Friday, December 31, 2010

Scarf or Not Scarf?

All four of these items are covet-worthy, but two are scarves and two are not. Watch as I sort items that dance on the fine line. Click the link below each photo to go to the ravelry store for each item.

It's titled as a shawl, but it's so thin that this counts as a scarf in my book. Tiny tiny shawl=scarf.

This on the other hand is a full sized shawl worn as a scarf. Shawl=Not scarf.

A lovely cowl is certainly a scarf. Cowl = Scarf

This is a gigantic cowl, but it's more of a poncho or cape. Cape= Not scarf.

These are all beautiful, but I think the rule of thumb here is about size. Anything too gigantic stops being a scarf except maybe on the runway.

So you've guessed by now what I'm doing starting tomorrow, right? It's pretty obvious because I'm not very good at being mysterious. Also there are tags. Anyway, see you tomorrow!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Picky Picky Scarves are Tricky

If I'm going to start a project and it's going to revolve around the scarf, I had better lay down the rules, eh?

Scarf –noun
1. a broad strip of wool, silk, lace, or other material worn about the neck, shoulders, or head, for ornament or protection against cold, drafts, etc. ; muffler.
2. a necktie or cravat with hanging ends.
3. a long cover or ornamental cloth for a bureau, table, etc.

I feel that there's a lot of wiggle room in this definition. First off, I'm going to scratch definition number three. It's not that I don't think it's a valid definition; it's just that I don't particularly enjoy making those sorts of things.

Next I feel that the first and second entry somewhat contradict each other. I have never seen a "broad" necktie. Maybe they exist, but I just can't picture it and still imagine it looking nice.

Also, in my world a thing that is meant to be around your shoulders is a cape or a shawl. You can certainly wear a shawl scarf-style, but that doesn't turn it into a scarf. Some shawls are very slight and can cross the line, but in general if they are as wide as they are long, that's just not a scarf to me.

I seem to think that if something is ornamental that it needn't be defined by it's size. In my mind a scarf can be broad, sure, but it could be slender. After all, isn't the phrase "skinny scarf" in common use?

So for the purposes of my 2011 project, let's see what we have left.

A scarf is a strip of material worn around the neck and/or head for ornament or protection from cold. A scarf can be broad or slender. A scarf can have hanging ends or be secure. Yes, in my world a cowl is a scarf and a tight collar is also a scarf as long as it covers the neck.

Tomorrow I'll search out a bunch of pictures of scarves and not scarves so we'll all be in the know.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Necessary Cold Weather Gear III

Gigantic arteries carrying warm, oxygen-rich blood are totally exposed because you aren't covering your collar area! Thanks to SCIENCE we now know that covering something warm is "insulating" and will prevent a loss of heat. Use this to your advantage with one of the following neck warmers.

This is a scarf.

I made this one. (in my shop on etsy)
It's a very long rectangle that keeps you warm. It's very easy to wear because it is so versatile. You can wrap it, fold it, tie it, and let it hang free. If it's long enough you can wrap your head, neck and hands all at the same time!

Oh. I see. Too many places around you for it to get caught. That's fine. Why not try this one on for size?

This is a cowl.
This is by Mandizzle, a teammate of Cleveland Handmade.
It's like a scarf because it hangs around your neck, but it's connected into a continuous circle. The hanging bits that would have gotten caught are now taken care of. Once again, you can wrap it more than once if it's large enough and cover your head.

One size fits all isn't your style, eh? Well, la-di-da, I can STILL help you!

This has a multitude of names. Dickie, collar, turtleneck. Invent your own name if you like.
This is by Katrinchen on etsy.
Granted, this is a unitasker, but I assume you've read the previous two entries and have warm heads, ears, and hands by now.

You ARE properly warmed by various fashionable yet functional outdoor apparel, aren't you? Well stay tuned! I've a lot yet to say and display about that cold neck.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Necessary Cold Weather Gear II

Your little digits look a little cold there, chief. Ever think about covering those suckers up? Ah. Pockets. Yes that's a good place for them most of the time. What will you do when you have to pull them out of your pockets to fiddle with keys, bags, hair, and everything else in the world with which you need to interact? Got you there, didn't I?

These are mittens.
These were made by Etsy teammate Caffeinated Frenzy
They cover your whole hand and keep your piggies warm! Frostbite should fear your cold weather gear! Oh you say you'd rather be able to move your fingers around. That's not a problem.

These are gloves.
This pair was embellished by another teammate Raging Wool
There you see? Now your fingers are still warm, but they're all separate so you can still feel the freedom of flying fingers.

What? You want to be able to touch the things you're fiddling with? Well, we can help there too.

These are fingerless gloves.
Look! Your fingers are free, they're exposed, you can touch things like your ipod and your iphone and your eyeball. Have I convinced you yet to dress warmly and keep your poor little ticklers cozy?

Next I'll have a thing or two to say about that exposed neck area. (And I'll really be getting excited about my project HINT HINT)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Necessary Cold Weather Gear

We are DEEP into winter now in the Northern Hemisphere and yet I'm still sometimes seeing otherwise sane people choosing a hoodie and sweatshirt pairing to brave the elements. I shall assume that this is a matter of blissful ignorance and therefore offer this guide in hopes that one of the offenders will read it and realize the common sense of the matter. I'm also winding myself down into my big project for the coming year.

This is a hat.
This one was made by my friend and Etsy teammate LaztTCrochet.
See how it hangs out on top of the head? See how it covers up the ears to keep your little hearing dudes warm? It's very useful for preventing the heat that rises up out of your head from escaping.

