Saturday, October 31, 2009

Make and Tell Challenge: Day 61

Today I went grocery shopping, made two pumpkin pies, did the dishes, did three loads of laundry, and painted the second coat of the Rainbow Roses Tote while watching the last half of Failure to Launch, a movie I only marginally like and have seen far too many times, and three episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond. I never watched that one while it was in prime time, but I had a drama/literature professor who liked to analyze the characters the way you would literary characters. I think he was going for an everyday human drama thing, peeling back the psychological layers of seemingly normal people to explain why they sometimes do abnormal things. If nothing else, that take makes it more interesting for me to watch.

The bf and I will be departing soon for my parents' house, where we'll be watching the World Series. Well, my dad will be watching. He's the original Phillies fanatic (ha ha), so I'm hoping they win; otherwise he'll be one unhappy camper. I'll be drawing totes and/or making jewelry. The pies are my contribution to the evening. I never made them before, but I followed the recipe on the Libby's pumpkin can (with only a few of my signature departures), and they smell good, so my hopes are high.

Here's a picture of the bf clowning around for your Halloween enjoyment. It wasn't actually taken today, but a few months back when I was putting seasonal stuff in the attic. Ironically, the pumpkin candy holder thing is not with us today. Not that it matters; Brigantine becomes a ghost town after Labor Day, which means zero trick-or-treaters. I didn't realize that last year, and the bf and I ended up eating all of the goodies ourselves. Oh, and here are my (festive) feet from yesterday. I wasn't so keen on the way the rest of my outfit photographed, so that's why this is all there is.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Make and Tell Challenge: Day 60

Wow. When I typed in Day 60 I could hardly believe it. This Challenge is really moving along! For tonight's task I finished the second coat on the Proud Peacock Tote -- well, almost. I ran to A.C. Moore on my lunch break today to pick up a new jar of Jacquard's Lumiere Turquoise Pearl fabric paint (although I reordered the rest of my colors from Dharma Trading Co. in bulk recently, I'd forgotten this one). But when I went to find the jar later, it wasn't there. Thankfully, I didn't get charged for it. Yet I was annoyed. I suppose it's back to good old A.C. next chance I get. Tomorrow I'll aim to add the second coat to the Rainbow Roses Tote. I think there'll be some pie baking, too, in honor of the Halloween festivities.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Make and Tell Challenge: Day 59

The Proud Peacock Tote is coming along in collagey splendor. With the first coat completed, I decided to start this Rainbow Roses Tote. When it's finished it'll have black leopard over the rainbow stripes, like some of my medium-sized totes. I have a lot of tote design ideas now, most of them sort of out there, so I'm going to run with them. That's how I do my best work anyway. While painting, I watched The Office. It was funny, as always, but I'm not really liking Jim as co-boss. I mean, his whole character was about being against the man . . . and now he is the man.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Make and Tell Challenge: Day 58

Tonight I had dinner at my parents' house, so I started this Silver Star Ribbon Necklace there, then finished it at home while watching Eastwick. Eastwick is surprisingly good; I always like a hint of gothic supernatural mixed in with my drama, and quaint yet creepy New England is a fitting setting. As for the necklace, I like it because it's black and hot pink, just like the Tote Trove tent. I once read a magazine article that said that hot pink is one of the most versatile colors out there in terms of theme; it's simultaneously tropical, retro, and futuristic. It's true; just think about the color in terms of hibiscus flowers, poodle skirts, and anything girly and space-age. Well, that last one's a stretch, but it's late.

