Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year (How's That For Original?)

I was at my day job on this New Year's Eve day, and it was a rather nice one.  Because there were so few people in the office I was able to get all of my work done in the morning, which left the afternoon for me to catch up on my blog reading.  I went back to blogs I haven't read in a while, and even found some new ones I like.  A recurring theme in many blogs is a statement by the author that they will be "away" for a while.

Does this happen at the end of every year?  Does a day on the calendar call out to us to rest up before the new year begins?

No matter.  My posts are so sporadic you probably wouldn't even guess I was away, just that I was behind, which is usually the case.  My statement on this New Year's Eve is that I would like to be "present" more often than not in the blogosphere.  There are so many things I want to accomplish in my craft life as well as my personal life, and this is where I should document those trials, errors, and successes. 

We shall see what actually becomes of this so-called resolution to write more, because the trepidation lies not in the writing, but in the photography.  I'm not a photographer by any means, but who wants to read a blog without a picture or two?  Taking good pictures, then doing all that pesky downloading, or uploading, or whatever you call it when you make the pictures fly from the camera to the computer, is what bogs me down. 

So on this eve of the first day of 2010 I bid all of you bloggers a happy time away from your blogs, but please do hurry back.  You are an inspiration to people like me, and also a lovely way to fritter away a slow day at work.  To the rest of you I bid Happy New Year.  I wish us all joyful times, and courage and strength in not-so-joyful times.  Celebrate!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


As I finished up 2009, putting the business on the back burner in favor of Christmas cheer I was a little worried about what 2010 would bring. I haven’t been in business for too long, and really don’t know much about marketing, but one thing I do know is people like to see new products. I didn’t have any new ideas, or so I thought.

I love candle making and will of course continue to create colorful and fragrant candles. I may focus a little more on votives; something I’ve made for years but really haven’t packaged them in a way that pleases me. I’ve only started giving my pillars the shrink wrap treatment, which is a step above cellophane bags. Now to move the shrink wrap to the votives, and also finding fun ways to package votives as a set.

But packaging doesn’t really count as “new” product. Variations on a theme kind of count, as in new bottle cap drink charm sets and bottle cap magnets. I’ve been selling the same images for a couple of years now, and it’s time to change up. Or at least add to.

With a few new ideas on how to improve existing products, I’d yet to come up with completely new product ideas. And the inspiration just wasn’t coming. Is inspiration something you can wish and it will appear? What inspires you?

Different people give different answers to the question of inspiration. Nature, colors, and themes can all be inspirations. This week my inspiration came from a tool; more specifically, a piece of office equipment. Husby gave me a gift for Christmas that took me by surprise. A laminator. Not one of those you can find in a hobby or craft store, but a real, heavy-duty laminator. And with that gift the ideas came flooding forth.

I can’t reveal what those ideas are right now as I’ll have to experiment before I unveil a finished product. But even if my experiments don’t result in a sellable product, I foresee myself having a ton of fun just playing and exploring possibilities.

Husby must know me pretty well and guessed tools would inspire me as he also bought me a couple of really fun tools for the kitchen. I guess he wants me to cook more. Who can blame him? And now, with the right tools, the job will be easier and more fun. That is, of course, if I’m not too busy with my crafting projects.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Did You Know - The 12 Days Of Christmas

Did you know the twelve days of Christmas are after Christmas day?

So not only can you keep the beautiful tree up until after the New Year (January 6th to be precise), feel free to indulge on all of those sweets, saving the New Year's resolution diet for later. 

Pardon me now while I go eat a piece of fudge.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

All Aboard

It’s a cold December night, late according to my standards, and I’m compelled to write something. The problem is, I have no idea what to write about. So I asked Husby, what should I write about tonight? He suggested I write about The Polar Express, a movie we just finished watching. And why not? Husby usually has good ideas if only I ask the right questions.

So, if you haven’t seen The Polar Express you’re missing out on a real treat. The animation is wonderful and the story is even better. Of course you can never go wrong with Tom Hanks, who is the voice of the conductor on The Polar Express.

These days Husby and I have been weighed down by the declining health of his parents. During trying times I like to turn to the screen for distracting, or better yet uplifting movies. The Polar Express was just the thing both of us needed. It’s about friendship, taking exciting chances, and believing. In a nutshell, it’s all about the magic of Christmas. And the elves are totally believable.

What is it about Christmastime that makes people just a little bit nicer? Is it because we expect presents? Or could it be we find satisfaction in giving? Santa inspires us to think of those we’d like to acknowledge at Christmas, whether it be with a card, a gift, or a batch of homemade cookies. We think a little more about the people in our lives and how we can express our gratitude for their presence in our lives. Santa could very well be a viable higher power, enlightening us to give of ourselves. He brings out the best in us. Who wouldn’t want to believe in something like that?

This season, believe. Hear the jingle bell from Santa’s sleigh. If you have no idea what I’m talking about pop up some corn and watch The Polar Express. Enchanting, no matter how many times you see it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Featured Shop - Drew Jaeger-Glass Artisan

About twice a month I contribute an article to the HandmadeMN blog featuring the HandmadeMN members' shops on Etsy. I thought it would be nice to have those articles on my blog too, as I really like the artists and shops I feature, and their wares might add a bit of class to my little corner of the blogosphere.

It's the time of year when everyone is out in the cold, bustling around the malls trying to get their Christmas shopping done. I love this time of year, but bustling I do not love. We're fortunate to have, at our fingertips, the wonderful site of Etsy. Here at HandmadeMN we're all part of the Etsy family and are happy to present our wares in the comfort of your home by the warm glow of your computer screen.

But what happens when you don't even know what you're looking for? What do you buy for the accomplished housewife? The swanky bachelor? The newly wedded couple? The grandmother who has everything? Drew Jaeger has the answer to your question. Glass. Beautiful, kiln-formed glass. His work is perfect for anyone on your list.

Take a little trip to Drew's shop and soak up all the colorful, wonderful goodness he has to offer. This one is makes me think of springtime with its bright green, or autumn with its dark red. See what I mean? This platter is so versatile it would be a great gift for anyone.

This next one has a classy contemporary style with its rich blue color. The cool line design even looks like a metropolitan skyline.

What could be more intriguing than this next platter? The red and white are so vibrant giving a feeling of pent up angst. Or of cracked winter ice.

Stop by Drew Jaeger-Glass Artisan and see what you can read into his creative platters. You'll surely find the perfect message for someone on your gift list this holiday season. Or even better, one for yourself.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Nothing To Write About

During this busy season I’ve said several times to myself, I should blog about that. The subject matter would be pushed to the back of my mind as priorities made other plans for me. Holiday entertaining, gift shopping, and custom orders to make for others have been of the utmost importance, leaving the blog behind. Now that I have some time, I cuddle up on the couch with my laptop by the light of the Christmas tree I can’t for the life of me pull up those blog topics I thought of previously.

Could it be I wanted to write about the high school band concert in which my nephews Paenney and Fojo played? How listening to so many talented young musicians melted away the troubles of the work week for me? How watching the director was an inspiration in passion? Could it be I wanted to write about how refreshing it is to go to a high school and hear not a holiday concert, but a Christmas concert? Or maybe I wanted to write about how funny it was how one band member ordered a pizza during the concert and had it delivered through a window to the backstage?

