Monday, May 31, 2010

The Young Man and the Sea

The bf awoke at 4:30 a.m. this morning to fish with his friends for the first time in more than a year . . . and came home with this 25-lb striper! I rushed out into the backyard with my camera (even though I was still wearing my bathrobe) to document it all for the blog here. "You should call it [the blog post] The Young Man and the Sea," he suggested. So I did (he's good with the word play, the bf. It's one of our many bonds.). We had the striper with pasta and broccoli for dinner (well, some of it - the rest is in the freezer), and it was quite tasty.

Check Out My New Blooming Branch Totes

Me modeling an unfinished version of the Yellow Blooming Branch Tote

A Blooming Branch Tote Montage

Large Red Blooming Branch Tote

Large Blue Blooming Branch Tote

Large Yellow Blooming Branch Tote

Large Purple Blooming Branch Tote

Large Rainbow Blooming Branch Tote

Large Pink Blooming Branch Tote
Here at The Tote Trove, we (and by we I mean I) aim to please. I know that my signature kooky and over-the-top totes aren't for everyone. So this week I finally painted some totes that are a little simpler (ie, softer and more natural-looking). To be honest, the bf suggested I try this last year, but I was being my usual stubborn self and refused to compromise. Yet here I am, months later, realizing that he was right. I guess it was just one of those things I had to figure out on my own. Anyway, all six are now available in my Etsy shop,, if you want to take a peek. As always, I'm more than happy to create custom totes in other colors if you're interested.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Jack Handey Quote of the Week

"I wouldn't be surprised if someday some fishermen caught a big shark and cut it open, and there inside was a whole person. Then they cut the person open, and in him is a little baby shark. And in the baby shark there isn't a person, because it would be too small. But there's a little doll or something, like a Johnny Combat little toy guy -- something like that."

Something Fishy and Something Sweet

Fishy Friends Painting
Tiny Candy Shop Tote

I'm trying my hand at paintings. You know, for those people who don't want to walk around with a painting slung over their arm. This one, called Fishy Friends (not the most creative string of words, but it makes its point), is only my third. Nevertheless, I have high hopes that I'll eventually round out a nice little series.

And now for something a little more familiar. Another tiny dessert tote! Doesn't it kind of make you want one of those big swirly lollipops? Just a little?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Big Fun With Little Girls Bracelets

Check out my latest batch of little girls' bracelets! Purchase three together in my Etsy shop,, and I'll choose them at random and throw in a $3 discount. Who doesn't like surprises?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Large Outlandish Owl Tote Takes Flight

Hello there. I've been absent from blogland for a little bit, diligently working on my projects. Today I finally put the finishing touches on this Large Outlandish Owl Tote, about which I've been quite excited. Some of you may remember the custom owl tote I created for Katie of the What Katie Wore blog, Then one of Katie's readers saw it and requested her own owl tote, and I thought, gee, owls are getting to be quite popular. So I made another. This incarnation incorporates my beloved theme of desserts and cosmetics (because all wildlife likes to wear lipstick and chow down on cherry pie) and explodes with unapologetic color. I don't know if anyone else will take a shine to it, but it's now available in my Etsy shop,, for that kooky soul who might. If no one claims it in a few months, then perhaps I'll delist it and make it my own . . .

In other news, the bf and I went to see Iron Man II this weekend. The bf warned me that it wouldn't be good. I too had this inkling, but having seen the first one, I felt compelled to close the deal. It lived up to our fears, proving to be your typical hollow, plotless mess of gratuitous violence. But we had Five Guys burgers beforehand, so that made it okay. Nothing like deep fried fare to save a Friday night.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Let's Talk about Text: A Few Words about Nora Roberts

I'm in the midst of reading a Nora Roberts romance novel. Well, two Nora Roberts novellas, "Night Shield" and "Night Moves," packed into a paperback that's the last in the illustrious Night Tales series. Are you laughing? If you are, then I don't blame you. Romance novels are, well, silly, not to mention predictable. But therein lies some of their appeal. Unencumbered by the search for themes and symbolism that comes with reading weightier fare, my mind is free to revel in other details. For instance, the language. Say what you will about bodice rippers. But you can't deny that they are often rife with descriptive, fluid writing - and I don't just mean the sex stuff. Outfits, meals, and vacation spots are illustrated with gusto, stirring in the reader an almost forgotten appreciation for life's finer things.

An even more salient hallmark of a Roberts novel is the heroine's passion for - wait for it - her career. I've read dozens of these books, and each one focuses on a protagonist who loves what she does. She may be a chef, an executive, a makeup artist, or a cardiologist, but she is always unequivocally fulfilled by her occupation. Which is kind of interesting given that these women are fleshed into fiction solely to bag a man. I mean, you'd think they'd be fainting away on divans eating bonbons or something. Then again, such behavior wouldn't be very flattering, would it? These books are, after all, written for women. And most women want to believe that they can be whoever and whatever they want. Granting these heroines dream jobs is Roberts's way of adding yet another dimension to the fantasy in which her books deal. Well, Roberts and her phalanx of ghostwriters, anyway.

Etsy Buys - Let's Get Tropical

If you've seen the Will Ferrell movie Semi-Pro, then maybe you chuckled. Then again, maybe you didn't. Either way, here's some summery stuff I snagged on Etsy recently.

Floral Fantasy Luau Bracelet by Melissa's Magic Spot,

I was charmed by this bracelet because it reminded me of something I'd spy and covet in a prize machine as a kid - only better. I've already worn it once (you'll get to read all about that in this week's Photo Shoot Friday entry :)
Funky and Chunky Summer Bird Necklaces by Michelle's Charm World,

As soon as I saw this trio of parrot necklaces in Michelle's Charm World, I knew they were destined to take center stage in some of my wildest outfit creations to date. The listing was for just one necklace, but I couldn't make up my mind and went for all three. The parrots are actually old napkin rings that Michelle found somewhere. Pretty cool, huh?
Gold and Lavender Floral Polymer Clay Pendant by Fraidycat Creations,

I was struck by the combination of elegance and playfulness at work in this flowered polymer clay pendant. It was created by New Jersey's own Fraidycat Creations, who I discovered through my EtsyNJ team membership. I must say, that it's even prettier in person! The colors are vibrant, and the workmanship is just lovely. I imagine it will be especially pretty with a sundress in a contrasting floral print.

Jack Handey Quote of the Week

"I think a good movie would be about a guy who's a brain scientist, but he gets hit on the head and it damages the part of the brain that makes you want to study the brain."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Saturday Night at the Acme

Yeah, you read that right. After a casual dinner on the island this past Saturday night, the bf and I headed to the Acme to load up on the week's groceries. Now, ordinarily I don't like grocery shopping. It strikes me as boring and tedious, and I often go on autopilot, efficiently grabbing the things on my list as fast as I can so I can get the heck out of there. The bf takes a different approach. He likes to take his time, exploring all of the possibilities and new products. True to form, he made one of his discoveries on this trip - Atlantic City postcards for just ten cents each! "You could make something out of them," he suggested. But of course. Greedily, I rifled through the pile, settling on ten of my favorites and wondering how many times I'd barrelled past them on previous trips in hot pursuit of Jello bowls or Smartfood.
The bargains didn't stop there. As we meandered down the toiletries aisle (one I dutifully skip when shopping solo), I came upon a wire basket brimming with Cover Girl cosmetics marked down to $1.99. Abandoning my thou-shalt-not-OD-on-purchasing-makeup mantra, I gleefully scooped up a powder compact, liquid foundation, and two eyeshadow quads, one all business (neutral browns called Country Woods) and one party ready (wild shades dubbed Tropical Fusion). Even as I type this post I'm contemplating returning for a lipstick or two . . .

So, about these postcards. They scream decoupage to me, and I have just the wooden box upon which to Mod Podge them. I can't promise results any time soon, though, as I'm waist-deep in totes and jewelry to be created for the upcoming shows.

Custom Totes - As You Like It

Here's the Large Lighthouse Tote I painted at the request of a customer. I especially like the contrast of the bright blue sky against the rich royal blue ocean and the snappy red and white lighthouse. It definitely puts out that summery, patriotic, hey-come-and-hang-out-by-our-pool-and-eat-a-burger vibe. What's not to like about that?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Beach Bags A-Plenty

Large Tropical Jungle Tote,

Large Beach Jungle Tote,

The Blind Side. Mallrats. How to Make an American Quilt. Father of the Bride. These are some of the movies, and fragments of movies, that I watched while finishing these totes. I don't have much to say about them except that my sister and her best friend rented How to Make an American Quilt repeatedly throughout our childhood, an instance which added to instead of detracted from the movie's charm. Anyway, spring has sprung, and that means beach time isn't too far away. Living mere blocks from the beach myself, I already have itchy feet and grandiose plans of ditching my ever-lengthening to-do list to lazily read in the sun. That said, my latest large tote creations reflect that mindset and are soaked in tropical color, ready to ferry towels and sunscreen to a wave near you.

Eat Your Veggies

Or not. I'm certainly not going to eat these. That would just be weird. But they are pretty darn cute (if a little obscured in this less-than-expert photo). My mom got them for me for Easter (please tell me I'm not the only twenty-eight-year-old who still gets an Easter basket). I find it necessary to state that neither my mother nor I have any great attachment to Veggie Tales beyond an appreciation for their adorableness.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Jack Handey Quote of the Week

"Fear can sometimes be a useful emotion. For instance, let's say you're an astronaut on the moon and you fear that your partner has been turned into Dracula. The next time he goes out for the moon pieces, wham!, you just slam the door behind him and blast off. He might call you on the radio and say he's not Dracula, but you just say, "Think again, bat man." '

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sweet Etsy Buys

Ultimate Tea Party Cookie Platter from HeartFelt Playthings,
Strawberry Cupcake Pendant from Bead Passion,
Fruit Waffle Ring from Bead Passion,

A Dozen Mini Butter Cream Cupcakes Bracelet from Bead Passion,

As most of you know, there's always something new and pretty to buy on Etsy. It was a few weeks before Mother's Day when I found the Ultimate Tea Party Cookie Platter in HeartFelt Playthings, The listing described it as "a platter for the serious tea party host or hostess." I instantly thought of my mother (although I'm pretty sure the artist was referring to a child . . .). She gives a tea party every summer and has her dining room all decked out with tea house paraphernalia, right down to a little Christmas tree festooned with doilies and tiny teacups! (Hopefully she doesn't mind me divulging these details to the world :) So, I knew she'd be charmed by these adorable felt cookies. And I was right; she and my sister marveled over them, right down to their fine stitching, after Mom opened them this past Sunday. As for Bead Passion, I discovered that shop after one of my totes was included in a cupcake-themed treasury. I was instantly delighted by all of the miniature hand-crafted clay dessert jewelry, so much so that I found it difficult to decide what to buy! I settled on the whimsical necklace, ring, and bracelet pictured here. They arrived today, beautifully packaged, and accompanied by complimentary earrings and stickers! It doesn't get much sweeter than that (oh come on; you knew it was coming :)

Monday, May 10, 2010

2010 Appel Farm Surprise Art Challenge: Repurposed Art With a Purpose

This was what came in the package from Appel Farm.
And this is what I made with it!

I somehow got on the mailing list of the Appel Farm Arts and Music Center, which is a nonprofit center for the arts located in Elmer, NJ. I recently received an email from their community outreach program about participating in their 2010 Art Challenge, which entailed creating a piece of art from a bag of, well, trash. I didn't even think about it, hitting "reply" with an enthusiastic "count me in!"

A couple of weeks later, when I received my package of stuff, some of that initial fervor began to dissipate. I examined the stray puzzle pieces, bottle caps, and book remnants, not knowing what to think. I even considered just bowing out of the whole challenge. But I realized I wouldn’t be much of an artist if I did that. So, I dug deep in my imagination and decided I could use all of the pieces in a sort of school project-style jungle theme. I went out and bought green foam board and clay (if that doesn’t take you back to the fourth grade, then I don’t know what will). I used the books from the package as backdrops, gluing painted trees on one and the front of the map of New Jersey that came in the package (it featured a sunset over water) on the other. I hung the remnants of some of my own handmade necklaces against the trees, as they were made of handmade paper beads strung on green ribbon and seemed both tropical and appropriate for the recycled art theme. I decoupaged turquoise tissue paper onto the foam board to make a river, then glued on the puzzle pieces from the package, which I’d painted blue, finishing the whole thing off with a coat of glitter glue. I made a bridge from construction paper and an old gum box and topped it off with the toy car that came in the package (because what jungle doesn’t have a sports car speeding through it?). I painted the bottle caps and tee shirt fabric from the package and arranged the pieces to look like flowers, throwing in some rhinestones. As for the glass, I painted it blue and glued a few tissue paper flowers in the center to make a sort of birdbath-slash-fountain. Finally, I used large tissue paper flowers and construction paper palm fronds to create foliage behind the backdrops.

All in all, I don’t think it turned out too badly. It was fun to challenge myself to make trash pretty. I’m glad I didn’t give up! I'm taking half a day off of work tomorrow to drop it off (it's not exactly the kind of thing I could ship) so that it can be included in the gallery showing this Saturday. I'm excited to get a look at this Appel Farm place; if the Web site photos are any indication, then it'll probably be pretty cool. I'll be sure to report back to let you know!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Custom Totes: As You Like It

I recently completed a custom tote order for a young lady from Italy who found me on What Katie Wore. She'd admired the owl tote I made for Katie and wanted one of her own. So, I set to work to oblige. I love doing custom orders because 1) they challenge me to venture outside the comfort zone of my usual design impulses, and 2) it's incredibly satisfying to be able to give a customer exactly what she wants. I'm currently working on a custom tote featuring a lighthouse for another customer. I'll be sure to post it here once it's finished!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Jack Handey Quote of the Week

"Sometimes the beauty of the world is so overwhelming, I just want to throw back my head and gargle. Just gargle and gargle, and I don't care who hears me, because I am beautiful."

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Fish and Sweets

Medium Undersea Tote

Tiny Cherry Pie Tote

Small Undersea Tote

Tiny Banana Split Tote

Here are some of my most recent creations, freshly added to my Etsy shop, You'll notice a couple more sugary tiny totes mixed in with our larger fish friends here. Once thing I've learned from doing market research (er, product giveaways) is that people like fish designs, especially in the summer. Luckily I like fish too, so you'll probably be seeing more of them. I finished these up while watching the eerie yet elegant American Beauty on (what else?) TBS this weekend. I'd seen it only once before, in high school because I had to write a paper about it. (Yep, I had a pretty progressive English teacher. Ms. Volpe, if you're out there, then I hope you caught that.) Come to think of it, I wish I still had that paper so I could post part of it here instead of struggling to be profound. As it is, I'll just say that American Beauty is one of those movies that makes you question things. A bit of a cliche, I know, but then my mind has deteriorated some since twelfth grade English.