More Steampunk-y goodness!

As promised, the rest of the photos from Halloween:


Oh my, the craft fair this year was such a rousing success that I am still on cloud nine about it! Jill, Sylvia, and I got a great booth nestled in a corner and they (I say "they" because I had to work and didn't get to help with the initial setup) did a sweet little art-installation-like setup, and lots of people that came by said it was the cutest booth there! Everyone was so nice, and we got to meet a lot of the staff of the Richmond Art Center which was great too. I sold most all of what I brought, with just enough left for me and my family, and I got to trade with Jill, Sylvia, and a couple fantastic ceramic artists. Almost every other booth at the fair was either ceramic art or jewelry, so we stood out pretty well, which surely helped or sales. Here's some pics of the grand affair:

These are Sylvia's handy work:

And these are Jill's:

And isn't it cute how all of our different styles mesh together so seamlessly? Bags, pillows, zip pouches, and brooches from Sylvia; aprons, brooches, coffee cozies, coasters, and sachets from Jill; and ornaments, owls, mushrooms, wedding cake toppers, and baby bibs from me; all coexisting in a riot of cuteness on one table:

I got swept up in the Christmas rush over at the toy store, which amounted to six days a week, 9-10 hours a day for a little while there, hence my absence. It left me absolutely no time to do any Christmas crafting of my own: no handmade gifts, no home-baked Christmas goodies, no decorations, not even a tree. I still can't believe how fast the whole month flew by. Angela and I tied chocolate ornaments to our bamboo plant in lieu of a tree, which will prove tasty in the coming days. I hope I will manage my time better next year, I really missed the smell of the pine tree in the house and the warm glow of the lights at night. But I was too busy to dwell on it, and that suited me just fine. I got a whopping four days off to spend at my parent's house afterwards and it was a lovely holiday. I hope everyone else had a very merry Christmas as well!


Aaaand, we're back!

And so, all is well in the word of Oh the Cuteness! I have my new laptop, and she's a lovely little 3 lb cherry red Acer and is exactly what I needed. Also, the craft fair festivities have been in full swing around here, and I cannot wait till Sunday! We will be selling our wares at the Richmond Art Center's annual Holiday Fair and silent auction. Here's the link, and if you end up going and see me there, please say hello! And if you mention you are a reader of my blog I will give you 20% off your purchase, so don't be shy! For your viewing pleasure, here's a sneak peek at the little bird ornaments in their nearly-completed adorableness:

Also on the list of available items are some sequin mushroom ornaments (tutorial here from Poopscape), baby bibs from this post, amigurumi acorn ornaments, and of course owl pincushions. If I have enough time I may also make some more feather headbands but we will have to see. I decided to just do multiples of only a few of my favorite items this time around, unlike last year's Christmas craft fair which was so last-minute that all I had was a jumble of stuff from my Etsy shop. Anywho... Hope to see some readers there!


On with the show!

So my computer may be out of service, but I just had to post some pictures of the awesome Halloween costumes Dennis and I made! We ended up hanging out with our favorite friends Phil and Jill, and we got dim sum and went to see Nosferatu at the San Francisco Symphony. Phil and Jill went as ghostly 1940s moviegoers and they looked so cute! I made the headband Jill is wearing, and there are more on the way! They took all these pictures (thanks guys!), but I will be back to post more detailed shots of us when I can get them off my camera. Dennis and I went steampunk to match the Victorian era movie!

We got welding goggles and Nerf Maverick Guns, but since we waited until the last minute we only had time to spray paint them instead of really decking them out, but that will come later. We found a lot of really great clothes at Target of all places, all made by the Converse brand. Both our shirts and his pants are new, and I made my skirt. We scavenged the rest at thrift stores and from our own houses. And Dennis found his glasses at Spirit and glued gears to them, so cool! I almost wore the outfit to work the next day! I will be wearing this again for sure.
The movie was awesome because there was a live organist (the Symphony has the largest pipe organ anywhere), and he was really funny, plus two live Foley artists/percussionists to do all the wind and chimes, etc. Dennis and Phil had never seen it before and it was so fun!

Oh, and in other news, Jill and I will be doing a couple craft fairs together in early December! Yaaay! More details very soon. And yes, that is why I have not updated etsy in a while. Well, that and the fact that I have absolutely no time to myself anymore.

Happy Belated Halloween to everyone!


Best. Pickles. Ever. Period.

So right before it got too cold for the tomatoes to ripen I pulled all the green ones off the plant and made green tomato pickles. I had an idea in my head of how I wanted them to taste but I just couldn't seem to find a very good recipe anywhere on the net, so I just made it up as I went along.

First, I made my own pickling spice blend. I have an extensive spice rack and I wanted to do a flavorful, spicy mix, and in a large batch so I would have some left over for another batch of pickles. Maybe pickled eggs? I dunno... Anywho, here's my pickling spice recipe. It makes enough for 2-3 small batches (about 5-6 little jars) or one really big one.

Pickling Spice Blend

2 tbsp dried dill
1 1/2 tbsp dried whole coriander
1/2 tbsp dried whole fennel seed
1/2 tbsp dried tarragon
1 tbsp dried whole cumin seed
1/2 tbsp dried thyme
1/2 tbsp dried oregano
1/2 tbsp dried crushed red chilies

Put everything together in a mason jar and shake it up! You can double or triple this recipe if you want to have a lot on hand.

Now, on to the pickles themselves. I have never made pickles before and I was basically flying by the seat of my pants. I wasn't worried if they didn't turn out good because it was a small batch of otherwise not-very tasty unripe fruit, so what the heck? Turns out that pickles must be hard to mess up because these came out so freaking good!

Green Tomato Pickles

1 1/2 lbs green tomatoes, halved
1 12-oz bottle of white wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup (1/4 medium bulb) fennel, thinly sliced
1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 large garlic cloves per jar
2 tbsp of pickling spice mixture
2 tbsp salt

1. I chose small wide-mouth jars for my pickles and sterilized them according to the instructions in a book I have on preserves. The basic idea is to put all pieces, including the lids and bands, into a large pot of boiling water and let it boil while you prepare your ingredients, or at least 10 minutes. I like to leave the ends of a pair of tongs in there to sterilize too.
2. In a large saucepan over high heat add the water, vinegar, salt, and pickling spices and bring to a boil.
3. Use the tongs to lift out the jars from the water bath and place them on a very clean plate and then pack the jar. (Just leave the stove on and allow the pot of water to keep boiling.) Put a layer of tomato halves at the bottom, then a layer of fennel, onion, and garlic, then another layer of tomatoes. Be sure to pack them as tightly as possible without damaging the fruit, leaving a little room at the top.
4. Remove the liquid mixture from the stove and carefully pour it over the tomatoes. Be sure to tap out air bubbles, then put the lids on the jar and tightly screw on the bands. Careful, they will be hot! Use a very clean tea towel to help protect your hands.
5. Using the tongs, carefully lift the jars back into the pot of boiling water and let them boil for at least 10 minutes. Take the jars out and let them cool completely on the counter until you hear all the lids popping. That means they're sealed, and when they are cold you can remove the bands and the lids should not come off easily.

These are great sliced on sandwiches or julienned on hot dogs instead of relish or sauerkraut. Or just eat them straight from the jar like I do!

Oh, one more thing: I made pasta sauce from the ripe tomatoes from the garden, and I used the old boiling water trick to peel them. But I saved the skins and dried them in a low oven as per Martha's instructions and then ground them up for seasoning. The result is amazing! Smoky, sweet tomato flakes reminiscent of sun-dried tomatoes that you can sprinkle on anything - deviled eggs, tuna sandwiches, pasta, etc. Try it!


Life is too short.

Warning: extreme downer content. Please ignore this rant if you want to.

I found out last Thursday that my ex-boyfriend Michael passed away. I'm going through pictures of mine to send to his parents... I wish I could say I'm sorry to him one more time, even though I said it for three years straight before I gave up trying anymore to win back his trust and friendship. He could hold a grudge like no one else I ever knew, though it was well deserved in my case. Even though we weren't speaking anymore I will still miss him very much, he was a big part of my life at a time when my growing pains tore us apart.
He taught me that every day is a gift, and we need to fill each one with as much as we possibly can. You never know when it will be too late to start living. The fact that he knew his time was short and yet he spent so many of his days with me makes me truly grateful, no matter how hard it was to be with him. He was diagnosed with type one diabetes when he was about two years old, and it made everyday life that much harder. I think we all knew the day would come when it would take him away from us, but I never expected it to be this soon. He was only 28 years old.
There's nothing to say or do that will make losing him any better, I just wish his family didn't hate me so I could call them and tell them how sorry I am for everything.
I wish I had been more grown up - more mature - when I met him. I don't think I could have been with him for a long time, but at least I wouldn't have been the stupid nineteen year old who broke his heart and then spent two more years doing everything I could to try to make it up to him.
I can't help but blame myself in some way. I know that the same thing could have happened any time he was home alone for a long period of time, but I still feel responsible. Because he moved out of his parents house to live with me, and because I left him all alone when I moved out. I always wished he would move back home or at least get a roommate so there would be someone there when he needed help, but he stubbornly refused.
He was always so stubborn, but he was strong in his convictions and beliefs, and I admired him for that. I doubt I will ever be as strong as he was. I will try to remember the happy times and forget all the bad stuff. He loved cooking and playing games of all kinds. He danced so silly and didn't care who was watching. He cared so much about everyone, maybe too much, but I don't know if he ever knew how much we all cared about him. Maybe we never tried hard enough to show it. I wish I could pretend that his death isn't affecting me as much as it is, but I feel horrible about how we treated eachother during and after the four years we were together. Neither of us could ever get our points across no matter how hard we tried, and it made us angry and bitter and destructive towards one another.
I hope that he is at peace now, and I hope his family will find peace someday. I know that when someone close to you dies, it feels like it's never going to go away... But memories fade and feelings become fuzzier and one day you wake up and it's almost all gone except for the good parts that we don't ever want to forget. I'm sorry for writing all this sad stuff on here, but I just needed to get it off my chest. I think I will write his parents a letter to send with the pictures, even though I'm sure they won't want to hear from me, if only to say I'm sorry.
I've learned a lot from all this:
If you love someone, tell them.
If you don't love them anymore, tell them. Before something bad happens or you do something stupid.
Never stop communicating with people, even if it's hard, because what we don't say is what comes back to haunt us.
Be thankful for every day and for every person in your life because they all matter so much more than we care to think about.
It's okay to be sorry.

Thanks for listening to me, I feel a little better now. And I promise I will be back very soon with more of the usual happier subjects. Right before I found out about Michael I was going to post my recipe for the green tomato pickles because they came out so incredibly good. I will be back soon to pick up where I left off, I just have a little bit of adjusting to do. We will all be all right.


Still in vacation mode...

Wow-wee what a birthday I had! It started back at the last weekend of July when I went down to visit my parents. We had presents: I got a BBQ from my dad, a new handmade purse from my sister and lots of book and clothes and a bagillion other awesome things from my mom! (Thanks guys!) And then we had ice cream cupcakes from Coldstone (Yum!) and we went to the Midstate Fair!

And since I got a BBQ, I decided to have a picnic in the park with my friends. We went to the beach at Alameda, and even though it was cold it was really fun. We had kabobs and lots of snacks, and my roomie and her new boyfriend made me cupcakes! Favorite present of that day had to be from Phil and Jill, the biggest zucchini I have ever seen. Time for some chutney-making for sure!

Then a couple weekends ago Dennis and I booked a sweet little cabin in north Lake Tahoe and had a wonderfully relaxing time. He got me a Wii and some Magic the Gathering cards, and we spent our time vegging out, horseback riding, jet skiing, and we visited Virginia City. It was so much fun!

And then my sister came up here for a couple days of girly fun and shopping, and she made me a beautiful scarf and took me to Chez Panisse. Ho-ly-crap! I am such a spoiled rotten little girl!
Anywho, I am still in vacation mode but I am trying to find spare time to make things. I have laid out a couple projects, and I am about halfway through a knitted hat for Dennis' birthday. And today I made green tomato pickles. If they turn out well I will post the recipe!


Chunky Rib Stitch Cowl

Since I can feel that summer is fast coming to a close, I decided to make myself something to keep warm on the drafty buses out in SF. I have been knitting this cowl for a month or so, mostly exclusively at the meetup group, and it came together really fast and easy (that's about 4 days in total). The yarn (Paton's Rumors) did not go as far as I thought it would and I only had one ball in my stash. I went to a bunch of craft stores to try to find it again and I was disturbed by the lack of variety at Michael's. They used to have so much yarn, now the stores are being overrun with scrapbooking supplies and all they have is boring old Red Heart worsted, some Lion that gets about as interesting as the Homespun stuff, and a little Paton's. Booooring. So I had to go online to find another ball and of course the dye lots didn't match. Oh well, it looks like they don't make that yarn anymore, but since it is for me and not to sell I don't mind the color change. So if anyone else out there would like to make a quick and easy cowl (they would be great gifts for the hipsters in your life), then here is the extremely simple pattern:

Size US 10 knitting needles
2 balls of your favorite bulky-weight yarn
Small crochet hook
Yarn needle

1. Cast on 100 stitches.
2. For this row and every row onward until you run out of yarn, *knit 2, purl 2* until end of row. This makes the nice deep double rib stitch, which is very stretchy.
3. When you are out of yarn, bind off. Be sure to leave a long tail, and sew the short sides of the rectangle together. That's it!

I told you it was really simple, lol!

If you have found this or any of my other free patterns useful and would like to help me keep creating them I accept PayPal donations!


Toiling away.

Sorry it's been a while since my last crafty post! The new commute out to San Francisco has taken some getting used to, but I think I've got the hang of it now and I have been making more room in my schedule for some much-needed crafting and such. Today my roommate and I are having a girly day, sitting around listening to records and sewing little things. I keep catching the side of the back pocket on my jeans on an old door latch on the kitchen entry, and I have torn big holes in two of my favorite pairs, so I patched them with big squares of awesome fabric today. But mostly, I wanted to show off this sewing project that I am really proud of...

Take one super soft shirt that I got from my mom for my birthday. It fits great and has 3/4 length sleeves which I adore, but it is a little boring all on its own. Add to the equation a ton of inspiration from the girls at my weekly stitch n' bitch meetup and you get this:

One of the girls who comes every couple of weeks is a fabric sales rep and she is always sharing old samples with us. Last time she brought a lot of apparel-type fabrics for us and I took quite a few squares home. And then yesterday one of the new girls brought this amazing book to share and I fell in love with a skirt with little raincloud appliques. So all I did was cut out 3 little raincloud shapes from a few of the t-shirt type fabric samples and sewed them to the shirt. You don't need to worry about the edges fraying since jersey knit fabric doesn't unravel. The hardest part is adjusting the tension on your machine so it won't eat the fabric. Also, there will be a lot of lifting the presser foot to turn around those curves, since the fabric will stretch and won't turn well. But if you are patient, you can do this in any shape to any shirt. I added some lines of wide zigzag stitches as rain coming from the clouds, and for interest and balance I did three lines on the opposite shoulder too. I will be doing this to more of my t-shirts for sure.

Tomorrow I have a neat finished knitting project to share, and a free pattern that is great for beginners! See you tomorrow!


New Toys...

Well, I had to work yesterday (normally my day off), so I had no time this week at all for crafting. And I just realized I forgot to take pictures of the cute zip pouches I made for all the giveaway winners. Oh well, they will get a surprise then! I worked yesterday because my bosses opened the new toy store in San Francisco! So yes, finally I am taking Bart/Buses to work in the city! It's an amazing shop, full of life and color, and in a really great neighborhood to boot! We are on the corner of Fillmore and Lombard streets, so come by and say hello if you are in the area!

Another big announcement is that I finally got a record player! I have been wanting one for a very long time, and this one was brand new on Amazon for $40.00 plush shipping! It reminds me of the one my parents had when I was a kid. It's very compact, actually smaller than a 48 record so that the top has cut-outs where the record sticks out as it plays. Very simple, no-frills, with built-in speakers (though I connected my good speakers from my rarely-used old stereo), and a radio. I adore it! Every record shop around here has miles and miles of one-dollar-record bins, and I found out that you can use a cable with a headphone jack on each end and some free software to transfer the music to a digital format. Woot! So anywho...

The first brand new record I bought was Lisa Hannigan. She is amazing, and it has become the record I listen to over and over again while I'm crafting. Watch her cute music video for "I don't know" here. If you haven't heard of her, she's a crafty girl as well and her album art was all hand-stitched and knitted by her, and her music videos have very artsy-craftsy themes too. And her music is right up my alley; slightly folksy and extremely cute and romantic, I would say she's the adorable daughter of Feist and Glen Hassard, if that makes any sense. And when I bought this record ( it was only twelve bucks - Oh Amazon how I love thee), sure enough it's a nice 120-gram and it came with a full CD of the album! I put it on my computer already, but I don't think I need both, so I thought we could play a game and the winner can have the CD!

Here's my idea: I have yet to give a "nickname" to the record player. My sewing machine's nickname is a string of obscenities, and the vintage machine I have yet to get fixed up is called "the Buick". So, leave me your idea for what to name my new record player and whoever comes up with the best one will get the CD! I'll keep the contest going for a week, or until I find one I like, whichever is longest!

*Edited to add: So far we have the Duke, Jukie, and Lola. Any favorites?


Well would you look at that...

Whilst I was rummaging through my closet, going through my old purses and looking for things to go into the "garage sale box", I happened upon this little fluff ball:

I clearly remember my sister giving me this neat-o handmade purse for my birthday some years ago, but it looked to be filled with unfinished crochet projects I scarcely remembered. As I started pulling them out of the bag it all came flooding back...

Unfinished crocheted flower brooches, cupcakes, acorns, wrist warmers, aminekos, business card holders, and various other nearly-finished amigurumi came pouring out. I know that the black amineko was supposed to be a Christmas present for my mother a couple years ago. I vaguely remember that this was the bag I kept all my projects in. I think it must have gotten lost in the fray when I moved out of my old apartment. I feel like such a heel for abandoning all of these projects right when they were so close to completion. But I will make it up to them... I guess I know what I will be doing at the stitch n' bitch meetups for the next few months! I really dislike the finishing-type steps, especially sewing ami's together. It just takes so long and is an all around pain in the tucus. I already have a little sheep done which is s-l-o-w-l-y being assembled, and I just finished a neat project for the shop that needs some blocking and ends woven in. But of course, it's needed that for weeks and I have yet to do it. Oh well. I will bring them to the group on Tuesday and hopefully get something done! Send me good energy so I can get things done, okay?

Ooh, did I mention I got my hair cut/dyed again? Does this count as a hobby since I seem to do it so often? lol! (The little mushroom brooch is from Jill over at the Minnow and the Bee etsy shop!)