March 2012 archive

La Dolce Vita

poster image via magaleri, click the image to visit her shop

It is no secret that I have a strong hedonistic streak. These days the word takes on a negative connotation, partly due to the popular “Hedonism” resorts. I won’t go into that here, though a simple google search will tell you all you need to know. (I won’t even sit fully clothed on the bedspread in a 5-star hotel because I know they don’t wash them. Yet this place has cloth couches in their “all-nude” rooms. Boggles the mind).

I subscribe to the original meaning of the word, by Greek Philosopher Aristippus. He wasn’t advocating pleasure in the form of sharing nude hot-tubs with strangers, but the higher pleasures in life such as love, friendship, altruism and yes, maybe sleeping in every weekend. I believe in following your bliss, whether that leads you to a 9-5 office job with weekends off and full benefits or to a tiny home studio with your grandmothers sewing machine, glass etching tools and complete contentment.

my bliss

One of life’s greatest pleasures is a delicious meal, prepared in a kitchen full of people you love, preferably over a glass or two of good red wine and accompanied by boisterous conversation and laughter. Meals like this nourish not only the body, but the psyche. Picture this kitchen overflowing with close friends, steaming pots, simmering pans, the tinkling of wine glasses and a warm late spring breeze coming through those doors. Yes.

image via elledecor

In my ongoing hunt for interesting recipes and new cuisines, I have discovered some real gems and look forward to sharing them with you. One of my favorites is The Communal Pantry, a self-described “book club for foodies and mixologists” and is my go-to resource for meal ideas that are as pleasurable as they are nourishing. Take a look around, but definitely check out their “Pantry Must Haves” (under the “kitschy and unique tab”), an invaluable list of foodstuffs that no pleasure-seeker should ever be without. Click on the photo below to explore all they have to offer.

Spring Bada-Bing Craft Show

Don’t get me wrong, I love selling on Etsy. I mean, where else can you go to work in your PJ’s with a cup of coffee in hand, blaring your own music as loud as you want and in the course of a day have meaningful email interactions with people not only across the country but across the world. It’s 8am here on the east coast and I’ve already chatted (well, via email) with a great customer in Taiwan and one of my favorites in Australia. And I haven’t even brushed my teeth yet.

That said, there is nothing like actually getting to talk to people face to face, and in this business (since I have no plans of opening a brick & mortar shop), that means craft shows.  I’ve only done a few so far, but every time I learn so many new things. Online you’ll see an item get 40 or 50 views, but no one favorites it and you wonder why. At a craft show, people will actually tell you (nicely) all sorts of things about your creations and the comments are worth their weight in gold. I used to make a lot of spoon handle necklaces until at a craft show last fall several people  came by my booth, handled the necklaces thoughtfully, then told me or told the person they were shopping with “wouldn’t this look great as a key chain?” I’m sure you can guess the ending of that story- spoon handle key chains are now one of the more popular items in my store.

Great product advice aside, it’s also immensely gratifying to be able to thank someone in person and to see them light up when they see something you’ve made that they just have to have. Not to mention the other artisans at the show. Meeting people who, just like you, have started a small business based on a passion for their craft and their belief in themselves is exciting and inspiring. One of the first things I do after setting up my booth is to walk around to the other vendors and collect their business cards. I follow them on twitter, bookmark their blogs and favorite them on etsy because when I’m shopping for a gift, whether it be letterpress birthday cards, handmade clay bowls, baby tutus, knitted goods, what-have-you, that’s where I’m going to look first. I don’t want to say, “look what I bought you at Target.”, I want to say, “I got this from Jane, an amazing local artist I met last year at a show. She makes her ink from vegetable pigments that she grows herself. I saw this print she created and knew you’d love it”.

This year when I was researching spring and summer shows, I zeroed in on the Spring Bada-Bing craft show. It’s put on by the Richmond Craft Mafia and their motto is “rubbin’ out the mass produced”, and is held at the Plant Zero art center (amazing place- artist apartments, studios, exhibition areas, restaurants and common areas, all under one roof).  I absorbed every word on their website, looked at pictures from past shows, then stared at the application form in terror for about 5 minutes (they get far more applications than they have booths), took a deep breath, and applied. Last night the email came through I got in!

Here is the info for anyone in or around the Richmond area, and I will be posting more as we get closer to the event. Click anywhere in the FAQs to be brought directly to their website.


Who: The Richmond Craft Mafia

What: “Spring Bada-Bing: The BOSS of all craft shows” is an independent artist craft show in Richmond, Virginia

Where: The show will be held at Plant Zero, a creative indoor artist live-work space.

When: Sunday, April 17th 2011 from 11am to 5 pm

Why: Because, after 6 years, we still want to bring unique, innovative shopping to RVA!


Where & what is Plant Zero?

Plant Zero is one of the coolest creative spaces in town, and has been home to the Spring Bada-Bing for 4 years now.

Plant Zero is located at 0 E. 4th Street Richmond, VA 23224. This is directly off of Hull Street in the Manchester District of Southside Richmond. (Note: some mapping software gets confused by this address–if you encounter this problem, you can use 7 E. 3rd St, which is the secondary entrance to Plant Zero.)

Is there an admission or ticket price for shoppers?

Heck no! Free, baby, free.

I know there are about 5550094301 “What You Need To Know For A Craft Show” blogs out there, but I will likely raise that number to 5550094302 later on this summer after I’ve done a few more shows. In the meantime, hope to see you on April 17th!

Taming the Beast

Years ago, before starting Milk & Honey, I returned to school to finish up my bachelors degree. At the time the kids were toddlers and I was able to take most of my classes online. It worked great. I was studying towards nurse anesthesia, so I’d drop my older one off at preschool, put the baby down for a nap then immerse myself in anatomy, physiology, microbiology and the like. Earning straight-A’s the whole while, I was rather proud of myself.

Then the kids grew, as kids are prone to doing, and my classes reached upper level status where I was no longer able to take them online. So began the cycle of the past two years: dropping the kids off at their respective schools, driving downtown to my university, taking classes all day, picking up the kids (from my mother who would watch them in the afternoons for me, bless her soul), help them with whatever assignments they had, have dinner as a family, put the kids to bed and then make the choice between hanging out with my husband for the first time all day, or studying, or tidying up the house. I am a hedonist at heart, so it was really no contest. A cork was popped, red wine poured and the rest of the evenings were spent unwinding with my husband.

Pretty soon I found ways to “make it work” and still do whatever I wanted. I would study and do all of my assignments on campus between classes, so my grades never dropped and I didn’t feel guilty about ignoring my books at home. I would pick a random day of the week (usually when the house was getting completely out of hand) and do all the laundry, dishes, mopping and vacuuming so the house looked presentable for the next few days. If we had people coming over then of course I would do the little “extras”, like make sure there were no Cheerios dried fast to the dining room table and hiding a weeks worth of family detritus in the front hall closet. We wouldn’t have passed the white glove test, but for a family of four who all went to school full-time, we were doing pretty well with the proverbial juggling act.

Then this fall, my senior year began. I’d switched from biology to psychology for the simple reason that it allowed me to graduate a year earlier and I was really, reaaalllly tired of being in school. After four straight years (including summers) of being in school full-time (that’s what happens when you change your major 53 times), I developed a nasty case of senioritis. To add insult to injury, this spring every last professor has a strict attendance policy, with major grade penalties for missing more than three classes. Oh, and I decided to start my business.

In my delicate juggling act, all the balls hit the floor. With the pleasure and success I was finding in my store, I resented the time I had to spend sitting in classes that I otherwise would have skipped and still done well in. With the new responsibilities of running a small business, sometimes that day of the week where all the housework was done never arrived. I still give just as much time to my husband and kids, because in thirty years that’s what’s going to matter more than whether or not the clothing ever made it out of the laundry pile and into the closet. (Spoiler alert: it doesn’t. The laundry piles are now the acting closets for the family).

I realized that I have to organize the house better so that it doesn’t need such constant attention. I just have to get through June, when I finish my last class and then I’m home free to unleash the inner Martha: dusting, moving furniture to vacuum under it, buying paper towels before we run out, and going full-time with my shop. My Spring Break is in a couple of weeks, and while my fellow college students (most a decade younger than I) will be heading off to Cancun (is that still where everyone goes?), I will be spending seven days cleaning and organizing our house. And I’m looking forward to it. Disturbing.

On the list is the usual spring cleaning tasks, namely: throw out anything that no one has played with or worn in the past 6-12 months. It is critical that this part be done while the children are in school or else the broken dinosaur whose digital roar has deteriorated into a feeble electronic gasp will suddenly be my sons favorite toy. And the pile of mixed up puzzle pieces that have languished on the floor of my daughters closet will become her most prized possessions.

I also need to do something about our front hall. I snapped a few pictures this morning, and keep in mind, this is the hall looking good. With everyone gone but me, there are no lunch boxes, book bags, laptop cases or gym bags here. This is just what’s left over even without all that: The console is the breeding ground for elementary school artwork, bills and junk mail. The shoe basket (we don’t wear shoes in the house) overflows with at least the last three sizes of shoes the children have gone through. The umbrella stand (how adorable is that owl?) holds one lone umbrella. God help my husband if it’s a rainy day because that umbrella unfolds to become an enormous duck head, complete with a large bill sticking off the front of it. I’m pretty sure we have some normal adult umbrellas somewhere, but I haven’t the faintest clue where. I also see one of my sons coats. I say “one of’ because he has to have two since one is perpetually left at school. I can’t blame just the kids. If you turn 90 degrees to your right, you’ll see this: Yes, those are my school books, book-bag, coat and potting soil (?). I see the kids have each disrobed in the hallway and added their shirts to the pile. This is helpful when I’m scrambling to find that day’s note-book and get out the door on time.

Why isn’t this stuff in the closet? Here’s why: My husband and I apparently own 78 coats even though the coldest it got this winter was 45 degrees. There’s also a second shoe basket, because I realized we needed a bigger one and just shoved the old one in the closet, still filled. I see my yoga mat peeking sadly around the corner at me. I used to practice daily until this year. Up top we have bags of outgrown kids clothes that I keep meaning to take to Goodwill. And yes, that is a Christmas wreath barely visible on the front of the closet door. And yes, it’s March today. Oh my God, I’ve turned into my mother.

It’s important to note (mainly so that my husband doesn’t kill me when he sees this post) that the front hall is the worst spot in our home. Even with the crazy schedules, we tend to keep things tidy except for here. This is where we literally and figuratively unload the burden of a long day, and the rest of the house is actually rather nice. That said, this room is a nightmare. So come Spring break, 99.9% of what you see will be thrown out or donated and the rest will be contained in what will then be a spacious, well organized space. Here’s my project: I don’t own this, but hopefully with the help of Craigslist I will own one like it soon. (dark wood (not particle board), 36inches tall). Then I will take out the shelves and add this to the back: Then screw in a few of these:And then put a couple of these on the bottom: My hope is that it will look a little like this, only closet-sized:I know (only because I’ve seen it with my own two eyes) that my children understand the concept of putting their coats and bags away into cubbies. They do it at school every day. My hope is that bringing that idea home will not only make our hall the kind of place you’re not embarrassed to let the pizza-man see, but will also let them feel responsible by taking care of their own things. I’ll be sure to post a tutorial when I’m done if I run into any tips or mistakes that might be helpful for others planning on doing something similar.

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