Monday, November 30, 2009

Red, White, and Blue Make a Cameo


Today I wore this rather old "make," a cameo necklace ignited by rhinestones. Framed by the red, white, and blue in my outfit du jour, it evokes fireworks and beachier, happier times.

*As a crafty side note, I got to talking with the bf's aunt on Thanksgiving. She told me that someone gave her a Coach handbag as a gift. It was plain and brown, and she didn't want to wear it as it was (and who could blame her?) - so she added some flair with fabric paint! Now, that's something I'd like to see, and I told her as much.

Blogging vs. Facebook

Yesterday I noticed that I have twice as many Facebook fans (48) as I do blog followers (24). My first thought was, that's weird. I never even update my Facebook page but blog almost every day, sometimes more than once a day. I prefer blogging because it allows me to write mini articles on almost anything. I can talk about my projects, movies, food, something I heard on the radio, or even what I wore that day. And by following other people's blogs, I can learn similar things about them. Facebook, by contrast, is designed for typing out quick one liners, as in, "Great new bracelet you made there!" or "Thanks for stopping by my booth at the (insert name here) craft show." There may be more of a dialogue going on, but in my opinion, there's less being said. Yet people love it. I mean, I have 48 fans (mostly because we Etsians love to send mass emails requesting that we fan each other, but you probably already knew that.) Does this mean that I should start updating my Facebook page? Should I copy my giveaways there, post my featured artist links there, write about new products there? Probably, much as it pains me to admit it. Quite frankly, I hardly have time to maintain this blog let alone another mode of social media. But it probably makes sense to use Facebook as another conduit for getting The Tote Trove out there, if only for promotional stuff. I guess. I mean, I'll give it a try, but I don't have especially high hopes. It's this blog, however, that will always be home base, my place to play with thoughts and topics that sometimes make no sense but are nonetheless part of this crazy Tote Trove journey. Because at the end of the day this blog is the chronicle of what I'm doing or trying to do or wishing to do, regardless of how many readers I have. It's my journal, my would-be novel, and my no-holds-barred column all rolled into one. And that's much better than any wall, don't you think?

Make and Tell Challenge, Day 91 - Fast Food and Buddha Bling



I finally got around to making myself some snazzy new baubles. I went with bracelets because I have very few handmade ones of my own. First up is a regular fast food fancy - plastic dollhouse miniature charms and plastic faceted beads strung on Stretch Magic jewelry cord. That's right; I've abandoned elastic for something more sophisticated. I was examining the cord in one of my store-bought bracelets one day and thought, now, this is what I need. And it had been right there in the aisles of Michaels and A. C. Moore all along! Tasty, no? Next is this transcendental treasure -oval acrylic charms featuring various spiritual-looking figures lit up in carnival colors. From Blue Moon Beads' aptly named Global Nomad line, these charms appealed to my obssession with all things kitsch. Something tells me I'll find a way to wear one if not both of these tomorrow.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Make and Tell Challenge, Day 90 - Envelope Art




About a week or so ago another Etsian emailed me that a graphic designer in England was putting together a book about handmade tote bags and was soliciting entries on Twitter. So, I snapped some photos of my best totes and prepared my submission package. I was putting the finishing touches on it tonight when I decided to decorate the envelope, too. So here it is as today's make, vintage Tote Trove designs in dazzling marker. Wish me luck.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Make and Tell Challenge, Day 89


Here we have a wild rose bouquet (pun intended) in this Pink Fierce Flowers tote. I hope to list it and the violet one in my Etsy shop tomorrow. Then it's back to the drawing board to whip up more totes. And possibly jewelry. My mom and I stopped at Michaels today on our Christmas shopping spree. She picked up some decorations, and I stocked up on supplies for my gift-giving projects. Picking out new stuff was fun but also kind of nerve-racking because it made me think of all the things I want to make, then of all the time it will take.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Make and Tell Challenge, Day 87 - Happy Thanksgiving!




I woke up around 8:00 this morning to make the pies. They smell spicier than last time, but I think that's a good thing. Then I crammed in a little painting while watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. (Did anyone else catch John Stamos cavorting around in a scene from "Bye, Bye, Birdie?" As the bf put it, it was kind of disturbing.) I gave these roses a second coat and am glad to see they look more vibrant already.