A Return to J.C. Penney

Today on my lunch break I went to J.C. Penney to buy something to add to my sister's birthday present. Lately, I'd been feeling ambivalent about the store. Although it had once been my favorite, recently I'd found it wanting, turning to Macy's more often than not (at least on the one day sales). But today I took a step back and asked, "Am I being too rash?" Because the thing about Penney's is, it sort of sneaks up on you. As in, you enter the store and think, "Really? This is it?" You don't get that instant hit of style and fashion, the way you do when walking into one of Macy's many perfumed and marbled departments. But despite its shiny veneer, Macy's is not necessarily the victor here. For one thing, it's expensive, and those one day sales don't come as often as you may think. Plus, it's obvious. There's great stuff everywhere, and it's easy to put together something cute. Penney's is a little different. It's a lot more affordable, for one thing. The prices are lower to begin with and are frequently clearanced. Plus, Penney's often distributes generous coupons in the weekend paper that don't require you to use your charge card. Discounts aside, there's a certain thrill of the hunt at work in JCP. You can approach a seemingly awful clearance rounder only to delve in and find nice things in your size, all drastically reduced. So, you kind of feel even more fashionable than you would shopping in Macy's because you had an opportunity to flex your scavenging muscles and and pull an awesome ensemble seemingly out of thin air, or find a few trendy pieces to maximize what you already have at home. Such was my experience today. Not only did I find something for my sister, but I scored two blouses and one mini skirt for myself, all clearanced and -- get this -- an additional buy one, get one half off. Now, the store wasn't brimming with other great picks -- I feel I got the best of it, at least for now. But the other great thing about Penney's is that it tends to move its stock a lot faster than Macy's, so that merely on sale sweater you're coveting now will most likely be clearanced in the coming weeks. So, I owe you an apology, J.C. Penney. You've still got it. No matter what that catty reporter said back in August.

Jack Handey Quote of the Week

"If I ever opened a trampoline store, I don't think I'd call it Trampo Land, because you might think it was a store for tramps, which is not the impression we are trying to convey with our store. On the other hand, we would not prohibit tramps from browsing, or testing the trampolines, unless a tramp's gyrations seemed to be getting out of control."

Make and Tell Challenge: Day 57, Part 2

Earlier tonight, while I was painting, I was watching reruns of The Office on TBS, as per usual for a Tuesday night. In one episode, they were making a commercial, and Pam decided to stay at the office until 2:45 a.m. to work on graphic art for Michaels version. (This was right before that period when she went to art school.) I thought, I'm in my own home and I don't even stay up that late crafting anymore. Maybe I should make more of an effort. I was all painted out, so I made this Green Goddess Ribbon Necklace instead. I like the combination of ribbon colors. They're subtle and elegant and make a nice complement to the more ornate pendant. Like all my jewelry, (and my totes too, now that I think of it), it looks much better in person. I must get on the ball with this whole photography thing.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Make and Tell Challenge: Day 57

Ever so slowly, the peacock begins to take flight. Unless peacocks are one of those birds that don't fly. I just really wanted to use the pun.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Featured Artist: Lauren (Saraswati) Zavlunov of Jewels of Saraswati

This week's featured artist is fellow EtsyNJ member Lauren (Saraswati) Zavlunov of Jewels of Saraswati. (See above for pieces of Lauren’s out-of-this-world jewelry.) Jewels of Saraswati offers an eclectic array of yoga-inspired jewelry transcending the everyday designs typically found at big box stores. So, if you’re looking for something unique to wear or a conversation-starter gift, then pop into Jewels of Saraswati. You’ll be glad you did!

1. The Tote Trove (TTT): How did you come up with the name Jewels of Saraswati for your business?

Lauren (Saraswati) Zavlunov (LZ): After recently receiving the beautiful name of Saraswati from my dear yoga teacher and friend, I thought Jewels of Saraswati encompasses what I do perfectly. The Hindu goddess Saraswati is the goddess of music, knowledge, and the arts -- so fitting!

2. TTT: Were you always interested in making jewelry? What sparked your interest?

LZ: I have always loved creating, whether it was art, sculpture, crafts, sewing, graphic design, or music. My serious interest in creating jewelry started this past year after being frustrated with commercialism. I was finding it difficult to find unique jewelry items of good quality -- until I discovered Etsy! It really inspired me to create my own jewelry, which then inspired me to create malas for my meditation practice.

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

LZ: It just somehow evolved from this amazing desire to share. Making meditation malas seemed to ignite my interest in sharing handmade creations.

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

LZ: That is a hard one! Usually it is whatever item I just posted!

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

LZ: I wish I had more time to create more malas! I enjoy making those the most.

6. TTT: In your Etsy shop, you introduce your jewelry as yoga-inspired. How did you make the connection between yoga and jewelry, and what role does yoga play in your life?

LZ: Yoga plays a huge role in my life. Not just the hatha or physical practice, but the beautiful philosophy behind it. I have several items with Hindu “Om” charms, and many of my items have names derived from yoga scriptures and Hindu deities. But I think the meditation malas are what really connects my store with the yogic lifestyle. Japa malas are used to count your mantra whilst meditating, something I wholly enjoy doing!

