Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Check Out This Fun Treasury Featuring My Large Rainbow Fierce Flowers Tote!


AbbeGoreArt, http://www.abbegorecreations.etsy.com/, was kind enough to include my Large Rainbow Fierce Flowers Tote in her delightfully eclectic treasury entitled Small Business Saturday, Made in the U. S. A. You can check it out here:

http://www.etsy.com/treasury/4cf5556ca3996d91a726e282/small-business-saturday-made-in-the-usa#4cf575fd2d616d9125902c5

Thanks for clicking through!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Something New and Sparkly - Fabulous Felt Fast Food Necklace

Fabulous Felt Fast Food Necklace, www.thetotetrove.etsy.com

And . . . we're back. To the kitsch and the craziness, that is. After completing the restrained and elegant Pink Victorian Corsage Necklace, I had to cut loose and make something loud. A felt cheeseburger, soda, ice cream cone, and French fries strung with bright, plastic beads seemed to fit the bill. As usual, these photos leave a little to be desired. (This time they're too glarey.) But perfection will have to wait.
For my next course, I'm itching to offer up some cupcakes . . .

Something New and Sparkly - Pink Victorian Corsage Necklace

Pink Victorian Corsage Necklace, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/

For Thanksgiving, I wanted to wear a kinder, gentler version of the oh-my-god-what-is-she-wearing necklaces featured in my signature go big or go home corsage line. So, I attached quaint paper roses in shades of mauve and even quainter ribbon roses to a small circle of felt (with my ever-trusty permanent adhesive glue) to create a demure corsage. A few classy faux pearls later, and I was confident enough to give my creation a moniker including the word "Victorian." It was a hit at Thanksgiving dinner. "It's . . . smaller than your others," commented my mother. "And richer looking." Sounds like I achieved the desired refined effect. If the mood strikes, then I just may whip up a whole hoop skirt's worth of these to post in my Made to Order Necklaces section.

Etsy Buy - An Ooey Gooey Girly Purse to Add to My Collection

Sometimes, all that glitters is gold. Such was the case with my new Cupcakes and Glitter Purse from Glamour Damaged, www.glamourdamaged.etsy.com. I bought it because of the cupcakes. And the ruched gold fabric. And the chain strap. And the hot pink heart bangle accent. But even I was unprepared for just how awesome it was until I peeled away the packaging and unleashed an all-out, unabashedly girly squeal of delight. I even set it on the coffee table so I could stare at it while I watched TV. And that, as every shopper knows, is the hallmark of true adoration.

Book Report: (Deciphering) The Geometry of Sisters by Luanne Rice

Not too long ago I finished reading a novel called The Geometry of Sisters, by Luanne Rice. In many ways, it was your typical soap operatic family drama complete with decades-old secrets, runaway children, and lost loves, all set in posh Newport, Rhode Island. Which is to say, I enjoyed it in that familiar way I enjoy all such drama that the chic lit genre so loyally delivers.

The most interesting parts, to me, were about Katherine, an artist and the estranged older sister of the heroine. Of Katherine's experience at The Rhode Island Institute of Design, Rice writes, "Art school and ironworking opened brand-new worlds for her. She met other people like herself, independent contractors and artists who didn't do anything automatically, who questioned their parents' ways, who broke free of anything traditional, who went looking for their own answers, who thought rules were for people who needed to be told what to do. Artists followed their own compulsions and didn't always know why they did what they did" (32-22). I don't pretend to have a lot in common with Katherine. She was an ironworker, a woman whose material was "hard and sharp" and caused her to "take on these qualities herself." She wore only black, favoring a tuxedo jacket for dress-up, and reportedly never cried. Nevertheless, I was struck by her, or more particularly, by Rice's portrayal of her and of artists in general. I never thought about it in so many words, but the idea that artists think of rules as being reserved for people who need to be told what to do is an exciting and jarring one, and in many cases holds true. On a personal note, I distinctly remember screaming my head off in preschool and being put in the corner because I wanted to do my art projects my way instead of following the teacher's instructions. I didn't understand why everyone's project had to turn out the same. In the years to come I somehow ended up being one of those irritatingly well-behaved students, my rebellion seemingly quashed. But only on the outside. Even now, I like to think that I haven't forgotten how to color outside the lines.

