Tuesday, December 18, 2012

How to Wash Your Snack Bag

The most common question I get about my sandwich bags and wraps is how to care for them. People are really only going to reuse something if it's easy to do so. So here's my mini-tutorial on How To Wash Your Snack Bags.

What you need:
Hamburke's Sandwich bag or wrap
lingerie bag
washing machine
laundry soap (so you can use any that you like but my house has sensitive skin so we don't use detergent)
Sponge/paper towels
Dish soap
clothes pins

Everyday Care: When my kids some home from school Monday through Thursday, they put their lunch boxes on the counter and get a snack. While they're eating, I empty their lunch boxes and sponge off their snack bags. I then turn them inside out and set them in the dish drying rack.

Weekly Care: On Fridays when the kids come home from school, instead of sponging off my kids' sandwich bags and wraps, I get them ready for the laundry.

First, I empty the bags and wraps and for the bags, set the Velcro askew so that the bag will stay open like this.

Second, I toss them into my lingerie bag so that the velcro doesn't stick to anything else in the laundry and zip up the bag.

Third, I wash them in hot water with the rest of my laundry - sometimes towels and sheets, sometimes white clothes without bleach.

Lastly, I hang them to dry on Mr. IKEA Octopus making sure that the Velcro is pointed away from the spendy transition toe dance tights that were washed in a separate lingerie bag.

And here's one of each for sale now:

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Builder Extraordinaire!

So I make hair bows and I have ribbon EVERYWHERE! You wouldn't think it but it's actually really hard to keep it organized! I've tried several ways to get organized:

Girl Scout Cookie Boxes and Dowels

Plastic mesh basket and wooden dowels (ahem - the same dowels as above)

Best Craft Spooler and Ribbon Organizer

They all ended in a mess of tangled ribbon and laziness. Over the last 2 days, I finally created something that I hope will be a timesaver and won't leave me frustrated! I made with my own hands, a ribbon rack!

It seems like such a little thing but it took 2 years to figure out exactly what I needed and how to do it. The idea is simple - build a wooden frame, brace it and hang dowels. The tough part is how do I hang dowels? There's a couple ideas - 
1) drill holes, stick the dowel thru and cap the ends so that it can't come out - easier said than done since I've  split several dowels trying to get the 2-way screws in them (okay, this crafter figured it out - use pre-threaded bar!)
2) using a routing tool, make a path for the dowel to come in like this one.
3) use some sort of hardware to hold the dowels on the sides - the most common one I see suggested on DIY blogs is screw in brass hooks
4) last ditch - buy one but these are pricey and don't usually hold a lot of rolls of ribbon

 Yesterday, I had the best idea ever - I'd use the Closetmaid wall brackets that we had leftover from when we put shelves in our old pantry to hold the dowels! But we only had 4, not a single screw that would hold them and those suckers are a lot more expensive than I remember! I thought - well, I'll use the ones I have and then   try the hooks from my picture hanging kit that I never use.
I went to the wood area of my local home improvement store to purchase 4 48" long pieces of wood (1"x4" for the top and bottom and 0.5"x4" for the sides, 0.5"x1.5" to brace the back and 1"x1.5" to hold the hardware). I used a hand saw to cut the wood into 24" pieces, glued and used a brad nailer to make the frame, added the supports in the back and decided where my dowels would go (I decided that they needed to be 10 cm apart - I realize that I go back and forth between metric and emperial, if I can do it, the rest of the US can too).
VOILA!! I have a frame! I started to add hardware to hold the dowels and realized that I had out-thought myself - the ClosetMaid wall brackets are too wide to fit in the space I had left - oops! 

 Well, I still had the brass hooks and I found these pipe clamps (Hillman 5/8" rubber lined clamps) in the hardware section of the home improvement store but I'd only bought one pair.

A trip back to the hardware store (because no project can be completed with only one trip to the hardware store) to buy more clamps and some self drilling, attached washer screws to hold the clamps (not clamped) onto the brace. I cut the dowels to right size and sorted the ribbon on to the dowels.

YAY! It's so much easier already but I have a whole box of ribbon that isn't spooled... I may also need to build a second one... All in all, it cost me about $40 (same price as a much smaller version I've seen at craft stores) and I have lots of screws left over!

Now, to make some actual product for 2 upcoming craft fairs this weekend...

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Camping...in December

I think my husband is crazy - like absolutely insane - for many reasons, most recently, while drinking more beer than usual and texting, he agreed to go camping with his friend in December. So this past weekend, he camped along the Appalachian Trail in some primitive cabin (it's just a shelter, no amenities - too primitive for me. I require a toilet - it doesn't have to flush or be attached to the shelter but it needs to have some walls and a seat). It turned out not too cold (40/day 20/night) but I was a little worried when there was snow in the forecast last week.