7. TTT: In your Etsy shop profile you mention that you are a conservatory-trained flutist. What is it like to be a jewelry artist by day and a musician by night? How does your involvement in the arts influence your life?

LZ: The arts are a wonderful influence in my life. Yes, I am a professional freelance flutist and educator. The wonderful thing about it is that it constantly drives me to reevaluate myself and learn to communicate and connect better with others on a daily basis. Music and life have so many wonderful parallels, and I try to absorb valuable lessons from both.

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

LZ: I have to say it just happens when it needs to and I go with it! I can be pretty intense when the mood strikes me, and then I can work for hours and hours. Being a musician, you need a good deal of structure and dedication, so I let myself indulge when I create in other areas.

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

LZ: Well, I am pretty bad with numbers and tend to dislike keeping track of money. I would say this is the worst part of it. Often I feel like just giving my stuff away! (I have giveaways to satiate that desire. J) The best? Being able to do your own thing!

10. TTT: How did you discover Etsy?

LZ: I think I was looking at an artist’s work online, and she was selling on Etsy. It was love at first sight!

11. 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?

LZ: I just sell on Etsy but would like to have my work displayed in other venues at some point.

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

LZ: So many people! My husband is at the top. He is the most patient and supportive man I know. And my parents. They have been passing out those business cards to all of their friends! People seem to think I have left the music business!

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

LZ: I would love to learn silver smithing, but perhaps in another lifetime. I am still trying to hone the skills I have now!

14. TTT: What are your hopes for Jewels of Saraswati in the future?

LZ: I hope more people come visit the shop so I can make some new friends!

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!)

LZ: Easy. Chocolate.

Thanks for joining us and getting to know Lauren and Jewels of Saraswati! For more exciting Jewels news, check out Lauren’s corners of Facebook, Blogspot, and Twitter.

Don’t forget to check back next Tuesday for another exciting artist feature. Interested in being featured yourself? Just email me at for details.

Make and Tell Challenge: Day 56

Here's the outlined and completed Happy Hour Tote; it kind of makes me want to take a vacation, or at least invest in one of those snow cone-slash-margarita machines. I think my favorite part is the ice in the glass to the right; it really pops. Next I have the Proud Peacock Tote, which is in its infancy. A cute, cartoonish peacock sits amid yet-to-be-painted cupcakes, ice cream cones, flowers, hearts, and rainbows -- what could be more fun? I couldn't help but return to the whimsical with this one, taking a short respite from the summer stuff. I have so many ideas bursting in my head right now that it's making me kind of nervous. New tote designs, ribbon necklaces, other necklaces, lanyards (I'm getting sick of the free blue nylon one that came with my work ID card), decoupage boxes (candy box, I haven't forgotten you), paintings, and even clutches (I'll learn to sew if it kills me) are all fighting for my attention, elbowing out sleep, laundry, and a number of other necessary activities. But I'll get to each and every one of them. Eventually.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Make and Tell Challenge: Day 55

The Happy Hour Tote got a slick second coat today. And at the suggestion of the bf and my sister, I repaired the Electric Palms Tote by painting the handles black up to the zipper line. On a completely random note, yesterday I was watching the Science Channel and learned that the red dye used in food coloring and makeup comes from crushed insects (I don't regularly watch the Science channel, but the bf had turned it on, and even though he fell asleep I was too far into the painting zone to change it). At first I thought, how gross. But then I thought, all the stuff we humans make has to come from somewhere. So maybe it's not gross so much as resourceful. I'll leave you with that.