The bf and I are bringing sparkling cider to his grandparents' house, so I dressed them up in two of my wine bags, one appropriately harvesty and the other not so much. But that's okay. The bf is presently trying to find a shallow dish of some sort so we can put the pies on ice while we're at our first stop.

Finally, here's the necklace I repurposed a couple of days ago. It's not bad; I like the way the bright ribbons look against this darker top (and yes, you've seen this top before. It's so hard to find an outfit that's appropriate for all the people you encounter on a holiday . . .)

And that's it. Soon I'll happily be eating turkey smothered by the cranberry sauce that, as the bf puts it, "is shaped like the can." (No lumpy kind for us.) Hope your dining experience is just as delightful.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Jack Handey Quote of the Week

"When I heard that trees grow a new "ring" for each year they live, I thought, we humans are kind of like that; we grow a new layer of skin each year, and after many years we are thick and unwieldy from all our skin layers."

Make and Tell Challenge, Day 86


Tonight I ate almost an entire bag of Smartfood popcorn for dinner, fell asleep on the couch for two hours, and somehow managed to finish this Violet Fierce Flowers Tote. It strikes me as girly yet edgy, perfect for any fashion-forward punk princess (and yes, that icky blue painters' tape does come off; I'm just waiting for the leopard to dry.) I'm excited that it's finished and am ready to move on to the next one. I have fewer than 10 blank totes left, which means I'm really churning them out. Time to hop back online and reorder.

Tomorrow jump starts the circus of holiday madness. But you know that. For me, it means that the bf and I will have Thanksgiving dinner with his grandparents and dessert with my parents; both houses are about 45 minutes away from ours, and their houses are about an hour away from each other. Then there was talk of my mom and I hitting some midnight Black Friday sales. I don't know. I've shopped on Black Friday for as long as I can remember, but never at that ungodly hour. I've always gone after noon, once I've had plenty of sleep and have refueled with leftover pumpkin pie . . . and the danger of being trampled has passed (didn't someone get trampled to death in Walmart one Black Friday? What a way to go.). It doesn't make sense for me to go early because I'm never looking for doorbuster items like toys or electronics, just clothes, cards, and trinket-type things. But I have to work this year, which is what brought on this uncharacteristic and madcap scheme.

Speaking of pumpkin pie, I've been called upon to whip up a batch of Libby's finest for dessert at my parents'. I mentioned this to a few people in passing, and they were like, "oh, you're not making them from scratch?," as if I were some kind of Thanksgiving dessert sell-out. It always annoys me when people act like you're not truly cooking if you're not starting out with flour and lard or something. It's not like I'm just buying a pie; I still have to mix the pumpkin pack with the eggs, sugar, etc, and bake it. Sheesh.

But back to the circus. Friday night the bf and I are dining on leftovers with my parents. Then Saturday my mom and I take on the mall again, followed by a Sunday casino trip chaser with my mom, sister, and grandmom. Somehow I don't think there'll be much making and telling going on. Or sleeping. It'll be fun and colorful, though. And hopefully blog worthy :)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Make and Tell Challenge, Day 85 - More Neck Candy




Here's my second Hello Kitty necklace, this time in a kind of preppy pink and green. Unsatisfied with just one piece of jewelry today, I also made this ribbon necklace. The beads came from a store-bought piece I'd had for years; it broke just the other day (the faux raw-hide cord snapped). I thought, aha, I know what to do with these. It's funny. Reading other crafters' blogs, I find that many of them started selling because they were making too many things and needed something to do with the overflow, especially jewelry. But I seem to have the opposite problem in that my jewelry stock always seems kind of low. That's probably because I spend most of my time painting, but also because I split my jewelry projects; some I sell and others I keep. Lately people have been looking at the jewelry I'm wearing and asking, "Oh! Did you make that?" And sadly I've had to say "no" more often than not. Although I've made myself a lot of things, it'll be awhile before my own handmade jewelry collection rivals my old (ie, store-bought or handmade by someone else) collection. So, I'm working on it.

Make and Tell Challenge, Day 84 - Meow!


I didn't feel like going to sleep, and I didn't feel like painting either. So I decided to do something easy, just for me, which meant making a necklace out of this Hello Kitty charm I got in the Dollar Spot at Target a couple of weeks ago. It had one of those plastic key chain things on it, but I yanked that out. I wanted to get a close-up of Hello Kitty, but every time I tried, it came out blurry.