Camping in cold weather isn't too much different than camping in mild weather - but it takes a bit more prep. He did a lot of research - really, it occupied a vast amount of our conversation over the last 2 months. His take: It's really easy to go from cold weather camping research in the blogsphere to apocalypse prepper blogs.
cold weather camping --> good post on extreme camping --> detailed further advice on...OMG this is a prepper blog!!

New Christmas present idea proposed: a BOB for everyone, you know, in case there's a natural disaster on the East Coast.

Anyway, I think he was well prepared for his trip, except for being physically prepared to carry all the stuff. His pack list was nearly as long as our pack list for vacation...
hiking pack
day pack
"mummy" sleeping bag (borrowed)
sleeping pad
lantern/extra batteries
headlamp/extra batteries
polycord (survival macrame bracelet is non-girly colors - yes, everyone in our house can make them but I haven't found a good supplier for the clips)
2 ways to start a fire & dryer lint (tender)
clothes/sleeping clothes (one extra outfit and something warm to sleep in)
extra socks
layering elements - long underwear, fleece, vest, warm jacket
rain suit
snow pants
mess kit
aluminum foil (heavy duty)
food (they split the menu but hubby now owns a 6-egg travel carrier and a hip flask)
1 gallon/day/person water (I think this is where the real weight comes into play)
toothpaste and toothbrush
biodegradable AIO soap (wish I'd ordered some from my favorite soap people, Soap for Your Soul, but he wanted liquid)
did I mention that he grew a beard?

He got home mid-afternoon today and I immediately put him to work bagging leaves until dark because, you know, he's already grimy and I spent the day with the kids getting the leaves in piles!

Donated to the Silent Auction for the PTA:

New in my shop this week is a few ponytail holders:

Monday, November 26, 2012

After a successful dinner, time to move on to Vendor Fairs

The only thing that was a bit of a snag was the fact that I don't have a serving platter - oh well! Something to ask for for Christmas!

I signed up for a Vendor Fair on December 8 at the kid's school and I'm considering signing up for the fair the following day at the dance studio that my daughter dances at. I'm so unmotivated to create hair bows this weekend though and my backordered velcro hasn't arrived to finish the sandwich bags so I spent yesterday crocheting up a storm. I finished a sweater and beanie for my cousin (no pictures, please - in case she reads this!) and a new bonnet pattern (sans tucking ends and sewing on ribbon ties) for my table at the PTA Vendor Fair.

Onto Booties! and hopefully, I'll want to make some hair bows!

Okay, I photographed this hat that I made a while ago too - it's off-white (yarn package says cream, I say beige and a customer called it ecru, somewhere in there, it has to match one of the Pantone colors!).

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving Spread

Thought I'd let you all know that I successfully cooked Thanksgiving Day dinner according the "the plan". We were a 1/2 hour later than I planned to eat but that's exactly how long it takes to burn off a small piece of the plastic turkey bag that hit the top oven burner... That was the only mishap besides the fact that I didn't leave enough time to cook the green beans (they just got served later). I'm very excited that I also got to use my china and crystal for the first time ever!

Remember to use coupon code Black12 through Monday when checking out in my shop!

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Happy Turkey Day from my house to yours!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sweet Potato Pie - Really?

I don't eat Sweet Potatoes - love the pretty vines, will plant them but, nope, no orange potatoes for me... My in-laws asked for sweet potato casserole - um... I had to start making phone calls. I called my friend who's mother makes everything from scratch. Turns out, it's my friend who makes the sweet potato casserole! Win! That means it's no fail (Sorry, Dudders)! Best part - it's topped with peeps

Wait... exactly HOW MUCH butter? There's almost a whole cup of butter in that between the sweet potatoes and the pecan topping! And sugar? There's less sugar in the 3 pies and pudding than in this "casserole". So here's the recipe:

3 cups of mashed sweet potatoes (but who prints a recipe on how to cook mashed sweet potatoes? Turns out, there's no difference between sweet potatoes and white potatoes in cooking them)
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup milk
couple of beaten eggs
splash of vanilla

mix and put in 2 qt casserole dish (um... yeah, so a 1 quart casserole dish ain't cutting it)

top with this mixture:

1/3 cup melted butter
1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans

bake for 30ish minutes at 350, add peeps and bake for 5 more minutes

Ready for the oven tomorrow - will add snowman Peeps

Monday, November 19, 2012

Pre-Holiday Baking

I'm the queen of "semi-homemade" - that Sandra Lee's got nothing on me! This morning, I checked me email  to realize that I had signed up to bring pumpkin pie to my son's class tomorrow! AHHH! I love making pies but I had to brave the grocery store the week of Thanksgiving - ALONE! duh-duh-dun... but I'm great at making pies so this shouldn't be a problem!

Note that this is for my son's kindergarten class and it's after lunch during snack time so I think small is probably better. I usually fake a pumpkin pie by using graham cracker crust sprinkled with cinnamon (really, how many people eat a pumpkin pie for the crust?) but the store didn't have the mini graham pie plates or even mini pie plates so I came up with a great, on-the-spot idea - this is for a bunch of kindergartners - Pilsbury refrigerated cookie dough! And I'm dubbing it "pumpkin pie a la cookie" (there would be accent marks in there somewhere if I could figure it out).

filling pumpkin pie a la cookie cups

Home from the store, I made the filling from the Libby's Pumpkin recipe (sub McCormick's pumpkin pie spice instead of cinnamon, ginger and cloves) and set it aside to rest. I'll put some cookie dough in a cupcake paper and pressed it to the cupcake pan, topped it off with 1/4 cup of pumpkin pie filling and followed the directions for mini pumpkin pies. I hope they turn out good but I wouldn't know since I don't eat it! update: doing it again, I'd probably bake the cookie dough a little bit so it doesn't bubble up.

pumpkin pie a la cookie

PS - do you think speed bake will help?

Holiday Crocheted Baby Bonnet
Update: The Pumpkin Pie a la Cookies were a BIG hit! Several kids asked for seconds!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Handmade Holiday - Let's Start at the Very Begining: Thanksgiving

The first of the BIG THREE holidays: Thanksgiving! I'm hosting it for the first time ever so we'll see if I resort to throwing things into the fire. I'll start out saying that the traditional, American Thanksgiving menu is not top of my list. I don't really like anything on the menu except cornbread stuffing and even then, I prefer it from a box.  Hubby isn't big on the traditional fare either. So we started planning the menu - he's the involved type (yay!). He'd still like a turkey but it doesn't have to be a whole one that we'll end up with a week's worth of leftovers so we put "Turkey Breast" on the list. And he added "Spiral Cut Honey Ham"...

So here's our menu that we're about to go shop for:

Shrimp & cocktail sauce
Crackers and cheese assortment (chedder, port wine and gouda) with pepperoni

Main Course:
Turkey Breast with gravy
Spiral Cut Honey Ham (easy peasy lemon squeezy)

Mashed Potatoes
1 Baked Potato (for me)
Sweet Potato casserole (for his parents - does anyone know how to make this?)
Green Beans and Almonds (still searching for my grandma's recipe - I think she used bacon and garlic and lots of butter)
Pepperidge Farm Corn Bread Stuffing
Stuffed Mushroom Caps
Dinner Rolls with butter we made b/c my kids didn't believe that you could make butter from milk (cream)

Pecan Pie (SIL is sending it since she can't make it this year b/c of work - Hurricane Sandy's handiwork)
Apple Pie with Crumble topping (Yes, I made the sugar cookie topping one recently and it was a hit but this is a fan - ahem, hubby - favorite)
Mini No-Sugar-Added apple cobbler for diabetic FIL
Mini chocolate pudding pies for me and the kids

One thing you should all know is that I do have a Speed Bake setting on my oven so I don't think this menu is too over-reaching and most can be made in advance and just reheated before we serve it (everyone likes it better that way anyway, right). The real $10,000 question is, do I have enough serving dishes and serving ware... You might find me over at Party City buying up the place!

Photos to come in the next installment but enjoy the view of my newest listing: Girl Scout Brownie bows

Friday, November 2, 2012

Has it really been that long?

So, February,  huh? Well, lots has happened since then! Over the summer, my family moved from the Washington DC Metro Area to the Richmond, VA, Area.It was a big move and was difficult for the kids to adjust at first b/c it was SO HOT - no one was playing outside! But we're renting a lovely single family home in a great neighborhood and now that school has started and it's cooler, I rarely see my kids b/c they're running around outside once they get home. And they are all in the same school too so I'm not all running around. I have more energy to invest in my shop.
The best things about this house is that I now have my very own office/craft room. My sewing machine has a permanent home that's not a box! And all my ribbon is "organized" by size - okay, organized might be overstating but it's at least mostly in the same cubby by size... and I have plans to organize even better by color and on a rack.
On the business end, I've also added cloth snack bags and wraps to my shop. They are selling reasonably well - especially the Eco-Super-Hero fabric ones - can't keep it in stock!

