November 29, 2012

baking therapy & a recipe: salted raisin oatmeal cookies

In a world of schedules, lists, errands to run and phone calls to make, baking from scratch isn't exactly on the top of most of our lists. This is especially true during the holidays when we're consumed with decorating the house/fighting our way through holiday traffic/shopping for gifts/making room on the credit card to pay for said gifts. 


But bake from scratch I must if I hope to keep my sanity during the season. I find spending an afternoon shopping for spices & fine tuning old recipes to be therapeutic. I can't control much in this chaotic world, but I can add as much nutmeg as I want to my breakfast bread, damnit.


Pile onto a vintage-style plate & enjoy.

After my mom bought a stale-tasting & disappointing box of Archway's oatmeal cookies I decided to bake a batch of holiday cookies that she could appreciate. I took Ina Garten's recipe for Raisin Pecan Oatmeal Cookies & tweaked it a bit to make a heartier cookie with more depth of flavor. I pulled inspiration from all of the salt caramel-flavored coffees & cocoas I've seen in cafes this past year and salted the raisins. I also added walnuts to mix it up a bit. The cookies came out soft, plump and delicious just like oatmeal raisin cookies should be. 


Archway's got nothing on these cookies.

November 22, 2012

ringing in the holidays & a recipe: bourbon cranberry sauce

Making a batch of fresh cranberry sauce is one of my favorite ways to ring in the holidays. It's a quick, simple, one-pot-wonder and tastes worlds better than the kind that sits in a can on the grocer's shelf for who knows how many months (years?!).

Cranberry sauce is versatile beyond the holidays - it pairs nicely with pork and lamb in addition to the traditional turkey. You could use the same guidelines for blueberry or strawberry compotes as well to spread over a muffin or swirl into a bowl of oatmeal...but maybe keep the bourbon out if you're serving this with breakfast, unless it's a mimosa kind of brunch. ;)

November 12, 2012

weekend garage sale warrior

After my highly unsuccessful craft show last week, I needed a way to supplement my income in a low-risk way. Also, since I'm moving to Canada in a couple of months, I needed to get rid of some bulky items that I'd rather not have to deal with on moving day. 

So, naturally, I had a yard sale.

The contrast of a yard sale to a craft show is astounding - there's no booth fee to set up shop, not greasy lunches from food trucks, and you don't have to drive anywhere. I only had to put up ads on Craigslist, put signs out in the neighborhood, and let the people come to me.



Of course we (my parents and I) still did a lot of physical labor, but once everything was set up we were able turn on the radio, sit down with our coffee and enjoy making money from the comfort of our driveway. We utilized our craft show tent for shade and also put items for sale in the crates that my dad built for my candle display. We truly used lemons to make lemonade.

Aww... childhood memories.
I have prior yard sale experience so I knew that people were looking for cheap. They're not driving up to a stranger's houses to drop $100 on an antique vase - they want the antique vase but they want it for about 5 bucks. I've had people nickle & dime me over a dollar. So I kept prices really low, making a $1 table, a 50 cent table, and then the higher end table full of crystal stemware and other fine dining goodies (which no one touched).

Case in point: there was a crocheted hat that my mom had since she was a teenager. It was a sweet newsboy cap, very cute. I was even thinking of selling it on Etsy for $10 - $15. But then an elderly gentleman tried it on his bald head and fell in love. His cheapo wife told me, "A dollar is too expensive for this." She wanted it for 50 cents. I told her no, sorry, the price is $1 and she paid me anyway but with a frown on her face. Come on.

This is what they drive miles to see - the $1 table.

The good crystal was too rich for their blood; none of it sold.

People wanted the crates more than what was in them.
One lady literally begged us to sell her one.

In the end I made a couple hundred dollars and so did my parents, which makes our yard sale infinitely more successful than our last craft show. And, better yet, much less time went into it since I wasn't slaving over a hot stove mixing batches of candles.

Next up on the self-employment schedule: a holiday bazaar at a local gymnasium on December 1. It's kind of far away (3 weekends) but Thanksgiving weekend falls in between so it's okay; I'll find ways to keep busy.

Funny thing is, since I quit my job last month, I've had less me-time than before, if any at all. I've been so busy prepping for craft shows and the yard sale, antiquing for my website, photographing items, listing items, and then packing & shipping them that I haven't been able to read a new book or use these calming bath salts that I bought a week & a half ago.

Being self-employed isn't as easy as it sounds! But I'm not complaining. Everything is a learning experience.

November 3, 2012

bad day in craft fair land

It's bound to happen some time and today was the day. It wasn't the first and I'm sure it won't be the last. It stings and makes me want to taking a running start toward the Skyway Bridge with my candles in tow.

Yes, I'm talking about the dreaded bust - a craft fair that just wasn't worth the time, effort, money, energy, or anything else you put into it.

Our positive affirmations did not work today.
Today's church show in Tampa was a complete disaster from start to finish. I had a feeling it was going to be a bad day when we arrived and the lady in charge of figuring out what vendor goes where couldn't locate our name on her list. When we finally found our place and asked why it was directly under a low-hanging tree so that we couldn't erect our tent, she told us very defensively that "it was dark" when she mapped everything out.

Yikes.

The organizers were rushing around, frenzied, and were making me nervous. After speaking with a few other vendors, I learned I wasn't the only one who picked up on the disorganized vibe.

No bueno.

We made the executive decision to move over a few feet (much to the chagrin of the promoter), set up our tent and tried to remain positive. There were only about 10 other vendors on the lawn with us and about 15 located under a nearby covered walkway outside of the church. Definitely the smallest show I've done so far, which wasn't encouraging. But we pressed on and told ourselves that with fewer vendors our likelihood of getting more sales would go up. The less competition, the better...right? Sometimes you just have to lie to yourself to get through the day.

We had set up a smaller version of what we had at the pumpkin festival 2 weeks ago, knowing it would be a smaller crowd. But we didn't expect what was about to happen...


...which was nothing. From 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. we had not yet made back our booth fee, which to be perfectly honest, was very little. It seemed as though the organizers had not promoted the event at all! The only people who showed up were a few dozen elderly women from the congregation who came for a luncheon benefiting the church, and then left immediately afterward. They didn't even feign interest in our crafts.
Our happy pilgrim bears did not bring us luck.
The show was scheduled to end at 4 p.m. but after a long, hot day in the sun all of us vendors were fed up with the lack of customers. We had been complaining to each other all day (one lady told me she only made $8. I wanted to hug her) and so we decided to take matters into our own hands and pack up 2 hours early. It was an unspoken agreement and we all seemed to start breaking down our displays at the same time. There were still a few straggler customers hanging around but something took over us (looking back, it was probably a mixture of sweat and defeat). As I was boxing up my candles, a fellow vendor purchased one from me which pushed me into the 'I-Just-Made-Back-My-Booth-Fee' threshold. But I just made it back. Broke even, if you're not accounting for supplies, time, effort, energy, and gas for the 3-hour round-trip ride to Tampa. And if you are, then the numbers are just too sad to bear... but we tried to smile and keep our senses of humor about us. You have to in such frustrating situations or you'll snap.

Me and my candles. Before the carnage.

Mom and her aprons. Not knowing what lied ahead.

The silver lining is that I met some really cool artisans and fellow crafters. With so few customers, we had a lot of time to hang around, converse and share a few laughs, which is never a bad thing in my opinion.

Our next craft show isn't for another month but in the meantime I have a garage sale coming up so I'll be trying to sell my candles there as well. I won't give up!

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