Just Like Riding a Bike

This weekend, the bf completed a paint job for the local Brigantine bicycle shop owners. He decided that he wanted his payment in bicycles in lieu of a check -- one for me and one for him. Owning bicycles has been a long-time dream of the bf's, so I was happy to see him finally getting what he wanted. Fortified by a hearty breakfast from Hot Bagels and More, we walked over to the bike shop to embark upon our test rides. I really didn't know where to start -- it'd been years since I'd been on a bike. I finally opted for a bare bones cruiser in a seafoamy shade called aloe; the bf went for something black featuring gears. After the owner made some adjustments to our respective choices, we were off. Sort of. I was afraid, stopping and starting and looking at the ground, haunted by visions of my early bicycle riding days. For starters, I'd ridden my little sister's bike with training wheels far longer than was appropriate. Then, my dad took on the troublesome task of teaching me to ride a two-wheeler. That poor man. I was fear-stricken, stubborn, and hopelessly uncoordinated, all qualities that foreshadowed my even more upsetting driving lessons. One time, I almost got hit by a car. My dad and I were riding out of our safe little development and turning onto the road that lead to the pike. A car was coming, and I couldn't stop. So my dad knocked me and my lilac and black Huffy over to get me out of the way. He still tells that story. So, thinking of all this, I was having a difficult time. What's more, the shop owner's wife and a few other people were watching me, chorusing, "Don't look at the ground! Look straight ahead!" I was seven all over again -- minus the helmet. The bf had stopped, of course, and was looking back at me. He said it would be okay. Willing it to be true, I put my feet back on the pedals and pushed forward. At first I was still shaky, but then that wore off and I -- wonder of wonders -- began to enjoy myself. We rode around the block, then returned to try something new. The bf suggested I try something with gears and breaks, so I jumped on a more advanced yet still aloey model. We were off again, and let me tell you- - breaks make a difference. I don't know what I was thinking, setting off on my maiden voyage without them. Before I knew it I was pedaling away, happily singing the Foo Fighters' "Wheels" in my head. But the fun didn't stop there. Oh, no. The bf and I took two more trips, one on matching brown-hued 1970s looking 23-speeds (the matching, I swear, was completely unintentional.). Nevertheless, I ended up taking the second light green one with the breaks, and the bf took the black one, also with gears and breaks. Both also sport bells, but thankfully no streamers or baskets. And now we are bicycle owners. All I can say is, those pedestrians better look out come spring. Just kidding (I hope).

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Make and Tell Challenge: Day 54

Tonight I bring you the Happy Hour Tote, in its first coat. I rather like this one, which is funny because I'm not much of a drinker. I'm still contemplating what to do with the Electric Palms Tote. Earlier today I spent some time rearranging the homepage of my Etsy shop. Gone are the days when you had to relist items just to customize your first page, which I'm really loving. I spent the rest of today cleaning (yuck) and browsing the Macy's one day sale. I picked up two gifts but was overall unimpressed by the offerings. I also hit Marshalls but left empty-handed. I don't know what's happening to me; shopping used to be a huge part of my life, but now it seems like more of a hindrance. On another note, I received some of my Etsy purchases this week and was very pleased. Once it's safe (i.e., once they've been gifted), I'll be sure to post about them.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Make and Tell Challenge: Day 53

After splitting a pizza with the bf, I snuggled under a blanket on the couch and began work on more ribbon necklaces. After a long work week, there was something comforting about it. I kind of felt like one of those old fashioned women relaxing with her needlework at night after a day of plucking chickens and washing clothes by hand. Not that there's anything old fashioned about knitting. Oh, and I had the TV on (Ugly Betty, never to be missed). I suppose that wasn't exactly quaint either, not to mention incongruous with the chicken plucking and whatnot. But you know what I mean. So, on to the makes. I give you the Blue Paradise Ribbon Necklace and the Cute Critters Ribbon Necklace. While making them, I thought back to my other two ribbon necklaces, which I posted in my Etsy shop yesterday. I decided I wasn't at all happy with the photography. It was too plain, for lack of a better word, and not at all something to grab the shopper. With that in mind, I whipped out my Mr. Sketch smelly markers and drew some graphicy designs onto the corners of some ordinary white computer paper. Then I arranged the ribbon necklaces on the paper and began shooting away. It was definitely an improvement, and I shot today's makes the same way.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Jack Handey Quote of the Week

Better late than never, right?

"The face of a child can say it all, especially the mouth part of the face."

Make and Tell Challenge: Day 52

I just finished the second coat on the Electric Palms Tote. But there's a problem. Two, actually. I got a little black paint on the left side of the webbed handle. I thought that was bad. Then I got a little more black paint on the right side. I have no idea how to fix this and am more than a little annoyed. Maybe something will come to me tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Stuffed Salisbury Steak: Mmmm!