I can’t remember if I wanted to write about how thrilled I am to have received so many custom orders from people who like my work. Or how much I enjoy working on these orders. Maybe I wanted to say how I wonder if these customers think not only are my pieces good enough for them, but also good enough to give to others as gifts. How I have Christmas carols going through my head this time of year when I’m pouring hot wax or beading a drink charm.

I wonder if I wanted to say whoever invented the mixture of butter and sugar should be canonized. How such simple ingredients are the base of millions of tasty treats? How much I love to scrape the mixing bowl and eat an entire spatulaful of cookie dough?

Maybe there was a time I wanted to comment on the booming wonder that is Tuba Christmas - a band comprised of nothing more than brass in the tuba family. Or maybe I wanted to write a piece on how I’ve been going to these concerts every year since Paenny started playing in them at age eleven. Then he was frustrated by the complexity and confusion of the music and playing with so many fellow musicians and now at seventeen enjoys being part of such a festive community event, breezing through the music with his many years of musical training.

It could have been I wanted to write about how cool I think it is that Fojo wants to be a Humane Society volunteer. How his dedication to and love for animals has inspired him to volunteer his time not only to satisfy his own desires to play with dogs, but to be of service to his community. How he, like his brother Paenney, has grown into such a responsible, funny, smart, and really tall young man.

I have no idea. With a few spare moments with which I can write about something my mind is completely blank. What were those things I wanted to write about while I was busy doing something else? Trying to think of them has made me tired. I think I’ll just turn off the computer and stare at the Christmas tree for a while, until my eyes grow heavy with a sleep that can only be had in the cold of winter. Maybe tomorrow I’ll remember what I was going to write about.

Friday, December 11, 2009

And Speaking Of Pie...

Martha Stewart asks, "Which Holiday Pie Are You?"

I'm "undoubtedly Cranberry, Almond, and Cinnamon Tart - a little bit complicated but completely worth it."

Take the quiz and put a name to the sweet pastry that is you! 

Click Here For The Quiz

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Make A Joyful Noise

These monks visit us from their monastic aerie, high in the ascetic and self-abnegating environs of Molalla. There, they obediently eschew the accoutrements of modernity and live lives of denial and high drama. Alas, these freres, as is the wont of many fraternal orders, have taken vows of silence, as signs of their devotion to demands higher than those of mundane carnality and banal essentialism. But the Bible says "make a joyful noise unto the Lord." Adhering to their vows and following the words of God may I present:

Friday, December 04, 2009


December. Lots of people in my neck of the woods dread this time of year. The temperature drops and the snow begins to fly. Flip-flops are replaced with heavy boots. T-shirts are put away and down jackets become daily ware. If I had a nickel for every time I heard complaints about Minnesota winters I would be a very rich woman indeed.

Nature is dormant. Everything is covered in snow, creating a cleanliness and silence so welcome after the busy summer months. December is the month that begins the season of cozy.

Fires in the fireplace and candles throughout the house. Soups and stews and really good bread. The smell of cookies baking. The taste of cookies warm out of the oven. Black and white movies. Thick thigh-high socks under a flannel nightgown. Hot, steamy baths. Fluffy sweaters. Hot cocoa. Hot cocoa with a shot of amaretto. Twenty-seven versions of A Christmas Carol, including the written one. New craft projects. Wool mittens. More cookies baking. A warm, squishy featherbed. Heavy quilts. Naps. More fires in the fireplace. And all the while watching the snow fall gently to the ground.

Baby, it’s cold outside. Instead of complaining about how shoveling snow is a chore, concentrate on breathing in that exhilarating fresh winter air. Instead of grumbling about cabin fever, take a minute and make your hibernation really count. Spend quality time with the kids playing games and reading. Sit with your partner under a cozy afghan and talk about your dreams. Plop yourself on the couch with a laptop or spiral notebook and write a short story.

Now is the time to slow down, gather your thoughts, indulge in your comforts, and just get cozy. Join me, won’t you?

Thursday, December 03, 2009


You can't see the silver lining if you're only looking for gold.   ~Author Unknown

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Give-Away Winners!

As a token of my appreciation for those who Fanned my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter ten people have been randomly chosen to receive an official Auntie B's Wax trinket.  As some of you know, my tagline is Hand-poured candles and handmade trinkets and treasures.  You big winners out there won't be receiving a candle or a treasure, but a trinket loaded with holiday cheer. 

The following are the lucky winners, who have already been notified personally:

Mrs. Chicken
(another) Cheri

Congratulations, and Merry Merry Christmas!!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Turkey Insomnia

Apparently turkey has a chemical in it that makes you sleepy.  I'm having the opposite effect with the leftovers.  I'm awake at 1:00 a.m. after a Thanksgiving rerun this evening. 

It's been a fine weekend, a long one.  I spent some of it packing up custom orders to be shipped out tomorrow.  I spend other parts of it putting away the remains of the holiday, packing away the good china and servingware.  I spent the bulk of it lounging around, doing what other people might call wasting time.  There was some catalog browsing and TV watching.  At one point Husby and I spent time with the cable guy (not Larry) and decided to make the jump from dial-up internet service to the fantastic Triple Play including cable TV, phone, and internet service.  I can hardly wait for that to be installed. 

I've been thinking about some new projects I'd like to undertake.  Polymer clay comes to mind.  I've worked with it in the past with not much luck, but am determined to try again with a little more patience and determination.  Candle accessories is what I have in mind.  We shall see.  If things turn out well I may post pictures, or even put them up for sale.

Other than that, I'm pretty much just sitting around patiently waiting for winter to come.  It's been cold, but the snow refuses to fly.  The Christmas tree is going up next weekend and I would love for there to be a nice blanket of snow outside when I trim the tree and decorate the house.  If not, I'll make do with White Christmas playing on the stereo.

Until then I'll try to survive the coming week.  It will be a busy one at my day job.  I'm also going to work on putting some new listings up in my shop.  Here's a preview:

Saturday, November 28, 2009

I'm Still A Pretty Good Cook

What kind of blogger am I, not wishing all of you a Happy Thanksgiving? I’m usually a day late (or more) with these things. The New Year is coming up and know I will be making a resolution to be more diligent in my well-wishing.

So now that it’s past, I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday. Husby and I hosted this year. Our Thanksgivings are normally spent as guests at his parents’ house, but this year we got to prepare and serve the feast. And I must say, it was quite delicious. Kudos to me!

As some of you know by now, Husby has taken over the day-to-day cooking responsibilities around our house. He’s a good cook and fills me up every night of the week. When it comes to holiday cooking I want to pitch in take over because A) Husby likes to “keep things simple” which is not an option for my holiday meals, and B) I like to keep up on my cooking skills.

Because I don’t cook regularly during the weekdays throughout the year I get a little apprehensive about my skills and big holiday meals make me very nervous because I’m so out of practice. This Thanksgiving was no different. I was nervous about drying out the turkey, nervous about getting everything on the table at the same time, and very nervous about my pie crusts.

