The cut off date will be this Friday, August 24th, at noon Pacific time so, 3 p.m. on the East coast, and I’ll announce the winners on Monday, August 27th. (Small print: I reserve the right to move the entry cut off date earlier if I get a whole lot of entries or if anything gets strange. But I don’t expect it to. Scott will act as a completely biased but uninterested third party to keep me honest. If you have not commented on this site before I’ll need to approve your comment, so please don’t fret if it doesn’t show up right away. Check back at the end of the day and it’ll most likely be there.)

Good luck!

update: The winners have been chosen by the random number generator. Congratulations to Letty, Shannon, Carrie, Kim, Leanne and Sarah!

· comments [818] · 08-20-2007 · categories:books · craft ·

already all gone

I was so excited by my first successful baking of brownies in my Baker’s Edge Pan that I made more almost right away. This time I made Marbled Cheesecake Brownies from the recipe page on the Baker’s Edge site. They were so good, I mean, it’s hard to go wrong with brownies and cheesecake and even though I managed to mangle the brownie baking process quite a bit they were still so good.


I was supposed to swirl the cheesecake stuff in, but my brownie mixture was too solid for swirling, I must have done something wrong.


O Noes! I let them bake too long! But look how the brownie mixture has lovingly embraced the cheesecakey bits.


Isn’t that beautiful? I didn’t need to turn them out of the pan, we could have cut pieces and taken them out one by one, but it’s too much fun to see the whole squiggle like this.


Scott is a chocolate baked good connoisseur and informed me that the first brownies were of the fudgey variety, while these are of the cakey variety. He is a fan of both. No, that isn’t quite right, he is a fan of whatever type of brownie is in front of him at the time.