Tonight I delved into my recipe box in search of something I never made before and came up with this decadent solution: stuffed Salisbury steak. Interested? Here's what you need and what you do with it:


(I halved it because it was just for the bf and I)

2 lbs ground beef
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 2.8-oz cans French fried onions
1 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
4 oz cheddar cheese cut into 6 sticks (about 2 x 1/2 x 1/2 in) (I opted for the ever-popular Helluva Good Cheese)

For mushroom topping:

2 tbs butter
1 12-oz package mushrooms
2 tbs Worcestershire sauce


Combine beef, Worcestershire sauce, 1 can of the French fried onion rings, garlic salt, and pepper in medium bowl. Divide meat evenly into 6 portions. Place 1 stick cheese in center of each portion, shaping eat into ovals around cheese. Place steaks on grid and grill over medium-high coals 15 minutes or until meat thermometer reaches 160 degree F, turning once. (I put them in a Pyrex dish in the oven at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes.) For mushroom sauce, melt butter in large skillet over medium high heat. Add mushrooms. Cook until browned, stirring often. Add Worcestershire sauce. Reduce heat. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

As pictured here, I served mine with roasted red potatoes gently seasoned with parsley, thyme, garlic powder, and Jane's Mixed-up Crazy Salt, and green beans. I know the picture isn't exactly a spread from Gourmet, but the steaks were delicious. I kind of felt like I was eating a well-seasoned inside-out cheeseburger.

Make and Tell Challenge: Days 50 & 51

So, what happened to me yesterday? It all began when I was en route to my parents' house and heard the familiar siren's call of A.C. Moore. Earlier that day I'd been dreaming up a variation of the ribbon necklace I made a couple of weeks ago (you know, with the magazine beads). Only this time I wanted to use different colored ribbons instead of just black, string on faux pearls instead of wooden and magazine beads, and add a sizable pendant. I didn't want to stop at just one necklace, though -- I wanted to create a whole line. So, there I was in A.C. Moore again, my basket weighed down with ribbons and beads. After dinner at my parents' house, I eagerly began work and became so wrapped up in it that it was 11:00 before I knew it! I was too tired to drive, so I stayed over and got up at 5:00 today to drive home and get dressed for the office. Here are the fruits of my labor: first, the Bright Buddha Ribbon Necklace, a triple-stranded creation in primary colors, and then the Dark Horse Ribbon Necklace, a seven-stranded pastel wonder. After finishing Buddha, I wanted to add more ribbon oomph to the next piece. For a fleeting second I thought that maybe Buddha was -- gasp -- incomplete with only three ribbons. But then I reminded myself that not every piece in a line needs to contain the same elements. I'm tempted to hang onto Buddha, actually, but really must condition myself to not get so attached and put more stuff on the market. Remembering my now less-than-bursting tent usually does the trick! For today's make, I tackled another tote. I got the idea for this one a year ago but never did anything about it until now. I'm calling it Electric Palms. It's funny. After working on a more detailed design, I crave making something simpler and more graphic. And when that simple piece is done? You guessed it -- I long to paint something more complex.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Featured Artist: Kirby Maragulia of Happy Hound Creative

This week's featured artist is fellow EtsyNJ member Kirby Maragulia of Happy Hound Creative.
(See above for a sneak peak of her cutting edge cards and stationery.) Happy Hound Creative offers a fine selection of paper goods, ranging from festive holiday note cards to one-of-a-kind elegant invitations. Whether you’re throwing a holiday bash or an intimate soiree, this paper princess is sure to have something special!

1. The Tote Trove (TTT): How did you come up with the name Happy Hound Creative for your business?

Kirby Maragulia (KM): When I started my business, my dog was just a little puppy. As I was thinking about a name for my company, I was dreaming about being able to stay home with my puppy and work on my business. I thought Snoopy (my puppy) would be one happy hound if I didn’t have to leave him for my office job.

2. TTT: How did you become interested in making stationary? What is it about paper that sparks your creativity?

KM: I offered to make wedding programs for my sister-in-law’s wedding and was amazed at how great they looked. I started playing with other types of stationary, including note cards, wedding invitations, etc., and people really responded well to my work. The thing about paper that sparks my creativity is all of the different colors and patterns that are available; I love bright, beautiful colors and patterns.

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

KM: Several things happened. I started hearing “you need to start your own business” from many different people. As I mentioned, we got a puppy and I hated leaving him alone in the house while I went to work. Finally, I lost my office job due to layoffs. I guess you could say all of the cards just fell into place!