The turkey was one of the best I’ve had in my life. Some credit has to be given to Jenny-O and some to Martha Stewart. At Martha’s advice I soaked a four-layer piece of cheesecloth in a pot of melted butter and wine, then draped the cheesecloth over the turkey. Baste every thirty minutes with the butter/wine mixture right over the cheesecloth. Remove the cheesecloth about one-third of the way through cooking time and continue to baste every thirty minutes until the turkey is done. It was golden brown, just like in a magazine, and I’ve never had such a moist bird. Fab!

I didn’t stuff the turkey, but rather prepared the dressing and cooked it in a crock pot. It was hot, moist, and delicious. As for the mashed potatoes, they can be made an hour or two ahead of time and also placed in a crock pot to keep warm. That’s one of the best ideas I’ve heard of. Thanks Mom. I also prepared a pea casserole and an orange/cream cheese/pineapple/marshmallow jello salad which are long-time favorite recipes from my mom.

And on to dessert. Of course one must serve pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. And of course every year there is someone who won’t eat pumpkin pie for some obscure reason, so an alternative also must be offered. Lemon tart. Yow! It was very lemony and really rich. Delicious. My crusts were flakey and wonderful too, thanks to Gram.

Thanks to the other gram, who was kind enough, before she went to the great beyond, to leave her recipe for buns. It was a recipe I was nervous about because for one thing I don’t excel in bread making and for another thing it’s one of those recipes that says things like “a little butter,” and “mix til not so lumpy.” I’ve been in possession of the recipe for over a year and made them for the first time this Thanksgiving. I took my chances with my interpretation of the vague instructions and they turned out beautifully.

I was quite surprised, pleasantly so, at how nicely the meal turned out. There was plenty for all, and because there were only four of us we were able to send leftovers home with Husby’s parents as well as keep a ton for ourselves. We’ll be celebrating with the Thanksgiving feast for several more meals.

I hope it was a great holiday for you all. And remember, the secret is butter, and lots of it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Featured Shop - Connected Elements

About twice a month I contribute an article to the HandmadeMN blog featuring the HandmadeMN members' shops on Etsy. I thought it would be nice to have those articles on my blog too, as I really like the artists and shops I feature, and their wares might add a bit of class to my little corner of the blogosphere.

Husby and I have an affinity for big water. We're fortunate to be within driving distance of the Great Lakes and have made several long weekend getaways to Great Lake destinations.

During our first trip to Door County, Wisconsin we made a stop at a town called Algoma. It was a quiet little town. We took a walk along the shore and I was simply stunned at the rocks of the beach. All of the rocks were smooth, round, and white. Millions and millions of them. I couldn't help myself and starting picking them up. My pockets were bulging and my hands couldn't hold any more. They were all the same, yet all different. I couldn't stop gathering them. Husby finally ran back to the car and brought back a one-gallon ice cream pail for me to carry my rocks.

That pail of rocks is in my studio, untouched. I haven't figured out what to do with them. Imagine my amazement when I discovered the Minnesota-based artist Candyce Fitzloff-Westfield and her lovely shop Connected Elements.

Candyce uses beach stones, as well as elements such as silver, cooper, bronze, recycled glass, resin, and enamel in her beautiful jewelry. Beach stones! Just like the ones I saw in Algoma!

What wonderful jewelry. So beautiful in its simplicity and yet such talent to create such simple beauty. I love the earthiness of it. The pieces look stunning, and yet so natural. Look! More of my beach stones!

Candyce is living the dream, making her wonderfully unique jewelry in beautiful northern Minnesota. She's captured the grandeur and the simplicity of nature in her work. Just looking at it makes me want to sell everything and move to a log cabin next to the fresh water seas.

Candyce sells her work in several shops throughout Minnesota. Online you can find her at Connected Elements as well as at Trunkt.

Now, what to do with my stones...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Live And In Person

This past weekend I worked my last craft show of the year. Each time I work a show I realize how important it is for artists and crafters to get out from behind the computer and sell their wares live and in person.

The show was a hit. There were lots of people in the mood to do some early Christmas shopping. One thing I was happy to see was the multitudes that brought their own bags to carry purchases, saving the earth from dreadful plastic bags. Yay! Environmentally friendly and so much less cumbersome than carrying multiple different-sized bags. Try it next time you go to a craft show or festival.

I also was happy to see so many returning customers. It always makes me feel so good to know my products are worthy of repeat purchases. A special hello to Miss G who is a candle connoisseur with a very discriminating sense of smell, and Sister J, over ninety years old and the most diligent letter writer who is so pleased to see blank note cards for sale on my table each year. Thank you both, as well as all the others who stop by every year. Of course there were new customers too, finding a new appreciation for the silliness of my bottle cap drink charms or the simple beauty of a pure beeswax candle.

I won’t deny the importance of the world wide web and I continue to be grateful for the wonderful venue it has become for me and many other artists and crafters. We’re able to reach people around the globe with our little computers, and it is indeed fascinating. But whenever I can I like to go out and mingle with the people. They give me ideas and allow me to give them the service of custom orders. Their feedback is invaluable no matter if it is positive or negative. It’s so rewarding to see smiles on the faces of the shoppers whether they buy anything or not.

So thanks, all you people I met and remet throughout the year. You made the travels worthwhile with your lovely comments and your support of individual artists and crafters is so very much appreciated.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Crazy Auntie B

A few years ago someone told me I ought to open up a business on the world wide web and I fought it with all my might. My candles need to be sniffed in person, I thought. My trinkets aren’t done justice by the camera lens. It was only a couple of years after that my Etsy shop was opened and what fun it’s been. I love being online and I’ve met lots of really nice people I wouldn’t have otherwise had the opportunity to meet.

But wait, there’s more! Now, not only do I have an online shop but also a presence on Facebook and Twitter! I know, I’ve stepped into the 21st century at long last. Knowing all of you have been connected to these sites for years I’m just here to say, stop by and visit some time. Give me a comment or two. Tell me what you think. Peek into my life, and let me peek into yours. I love getting to know my customers.

Now for the fun part. Freebies! Here’s all you have to do:

1. Fan my Facebook page and/or Follow me on Twitter and

2. Leave a comment on this post with your Facebook and/or Twitter user name so I can Friend/Fan/Follow you, and also so I can contact you if you are a winner.

If you are already my Fan or follow me on Twitter, you can enter too! I'd never give a demerit for loyalty. Just leave a comment with your Facebook and/or Twitter info.

Ten Fans and Followers will be selected at random to receive a holiday trinket from Auntie B’s Wax in time for Christmas. Enter before November 30, 2009. Winners will be announced on December 1.

Ooh, I can hardly wait to see who I'll meet next! What a fun way to kick off the holiday season!

Monday, November 02, 2009


Here’s a little something to keep around in case you don't know what to do with that tuppence jingling around in your pocket and to remind you that a spoon full of sugar will indeed help the medicine go down. I invite you to ponder, WWMPD - What Would Mary Poppins Do? Because she’s almost perfect in every way, most certainly her solutions will suit you to a T.

Get your WWMPD magnet here. Spit spot!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

Was it procrastination? Or was it a sign that I am to become a cranky old woman who has no use for the playfulness of holidays? Halloween lurks at the end of October in the midst of a chandler’s busy season. The date is the same every single year, and yet every single year I fail to prepare for the festivities in a timely manner. For two weeks I had written in my daily planner to bring the ghosts and jack-o-lanterns up from the basement and to decorate the house with whimsical scariness. Today, Halloween, I still had not completed the task.

As I was brushing my teeth this morning I thought to myself, if I don’t put out some decorations and get into the spirit of things, I’ll begin to ignore other holidays. Easter baskets will cease to be filled and Christmas trees will be unlit. I don’t want to be one of those people. I don’t want to be surrounded by a holiday without honoring it myself.

I also gave some thought to my brother Diggy, who for many years took such great pleasure in scaring the bejeepers out of the little kids in the neighborhood as his 6-foot 5-inch, 250-pound body cloaked in dark robes lurked on the streets every Halloween night.

As I put out the decorations I wondered why I hadn’t done it sooner. I was reminded of the fun shops where I bought some of the trinkets, and had a renewed appreciation for the ones that were given as gifts. And one in particular, a glowing electric jack-o-lantern taken from the collection of treasures Diggy kept, made me feel especially thankful I pulled myself out of the too-busy-to-bother attitude.

Then Husby helped in turning these ordinary pumpkins

Into delightful jack-o-lanterns.

They were set outside and lit to greet all the Trick-or-Treaters.

If it’s true the wall between this life and the hereafter thins on Halloween, I think Diggy made a little visit to me today. He mocked my indifference for Halloween, for forgetting to seize the day, for failing to retain my childlike joyfulness.

So dang it all, instead of having had all the festive decorations up for a week before Halloween I’m going to keep them up for a week after. And every night I’ll turn on that little jack-o-lantern light and thank my little brother for kicking me into shape. I sure do miss him.

Friday, October 30, 2009


This is pretty clever. I love it. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month may I present: Implants by Mosaicate.

Keep 'em healthy, girls!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

There's No Spooky Like Free Spooky

If it seems I haven't been tending to my blogging responsibilities, it's true. I've been busy treating myself to lots of spooky fun on the internet. There's tons of stuff to entertain you during the chilly autumn nights.

For those who like to read, there's this cool site that has a huge library of horror stories. And guess what? It's free! The site is called HorrorMaster. I'm looking forward to soaking up some H.P. Lovecraft. Ooky!

Maybe you're working around the house or office and want to listen to scary tales. The Monster Club is a great place to download or stream thrilling old time radio shows. It's a free site, but they require you to become a member and get a password before having access to the five hundred free shows.

If you're like my friend MaryAnn you would rather be mesmerized with the visuals of TV and movies. Hulu, also free, is a terrific site that gives you access to full-length movies and TV. For Halloween chills how about tuning into Bram Stoker's Dracula?

No matter if you like to read, listen, or watch, there are hundreds of horrors awaiting for you with a click of your mouse. Ain't the internet grand?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Featured Shop - Glorious Hats

About twice a month I contribute an article to the HandmadeMN blog featuring the HandmadeMN members' shops on Etsy. I thought it would be nice to have those articles on my blog too, as I really like the artists and shops I feature, and their wares might add a bit of class to my little corner of the blogosphere.

I've always loved hats. I love looking at them and I love wearing them. I'm not so excited about hat hair once I take the hat off, but that just means I should leave my hat on. (Didn't Joe Cocker sing a song about that?) When in New Orleans I could have spent an entire day trying on the hats in a millinery shop on Royal Street. Wonderful, wonderful hats. Hats are fun, and more people should wear them. Jane Carlstrom has a shop on Etsy called Glorious Hats. I've also seen her hats in person at Artist Mercantile in St. Paul, MN, and believe me, they are glorious.

Here's one that is just cute as a button. Ha! Get it? It's called Buttons and Beads Straw Hat. So summery, and what a beautiful trim around the brim.

Here's one for the upcoming cooler months. The Wool Beret would give a touch of class and sass to an autumn outfit. My favorite part of this hat is the small splash of orange, the happiest color in the world.

This one is so very cool I can't even find words to express it. The Pagoda Percher is a lovely shade of lavender and so unique. It even comes with a hat pin! Jane sure knows the millinery business, and if you have questions about how to wear a hat with a hat pin I'm sure she'll be happy to enlighten you.

Wear hats and keep the art of hat making alive. The best place to start is at Glorious Hats. With one of Jane's hats you'll look simply divine.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Something's Got To Give

We’ve all heard the saying, “something’s got to give.” There’s another saying, “you can’t have it all.” Those two sentiments have been ringing through my head lately. It’s been a long-time dream of mine to be more organized with my time and materials. The rationale is if I’m sufficiently organized I’ll be able to accomplish everything I need to within the confines of a twenty-four-hour day and still have eight hours to sleep.

Yesterday I made a list of things I wanted to do for the next day. I’ve become more sensible in my lists, including the necessary things plus a few others, but not too much to look overwhelming or which would be impossible to complete. The list contained eight tasks. Eight tasks to complete within the confines of twenty-four hours. Doesn’t seem too daunting, does it? Of course not.

Well, the day is done and I’ve completed only half of the items on my list. I wasn’t distracted by anything and nothing urgent needing immediate attention came up. So what happened? No, really. It’s not a rhetorical question. How come I couldn’t check off everything from my list? Where did the time go? Now when I go to make my list for tomorrow I’ll either have to do that much more, which is improbable, or I'll have to make a shorter list in order to complete it and the leftovers from today. When that happens I just fall farther and farther behind. By the time I reach the end of the week I’m distraught over how many chores and tasks have piled up in time for the weekend, which time is supposed to be spent leisurely.

So what gives? If I can’t have it all, what should be let go? I can’t very well stop cleaning the house or doing laundry. I also can’t resist sleep every night. Preparing, eating, and cleaning up after meals takes time, and I’m told eating is rather necessary to living organisms such as myself. I don’t want to cease being married so I can’t very well give up spending some time here and there with Husby. Family and friends? I refuse to shut them out. And my little business is so important to me and I’m so excited every day to try new projects and think of ways to make the business flourish.

Ah, I think I have it. Five days out of every week I spend eight hours at a day job. That’s a pretty big chunk of time. It’s not a job I’m particularly attached to, although it does provide well. I could really put those eight hours to use if I didn’t have to tend to the day job, but am I willing to give it up with its paycheck and benefits? Is that the something that’s got to give?

Perhaps, someday. I’m continually inspired by Etsy’s Quit Your Day Job articles. If those artists and crafters can do it, why can’t I? If you have a list that keeps growing because you haven’t enough time in a day, maybe you could get inspired by some of these stories too. Because how lovely would it be every day to cross off everything on that list?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Questionably Calm

What was supposed to be the action-packed-full-of-production month has started out to be one of the most relaxing months of the year. Granted the month is only half over and I’ll probably be sorry I’ve been kicking back doing things like reading magazines and watching TV, but I feel like I’m recharging. The house is actually in some semblance of order and I’ve even prepared some of the evening meals for a change. (Kisses to Husby who has been cooking so much he’s decided he would like to start a new culinary career. Go for it I say!)

The Auntie B’s Wax business is going through some kind of, I don’t know, weirdness. I hope “weirdness” doesn’t hold a negative connotation because I definitely don’t think what’s going on is bad. There’s just an air of change about. Seems there’s a metaphorical calm before what could be some very positive upheaval. The thing of it is, I can’t put my finger on what that upheaval involves. But I’ve experienced this feeling plenty of times in my life, and it always ends up with some new adventure.

This time of year I’m usually busy getting ready for multiple shows prior to the holiday season. I’m presently preparing for only one. Usual calm, like I said earlier. What does it mean?

Some might say I’m getting tired of the business and am slowly giving it up. I don’t think that’s the case. I like what I do and from the success I’ve experienced so far it’s obvious others like what I do too. Perhaps I’m resting up to reach farther. Maybe there’s greater success in store for me. Or different success.

All I can do is wait and listen. The suspense is killing me!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Date Night

Husby and I just celebrated our wedding anniversary. We reminisced about our wedding day and our lives then compared to now. Seems these days we have more aspirations than we did when we first began life as a couple. We’re ready to take a turn, and yet we’re a couple of chickens, scared to take that turn. It’s hard to let go of something that gives you so much security for something that is so uncertain. And yet we continue to fantasize and dream, and even devise The Plan. One day we’ll have enough guts to put The Plan into action. For now we’re only taking baby steps toward our goals.

To celebrate our anniversary we decided on dinner and a movie. I know, really creative date. We chose to see Julie and Julia. I wanted to see it for my birthday two months ago and we never got around to it due to circumstances I can’t even remember now. Husby was ever so generous to submit to a chick flick (even though I know he secretly loves them) and then we splurged on a very scrumptious Chinese dinner.

We both liked the movie, and the story got us to thinking about those aspirations I was talking about earlier. Both Julie and Julia were looking for more in their lives, searching for something to give their lives a little more meaning. They both had very supportive husbands, which I’ve been lucky enough to snag. There is a lot to be said for the tolerance, patience, and support of a good spouse. When it came to finding that special meaning in Julie and Julia's lives, their husbands thrived on the obsessions of the girls just about as much as the girls themselves did.

One thing stood out for me – neither Julie nor Julia submitted to their passions in an all or nothing kind of way. Julia worked around her husband’s job which required them to move from one town to another, or from one country to another. Julie kept her unfulfilling day job while she pursued her blogging career. A person can chase a dream despite obstacles and without having to abandon the trivial things (read: pesky day job) that provide a means for survival and the pursuit of that dream.

Things can look kind of hopeless sometimes, like you’ll never get to that place you’ve been dreaming of. But the baby steps toward a goal really add up, and if you look at your life from a distance you might very well be closer to that dream life than you think. Keep plugging away and keep dreaming. That’s what I took away from this very wonderful anniversary date.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Cyber Saturday

I spent my entire Saturday on the computer. What fun! I'm usually so preoccupied with production I lose sight of what needs to be done in the way of promotion and research. Besides, after a late night out with friends I was in the mood to just sit and do screen work rather than physical work (read: housework). I did manage to tackle one chore. The mattress is now soft and warm with the winter featherbed. It's like sleeping on a cloud! Flannel sheets to enter soon.

The Halloween bottle cap magnets are once again avilable at the shop. Soon I'll be offering deals on multiple purchases. You'll be able to choose three, six, nine, or a dozen bottle cap magnets with a savings of up to $12! Stay tuned for that. For now, feel free to check out what's available individually. If you're interested in purchasing multiple magnets and the listings aren't available, please contact me directly and I'll make sure the nice lady behind the cash register gives you your discount.

Top (left to right): Richard Scary, Horror Story, Jackie O

Middle (left to right): Moonie, Boo Who, Jacks or Better

Bottom (left to right): Fraidy Cat, Peek A. Boo, Mockingbird Lane

Friday, October 09, 2009

What's New These Days?

Autumn is in the air and I’m really looking forward to the upcoming season of dormancy. Halloween is right around the corner. Then comes Thanksgiving and the entire Christmas season. I say “entire” because at our house the season begins the first week in December and lasts through the first week of January. I’ve got some new holiday cookies I hope to bake, and I may even have a little candle party at some point during the holidays.

I’ve been thinking of some new ideas too. In fact, I’m testing one as I write this. I’m not a container candle maker, but I’ve decided to try something out in the way of a filled votive cup. The decorating possibilities of the cup alone are enough to want to dive right into the project. For now I’m testing the wax. I want to make this a really long-lasting candle, and one where the wax burns all the way down without leaving residue along the sides of the glass. A seasoned container candle maker would probably know exactly what to do, but making do with what I have and hoping for the best. I was inspired by a filled votive cup in a catalog that said 100-Hour Candle. I don’t know if that candle truly burns for 100 hours; after all, it’s only about three ounces of wax. But if I can get a votive to burn more than 15 hours and go as long as 30, I think I could count that as a great selling point as well as something I’d like to burn in my own home. Then come all of those cup decorating ideas. Fabrics, papers, paint, gold leaf – I tell you, the possibilities are endless.

The bottle cap drink charms are going to take a heavenly turn, as well as a healthy one. Some new sets are in the making and hopefully will be ready for the gift-giving season.
I need a little motivation when it comes to taking pictures of my products for the shop. I need practice in that area too. Perhaps the winter will bring some time when I can put together a light box.

Keeping up with business paperwork, correspondence, and custom orders takes a lot of my time too. Of course the paperwork and correspondence come last as making things for other people the orders is actually fun.

And guess what? I decided that instead of doing business production at the end of the day while I take in a TV show or two I would take up a project just for me - a small and relatively simple crochet project. Crochet holds a special spot in my heart as it is the craft that made me realize years ago that I like to make things from nothing. So for a little relaxation over the next few weeks I’ll be working with a thin piece of thread and an aluminum hook to create a thing of beauty. I hope. I’ll keep you posted on that project.

For now I’m going to blow out my experimental votive turn off the computer. I’ll put on my flannel jammies adorned with a playful penguin pattern and slip under the blankets and quilt into bed. Tomorrow I’ll wake up to another day filled with more experiments, new possibilities, and hopefully some more inspiration.

And that’s what’s new these days.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

I'm Not Your Gerb Toy

Every once in a while Charlotte and her family escape the daily grind for a weekend or more. When this happens, my nephew Fojo asks if Husby and I can take care of his beloved pets. This is a wonderful treat for us, as we live a life that is child-free and pet-free, leaving us to only stare at the walls while the pudding cools in the refrigerator. All houses need a kid or a pet, don’t you think?

As for Fojo’s pets, well, they’re gerbils. And rambunctious little guys they are. Fojo decided to get brother gerbils, at the strong suggestion of his mother, so they wouldn’t breed all over the place. Interestingly enough, Brother I has been seen snuggling in Brother II’s nether regions on more than one occasion.

But as this is a family blog, I’ll not talk about more-than-latent tendencies of our furry friends. The thing is, Fojo just loves his pets, and while he was all for me writing a little article about them, he was somewhat concerned about having their pictures plastered all over the internets. Who can blame him? There are a lot of weirdoes out there. Fojo has the nagging feeling that if his pets’ pictures are on the world wide web, some pet-o-file will abduct the little guys and perform unspeakable acts. To honor the privacy of Fojo’s pets I’ve made sure their identities are hidden.

So, I’d like to introduce you to The Gerbs.

The live in a very cozy aquarium complete with hiding tubes, a trundle bed, and a very squeaky tread wheel. Their food is placed in a little glass ashtray which is quickly covered by all the fluff of that flakey stuff you put in a gerbil cage to soak up the pee and hide the poop. There’s also a water container attached to the side of the aquarium where the little guys suck down hydration with the help of their tiny pink tongues. They’re just adorable.

