Monday, December 30, 2013

The 12 Shops of Christmas: PeachyMe

Hey kids! If you are anything like me (that is, struggling to recover from Christmas cookie comas, still tripping over scraps of wrapping paper, and seriously considering a January cleanse) you are just about done with the holidays. At a full week away from home, we are beginning to chomp at the bit here. All of the holiday visiting, hustling and bustling is so much fun, but you know how tired you can feel after a vacation! Luckily, a teensy bit of personal pampering is a great way to relieve some of the post holiday blues.

Hopefully someone in your family was thoughtful enough to slip an Etsy gift card into your stocking, or even a few dollars in cold cash. If so, you'll be looking for someplace to spend it. Look past those little nagging things around the house that need replacing, and take a peek at your closet. Today's featured shop is a great place to find a unique piece to update that wardrobe for the New Year and in an affordable way (because after all the gift giving, we all need to save a bit of money!).

PeachyMe is a small fashion and accessory shop created by a couple in Fair Lawn, New Jersey: Cecilia and Steven. They make lovely one of a kind shirts and scarves, perfect for adding a little bit of something new to a tired wardrobe. Personally, my pick is their infinity scarf in green. I have a few scarves, but I wear the same tired scarf every day. I need to update! This color is lovely, and I don't
have anything green. Plus, that bit of sparkle is so pretty! It comes in a variety of colors, so go snatch one up before they are gone!

Please tell us a little about  you and your products.
n many design projects. PeachyMe mainly focuses on women's clothing. We use a both new and refashioned materials. In addition to clothing, we design materials for print and web.

How would you describe the mission/purpose of your business?

PeachyMe offers unique pieces made by hand in our home. Many pieces are one or two of a kind. Our mission is to make each person wearing our clothing feel unique.

How did you get started as a creative business owner?

Both Steven and I started our creative journey at a very young age. Steven majored in graphic design in college and I majored in fashion design. PeachyMe brings both of our passions together.

What is your favorite part of running a creative  business? The biggest challenge?

 Our favorite part is though process that come before completing a project, from sketching to making our own patterns to actually sewing the very first stitch. We enjoy collaborating on ideas in any project we do.

The biggest challenge we had was not having the proper space to design in. We were originally designing from our small apartment where we had to pack up any project we ere working on ever night. Having limited space was very challenging. We recently moved to a new place where we have a dedicated fashion room. We hope to create many new designs for the summer.

What is the best gift in your shop? Who is it for?

The best gift in our shop are our scarves. We created these scarves using material we brought back from our trip to Ecuador and sewed to create the different styles. These scarves are great gifts for women.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The 12 Shops of Christmas #10: Brittany Lauren Design

Hey Folks! We are nearing the end of the holiday shopping mania, so there are only a few shops left to feature! While most of them have been almost neighbors (folks within Bergen County) the owner of this featured shop actually is my neighbor. Like, I could walk to her house. For realz. Oddly, Miss Brittany Lauren of Brittany Lauren Design and I have never actually met. I imagine that will likely change, this being a small town and both of use having little ones pretty close in age! The toddler park and lakeside mini beach make it pretty easy to run into local mamas when you have a toddler to occupy all summer long!

Brittany is a graphic designer with a wide range of goods in her shop, from iPhone cases and notepads to serving trays and mugs. She has so many wonderful personalized gifts to choose from, but I think her monogrammed apple mug is just perfect for a teacher! Fill it with some sweets, add a set of my seed paper apple note cards, and you are good to go.

Please read on to learn more about Brittany and score a coupon code for her shop!

Please tell us a little about you and your products.

Hi there! My name is Brittany Lauren, and my business is full of heart. I have a background in graphic design and graduated from Ramapo College in 2008. My inspiration for my shop is fueled by childhood memories of sailing on the Hudson River with my family, vacationing in Maine and ferry rides to Nantucket. I love the salty air, the sand between my toes and the serenity that the sea brings me. I adore all of the treasures of the ocean, but my real catches are my husband of three years, Mike, and my baby boy, Benny (my little fish!), born this past June! My business, Brittany Lauren Design is born of salt and sea. In 2010, I was diagnosed with Lyme disease and began looking for a creative outlet while I recovered. My passion quickly turned into my dream, and I said goodbye to my corporate job to start my own business that specializes in personalized stationery and fine gifts. I am proud to write that we exclusively print in the U.S.A. and use the finest materials and paper. Every item is crafted with love. I love capturing the magic of summertime fun and I hope my designs bring you as much happiness as they do for me. I’m so excited to create a unique and personalized experience for clients!