Fattening and Festive: A New Kind of Ice Cream Sandwich (Or is It?)

I'd never heard of "The Original" Fat Boy ice cream sandwich until tonight's trip to the grocery store. (If anyone has heard of this campy-sounding frozen delight, then please don't be shy about owning up to it in a comment.)

I had to buy them. (Even though up until the frozen food aisle I'd proudly been heaping my cart with fresh fruit.) How could I not? The name, the mint, and the tantalizing photograph all conspired to lure me into a world governed by impulse spending and empty calories.

Other Fat Boy snacks include egg nog ice cream sandwiches and some sort of popsicle called peppermint sundae on a stick. The egg nog sounds promising; the sundae not so much.

I'll let you know if the mint is a keeper.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Etsy Buy: The Bf's New Hat

How hilarious is this hat?! I found it at www.taraduff.etsy.com and instantly knew it would become a future purchase. I wanted to give it to the bf for Christmas, then realized I didn't know what size he needed and had to ask him, spoiling the surprise.

When it arrived in the mail, he put it on right away. It's incredibly well made and fits perfectly. Hats off to handmade! (Like you didn't know that was coming :)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Two Dozen Turkeys Wish You a Happy Thanksgiving




Last week the bf suggested we make turkey cupcakes. (To clarify, he was talking about cupcakes that looked like turkeys, not cupcakes made from turkey. Lest there be any confusion.) He got the idea from Hello, Cupcake!, a whimsical cupcake cookbook he'd given me as a gift some time ago. Incidentally, What's New Cupcake?, the second book in the series, offers a recipe for cupcakes that look like cooked turkeys, stuffing and all. We briefly contemplated making those, but they seemed too complicated. (Truth be told, I feared that even the traditional cartoonish turkeys would be too complicated. But I was too embarrassed to admit as much so early in the game.)

I baked the cupcakes (from a box mix). I frosted them too, as well as some of the gingersnaps that we were using for tail feathers. But after that I had to bow out. The thing about me is, I'm not good with stuff that involves mechanics, precision, or exact instructions of any kind. Not to mention that repetitive activities drive me batty. I said as much to the bf, who just laughed and said something about this not being news. So, he sat patiently at our kitchen table carving wattles out of Fruit by the Foot, whittling beaks out of orange Swedish fish, and freezing and frosting donut holes so that they could become turkey heads. I asked him if he was enjoying himself, and that if building things was to him what making bags and jewelry was to me. He said probably. He's a very patient sort, and I admire his discipline.

Our ingredients deviated significantly from those suggested by the book (which is why I'm not even going to bother to list them). For example, I was forced to buy M&Ms instead of candy corn because every superstore and drugstore aisle had long been wiped clean of any harvesty treats to make way for candy canes and red and green-wrapped chocolates. That made me angry at first, but now I think the more colorful M&Ms make for better "feather" accents anyway.

We're bringing some to his family's house and some to my family's house (hence the need for two dozen). I can't wait to see their faces when they see them. I can't help but wonder, though, if they'll feel weird about eating them, as I did last night when sampling a finished turkey head, eyeballs and all. But such moral questions are best left to days that don't revolve around eating turkey.

Something New and Sparkly - Fabulous Felt Christmas Necklaces

Fabulous Felt Christmas Poinsettia Necklace, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/

Fabulous Felt Christmas Presents Necklace, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/

Fabulous Felt Christmas Holly Necklace, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/


Fabulous Felt Christmas Gingerbread Man Necklace, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/

These are pretty wacky, huh? The Fabulous Felt Christmas Holly Necklace in particular really surprised me; even I didn't intend for it too turn out that big! But they're all in good fun and made me happy while making them. It was in this spirit that I decided to plant the white elephant gift giving seed in my listings:

"Steal the spotlight at all of your Christmas parties this season with this handmade Fabulous Felt Christmas Poinsettia Necklace from The Tote Trove! Striking against a white or black sweater or blouse, this fun, festive piece decks the halls like no other accessory. It also makes a unique gift or even a conversation-starting white elephant prize!"