If you're following from Richmond, come see me at the Clover Hill ES Crafter's Corner on Dec 8 from 8am to noon.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


This year, 2012, I decided that I'd like my business to be more successful. To do that, I decided that I need to promote more. I'm not that great at self-promotion - it seems so conceited -- definitely not what I want to feel like I'm doing! But it's a part of being a retail business so I need to do it!  My sister helps when she can and with what she can (she enjoys marketing) and my husband proofreads stuff to make sure that it's not braggy and not meek.

I decided to delve into the world of paid ads. This past month, I paid for a FaceBook ad. It did reasonably well gaining me 90 additional followers (wanna be 91?) and I can attribute one $8.50 sale to it (okay, so without taking into account supplies, my net was -$13.50). I'm hoping that I can at least break even without playing FaceBook games (Pa-Tooie) with my fans!

Next, I'm considering putting my business cards with a code printed on them in a local consignment sale's bag. But it's $50 plus the cost of the cards (I could do 1/4 page fliers instead to save some money) and I never look at the paper that comes in my bag and I'm not sure consignment sale shoppers are my target market (they tend to be looking for a deal)... so I'm definitely not going to make the March sale...

Finally, I'm considering an ad on a local Mommy Blog... I've gotten as far as creating an ad:
I'm still a little nervous about the cost. (fyi - this coupon code is not yet active)

Now, I decided that I need to hone down where my advertising would be best served. I started using Outright.com for keeping track of expenses and such. One of the reports I can generate is a map that shows my sales by state. Most of my sales are made to Florida and Texas and I haven't made any sales in South Carolina or much of the non-coastal western US! So, my question, dear readers, is do I focus on reaching NEW customers or do I find ways to bring customers back to my shop?  I think I need a way awesome BROWNIE bow...

And if I don't write again before then, Happy Valentine's Day!!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Are we on the same page?

I actually don't consult cookbooks that often - I studied organic chemistry in college and it's the same basic principle - throw a few things together, get something better! I have a couple of go-to recipes that I use in my handy-dandy red and white cookbook (you know the one, The Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook - type "red and white cookbook" into google and it's the first thing so I'm not the only one who calls it that!) but I don't actually follow the recipes that are in that - I've made changes and wrote them down in the margins. I actually have 2 copies of this cookbook - the falling apart paperback (copyright 1996) that I got in my first apartment and the ringed binder one from my grandmother's house (copyright 1981).
When we cleaned out my grandparent's house after my grandmother passed away, I took the binder one to replace the paperback because, even though it was less than 5 years old, the spine was broken (because, duh, you need it to lay flat to follow recipes) and the pages were falling out. I was going to copy some of my favorite notes (like the for my apple pie that wins taste-tests and the secret ingredient for the topping) but found the recipes so different that I just put a rubberband around my paperback one and found some new faves in the binder. Today, I was reminded of how different these 2 editions are when the paperback edition had slid too far back to reach without a chair in the pantry cupboard. My son had requested banana bread and I was done what I needed to do for the day so I could make it for him. How different can they be?

 I do this all the time - I dive into a project without thinking (or reading) it through properly... Okay, so the older edition used shortening - that's different but the rest must be close to the same, it will be fine... um - what? no cinnamon? There's now something wrong and how do I fix this without going to the store... Uh - about the only thing that's the same is flour, sugar, bananas and eggs... Time to find the other cookbook!
I sure hope my family likes this banana bread well enough to eat it but not well enough to ask for it again because I will never be able to re-create it!

Banana Bread tips:
-freeze your bananas when they are at the peak of ripeness - just as they start to turn brown. This serves several purposes but 2 notable ones 1. You can make banana bread when you want to make banana bread, not when you have extra ripe bananas (because you know, as soon as you decide that you want to make banana bread, your little monkeys will eat all your bananas) 2. Frozen bananas don't blend too well so you easily get little banana chunks in your bread.
-I sub McCormack's Pumpkin Pie Spice almost any time that it says cinnamon in a recipe and then add a little more cinnamon. It's a blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice. I could probably make a better blend myself from more exotic, less processed versions of these spices (according to wikipedia, there are 4 major types of cinnamon and 7 varieties of the most common one) but honestly, they don't fit into my spice-rack and I have no room for a dehydrator in the cupboards (plus they stink).

 Upcoming holidays: St. Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day Here's one of my favorite V-day bows: