Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Jack Handey Quote of the Week

"If you're ever stuck in some thick undergrowth, in your underwear, don't stop and start thinking of what other words have "under" in them, because that's probably the first sign of jungle madness."

Featured Artist Denise McLachlan of Designs by Denise

Badge or Glasses Holder
Delicate Gold Bracelet
Dream Among the Stars Bracelet
Earrings in Pink, Sand, and Pearl
Open Heart Earrings

As you've probably noticed, the featured artist series has been on a bit of a hiatus recently. I'm happy to reintroduce it this week with an interview with EtsyNJ's own Denise McLachlan of Designs by Denise, http://www.demdesigns.etsy.com/. Denise offers a lovely selection of ethereal looking jewelry, which is, as her shop tagline says, perfect for all occasions. With Mother's Day on the horizon, why not drop by Denise's corner of Etsy?

1. The Tote Trove (TTT): According to your Etsy profile, you began making jewelry as a child. Back then, did you ever imagine that you’d end up turning your passion into a business?
Denise McLachlan (DM): Never. My parents always included crafts in our playtime activities, so it was just one of the things we did for fun.
2. TTT: Your Etsy profile also mentions that you later discovered polymer clay. How is using clay different from your other jewelry making methods? What is it about the clay that inspires/intrigues you the most?
DM: Now I use more metal and beads made from crystal or glass. Clay is a really different medium; it requires different tools and lends a very different look to the jewelry. When I was using clay I went for an antique look; now I think my jewelry has a very classic look. I liked using polymer clay because it was very free-form, allowing me to do a lot with it. I stopped using it because I moved from my house into a condo, and the other tenants complained about the odor. When you bake polymer clay, even with ventilation it releases a very strong odor.
3. TTT: What is your favorite item in your shop?
DM: My favorite item is my Dream Among the Stars bracelet. At least this week. Next week it could be the new necklace that I'm making. We'll have to see when it's finished.
4. TTT: What items, if any, would you like to add to your shop?
DM: I'm in the process of adding a new necklace line. I put the first one in my shop about 2 weeks ago, and it lasted just a day before it was sold. I'll have another one by the end of this weekend.
5. TTT: Describe your creative process. Do you follow a routine, create when inspiration strikes, or a little bit of both?
DM: It's probably a little of both. I always work when the inspiration strikes because that's when it's so easy to create. Then there are times when I know I need pieces for a craft show, so I start to work on something that is similar to a piece I've done before, which usually gets me into the zone, and the inspiration starts to flow.
6. TTT: What is the best thing about running your own business? The worst?
DM: The best thing about running my own business is that I have control over how my business is run and what I make/sell. I also enjoy making my jewelry and going to craft shows. I think the worst part is the actual marketing, getting out there and being the one to generate interest in the business.
7. TTT: How did you discover Etsy?
DM: I was watching "Martha Stewart Living," and she had an Etsy seller on who makes dolls. The woman was telling Martha how much she sold on Etsy and that she ended up quitting her day job just to make dolls. I immediately got on the computer and checked out Etsy, and the rest is history.
8. 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?
DM: Yes, I started selling at craft shows in November of 2009, so I'm still a new-be. I really like craft shows because you can talk to customers and they can touch the jewelry and try on the bracelets, which helps to sell them. You can have a conversation with the customer and answer any questions that she may have. Shoppers can also see the quality of your product in person, which gives them confidence to buy. I have done well at most of the craft shows where I've had a table. Etsy is a good online brochure for me, although in 2 years I've sold only 2 items.
9. TTT: Who is most (emotionally) supportive of your business?
DM: There are several people who are supportive of my business, including my brother and sister, my mom, and many of my friends. My friend/coworker Tim was my first Etsy customer; he bought a gift for his mother for Mother's Day.
10. TTT: Are there any new artistic/creative skills you’d like to learn?
DM: Yes, I would love to learn how to make jewelry with silver metal clay. It's on my to do list. I need a few more sales to be able to invest in all the new tools that I'll need, so I'm counting on my upcoming craft fairs to help me with that.
11. TTT: Tell us about life outside of Designs by Denise. You can gab about your hobbies, family, pets, or anything else that strikes your fancy!
DM: Right now, life outside of Designs by Denise is spent looking for a job that will pay my bills until I can start to generate enough sales to be able to support myself on my own. I also program web sites to generate income, which is fun. I moved back to New Jersey about 2 years ago after being away for 25 years, so I'm getting reacquainted with old friends and meeting new ones, spending time with family that I haven't been around much while away, and getting to know my new great nephew, William, who is going to be 2 soon. So I keep very busy.
12. TTT: What are your hopes for Designs by Denise in the future?
DM: My hope/goal for the future is that Designs By Denise will be a thriving company that can generate a salary for me and maybe a few employees too.
13. 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!)
DM: If I had to eat the same thing every day on a deserted island, I would need a good supply of chocolate. But a woman cannot live on chocolate alone. So, I would also like pineapples, oranges, avocados, strawberries, cheese, Earl Grey tea, and soy milk. I know it's not a traditional meal, but I could live on fruit if I could have chocolate and a cup of tea to go with it.
Thanks for stopping by and getting to know Denise! Want more? Check out her Web site and blog:

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Tote Trove is Being Featured on the Creations With Heart Blog

I was delighted to find that my Large Electric Palms Tote was included in the Top Handmade Creations of the Week section of the Creations With Heart blog! Check it (and the other selections) out here:

Fresh from The Tote Trove Oven

Tiny Ice Cream Sundae Tote
Tiny Donut Tote
Tiny Cherry Cheesecake Tote

Sunday, April 25, 2010

And the Sugar Rush Continues

Tiny Grape Jello Mold Tote
Tiny Purple Cookies and Milk Tote
Tiny Ice Cream Cone Tote
Tiny Blue Cookies and Milk Tote

I've just posted these 4 new tiny totes to my Etsy shop at http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/. I'm having a really good time with them! Except that they're kind of making me crave ice cream and such . . .

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Tasty Tiny Tote Treats to Tempt Your Taste Buds

Tiny Ice Cream Scoop Tote
Tiny Cookies and Milk Tote
Tiny Strawberry Jello Mold Tote
Try saying that five times fast! I'm in paint-tiny totes-mode to prepare for the dozen or so craft shows I'm doing this year, and I'm infatuated with dessert motifs. Be sure to check my shop, www.thetotetrove.etsy.com, often to see if any of your favorites pop up!

Friday, April 23, 2010

A New Twist on Meat and Potatoes


There are few meals as satisfying as steaming heaps of red-skinned potatoes, sirloin, and bacon tossed with raw baby spinach leaves and grape tomatoes. Yep, I'm talking about a meat and potatoes salad, which I found in the Family Circle Cookbook. The book was passed on to me by my sister (who is, ironically, a vegetarian) and had been traveling in my car trunk, along with several equally neglected sewing books, for months. (Somehow, I don't think my dreams of becoming a seamstress will ever materialize.) But I busted the cookbook out last weekend. And this dish, dubbed Warm Steak and Potato Salad, was tasty, if artery clogging. At least I omitted the meat dripping/honey/apple cider vinegar dressing. I made it but then deemed it disgusting (even I have my limits) and tossed it. Dressing nonwithstanding, if you're a fellow carnivore, then give this salad a try:

Ingredients:

1 lb small red-skinned potatoes
3 strips bacon
1 small red onion, chopped
1 lb boneless beef sirloin, cut into thin strips (Being deeply upset by all things bloody, I didn't cut the meat when it was raw. Instead, I tossed the entire slab into the frying pan and hacked it up after it had cooked.)
1/4 tsp salt
5 tbs honey
5 tbs apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp cornstarch mixed with 1/2 tsp cold water
1 bag baby spinach leaves
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

Directions:

Place potatoes in medium-size saucepan and cover with cold water. Salt lightly. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until tender. Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet, cook bacon until crisp. Transfer to paper towels. Add onion to drippings and cook for 3 minutes. Add steak and salt. Cook about 2 minutes longer or until steak is no longer pink. Transfer steak and onions to a plate and keep warm. Add honey and vinegar to skillet; cook over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add cornstarch-water mixture; cook for 30 seconds. Remove from heat. Drain potatoes; run under cold water. Cut potatoes into quarters and place in bowl along with the crumbled bacon and steak-onion mixture. Add spinach, warm honey-vinegar mixture, and tomato. Toss gently.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Jack Handey Quote of the Week

"As the evening sun faded from a salmon color to a sort of flint gray, I thought back to the salmon I caught that morning, and how gray he was, and how I named him Flint."

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Yay Another Giveaway

It's time for another exciting Tote Trove Giveaway! The "Tales of a Sweeper" blog was kind enough to review (ie, test drive) my Medium Mushroom Madness Tote and cohost the giveaway of my Medium Lilac Fierce Flowers Sparkle Tote! Want to see what she wrote? Check it out!

http://talesofasweeper.com/the-tote-trove-tote-bag-giveaway

Just follow the steps outlined in her post, and you've got a chance to win! The Medium Lilac Fierce Flowers Sparkle Tote is awesome for carting library books, lunches, cosmetics, kids' toys, or whatever -- in style! Because come on, doesn't everyone feel happier with a little sparkle in her day?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

My Personal Zoo



You didn't think I was talking about actual animals, did you? (I'm not an animal person. I probably shouldn't admit this in print, for fear of alienating myself from future customers. Even in everyday conversation I can sense people backing away slowly when I admit that I don't have any pets.)

These colorful little gadgets come from the Boston Warehouse Animal House collection, which can be purchased in bits and pieces from Target and Ace Hardware. But the complete collection can be found online here:

http://b2c.bwtc.com/store/catalogsearch/result/?q=animal+house

The bf and I don't use them - oh, no. They're strictly for show. My favorite is the warthog vegetable scrubber (that green and yellow guy with the crazy hair). There are still many pieces that we'd both like to add to the menagerie. (My vote for the next purchase is the peacock dustpan and brush. I think the bf prefers the walrus mini sweep). The bf painted the cabinets and shelf interior himself (he is, after all, a painter), using crayon box brights. He can't believe that I've waited until now to blog about it. I think that was a gentle dig at me for blogging about, well, everything, but I'm willing to let it slide.

Jack Handey Quote of the Week

"One thing kids like is to be tricked. For instance, I was going to take my little nephew to Disneyland, but instead I drove him to an old burned-out warehouse. "Oh, no," I said, "Disneyland burned down." He cried and cried, but I think that deep down, he thought it was a pretty good joke. I started to drive over to the real Disneyland, but it was getting pretty late."

A Little Mystery

This may sound weird, but there are few tales more comforting than mystery novels. Huh? you may say. What's comforting about people getting bumped off? I'm not talking about the murder part, but the way peace is so reassuringly and neatly restored in the last chapter, as the killer is caught, the evil-doers punished, and the good guys allowed to live in peace. It's completely unrealistic, of course, this black and white sort of happy ending. But that's part of what makes it so satisfying. Another thing you can always depend upon in a mystery is some ordinary person cracking the case instead of the police. The police, since the time of Sherlock Holmes and maybe even before, have always been dubbed as bumbling fools.

During the last leg of my craft show this week I finished reading Sweet Revenge, by Diane Mott Davidson. Like most of the mysteries I read, it's what's known as a "cozy," which is to say that it centers around the adventures of a small town heroine, in this case a caterer. (My other favorite cozy series, penned by the hilarious Mary Daheim, stars a bed-and-breakfast owner.) In addition to the blood-curdling plot lines, the Davidson books have the benefit of mouth-watering gourmet recipes, the very same ones used by Goldy Shulz herself, caterer extraordinaire. I have yet to try any, mostly because they're so complicated, but the vicarious experience of reading about them is almost as good.

