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Thursday, November 28, 2013


I have so much to be thankful this year that I couldn't even begin to list it out. But of course, what I am most thankful for is my happy and healthy family.

Wishing you all a very happy Thanksgiving and start of the holiday season!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Sweet Treats Saturday: Goat Cheese Sugar Cookies

Ok, if you've made it this far, you are in for a treat!

Yes, the sugar cookies have goat cheese in them. No, you will not taste it. What you will taste is a delicious, crispy, buttery, sugar cookie.

When I saw this recipe come up on my Pinterest, I was instantly intrigued. I'm a sucker for goat cheese - on my pizza, in tarts... and apparently in my sugar cookies. But I'm also the type of person who would pick a sugar cookie over chocolate chip, anyday. My husband calls it blasphemy.

The ingredients (other than the goat cheese) were things I would normally have in my pantry. And I actually had the goat cheese on hand as I planned on using it for pizza night later in the week. And while we are at it, how about sprinkles in fall colors? Perfection!

These cookies were so easy to make and so crispy and delicious. I love a sugar cookie all rolled up in sprinkles and these were probably on my top 5 sugar cookie of all time list. Yes, I have such a list.

Surprise someone and whip up this batch of cookies. I didn't tell anyone the secret ingredient, and they never would have guessed anyways. But they were all raving about how delicious they were!

Goat Cheese Sugar Cookies
Recipe only slightly modified from Love and Olive Oil

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 c sugar
1/3 cup (3 oz) soft goat cheese, room temperature (I used the crumbled kind)
6 tbsp butter, softened
1/4 c vegetable oil
2 tbsp milk (1% was fine)
2 tsp vanilla extract
sprinkles or sanding sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet.
2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to sift. Set aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar, goat cheese, and butter. Mix with an electric (or stand) mixer until it forms a smooth paste.  Slowly add in oil. Then add egg, milk, and vanilla extract, stirring until all is blended and smooth.
4. Slowly add in flour mixture until it is all blended. Batter will be soft and may need to be placed in fridge in between use.
5. Fill a small bowl with sprinkles or sanding sugar.
6. Use a small cookie dough scoop or tablespoon to scoop out dough. Scoop into bowl and roll around until mostly covered.  I leave space on the bottom but you could cover the entire cookie. Arrange on prepared baking sheet. The cookies do not spread too much but leave a little space in between each one.
7. Bake for 10-12 minutes until cookies are set and slightly golden.  Cool and transfer to wire racks.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Craft Fair Recap and Lessons Learned

This past weekend, I had my first craft fair. I teamed up with some local moms, and we rented out some tables under the name 'Milk Mamas.'  We all met from our local breast-feeding support group so it was a pretty fitting name.  All of our items are hand-crafted and primarily focused on the wee ones.

The craft fair was put on buy the local Junior League chapter. It's the first or second time they've run it so it was a smaller affair. It was in their local Community Outreach building and there was about a dozen vendors total participating.

I was up late every night of the week, frantically churning out burp cloths and lovies. It's been ages since I've participated in a craft fair, and never selling goods like these... I really didn't know what to expect. My Etsy shop has been doing pretty well, considering I do minimal advertising and it's mainly with online mommy groups.  My lovie's are definitely the top seller as I'm usually advertising them on sites specific to the swaddle brands that I use. But would they perform as well in person?

We arrived early and I covered the tables in my pastel table-cloths. I brought them 'just-in-case' but they definitely came in handy to cover up the drab, plastic tables.  We divided up the tables between the 5 of us and arranged our goodies for display. In the future, we could definitely use more space. We all had a lot of great stuff! ILH Designs and her onesies could have taken up two tables alone as she had so many cute designs available! Her friend was selling Norwex cleaning products at the far end of the table, and the other two ladies had some adorable bows, infinity scarves for babies and adults, and felt quiet books. I think that with the combination of all of these items, I can safely say that we were one of the most popular tables at the craft fair.  We all sold a few pieces - not quite as much as we would have liked to do, but with approximately 50 people coming to the fair (one of the vendors counted), I think we made out pretty well.

Once I got home, I also reached out to my local online groups and mentioned my items, and was able to get quite a few more sales directly through my Etsy shop. So in the end, it came out to be a successful day. I made back what I spent on the table, which was really my main concern, I got my name out there, and was able to gauge what people were interested in.

Much to my surprise, the burp cloths were equally as popular as the lovies. Not that I don't think they are a great product as well, but on Etsy, they don't sell nearly as well. I feel that my pricing is very competitive, but I think Etsy is pretty saturated with burp cloth sets.  I'm going to keep at it though, focusing on them at shows like this, but also keeping really cute designs in stock. In just the last week since the fair, I picked up some new prints that are ridiculously cute. I'll list them online after my next craft fair, tomorrow. Yeah, that's right - back-to-back craft fairs. Tis' the season!

One quick craft that I whipped up for the fair were some little name labels for my items. At the time, I was just doing burp cloths and lovies. Again, since the fair, I've been on a bit of a crafting spree and was inspired to come up with a few new things. More on those after this weekend. I stitched these each up in about 30 minutes.  I made a quick little cupcake and plotted out the spacing for the words. I love how they turned out, and tied my two little baskets together. Now I just need to make a couple more for my new goodies.

So overall, what did I learn from this craft fair experience? Sorry, it's about to get a bit wordy, but hopefully you will find this useful.

1. Don't set too many expectations. Try to find out as much as you can about the fair itself so that you can anticipate how many people will come. Who will mostly make up the audience? I knew that this was a fairly new fair, so I didn't expect a huge turn-out, but I definitely had more products than I needed. It's good to have variety, but you also don't want to over-do it and bring too much clutter. Through this all, you can still find that even though you did the research, you just didn't get a lot of customers. While I think you should take a look at what you are selling overall, making sure it is something people are interested in, you also don't want to go in to your first (or even later on) craft fair expecting to be wiped out of everything. Just be realistic about what to expect.

2. Price right. Be competitive, but make sure you're not underestimating yourself and what your time is worth. Etsy has some great resources to help you calculate how much you should be selling your items for in order to make a profit. If you are finding that your goods are priced too high, you need to figure out how you can keep costs down... better vendors to buy your supplies, more time-effective solutions to make them, or maybe it's something you just need to pass on.

3. Adding on to the topic of price, are you really incorporating ALL costs into your goods? We had one person who was not charging extra for custom prints. It doesn't take her much extra time to do, but something that was missing from her calculations was the cost of getting the end product to the customer. At the fair, you hand them their item, the transaction is - in a sense - over. Custom items require a little extra work but they also do not leave the customer standing in front of you with the goods in hand. The items either need to be delivered in person (if local, and willing to meet) or shipped.  This adds gas costs or just shipping and packaging costs. While it can be exciting to get the sale, you also want to be sure that you are not completely eating away at your margins only to find out you're now in the red. Custom orders may require an extra couple of bucks added on... or more depending on what is actually involved.

4. Listen to your customers. What is it that they are looking for? What are they saying about your products (or the products of the person next to you). For our baby items, what I heard the most was that people wanted a good variety of items for boys, girls, AND gender neutral. It seems obvious, but you may need to take a closer look at your items to make sure they are offering a good variety of options for all customers.

5. Little things count. Keep your stuff neat, easy-to-see, and fun. This draws people in and can impress them with your professional appearance. While some people may like the Becky Homecky look, most people want to buy something that is presented well. Again, seems obvious, but you would be amazed at how some people display their items at craft fairs. If your booth is a mess and it's hard to get an idea of what is actually for sale, you probably won't draw many people in.

6. When possible, let people really SEE your product. I left a few lovies out for people to touch and play with because they are so soft. The rest were neatly packaged up, but this way they could see exactly what they would be buying.

7. What's your follow-up plan? Did you make any connections at the craft fair? Anyone you need to reach out to or custom order to begin working on? Do these things in a timely manner, while your memory is still fresh and so is the customers. It's also just good customer service to get back to them when promised (or sooner). In my case, I didn't have custom orders, but I saw my small supply of burp cloths had a big dent. I needed to replenish before the next fair, so I went out to get more supplies. In doing so, I saw new prints that met #4... listening to what they were asking for. Some cute, new, gender neutral prints, and fun designs that I think will be really popular.  I also advertised online, and ended up selling twice as much as what I sold at the fair in person.  I was already in the shop frame of mind, so it only took me a few minutes and got me a few new customers.

8. Finally... BE FRIENDLY! I saw some vendors with a frown on their face for most of the show. One thing I noticed about them... hardly anyone went to their booth.  You don't need to be a cheerleader, but people probably won't want to stop by if someone with a giant scowl is staring you down.

Alright, I think that's it! Did I miss anything? I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Sew White Dress

What's this?

An actual dress, you say?

For the first time in... well, I'm too lazy to go back and look - let's just say it's been a loooong time. I made a dress. For myself. In fact, it took so long that the dress is just slightly out of season.

For my first foray back to sewing, I eagerly set out to make the Anna dress from By Hand London.  I snatched up the pattern and tried to plot out what fabric to make it in. I looked around my sewing space before I ventured to my local fabric shop, and saw a few yard of white eyelet that I had picked up.  I was inspired to buy this fabric at one point because I saw a black lace dress that I totally thought I could make myself. Except, I couldn't find lace that I wanted to use, or it was too expensive. And then it wasn't black. So I looked at eyelet instead. But still... not inspired by what I saw, and black eyelet is not so easy to come by. So I switched it to white. And then I finally found this eyelet design and bit the bullet. So, it's not what I originally intended, but it could do the job.  I had never used a pattern from By Hand London so I decided I wouldn't be too heartbroken if it didn't work out.

I picked up a thin, white cotton fabric to go underneath the eyelet. We wouldn't want it to be see-through, now would we? I treated the lining as if it were one with the fabric. It made it easier to cut out and assemble the dress, and I didn't want to have to deal with the logistics of a lining.

The pattern was super easy to put together. The hardest part for me was remembering how to do a pleat (I looked up the designer's tutorials, just to make sure I did it right) and installing my invisible zipper. It had been a long while since I did one so I didn't want to make any mistakes. I took it slow, and referred to Colette's sewing handbook instructions, just to be safe.

Now, in California, I could totally wear this dress in the Fall. Except for the whole 'no white after Labor Day' but is that still a thing? Since I've been planning this dress for a while, I probably could have worn it in the early Fall... except we are far enough into the season here in North Carolina, that it's pretty chilly. I could wear it with a sweater, tights, and boots... but I'd probably still be a little cold.  So this will probably get tucked away into my closet until the Spring. But I do like it, and overall the fit seems to be good. I was worried that it wouldn't fit, but it feels perfect. The pictures make it look like it's straining at the bust, but I didn't see that in person, and my hubby denied it too. Regardless, by the time I wear it in Spring, I won't be breastfeeding anymore so I have a feeling the size will be different in that respect. Is that TMI? Trying to be realistic.

So, it's a lovely dress! I will definitely make it again, though I think with the v-neck option instead. Now I need to get realistic about cold weather sewing options. Do you have any recommendations of favorite patterns? Maybe the new release from Colette will be something fitting...

The Facts
Fabric: Approx 3.5 yards cotton eyelet, from stash
Pattern: Anna from By Hand London
Year: Contemporary
Notions: 16" zipper, hook closure
Time to Complete: Approx. 4 hours
First worn: For photos
Wear again: When it's warmer

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Sweet Treats Saturday: Cornflake Cookies

Everywhere I go I have to stop whenever I see a bakery or cupcake shop that I haven't tried. Being that we're in a completely new home, I'm having to stop an awful lot.

I popped in to a little bakery near my house as I heard they had amazing brownies.  The brownies were alright but in the process I spotted a cookie that I'd never heard of... I think they called it a 'rocket' cookie? Its description said 'cornflakes, coconut, and pecans.' Cornflakes in a cookie??  I was intrigued.

I brought it home and nibbled on a corner... which promptly turned in to devouring the whole thing. It was so good! For the sake of my wallet, I thought I should figure out how to make them myself.  I did a search on 'cornflake cookies' and nothing sounded quite right. I finally found one that sounded exact - minus the pecans. So I whipped up my own version.

I think they turned out almost exactly the same. I would be tempted to get another one just to compare, but what I baked was a buttery, crispy, mildly coconut-ty cookie with a little crunch from the pecans and cornflakes. The coconut isn't overwhelming and the cornflakes have a mystery about them. These may be my new sugar/oatmeal cookie addiction.

Cornflake Cookies
Recipe modified from Allrecipes

1/2 c butter (4oz)
1/2 c brown sugar, packed
1/2 c white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 c cornflakes cereal, crushed (I poured into a ziploc bag and crushed them by hand)
1 c old-fashioned oats
1 1/3 c flaked coconut
3/4 c pecans, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until smooth and fluffy.  Stir in the egg and vanilla.
3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder. Stir into the creamed mixture. Add the oatmeal, crushed cereal, coconut, and pecans, and mix until combined.
4. Drop dough by tablespoonfuls onto a prepared cookie sheet. Cookies should be about 2 inches apart. Bake for 9-12 minutes until edges are light brown and the tops are golden. Remove from baking sheets and cool on wire rack.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Lovies and an Etsy Shop

I've been doing a lot of sewing lately, though still not a garment for myself - mainly crafts.  One in particular has been little lovie blankets for babies.

Having Ian introduced me to many things... baby love and snuggles, dirty diapers, breastfeeding, and the world of baby accessories being just a few of them. Within this world, I found muslin swaddle blankets.  When I first heard of them, I couldn't understand the appeal.  Sewing muslin does not usually bring to mind the softest of fabrics.  I found that this muslin they speak of is actually cotton gauze. A soft, lightweight cotton that is perfect for swaddling little babies in.  There are a few big designers, especially Aden and Anais, Swaddle Designs... and it seems like so many more are constantly popping up.

Tilly recently featured a post on Selling Your Handmade Stuff. It was a good read, and had a few things I had to consider when coming up with my shop.  I checked out the existing market for lovies and found that most were made from minky and cotton fabrics... but why not from these beautifully designed blankets? I set to work. I made a few designs and offered them within my online mommy groups. They performed really well so I thought it was time to reopen my Etsy shop.  I've made a little inventory and had my first few sales... and I'm really pleased with the results. I think the lovies turned out beautifully and I think they will make many a happy baby. My little guy loves his.  I have a few more versions to make before the holidays but I'm trying to squeeze them in between my own personal sewing projects.

Ian on one of his swaddle blankets

If you would like to purchase a lovie, you can get them from my Etsy shop with a 10% discount for blog readers. Just use the coupon code '10PERCENT'

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Sweet Treats Saturday: Pear and Apple Crisp

Autumn is here in North Carolina, and I love it.  Though we've only been here for a few months, I'm already loving the changing seasons. People always complained that California doesn't have that, and I never really had a full understanding of what that meant. Sure, it went from hot to cold... we didn't have snow, but I'm cool with that. But here... I could pinpoint the week when summer transitioned to fall.

Ok, enough melancholy. Fall means food. Family gatherings, apples, squash, soups... my mouth is watering thinking about it.  My weekly CSA box has been filled with these goodies and I wanted to make a warm fruit crisp to enjoy some of the bounty.

I didn't have any special ocassions or celebrations coming up, but I wanted a recipe that would use a variety of these fruits and make a small enough batch that hubby and I could finish it over a few days, or that I could easily serve when we have a couple of friends over for dinner.  I downsized the original recipe and made a few changes. Even the hubby, who is not usually a fan of fruit-based desserts, wanted more.  The combination of pears and apples was a nice change to the standard apple crisp.

Pear and Apple Crisp
Recipe modified from Two Peas &Their Pod

Ingredients for the fruit filling:
2 pears, 1 apple (or the reverse combination), peeled, cored, and chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 c light brown sugar
3 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
dash of ground nutmeg

Ingredients for the crisp topping:
1/4 c butter
heaping 1/2 c old-fashioned oats
1/2 c all-purpose flour
dash of salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 c brown sugar

1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine apples, pears, lemon juice and vanilla. Mix to coat.

2. In a separate bowl, mix sugars, flour, cornstarch, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Sprinkle the mixture over the fruit and stir until thoroughly combined.  Pour into a small baking dish (9x9 or similar). Spread until mixture is evenly distributed and covering the bottom of the pan.

3. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat, ocassionally swirling the pan, until the butter is a golden brown color with a nutty smell.  Transfer to a bowl to cool.

4.  In a separate bowl, combine the oats, flour, salt, cinnamon, and brown sugar.  Pour the butter over the mixture and stir until combined.  Crumble mixture over the pear and apple mixture in the baking pan.

5. Bake for 35-45 minutes until the crumble is bubbling around the edges and the top is golden brown.  Let cool slightly before serving.

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