I wish I could've increased the exposure on these photos a bit, but when I did, Etsy sent me a message informing me that my files were too large. This is especially odd because I've received these types of messages only since updating my photo editing software. There must be a way around it, though; maybe later I'll experiment with increasing the exposure in increments to determine where Etsy's cut-off point is.

But for now I must be moving on to more turkey-related activities.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Jack Handey Quote of the Week

"Why is it that will laugh at a man in a clown outfit, but we won't laugh at a man just walking down the street carrying one of those plastic dry-cleaner bags?"

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Christmas Gift Card Holders Relaunched

Warm Mittens Holiday Gift Card Holder, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/

Wreath Christmas Gift Card Holder, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/

Christmas Candle Gift Card Holder, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/

"Hey," you may be thinking. "Didn't you just launch these last Saturday?" Well, yeah. I did. And I thought they were as ready as they'd ever be. At least until I took a gander at what they looked like next to other sellers' gift card holders in the Etsy Holiday section. In two words, not good. Photographed against plain white backgrounds, they appeared washed out, unfestive, and yes, I'll say it, sad. Which was not, of course, how they appeared in real life. So, I did what any self-respecting Etsian would and high-tailed it to the nearest Christmas Tree Shoppe to buy myself a fake holly bush against which to rephotograph (and hopefully revitalize) my pieces.

I was amazed by the difference. The dark holly leaves created a backdrop that was interesting and Christmasy but not busy. The candy canes I stuck in each tote (another Christmas Tree Shoppe purchase) made them seem more gifty. The closer and slightly diagonal camera angle provided a clearer view of the artwork. Finally, my unmerciless approach this second time around probably didn't hurt. (I allowed myself to take no fewer than four photographs of each tote in an effort to walk away with a good one; in many cases I took more.)
Naturally, I've begun relisting with abandon.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Book Report: Chicken Soup for the Shopper's Soul (More Than I Bargained For)

I was recently buying some books from www.amazon.com and needed to spend about $3 more to qualify for free shipping. So, like any good bargain hunter, I browsed the clearance section in search of something cheap yet moderately interesting. The task turned out to be more difficult than I'd expected.

That's how I ended up settling on Chicken Soup for the Shopper's Soul. "What?!" you say, "Chicken Soup?!" I know, I know. The series is the epitome of cheese (and not the good kind). But it was the shopping bit that hooked me. Because the only thing better than shopping is reading about someone else shopping. That's why I adore Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic series. It was with a thirst for such zany, light-hearted Becky Bloomwood-style adventures that I dropped Chicken Soup for the Shoppers Soul into my virtual cart.

Well, I was in for a surprise. Now, before I go on, I must reiterate that I bought this book with an eye toward escapism and self indulgence. To be sure, when the book arrived, its back cover seemed to promise just that: "Whether your preferred stomping ground is an antique shop or a mega mall, a bargain basement or a boutique, a flea market or Fifth Avenue, you'll be thoroughly entertained, inspired and validated by the true-life shopping adventures of like-minded people like you - people who freely admit they were Born to Shop - and who never cease to find fulfillment, enjoyment, and a few great buys doing it."

Now that I'm done with the disclaimer, I can continue.

This book depressed me.

It was not about women blithely racking up shoes and purses or trying to cram stuff into their already-overflowing closets or having Lucy Ricardo-esque spats with their husbands after their latest shopping spree, as I had anticipated. Oh no. It was about buying shoes for senile parents; elderly, fixed-income ladies surprising strangers with expensive, store-bought cakes; housebound online shoppers; and in one particularly disturbing anecdote, the difference between ground meat and ground beef. Whereas the Shopaholic books celebrate spending without the strings of a moral compass, this book seems to scream, "If you're shopping at the mall on a regular basis, then you're a terrible, selfish person." Now, I realize that the very Chicken Soup brand is one that heralds heartache. So, I assume the bulk of the blame in hoping for something uplifting.