How would you describe the mission/purpose of your business?
I love designing and making something special for someone. My favorite part is working with a customer and learning more about them and why they are purchasing. From buying their first home and needing a personalized stamp or buying a mug for their child's favorite teacher. I love to create happiness. 

How did you get started as a creative business owner?

I worked in the cooperate world for 5 years before following my dreams of starting my stationery and gifts shop full-time. I googled and googled for a long time while I was moonlighting at night to find answers. In the morning I'd commute to my advertising job, during lunch break I'd mail packages or make proofs. My passion for design fueled my heart to keep going. 

What is your favorite part of running a creative business? The biggest challenge?
My favorite part is making a unique experience for my clients. I love to bring joy into their mailbox! The biggest challenge is the non creative part of my job. I had to learn the not so fun side that doesn't come easy to me like accounting and book keeping. 

What is the best gift in your shop? Who is it for?
Hands down our stamps! I love them! Bonus they all are handcrafted in the USA! Our stamps have so many uses from using them as a return address stamp or turning them into a stamp you can use for a wedding. 

I'd love to offer your readers a 20% discount using code JOJOBEAN

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The 12 Shops of Christmas #9: Dymant Designs

  • I'm so glad to introduce you all to Pam of Dymant Designs, the lovely lady who gave me the kick in the pants I needed to get involved in our local farmer's market this summer. We first met at the Etsy Craft Party in June, and she has been a great source of inspiration in all things crafty biz related since then. Pam makes beautiful sewn items, housewares, and gifts, and you can probably find something in her shop for every person on your list. From pillows and baby bibs to personalized cutting boards and pie plates, she's got you covered. 
  • My favorite gift? This set of engraved wooden utensils and cutting board, perfect for any family, but especially for anyone newly married. For Xmas, I'd pair it with his and hers holiday aprons and a copy of The Newlywed Kitchen, because I'm cheesy like that.

  • Please tell us a little about you and your products: My name is Pamella Clark, I am a wife, printer, photographer, designer, craft maker, and the owner of Dymant Designs. I find serenity from the hustle and bustle of the day by rolling up my sleeves to make something unique.
  • When my husband, a US Marine, left for Afghanistan in 2011, I decided to teach myself to sew to help pass the time. When I told my grandmother what I was doing she laughed and said I am just like my grandfather, always needing to tinker and stay busy. My sewing studio is his old workshop, working there makes me think about all the time I spent with him while he too was tinkering and staying busy. Dymant Designs is named after my late grandfather, Sam Dymant, his strong morals are stitched into everything we do.
  • Our products are fun and functional. We sew whimsical owls that are hot and cold packs, pay homage to yester-year with hanging kitchen towels, adorned with vintage buttons, memorialize childhood memories with custom pillows printed with old scans of postcards, and take ordinary kitchenwares and transform them into custom pieces of usable art. We don’t have a finite product line. We love creating custom products that is special for each recipient to love.
  • How would you describe the mission/purpose of your business? Dymant Designs is a lifestyle company. Our mission is to take ordinary useful objects and make them unique without loosing functionality. We help you live in an more organized harmonious state, and share that serenity with others. Pick out a gift that is custom engraved to make the recipient feel special, drop off a pie with a hanging towel to make the host feel loved, bring over an owlie for your cousin who is accident prone all little tokens that show you care.
  • How did you get started as a creative business owner?
    When I learned how to sew, it wasn’t my intent to start a business. But as time has gone on, the plan and direction just laid itself out in front of me. It is amazing being a small business owner, and having the ability to spend time being a maker. I love every second of designing creations for lasering, or chugging along behind a sewing machine. However, every second is also the biggest challenge. Time is ever fleeting.
  • What is the best gift in your shop? Who is it for? I would say that in my shop right now, my favorite gifts are for friends and hostesses. We make these beautifully custom engraved / monogrammed wooden utensils and cutting boards. They make a great gift set for almost anyone. (Pair them with Lees Bees Honey for an extra sweet touch)
  • For kids and stocking stuffers, you cannot go wrong with an Owie the Owl! They are just so darn cute!
  • SHOPSofCHRISTMAS lands you a spiffy 10% discount on any of our handmade items.
  • You can find and follow Pam on Facebook here:

Monday, December 16, 2013

The 12 Shops of Christmas #8: OhYum!

I can't believe it. Two weeks until Christmas and I just finished my holiday shopping TODAY. Thank goodness. Now to wrap, and ship, and bake, and pack until it is finally time to go celebrate! I've been super busy crafting up a storm here, and doing some totally insane things like showcasing my goods at Whole Foods (more on that later...). I have also been doing a teeny bit of holiday pampering, thanks to the lovely Kathy from OhYum, a shop full of treats for your skin. 