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

KM: I love the “Hope” breast cancer awareness cards I created (pictured above). I love the way they turned out. Sometimes I see something in my head and am amazed at how beautiful it turns out!

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

KM: WOW! I have so much in my head that I want to add to my shop. The biggest one is ensembles, meaning matching invitations, thank you cards, and favors, or wedding ensembles including matching save the date cards, invitations, programs, place cards, etc. Also, I still have tons of invitations to add to my shop.

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

KM: Well, I have a 4-month-old, so I think and create a lot in my head, and then when she goes down for a nap or to sleep at night I try to get all of the ideas out of my head and onto paper!

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

KM: The best thing about running my own business is that I have so much freedom, and the worst is worrying about how to make it all work!

8. TTT: How did you discover Etsy?

KM: A friend suggested it to me -- I had never heard of it but started exploring and was amazed at all of the wonderful handmade items and fantastic artists! I am addicted to it!!

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

KM: My biggest customer base is through word of mouth -- as soon as a big batch of wedding or party invitations goes out, I usually get about 2 - 3 interested customers. I don’t sell on any other Web site and have yet to do a craft show. Selling online is difficult because people don’t get to see the caliber of my work the way they do in person, plus I take such terrible pictures. I love to meet my customers in person and be able to hand them actual samples of my work.

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

KM: Aside from my happy hound, my husband is so very supportive of my business! He even helps me glue when I have a huge order!

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

KM: So many! I want to learn calligraphy so I can offer to address the envelopes for the wedding invitations I make. I’d love to learn how to sew so I can incorporate stitching elements into my designs, and I’d love to be able to create my own graphics.

12. TTT: On your Web site, you mention that you enjoy a good book. What are some of your favorites?

KM: I have so many favorites -- The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini is my favorite right now, but that will change once I read something I like better. I loved the Harry Potter series too.

13. TTT: Tell us about life outside of Happy Hound Creative. Hobbies? Family? Pets?

KM: Since I was let go from my job when I was 8 months pregnant with our first child, I am determined to make Happy Hound Creative my only job. Emma Grace (now almost five months) was born this summer, and I am enjoying being a mom so much. I am so grateful that I lost my job because I am able to stay home with Emma and I feel that being able to do so is a gift! My family includes my wonderful husband, Andrew, Emma, Snoopy the Happy Hound, and our two cats, Hank and Layla. I was born in New Mexico and most of my family is out there.

14. TTT: What are your hopes for Happy Hound Creative in the future?

KM: My number one hope is that I can continue to stay home and not have to find another job. I hope to be able to do a craft show or two next summer and hope that I continue to meet amazing artists and friends who share my passion.

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!)

KM: OH FUN!! I would have green chili chicken enchiladas with a side of French fries and a warm pecan tart for dessert, then chase it all down with a cold glass of Corona.

Thanks for stopping in and meeting Kirby! I hope you had as much fun as I did. For more Happy Hound Creative be sure to check out Kirby’s Facebook, Blogspot, and Facebook pages.

Don’t forget to check back next Tuesday for another exciting artist feature. Interested in being featured yourself? Just email me at for details.

Make and Tell Challenge: Day 49

As predicted, I made an eraser necklace tonight. This faux gold double-stranded piece features nine -- yes, nine -- dessert-shaped kawaii erasers. I've been amassing these little gems from my local A.C. Moore, and no matter how many I have I always seem to want more. I was so transfixed by them that I Googled Iwako Japanese erasers the other day. Apparently, they're a big deal on the other side of the world, so much so that there are Iwako knock-offs. According to the Iwako site, only erasers manufactured in Japan are the genuine article, whereas erasers made in China are fakes. I instantly surveyed my little collection and discovered that I own a little of each (I guess A.C. Moore doesn't discriminate). There's even an Iwako museum in Japan at the company headquarters. But the most shocking revelation was yet to come. These erasers are puzzles! I should've realized this, because there's a picture of them coming apart on the package (well, on the knock-off packages.) This explained a lot, as I was having particular trouble with the pizza eraser necklace I made a while back. The cheese filling was sort of popping out of the crust, although I was able to contain it with a little Gem-tac. So, that's the story of these crazy little erasers. I can't help but notice that they're popping up everywhere in Etsy shops, including two of my favorites, Kawaii Cupcake and Michelle's Charm World. But I'll be the only one enjoying my creation. I can't wait to break it in!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Mad for Plaid

Because everyone (secretly) loves a cliché. This is the outfit I wore to my grandmother's birthday dinner. As my sister was quick to point out, it's an example of one of my "Ronald McDonald ensembles," meaning I have a fondness for pairing red and yellow. By the way, I think my grandmother really liked the necklace I made her (Make and Tell Challenge 47), and it fit her perfectly. I too am wearing one of my necklaces here. I made it awhile back, when I first started experimenting with ribbon in my jewelry. The tee and skirt came from JCPenney this fall and totaled a low $30 (you can catch a close up of the skirt in my Marvelous Minis post). The pumps are quite old and came from a weird (but sometimes wonderful) little catalog called Metro Style. The clutch is also old and came from Wet Seal. That used to be my favorite store. I went in there recently and left abruptly, painfully aware that I'm approaching thirty and have no business in such a place anymore.

Make and Tell Challenge: Day 48

Tonight I added a second coat to the Beach Tropics tote while watching Desperate Housewives and Brothers and Sisters, two of my favorite shows. The tote is finished except for the ironing, which I'll do when it's dry tomorrow. I usually don't enjoy doing the second coat because it feels redundant, but tonight I felt as though I were adding something that hadn't been there before. As for the shows, Desperate Housewives was okay, although overall I think it's kind of dull this season. The mysteries were so good the first two seasons, but then they sort of petered out into muddled and predictable nothing plots. The characters are interesting, though, so I still watch. Brothers and Sisters is the better show now, at least to me. The Walker clan seems to have an endless supply of skeletons in its proverbial closet. Yet oddly, the plot is never cheesy. Instead it's believable, probably because of the realistic family dynamics. Speaking of TV (and particularly ABC TV), I caught the season premiere of Ugly Betty on Friday, also while painting. This is a show I never watched from the beginning, dismissing it as shallow. But then my sister said I'd really like it, so I watched a couple of episodes. And she was right! So much so that I couldn't believe I hadn't been watching it all along. It had crazy clothes and zany characters all wrapped up in a timeless coming of age tale that should have been trite but instead always struck the right cord. The premiere didn't disappoint, although the move from the Thursday night lineup to Friday is a little foreboding (as in, I hope it's not on its way to being cancelled.) In the beginning of the premiere, Betty's sister presents her with a businesslike blazer to commemorate her promotion to editor. Betty doesn't want to wear it, saying it "isn't me." The two-hour episode continues with the usual ups and downs, one of which is Betty's discovery that some of her coworkers have been making fun of her outfits on a blog ever since she was hired. To make a long story short, Betty ends up wearing the blazer in the end. Mark snaps her picture with his camera phone for the blog, then murmurs, "Hmm. This one isn't so funny." I had mixed feelings about this. Obviously, the entire show centers around Betty's climb up the publishing ladder. She's supposed to change and grow. But I felt a pang when she abandoned her unpopular but original wardrobe (secretly love those getups!) for something more conventionally corporate. Oh well. Let's just say you won't see me wearing a blazer any time soon. Back in Tote Trove land, I've got lots of new tote ideas brewing. But I may take a break tomorrow to make another eraser necklace. My Friday afternoon trip to A.C. Moore netted me eight new Iwako (well, Iwako knock-offs; more on that later) erasers, and I've been itching to transform them into more kooky jewelry ever since. Until then.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Make and Tell Challenge: Day 47

This morning I finally finished the first coat of this tote, which I've named Beach Tropics. It's funny how sometimes you can plan a project but it doesn't really end up looking the way you thought it would. That's true of this one; it's darker than I expected, both in color and mood. But I still like it. Sometimes seeing how a project will turn into is half the fun of working on it.

This is the necklace I made for my grandmother as part of her birthday present. She turned 93 last Tuesday, and tonight the birthday circuit group is celebrating over another Italian dinner. A piece of costume jewelry may seem like an odd gift for a 93-year-old. But my grandmother is far from average. She's one of the most stylish women I know and never misses an opportunity to glam it up for dinner out or a trip to the casino. I really hope she enjoys this piece. I made it extra long so she can slip it over her head, then included a large toggle clasp at the last minute that will be easy for her to maneuver just in case.

Sometimes you think a project is done. And then you think again. That's what happened with the Cool Treats Tote. True to my promise, I left it un-rhinestoned. Almost. But then I decided it needed a little sparkle, so I glued a few on with the indomitable Gem-tac. I just posted it in my Etsy shop, where my large totes collection is happily growing.