This is probably a good place to admit that I never figured out this mystery, or for that matter, any mystery I read. My mom claims this is because I don't want to figure them out, instead preferring that "Ohmygosh!" feeling that comes with a surprise ending. But she's being too kind. I know that I don't have the kind of logical mind necessary to decipher puzzles. Of course, sometimes I think that the authors write the stories in such a way that they can't be figured out. There's always some obscure detail surfacing at the eleventh hour, like the victim's great aunt isn't dead after all, but living in Zimbabwe with a plastic surgery-altered face under an assumed name. You know what, though? I think I do kind of like the idea of not knowing what's going to happen next, all the while waiting for the deus ex machina ending to come swooping down to set the world right again.
So, what do you guys like to read? I know this is meant to be a craft and style blog, but there are bound to be some readers out there.

Tales from the Trove - One Woman Show in My Office Lobby




I kicked off the 2010 craft show season with my one-woman show in the lobby of my office building this past Tuesday and Wednesday. This show was different from any I'd done previously. It was the first indoor show I'd done, which also meant it was the first show I did sans tent and the first time I set up alone. As you know, the bf is always available to assist with such tasks, but the work week time slot threw things off kilter a little. But I hauled everything in with no problem. To be honest, I welcomed the exercise.

I busted out brand new tablecloths, shelving my old hot pink and black satin for fresh new polka dotted cotton. I also got to test run all of the new jewelry displays, which I'd purchased online and at Marshalls, knowing that I'd have limited display space. (I usually hang all the totes from hot pink clothesline along the tent walls, leaving the tables open for the jewelry.) I couldn't hang my new banner either because it too requires the support of the tent. But all in all, I think everything looked pretty good. The bf once joked that I'd probably love to have my display set up in the house 24/7. He's right! Even after having done lots shows, I never get sick of being surrounded by all of my colorful things. It puts me in a nice frame of mind.

Now it's time to book myself for the rest of the summer and fall. I just heard that I've been accepted to the Haddonfield Crafts and Fine Art Festival, to be held on July 10 and 11, which is exciting. Other than that I've got the Annual Cape May Promenade Craft Show on August 14 and 15 and the Millville Arts, Music, and Antiques Festival on September 11. I have at least seven more shows that I want to do, which means I need to get cracking on applications.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Craft Show Preparation and Great Fatigue




The last few days have found me in a craft show preparation death grip (hence my absence). But I'm finally ready for tomorrow . . . I think. Here are some of the things I've been working on. The little girls' jewelry is something new. At craft shows, people are always asking if I sell any - well, to be more accurate they often think the adult jewelry is intended for children - so I thought I might as well stamp out a few things.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Jack Handey Quote of the Week

"A man doesn't automatically get my respect. He has to get down in the dirt and beg for it."

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Book Review

Yesterday I finished reading The Opposite of Love , a debut novel by Julie Buxbaum. I enjoyed it, as I enjoy most novels, probably because they're the only place where people allow themselves to fall apart. This particular novel was about a twenty-nine-year-old lawyer named Emily Haxby. The three most important things about her are that her mother died of cancer when she was fourteen, she hates her job defending evil corporations at a prestigious law firm, and she dumped her boyfriend, whom she loved, because she was afraid he would leave her first. It had all the makings of a "chick lit" book but wasn't, its depth punctuated by the discussion questions at the back.

To me, this story was unique because it managed to be poignant and realistic while still delivering a happy ending. My favorite part is when Emily interviews for a job as a pro bono family lawyer, and her boss-to-be wants to know why she wants the position. Emily says, "Because if I am going to spend at least seventy-five percent of my waking hours doing something, I want that something to have meaning. I am tired of wasting my time. I am starting to realize that I want my life to matter in every way that it can" (Buxbaum 291). Admittedly, this part is a little unrealistic because it's one of those things that most people think but never say. That's part of what makes it so great, though; it gives the reader hope that people, like characters, can break out of their pre-programmed shells. In a way, Emily's declaration is echoed by the author's own experience. Like Emily, she was a dissatisfied lawyer. Only, she took things a step further, giving up law altogether to write fiction. How could a reader not be charmed by such a fairy talesque yet real life parallel?