I first met Kathy when her adorable daughters came to craft hour at the farmer's market this summer, and after a bit of chatting I found out she was an Etsy seller as well. It wasn't long before we were both vending at the same event and I got to sample some of her delicious goodies. She gave me an incredible honey lip balm that Jude keeps running off with, and I bought my favorite gift for my cousin's birthday. Kathy's sugar scrub cubes are genius. Moisterizing sugar scrubs in single portion cubes that melt in your hands and smell good enough to eat! I chose the Buttercream scent for my cousin Libby and paired it with the matching body butter. For a busy mom of two it was a great little gift for some pampering in the shower. The scrub is exfoliating and moisturizing at once, so you don't even need to put on lotion after you shower on those days when you are in a hurry (and face it, if you are chasing kids and working and running a household, that's every second of every day). For those rare days that you actually have a spare three minutes, the body butter is a luscious layer of extra scent. Because who wouldn't want to smell like buttercream all day? Read on to learn more about Kathy and her products, and don't forget to 'Like' her Facebook page for shop updates!

Please tell us a little about you and your products.

My name is Kathy, I'm a stay at home mom. I have always been a creative type of person. Where some people have a compulsion to clean, I have a compulsion to create. I soap, cook, sew, knit, crochet and photograph. 

How would you describe the mission/purpose of your business?
I want to enrich people's lives through scent memory. Scent is the sense that is most strongly tied to memory. Each fragrance I carry has a story. That story is different for each person who smells it. When I work with my bubblegum fragrance, I'm reminded of a time in my childhood where I would bicycle to the corner store and buy bubblegum in long strips like tape. I used to see if I could chew the entire roll of bubble-tape at one time. I use fragrances to remind people of the joys they have experienced. 

How did you get started as a creative business owner?
Originally when I started OhYum I was selling gourmet flavored marshmallows. I had made marshmallows many times before and several of my friends kept insisting I sell them. During that time I joined several teams and participated in some exchanges, Secret Santas and things like that. When I sent out my soaps, I frequently got feedback asking where they could buy more. Peer pressure lead me to introducing them to my shop. They quickly overtook my marshmallows. I've been up to my eyeballs in soap ever since and loving every single minute of it!

What is your favorite part of running a creative business? The biggest challenge?
My favorite part is when a customer comes to me with a request and I get to play and blend something just for them. Creating something unique always makes me happy. 

The biggest challenge is the paperwork. I have to regularly schedule time to update the spreadsheets I created to track my sales and expenses. Like many creative business owners I want to create, I don't want to be tethered to spreadsheets all the time. Making a point to do it regularly has made a huge difference in how easy it is to get done. 

What is the best gift in your shop? Who is it for? 
The most popular item in the shop right now is the sugar scrub cubes. These single serving scrubs are made with solid oils that melt with the heat of your shower and your body. The sugar exfoliates dead skin. Mango butter and coconut oil moisturize your skin without leaving your shower a slippery mess. They are also a great quick manicure for tired hands. 

I created a special coupon code: jojobean for 15% off any purchase. 

You can find me on facebook at

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The 12 Shops of Christmas #7: Pinkapotamus

I'm so excited to introduce all of you to my newest shop crush, Amie from Pinkapotamus! I met Amie last week at the West Side Holiday Market, and she is such a creative mama! She is a bit of a jack of all trades, and her shop is full of adorable sewn and hand painted items for kiddos, from dress up to decor. I could easily have bought ten things from her table at the market to add to my holiday gift list! I spent more than I made that day (but it's ok! It all helped me meet my Handmade Holiday goal!).

My perfect girl gift from Amie's shop is this adorable crown. She had so many of them at her table in a variety of fabrics and colors. I love them for dress up, for a photo shoot, or for a birthday party! As a holiday gift I would pair this crown with a little handmade cape and scepter, and one of my favorite books, The Paper Bag Princess. Every little girl needs to know how bad-ass she is, well dressed or not. 

My favorite boy gift from Amie's shop is for the art lover. These little art displays are genius. Amie can custom make them with any theme or color for your kiddo's playroom or bedroom! This dino themed display would be an awesome gift, paired with some new crayons or paints, a smock and pad of art paper. The little Picasso in your life would love it!

Read on to learn more about Pinkapotamus and don't forget the coupon code at the end of Amie's interview!

Please tell us a little about you and your products.
My name is Amie Irwin and I am the owner of Pinkapotamus. My shop specializes in unique and whimsical children's decor and fun accessories.

How would you describe the mission/purpose of your business?
My mission for my business is to provide fun products to brighten up any child's decor. Childhood should be fun and I think that your nursery or bedroom should reflect that. 

How did you get started as a creative business owner? 
I got started as a creative business owner after realizing how much enjoyment I got out of creating one a kind, personalized items for my children's friends.

What is your favorite part of running a creative business? The biggest challenge?
My favorite part of being a creative business owner is that I love what I do. I get to be creative every day and share that with my customers. The biggest challenge is juggling everything. I am a stay at home mommy to three lovely little ones, with a hubby, a house, friends and lots of obligations, so sometimes it is hard to find the time to balance it all!

What is the best gift in your shop? Who is it for? 
The best gift for a new baby in my shop are my newly created custom name signs. They can be created to match any decor and personality!

The best gift for kids in my shop are the boys art display holders. They provide a great way to showcase all of the fun art projects that come home from school!

The best gift for kids who love to play dress up are my crowns and super hero capes. They bring fun to any imagination game!

Where can readers find you?
My blog is
My Facebook is:
And my Pinterest is:

Amie is also sweet enough to offer a coupon code for all of you lovelies! Get 15% off in her shop with the code JOJOBEAN.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

The 12 Shops of Christmas #6 - Blueid

Hey folks! It's that time again! The next featured shop in the lineup is another family duo, but this time they are husband and wife. Joe and Regina Eid are a creative pair who offer beautifully turned wood, upcycled home goods, and funky vintage finds in their Etsy shop Blueid. I love finding repurposed goods that are well made, functional, and beautiful on Etsy in the flood of so-called vintage flea market stuff! Creating something like that is an art, and these two have it down. From coat hangers constructed of doorknobs and rulers to wooden bowls and vintage button collections, they have something unique for you. My favorite gift in their shop is this crazy cool bowl made from the root of an Arborvitea. I wouldn't ever even imagine looking at a tree root and saying, "Hey, let's make a bowl out of that!" But it's gorgeous! It would be lovely on a shelf filled with fun objects, or filled with fruit on a table. I think it might be too pretty to serve food from, but maybe breads? Ooh, or vintage Christmas tree ornaments. Can you tell I want it for me? 

Please tell us a little about you and your products.

Our names are Joe and Regina, and both of us have full time jobs outside the creative arena, so we try to make our "creating/picking" hours productive. Joe's style is grounded in wood, but his work has increasingly been more about re-purposing wood and hardware to create beautiful, utilitarian items. I am more fiber based, but have found some incredible items to be re-purposed as well, so much cool stuff, so little time!

How would you describe the mission/purpose of your business?
Our mission and purpose is to find and create because it is part of our DNA and it's so much fun! 

How did you get started as a creative business owner?
We started on Etsy on a friends recommendation and have never looked back because it suits our lifestyle, it has a professional look with a minimum of effort and we see and meet the most amazing artisans.

What is your favorite part of running a creative business? The biggest challenge?
The best part of being a creative business owner is the "creative" part. My husband did have his own business many years ago and though lucrative, he did not find it rewarding. The biggest challenge is time- how to carve out it out and use it wisely.

What is the best gift in your shop? Who is it for?

Right now the best gift in our shop are the recycled door knob/hardware coat hangers. They can be used anywhere, look great all by themselves, and it's such fun to find the knobs!
What is your holiday show/fair schedule? Or stores that carry your items?
We have no show scheduled for this season- the one we would have done had to be canceled till January. My husband has his work in a small artist community gift shop called Peter's Valley and we are working to stock more of his work and my finds on Etsy as we speak.

* Don't forget to use the code HOHOHOLIDAYS for free shipping in the Blueid Etsy shop and follow them on Pinterest here:

Monday, December 02, 2013

The 12 Shops of Christmas #5 - Giggle Girls' Studio

Happy Cyber Monday, folks! I hope you have all been busy scouring the internet for handmade deals and stocking up on holiday scores! I, of course, have not since I am too busy recovering from my looong Thanksgiving vacation hangover and getting ready for an upcoming holiday  show. I'm sure I'm missing out on scores of discounts, but I refuse to feel badly about it. I'm just going to crank up the Nat King Cole and sip some cocoa, because today means the official start to the holiday kick off in the Bean house!

Last night we took Jude on his first train ride aboard the Polar Express and today is our town's tree lighting ceremony, so we are jumping in with both feet. I hope you all are enjoying the early December festivities, also! If you still need a little festivity boost, you can click over to the shop for my Cyber Monday deal and get free shipping today on all of your cards and gifts using code FREESHIPHOORAY. 

And of course, today's post is all about the next featured shop! I got to meet Monika of Giggle Girls' Studio at our Etsy Craft Party this summer, and she is lovely. She and her sister are jewelry makers who work as a team. I just adore all of these family affair shops I keep running into locally. I love the idea of hanging out with family in a creative way, and it's even cooler if you can turn that into a successful business. Their shop is full of unique pieces in a combination of styles, from lampwork beads to leather wraps. They will also create custom designs if you have a special piece in mind. My perfect gift from their shop would be this Copper Metallic Leather Wrap bracelet. And guess what? It's just for me:) It's simplicity makes it a great layering piece, and I love layering other styles of bracelets with my Alex and Ani bracelets! I love a chunky mix of stuff on my wrist and this piece is perfect for that! Please click over to the shop to see the many other options the sisters have in stock, and read on for their story!
Please tell us a little about you and your products.
Giggle Girls' Studio was started by my sister and I, who love creating, giggling and doing both together! Art and creativity has been a large part of our lives for as long as we can remember and when we started designing and creating jewelry, we knew that this was the artistic outlet that fulfilled all our desires! Once friends and neighbors began asking us to create jewelry for them, we decided it was time to go for it. Our website was born and we started participating in local art shows in the panhandle of Florida and northern New Jersey. 

How would you describe the mission/purpose of your business?
The mission and goal of Giggle Girls' Studio is to create quality pieces of artistic jewelry which our customer will fall in love with and wear for many years to come. It should not only be lovely to look at, but easy to put on and comfortable to wear!

Our pieces are individually hand crafted by us using quality materials and we stand behind all our pieces! We use top quality leather, sterling/fine silver, quality base metals, handmade lamp-work, precious & natural stone/pearls and high quality glass beads.

What is your favorite part of running a creative business? The biggest challenge?
We have found, besides the satisfaction of creating a beautiful piece, that the best part of being in this business is receiving all the fabulous feedback from our customers, first time customers, browsers and especially the ones that keep coming back because they are thrilled with their pieces. 

The biggest challenge is juggling the business side of things with the creative. When you are the artist, purchaser, photographer, seller and bookkeeper, having enough time is certainly a challenge.

What is the best gift in your shop? Who is it for? 

Our website has many items which make great gifts for all occasions and if requested, a purchase can be gift wrapped. You can spend as little as $5 for a delicate leather bracelet or anywhere between $20 to $60 dollar bracelets, rings, and necklaces, for all ages. One of our most popular items this season has been our knitted necklace, "Cleopatra's Passion" for only $28.00. Please check our website to see lots of colors and lengths. (Our domestic shipping costs are only $3.00 and if your purchase is over $50.00 shipping is free.)

There are many items on our website, but we have even more that will be available at shows (items not yet on the website, see the site for show dates). If you mention this blog, we will give you 20% off ONE item of your choice.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The 12 Shops of Christmas #4

Oh ladies, I am in love again! In my local Etsy shop hunts, I just keep finding all of these incredible people who are creating gorgeous handmade items in my backyard. (Well, not literally my backyard, though these gals can certainly come knit here anytime they like. I'll make the cookies.) It pains me to say that I am not a knitter, though my grandmother has taught me the stitches many times. I can't read patterns, and I just don't have the knack for it, so I am always in awe of people who are talented with the needles. Obviously I was so happy to find the ladies of The Knit Garden, a family affair based in Fair Lawn, NJ. I love their pieces, their story, and their mission. 
My favorite gift from their shop would be for a best girl friend or sister, one of the beautiful fringed scarves in a bright shade. For my own sister I would choose this two toned orange scarf, which is so her color! I'd add a pair of movie tickets and some Junior Mints (the best movie candy of all time) and then take her to a flick, since we haven't done that in ages! I know there has to be a holiday themed chick flick coming out soon, Love Actually style. Perfect gal pal gift! They have plenty of other colors and styles, and they take custom orders, so you can have the perfect item made for you or a friend! Read on to learn about the three generations who make up The Knit Garden and don't forget the coupon code at the end of the interview!

Please tell us a little about you and your products:
My name is Jessy Hausner and I'm the owner and operator of The Knit Garden. The Knit Garden is a family affair involving three generations of women from our family. My grandmother Reva, mother Eileen, and I all feel the need to constantly create. A number of years ago, my grandmother and mother taught me how to knit and crochet, and when we ran out of friends to give our knit creations away to, we decided to open an Etsy shop. Our products are mostly wearable knits such as scarves, cowls, hats, and headbands, but we also make and sell things like crochet IPhone cases, and knit necklaces. 