Of all the Sanrio characters, my favorite was My Melody, the bunny. When I was in the second grade, I had a My Melody change purse attached to a Velcro bracelet. It was my very favorite. But one day this other girl in my class "borrowed" it and never gave it back. Even after I confronted her. Recently I tried to find another one on the Sanrio Web site, but no such luck.

I also have a red Hello Kitty charm and will be making necklace out of that.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Take Flight Charm Necklace Sold




Today I was delighted to find that I'd sold my Take Flight Charm Necklace. I made this one almost two years ago, in my charm necklace phase. Anyway, its new owner seemed excited going by her note to me:

"This is a Christmas gift for my best friend since kindergarten; it fits her personality perfectly. Thank you!"

Nothing pleases me more than reading something like this. I just wrapped up the necklace for mailing tomorrow, tossing in a few surprises. I definitely learned my lesson about packaging orders in my car on my lunch break!

Pierogies wih Pizzazz


I heat up Mrs. T's Pierogies about once a week. Four cheese, cream cheese and chives, broccoli cheddar, I love them all (Well, maybe not all. I can do without the jalapeno cheddar). But tonight I decided to be a little more adventurous. So, I tossed the broccoli cheddar variety, diced ham, and chopped apples in a skillet with some olive oil and sprinkled a little shredded cheddar on top. I served it with a crisp green salad, which I thought a nice complement to all that cheese. The result? It was delicious, if a little heavy, with a kind of smoked harvesty flavor from the apples and ham.

By the way, did you know that you can get these pierogies in bags of 70?! The first time I saw this in Shop-Rite I almost died laughing.

Featured Artist - Melissa Morrone-Sinisgalli of Made by Melissa







This week’s featured artist is EtsyNJ’s own Melissa Morrone-Sinisgalli of Made by Melissa, www.madebymelissa.etsy.com. You’ll find a little bit of everything in Melissa’s shop, so if you’re on the lookout for baby toys, crochet items, or jewelry, then you’ve come to the right place! (I’ve picked out a few of Melissa’s cutest crochet toys and most intriguing jewelry pieces here for your perusal.) So, drop in for your holiday shopping.

P. S. Melissa is also the organizer extraordinaire of the EtsyNJ Thanksgiving Sale, which takes place Nov 25-30. Be sure to visit the EtsyNJ blog for a list of participating shops and other details: http://etsynj.blogspot.com

1. The Tote Trove (TTT): Your Etsy shop, Made by Melissa, features a variety of products, including toys, fiber arts pieces, and jewelry. How did you become interested in working within so many different craft genres? Do you prefer one type of project over another?

Melissa Morrone-Sinisgalli (MMS): I like making both jewelry and crocheting. I started making jewelry slowly, first using broken bits of costume jewelry from my great aunt. I learned to crochet from a family friend many years ago. Sometimes I have more fun with one more than the other; some days I can sit down and make a dozen jewelry items but can’t think of a thing to do with my yarn. Lately, it’s been the other way around. I’m loving working with my yarn, and the beads and jewelry making just aren’t coming to me.

2. TTT: Where do you find inspiration for your projects?

MMS: I usually get ideas for things when there’s nothing I can do about it – like when I’m at work or sitting in traffic. But basically I look at trends and what people are wearing and then look at my supplies and see what I can do with them.

3. TTT: How did you learn to crochet and make jewelry? Did you have a mentor or are you self-taught?

MMS: I picked up jewelry making on my own, just from playing with beads and string when I was small. Then I slowly discovered other materials and got to where I am today. A family friend taught me basic crochet skills when I was about 13, and then another friend taught me some more when I was a little older. The more complicated things I taught myself once I realized there was so much more that I could be making other than striped blankets.

4. TTT: How did you decide to turn your passion for making things into a business?

MMS: Well, I ran out of people to give my crafts to! Everyone I knew already had a crochet blanket from me and apparently a girl can have too much jewelry… A friend of was surfing around looking for gifts for her nephew when she found Etsy. I’d made some jewelry for her and her sister as gifts for the holidays, and she pushed me to try selling my things. And here I am three years later!

5. TTT: What is your favorite item in your shop?

MMS: I love my Halloween Star Baby Blanket: http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=32046675 I also love these pink crystal dangle earrings. I made them using vintage crystal beads and modern silver findings: http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=16925235

6. TTT: What items, if any, would you like to add to your shop?

MMS: I recently added some cute plushies to my shop. They’re so much fun to make and are baby safe because they have no buttons or rough edges.

7. TTT: Describe your creative process. Do you follow a routine, create when inspiration strikes, or a little bit of both?

MMS: Crafting is the only part of my life that is not confined to a routine. I do what I can when I have time and try to crochet at least a few rows every day. I pretty much just follow my whims and do what pops into my head.

8. TTT: What is the best thing about running your own business? The worst?

MMS: No deadlines! That’s both the best and the worst thing. I can work at my leisure and make whatever I choose with no one standing over me and pushing me to do something by a certain time. But without real deadlines, I can let things slide until I feel like dealing with them.

9. TTT: Do you sell your work in venues outside of Etsy (i.e, other sites, craft shows, etc)? If yes, then how does selling online differ from selling in person?

MMS: I do craft shows, mostly during this time of year. Selling in person is very different from selling online. Some people are very nice and compliment your work, whereas others try to haggle or tell you that they can make it better. It’s great to hear compliments, and it hurts a lot when people talk you down. But watching people who really like what you make far outweighs the negative people.

10. TTT: Who is most (emotionally) supportive of your business?

MMS: My hubby, hands down! He lets me buy whatever supplies I need or want and always gives me time to work on things. It’s really hard to make jewelry now that my son is fully mobile. So he does his best to take the little guy out for the day when I feel the need to spend some quality time with my beads. My son is a close second; he loves watching me crochet and tends to claim every item that I make “Mine, mine, mine,” the famous words of a two year old! He has a plush snake that I made him, and I overheard him conversing with it, “Hi snake, you mine. Mommy make you.” Awwww……

11. TTT: Are there any new artistic/creative skills you’d like to learn?

MMS: I’ve thought about picking up wire crochet – combining crocheting and jewelry making -- but other than that, I try to limit my hobbies as I am running out of places to store my supplies!

12. TTT: Tell us about life outside of Made by Melissa. Do you have a job in addition to your business? Hobbies? Family? Pets?

MMS: I unfortunately do have a day job. I’m an environmental engineer for a consulting company. My son is 2, and my puppy is 3. With those three things, it can be hard to squeeze in creative time.

13. TTT: What are your hopes for Made by Melissa in the future?

MMS: I just hope to grow and make more sales on a consistent basis.

14. TTT: BONUS QUESTION. Just for fun, if you were stranded on a deserted island and had to eat the same thing every day, what would it be? You can pick a drink and a dessert, too. (I find that dreaming up a whole meal makes this game more entertaining!)

MMS: Ooh, tough one. The drink is easy – Diet Cherry Pepsi!! But the same food every day, that’s hard; I’m going to have to go with mozzarella sticks and chocolate cupcakes for dessert.

Thanks for stopping by and meeting Melissa! For more one-of-a-kind makes, visit her on Facebook, Twitter, and Blogspot:

Facebook: http://artist.to/madebymelissa/

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/madebymelissa

Blogspot: http://madebymelissa.blogspot.com

Michaels Handmade Holiday Contest - Votes Needed!


I've entered my Large Rainbow Fierce Flowers tote into the Michaels Handmade Holiday contest . . . and it looks like I need some votes to stand a chance. So, if anyone has a minute, I'd greatly appreciate your support! Just access the link below . . . and click!

http://michaelscont est.com/uploads/ 1424

Thanks a bunch!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Few Fun Things



Here I am showing off two of my own necklaces. I wore the kawaii dessert eraser necklace on Friday; when I ran to A. C. Moore at lunch, the cashier did a double take and said, "Hey, you've got on those Chinese things!" I just smiled and said, yep, I bought them here. The other necklace is my arts and crafts style paper bead creation. It really sets off this sunsety wrap-style top (another Marshalls steal), don't you think?

Make and Tell Challenge, Day 83


Today I finished the Turquoise Fierce Flowers Tote, and it's my favorite in the series so far. Partly because I love the way the fiery roses contrast with the cool turquoise and partly because I like the way the rosebuds add detail and interest, giving the whole design a sort of tattoo feel.