Thanks for indulging me in this post and others like it. I was an English major who never quite got over writing about books. This blog provides a nice venue for my musings. On a lighter (and unrelated) note, most of the shoes I ordered online recently are a little too small. I'm wearing a pair today anyway, my toes crunched in like little mutilated badges of honor.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Postcard from the Edge

I've only bought one thing from bebe in my entire life, and that was a dress I found on clearance in the Las Vegas Venetian store when I was there on business for my old job. I guess I must have signed up for their mailing list when paying for it, because they sent me this postcard the other day. Well, to be precise, they didn't send it to me, but to a severely butchered version of my parents' address. They misspelled the street name and got the town wrong. Yet it still got there, the powers of bebe having prevailed. Here's what it said:

Hi, Tracy --

Just wanted to let you know that the Kardashian line has arrived in our store. Please call me to make an appointment.

Thanks!!
Jenn, Bebe Rockaway

Surely you see why I felt the need to share. I was unaware, although unsurprised, that the ever-enterprising Kardashian clan had launched a clothing line for bebe. Had I been a fan (of the store or the TV personalities), I might have found myself hopping a train to Rockaway, New York, to snag a signature piece. I couldn't help but wonder just what sort of person would do that. Because there must be someone, somewhere, who would. Hence the postcard.

Some New Handmade Buys

I acquired some tasty handmade treats from Etsy in recent weeks and decided to show them off:

Variegating Rainbow Rhinestones Statement Necklace from Sparkle Beast Designs, http://www.natalie52688.etsy.com/. This is a really cool collar necklace. The rhinestones are mounted on white netting to give the illusion that they're floating. It reminds me of Rainbow Brite, which just happens to have been my favorite childhood toy.

Rustic Sunset barrette by EtsyNJ's own Baublettes by Beth, http://www.baublettes.etsy.com/. I love the glam combination of feathers and rhinestones in this rockin' accessory. It'll go with lots of my dresses.

Love Vase by PoppyLuxe Designs, www.poppyluxedesigns.etsy.com. PoppyLuxe Designs was my most recent featured artist. I couldn't resist this fun decoupaged vase, which currently holds court on my nightstand. But wait, there's more . . .

I also received these adorable felted hair pins and magnets as a special thank you! I'd seen them in PoppyLuxe Designs's shop, but they turned out to be even cuter in person!

That's all for now. I suspect it won't be long before I have more newly bought wares to flaunt.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Cooking with the King

Last Christmas my sister gave me a cookbook called Are You Hungry Tonight? Elvis's Favorite Recipes (compiled by Brenda Arlene Butler, the author of such classics as I Am Elvis: A Dictionary of Elvis Impersonators). It was so quirky and unexpected (I'm not an Elvis fan or anything) that I laughed out loud. But it wasn't until today that I actually attempted to make one of the recipes. In honor of Easter, I went for the Banana Coconut Chiffon Pie, which I'll be bringing to my parents' house tomorrow. But before I plunge ahead with the recipe I'd like to share the paragraph that accompanied the recipe in the cookbook. Just so you get the full effect of Elvis kitsch.

"Imagine you're driving through the South in the 1950s. Your way is marked by the old white U. S. Highway shields, not the red, white, and blue of the Interstate signs. The place names crop up on little white signs, not those huge green things. Memphis. Jackson. Tupelo. Shreveport. It gets awfully hot in the car, so you swing into one of those little roadside cafes for a glass of iced tea. My, but it's cool inside. They've got one of those little glass cases with all the pies displayed, and goodness doesn't the banana coconut chiffon look good!

As you leave, and push through the screen door, a big Cadillac with a bunch of boys in it pulls up. You chat a bit and they tell you they're headed to Shreveport to sing on the radio - on the Louisiana Hayride. You wish them well and promise to tune in."

Now that the scene's set we can proceed:

Ingredients:

Baked 9" pie shell (recipe on page 49) {Let it be said that I did not consult page 49, opting instead to buy a premade Keebler graham cracker pie shell. As someone uninterested in winning any Martha Stewart awards, I found no shame in this.)

1 envelope unflavored gelatin
3 eggs, separated
1 cup ripe, mashed bananas
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt (I omitted this, partly because my salt had somehow solidified, partly because it sounded gross)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup finely grated coconut

Instructions:

Soften gelatin in 1/4 cup of cold water. In the top of a double boiler (or saucepan, for those of us not living in 1955), slightly beat the egg yolks. Stir in the bananas, sugar, and salt. Cook over boiling water (er, low heat), stirring constantly, until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and add the softened gelatin to the banana mixture. Stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Chill the mixture until it begins to thicken.

In a large bowl beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. (I started to do this until I realized that the egg whites would not be cooked. This skeeved me out, so I tossed them.) In another bowl beat the cream until stiff. Fold first the egg whites, then the whipped cream, and then the coconut into the banana mixture. Pour into the pie shell. Chill the pie until firm, about 4 hours. Garnish with additional whipped cream and banana slices, as desired.
So far it looks pretty good, but I won't know for sure until tomorrow. In closing, I'll leave you with this quote from the forward of the cookbook:

"He [Elvis] preferred honest, hearty, rib-sticking food, the kind that Southern women have always fed their tired men at the end of a long day."

That's certainly something to ponder.

Jack Handey Quote of the Week

"Today I accidentally stepped on a snail on the sidewalk in front of our house. And I thought, I too am like that snail. I build a defensive wall around myself, a "shell" if you will. But my shell isn't made out of a hard, protective substance. Mine is made of tinfoil and paper bags."

Friday, April 2, 2010

Introducing Photo Shoot Fridays


It's no secret that I like to post pictures of myself in my favorite outfits. But you may have noticed that I haven't posted any lately. Not because I'm not wearing anything interesting, mind you, but because the bf and I are just too busy to photograph as often as we (OK, I) would like. So I thought, how can I maintain the outfit momentum without it becoming a nuisance? And that's when it came to me - I'll post just one outfit a week, on Friday. It may be a picture taken that day, or it may be something I unearthed from my considerable archives (such as today's -rest assured that I did not sport a faux fur coat on this glorious spring afternoon).

To add to the fun, I've decided to invite you - yes, you - to submit your pictures for possible posting (I'd let you know ahead of time about your day in the limelight, so you could blog, Facebook, tweet, or whatever). You can be wearing something handmade, vintage, or straight off a department store rack - I don't care, as long as it's fab. Please email all photos to me at thetotetrove@gmail.com for consideration.

Now, about today's outfit. I've dubbed it "primarily primal," (um, because of the primary colors and leopard). I'm wearing a KensieGirl dress I got on sale at Macy's. I'd been lusting after it for ages, and there was only one left in my size, so I knew the time had come to make it my own. The girl who rang me up approved, adding that she'd wear some funky, crazy colored pumps with it (but of course). I myself opted for classic black patent hooker boots (sorry that you can barely see them) this time but foresee countless other "sole" mates being paired with it. (That was bad, I know. The bf and I are both suckers for a good pun, and spending so much time together has made our cheesy word spinning powers insufferable.)

My awesomely edgy, rainbow chainmaille bracelet is the handiwork of EtsyNJ's own Deepshade Creations. You may recall that I posted a feature about Deepshade's cool jewelry a few weeks back. Not for the first time, I fell for one of a featured artist's pieces. I'm glad I nabbed this one, because it's delightfully punky and goes with everything.

The aforementioned faux fur leopard coat has been in my closet for years and was a birthday gift from my mom. The belt is fraying a bit, but I think that gives it character.

As for the yellow clutch, you've seen it many, many times before. It's Chinese Laundry and is a great staple piece, even if it is kind of annoying to hold while shopping. I think my mom bought that for me too.

That's all for now. Have a fashionably fun Easter. And if any of you break out an Easter bonnet, then I want to know about it :)