Pasta Margherita

I like recipes. As in, I like to follow recipes. I am not generally the type to see a pile of ingredients and say, "Oh! I know what I can do with that." Give me a good set of directions to follow and I'm good. However, there is this one exception. Last year I developed my own pasta dish, though it was completely based off of a pizza recipe.

Last summer, my husband got a grill for his birthday, a gift from my parents. It was the first summer in our own house and not an apartment, so it was the perfect addition to our new backyard. My husband says it's the best gift he's ever gotten. He's never used it. I, on the other hand, have used it a ton- we ran the tank out halfway through the summer. He says it's the gift that keeps on giving.

In one of my grill adventures, I tried to make grilled pizza. If you've ever had it, it's wonderful. If you've ever tried to make it, it's hard. You have to be somewhat quick and time everything just right, and I'm not the best at that I guess. So one of my failed attempts at grilled pizza margherita (tomatoes, basil, and fresh mozzerella) turned into pasta margherita. I had everything cut and ready to go, and since I didn't have a crust to put it all on, I needed something else fast. Enter the pasta.

Pasta Margherita (with no specific amounts)
Fresh garlic cloves, chopped
Tomatoes, chopped into small pieces
Basil leaves, torn or cut into small strips
Fresh mozzerella, cut into pieces
Angel hair pasta

Boil pasta according to package directions. Heat a skillet on medium high, spray with cooking spray. Sautee the garlic for a few minutes until lightly brown. Add the tomatoes, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook for a minute until tomatoes are slightly brown and wilted. Place the cooked pasta into a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil. Add the garlic and tomato mixture, basil, and mozzerella and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

That's it! It is so easy and so tasty. You can add as much or as little of each ingredient as you like. I am a garlic-heavy cook, so I add an obscene amount of garlic to this. We have it with grilled chicken (I couldn't wait for summer any longer) but it makes for a great vegeterian dish if that is what you are in the mood for. Add a salad and some bread and you've got a fast, complete meal.


Project Dog Collar

Sorry for the title, but I am a huge Project Runway fan (when is it coming on again?? anyone?), and my latest undertaking made me think of the show. I am not the greatest sewer- I don't like to use pins because they just get in my way, and I'm not the best at making a perfectly straight line with the sewing machine- but I can get the job done when need be. I have made basic curtains on many occasions, and since having the toddler, a scarecrow hat and an Indian costume have been successfully completed. So I thought, revamping my dog's collar should be an easy and fun project. And it was, for the most part.

Let me back up. This is our dog, Casey:

She is a two and a half year old standard poodle, though she is small for her breed. We rescued her when she was 10 months, finding her on (Don't click that link unless you want to get a dog! The cute faces and sad eyes will get you!). This was her photo:

What a lady!

And so, with that, my husband determined that this was our dog. We love her. Adore is probably closer to it. The entire extended family thinks she is just the sweetest dog, so it's not just us. Here are some things about Casey:

1. She does not like to get wet, but will patiently have a bath. I think she secretly likes the attention. When she gets done, she runs around like a complete idiot in a maneuver best described as "the after-bath stupids".

2. She is a complete bed hog. The very few times she has been allowed to sleep with us, we have found that she gets right up close to you, and if you try and move over to give yourself space, she scoots over too. Thus, pushing you off the bed and taking it over for herself. Very clever.

3. She gets car sick on back roads, but made it all the way to Florida like this:

Anyway, when we first got her, she had this very nasty, dirty pink sparkle collar on. I am not a pink sparkle kind of gal, so we got her a basic black one, figuring it wouldn't end up looking dirty.

But then people started referring to her as "him" and I knew we had a problem. So, on a trip to Old Navy I found a cute green, white, and pink gingham print collar, which was too adorable and cheap to pass up. But, along the way, it has become abused. She is a sweet, loving dog, but she loves to play and isn't afraid to get a little bit rough and tumble. So here is the state of her pretty collar now:

This project has been on my to-do list for a long time, and I finally decided it was time to revamp. I knew I had some fabric I could use to cover up the old black collar. The one she has now is just gingham print sewed onto a pink collar. If Old Navy could do it, so could I. So I took the black collar apart except for the end hook:

I decided this would be a good print for her- not too girly, but still girly enough. This fabric was originally going to be an apron. Did I mention that I'm not the best sewer? I'm also not the most motivated.

I cut a strip of the fabric, ironed back the edges and sewed it down with the sewing machine. All went well, except for when I went to put it back together. First, I forgot how the parts went back on, so I had to look at the old collar for help. Not a big deal. But in sewing the double-layer at the end which holds the whole thing together, I broke the sewing machine needle (oops) and had to do it by hand. Also not a big deal, but not the most professional looking either. It's ok, though. She's a dog, and she's nice enough not to say anything about it.

Not bad!

I Made Doughnuts. Seriously.

Yes, I made doughnuts! The other day, while organizing and rearranging some magazines I have hanging around the house, the toddler and I came across this one from September 2010:

He took one look and declared, "Nonuts!" So I decided that was enough motivation for me to go ahead and try them, which I did yesterday. The recipe is actually really easy, you just have to allow time to let the dough sit and chill in the refrigerator. Better Homes and Gardens adapted this recipe from the 1953 edition of their New Cook Book, replacing shortening with butter. This is a cake doughnut recipe, kind of like the ones you might get at a harvest fair or at an apple farm. Yum.

Best Doughnuts

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup butter, melted
4 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup sugar
Vegetable oil for frying
Cinnamon-sugar (1/2 c. sugar and 1 tsp. ground cinnamon) or powdered sugar

1. In a bowl combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg. Set aside. In another bowl combine milk and melted butter. In a large mixing bowl combine eggs and sugar; beat with an electric mixer until thick (about 5 minutes). Add milk mixture; stir with wooden spoon to combine. Add flour mixture and stir with wooden spoon until smooth. Cover dough; chill 2 hours (dough will remain slightly sticky).

2. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll dough to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut dough with a floured 2 1/2-inch round cutter. Use a 1 1/4-inch cutter to cut the hole for the doughnut. (You can also use a standard doughnut cutter.)

3. Fry 2 or 3 doughnuts at a time in deep hot fat (375 degrees) for 2 to 2 1/2 minutes ot until brown, turning halfway through with a slotted spoon. Drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining doughnuts and doughnut holes.

4. Shake warm doughnuts in a bag with cinnamon-sugar or powered sugar. Serve warm (or reheat each doughnut 8 to 10 seconds in microwave on high.) Makes about 15 doughnuts plus doughnut holes.

My nicely cut dough.

Sizzling doughnut holes (and a pretty neat picture)!
Rolling them in cinnamon-sugar.

The doughnut pile.
They turned out good! They are a little on the dry side, but that could just be the way I cooked them. Keeping the oil on temperature can be tricky. I only made a half-recipe, too. There are only three of us here to eat them, and one of us is quite small, though he could probably eat the most if given the chance. My biscuit cutter was smaller than what they said- probably only 2 inches, which means I had to improvise on the hole (I used an old formula scoop we had), and I got 11 doughnuts out of it. I also just pressed the doughnuts into the cinnamon-sugar rather than shaking them in a bag. It was just as easy. It made for a fun project, and I'm sure we'll make them again. Enjoy!

What I Did With It (Part One)

Yes, part one! I was really, really hoping to have an amazing end product to show you from my "What Should I Do With This" post today, but I haven't had the time or motivation to finish working on it. Spring fever has us spending more time taking walks in the afternoon and/or evening, and the toddler is sometimes napping and sometimes not, which affords me a more sporadic working time. But, I do have a start to it, so I've got a little something to show you. I warn you- some of the pictures are not great. I do not have the greatest lighted space to work.

First the surprise: they are not flat cards at all, but folded cards! This is a little more of a challenge because even if I wanted to make some kind of a tag out of them (though they're a little too big), I couldn't because there is a fold.

So I figured I'd better start by doing something to cover up some of the white. If I were a handy and talented graphic designer, I suppose I could come up with something cute and/or clever and just print it. But I'm not, so.....tracing it is! Do you remember being in elementary school and having those oak tag tracers that you would use to make shapes? That's exactly what I did.

Lay card.


Cut with scissors. Yes, by hand.

Adhere layer to front of card.

So at that point I was feeling really excited and proud of my clever self. It was so quick and easy to cover up the white scallop card with a blue scallop layer, and I didn't even need a punch! Then I realized I needed something to go on top of it. Most all of my creations are layered paper designs, so in staying true to that, I needed another layer. So I figured I'd just try and cut out a smaller scallop by hand. I traced the card again and this time, cut inside the outline to make a smaller shape.

Hmm...not exactly Etsy quality.

Got some high-level math involved. Finding the center point....

Slightly better, but still not perfect.

And that is the point at which I am right now. I have something in mind to do to use for the middle scallop that I think is going to work perfectly (no, I didn't go out and buy a punch!), I just haven't had a chance to get to it yet. One thing for sure is that I won't be happy with it unless it looks pretty much perfect- I have somewhat of a perfectionistic streak- so if that doesn't turn out, I'll just scrap it and try something else. Stay tuned for Part Two, which will hopefully be the finished product!

A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That

I started to work on the cards from my "What Should I Do With This" post last night and was hoping to post up some results today, but I didn't get a chance to finish it, so maybe on Friday I'll have something to show for it. I'll tell you this- there was a surprise for me! At least I think I may be onto something now.

One thing that I did get completed and listed yesterday were these gift tags:

They are a double-layer cardstock that allows space for a message inside. I had read Etsy's Featured Seller article last week on Ready Go, and when I went to check out her shop, I saw these gift tags and was totally inspired. I had been wanting to do something with those animals for awhile and just wasn't sure what to do. I was thinking round tags, but with no round punch, I was thinking I was going to have to hunt around for some round things to trace and hand cut, and wasn't completely into that at the time. In the end, I'm really thrilled with how these came out. Why is it that we love the most recent things we create or find? There must be some science to that. Anyway, you can see more of the tags here in my shop.

A first for me today: I am featured in a BNR. It took me quite awhile to figure out what a BNR was in the first place. For those who don't know, it stands for Buy and Replace, where someone can buy their way into a treasury in the hopes of being featured and that someone will come and buy their item. Their item replaces the item they bought. These are pretty widespread on Etsy, each one has its own set of rules that buyers need to follow, and I guess people can make a lot of sales from them. I'm interested to see how it goes. I was lucky enough to just be picked to be put into the start of one- I didn't actually have to buy anthing. If you'd like to come and see what it looks like and how it goes, you can find the treasury here.

Another first for me- one of my items will be involved in a giveaway sometime soon. I'll certainly let you know where to go check it out once I find out when it will be up. I have never done a giveaway before, so again, I'm interested to see how it goes and how it all works. However, I now believe there is some karma to it: the day after I offer an item of mine for a giveaway, I get three sales and another bite for a custom order. Funny how things work.

Finally, as of writing this post, I've noticed that I now have 48 followers. I am very so amazed and thrilled by that and can't believe I'm so close to 50! Yes, I know there are blogs out there with lots and lots of followers, but, you know, baby steps! So, welcome to my newest followers, thanks for sticking around and coming back to my old followers, and thank you for reading to anyone else who stops by! I also appreciate all of your comments, even if I don't get the chance to respond to all of them. They really make my day!

I Took the Etsy Taste Test

Have you done it? Have you heard of it? The Etsy taste test- a site built for you to shop Etsy. Or rather, for Etsy to shop for you. If you haven't done it yet, I'll give you a rundown. You start with two rows of three items on your screen and you need to pick which row you like best. From there you get a bunch of screens, each with six items where you have to pick your favorite item. Once you are through it, you get a massive treasury, basically, of either items you picked or items related to it for you to browse. Fun, right?

Well, kind of. I admit, I took it a few times. I liked to see what it came up with for me. The first time through, I just went through what they gave me and made my picks. I didn't realize that at the top was a link that said, "Nothing You Like? Refresh All Items." Uh, oh. This gave me license to refresh, and refresh, and refresh until I was totally happy. It probably took me at least 10 minutes to get through it one time (it can take you like 30 seconds to get through it if you don't refresh).

Results? I found some really neat items, but it took awhile for the taste test to produce a list that was really me. Here's what I learned about me: I'm really, really picky, but I already knew that. I like scarves. I like knitted things. I like paper goods. I like neutrals and pretty shades of blue, teal, and aqua. I like bread. I like bags. However, I would know that about myself just from looking at my own favorites list that I am very slowly curating. Today's daily treasury shows the results of my "best" taste test results.

What I want to know is, who gets to be featured in the taste test? There are so many sellers and items- does everyone get a fair shake at being featured? Could one of my items become a taste test participant? Now that would be fun.

What Should I Do With This?

I mean that title quite literally. I found these cards while I was out looking for paper one day, and I couldn't leave them there. They were very reasonably priced and too cute not to pick up. I knew they were destined for my shop. And now that I have them, I'm not sure what in the world to do with them. There are 8 flat, scalloped cards and I don't want to just play around on one of them like I might with a regular rectangular card that I could easily make more of in case I mess it up and make it unusable.

So, I'm asking for suggestions. What should I do with this? Anyone? Oh, and bear in mind that I don't have a scallop punch, which makes things a little more challenging.

Signs of Spring

Yesterday was the first 60 degree day in a long time, and full of sun. It was the first day in a long time where you actually wanted to go outside and spend some time there. So that's what we did. Even though the yard isn't completely free of snow, we were able to start a little bit of spring cleanup, picking up all the sticks and pinecones that fell out of the trees over the winter. We found some nice surprises, too.

Daffodils starting to poke out of the ground!

Irises, too!
Of course, the dog has gotten used to being in the snow now, and I think she's quite taken with it.

With all the grass exposed, that's where she stands.

The toddler also had a blast, running around and getting dirty.

Fell in a puddle. We went through three pairs of pants yesterday.

Yes, that is a one foot-tall John Deere wheelbarrow.

Happy Friday!

Things To Do

I have been on a shop tear here now for the past two days, and I have one more to go. I think that when I've created a bunch of stuff and am in the process of listing it, that's what I'm thinking about and that's what I want to share. So, a little bit more of my new stuff today, then there will be a nice shop interview with Becca and Mars tomorrow, and then maybe we'll move on to another recipe or something similar.

As it is, today is all about the to-do list. I made one. Not of things I actually need to do, although I have one that is perpetually made, but one for people to use. My oldest and dearest friend is a wedding invitation designer. She has her own business and does most all of the work herself. When she has a lot of clients at once and has many, many things to get assembled all around the same time, I go over and help her put them together. It's a pretty fun time- we chat, have snacks, listen to music, and get to play with paper that other people have paid for.

I was there last week and while I was standing at my table, adhering layer upon layer of lovely wedding invite, I noticed a to-do list page on her desk (completely full and into the margins, of course) and asked her if she designed it herself, which she did. So I said, "I think I'm going to steal that from you." And so I did, sort of. It would be no fun to make exactly what she made because then it wouldn't be my own, but I was happy to take the idea and run with it.

When I got home that night, I wanted to work on my daily treasury for the next day and proceeded to come up with More Ideas Than Time. I had actually seen the print with those words on it earlier in the day when I was searching for a new team to join (another story for another day). So between that and the overloaded to-do list, I had my treasury idea, and plenty of ideas for my own to-do list.

I ended up making to-do list cards. They are printed on cardstock so they are thicker than just your average list pad. I know my own lists get lost, crumpled, spilled on, and so on, so maybe the thicker ones would stand up to rough treatment a little better.

I wanted to add a tag line to the bottom, and with all of the "More Ideas Than Time" images running through my head, figured humor would be the way to go, and that that line would be true of anyone who would actually use my cards. I started with green, but then thought that people might want another color so I ended up making them in four colors.

I got them listed today, with the option to mix-and-match colors or have them printed in another color entirely. I like to give choices. You can check them out here. I think they'd be fun for anyone who keeps a running to-do list, like a busy mom, a teacher, a business owner, and so on.

As for my own to-do list: Go through the closet and rid myself of clothes I've had since high school. Yes, they are still in there. Measure the wall in the toddler's room to see if the bookcase I found online will fit. Try and sew new fabric onto the dog's collar where the old fabric ripped. Get a haircut. These (and more) are all things that have been on the to-do list for awhile and I keep forgetting to do them because other things (laundry, dinner, shop work) are more pressing, or they are just too time consuming for the time I actually have to do them. What's on your list? I know you have one!

The Banner Debacle and Other More Interesting Things

When I posted my new banner yesterday, I didn't realize it would take on a life of its own, almost requiring its own post. But here it is, (almost) its own post. Then I'll get to the stuff I really wanted to talk about today.

That night I posted this new banner (the one hubs wasn't fond of):

So in the morning, to make it less wordy, I cut it down (very slightly):

I liked this one a lot! I knew it was a little blank, but I thought it was somewhat charming. So I posted to one of my teams to ask for opinions, and it all came up the same- too plain! Ahhh! Hubs was right! No!!! So I went to work and took one of his suggestions (sigh). I did a layered paper banner that is the same as my avatar, because it was also suggested that my avatar should stay the same. But I like that- I did like my avatar. Here is new banner take three:

But it's squashy looking! So here is take four:

Hmm...I think I like it! But let me just try it with the other words just in case...

I did kind of like this one, but then I thought it might be too much with the words and the colors and all. So I stuck with number four, which is now displayed in my shop. You thoughts and comments on the matter are, of course, always appreciated.

Now, on to more important things. I've got some new things listed up that I am so proud of. About two weeks ago I posted a preview of some gift tags I was going to list, and they turned out like this:

I loved the double-sided paper, and really wanted to make some book clips out of them. So I started- layering the floral side up on a turquoise card and a bright pink card. And then I got stuck. I wanted to add in the butterflies but didn't like it with the flowers. So they sat. In the meantime, I made these reversible book clips out of boy-themed paper, with one design on the front and another on the back, so they can be used either way.

And then finally the other day it came to me- make the flower ones reversible, too, and put the green plaid with the butterfly on the back. So I did.

I think the came out very spring-y. If you want to check them out further, they are listed here.

I also found this really cute paper with suitcases and bags on it and knew right away what I wanted to do with it: change of address cards. After a couple of tries and some sizing issues, I ended up with these flat, double-sided cards that will let everyone know your new information. And check out the freebie book in the backgound! They are listed here.

I wanted to try and get a few more things listed, but it always ends up taking longer than I thought. I'm going to have to try and get those done later today.

Which leads me to my last thought- do list or renew? Is it better to list something new or renew something old? I haven't to this point renewed anything I've made. I know a lot of people do so on a daily basis, even, but considering all of my items are under $10, those little 20 cents add up quickly on the price of the item itself. I was really considering it for my save the dates, table favors, and graduation announcements, though, since those are perpetual items. I'm still trying to decide if it's worth it for me to do that. I suppose I could give it a try once. As for some of the other items, I don't know if it's worth it to renew them, or if it is just better to add new product to my shop. Either way you get bumped to the top of the search list, so why not have more to offer?

Going Global

Today is a double-post day, so please make sure you keep reading and/or jump down to my interview with Susan Williams Designs so you can learn more about Susan and her shop. She's got a great offer just for you readers!

I had a busy weekend. I have noticed that, for the most part, Etsy becomes a sort of ghost town over the weekend. There's just not as much activity as I see during the week. I understand that- weekdays are for working and weekends are for family- but I am drawn in to the Internet no matter what the day, and in trying to make my fledgling shop successful, I do what I can whenever I get the time.

That being said, I had been feeling for a while like I wanted to re-vamp and spruce up my shop somewhat. When you first open your shop on Etsy, at least I found, you don't really know what to do and how to best do it, so you put things up just to get it done so people will come and look at (and hopefully buy!) your things. Then you go back and fix it. I wasn't unhappy with the shop, but I just wanted to make it better. So I made some decisions about all the maybes that were floating around in my head.

First, I made a new banner, which I had been wanting to do for awhile. I liked the photo that I had up- it showed off some of my bookmarks (ones that actually sold! Hooray!)- but it was a little bit dim and the photo didn't fill up the whole space. Nothing tragic, but not entirely pleasing to my eye. I liked how I had my shop name in the corner, so I decided I was just going to have that. But then I thought it would look a little bit too blank, so I added on some words for the things I hope people will do with the items that I sell. I'm really happy with how it turned out.

My husband, who is, by all accounts, wonderful, does not like it. He immediately said, "You should take it down and put the old one back. There's too many words." He thinks there should be a photo of my work. Or, if I really want to keep the words, then use a different font and less words. I know he wants to help and really does want my shop to look good, but I really like it! I feel like it's closer to all the stuff I've been seeing about branding lately. I'd love for you to check it out and let me know what you think. I am still trying to decide if I should also change my avatar. I like showing off one of my bookmarks, but I think it would be nice for it to just say "by the book paper", too. However, someone did say to me, "Your avatar is interesting. It made me want to click on it." I may just keep thinking on that one for awhile. [P.S.- since writing this, I made another banner change based on team feedback, but you can check it out and comment anyway :)]

Then, the big news: after careful consideration and some research at good old, by the book paper on Etsy is now going to ship internationally. Wow. I had been throwing the idea around for a little bit. I knew it would open my shop up to a whole new group that couldn't purchase from me before if they wanted to, and I can certainly use to expand my market. I checked out some other shops who sell similar items and saw that there wasn't a huge change in the shipping cost for international sites, so I made the leap. I figure if it doesn't seem to be working out, I can always switch it back. I have a hard time with that- I always think if I do something, it is permanent. Anyway, I spent a chunk of time updating shipping information on all my listings, plus making a few price changes here and there, rearranging my shop, and updating the welcome under the banner and my shop policies. Phew!

I also got seven new items finished and got pictures taken of them. I managed to crop all the photos I took, though I have yet to make listings. Honestly, I feel happy just to have that much done. I had a lot of combinations planned (and more yet to do), but I needed some time to actually execute them. If I'm not in the mood to work on them, it's just not going to happen. And so, because I really do want you to stay tuned and read Susan's interview below, I'll leave you with a few preview pictures.

Sunday Sweets

I really love baking, and I get a sudden yen to make something every now and again. My husband calls it "a baking mood". I just like to know that when you want something sweet, you can most often whip something up right then. Chocolate chip cookies a common one in my house- the ingredients are always on hand. So on Friday, the afore-mentioned toddler and I set out to make banana bread with some very over-ripe bananas that we had. I love this recipe- it always comes out soft and moist. It came from a cooking encyclopedia that my mom has, so I can't give you an accurate source (again), but I can tell you that it's super easy to make and has yet to disappoint.

Banana Nut Bread

1/2 cup cooking oil (you can substitute applesauce in a 1-to-1 ratio, and it turns out great)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
3 ripe bananas, mashed
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Beat oil and sugar together. Add eggs and banana pulp and beat well. Add sifted dry ingredients, milk, and vanilla. Mix well. Stir in nuts. Pour into greased and floured loaf pan (9 x 5 x 3). Bake for about 1 hour. Cool well and store overnight before cutting.

Ok, the last step- yea, right. Banana bread never gets a chance to cool around here before half that loaf is gone, and it doesn't ruin it, so feel free to slice away. I also like to add in apple butter or pumpkin butter on the off-chance I have some on hand. It adds to the moistness. Hope you enjoy!

I like to make mini loaves, which are a great gift!