Oh you don't want to mess up your hairdo? Well how about one of these?

This is a headband or ear warmer.
This one was made by yours truly.
You'll notice this time that the crown of the head is uncovered so it won't upset your hair. But it still covers the ears! You won't have to worry about your cold red ears falling off if they are kept warm and normal colored!

What's that? You're STILL worried about your hair?

Fine fine.

These are earmuffs.
This pair is available from The Perfect Present.

Now you really can't argue with that right? It's the absolute bare minimum you can wear and still keep your side-flaps from freezing right off your head.

Next time, we'll talk about things that keep your hands warm.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Let's Get Started!

I've a giant project in the works for the new year, friends!

I know I usually neglect my blog, but starting on New Year's Day, it will be an integral part of keeping me to my goal.

Anticipate daily updates throughout the year and it will be of greatest interest to fellow crafters, knitters, and crocheters. I'm really going to need support with this one, so leave comments, leave links, and maybe leave photos too once it's well underway.

Here's to creativity in 2011!! (You'll find out the project soon enough!)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Embarrassing Stories: My Worst Christmas

This little story is more sad than embarrassing. Pathetic is similar to embarrassing, right?

The Bells and Whistles

When I was in high school, I was very active in my church choir. I sang alto and sometimes mezzo soprano. I played the saxophone, orchestral bells, handbells, cymbals and a host of other music enhancing percussion instruments.

At Christmas and other important church holidays, I was in high demand. This particular Christmas, I had agreed to play in every single mass that would be held at my parish. How many masses was I playing? Well, let's list them: Children's mass, Evening mass, Midnight Vigil Mass, Christmas Morning, Christmas Late Morning, and I believe there was at least one other nondescript mass. Since most of the masses were an hour and Midnight Vigil was around three, that's at very least 8 hours I spent in church over those 2 days.

My extended family had planned a Christmas Eve get together that year, which was disappointing for me since I would not be able to attend.

"We'll probably be home before the final mass is over and we'll have a Christmas Eve together then," my family members said.

I walked to the church early in the afternoon, played through the first 2 masses, twiddled my fingers until the midnight mass, played through, and then walked myself home around 11:30 at night. (This was before I could drive, you see) I called out into the dark house.


I'll have a Blue Christmas without you.

My family wasn't home yet.

I was starving by this time as I hadn't eaten since lunch and checked the fridge, thinking that a plate of Christmas dinner would have been saved for me. I would reheat my leftovers and at least have a little Christmas for myself.


Finding no plate set aside on the counter, in the fridge, or anywhere at all, I began looking for at least something to eat at all. Let's face it though. It was Christmas Eve. All of the food in the house had been ingredients for the various pot luck dishes that had been taken to the party. And those same pot luck dishes were to be leftovers for the next few days. And I came from a family that didn't stock spaghetti-O's.

I did however find one semi-palatable thing that Christmas Eve night as I sat on the couch in a dark house at midnight watching the first showing of A Christmas Story at the beginning of its annual 24 hour marathon.

And that's how it came to be known as "Canned Creamed Corn Christmas."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Embarrassing Stories, Bleed for Band

This is a short and sweet one that I expect has been experienced by many to some degree.

Marching Band

I loved marching band. I played alto saxophone and sat first chair for 3 years running. I had the baddest roll step this side of the 50 yard line. Band was loud, athletic, communal, and disciplined and I loved it!

Our band was in the middle of the road as far as skill. We were thrilled just to make it to state competitions. A show band, we marched the same show game after game trying to get it to look just right. We had a practice field behind the high school so we could march while still on school grounds and on Wednesday nights, there would be an extra 2-3 hours of practice at the football stadium. Our director would sit way up in the stands with a bullhorn so he could see our formations.

One Wednesday evening, we're practicing a particular routine which involved the flags passing through the saxophone line. Wouldn't you know it? I get whacked in the face. Not being the kind of person to make a scene, I shock it off and kept on marching. In my mind I'm saying, "Welp, that'll be a fat lip before the end of the night."

We reset the formation and one of my fellow band members says to me, "Amanda! You're gushing!"


"There's blood all over your face!"

I place a palm to my lip, pull it away, and sure enough there's a respectably sized red pool! For those that don't play an instrument, you may be thinking "how could you possibly not notice the feeling of blood?" I assure you, you wouldn't have noticed either. I was sweaty from marching and my mouth was spitty from playing. It's surprisingly easy to overlook.

Well, the stadium restrooms are locked up so I can't go there to clean up and I don't have any tissues on me, and I was NOT about to walk around tapping everyone on the shoulder looking for a couple of napkins because how embarrassing would THAT be? So I start climbing the many many stairs to my director.

"Do you have something I can clean up with?" I say.

He looks at me for a moment and then does a small double take. He lifts up his bullhorn and....

"Does anyone have any tissues?"


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Embarrassing Stories, Kelley's Island Day

September 15th was a very special day for my co-workers at the Jet Express. This is why.

Kelley's Island

Kelley's Island is a respectably sized island off the north coast of Ohio. It's known for the glacial grooves along the northern shore and a popular local tourist destination. At the time I was an employee of The Jet Express, a small boat line that serviced the island and a few other islands in Lake Erie.

Kelley's Island is actually less heavily traveled than the smaller, but more lively South Bass Island (home of Put-in-Bay) so when I was scheduled to work there, it was prudent to plan for a slow, blisteringly boring day. I packed my own lunch, I packed a book, and I packed my last nerve because I would need it to keep myself sane.

The morning shift was unique because we had no one to catch the line for the first boat. We would generally draw lots, or rochambeaux to decide who would be the one to jump and catch the first line of the day. On this particular day, it was my turn.