The Purple Princess necklace was also in need of some enhancement. You may recall that I wanted to add a ribbon bow above each purple oval bead. A quick lunchtime trip to A.C. Moore yesterday and a few extra minutes today made that possible. I've got to say, I love the results. The dainty plum bows add a dimension of interest that fleshes out the eclectic feel of this piece. I may just incorporate more bows in my necklaces in the future. Look for this one on Etsy soon!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Make and Tell Challenge: Day 46

This one's coming along, if a little slowly.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Make and Tell Challenge: Day 45

Tonight I sealed the Cool Treats tote with an iron. I'm still contemplating adding some rhinestones but am not sure yet. Next I went on to iron three blank totes. (I need to iron them before drawing the designs because they come folded in threes, and the creases are very sharp.) I drew and began painting the first one. It's beachy, keeping in line with my summer theme. But I must admit that my imagination has begun to wander, with some not-so-beachy design ideas beginning to take root. Not that this is a bad thing. Not at all; I would hate to think of myself as getting stuck in a creative rut. It's just that I think it's important to discipline myself into creating some continuity in my pieces so that they aren't all over the place, and therefore confusing to customers. The solution? I'm forging ahead with the summer thing -- with the loophole that it can include some fringe, semi-summer creations. This shouldn't be hard because my designs are almost always colorful and involve fruit more often than not -- two decidedly summery things. You know that saying about creativity begetting more creativity? Well, it couldn't be more true. The more I paint, the more ideas I get for new paintings. It's wonderful and maddening, mostly because I don't have the time to sit down and make it all happen immediately.

Just for Fun

Today's work outfit, featuring one of my earliest necklaces. It was pretty earthy for me, but then that was before I discovered using dollhouse miniatures, ribbon, plastic beads, erasers, and other unconventional items in my jewelry. This one's still nice, though. I have a matching bracelet too but left it at work (it kept catching on my shirt).

My sister bought me this box-style clutch from Express for either Christmas or my birthday last year. It's included in this little lineup because it's part of an outfit. True to form, I posted these pictures in order instead of backwards, forgetting how they appear in Blogger. (Hey, what more can you really expect from someone with an English degree?)

My awesome 70% off Betseyville shoes. But they killed. Like no other shoes on earth. I had to wear my mom's slippers home. Whoever said that expensive shoes don't hurt and that what you're paying for is better construction and comfort was clearly lying.

I rigged up this old reversible scarf from Wet Seal and this pin slash ponytail holder from JCPenney (well, not a ponytail holder anymore since I snipped the bulky and offending elastic) to create a headband. The effect was unusual, if not a little piratey (see below).

Arghh -- there I am! A little blurry, a little costumey. But sometimes playing dress up means pushing your boundaries, and I'm prepared to take my lumps when necessary.

Close up of a purse I hand-painted and rhinestoned once upon a time for The Tote Trove. And what's that I see? Why, it's the guitar pick charm I got as part of Design by Cassandra's rock-star-worthy giveaway. It seems like it was made for this handbag, and I love it.

Getting the full effect of the bag.

And here's the Victorian necklace (along with a store-bought barrette) I recently created as one of my Makes.

The shoes, crazy tights, and a glimpse of the dress . . .

. . . and the puzzle's complete! Maybe posting the pictures backward was more interesting after all.

Pizza time with my quirky handmade eraser bracelet. I did not make the ring; that honor goes to Wet Seal. But I sort of wish I had. Perhaps I have a future in resin making.

A close-up of my 80s-inspired tunic.

More pizza, this time in necklace-form.

My $10 Barefeet Shoes find (these, by the way, also kill) and polka-dotted Target leggings.

The whole nine yards, posed outside on a dreary day in Brigantine.

You scream, I scream . . . Is there no end to the wonder that is there erasers?!

Another Tote Trove creation that now resides in my closet. It was christened the Grape Soda bag because of the tiny soda bottle-shaped buttons. And the purple color. Lest there be any confusion.

So happy together! I must take a moment to brag about the lilac leather jacket in this picture (far right). I found it at -- of course -- JCPenney years ago for just $4! I thought it had to be pleather, by no, it's the real deal. I snagged one for my mom also, in turquoise.