How would you describe the mission/purpose of your business?

My favorite oatmeal colored scarf:) And it's photographed with books, come on!

Our mission is to make beautiful wearable art. Each scarf is made to keep you nice and cozy, but also look wonderful no matter the season or the outfit. Our passion is to create, and our goal is to make people happy and comfy. 

How did you get started as a creative business owner?
I've always been crafting and creating for as long as I can remember. I went to college for psychology and for a while thought that would be my path in life. A few years ago however, I was laid off from my job and decided what I really wanted to do was to create beautiful things all day long and be my own boss. I started with craft shows selling my pottery, but eventually I settled on knitting. We opened The Knit Garden because it was something that brought my mom grandmother and I together, and was something we all took great joy in doing on a daily basis. 

What is your favorite part of running a creative business? The biggest challenge?
My favorite part of running a creative business is being my own boss and knowing I can earn a living from something I'm passionate about. With the help of my mom and grandmother, we have the power and the freedom to make all the knit art we want and make our shop look whatever way we want it to look. 

The biggest challenge is actually the flip-side of the same answer. The fact that it's all on our shoulders, and the fact that if we don't do it, it doesn't get done. 

What is the best gift in your shop? Who is it for? 
The best gift in our shop is definitely the scarves. All of our scarves are unisex adult scarves, some long, some short. They're a great gift to give to a loved one, but also make a great present for a child's teacher or a co-worker. In todays mass-produced world, I think giving someone a gift that is handmade adds an extra dimension to the art of gift giving. Whoever receives it will be warm and cozy in these cold winter months while still looking fashionable. 

Coupon Code: 10% off your order from The Knit Garden if you use the code SHOPSOFXMAS
This color is bananas. Don't go buying it though, I want it for me!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

This Ain't Yo Mama's Sunday Gravy

My husband doesn't like pasta. And I married him anyway, which should tell you about his copious other redeeming qualities. I, however, am a firm believer in pasta. As comfort food, right of passage, learning curve... It's the best food on earth, second only to cheese, which is like pasta's BFF anyway.

Any time E is out of town on business I make pasta. I make it when he is home also, and he chokes it down dutifully, but it is usually a last minute dinner choice, nothing requiring effort. He wouldn't appreciate it. When he is gone I experiment. So when he headed out to L.A. this week, I got all fired up to party like Roy Choi. I figured it was appropriate since he's an L.A based chef and his spaghetti has been popping up everywheres.

Now let me tell you. This ain't yo mama's Sunday gravy. No carrots, no tomato paste, no sawseech. But it's incredible. Like fingers-in-the-hot-pot-can't-wait-to-taste-it incredible. I took my pots and tomatoes over to the home of some pasta aficionado pals and took over their kitchen for the evening (That's been happening lately. I dig it.). We all agreed that this was an unusual sauce, one we would never have thought of making, but it was goood. Hints of mushroom gave it a fantastic depth of flavor and all of that mellowed garlic was perfect. Lots of cheese on top, some good wine, and it was pretty much pasta heaven. Just don't tell my grandmother.

Roy Choi's $4 Spaghetti - adapted just a touch by your truly
1 lb. whole wheat thin spaghetti
2 28 oz. cans plum tomatoes in juice
4 oz. white button mushrooms, thinly sliced
4 cups water
1 cup olive oil
1 head of garlic, peeled
salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese

In a pot bring water and mushrooms to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about an hour. Strain the stock and set aside. Save your mushrooms for this amazing spread!

Meanwhile, add oil and garlic to a small sauce pan over very low heat. Simmer for 1.5 - 2 hours, turning occasionally, until garlic is evenly browned and soft.

In a dutch oven, pour tomatoes and cooked garlic with the oil. Pour in one cup of your mushroom stock and blend with an immersion blender. Add more stock as needed until your sauce is smooth like buttah. (Use any excess stock for that spread I mentioned earlier.) Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour or until reduced. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook spaghetti until al dente (about 6 minutes). Strain, toss with sauce, top with freshly grated parmesan and sere immediately. Preferably with a big glass of red and a chunk of bread for sopping up any saucy goodness left in your bowl. Licking it would be considered unsightly by some, though I wouldn't blame you.

