Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Baking pies with my mom

I still get my hair cut by Deborah at Salon Excellence in Waltham, been going there almost ten years, she's so great! It's me and a bunch of little old ladies getting their curlers set. I love it. Anyway, it's not far from where my folks live so I went to see them today and have some lunch. After lunch, mom baked pies for Christmas.

Here are three videos I made, turn the volume up, press the "play" arrow and join us in the pie making experience!

She makes her crusts from scratch:

I cut up all the Granny Smith apples, mom's mom was my Granny Smith, and my MIL is also a Granny Smith! (But my husband and I are only related by our marriage, we checked ;)

Wheat sheaf, the Farr family pie crest:

That pie is for the grandkids (all in their twenties now!) Mom and I don't eat sugar or wheat so she also makes these lovely open face pies on nut crusts, like big tarts, blueberry and apple, mmmm. We can have as much whipped cream as we like, we just have to whip it. Whip it real good. We used to do it with the manual beater and lots of elbow grease, but I'm bringing the electric mixer tomorrow, I'm not foolin' around.

We are just glad to be able to spend time together for whatever reason. Grateful is what we are.

Peace to you all!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Last show of the season!

My show season is over, I did it! Well, I did it with a lot of help :) I made bunches of cute goodies and Dell helped me at my show. And Candace helped me by carrying things down to my car and making a sign to post on my studio door during the Open Studios I had to miss this past weekend. And everyone else helped me by wishing me good luck, which totally worked, thank you!

This was my first big holiday show season since I came back to doing shows. I was totally freaked out by the huge table money ($400!!) I paid for shows I'd never even been to, never mind set up at. But it turned out to be worth the risk, even in this lousy recession. If this was a slower year, as some people have told me, then I can't wait for boom times :)

Actually, the pace was perfect for me, steady sales but not overwhelming. For this last one, the SOWA Holiday Market in Boston's South End, we set up Friday night for a Lola Magazine preview party.

figured out the exact location (thanks again Google Street View!) which was just up the street from the Open Market they run all summer.

We found a spot for my little Focus in line amongst the other double parked crafters rapidly unloading in the frigid weather. The party wasn't a huge selling event, but it was great to be set up and ready to go for Saturday and I did make a few sales, so certainly not time wasted. Plus I got to schmooze with my neighbors; Marie from GALVIN-ized Headwear and Harmony Jusseaume.

I also got to meet the absolutely adorable Tomoko who is the artist behind TADworks, the cutest shop on Etsy!

Seriously, have you SEEN THIS?? *faints from the cuteness* And so it was no surprise that Tomoko is a delightful person. I love the Po cards I got, thank you!

So Saturday was great! Non-stop crowds and lots of sales. My pincushions were a HUGE hit!

But so were the felt nests, flower pins and earrings.

And everyone just had to squeeze my felty balls :)

I always sell a little of everything at shows, it feels great. I love when the right item connects with the right person. Just makes me want to go make more!

I had put the kielbasa soup in the slow cooker that morning so we were greeted by a wonderful aroma and a hot dinner when we got home exhausted that night. We gave Chester credit for cooking us a nice meal. We're goofy like that.

Sunday had a different vibe. Slower to arrive, the shoppers were more cautious. But we still had good consistent sales, if not up to Saturday's mark. All the vendors had gone home Saturday night and made more goods, I somehow managed to make 6 more pincushions. I heard someone say they'd gone to sleep as soon as they got home from the show, then set their alarm for 1 AM and gotten up to make more items, I could never do that!

So now my show season is over, but many things that I postponed to prep for these events are still waiting to be completed. And I can't wait to get back in the studio to make more of what was popular at my shows. My Etsy shop will be full of new goodies in the coming year!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Festival of Crafts Recap

Despite someone describing one of my cute new wool pincushions as a "voodoo cupcake", I think Worcester gets me. I had a fantastic show at the Worcester Center for Crafts Festival of Crafts last weekend!

It was my first really huge show, I was playing in the big leagues now, and I wasn't sure how they would like me. After all, I don't work with fire ie: ceramics, glass, metal, like so many of the higher-end artisans do. I work with brightly-colored, fluffy wool and polymer clay which some still see as just a children's toys. But I put my wares out and they were well received!

I had a fantastic spot, right off the entrance,

good lighting and excellent neighbors. The people running the center and the show could not have been nicer, more encouraging or more helpful. What a fantastic positive vibe in there! I know I'm gushing, but wow.

I made consistent sales and was only overwhelmed with people waiting in line to buy a few times.

The pace was overall very manageable. I did equal parts cash and credit, then a few more sales in checks. People seemed to be buying for themselves as well as for gifts.

The first day was all about cupcake ornaments and pincushions, the second day seemed all about nest pins,

though I generally sell at least a little of everything at each show I do. Each night I went home and while exhausted, made more items to keep my table looking full.

The husband was a huge help, driving me there and back, bagging orders, holding my rolly cart steady while I ran the knuckle buster for credit cards, going for coffee, and generally being a witness to the day and sharing the experience with me.

The vendor we sat next to was the delightful Molly Shattuck Thomas who also works in polymer clay. She has a fantastic eye for color and excels at combining her fascinating patterns into gorgeous necklaces, bracelets, earrings, hair pins and cuff links.

Her craftsmanship is excellent and I really fell for this pair of earrings in my favorite colors with elegant handcrafted ear wires:

A vendor situated in another room of the building sought me out for a trade and I couldn't be more pleased! Ji Hwang is sweet, smart AND talented! Her elegant display used tree branches to complement the natural forms of her precious metal jewelry. These stunning silver pod earrings feature a faceted coral bead in the perfect shade of fiery orange. Love!

I also had the pleasure of meeting the completely sweet Liz of Looka Jewelry. Check out her Etsy shop, her work is so carefully crafted and precious! This bunny just gets to me :) I also met Anna of Ham Crafted who was helping Liz out. Aren't her fabric creations fun?

I am still on cloud nine from the whole experience, I feel like I used up ten years' worth of luck. But even if that was the best of the season, I am satisfied!

Meanwhile the season does push forward. Tonight is the opening reception for the Winter Lights show at the Loading Dock Gallery. It's from 6-9, and you are invited! 10 artisans from Western Avenue Studios have banded together to make a lovely group show specifically to help you with your holiday shopping, yeah, we're thoughtful like that :)

Maybe we'll see you there :0)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Put Your Pencils Down...

...and turn in your blue books. That's what it feels like now that I am "forced" to stop making inventory and take a day off to enjoy Thanksgiving with family. (Although, I did pack some felting materials in case there is down time, hee hee, didn't think I would really stop, didja? :)

This morning I packed the car and drove 45 minutes southwest to Worcester. I've made a new table layout with new display pieces so I wasn't sure how to pack everything and how it would fit in the car but I worked it out. I even boxed Petunia, the mannequin and brought her along at TIG's insistence. I don't fight it anymore, I just do what the Candace tells me because she's ALWAYS right! Good thing she's cute or it would be super annoying :)

I found the Worcester Center for Crafts which is a COOL PLACE! Never been there before. It smells really good, like art school. I have an AMAZING space, seriously. I am so lucky and grateful.

I set up my tables, didn't quite unpack everything yet. But I'm really glad I went to early set-up so I could see how it will all go before Friday. I did have to change my game plan a tad when I saw the actual space. Plus I met some really nice people. Now I am calm and relaxed. Well, as relaxed as you'll ever see me, I'm a little intense. ;)

I even had time this evening to cook some cranberry sauce for tomorrow's feast at mom's! She knows how to make a pie that we can all eat though we do Atkins for life, my mom is the BEST!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Status Of Felting Agreement

My glassy eyed smile speaks volumes! I am very pleased at what I have been able to create, but there is always more that can be done.

I have gotten to a point where I feel I can set up at a craft show with a lovely display. Now I want to fill in a bit of backstock in case people actually buy my things!

You can see above a quick mock-up of the new table arrangement I will use for my two big shows, Worcester and South Boston. I even sewed a table skirt out of a flat sheet! It's all coming together :)

Friday, November 14, 2008


I sort of wandered aimlessly for the month of October, or so it feels now. Now that I have ONE WEEK to prepare for the biggest show of my career, the Worcester Center for Crafts's Festival of Crafts on November 28, 29 and 30. It seems a monumental task to prepare enough items in case the show is as big a success as I hope.

And what makes it harder is that I was stuck in new product development mode for a month when I really should have been cranking out the tried and true. But look at this cupcake ornament I made, isn't it sweet?

How can I deny the ideas in my head that want to become manifest when they are so adorable?? Now I must make a dozen of these for the show. I mean I can't NOT have them for the holidays. Not now that I know they exist.

I will just march forward until time is up and there I am in Worcester behind my table, greeting holiday shoppers, smiling, my husband backing me up.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Kielbasa Soup

I love Trader Joe's (except when they randomly stop selling my fave snacks). Anyway, I love that place, but I can't always come up with enough parts of a meal to make a whole dinner. Mostly because I live a low-carb lifestyle and though they carry excellent chicken and nitrate-free sausages, I have never had too much luck with their veggies. There have been, let's say, freshness issues coupled with the difficulty of buying for two when everything seems to come in bags of eight or more. Eight or more vegetables on the verge of compost.

So, having said all that, here is the soup recipe I came up with that uses mostly Trader Joe's ingredients: (oh, and apologies if you are a vegetarian, probably wanna skip this one)

2 boxes organic free range chicken broth
1 1 lb package nitrate-free kielbasa
1 small onion (I like to use the sweet ones), chopped
1 or 2 organic carrots, coined
1 or 2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 bag Trader Joe's 17 bean and barley mix
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon olive oil
pat of butter (because in my world fat isn't evil!)
Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute

Now If I was making this in a stock pot on the stove, I would soak the beans ahead of time, brown the onion and celery in butter and olive oil, then brown the kielbasa before adding all the other ingredients. But I have been making this in my crockpot lately and that really just involves throwing everything in the pot, putting it on low at 10 am and eating it piping hot and well cooked at 6 pm, yeah! (Thanks to Rosie and Geoff for the ability to time shift dinner cooking!!) This also allows me to come home and give Chester credit for cooking me dinner. Yes I talk to my cat. Yes I ask him if he made us dinner.

Be sure to rinse your beans, but no need to soak ahead!

Chop chop choppity chop

Here's the trick my mom showed me for getting the box of broth to pour easily, stab it at the other end to release the air! (This is only a good idea, of course, if you are using the whole box.)

Put it all together in the crock pot, set to low and cover!

This feeds us both for two days and sometimes one lunch! I like to toast low-carb bread and slather it with butter and garlic for the side, mmm...

Yes We Can!

I'm exhausted from staying up all night crying tears of hope and joy!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

An article in a local magazine!

I share a first name with a fab beader, Liz Stewart, who owns Lush Beads, the bead shop that recently moved from downtown to the studio across the hall from mine at Western Avenue. We are the "two Lizzes", Liz squared, Liz in stereo. At one time or another each of us has been "the other Liz." She is sometimes "Lush Liz".

We were recently interviewed by Nancye Tuttle of the Lowell Sun for a feature on locally made ornaments which is now published in the Nov/Dec insert called From House to Home which will be distributed in the Lowell Sun, available at certain Merrimack Valley CVS stores and delivered free to homes in this area.

The article is lovely, it's thrilling to have people take the time to find out about your work and then let other people in on it too. I've been busy since the interview, giving polymer clay demonstrations at Open Studios and making lots of new eggs to list in my shop!

My latest:

Friday, October 24, 2008

Remembering History: A Mortgage Story

I would like to give my dad props! He called it and I would like to acknowledge that.

My mom and dad:

Three years ago my husband and I had an opportunity to purchase the condo we'd been renting for five years. We found a mortgage broker and a lawyer in the phone book and conducted the whole transaction by phone and fax. We never even met the guys!

Our view: (one of the reasons we wanted to stay in our condo)

Dell and I had gone through a first-time home buyers class it was a great overview, but we still didn't understand all the details of buying a home. It's like planning a wedding, you are an expert in your big event only after it's over. The mortgage guy vetted us fairly thoroughly I thought, asking us to come up with past tax returns and 2 years of rent check receipts, etc. I don't feel like they threw a mortgage at us willy nilly. But what we ended up with was an interest-only, 5 year ARM (Adjustable Rate Mortgage), meaning after 5 years the rate would start adjusting, up? Down? Who knew?

We could see the inherent danger of an ARM, but we decided this was a good risk. We had bought the condo in a city that was having a renaissance and at under-market value while prices were zooming upwards. We figured we'd move or refinance before the five years was up, we were counting on the instant equity created by rising home prices. And we needed the low monthly payments to make it through. "Cash flow", my broker kept telling me and I agreed.

When I described the loan to my dad over lunch at my parents' house, he looked concerned. "These kinds of tricky loans are how we fell into the great depression!" he said bluntly (as is his style). I countered that we would be fine with the equity building in the condo while we just sat around and the certainty that we could re-fi before 5 years was up. It never occurred to me the condo price could fall. I thought for sure we as a country couldn't make those same mistakes of the 1930's again.

Think about this: My parents already had three kids when they bought their house in the 1960's. The bank sent men to the house to check it out for themselves! The story goes that when the bankers saw the architectural drawing my parents had framed on the wall, they figured my dad (an architect) was a good bet. Can you imagine? First, getting a mortgage from a bank, then, the bankers actually caring about who the loan was going to?

Well, back to today. You know how this story goes for the rest of the country, right? The housing bubble burst big time. As home prices plummeted, people found themselves holding sub-prime loans they could barely afford to begin with that were now worth more than their homes, making refinancing impossible. Adjustable rates were climbing monthly and pushing them out. We would probably be in a world of hurt if we hadn't refinanced into a 30 year, fully amortized loan about two years ago, before the bust.

We didn't do this because I listened to my dad, I wish I could say I did. We did it because we saw our second mortgage (secured to avoid Private Mortgage Insurance [PMI]) which was in the form of a Home Equity Line Of Credit (HELOC) with an adjustable rate, start to rise monthly. It started at 9% and quickly went as high as 11 1/2% with no ceiling in sight. It was like someone handed us a credit card loaded with $14,000 already spent and the interest rate went higher every month, it was pretty scary.

So we were lucky, we had been given a sub-prime loan without knowing what that was or what it meant in the larger picture (ie: mortgage brokers handing out risky loans like candy, then bundling them and selling them to investment banks who inflated their value and then went bust when the loans turned out to be worthless). We bought a home which was within our budget regardless of the market, we weren't lured to spend more than we could afford by pushy mortgage brokers like some were. We were able to re-fi before the market did a nose dive and our home was appraised at more than we paid originally. I can't help feel but for a few different moves, we'd be renting my old bedroom from my parents by now and licking our financial wounds.

Not that I mean to bash mortgage brokers, we had a great one the second time around who came to the condo and explained everything clearly, found us a reasonable loan at a decent percentage. Same with the lawyer who helped us close the re-fi, they wanted to be sure we knew what we were signing.

Without knowing it, we had been in the middle of the mortgage frenzy which led directly to the financial crisis we are witnessing now. I hope this debacle doesn't lead to another great depression, but I know from now on I will pay more attention to my dad's warning signals. He knows what smells fishy and he's a good person to pay attention to!

Monday, October 20, 2008

New Product Development

I'm designing a pincushion! A kind person on Etsy remarked that she loved my nest pin but wondered could it be made into a pincushion? I loved the idea so I started product development. I made it entirely from wool, the top is one of my nest circles. The pincushion is light but nicely firm. The lanolin in the wool will keep needles and pins from rusting. What made me smile was, once I'd made a few, I realized I really needed a pincushion on my work table, who knew? I have been really enjoying making them and using them. Keep an eye on my Etsy shop for this new item coming soon!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Show Season!

So I've participated in Lowell Open Studios, Western Avenue First Saturday Open Studios and The SOWA Market twice since I last wrote...this must be the start of the holiday season! No really, I am full-on thinking about solstice and Hanukah and Christmas and whatever else is coming up what seems like VERY fast. I'm making tons of felty goodies and polymer clay eggs so I have plenty on hand, trying to anticipate what might be a big seller and stocking up.

I'm doing some big shows this year and I am kinda nervous! Excited and nervous :) They were both juried and very expensive so I will take some higher end "art jewelry" pieces there, I think making those will be be fun! Stuff like this:

The first show is at the Worcester Center for Crafts, November 28, 10-5, 29th, 10-5 and the 30th, 10-4. The other is the SOWA Holiday Market, December 13th and 14th, 10-6.

And of course I am participating in Western Avenue Studios First Saturday Open Studio on November 1st from 12-5. In December, Western Avenue is having Open Studios on the first two weekends for your holiday shopping convenience :) I will only be there the first weekend though, as the second one coincides with the SOWA show :(

I am also involved in a group show at The Loading Dock Gallery which starts the day after Thanksgiving and runs through to Christmas, more on that in another post :)

*goes off to collapse in a heap*

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Lowell Open Studios!

It's almost here! City wide Open Studios in Lowell will be happening this weekend and if you get a chance you should really come by Western Avenue Studios and meet all of us. We are super-friendly artists and we would love to say hello! Wear comfy shoes, bring a snack, and a GPS 'cause it's a little tricky to locate us if it's your first time. There are five floors of art studios in a cool old mill building complex plus a gallery. It's overwhelming and fun, see you there!