While they’re active they’re usually chewing up toilet paper tubes, grooming each other, or doing some stationary running on the wheel. They also like to dig and dig and dig. I suppose they have some king of digging instinct, and I feel sorry for them as I watch them claw against the glass walls of the aquarium thinking they will actually get somewhere. I guess they think they’re going somewhere when running on the wheel too, but that act doesn’t solicit the pity from me the way the digging does.

Husby and I are thoroughly entertained by our periodic house guests and welcome any opportunity to take on the responsibility of giving them nourishment and hydration when Fojo is away. We’d let them run loose in the house but fear they would get randy with the dust bunnies. It’s best to keep them contained.

Fojo likes to sing to his gerbils and comes up with some very creative songs. While Husby and I will talk to the pair, we feel unworthy to serenade. That should be a privilege left to their owner.

Of course gerbils are mostly nocturnal, which means Husby and I don’t miss any action while we’re away at work during the day. But every once in a while, we get to see a little nap. All creatures look precious when they sleep, don’t you think?

OK, so one of the pictures doesn't have the anonymity patch across the eyes. I simply had to show you those adorable eyelashes!

Fojo has been trying to convince me that I need a pet. After all, I’m brave enough to risk a nip to pet that soft fur. I’m not afraid of germs. I will even let animals lick me! But alas, I think I’m more cut out to be a pet sitter for the time being. Thanks, Fojo, for trusting us with your treasured friends.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Dive Night - Sal's Angus Grill

Dive Night is a once monthly adventure undertaken by me and Husby, along with our friends Ruthie and Ray. Each couple alternates choosing a restaurant, one which must come under the category of "dive." Our definition of dive: a neighborhood gathering spot hiding under the radar. Casual atmosphere and good food. We're out to find the best food in the Minneapolis/St Paul area without having to pay a fortune or dress up. A sip of beer or wine doesn't hurt either.  See a list and links to the previous dive night posts here.

Ruthie and Ray's pick. I really had no idea where we were going as this place is out in the wilderness. There's nothing around but horses and farm fields. OK, I might be exaggerating just a little, but it took us forever to get to where we were going, and as the location is to remain a surprise to the couple who doesn't choose the place, I thought we were going clear to Utah.

Wow, the place is pretty big, and the giant cow head on the front of the building let us know we were in for some meat and potatoes. Bull head? Steer head? Whatever kind of bovine it is, it is almost frightening in its size.

And what signifies a great dive better than a line of Harleys in the parking lot? Meat. And Beer. Yum.

My camera was running low on batteries that night so I didn't get very good or very many pictures. Sal's is a place that will take the casual and the dressed. It isn't dressy by any means, but dropping by after an evening out to the theater wouldn't make you uncomfortable. We saw a really interesting group of diners when we were there - they all seemed to have attire that was from the '80s. It was a weird mix of people too. We couldn't figure out if it was an extended family or what. But there were girls in the group with asymmetrical hairdos and off-the-shoulder sweaters and leggings. Trust me, it was bizarre. Ray had a theory of who they were, being a group of mostly women (of all ages) and only two men, but I better not speculate along those lines. No matter who they were, they chose the right place to eat.

The menu was varied and large. They served everything from walleye to hot dagos. But the most interesting thing on the menu were the Cock Bites. How could you not order them with a name like that? Funny thing was, the men didn't want to order Cock Bites from the pretty young waitress, so Ruthie had to do it. They were really, really good. Very cocky. Very bitey.

One of the best things about this place was the Cosmo. Ruthie and I saw one being served to another diner and decided to have one after dinner. We were pretty full and had already had some drinks throughout dinner, so we decided we would share one. An unusual practice, I admit, but we didn't mind sharing a few girl germs.

The drink came in a glass that was shaped like a martini glass but without the stem. This little pointed cup, as it were, was placed on top of what looked like a small fish bowl filled with ice. The best part about the Cosmo - they served it like a malt in a malt shop. You know, when they pour your malt into the tall glass and leave you with the leftovers in the mixer? That's what they did with this Cosmo. They left the shaker at the table. There was enough Cosmo in the glass and the shaker to make two Cosmos. Ruthie and I had our fill.
So if you like big booze and Cock Bites, you'll love Sal's Angus Grill. And if you want, you can even go out horseback riding after dinner!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Green Squirrel

About twice a month I contribute an article to the HandmadeMN blog featuring the HandmadeMN members' shops on Etsy. I thought it would be nice to have those articles on my blog too, as I really like the artists and shops I feature, and their wares might add a bit of class to my little corner of the blogosphere.

Lately I've been remembering times when, as little girls, my sister and I would go through Dad's collection of sea shells from Hawaii. We would sort them according to shape, size, and color. For me, it was fun for about fifteen minutes. For Charlotte, it was something she would want to do for the rest of her life. She thrives on order and finds much joy in categorizing and organizing things. One of her favorite things to do is sorting buttons.

Collecting and sorting buttons could very well be a fun activity, but then what do you do once everything is categorized? The Green Squirrel knows...

Look, Charlotte! Buttons, button covers, and other tiny trinkets used to make the cutest pendants you've ever seen! They range from about 1"-1 1/2" in diameter.

Below is Pearly Pink. I love the shimmer of the pink button, and of course a built-in jewel never hurts.

The Green Squirrel collects all sorts of vintage pieces for her pendants too. So not only does she know how to mix and match colors well, she recycles. She really is a Green Squirrel. Check out this dainty item - Carrots:

Along with vintage pieces I saw this lovely item, Orange & Green Flower, combining two classic vintage colors. What a great combination!

Charlotte would give her left arm to see the collection of buttons in the studio of The Green Squirrel. But if you're like me, you'll let her do the sorting and you can gather up the charming finished products.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Fojo, Radio Celebrity

I just have to give a shout out to my most talented nephew, Fojo, who is now a certified radio celebrity.

Fojo has been calling into the talk radio show Bear Facts and Fish Tails for a few years now. He has become known as their junior correspondent on fishing. Fojo has been fishing for thirteen of his fifteen years, and enjoys listening to Bear Facts and Fish Tails on 1500 AM, KSTP radio. When he's had an especially good weekend of fishing or has an interesting and relevant story to tell, he calls his radio friends and they put him on the air.

Fojo just celebrated his fifteenth birthday, and for a special surprise his grandparents (my parents) arranged to take him, his parents, and his brother, Paenney, to the radio studio in person. Fojo had no idea this was happening until thirty minutes before they left. He not only got to meet his radio friends, he actually got to be on the air! On. The. Air. He was a natural. The on-air personalities were so thrilled to finally meet their junior correspondent too.

As the loving and dutiful auntie I taped the entire program for Fojo's keepsake. Yes, taped it, as in a cassette tape in a 25-year-old boom box. Does anyone know how to work those old things anymore? If I were more with it I would have downloaded the stream off the computer onto my MP3 player or whatever the kids are using these days.

But this isn't about how old and outdated I am. I'm so excited about Fojo and his birthday surprise, and am glad he called me right when he got home to tell me all about how much fun it was. Fishing is a passion for Fojo, and Bear Facts and Fish Tails is a show where he can share his knowledge, tell fun stories, and have a great time in front of thousands of listeners. Yikes. How did he do it? I would have wet my pants.