Little man asked for repeats of the dinner today, so he devoured the leftovers with meatballs and lots of "fancy cheese" on top, all while singing "On Top of Spaghetti" as if he was the first boy on Earth to do so. He is so very proud of himself:) 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Mason Jar Mania

Oh, look! It's a mason jar! With a chevron tag! And kraft paper! And a chalkboard label! And...! All it needs is a neon fox with a mustache and I think this little bread-mix-in-a-jar has hit every handmade trend going right now. The sad thing is, it wasn't even intentional. That is not at all a claim that I have a finger of the pulse of coolness, or that I even understand true coolness anymore. It does feel a damned shame that what is cool gets to be chosen by people who are 13. (Sidenote: That's actually the truth, you know. In my linguistics classes we always talked about how language trends began with middle schoolers. So if you want to know what the next hot phrase will be, find a 7th grader. Totes Magotes.) I like to think I'm kind of cool, and that hair cut to mimic Johnny Lawrence from Karate Kid is NOT cool, but I guess that just means I'm getting old. I wouldn't go so far as to say that giving someone a jar of cookie mix is cool, unless maybe that cookie mix was inspired by Jem and the Holograms and makes you poo sparkles. That would be considered cool even by middle school standards. (Sidenote: Did you know a new in box Jem doll goes for over $300 on eBay now? I should have hung on to mine. Even Kimber gets $225 and she played the keytar.)

But anyhow, back to those pesky little on-trend mason jars. I dare you to get a mix-in-a-jar as a gift and not think it's pretty awesome. You can do so much with them! Soup, bread, brownies, cookies! And once you empty it you start scanning Pinterest pages for all the millions of ideas for how to turn your mason jar into something truly fabulous (A light fixture! A terrarium! A house for fairie folk!) It's just too much fun for one person alone! So you will just have to share with your pals. They are quick to make, inexpensive, and everyone appreciates a little something handmade, even if you didn't knit an organic, free trade alpaca wool afghan. Cause who can do that? You can do this:

Holiday Gingerbread in a Jar

-Grab a quart sized jar and three small bowls.

-Into one bowl, measure 1/2 c. brown sugar.

-Into the second bowl measure 1 1/2 cups of flour.

-Into the third bowl, measure 1 tsp. of salt, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. baking soda, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. ground ginger and 1/2 tsp. allspice.

-Pour 1/2 of the flour into the jar. Don't be silly; use a funnel or a spoon so you don't make a big mess.

-Add the brown sugar in a layer, top with the remaining flour, then add the spice mix in the last layer.

-Grab a ziploc sandwich bag. Fill it with 1/2 c. of powdered sugar, seal it up, and stuff it into the jar.

-Put the top on the jar with a cute scrap of fabric, a doily, tinsel, or whatever you have around the house that could pass for festive.

- Print out this little recipe card below. Punch a hole in one corner and tie it to your jar with baker's twine, ribbon, yarn, whatevs.

And voila! You have a ready to give little handmade gift! Want to dress it up for your hipster pals? Feel free to draw a mustachioed woodland creature on the jar with a sharpie, knit it a tiny beret, or tag it with faux bois prints. (Oh wait, I actually have some of those!) Or you can just ask me for some chalkboard labels and be done with it. I'm all stocked up.

Also, not so keen on gingerbread? No worries there! Take a peek at this board full of lovely ___-in-a-jar recipes for bars, cookies, breads, soups, and even bath goodies!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The 12 Shops of Christmas #3

Today I have the pleasure of  introducing you to Danielle of DKTop, a ceramic artist whose pieces are just incredible. I stumbled upon Danielle's shop when looking for gifts through Etsy's Shop Local feature and it was love at first sight. Her lotus pod sculptures are so incredibly cool! And if you wonder if a lotus pod could fit into the of the moment fashion trends, no worries there, because she also sells a version adorned with spikes. Tres chic! I love that Danielle offers a variety of price points in her shop, so if you don't want to go whole hog with a custom made sculpture, you can still own a fabulous piece of handmade pottery for under $20. Don't forget to peek at the end of her interview for a coupon code!

My perfect gift choices from Danielle's collection would be for two people: my knitting fiend of an aunt, and my coffee addicted husband. Auntie would get a custom made version of this crazy cool yarn bowl pod, with a few skeins of delicious handmade yarn and some new needles. I'm not sure if she already has a yarn bowl, but she definitely doesn't own one like this! It's a like a conversation piece for knitters!

Hubs would score an awesome pod handled mug, with a few pounds of his favorite beans, and a knit mug cozy on the side. Maybe even a Starbucks card, but I wouldn't let him leave the house with his mug for fear those hipster baristas would try to steal it for themselves.

Please tell us a little about you and your products.

My name is Danielle Kotopoulis. I am an artist and art educator who works primarily in clay. My work is a combination of hand-built and wheel thrown vessels.

How would you describe the mission/purpose of your business?

The purpose of my business is to share my artwork with the world. As an art teacher, I generally focus on the work of my students. I love to see how they grow and thrive artistically and it made me realize that I missed creating my own work. 

How did you get started as a creative business owner?

For years I have been giving away my work as gifts to friends and family. After hearing “you should sell this” time, and time again, I decided look into it. I’ve been a huge fan of Etsy for quite a while now and thought it would be the perfect starter site for my business.

What is your favorite part of running a creative business? The biggest challenge?

I love being able to share my work with the public. Since I began selling, I have been commissioned to create a few custom pieces as well. While it is a challenge, it is incredibly gratifying to be able to create a piece that someone will treasure for years to come. 

What is the best gift in your shop? Who is it for?

Not sure what to buy for your Secret Santa? A handmade mug is great gift for anyone!
Need a gift for the person who has everything? Try a one of a kind hand-built ceramic sculpture.

Get 5% off of any purchase over $50. Expires 12/31/13 Use Coupon Code: HOLIDAYS5

Sunday, November 17, 2013

What's For Dinner: Live!

Facebook is so weird. I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook most of the time, thanks to the outpouring of nasty politics, oversharing, and general negativity it tends to breed, but lately my feelings for the social media mega whore have turned to love/love. I'm loving the  warm and fuzzy November Thankfulness Campaign bandwagon, and thanks to Facebook, I got to cook in my dream kitchen this past week. I am a member of this great group of 900 called What's for Dinner, a page where members simply post what they are cooking up each day. It's a simple way to inspire each other through food, and it is awesome.

Talking with my hands much?
Recently the group's organizer tossed around the idea of a cooking demo night, where members could get together to meet in person and share some recipes. Of course I wanted in, since I pretend I am on a cooking show in my own kitchen most days anyway. I didn't realize when I volunteered that I would have to cook in front of 30 people. Talk about performance anxiety. Luckily, I got to be last of the 4 cooks, so by the time I had to demonstrate my recipe, everyone was half in the bag and chatting up a storm. The glasses of wine I had already consumed didn't hurt either. Phew!

I decided to make an Autumn Harvest Soup, full of butternut squash, apples, onions, roasted garlic, and topped with creme fraiche. It's one of my favorites, and perfect for Thanksgiving. You can dress it up with crispy sage leaves and frizzled onions for a fancy dinner, or keep it simple for a weeknight meal. It comes together really quickly, and is a go-to on my holiday menu. The recipe is below, and I will add the recipes for the other dishes from the night as I make them!

The other ladies in the group made some crazy amazing dishes. First up was Sara Van Goor's Pumpkin lasagna, which was off the chizz-ain. No joke. Prosciutto, parmesan, pumpkin, and a smooth and decadent bechamel all blended together into a gooey flavor bomb. Everyone wanted seconds. Now I just have to figure out how to make it all in advance and drive it down to North Carolina for my Friendsgiving:) Doesn't she look like she's all ready for Food Network?

Next was Marcella Simon Vander Eems who made Wonton Cups Three Ways. I was so glad to learn that you can bake wonton wrappers and keep them in an air-tight container for days. I have never made them for appetizers, but they can be so quick with just a bit of advanced prepartion! Marcella made three different fillings: a five spiced chicken salad with citrus and cilantro, a fall fruits blend with blue cheese, and a shrimp with hoisin sauce. I will never buy hoisin at my supermarket again after tasting the one Marcella used! It was a bit richer and saltier, and nothing like the jammy flavor of what I have been buying!

The third cook was Melissa Caminiti Clare, who is also a blogger. Please go visit her at I Was Born to Cook and check out some of her amazing recipes! She made her mother's stuffing recipe, which was loaded with surprises. I'm no stranger to adding dried fruits to stuffing, but Panattone? Never. The idea of adding cake to stuffing is pretty much the best idea anyone ever had. Paired with roasted chestnuts and pork sausage, it was incredible. Moist, a touch sweet, and deliciously unexpected. I will definitely be making it myself! I got lucky and snagged a little bag of leftover stuffing to take home in my purse. I did feel a bit like the old ladies who frequented Chelo's on Sunday afternoons, but I didn't care. It was that good. I made a huge Thanksgiving sandwich the next day and refused to share any of it with Jude. Mean mama.

It was so much fun meeting all of these women and the 20 something others who came to hang out with us. I still can't believe that our host let us all in to take over her gorgeous kitchen for the night! If I had a kitchen like hers, there may not be room for anyone else to cook in it! I would probably sleep in the farm sink.