Summer Berry Pie



Summer foods are my favorite, so I keep right on making them even when I should be doing something with pumpkins. On my cooking kick tonight I made this super easy Summer Berry Pie, which I got from JELL-O: Celebrating 100 Years. It's super sweet, what with the JELL-O, berries, and 3/4 cup of sugar. Mixing the sugar, cornstarch, and JELL-O was fun because I got to watch it become this thick, jam-like mass. When done, the pie looked so pretty, all colorful and juicy, almost as if it were one of those plastic ones they have for show in restaurants. And it was delicious too! I could've eaten the whole thing. But I didn't.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups water
1 4-serving size package JELL-O, any red flavor (I used strawberry)
1 cup blueberries (for the berries, I used frozen blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries)
1 cup raspberries
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 6-oz prepared graham cracker crumb crust

Directions:

Mix sugar and cornstarch in medium saucepan. Gradually stir in water until smooth. Stirring constantly, cook on medium heat until mixture comes to a boil; boil 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in gelatin until completely dissolved. Cool to room temperature. Stir in berries. Pour into crust. Refrigerate 3 hours or until firm. Top with whipped cream.

Almond Chicken with Broccoli and Cream Sauce Casserole


The bf and I ate takeout all weekend, and yummy as that was, I thought I'd cook tonight. Looking for something new, I cracked open The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever, by Beatrice Ojakangas. Well-acquainted with my love of casseroles, the bf bought it for me last Christmas. I decided to try Almond Chicken with Broccoli and Cream Sauce. This dish is a little more complicated than my usual casseroles, probably because Beatrice doesn't believe in using condensed soup for the sauce. She claims the whole soup thing became popular in the 1950s when busy women were looking for short-cuts. Frankly, this makes no sense to me; weren't most women in the 1950s housewives with nothing but time? Anyway, the point is, part of Beatrice's recipes always entail making the sauce from scratch. But I didn't mind too much; as you all know, I like a good challenge :) So here's the how-to of it all, including Beatrice's engaging little intro:

"This make-ahead casserole is perfect for easy entertaining. Chicken breasts bathed with a lemon sherry cream sauce are topped with crunchy cornflakes and almonds. Add sliced tomatoes and a green salad to the menu. A cake topped with fresh strawberries would be a lovely dessert."

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons butter
6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (I used 3)
2 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
1 large bunch fresh broccoli
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons cooking sherry
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/2 cup whipped cream
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 cup cornflakes
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 9" x 13" Pyrex casserole dish.

Place the chicken breasts into a skillet and add the 2 cups water and the salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 25 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Set aside in the water.

Put the broccoli into a saucepan, add water to cover, and heat to boiling. Continue boiling for 6-8 minutes, until just tender. Drain and arrange the broccoli in a single layer in the dish.

Remove the chicken from the skillet and strain the broth. Lay the chicken over the broccoli. Return the strained broth to the pan and boil until reduced to one cup.

In a saucepan, melt the 3 tablespoons butter and stir in the flour. Whisk in the reduced broth and the milk and cook until the sauce is thickened. Whisk in the sherry, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and tarragon. Fold in the whipped cream and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese.

Spread the sauce over the chicken and top with the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.

Toss the cornflakes in melted butter and sprinkle over the casserole. Top with the almonds. Bake for 20 minutes, or until heated through and the top of the casserole is lightly browned.

The bf and I just finished eating this for dinner. And I have to say . . . it wasn't that good. At least that's my verdict; according to the bf, it was "very tasty." I thought that the sauce was a little too sweet, probably owing to the sherry and tarragon. Overall, it was one of those recipes where you put in a lot more than you get out. As in, I would've been much happier using the quick and easy canned soup (because a little MSG never hurt anyone. Not that there's MSG in canned soup. But there's something unhealthy in it that sparked Beatrice's acute disapproval.) So that's that. Maybe the next "best casserole ever" I try will be a little more worthy of its name.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Make and Tell Challenge, Day 82 - A Different Kind of Olive Garden



Last night's Challenge was thwarted by my viewing of Bruno, which promptly put me to sleep. So today I got right to it, finishing this Olive Fierce Flowers tote and completing the second coat of the Turquoise Fierce Flowers tote (kindly disregard the blue tape on the handles). Tomorrow I'll finish the turquoise one. I'm kind of itching to make jewelry again, but that'll have to wait.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Liberty and Laundry for All

On the way to work this morning I was listening to 102.7, which is a grittier Atlantic City-based version of my usual choice, Philadelphia's 104.5. Anyway, the morning guys were talking about this woman in southeastern Pennsylvania who is being pressured by her neighbors to stop drying her clothes on a clothesline in her yard. They claim that her laundry is an eyesore. The illustrious men of 102.7, of course, agreed, asserting that they wouldn't want to see granny panties flapping in the wind. The public display of a "hot" neighbor's unmentionables, though, would be perfectly acceptable. I don't think I have to tell you what I think about this. It's not even the sexism that gets me so much as the violation of personal rights. I mean, it's this woman's yard. The people trying to take her down are probably the same types who protest when someone paints his or her house an unconventional color or indulges in what is perceived to be too many lawn ornaments. As a busy person who keeps a less than pristine yard, I feel a certain kinship with this woman. Because we're all just trying to get by, you know? Okay, I'll step down from my soapbox now.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Jack Handey Quote of the Week

"If you saw two guys named Hambone and Flippy, which one would you think liked dolphins the most? I'd say Flippy, wouldn't you? You'd be wrong though. It's Hambone."

Make and Tell Challenge, Day 80 - Who Doesn't Like Tangerines?


Tonight it was back on the assembly line to finsih this Tangerine Fierce Flowers Tote. Speaking of tangerines, once I got my sister this Hallmark card, from the Fresh Ink line (remember that shred of genius? It was discontinued, as seems to be the fate of everything interesting.) that said: "Tangerines are oranges that just didn't want it enough." I think she still has it. So, go tangerines. Reach for the stars. Or rather the sun, so you can grow. Boy, am I punchy.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Make and Tell Challenge, Day 79




Today I spent my lunch hour in my car packaging the First Ever Tote Trove Giveaway items and this wine bag, which a customer purchased yesterday morning. I should've done it last night, but I wanted to catch up on my painting, then sleep beckoned. So there I was, parked in front of the post office, tangled in ribbons and fumbling for Scotch tape in the morass of odds and ends I'd haphazardly crammed into my tote bag before leaving for work this morning. I snapped a couple of pictures of the wrapped items (I had a feeling they'd become my Day 79 Challenge, and I was right.). I could only imagine what anyone passing by may have thought; the inside of my car looks like a card store-slash-Dumpster explosion, and there I was taking pictures of it. After all that it was back to my desk to eat an orange for lunch. (Normally, I eat more than that but didn't have time to pack anything else today.) The orange turned out to be moldy. But only as I was finishing.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Make and Tell Challenge, Day 78


Last night I painted a little of the second coat on this Goldenrod Fierce Flowers tote, then passed out on the couch (spontaneous sleep seems to be a side effect of modern life). I was starting on the second coat because I had to iron more blank totes before I could draw and paint the first coat for the rest of the series. Anyway, I tried again tonight and ended up finishing. Tomorrow I can iron the underside and post it in my shop.

In other news, I almost hit a deer coming out of work today. I was distracted, thinking of everything I had to do at home, etc, etc, etc. Thankfully I wasn't driving too fast. But I really do need to pay more attention.

Also, this morning's Under the Covers song on 104.5 was Billy Idol's "Dancing with Myself," done by Blink 182. Just felt like reporting that.

Featured Artist - Venetia Boucher of Venetia Jewelry







This week’s featured artist is fellow EtsyNJ member Venetia Boucher, of Venetia Jewelry, www.venetiajewelry.etsy.com. Venetia creates jewelry and hair accessories with elegance and edge (see above for a sprinkling of her signature pieces.) Featuring one-of-a-kind ribbon necklaces as well as beaded bracelets and colorful hair pins, her shop is sure to have something to please the discerning fashionista on your gift lift this holiday season. So, drop in and see what’s in store. You may just find a gift for yourself!

1. The Tote Trove (TTT): In your Etsy shop profile, you mention that you love wearing your own accessories. When did your love of accessories begin?

Venetia Boucher (VB): I’ve always been obsessed with fashion and jewelry, and I especially love accessories because you can start off with a pretty basic outfit and create a completely unique look by adding accessories. My sister and I used to have so much fun playing dress up together, raiding my mom’s closet and trying everything on, and I’ve always loved creating different looks. Accessories are such a great way of creating your own look and standing out from the crowd, because it’s all down to the way you combine them and how you wear them. I often get bored with the clothes I have in my closet and hate to re-wear the same outfit, so I’ll stand there and think, if I pair this scarf, this belt, and this bracelet with this sweater, then it will look totally different from how I wore it last time. Plus, accessories are so fun to play with, and picking up a new ring or pair of earrings for $10 is much cheaper than buying a whole new outfit and is just as gratifying.

2. TTT: How did you become interested in making jewelry? Did you learn your craft from someone, or are you more self-taught?

VB: I am completely self taught. I’ve always had this belief that (with most things) if someone else can do it, then I can do it, too (conceited, I know). So, it’s mainly trial and error. I’m very determined, and when I get an idea I see if I can figure out how to make it happen. However, I would love to take some jewelry classes and learn some proper skills, especially silver smithing. I think that would be amazing. One of these days I will find the necessary time and funds.

3. TTT: How did you decide to turn your passion for making jewelry into a business?

VB: I used to make jewelry for myself – bracelets and whatnot – and my friends would tell me they loved them and could I make them one? So, I started making commissions for people and then it was kind of a word of mouth thing, and these particular bracelets I was making got really popular, so I decided I better have some business cards made and it went from there! I would still call it more of a hobby than a business; I squeeze in time whenever I can to work on my jewelry and accessories line, but it’s still very much at ground level.

4. TTT: What is your favorite item in your shop?

VB: That’s a difficult question to answer, as it changes all the time! Right now I’m loving these tassel necklaces I made (will be listing soon on Etsy), but the items that I probably wear the most are the semi precious gem stone earrings. Oh, and I love my flower earrings too!

5. TTT: What items, if any, would you like to add to your shop?

VB: I would love to add knitwear. I enjoy knitting but am still fairly new to it, and it takes me so long to knit something that I don’t think it would be cost effective. I also really enjoy making homemade bath and beauty products and am debating starting to sell those.

6. TTT: Describe your creative process. Do you follow a routine, create when inspiration strikes, or a little bit of both?

VB: I don’t really have a routine to speak of. I have a lot of different ideas, so I am forever writing myself little notes and to do lists. I don’t have very much free time, so I order most of my supplies online and make stuff and take pictures when I can.

7. TTT: What is the best thing about running your own business? The worst?

VB: The best thing about running my own business is working for myself, which is also probably the worst thing. It’s very time consuming doing everything by yourself, and I tend to push myself to try and get as much done as possible. But I love having creative control over everything I make.

8. TTT: How did you discover Etsy?

VB: I discovered Etsy about a year ago through different blogs that I read. I was so impressed by the standards of talent and the huge and varied selection of things people were making and really started to pay attention to it. I was a buyer before I became a seller.

9. TTT: Do you sell your work in venues outside of Etsy (i.e, other sites, craft shows, etc)? If yes, then how does selling online differ from selling in person?

VB: I do sell stuff outside of Etsy, but mainly to people I know or friends of friends. I would like to try doing a craft fair, but I work full time and don’t really have enough time to create all the inventory that I would need.

10. TTT: Who is most (emotionally) supportive of your business?

VB: All of my friends and family have been incredibly supportive. But my boyfriend has been especially supportive, as he has spent a lot of time helping me photograph my jewelry. Also, my friend Missy is always commissioning me to make her different pieces. I call her my no. 1 fan!

11. TTT: Are there any new artistic/creative skills you’d like to learn?

VB: Yes! I always want to try new things and learn new skills. I’m trying to learn crochet, and I’d like to take more art classes.

12. TTT: Your blog features many posts about cooking. Where do you find your best recipes? Which are your favorites?

VB: I love to cook. It’s really a passion for me, and after a long day at work I find it amazingly relaxing. I find recipes all over – I love watching the Food Network and scouring cook books. There are also some cooking blogs I love to read like “Smitten Kitchen” and “Bakerella.” RealSimple.com is great for quick and easy weeknight dinners. My favorite recipes are probably my grandmother’s or my mother’s because they have a lot of personal history, and I equate them with a lot of good memories. I have a book where I keep recipes that have been given to me by friends and family, and those are my favorites to make. Some of my favorites include shepherd’s pie, lasagne, and toffee pudding (all hearty fare!), and anything I haven’t made before. I also love baking. Who doesn’t love warm cookies straight out of the oven?

13. TTT: Tell us about life outside of Venetia’s Jewelry.

VB: I work in finance, and that keeps me pretty busy. My hobbies include knitting, drawing, cooking – anything creative, basically, that I can make with my hands. I also love photography. I bought myself a DSLR camera a year or so ago and have been teaching myself how to use it. I also fish with my boyfriend, and I love taking classes at my local gym, especially yoga. I also love fashion and putting outfits together, if you can call that a hobby. I don’t have any pets right now but would love to get a puppy in the future when I can spend more time at home.

14. TTT: What are your hopes for Venetia Jewelry in the future?

VB: I would like to take jewelry classes and really get Venetia Jewelry off the ground to the point where it’s a successful company. I will always use my free time to do what I love and create, but I would love to get to the point where my business could be my main focus.

15. TTT: BONUS QUESTION. Just for fun, if you were stranded on a deserted island and had to eat the same thing every day, what would it be? You can pick a drink and a dessert, too. (I find that dreaming up a whole meal makes this game more entertaining!)

VB: It would have to be peanut butter. I am such a peanut butter fiend and I eat it straight out of the jar (gross, I know). I go crazy for Skippy’s all natural peanut butter. For a drink I would choose iced tea, and for a dessert bannofee pie (very English – it’s made with bananas, toffee, and cream, and is absolutely delish!)

Thanks for stopping by to chat with Venetia! For more on her accessories line, please seek her out in her corners of the Web:

Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/venetialouise/

Twitter: VenetiaJewelry

Facebook Fan Page: Venetia Jewelry

Myspace: www.myspace.com/venetialouise

Blogspot: http://venetiajewelry.blogspot.com/

Monday, November 16, 2009

First Ever Tote Trove Giveaway Winner

The time has come. I've just dumped all the contestants' names into the Cherry Crush Tote and have chosen one at random. Drumroll, please (couldn't resist.) The winner of the First Ever Tote Trove Giveaway, which includes one medium-sized Cherry Crush Tote and assorted surprises, is . . . Lori Citsay of Lori Citsay Jewelry! Congratulations, Lori! Thanks to everyone who entered and provided valuable feedback about my large tote line. I think it's safe to say you can expect to see more leopard roses, fish, and peacock-esque creatures standing amid cupcakes, hearts, and other nonsensical items in the future.

I'll probably host another giveaway in the coming weeks. So keep following!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Make and Tell Challenge, Day 76 - More Blooms


I was able to stamp out only one Fierce Flowers tote in its first coat today due to my shopping trip. The design of this one surprised me; I set out to draw four roses, forming a simple box, in the middle of the tote. But my spacing was off, and I was forced to add the two pink roses. I've decided I like it this way better, though. It's more natural looking. This week I plan to work on the hot pink and red and possibly a lemon edition before hunkering down and finishing the entire bunch. It's kind of exhausting keeping up this pace, especially because I know there's still so much work ahead of me. But then again, that's part of what keeps it interesting.

Fashion at Work and Play



This shirt came from Express by way of Marshalls (don't you just love how they X out the brand name on the tag with that thick gold marker?). It was a bargain at just $7.99. No handmade accessories here, though.





Last night I finally broke out this horseshoe necklace, which I made myself. The horseshoe and faux pearls were upcycled from two of my older necklaces. I got the charms at Michael's and strung these ribbon roses onto jump rings. I love the antique effect, maybe because it's so different from what I usually wear.




Here I'm modelling my new Mr. Sunshine Frog Necklace, which I purchased from Design by Cassandra. I love Cassandra's use of playful elements, like this rubber frog, in her jewelry. Another great thing about Design by Cassandra is the way everything is so meticulously and eclectically packaged. I'm also wearing a Hello Kitty bracelet that looks like a watch; it's really a lip gloss nestled in a jelly watch band. I picked it up at Target for just $1.