Wednesday, October 5, 2011

An Apple a Day

Like I'm sure many of you, we went apple picking last weekend. The weather was perfect, the orchard at Appleberry Farm was very nice and the apples were plentiful, just as long as you didn't want any McIntosh, those trees were picked clean! We brought home several varieties I'd never had before- NW Greening, Connell Red and Ida Red. We also purchased a few heirloom apples that were already picked. My favorite was the Harralson, which tasted like an apple mixed with an orange - so amazing! We baked a pie as soon as we got home (okay, I baked the pie), and it was one of the best pies I've ever made, according to Steve. We have 2 bags of apples left so I'm going to try making and freezing a couple more pies. Apparently they come out of the freezer and into the oven just fine, although I've never tried it before. I hope it works!

anyone got a bow and arrow?

this apple looks like a butt!

As a child, he was only allowed to pick MacIntosh apples...

of course, Evan ate off all the caramel and threw the apple in the trash!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Friday, September 9, 2011

It's a girl!

A girl-y bag, that is. And I love it! It's my very favorite thing I've made, ever. It will be in the shop soon, as soon as my darn camera battery charges and I can finish taking it's picture!

Monday, September 5, 2011

I'm trying something new today.

I've been insanely jealous of Design Seeds and how she makes her breathtaking photos with matching palettes of color. I've searched the internet high and low and can find a few people who do something similar (but never as nice), but I was really having trouble finding out how to make one of these things.

I finally found one gal who says she uses Aviary to upload a photo and make her palette. So, I went to Aviary, uploaded my photo into the Toucan Color Editor, made my lovely palette and it was really fun and easy. But then I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to get my photo and my palette together in such a nice way as they do. I was hoping it would just magically happen, that there would be a button at the bottom of my palette that said "put these two lovely things together and it will look great" but there wasn't.

So, I figured that it has something to do with my nemesis, Photoshop. I actually have never used Photoshop (haven't wanted to fork over all that money for it) so I've been trying to teach myself to use Gimp, which is like photoshop, only free. I gotta tell you, it's a struggle. I use it so infrequently that each time I try it, I have to relearn everything and it takes me forever.

As it happens, Aviary also has a free Photoshop thing called Pheonix, and my first impression is that it's a little easier than Gimp. That doesn't mean that it didn't take me, oh, about 4 hours to come up with that picture you see at the top. It's nowhere near as pretty as Jessica's pictures, but that's ok. It's the best I can do for now. I definitely owe a special thanks to my friend Kelly for her smarts! Once I finally got the hang of it I couldn't stop and I've been changing all of the main photos in my Etsy shop. Take a look and give me some feedback - Do you like them or not?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

New Day, New Bag

I've been toying with the idea of a bag with ruffles for some time. I want something flirty and feminine, without all the straight lines most of my bags have. This is my first attempt and I'm really happy with it. I just took the basic shape of the Meredith bag, added the ruffles and took out the stiff lining that gives the original bag it's structure. The result is a slouchy, casual bag with a girly attitude. I just might add ruffles to every bag I have!!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Can anything really be this good?

I grew up with Red Velvet Cake. It was THE birthday cake in our house. From Scratch. There was no such thing as boxed Red Velvet Cake when I was young. The recipe calls for two bottles of red food coloring - how decadent can you get? The cake actually plays with your head and your taste buds, because even though the cake is made with cocoa, your brain can't really wrap itself around the notion that the flavor of chocolate is coming from something so completely red.

Another lovely thing about scratch red velvet cake is the buttermilk. Hands down, there is no better cake of any kind than one that has buttermilk in the ingredients. The version in a box just misses the mark here - you don't get that yummy buttermilk smoothness and bit of tang out of the box. I really believe it's the key ingredient in a true red velvet cake. Well, except for the frosting, and I will go to my grave defending authentic Red Velvet Cake Frosting, and it IS NOT made with cream cheese.

Don't misunderstand me, I L-O-V-E cream cheese frosting - on cinnamon rolls and carrot cake, but it does not belong on red velvet cake. True southern recipes call for a delicious, slippery, subtle white frosting that must be cooked first, then beaten to the end of oblivion. That is what I'm talkin' about! I really find it almost impossible to enjoy a piece of red velvet if it has any other frosting.

There is one exception, however. That cake up there in the picture? That cake is frosted with whipped cream - and that's ok - because it is a "strawberry shortcake red velvet cake" and that is different. You put whipped cream on strawberry shortcake, so I'm in complete agreement that it goes perfectly with that breathtakingly gorgeous creation. I really want a piece of that cake. How do you even slice that cake? How would you get it to the plate in one piece? It really wouldn't matter, I'd eat that cake in whatever condition it was set in front of me. And I know I would love it, whipped cream and all.

Red Velvet Cake 
 (no, not like the one in the picture - you have to click here to get that recipe!)


For the Cake:
2 Tbsp Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
2 ounces Red Food Coloring
1 cup Buttermilk
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
½ cup Shortening
1 ½ cups White Sugar
2 Eggs
2 ½ cups All-Purpose Floursifted
1 ½ tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp White Vinegar
For the Frosting:
1 cup Milk
5 Tbsp All-Purpose Flour
1 cup White Sugar
1 cup Butter
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1. Grease two 9 inch round pans. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Make a paste of cocoa and food coloring. Set aside.

2. Combine the buttermilk, salt and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream together the shortening and 1 ½ cups sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the cocoa mixture. Beat in the buttermilk mixture alternately with the flour, mixing just until incorporated. Stir together baking soda and vinegar, then gently fold into the cake batter.

3. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

4. To Make Icing: In a saucepan, combine the milk and 5 tablespoons flour. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Set aside to cool completely. Cream together butter, 1 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla until light and fluffy, then stir in the cooled milk and flour mixture, beating until icing reaches spreading consistency.

****If you want to get really fancy, slice each cake layer horizontally to create 4 layers, and put frosting on the top and between the layers only - not on the sides. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Source: via Amy on Pinterest

I need this for my dog!! Whenever I'm in the kitchen cooking or doing the dishes Sully is under my feet. We have a small rug in front of the sink and he thinks it's a dog bed we put there just for him. I am constantly telling him to get up and move, which he does, for a few seconds, and then he's back again on the rug. I don't really have room in my kitchen for an island, we have the peninsula shape thing going on in there, but with a little tweaking and losing a whole lot of storage space, maybe I could convert the peninsula and convince him to get comfortable in a space like this, instead of under my feet!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Calm Waters

The weather is (finally) perfect so a friend and I headed out to my favorite local paddling place - Cherokee Marsh - for a lovely morning of kayaking. Spectacular.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

It's been a pretty exciting week

Etsy has made some major changes this week that have truly polarized their members.

For all the details, see this post by the etsy admin staff

I happen to be in the "thrilled with the changes" group, but based on the pages of enraged comments I've been reading in the forums section, I don't believe I'm in the majority. The new changes are a benefit to me because now I have a much better chance of people finding my store and my items.

And they already have.

Case in Point - I have been on etsy for a couple years and have never had any item from my shop be included in a treasury (a compilation of twelve to sixteen items created by another etsy member for the sole purpose of making a nice looking collection of etsy items.) There is absolutely no guarantee that inclusion in a treasury will lead to a sale, but it is great shop exposure to the etsy public, especially if the treasury lands on the elusive FRONT PAGE.

When the new changes were announced, I immediately went to work rewriting my product names and descriptions and re-working my product "tags" according to the instructions and advice given to me. And suddenly, within three days, I've had items included in three treasuries, I've sold one wallet and the visits to my shop have increased dramatically. Yeee-Haaaaaw!!!!

I don't want to get ahead of myself here, but this could be the start of something really great for me and Sunshine Handbags! I'm so excited!!!

Treasury #1

Treasury #2

Treasury #3

Friday, August 12, 2011

I'm in the mood for School! And Apples!

Evan should bring this apple to his teacher on the first day of school, but since he has a 2 out of 3 chance of having a male teacher this year, the odds are pretty good that we're not going to be gifting this bag when September rolls around. I've been holding on to this fabric for at least a year, looking for the perfect mates, since it didn't come with any coordinating prints that I liked. I finally ordered the green leaf print last month and the red/black dot pattern jumped off the wall into my hands at my favorite local quilt store. I'm so happy with the results!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

It Must be a Cold Day in Hell

To paraphrase Andi's comment when she discovered that I had done the unthinkable - I've become a member of Facebook.

Almost everyone I know, including my own parents, have a Facebook page. I have managed to be very happy while not being on Facebook. I will admit that I have occasionally felt left out of a conversation because I didn't see what "they" posted on their page last night. But mostly I've been happy to not know every minute detail of peoples lives.

I also consider myself a fairly private person. I really don't want a bunch of people to know what's going on in my life every day. I am especially not fond of the idea of re-connecting with certain people from my past - you know who you are. I know, I know, I can protect myself from all of that by ignoring their request to be my "friend". But maybe that's the crux of this whole thing - I really dislike the idea of having to ask someone if I can be their friend. It seems so elementary school-yard to me. It also doesn't feel right to deny someone who wants to "friend" me...even if I don't really want to be their friend. What if I bump into them some day and they say, "hey, I wanted to be your friend and you said no, what's up with that?" Awkward!!

Enough of the reasons why I don't want to be on Facebook, real or imagined.

Why did I finally cave in? Mostly because I'm looking for more ways to draw people into my Etsy shop. That's probably not the best reason, but it's the real reason. I make a truly beautiful handbag and I want the whole world to own one. The problem is, I am struggling to get people to find Sunshine Handbags. I need to live in a bigger circle in order to market myself to a larger audience, and Facebook could possibly do that for me.

There is also a little part of me that is intrigued by the idea of finding a few of the people from my past, just to see what they've made of their lives, make sure they're happy and healthy. Maybe I'll have the courage one day to track them down. Maybe they'll find me first.

Also, Aaron is going to want his own Facebook page, and I have to do the mom thing and eavesdrop on his life and make sure he is making good choices and his friends aren't punks.

So, I guess I'm jumping feet first into the land of TMI. I really don't want to know that my little sister might be partying a bit too much or that a family had a really successful restroom stop while on vacation, but I guess this all goes with the territory. If you want to be my friend, I'll say yes, and I promise not to bore you with the mundane parts of my life.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

One Decaf Easy Vanilla Iced Latte To Go, Please

Last week I passed along my business card to the Barista at Caribou Coffee who admired the bag I was carrying, and while I was driving home it occurred to me that if this gal is nice enough to take the time to visit my shop, she is going to find absolutely nothing on the shelves.

How embarrassing!

Until that moment, I had been doing a really good job living in avoidance mode, not wanting to face the fact that I've been major-ly neglecting both my blog and my etsy shop for months. Yes, I've been busy enjoying the summer and the kids, but there has to be a way to squeeze in a little Sunshine Handbags time, too. So, I decided to try and make it work, and vowed to not get too stressed about the laundry, house cleaning and grocery shopping that will pile up a bit faster than before.

And wouldn't you know it, not 30 minutes after restocking the shelves, I had a sale!! Hooray for me!! Hooray for my customer!! Hooray for her friend who is getting the bag as a gift!!

I've added a couple new items this week and I've made some really exciting purchases of some gorgeous fabrics - I can't wait for them to get here!

So, thank you Barista gal, I owe you one for helping me get my groove back on, so to speak!!

Saturday, April 2, 2011


Lemon Drop

Goodbye Winter, Hello Lemon Drop Martini!

3 ounces lemonade concentrate
4 ounces vodka (preferably absolut citron)
1 ounce triple sec

mix in martini shaker with crushed ice. Pour into martini glasses with sugared rims. (recipe makes 2 generous drinks)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Let's Give This Thing Another Try

Yes, I've been gone for a long time. Yes, my Etsy shop sat empty for months. Yes, I have spent too much time in some kind of funk. But now I'm back, my shop is no longer empty and I'm promising to shake off the dust and get back on the horse.

What went on while I was gone? Well, the holidays sort of ate me alive and finally spit me back out sometime in the middle of January. Too many stories to tell for this small square, I'm just glad I made it out alive. The kids are growing and getting smarter and, in Aaron's case, more teenager-ish (not always a good thing). Steve is back to steady work (whew!). Consulting can be such a dog-eat-dog business. I've been spending a lot of my time in the pool, swimming laps and doing my best Michael Phelps imitation.

I've also been logging a lot of time with my sewing machine, working on a new bag design. I've filled my shop with the new "Bagllet", which is a small handbag and wallet combo. The wallet is permanently stitched to the outside of the purse, and the strap is long enough to wear across your body. It's the perfect bag to bring on long shopping trips, vacations, any time you need a few essentials but don't want to carry a big, heavy purse. I gifted several to family and friends at Christmas and everyone seemed to love them. I hope everyone else agrees!