Still, I probably should've resisted this bargain and ponied up for the shipping.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Decadent Peanut Butter Pie

About two weeks ago, the bf was thumbing through the Red Plum coupon circular when he suddenly exclaimed, "I want to eat this right now!" I walked over to see what all the fuss was about and wasn't surprised to see a full-color wedge of chocolate peanut butter pie photographed next to a recipe and a coupon for Skippy peanut butter and Smucker's hot fudge ice cream topping. I took the page and tucked it into my recipe box, fully intending to make the pie the following weekend.

This, of course, did not happen.

But the pie was never far from my mind. I even went ahead and bought the ingredients during my weekly grocery shopping trip. The bf, after all, is a man who is serious about his desserts, and I did not want to disappoint. (Although to be honest, I'm pretty serious about desserts myself.)

Last Thursday evening presented the perfect opportunity to finally make it. (Even if it was, ironically, because I'd taken a half day from work to go to the dentist.) As I began putting together the ingredients, I discovered that I hadn't bought a big enough tub of Cool Whip, which meant no fluffy white top layer. (I'd used all I had to soften up the rich peanut butter and cream cheese filling.) No matter. I compensated with extra chocolate sauce and a trio of Reese cups, once again personalizing a recipe with my own error-induced spin.

I was finishing up when my sister called. "It sounds like a party over there," she said, presumably on account of the ever-blaring TV. "It's always a party over here," I quipped, to which the bf good-naturedly added, "Yeah, a party for your arteries!"

I don't think I need to say that laughter ensued.

If you want to start your own party, then here's how to do it. And if you don't want to invite your arteries, then you can use low-fat or fat-free peanut butter, cream cheese, chocolate sauce, pie crust, and Cool Whip. But it won't taste as good. (For the record, I did my tiny part by using reduced fat cream cheese.)

Ingredients:

1 cup peanut butter, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 12-oz container Cool Whip, divided
1 prepared chocolate pie crust
1 11.5-oz jar hot fudge ice cream topping, divided

Directions:

Beat together 1 cup peanut butter, cream cheese, and sugar in a large bowl on High until well combined. Gently mix in 3 cups Cool Whip until thoroughly combined. Spoon mixture into pie crust. Using a spatula, smooth mixture to edges of pie.

(From this point on is where I sort of checked out. I just spread the fudge over the the peanut butter, plunked down the Reese cups, and shoved the whole thing in the fridge. But I typed up the real directions in case you want to do this the right way, fancy drizzled topping and all.) Reserve 2 tablespoons of hot fudge topping in the corner of a resealable food storage bag; set aside. Microwave remaining topping on High for 1 minute. Stir. Spread topping over pie, covering entire peanut butter layer. Refrigerate until set. Spread remaining Cool Whip over fudge layer, being careful not to mix the two layers.

Cut a small corner from the bag containing the fudge. Squeeze bag to drizzle topping over pie. Place remaining 2 tablespoons of peanut butter in a resealable food storage bag; cut bag corner and squeeze to drizzle in opposite direction from topping. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

I must say that this pie lived up to its name, as it was, in fact, decadent. But I didn't let that scare me off. It was so tasty that I ended up eating more of it than the bf :)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Christmas Gift Card Holders Have Arrived!

Presents Under the Tree Christmas Gift Card Holder, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/

Cookies for Santa Christmas Gift Card Holder, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/

Green Bow Candy Cane Christmas Gift Card Holder, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/

A Christmas Gift Card Holder Montage!