Congratulations Fojo, and I'm glad you have a hobby you can really get excited about. Don't forget us little people when you make your way to the top of the radio game. You did a great job and I'm glad you got to meet your radio friends face to face!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Wooly Red Rug

About twice a month I contribute an article to the HandmadeMN blog featuring the HandmadeMN members' shops on Etsy. I thought it would be nice to have those articles on my blog too, as I really like the artists and shops I feature, and their wares might add a bit of class to my little corner of the blogosphere.

I have a secret fantasy of living on a hobby farm. Of course I'm a total city girl and could never survive on a farm for all the flies, dust, and manure. But in my fantasy I'm dressed in my cute little jumper and mud boots, bucket and stool in hand, ready to milk some cows. Also on my farm would be hundreds and hundreds of sheep. I love sheep. They're so cute and woolly and they stick their little pink tongues out when they baa. In my fantasy I would shear the sheep and spin their wool into the most luxurious yarn ever seen.

Alas, I have no sheep and I don't know how to spin wool into yarn. But I do know someone who has taken the yarn made from the fluffy wool of my imaginary sheep and has created the most glorious pieces of art. Laurie Lausen. Her shop, Wooly Red Rug.

Laurie is a true master of her art. She knows how to dye and hook yarn into beautiful rugs, runners, and mats. She also hand-dyes wool fabrics and cotton threads. The colors are fabulous.

Check out this cute item: It's the Wool Lover's Journal; a journal cover made with hand-dyed fabrics and threads. Look, there's an applique of one of my sheep.

The Americana Hearts and Stars Runner is one of Laurie's original designs and I just love the primitive colors. Not only did she design it, she hooked it herself! What a woman.

Laurie did some more designing and hooking with this lovely chair pad featuring my fantasy sheep. She suggests the Hilltop Chair Pad can also be used as a table mat. Anything that is so pretty and can serve dual purposes is simply a must-have.

Laurie Lausen is such a gifted artist. She also has a really nice blog called Prairie's Edge Primitives. Wooly Red Rug is a wonderful place to pick up a little piece of that hobby-farm fantasy you might have. Thanks, Laurie, for fueling the fire.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Oh My, Toady!

I recently read Wind in the Willows. Toad, Rat, Mole, and Mr Badger - what a bunch of rascals. Really, rascals is the only word to describe them. I had never read the book before and I must say it was one of the most delightful experiences I’ve had in a long time. Really, delightful is the only word to describe it. And speaking of words, I just adored the language of the book. Written at the beginning of the last century by a British author, well, I have no words to describe it. It made me laugh, it made me cry. And I didn’t even have a hard time with the fact that the animals wore clothes or could drive cars. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disney World makes so much more sense now! The book was a fabulous vehicle for escape.

In a related story, a day or two after I'd finished the book I was getting into my car on the way to work. It was dark outside, because it seems I have to leave for work in the middle of the night. OK, so it’s about 5:40, but for a lot of people, that’s the middle of the night. As I’m leaning to get into my car I noticed movement at the windshield of my car. It was little toad! I tried to catch it and put it into the safety of the grass, but he escaped into the hood of my car. Being one who is never tardy for work I said to the toad, “you’re on your own if you crawl in there,” and I was off. About a quarter mile down the road the toad crawled out from under the hood and once again made his appearance on my windshield wiper. He looked as though he was perched comfortably, yet I worried as he was now entering dangerous territory.

Soon after I was out of my neighborhood I accelerated onto the freeway to a speed of 70 miles per hour. The toad held onto the windshield wiper tightly. He took a look at me once in a while and proved to be very distracting as not only did I keep my eye on him, I was also worried about what would happen if he lost his grip. On I went, 70 miles per hour, and the toad held firm.

About six miles into the trip he started to waver. I worried what would happen if he flew off my windshield wiper and went splat onto the windshield of the car behind me. Would it cause a panic? Would people think it was the end of the world with the impression it was raining toads? But still, the toad held firm.

When I arrived at the parking ramp downtown, twelve miles from home, the toad seemed to be out of breath with his little heart beating hard. He looked at me. I looked at him. Again I told him, “you’re on your own now.” I don’t know what became of Toady that day, as he disappeared from my car by the time I was done with work. No doubt he was off on another adventure, stealing cars or challenging city weasels. Good luck, dear Toady!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Today's Weather: Rainy And Sad

Today is one of those gloomy, rainy days I love so much. Never mind the little tornado warnings a mere 12 miles from me. It's dark and dank, perfect candle weather. And because I didn't have much to do today during my hours at the day job, I decided to get caught up on some greatly backlogged blog reading.

Sadly, it seems people's lives are as gloomy as the weather. In the blogosphere and in real life people are sick and dying, or it's the anniversary of one person's death or another. You can tell me all you want about how "to everything there is a season," blah blah blah. It's just downright depressing and assigning the logic of nature and/or of God (if you can assign logic to God) doesn't make things any more cheerful.

Despite the fact that I am down in the dumps with the anniversary of my brother's death, the news of a friend's mother's death, a terminal illness in Husby's family, and reading nonstop about blog friends who are dealing with death and dying, the rainy day is still my favorite kind of day and I'm determined to cheer myself up with it.

So I took on a project...

Cathe, author of Just Something I Made, has become my new secret blog girlfriend. I could read her blog for hours on end. The other day I found a project I thought I'd like to try, and so today, in my despair of grief and loss, I followed Cathe's tutorial on transferring images to little wooden nickels. You can find that tutorial here. It works! Plus the blending pen smells really good.

While I have no pictures of my project (I really must get a camera phone!) you can believe me when I say Cathe is onto something here. It's really fun, it is a magical process, and the possibilities for this technique are endless. Even if you don't want to take on the project, go see Cathe's post and see how cool this is.

Thanks, Cathe, for making my day a little brighter. Nothing cheers me up as much as a happy craft project on a rainy day.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Building Projection

This completely freaked me out the first time I saw it. Then I watched again and just looked at it without trying to figure it out. So, so cool...

555 KUBIK facade projection from urbanscreen on Vimeo.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Vote For Me! (Because You Know You Love Me)

Hey everyone! I'm shamelessly begging for your votes. The members of HandmadeMN are conducting a contest where you can vote for your favorite entry in the Monthly Challenge. This month's theme is Circus. I've entered my most fabulous Circus Wagon Wheels bottle cap magnets. It's a set of six, and not only is it an entry to the contest, it's also up for sale at my shop.

HandmadeMN is a group of Minnesota (and some fringy Wisconsin) artisans. We all work hard to keep beauty, funk, and sass in the world. Support your local artists by buying directly from them. They'll love you for it, and you'll love what they have to offer.

Even if you don't vote for me, check out the contest and all of the cool entries. Vote now. It's your duty and privilege. Voting ends midnight, August 18.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Dive Night ~ Grampa Tony's

Dive Night is a once monthly adventure undertaken by me and Husby, along with our friends Ruthie and Ray. Each couple alternates choosing a restaurant, one which must come under the category of "dive." Our definition of dive: a neighborhood gathering spot hiding under the radar. Casual atmosphere and good food. We're out to find the best food in the Minneapolis/St Paul area without having to pay a fortune or dress up. A sip of beer or wine doesn't hurt either.  See a list and links to the previous dive night posts here.

So here’s the thing – I’ve got a weird hang-up about the fact that I live in the same town in which I grew up. It’s not that I don’t love living where I live, and growing up here was the best. I just want people to know I haven’t been here the whole time. I did actually move away for a while. Not far away, but far enough to be wildly independent and a little less suburban. I spent fourteen years in the Highland Park area, on the corner of Snelling and Randolph, across the street from Plums, in an apartment above Bridgeman’s Ice Cream Parlor. Sadly, Bridgeman’s is no longer there. But I digress. The point I’m trying to get to is that I went back to the old neighborhood for a monthly Dive Night with Ruthie, Ray, and Husby. It was divine.

Grampa Tony’s was the restaurant of choice. I remember many nights where I would just pick up the phone, call Grampa Tony’s, and have them deliver the most mouth-watering sausage and mushroom pizza imaginable. Sometimes I would take dates there and we would eat in (it was a short and pleasant stroll from my apartment), which is what we did on our Dive Night.

The interior of the restaurant is quite compact and is one of those places that has pictures of famous people everywhere; makes for interesting conversation and reminiscing about those has-been celebrities. Our waitress was sweet as could be, although I think she was a little scared of our somewhat boisterous behavior. I don’t know why we were so squirrely that night.

Now, on to the food. All I can say is…yum. So, so yum. We started out with appetizers, as usual. The picture is a little blurry as I was so weak from hunger I couldn’t hold the camera steady, but I can tell you the chicken wings and pesto cheese bread were scrumptious. With a mostly Italian menu there was lots of pasta and pizza. As I mentioned before, I nearly lived on the pizza back in the old days, and my co-divers opted to try them out. Ray and Ruthie shared a hand-tossed number, and Husby took all to himself a thin-crust.

As much as I wanted to savor and relive that pizza, I decided to get something new, and something different from the rest of the group. The gigantic, enormous, monsterous Italian submarine. Of course it was enough for two. I didn’t share – I deserved the whole thing even if I had to take two days to eat it. Husby didn’t eat his entire pizza either, so we got to eat Grampa Tony’s fare two nights in a row. Heaven!

I heartily suggest you try some food at Grampa Tony’s. You won’t spend a lot of money, you won’t go away hungry, and you won’t have to cook dinner the next night.
Addendum: For dessert Ruthie and Ray treated us to some ice cream at Cup N Cone in White Bear Lake. I'm so glad that little stop is always busy. It was Husby's first visit, and he's been begging me to go back ever since. We'll have to get there again before the close of the season.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

To Go Or Not To Go

I went out with some old friends from high school last night. One of these friends you've heard of before, Ruthie. The other was Margaret. Ruthie and I haven't kept up with Margaret the way we have with each other, so the reminiscing overtook talk of current happenings in our lives. We had thirty years to cover.

On the calendar, in pencil, is my 30th high school reunion. It's scheduled for September. I still have yet to decide if I will be attending. Ruthie and Margaret are pretty much on board.

I've heard a rumor that one of my best friends in high school was so traumatized by the ordeal that is adolescent education she disappeared and has not desired contact with anyone connected with that era of her life. On the other end of the spectrum there's a girl (well, woman now) who has to connect with everyone from high school on Facebook and has kept tabs on the comings and goings of all her classmates throughout the years.

High school wasn't horrible for me, nor was it the pinnacle of my life. It just was. There were some fun times and not so fun times. The thing is, it seems people revert back to their high school roles during and event like this. The cliquey people will be on one side of the room and the nerdy losers will be on the other. Perhaps I project my own insecurities and am myself reverting to a time when I didn't have much confidence.

The bottom line, going to a reunion for the first time after all these years seems kind of like going back, something in which I have no interest. Maybe if I didn't have something pressing the following day I could take a little stroll down memory lane and show those cliquey cheerleaders how a homely nerdy girl can turn out okay. And I could take my time and make an entire evening of catching up and reminiscing rather than having to race off to an early bedtime.

I think I've made the decision. Now I'll just have to get Ruthie and Margaret to take pictures of everyone. We've got to have something to talk about over the next Cosmo!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Friend Me, Fan Me, Follow Me On Twitter

Where did the summer go? Oh, I know we're just in the midst of it, but I'm already shopping for fall/winter/holiday candle fragrances. Seems like Christmas is right around the corner!

In the news, I was recently featured on the HandmadeMN blog. You can read the interview here. It makes me feel so...famous.

Also new for me are Facebook pages and a Twitter account. I resisted as long as I could, but now I'm kind of into it. Still have a lot to learn and so many more friends to find in the sea of millions.

Click on the links on the right side bar to Friend me and/or Fan me in Facebook and to Follow me on Twitter.

I'd also like to send a mid-year word of thanks for all the support you've given me. Gloria, Rhonda, and Lori, you've been keeping me busy with your latest requests, and Lord knows I need something to keep me out of trouble. And to all of you other internet shoppers and craft show browsers, thanks for stopping by, looking, laughing, oohing and ahhing, and finding from my selections those special gifts or treats for yourself.

Before I get too verklempt I'm going to head to the studio and pour some Spruce Tree candles. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Did You Know? Shop Categories

I'm sure there are a lot of people out there who are like me who look in the middle of the screen when browsing on the computer to avoid some pretty obnoxious ads on various websites. I've trained myself to ignore the flashing ads at the top and around the sides of the blog post, article, or e-mail I'm trying to read. But because of the tunnel vision I've developed, I tend to miss interesting and sometimes vital information on the sidebars of sites without intrusive ads.

Take my Etsy shop...anyone's Etsy show for that matter. Did you know there is a much easier way to shop for what you want without scrolling through page after page of listings from a buyer? It's true!

Right now I have sixty items in my shop. Compared to other shops on Etsy, I'm pretty tiny. But even so, scrolling through sixty items can be a somewhat time-consuming job, and we all know computers are supposed to save us time. Here's where it gets fun. When you're at a shop's front page, look to the right. Dont's worry, you won't find some ad showing an animated belly flubbering around trying to sell you weight loss pills. What will be there, over on the right, is a list of categories the seller has created to make your shopping experience more efficient.

Using my shop as an example: The first page of my shop (any every page for that matter) contains a little bit of everything I sell. If a buyer comes to the shop and sees a candle she likes and a bunch of bottle cap magnets that she's not interested in, she might not feel like going through many pages to find more candles. That's where the seller's categories come in. You just look to the right and you'll see how the seller has categorized all of the items for sale. If my buyer wants to look only at candles in my shop, she just needs to click on the Candles section and only candles will come up on her screen.

Not only does this area show categories, but also how many items are contained in that section. So the lady who wants to look at my candles can look through twelve candles rather than sifting through sixty items of things she might not even be interested in.

Jewelry sellers could categorize by earrings, necklaces, and bracelets. Photographers could categorize their work by subject matter. And it's all in an effort to give you a stress-free shopping experience.

So even if you're like me and avoid the sides of the computer screen so you don't have to look at those most hideous stretchmark ads, be sure to look to the categories section next time you're shopping on Etsy. It will save you tons of time and might even help you find something you didn't even know you were looking for.

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