You all saw this coming didn't you? I climbed out over the railing, I waited to get near enough to the dock and I lost my grip at just the wrong time stepping casually into the water.

I'm not one to lose my head. I tread water and pondered my predicament. I wasn't strong enough to just climb up the poles of the dock. I couldn't climb back up the boat as the hull was smooth.

Luckily, there's a man on the dock who saw me fall. He was wearing a black hawaiian shirt and a bucket hat covered in little colorful fishing lures. He threw his hand up in the air in a fist (the sign for stop docking and hold your position). The captain that day mistook him for a drunken tourist (and let's face it, that is exactly what he looked like) giving the fist in the air sign for "Yeah! Power to ya, man!" and just kept doing what he was doing. One of the other crew members also saw me, jumped to the dock successfully and threw me a rope.

So I'm sitting on the dock soaked and the captain walks off the gangplank, looks down at me and say, "What happened to you?" I couldn't do more than sheepishly grin and shake my head.

Of course there was another crew member on the stern of the boat who also saw the whole situation and he was quick to tell everyone else at the company what happened. I wasn't able to go home since at the time, I was a teenager, I didn't have a house key, and my parents weren't home, so I just worked through my shift all wet. Part way through my shift I get a phone call on the company phone.

They had written a poem. I wish I could recall how it went, but I do remember it having a line about how sad I was to have soaked my lunch. As I remember it, before the boat took off, I had complained that I was worried about whether or not my tortilla sandwich had survived the dunk.

In retrospect, it was a much more dangerous situation than it seemed. Since I came out unscathed, it was merely one of the more embarrassing moments of my life.

I do think on that poem rather fondly, though.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Survival Guide: Velociraptors

I had a dream that Velociraptors existed and were hungry for the human race. If my dreams are actually premonitions, then you'll be glad you're reading this.

What to do when Velociraptors attack

First, let us assess our situation. Let us assume that assumptions made in current books and movies are correct or else we're already in deep doo.

  • Velociraptors are fast.
  • Velociraptors can learn.
  • Velociraptors eat humans.

Next let us assess our own abilities. There are three basic survival instincts built into nearly all beings. Fight. Run. Hide. Velociraptors are clearly bigger, stronger, and built with more sharp things than humans. Fighting would be unwise. Velocity is right in the name! Naturally, running is out. Therefore through the process of elimination, hiding is our best strategy.

Proper Hiding Procedure

Hiding: To place oneself in a location or position unknown to another.

The most important thing to remember about hiding is that it is both a skill and an art. You can learn the skill and be quite proficient, but you must camouflage with your soul and your heart before you become a true master.

Common hiding places include around corners, behind trees, in closets, under beds, and other often cramped but closed off places. While these are very good places to hide when death is not at stake, we must take a slightly different approach when dealing with these most dangerous of beasts.

Because Velociraptors can learn, they will likely recognize anything that is door-like in appearance and they will take special care to check those places for your delicious flesh. I suggest that you find something that doesn't look like a door yet still functions as a door and hide therein.

One example of such a sneaky door would be the pull down ladder attic. Velociraptors have small claw hands with very little fine motor skills. The dangling string which one would use to pull down this trap-style door would be nearly impossible for a Velociraptor to grab hold. Just to be safe, when you pull the door up, tuck that dangling string in. When using this hiding place, be as still as possible. A Raptor's acute sense of hearing will pick up the creaky boards and be your undoing. I suggest taking a seat with a friend and playing some nice quiet card games until the reptilian hunting party takes leave.

Another example of a sneaky door is the angled attic door. These are most often seen in older houses with an extra half story. The second floor of such a house usually has at least one angled ceiling. The attic door is sometimes a recessed panel opening upwards into the space. If you choose to hide in one of these doors, be sure to strategically place a strap of fabric in the lower corner of the door so that you have a handle to open the door back up. This type of door often has no handle on the inside, so without this fabric strip, you may find yourself well hidden, but also quite trapped.

Trapdoor basements provide an excellent hiding place. Not only is the trapdoor not likely to be recognized as a door by a Velociraptor, but by attatching a rug to the top of the trapdoor, you can make this camouflaged door even more effective. In addition, lifting is a weak point for the Raptor. They would have a great deal of trouble opening the trapdoor in the first place. As a final bonus, your basement can be heavily stocked with canned and dried goods for long term survival situations.

Take the time to look around your home, apartment, or neighborhood for good hiding places.

Special Notes:
Do not let a Velociraptor see you opening these sneaky doors! They are learning creatures and will begin looking for sneaky doors.

Please take special care not to hide in plain sight! Velociraptors differ from Tyrannosaurs in that standing still does not make you invisible to them!

When fighting is the only option

If you are out on an open plain with nowhere to hide, you may need to fight as a last resort. Please consider this advice.

Do not run. Stand your ground and face your enemy. You cannot outrun a Velociraptor and you'll only be exposing your delicious spinal cord. You will need some sort of weapon. In order from most effective to least effective are explosives, firearms, crossbows, swords, and clubs. Because these first three are obvious in their use and to be used at a distance, I will only cover techniques in hand to hand combat.

A Velociraptor's weakest joints are the point at which its head meets its neck and the ankles. Naturally, I am speaking comparatively. The entire body is a force of muscle and sinew, but these are the places you should focus on.

With a club or blunt object: It is necessary for the bludgeoning object to at least double your reach. Your goal is to get the Velociraptor on the ground and to knock it out. Velociraptors have very strong skulls, so it will be necessary for you to aim carefully at the base of the skull to be most effective. You only have one chance for success. When the Raptor leaps, swing across your body not unlike a baseball stance and try to make contact either with the clawed feet or the side of the head. If you make contact, quickly aim a downward blow at the base of the skull. It will likely take multiple swings to subdue your foe.

With a sword or machete: It is again absolutely necessary that your sharp object be at least as long as your arm to double your reach. A Velociraptor is likely to jump when it attacks. Brace yourself, and carefully time your swing. Your swing should be a large fast motion perpendicular to your stance. When the ankles are in range, swing upwards to sever the tendons at the back of the heel and throw off the balance of the jumping beast while at the same time, stepping sideways so as not to be knocked down by the forward force of the Velociraptor's body.. If you've timed your swing carefully and your sword was sharp enough to cause the mentioned damage, you should then take another swing at the head. The ideal situation would have you beheading the creature and posing dramatically over its body.


You have just completed this survival guide. If you meet a Velociraptor and survive the tale with help from this guide, please share your tale that we all may take pride in your success.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Garage Sale Heaven

A successful garage sale depends on a lot of factors! Here are some things that catch my eye and might get me to spend a few dollars at your next shindig. Many of these will remind you of the craft show post recently. It makes sense because you're trying to sell.

Get my attention!

The garage sale sign is an art form. I imagine that I could't count the number of times I drove right by a sale because I had no idea it was there. And in brown, I suggest what would have caught my eye much better.

  • The tiny sale sign that you can buy at your local Mart is NO GOOD. You can't even fit your address in the little white bar at the bottom and there often isn't even an arrow to point down your street. Make your sign big. And make it yourself. You can put some design into it and make it really stand out.
  • The big hunk of cardboard you wrote on is NO GOOD. It's the same color as the telephone pole you stapled it to. Camouflage is not something you want to do with your garage sale sign. Use something brighter or at least lighter colored. Or go the exact opposite direction with something much darker with white writing.
  • The piece of neon printer paper is NO GOOD. Sure, it's colorful, but have you ever heard of "too long; didn't read"? Well this would be "Too small; couldn't read." Assume most people will be driving when they see your sign. A very wide Poster Sharpie will go a long way
  • Leaving your lawn bare is NO GOOD. Post a sign in your yard in case someone wasn't paying close attention to the address!
Show me what'ya got.

Now that I'm here, let me see your wares.

  • That blanket on the lawn with everything laying in the center is NO GOOD. I can't reach the things in the center without tumbling over, and I feel like a hunchback just browsing. Put your items up on tables. Garage workbenches, picnic tables, and card tables all work equally well.
  • Your clothing is all in a cardboard box or worse (a trash bag!) and that is NO GOOD. I don't have the motivation to pull out every item and check the tags. Plus I have to dig through it all leaving it a mess afterward and that's even less appealing. Use your clothesline, fence, or garage door as a clothing rack. Post a sign stating all the sizes that are available and organize them.
  • So how much is this? Should I make an offer? Making me wonder is NO GOOD. Post those prices! You'll always have hagglers, but many people will just hand over exactly what you ask for it. You can potentially make more than you expected!
  • I was on the lookout for certain kinds of items. You had them, but I didn't see them. Having everything everywhere is NO GOOD. Organize your secondhand wares logically. Taking a little extra time to put like items together such as books with unused greeting cards and notebook paper, movies with older movie players, and toys near the kids clothing makes it easier for the buyers on a mission to spot what they were hoping for.
Tips for a JACKPOT garage sale.

Here are some clever ideas I've noticed when browsing through some jackpot garage sales I've been to.
  • Masking tape is your best friend. It comes off easily, you can write a price or size directly on it, it's very inexpensive, and you probably have some already! I was at a sale recently with a bunch of different sized jeans. Each pair had a size written on a piece of masking tape right on the front pocket. 34x36, 16W, 18mo. I ended up buying 3 pairs of jeans all of which fit, and all because I could glance the size in a moment. If that doesn't sound impressive, it was the first time I've bought clothing at a garage sale in years.
  • Save up your plastic grocery bags. My arms can only carry so much! It sure was a great way for the seller to get rid of her bags and give me more incentive to keep looking and filling that bag now that everything wasn't falling out of my arms.
  • Host a group sale. Nothing gets my attention faster than the phrase "multi-family." Use that masking tape and a set of your child's many colors of marker to keep track of each family's earnings.
  • Unloading can still be profitable. If someone looks interested in a handful of empty picture frames, give him a deal and get the whole lot off your hands! You'll make more by selling the lot (might not have sold each piece separately) and he's happy because of the great deal you gave him.
  • Breaking a set can be profitable too. You'll find this a lot with crafters and handymen(women). I only want a single zipper/cabinet knob, but you're selling the entire box. Sometimes you can pull one or two items from a set and later on sell the rest as a lot for the original asking price anyway.
  • Put the radio on. Ease the awkward silence of browsing for the hunters and have a more enjoyable day yourself with some great tunes!
In any case, have a great time and I can't wait to rummage through your garage sale sometime.

Garage Sale!

Garage sale, yard sale, church sale, junk sale. There are 4 levels of direct secondhand shopping in Amanda and Kevin -land.

Level 4: Not at all interested, The PEGASH

If you are the type of person to likes to settle into a neighborhood for a while, you've likely encountered the PErpetual GArage Sale House or PEGASH. Yes I just made that acronym up. I'm sticking with it. Join me!

Let's assume that normal household will have a garage sale approximately once per year and often in early spring and summer. Logical reasons to have a garage sale are as follows:
  • I bought fun things at Christmas that replace older things I no longer need.
  • I just did my spring cleaning and found lots of clutter that no longer interests me.
  • I just cleaned my closet and I'm thinner/heavier and these clothes don't fit.
  • The weather is mild and comfortable and I don't mind sitting on a lawn chair for 5-10 hours today with the things I gathered in the previous three bullet-points.
The PEGASH doesn't follow this logic and will use the following semi-logical reasons instead.
  • I never work on Thursday, so that will be sale day from now until the end of time.
  • I made this garage sale sign last time and even though it's faded and can no longer be read, I want to get my money's worth.
  • None of this junky clutter sold at my last 7 garage sales, so I better try again.
  • I bought this off the clearance rack at Walmart and believe I can profit by reselling it at this garage sale.
  • There's no such thing as Goodwill or Salvation Army.
I can and do recognize the signs of my local PEGASHes and don't even bother a glance. I didn't want your baby food jars of rusted washers the last time or the time before, and I don't want them now. But at least I know you'll still be around when I do think up a good use for them.

Level 3: Slow Drive-by, The LOKI

I think the acronym for this type of garage sale is incredibly appropriate. Loki of course was the Norse God of mischief. I first heard that in the Jim Carrey movie "The Mask" and what do you know? It's true!

The signs for a LOKI sale will say:
1000s OF FINDS

I would be and am certainly curious! How many items will there be? Will I find a new paperback novel to adore? I hope they have a shelf that will fit above my toilet!

As the car makes its way slowly down Everytown Avenue, the warning lights go off one by one. The sign on the front lawn, unlike the one at the corner is decorated with streamers, glitter, and stickers. Five children of various ages are playing soccer in the front yard. The driveway is lined with large colorful plastic. Is that a stroller?

LOKI stands for "Lots Of Kids Items."
What makes this type of sale mischievous as the Norse God? The signs usually fail to include the word "kids." For a family, this is no issue of all. For a young couple with no children, we feel we've been duped. Curse you LOKI and your blanket marketing!! Why do you laugh in the face of TARGET marketing? Sorry, but I'm afraid we will drive slowly by.

Level 2: The Standard Garage Sale

This is the sale we've all come to expect, and we are happy to stop and take a look around. No witty acronym is needed. Your sign was straight forward, you've laid your items all out on a few card tables. Your prices are either reasonable or you're willing to haggle. You had a copy of both Sister Act and Sister Act 2 on VHS for a quarter each!

You realize that a garage sale is about clearing out the clutter and not about raking in the cash. Yes, the cash is a bonus, but you don't want those Hummel knock off figurines anymore. That rug was ugly when it was new. You never wore that sweater in the 80s and you wouldn't be caught dead in it now. When your sale is over, you're happy to cart the rest of it off to Goodwill.

Don't get me wrong! I have also seen some garage sales with a separate table for handmade goods such as candles, needlework, and soap! But a true garage salesman knows that if those handmade goods sell, it's a welcome bonus and not the rule. Garage sales are for bargain hunters and fun shoppers.

Level 1: JACKPOT

This is it. The Mother Load. This is the sale you have a 5 second fantasy about every time you see a garage sale sign. The fantasy in which you see something from your past that you've been searching for these past 9 years. The fantasy when you finally complete your Amber Fenton Glass in Lily of the Valley for a reasonable price! The fantasy in which you walk down a driveway and see a person of your exact dimensions and personal style with the clothing hanging on a convenient rack and in brands that you already know fit you well!

These heavenly sales do exist and if you happen to find one, the entire rest of your week will be seen through rose colored glasses. I can't give you advice on finding these sales, but if you're hosting a sale of your own, please visit this blog again! My next post will be about some of the clever garage sale tricks I've seen that made me stay and buy and search and maybe even squee a little bit.

See you next time!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tips from a Buyer /Seller on Craft Shows

This was a very long Etsy post I made that I thought should be preserved here in hopes that any stray readers will find it helpful.

Craft Show Advice from an Amateur Seller and a Pro Buyer!
(or A Craft Show Survival Guide)

I have been to my fair share of craft shows and I rarely leave empty handed. I have participated in a few as well on an amateur level and I'm happy to share my advice based on my experience as both a buyer and a seller.

Things you should definitely have on hand:

--LOTS of Inventory! If you didn't bring it, you can't sell it and it's horrible to run out of product knowing there are still people who would've bought on the spot but aren't interested in waiting.
--Bags/boxes for purchases
--Business cards if you have them to encourage repeat customers and promote your online shop as well if you have one.
--Paper, pens/pencils for keeping track of your sales, taking custom order information or anything that comes up
--Calculator for the big buyers
--A hefty cash drawer to make change
--A reliable friend to watch your booth while you use the bathroom or get a drink (more talkative the better, they have to sweet talk your buyers when you're away!)
--A nice table cover to hide the unsightly folding table that will likely be provided.
--Your craft show contract. You never know who will ask to see it to make sure you've got your t's and i's crossed and dotted.

Things that it would be to have nice if you can swing it:

--A stool. Being elevated even when seated gives you a better business presence than a chair. Your buyers will be standing after all and you don't want to have them looking down to you. If you can, stand as much as possible.
--A receipt book. It rarely comes up in small local craft shows, but some people who make a big purchase will want a receipt, so it's useful to have on hand. (If you're doing a juried event, I would move this suggestion into the must have category.)
--Your knuckle buster. If you have a propay account or another way to take credit cards, definitely have it with you. Do not take information and use your paypal account however. This is against their terms or use and can lock your account or possibly land you a fine or a sentence :(
--Snacks. You're likely in for a longish day. Having a snack will keep you at your table with your customers more of the time, just be careful to be discreet when you eat. If people think you're making a crummy mess, that will affect the way they see your work.
--Your mannequin. If there is room for it in your designated area, bring it! Change the outfit throughout the show. A manny really gets great attention!
--Tall slender shelving that is safe to stand on the tables. Vertical tables tend to attract more attention. If you have space behind your booth, consider using the area as a display for more products or for your banner if you have one.
--Vendor's license. I know not everyone on Etsy/Artfire/etc has one which is why it's currently in this category. You never know who will ask to see yours. (If this is a juried show, make this a must have)

Things to avoid:

--As much as I hate to say it, avoid crafting. It's great to demonstrate that you are the artist, but it prevents you from engaging your customers and takes your eyes away from your table and onto your hands. If you can do it without looking, go ahead, but make sure you're available the very moment someone needs you.
--Long conversations primarily with your reliable friend that came along. Some folks won't want to interrupt and it's a potential sale loss.
--Don't start taking your items down until the show is over! Last minute sales are always lurking! If you choose you can also offer discounts for the last half hour to help move merchandise. That's up to you of course.
--Don't block your table. Stand to the side or behind so that you're never a wall between your customers and your products.

What to do while you're there:

--Smile... a lot. A really lot! Engage your potential buyers. Don't hard sell, just be friendly and willing to answer questions and encourage them to touch your creations if it's clothing and try things on if it's jewelry.
--Be friendly to your neighboring craft tables. Maybe you'll spark a trade. Maybe you'll spark a collaboration! Or a get a discount. Who knows?
--Make sure all your items prices are easy to find. Not everyone will ask and that is a potential lost sale.
--If you plan on taking checks, ask for a driver's license and a phone number. The phone number will get you in touch with them if the check bounces and the driver's license number will get authorities in touch with them if they go AWOL. I hope this never happens to you :) Most people at handmade shows are completely trustworthy and responsible!
--Browse. Before the doors open, shop around. You won't be tempted to leave your stall during the show this way!
--Buy. If you see something you love, support your local artists! They will likely support you in return by advertising word of mouth and visiting your stall at some point.
--If you enjoy haggling and you will still make a profit, go for it. If your prices are firm, be firm. It's your business model and you're free to choose.

*Above all!*
--Be Positive. This is different than just smiling. Even if you're hardly selling at all and your back hurts and you're hungry, speak as if you've had the most profitable day ever, you feel like a teen again and you're as satisfied as can be. "I'm having a great time!" is your mantra.

If you're having a craft show soon, I hope you have a great time and many sales!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Color my World

8 Questions Game Part 5

5) What color are your walls?

Cream. We're apartment dwellers! Whadaya want from us? Unfortunately as tenants, we are unwilling to pay the extra charge for the privilege of wall painting so let's expand the question to include some symbolism and interpretation, shall we?

5a) What color is your life?

Kevin and I have had a color scheme right from the beginning. His favorite color is green. Any green at all. Kelly green, emerald, leaf, forest. Happily, you can make any green look good with any other green in the proper proportions. My favorite color is purple. Not all purples, mind you, but thick and rich royalty purple and crisp friendly lavender.

Add them up? What do you get?

Lilacs! Violets! Orchids!

You get a lovely garden. I like to think that it's a pretty decent metaphor for our living habits. We aren't the tidiest sorts (every garden needs dirt), but we don't let bad things get us down (a flower needs the rain to grow), and if you stand back you can enjoy the view (which we do!) Should I continue? Nah. You get the picture :)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Taking it Easy

8 Questions game Part 4

4) How do you relax?

What DON'T I do to relax? I think we shall break this down into 2 parts. Part 1 will include ways we relax by doing things. Part 2 shall be ways we relax by not doing things. I'll mention Kevin here and there, why not?

Part 1: Relax by Doing

Amanda: YARN! Knit it, crochet it, braid it, organize it, make a mess with it. YARN! Please feel free to have a look at some of my yarn creations in our Etsy shop.

I have also recently begun yarn bombing locally. Also called knit bombing, yarn storming and just plain old yarn graffiti, it is a new form of street art that was most likely begun in Texas by an individual but now a group called Knitta, Please. Knitted, crocheted, woven and embroidered pieces of fabric are sewn or tied into public areas. Trees wear sweaters, door handles receive cozies. Bike racks, street signs, hand rails, sculptures are all fair game. I am a solitary yarn bomber at the moment, and while I storm alone, my goals are thus:

  • Enhance the mundane so that even areas that may be ignored can be seen as beautiful.
  • Publicly display the beauty of pattern and texture.
  • Encourage others to look carefully and seek interest all around.
  • Offer street art which is neither offensive nor permanent so that people may see and smile.
I also enjoy macrame and origami. (Yarn bombs photos are added as I complete them to this set.)

Kevin: Kevin has taken up cross-stitching and he has really started taking on some ambitious projects. You can see some of his completed stitchery on his flickr page found here.

Kevin also has been writing and drawing a webcomic which he updates every other day. Idget has come a long way since he first started. While he does not at this point have any intention of making this a career, it's still a relaxing hobby and a fun read! I certainly have read the entire set (nearly a decade's worth!) a few times through! Around 2005 Kevin began coloring each and every comic and I really think most of his best work is more recent. One of my favorites:

Both of us: Together we have started a small garden. It's rather unsuccessful now, but with what we've learned this year, we'll surely be able to grow something or other next year. Until this, it's still nice to get outside once in a while.

We also enjoy cooking together. Someday maybe we'll be able to cook from veggies grown in our little garden!

Part 2, Relaxing by not doing

Relaxing the lazy but still entertaining way!

Video Games: We are big Nintendo fans and it's looking like we're going to stay that way for a long time. I love my WiiFit and Kevin is a Brawler. If you know Nintendo at all, this needs no explanation.

Movies: BAD movies are a kick. I recommend Rifftrax for those who are fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000. For those that haven't heard of either one allow me this explanation. Did you ever go to a bad movie and partway through you begin to snark at it? The acting is bad, the plot is iffy, the special effects are laughable and you just have to speak up. Let's have some comedians doing the commentary and you have Rifftrax. Making mediocre movies hilarious and even borderline good movies can be pretty darn funny!

Napping. It doesn't get more relaxing than that. I recommend it. Often.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Read to me!

8 questions game Part 3

3)What books are you reading right now?

What you have to know about Kevin and Amanda, we're bedtime story people. Kevin is the reader, and I am the listener.

Night after night, we go to bed at a very reasonable hour (which is obscenely early for most other people) and I bring my knitting, my crochet, or a mindless video game and Kevin lays on his stomach and begins reading out loud. Sometimes we get through a chapter per night. Sometimes more and sometimes less depending on the book.

We just finished Peter Pan and Wendy by J.M. Barrie. And before that we read 3 books by Roald Dahl: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, and The Witches.

Hanging out in the wings until we get to them? Treasure Island (oooo, it's leather bound and re published in 41). We have a couple of short story compilations which I hope we read from soon.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Question 2 - Grow up and Get a job

8 Questions Part 2

What do you want to be when you grow up?

This answer is incredibly boring, but I'm the kind of person that treasures security. I want to be a property owner. I'm still young, and I have lots of time to accomplish that goal, but for now? I'm impatient.

As a child I lived in a comfortable home with my parents and my younger brother and we had a modest back yard where we could play on our swings and help Mom plant her garden (sometimes slightly overgrown) and sit on the picnic table and blow bubbles while Dad mowed the lawn.

Some day I want that for myself.

Friday, June 25, 2010

8 Questions Game

I've been tagged! Spinndiva of Rambling Designs poses 8 simple questions which will help readers know more about me! I owe her one because I now have a real reason to get myself on this blog and typing! Thank you for the nudge!

And to really get the most out of it, I'm going to give each question its own post, why not?

1) What's your staple meal? (What do you cook most often when you aren't feeling adventurous?)

Kevin and I (Amanda) recently purchased America's Test Kitchen: Let's Get Cooking for the Nintendo DS. Ever since then, I'm not sure we still HAVE a staple meal! Step by step instructions and encouragement read in a soothing voice for classic American staples have made us more willing to put some extra time into our meals.

We used to default to a frozen pizza, but the pizza crust recipe is so easy and quicker than one would expect that we now are quite happy to make pizza from scratch!

Our favorite toppings? Mushrooms, pepperoni, deli turkey and cayenne pepper.
I like anchovies, but I know when I buy them they are for me and me alone.

Wondering what we eat when we aren't following video game instructions? Pasta. Easy, fast and fun to embellish. Our toppings of choice? Chorizo and corn.

For those that don't know, chorizo is a delicious sausage available both refrigerated or smoked and is flavored with Mexican spices such as cumin, cayenne, and many different peppers. I prefer refrigerated because it cooks so quickly and there's no need to chop it up. Be warned though, it is NOT a lean meat! If you're on a strict diet, be prepared to sacrifice dessert!

Spicy Chorizo Chili Mac (for 2)
6 oz Spaghetti (macaroni, rigatoni, and shells also work well)
8 oz refrigerated picante chorizo
1/2 of a small onion, diced (vidalia is my choice!)
1 15 oz can of sweet corn
6 oz shredded cheddar cheese
parsley for garnish opt.
cilantro for garnish opt.
salt for boiling water

Put salted water on to boil. Cook your choice of pasta according to package directions and drain. In a separate pan, place the uncased chorizo in a cold pan set to medium high heat. Brown the meat. Add the diced onion and saute with the chorizo for about 5 minutes. Add the drained can of corn to the pan just until heated through. Plate the spaghetti, pour the chorizo, onion and corn mixture on top. Top with cheese as well as parsley or cilantro. Enjoy and have water on hand to cool the burn!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Particularly Late Christmas Specials Recaps

This year, Amanda and I decided to watch at least one Christmas special each day, starting from the first of December up until Christmas day. We chose which ones largely based on what we already had or could easily find at the library or on television. I had intended to write a blog post with brief thoughts on each one, but procrast - er, didn't find the time until now. So, even though it's weeks late, I still want to write this post!

December 1st - Blackadder's Christmas Carol
I love this one. Basically, Edmund Blackadder - who in most of the rest of the series is an arrogant, sarcastic jerk - is in this special known to be loving and generous. Though I don't want to give away the ending, perhaps you can guess how it ends anyway. This noteably features appearances by the younger Hugh Laurie, Jim Broadbent, and Robbie Coltrane (who, pre-Hagrid, plays a scruffy giant).

December 1st - Christmas in Pac-Land I think this is the only Christmas special (listed here) that we watched online. I thought it might be interesting just because I like Pac-Man in general, but it's really basically a mediocre Hanna-Barbera cartoon in Pac-Man clothes. The big thing though, that I think this special has going for it is that the voice of Santa Claus is Peter Cullen....Optimus Prime himself.

December 2nd - Beauty and the Beast: Enchanted Christmas
It's pretty awful. I had seen it once before, and wanted to sit through it because watching bad movies can be fun, but I ended up regretting it. I think it's worth mentioning, though, that it features something that I would find rare in a Christmas special: a Jewish character! Well, a character who talks like a stereotypical Jewish person, anyway. Does that count?

December 3rd - Good Eats with Alton Brown (School of Hard Nogs, It's a Wonderful Cake, and The Cookie Clause)
Ha! Betcha didn't expect any non-fiction Christmas specials, didja? These are three episodes that will teach you not only how to make egg nog, fruitcake, and Christmas-style sugar cookies, but will also teach you the history and science behind those recipes!
Tidbit: In the DVD "Ask Alton" feature, one of the questions asks about "the actor who played Santa Claus." Alton, slightly puzzled, answers, "That...that was the real Santa Claus."

December 3rd - Mickey's Christmas Carol
Why is it Mickey's Christmas Carol? I understand that it needed to be titled so as to separate it from other versions of the story, and Mickey is a favorite character Bob Crachit, he doesn't really, well, do much. The plot affects him, but he does nothing to affect the plot. How about A Disney Christmas Carol or Scrooge McDuck's Christmas Carol?
Anyway, the secondary thing I have to say about this's short. It's a cute interpretation of the book, but squeezing the whole thing into thirty minutes makes it seem very rushed.
Also: Is it just me, or would Peter Pan have made a much more fitting Ghost of Christmas Past than Jiminy Cricket?

December 4th - Emmett Otter's Jugband Christmas Special

December 5th - The Christmas Toy There's not much I have to say about this that Brian hasn't already said. One of the things I really like about this is that it features almost every type of puppetry imaginable: string puppets, hand puppets, hand-and-rod puppets, robotic puppets, and even a strange Barbie-type doll which was ... I'm not even sure how it worked.
Also, this is the only family Christmas special I can think of in which the characters are threatened with the fear of dying. They may be toys, but they know that if they're even seen out-of-place by a human, they're as good as dead. It's surprisingly scary, actually.

December 6th - Futurama (XMas Story, a Tale of Two Santas)

December 7th - Santa Claus is Coming to Town

December 7th - South Park: The Spirit of Christmas

December 8th - Prep & Landing This was the most "fresh" Christmas special I had seen this year, by which I mean I saw it the very first time it aired. It was certainly entertaining and well-made. I like that it featured all-original characters (well, unless you count The Big Guy himself), the jokes and gags were funny, and the story was decent. In fact, I liked it so much that I think the only thing wrong with it was that it was too short. The story picks up quite quickly without taking much time to establish the characters. Because of this, it seemed liked I was watching an episode of a longer series, or the latter half-hour of a much-longer movie. So to summarize, the only thing I didn't like about it is that there wasn't more to like.

December 9th - Christmas Eve on Sesame Street

Tidbit: This one has a definitely Jewish character in Mr. Hooper.

December 10th - Wonderpets Save the Nutcracker!

December 11th - 'Twas the Night Before Christmas [Rankin-Bass]

December 12th - Invader Zim: The Most Horrible X-Mas Ever

December 12th - It's a Wonderful Life

December 13th - Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer [Rankin-Bass], Rudolph's Shiny New Year

December 13th - Robot Chicken (Nightmare Generator)
The only part of this episode that has to do with Christmas is the final sketch (which I believe is called a "runner"), which is a Cold Case-style take on the murder of Santa Claus. Since Robot Chicken is a primarily stop-motion show, it's awfully appropriate that favorite Rankin-Bass specials are parodied.

December 14th - Animaniacs (A Christmas Plotz, Little Drummer Warners, 'Twas The Day Before Christmas, Jingle Boo, The Great Wakkorotti: The Holiday Concert) In "A Christmas Plotz," the plot of A Christmas Carol is retold in even less time than Mickey's Christmas Carol took!

December 14th - John Denver and the Muppets Rocky Mountain Holiday
Wait a minute. The title means "holiday" in the British sense, as in a vacation! It turns out that I checked this one out thinking that it was the other John Denver and the Muppets Holiday special.

December 15th - The Little Drummer Boy [Rankin-Bass]
December 16th - Pluto's Christmas Tree

December 16th - Rifftrax Live Christmas Shortstravaganza
December 17th - Muppet Christmas Carol
December 18th - Whose Line is it Anyway? UK Christmas special
December 18th - The Small One
The ending to this one would be more heart-warming and special if it wasn't so darn predictable. So let's see, a boy needs to find a new home for his donkey. I notice it takes place in an Arab setting, around a couple thousand years ago - gee I wonder where they're going with this?

December 19th - Muppets Letters to Santa This year, assuming you got any paper cards or letters, you may have noticed the Kermit the Frog postmark in the corner. Apparently the U.S. Postal Service did that to promote this special, and in exchange, the special has a musical number about how great the U.S. Postal Service is. Yyyyeah. Embarrassing plugging aside, the special tries to be heartwarming and sentimental like previous Henson specials, but didn't really do anything for me. What I did like was the scene in which Beaker shows off a new Muppet Labs invention that grants instaneous wishes, and does so by making a busty lady appear out of nowhere. You go, Beaker! You horndog you.

December 20th - The Year Without a Santa Claus

December 20th - The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause

December 21st - Sonic Christmas Blast

December 23rd - Mr. Monk and the Secret Santa, Mr. Monk and the Miracle

December 25th - Mythbusters Holiday specials More non-fiction goodness! Can a falling frozen turkey kill a small dog? Can the turkey be cooked on a radar dish? Which melts more quickly: a clothed snowman or a naked one? I would tell you the answers to these, but as with any episode I think it's more fun to watch how the question is answered than to just get the answer.

December 25th - A Charlie Brown Christmas