I've finally emerged from my crafting-induced hibernation to blog about the Christmas gift card holders I've been working on these past few weeks. I listed all 18 of them (each sells for $8) on Etsy this morning and was pleased to find that my Snowman Holiday Gift Card Holder was already included in a treasury. You can check it out here:

I rather enjoy writing my item listings and had a particularly good time writing these. Here's the listing for the above pictured Presents Under the Tree Christmas Gift Card Holder:

"You've got the gift card. Now all you need is a festive little bag to present it in! This hand-painted, one-of-a-kind Presents Under the Tree Christmas Gift Card Holder from The Tote Trove may be just the thing! A Christmas tree bordered by presents pops against a painted red background in this cheerful holiday motif. At 6" w x 5.5" h, the Presents Under the Tree Christmas Gift Card Holder is the ideal size for gift cards. It's also perfect for gifting small treasures such as lip balms and candies. Best of all, it makes a nice keepsake for your friend or loved one to enjoy for Christmases to come!

I created the Presents Under the Tree Christmas Gift Card Holder in my smoke and pet free studio by drawing the design in pencil, freehand, on the tote, and then painting it with two coats of acrylic fabric paint. Once dry, I applied an iron to the opposite side of the paint to seal it. The Presents Under the Tree Christmas Gift Card Holder is waterproof and ready to ship.

*Please do not machine wash tote. Gentle spot cleaning with water is recommended.

Be sure to check out my Christmas Items section for more Christmas gift card holders! (See the thumbnail photo included here for a sneak peak :)

For more unique art and accessories, please visit my shop at www.thetotetrove.etsy.com. Thank you for your visit and have a lovely holiday!"

(I like to think all my catalog reading has finally paid off. Truth be told, I've always been a little jealous of Elaine's J. J. Peterman catalog writing gig on "Seinfeld.")

Initially, these bags were going to be it for my holiday line. But then I got to thinking, and before I knew it, the idea monster had nabbed me again, and I was in line in A. C. Moore with a basketful of felt and all sorts of other random items (including 10 large foil stars to hang from my living room ceiling for Christmas. But more on that later.) So, tomorrow the Christmas-themed fabulous felt necklace-making adventure begins. Once that's done, it's on to more neutral fare such as felt hamburger and cupcake necklaces. What can I say; junk food just makes me feel at home.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Jack Handey Quote of the Week

"If you lived in the Dark Ages, and you were a catapult operator, I bet the most common question people would ask is, "Can't you make it shoot farther?" No. I'm sorry. That's as far as it shoots."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

At the Movies: Morning Glory (in Bloom)

In time-honored tradition, I spent my federal day off at the movies. I went with my sister, to see Morning Glory in her neck of the woods. The movie opened only yesterday, so you've undoubtedly seen the commercials and know that it's the story of a young, idealistic television producer trying to run Daybreak, a struggling morning talk show. I admit that my hopes were high, my own idealism needing to be nudged only slightly by the tried-but-true girl-against-the-world plot line and the trailer sound bites set to swelling music.

It was good. But not as good as I'd expected. Rachel McAdams is perfect as workaholic go-getter Becky Fuller. Although tough and together on the outside, her character is the equivalent of an awkward adolescent underneath, a quirk that comes into full hide-your-head-under-the-pillow flower when she tries to apologize to another journalist about the awkwardness she caused on their first date.

This is probably a good place to mention where the story loses steam for me. Becky's relationship with this guy is never really developed. They meet, it's weird, then it's not weird. We don't see them get close. Or argue. Which is especially odd, because Becky's commitment to her job provides ample opportunities for conflict. Although she pulls all-nighters and never turns off her Blackberry, her beau never complains, not even when she goads him about it. The absence of any such drama seems especially glaring because the commercials set me up for a gripping work vs. life dilemma, especially when Becky says, "I'm the first one in and the last one out," and when Harrison Ford's prickly Mike Pomeroy begins to thaw, telling Becky, "You're worse than me. You'd sleep at the office if you could. Let me tell you how it ends. You're left with nothing." Turns out, Becky wasn't worrying about her personal life when saying the first line; she used it in her job interview at the beginning of the movie to impress her prospective boss (Jeff Goldblum). And although Mike's advice is heartfelt and marks a high point of the movie, it falls a little flat because Becky isn't experiencing any problems outside of work. Of course, the value of his advice is revealed when Becky turns down an offer from NBC, returning to Daybreak because her coworkers have become like family members to her. I know this marks a turning point because it shows that Becky has learned to put people before career climbing. But it happens a little fast, and I think it would've been more believable if she'd shown half as much warmth for her boyfriend. (Or, to be fair, if he'd shown half as much warmth for her.)

