Hello, Gorgeous.

She's here.

After waiting and waiting and waiting (and waiting) my customizable dress form has finally arrived.  The big brown box in which she arrived couldn't contain all my excitement.  Smooth and gray, she has all the right curves, or at least she will when I adjust her to my particular set of measurements.  In the corner of my workroom is where she's taken up residence, the room soon to be transformed with some "Ballet Slipper" pink paint and fancy new curtains, into a sewing room extraordinaire.  So girly, so inspiring.  Here is where I'll begin my wardrobe transformation with custom fitted creations thanks in part to this lovely lady.

I think I'll call her Jane.


Big Changes. What's New for 2012

2012 brings on lots of unexpected changes for me.  I have been making veils and hair accessories by hand for the last year and while I enjoy owning an Etsy shop and selling handmade, I know it's time for a change.  Late last summer Etsy made changes to their searchability, and I watched my steady sales suddenly and completely drop off.  I did what I could to try to make my shop more visible (following all the Etsy-endorsed suggestions...), but nothing seemed to help.  In my opinion, this change "leveled" the playing field for the top sellers and the bottom sellers, but the folks in the middle seemed to be left scrambling.  Rather than spend the time trying to figure it out, I found myself feeling like giving up, which is normally not part of my character.

I did some soul searching and realized that my heart was no longer in my products.  I loved the shop owner aspect, but not the day-to-day assembly line of veils.  The passion of making was nowhere to be found when I was cranking out seven of the same hair pieces a day, every day, five days a week.  What I really loved was growing a business and the creative doors it opened.  I loved making sales, promoting, writing and photographing items and connecting with customers and fellow sellers.  My online shop was a jumping off point to do all the things I really love - the blog, the diy's, the photo shoots, the event styling, the writing, the creative contributions.  The drop off in sales turned out to be a good wake up call and a good kick in the behind to put my creative abilities to work elsewhere. 

So I've decided it's time to pursue these other creative avenues more fully since that is where my heart currently resides.  I'm not quite ready to fully quit the Etsy shop yet, I've instead decided to try and change what I sell for now, and becoming a slightly more passive maker/seller.  You'll now find patterns for my three of my best selling items - the classic birdcage veil pattern, the classic birdcage veil kit in white (which includes the materials), and the feather fascinator headband.  All include detailed instructions, tips and suggestions on where to find the materials, tips on how to wear, and lots and lots of clear photos for each step.  It's a way to sell a my designs and enable others to feel the satisfaction that comes from creating it yourself.  I'm testing the waters and if all goes well, I might put up a few more.  I hope you'll recommend them to your crafty engaged friends!!!

I'll keep you posted on what's next as exciting things start happening.  I'm very excited to announce that I'll have my first article published in one of my favorite publications next month!  It's a secret though, so you'll have to wait and see what it is... ;)  Spring brings the 3rd annual Northwest Vintage Wedding Fair, which I am happy to be a part of planning again this year.  Along with that comes another inspiration zine, which I am more than stoked to put together again!  Tacoma Is For Lovers is also going to be happening the Sunday before Valentine's Day, and I'll be there selling some cute vintage slips, vintage repurposed clothing and some handmade accessories. 

Today my plan is to enjoy the snow and snuggle up with my kids for some pizza and a movie this evening.  Sometimes being your own boss is the best!


Mom would be proud.

I made my very first batch of caramels!  It was very exciting and nerve wracking - candymaking has always been scary for some reason.  Perhaps it's because each Christmas growing up included my mom attempting the dreaded UNCLE STEVE'S FUDGE, which never ever seemed to turn out, causing much frustration and exclamation on my mom's part (sorry mom!)  I'm guessing it didn't help to have three kids running around the kitchen at the same time wanting to participate.  My first attempt at making caramels when my kids were around ended in disaster and a near kitchen fire.  Kids can be very distracting...

So when the house was empty, I decided to try again using this recipe for Sea Salt Caramels, adding a little extra sea salt that what the recipe called for.  I'm so glad I did.  It was the perfect balance of salty and sweet. 

And as a result, I have a great tip!  Butter a pizza roller to cut the caramels.  It's so much easier in a knife.  I cut mine into one inch pieces, wrapped them in parchment and twisted the ends, then placed 8 in a box to give as gifts.  But not before eating way more than I should have...

I also made traditional fudge this Christmas that turned out pretty good, but I think I almost like fudge that has marshmallow in it a little better flavorwise.  Sorry Uncle Steve.

What are your favorite candies to make?  I'd love to try some more...


A Pie of a Different Flavor

Last month, I submitted this recipe to Where Women Cook for consideration as part of their new publication, Pieography: Where Pie Meets Biography, The Story of Your Life In a Pie.  The idea was to "share the ingredients" of my life with a recipe that reflects me as a person.  As a huge huge HUGE fan of pie in general, I was more than excited to take on this challenge!

So with fingers crossed, I sent off my submission!  I'm still waiting to hear one way or the other, so wish me luck!  When I asked myself the question "what kind of pie would I be?" The answer was definitely not apple.  I decided on a savory pie recipe, because it felt somewhat unusual and unique, but delicious once you try it!  I lived in England for three years, and when we left I certainly took away an appreciation for meat pies, especially those with bacon and mushrooms.  :)  So this recipe pays tribute to those English flavors, but with a crust and ingredients true to my American pie making roots.  It's super delicious.  Kind of like an egg-less quiche!  Hope you like it... ;)

A Pie of a Different Flavor

My pie is not conventionally beautiful or traditional.  It's not what you'd expect.  If you judge a pie by it's cover, (or crust rather,) you'll see mine has a few scars and imperfections, some patched up bits and rough edges.  But what you can't see is how delicate and rich that crust is, how it's been blitzed, kneaded, laid to rest, and brought to life again by experienced hands; until you take a bite.

My pie is savory, not sweet.  Not your typical "as American as apple pie" pie.  My pie comes with a hint of a British accent.  A bacon-y meat pie influenced by dependable, earthy goodness: mushrooms, onions, butter, cream - staples in my kitchen.  My pie isn't for everyone, and it certainly can't be considered light fare.  But once you take a bite you'll see how comforting and satisfying it can be.  When you're curled up by the fire with a hearty glass of stout, sharing stories and laughter with loved ones, you'll find it fits right in.  It tastes like an old family recipe passed down for generations.  It tastes like the comforts of home.

My pie is the culmination of a lifetime's experience.  A life that began in the kitchen, with mom teaching me a cook's most basic and necessary skills: the science of measuring ingredients, seasoning to taste, trusting your senses.  The learning continued as a young wife in a foreign country, inexperienced, eagerly testing recipe after recipe on the darling husband, making mistakes and learning as I went.  Today, I am stand confidently in my own kitchen with a pie ready to bake and serve to my own family.  Still not perfect, but perfectly seasoned, delicate, rich and delicious, if I do say so myself.

Savory Bacon Mushroom Pie

3 Tbs Unsalted Butter
1/4 Cup plus 1 Tbs Shortening
1 1/2 Cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
5-6 Tbs Water
1/4 tsp Salt

10 strips of meaty, smoky bacon
1 medium onion, chopped
6 white mushrooms, roughly chopped
2 Eggs
1 Tbs Heavy Cream
dash of black pepper
1/4 cup shredded sharp English cheddar
Sprinkling of parsley, if desired

Chill well butter and shortening.  Blitz in the food processor with flour and salt.  Add water until dough starts to form.  Turn out and separate into two balls of dough.  Chill dough wrapped in plastic in the fridge for a half hour or so.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cook the bacon until nice and crisp.  Drain and chop.  Cook onion until translucent in the pan full of bacon-y goodness (or grease, but it seems like such an unsavory descriptor!)  Add mushrooms and a little pat of butter and cook for another 6 minutes or so.  Let cool.

Roll out a ball of dough onto a lightly floured surface or between sheets of plastic wrap.  Lay one crust inside a 9 inch pie pan, leaving an overhang.  Roll out the other and set aside, ready to top the pie when you are...

In a bowl, whisk together eggs, cream and pepper.  Add bacon and onion/mushroom mixture and stir to combine.  Pour inside pie pan and sprinkle with cheddar and parsley, if desired.  Top with ready rolled crust, cut off excess and pinch to flute the edges.  Make a pretty design in the center of your pie to vent.  If you want to be extra fancy, brush with a bit of whisked egg before baking.

Bake for 30 minutes, then let cool for a while before devouring.

Very yummy with Bubbie's Pickles and a porter...