Hmm. Now that I think about it, I'm always criticizing movie and book characters for not being into their relationships enough. I guess that makes me sort of a sap.

All in all, Morning Glory is entertaining and (I sigh a little at resorting to this overused romantic comedy descriptor) cute. If you like the candy-coated humor and sparkle of romantic comedies (as do I, despite the somewhat critical tone of this post), then you'll probably enjoy it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Jack Handey Quote of the Week

"Whether they ever find life there or not, I think Jupiter should be considered an enemy planet."

Loaded Potato Casserole

That's right. I made this recipe up. Sort of. It's really just a modified version of baked macaroni and cheese, only with potatoes, broccoli, and bacon instead of macaroni. Anyhow, it fits right in with my beloved collection of recipes that will kill you (on account of their fat content). If you're game, then here's how you make it.

Ingredients:

4 red potatoes
2 cups milk
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 bag frozen broccoli (standard size)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
4 slices bacon
Hot sauce (to taste)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel potatoes, cut into fourths, and boil. Meanwhile, start frying the bacon and prepare the cheese sauce. To make the sauce, melt the butter on Low in a saucepan. Gradually add the flour, then the milk. Lower the burner to Medium and stir constantly until you bring the mixture to a low boil. Turn the burner back to Low once boiling. Add as much (or as little) hot sauce as you want. Add the two cups of cheddar. Once the cheese is melted, drain the potatoes and pour the sauce into the potato pot.

Now, at this point I poured the potato-cheese mixture and most of the bag of frozen broccoli into a casserole dish (equivalent of a 9" x 9" but round), and topped with the bacon and a portion of the last cup of cheese. I think this was a mistake, as the frozen broccoli made the whole thing a little too watery. I recommend using fresh broccoli and adding it during the last 15 minutes of cooking so it doesn't dry out. I let the casserole bake for about 40 minutes, leaving it covered for the first twenty minutes. I sprinkled the last of the cheese on top at intervals. I served with sour cream (well, for me. The bf's not really a fan and used grated Parmesan instead.)

So, how was it? To be honest, a tad bit disturbing. The bf liked it, though. Which was good because he scarfed down the leftovers last night :)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Something Fierce and Fancy - Large Rainbow Bold Beauty Tote

Large Rainbow Bold Beauty Tote, http://www.thetotetrove.etsy.com/
The average woman eats between 4 and 9 pounds, or 481 to 1083 tubes of lipstick in her lifetime (according to a site I found via a Google search). I thought that was a compelling way to introduce my long-awaited (well, to me :) and finally-finished Large Rainbow Bold Beauty Tote. It turned out even better than I imagined. It's bold, its graphic, it's colorful and kitschy and glam. I love it! I'm going to take it out for its debut at my mom's women's club's charity purse auction next week. (Not that I'm auctioning it off! The prizes are of the designer variety, you know, Coach, Hobo, etc, so I don't think anyone would be interested. Besides, it's mine!)
Project-wise, it's back to my Christmas-themed tiny totes, which are mounting nicely on my living room floor. I'm going to market them as gift card holders. Good idea, right? My goal is to make and post as many as possible before Black Friday.
I also just sold three pieces of my funkiest jewelry, which makes me very happy :) Another fun-filled package will soon be in the making!

Jack Handey Quote of the Week

"It's easy to sit there and say you'd like to have more money. And I guess that's what I like about it. It's easy. Just sitting there, rocking back and forth, wanting that money."

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Nugget for November

Last year for my birthday, my mom gave me this calendar full of kooky pictures and sayings. The one for November really amused me, so I thought I'd share:

"While I admire the glass is half full type . . . I'm comfortable with the fact that my glass will always have a slow and steady leak.: