I really can’t tell you how excited I am for this. A few months ago, I was notified that “Apronology,” the newest magazine to join the Stampington & Company’s fabulous collection of magazines, had chosen one of my aprons to feature in their next issue which is set to come out in February 2014. I couldn’t believe it really; of course, I believed there was something special about my aprons, which is why I originally opened the shop, but to have an entire magazine agree with me blew me away. Aprons aren’t exactly a niche market, and take one quick search just around Etsy where the VMMV shop is centered and you quickly realize the apron field is pretty densely packed so I am incredibly honored that one of my babies will have it’s own spread in Apronology’s next issue.
The shop facet of the blog has always been something I’ve been hot and cold about. Initially it was too much: launching and managing the shop and the blog at the same time along with the rest of my life was overwhelming. I didn’t have time to make either site what I wanted them to be and it became frustrating and exasperating. For most of this year, the shop unfortunately took a backseat while I zeroed in on improving the aesthetics of the blog. When I met with my blog designer to redesign this site, I was even toying with the idea of completely eliminating the shop but she convinced me that it would be better to have a place for it and to eliminate later than to start slashing ties right from the beginning– and I’m so glad I listened to her!
I have no expectations from this article. The fact that I just have an article about one of my pieces is enough of a mountain-top experience even if nothing comes of it. Everyone’s Mt. Everest is different I’ve discovered: Some events could be the peak of Everest for certain people, while for others those events could just be the base camp from which they look ever higher and higher, looking for more, and pining after bigger things. For now though, this is the tip-top of my Everest for the shop: it’s validation they really are so adorably cute, it’s confidence that other people outside my immediate and wonderful support group think they’re something special, and it’s something to put on my desk and crack open to take a peek at the page with my apron smiling back at me whenever I begin to feel a little blue. It’s not for lack of ambition that I’m not necessarily hoping this is just the launching pad for bigger things for the shop, it’s more satisfaction that something did in fact come of sharing my pieces, and for 2013, that’s plenty of achievement for me. Whatever else comes of it will just be blessing heaped upon blessing.
***February 2014 sounds rather far away and I don’t mean to rush us all into the next year, but I couldn’t wait to share any longer. I will of course be sharing again once the issue is published and to remind all of you to dash out and buy a copy! For now though, the shop has a new “about” page and a bit of a new look so if you haven’t checked it out in awhile, humor me and give it another glance***
You know the projects you think you’ll bust out in 20 minutes and they end up boggling your mind and frustrating you by how in the world something simple turned into something so difficult? These stars turned into that. But no worries! I worked out all some of the kinks for you and after ten or so smashed stars, and candy bits stuck to every tile in my kitchen, I got it down:
I used Jolly Ranchers for my candy stars but you could use any hard, clear candy.
Using a cookie cutter, lay the cookie cutter on top of a piece of foil so the foil covers the bottom of the cookie cutter and then bring up the sides of the foil around all sides of the cookie cutter so the foil is tight and keeps the candy from running out the bottom.
Spray the foil and the entire cookie cutter with A LOT of nonstick cooking spray. I’m not kidding. A LOT. Otherwise you won’t be able to get the candy off the foil.
Crush up about three candies and pour them into your foil-lined shape.
Put the cookie cutter on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven for 8 minutes at 350 degrees.
Allow to cool for another 8 minutes and then pop the candy out of the shape. (It helped me to take a sharp knife and run it along the edges to make sure they all came off the cookie-cutter cleanly otherwise you’ll have a few maimed stars that aren’t very Christmas-y. Unfortunately a lot of stars lost a few limbs in the trial period. Oops.)
Hot glue ribbon or twine to the tip of one of the arms, hang them up, and you’re done! I wanted to try some apple green and blue stars as well as the red but after fighting with this project for longer than I anticipated, I cut my losses and stuck with the red. They look beautiful in a window with the sun running through them although, I will warn you, if your window gets too hot the candy will start to soften again so perhaps place in a window that gets only a touch of direct sun. Phew, see? I had a lot of kinks to get out, and I did it just for you. When your stars pop out perfectly, you can thank me, and when they don’t…add more cooking spray.
This whole return to real life thing is not very wonderful. Thanksgiving week is such a tease, letting you just get comfortable doing whatever your heart desires and then launching you out on the other side with three weeks of high-intensity to-do’s staring you in the face. I vote for the entire December month to be holiday: in my slippers, every-day, all month.
If I did happen to get out of my slippers and get dressed this month, it would be like Barbara Stanwyck in Christmas in Connecticut. She had the best mix of cute and strong, leather and lace, temper and sweetness: Stanwyck plays a journalist who writes articles posing as a housewife on a Connecticut farm. In reality though, she’s a single woman living in a New York apartment who can’t even cook and relies on her Uncle Felix’s restaurant to give her the menus for her articles. When her boss decides to invite himself to her “farm” for Christmas, Stanwyck’s carefully crafted life begins to be reinvented by everyone else and she soon grows very tired of rewriting the truth of her life instead of accepting what she truly wants. It’s such a fun movie and gets you rather excited to reinvent yourself. It’s a perfect Christmas Eve movie: some nostalgia mixed with lots of excitement for a new year and a potential new self.
The best kind of leftovers from Thanksgiving have nothing to do with turkeys. They do have everything to do with an extra Tupperware of vanilla butter-creams though. Stick around for the recipe for those beauties because they are the best thing that ever came from Thanksgiving recipe-trials. This year we tried a few little twists for the dessert table. Not so many pies and more things that don’t have to be formally served, but can be swiped sneakily off the buffet again, and again, and…
I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I’m so looking forward to the official beginning of Christmas-month. I wasn’t expecting to take such a blog-break this past week but somehow vacation-days fill faster than work-days and breaking out the Christmas boxes, learning how to use my new cappuccino machine, and watching Sandra Dee/Bobby Darin movies became a swift priority. I did finish planning out my December posts though so at least that’s something. There’s the cutest DIY’s comin’ up and I’ve officially decided to let you all in on my secret this coming week. Eek!
Someone said this week that how quickly this year has been passing is “almost comical.” I think that’s honestly the best way to put it because as it speeds by, all I can do is laugh a bit: Laugh at the disparity between what I want to do and what actually happens, between my to-do list and my done list, between my need-to-dos and my goodness-that-will-never-be-dones. But this week I’m so thankful for everything I can do, all the people who love me no matter what I do, and all the the things I’ve been given to do.
It’s officially time to play Christmas music ad nauseam, decorate every surface, shop, and wrap, and spend as much time possible in your pajamas watching Irving Berlin movies. Before that though, I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and regardless of how excited everyone is for the next and best month of the year, you have to admit November was pretty wonderful. I’m excited to share my ideas for December though and to finally reveal (hopefully next week!) my big secret about VMMV for 2014.
If only I baked as well as Sabrina learned how to in Paris, I wouldn’t need to cheat a bit with those dough stamps, that adorable cake mold, and that super-simplifying silicon crust cover. Nor would I have to dazzle anyone’s eyes with that pink mixer, those gold cheese knives, or those vintage pie servers. As it is though, those things couldn’t really hurt…If I could only ask Sabrina one question, I would ask if she ever baked in anything not cinched at the waist and adorable. I was thinking something more resembling my baking attire: slippered feet, sweatshirt, and sweats that somehow end up every year with flour hand-prints on them no matter what I do. You probably never did that either, did you Sabrina?
Strangely enough, I like my traditions of preparing for holidays better than the actual thing. Wednesday I will stay all day in my slippers and bake until the entire kitchen gets toasty cozy from baking for Thanksgiving. And this year? I have a new pre-Thanksgiving tradition: home-made cappuccinos from my new espresso machine that I can’t wait to figure out. Who knew coffee grounds + milk could be so complicated? I’m willing to struggle and figure it out for that goodness though. Today is my birthday *eek* and that espresso machine was a certain someone’s brilliant insight into the fact that coffee is a certain way to securing my love. Since my birthday landed on a Monday this year, I was absolutely forced to begin celebrating last Friday. I had no choice. Honestly. So today will mark my third “birthday dinner” and my third day seeing how much people love me and how many wonderful things they do to make me feel special. So far, it’s been quite off the charts and I’m pretty certain this next year will be wonderful with all of them filling it.
Unless you’re in fourth grade and still doing the hand-print-as-turkey-feathers-on-a-pinecone-craft for centerpieces, Thanksgiving is kinda rough for choosing a tablescape. This DIY candle branch turned out so cute though. I love how natural it is, how cheap it is, and how elegant it turned out! If you aren’t completely into all-natural, I think spray-painting the branch gold or even black would also be quite lovely. For this Thanksgiving centerpiece though, you will need only four things:
Try and find a fairly sturdy branch that will be stable when you lay it flat. One with different heights of smaller twigs/branches is nice so you can vary the height of the candles you’ll eventually be adding.
Using hot glue, glue the acorn caps to various places on the branch (leaving leaves on the caps is fine, i think it looks more natural and super cute!).
Put another dab of glue in the center of each cap and place a candle in each one.
Light your candles and you’re done!
I can’t wait to eat around this piece, I already know my Grandpa is going to be super excited about it. Oh how he loves natural DIY’s and I’m certain this is going to be his new fave from VMMV.
Thanksgiving usually gets over-shadowed by the impending Christmas decorating/celebrations that encroach a little closer over the last Thursday of November every year, but a simple and quick tribute to the day can’t hurt. It’s sort of a send-off celebration to the sweetest but shortest season in California: Autumn. I love you Fall, here’s a few candles to blow out before we celebrate you again next year.
I’m on the hunt for new twists on Thanksgiving traditions. There’s a strange place between when a family has little ones to instruct in traditions, and when the little ones grow up but haven’t quite begun new traditions. That place is where experiments can happen, and that’s where my family is right now: Trying new recipes, new twists, not changing too much of course because my sentimental heart would splinter into a million pieces if it wasn’t held together by familiarity, but a little change is fun, exciting, sometimes a flop, but always interesting. We’re all old enough to have our traditions firmly planted, loved, and ready to spring back out at a moment’s notice of sentimentality, but we’re also ready to explore new territories and make new stories to say “remember when we tried…” regardless of how that sentence is finished: “oh yeah! Let’s do it again,” or, “oh yeahhh, never, never again.”
I tried this recipe for an apple tart with homemade caramel sauce as an alternative to apple pie. It was lighter than a usual pie, but because the apples were open-faced while they were being cooked instead of under a comforter of dough, the apples dried out a bit. Drizzle it with caramel though and it was pretty delicious. If you’re a fan of apple pie but kinda peel off the crust as you eat, the tart is perfection: thinner crust, more apples, and coated with caramel to finish. There was plenty of caramel left over too for coffee, or rolls, or…
I’m so excited to show you my idea for a Thanksgiving centerpiece, it’s pretty much free and absolutely gorgeous, just wait!
There’s a new insidiousness to the gender debate, and it’s all about adjectives: It’s gradual, it’s oh so very subtle, but it’s also incredibly harmful. In essence, the debate about gender roles has been minimized to just a few, “petty” parts of speech…harmless, until you read past the diction and really start thinking about what these parts of speech really mean to the future of male vs. female.
In any well-thought out argument, the main thing you focus on (if you wan’t to convince anyone of anything) is facts. Appeals to logic and reason with a little stab at emotion fill most of your argument. Fill up your persuasive argument assignment in first-year undergrad speech class with emotional appeals and there will be big fat red comments scrawling across every margin of your hard copy: “Cut the flowery language, the emotional appeals, the adjectives.” I know because I was an English major, I fought with my professors over my love for adjectives and every time I lost. I loved those little guys, they were so…so…well, descriptive. There was always just one more I could throw in, one more that I thought captured precisely what I wanted to say…it was perfect, it was…too much. The issue with adjectives, by their own definition of their function, is that they’re modifiers, they’re add-ons that carry with them subjective value judgments–not any real, concrete information like nouns and verbs. A movie isn’t a bad or boring movie until you throw an adjective in front of it. A person is really just a person until you describe them with adjectives: beautiful, smart, dull, annoying, fun…Ask Voltaire or Twain about those modifiers and you’ll find they agree with me. Voltaire said adjectives are the “enemy” of the noun, and Twain? He wasn’t so subtle of course: “If you catch an adjective, kill it.”
What’s the big deal? Adjectives are important, but they’re also dangerous because they aren’t facts or actions that are unchanging or unchangeable. They are descriptions that fluctuate and rely upon the person who is using them to garner their value. I may describe The Notebook as a stupid film because that’s my personal judgment value of it, but I know most of the female gender would vehemently disagree with me, and they can because adjectives are just descriptions–not truths. So, how does all of this grammar nit-picking relate to the gender debate? You may not have noticed it because that’s the whole point of an insidious attack, but the gender debaters have taken a step back from their bleeding heart podiums and resorted to just whispering subtleties into the audience’s ears. What are they whispering? They’re whispering that certain descriptive, modifying words to describe men are greater than adjectives describing many women and unless women show a marked interest and achievement in justifying that these adjectives also describe themselves—well, then they are failing as a modern woman. They’re attributing negative value judgments on typically female adjectives, while making male adjectives a thing of value, presenting their adjective-packed argument as poignant proof women need to start not only “leaning in,” but by gosh, throwing a punch and climbing on top as well. Just listen:
Leslie Bennetts is a writer who has spent much of her working life interviewing famous women. She is also a wife and working mum, writing for Vanity Fair, Elle, The New York Times, as well as publishing her own book, The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much? (which, you can purchase new and used for $1.99 btw on Amazon–I didn’t know you could buy a book for two dollars but apparently Bennetts made it happen!) If you can’t tell from her book title, she isn’t much of a supporter of the “you can’t have it all so choose a path” stance for women juggling modern, manic life. Her article “The Scarlet A: Why Women Don’t Say They’re Ambitious” is all about the phenomenon she began to notice throughout her career interviewing wildly successful women: That is, that ladies don’t really like describing themselves as “ambitious.”
She cites many examples: Condoleeza Rice refusing to admit she was smart in an interview with Oprah, Oprah herself underscoring her ranking as one of the richest women in America with her comment “I don’t think of myself a businesswoman,” and even Hilary Clinton’s self-professed, shock and disbelief when she heard she was to be appointed to secretary of state under Obama’s administration. You could see their subtlety about describing their own success as humble, you could describe it positively as hard-working, industrious, even admirable, or modest,but Bennetts chooses to describe them as passive, reactive, and overly self-effacing–negative adjectives = negative behavior = negative personality types. She says women have been trained to believe that power, ambition, and a take-charge attitude desexualizes them. But have we ever stopped to think why ambitious, powerful, and zealous are adjectives greater than humility, selflessness, and hardworking? Because, after all, all of those words are just adjectives. They’re all value judgments with no real truth behind them beside the value the speaker/writer gives them. Perhaps the issue is not that women aren’t stepping up, it’s that the way culture is describing where women are now has merely created the appearance that women have anywhere to step up from. I didn’t think Condoleeza Rice, Oprah, or Hilary Clinton’s positions could exactly be called “underdogs.” That is, I didn’t think so until Bennetts began to describe them as such.
Gloria Feldt, former president of Planned Parenthood seemed rather horrified at why women are “failing” at pronouncing their pride, shouting their success, acknowledging their ambition, and taking over: Quoted in Bennetts article, Feldt says there is really “no law or formal barrier…keeping us [women] from achieving equality and justice except our own unwillingness to ‘just take them.’” Unable to believe that women don’t want these “powerful” adjectives to describe themselves, Feldt can hardly contain her disgust: “Millions of dollars are being spent to help recruit, train, and support women to get elected, and yet they’ve [women] scarcely moved the dial at all…the problem [is] not that the doors [are] not open. The problem [is] that women [are] not walking through those doors and that just blew me away” Feldt said. I still don’t see a problem though, maybe the majority of women have figured out the real truth, that adjectives like ambitious, and powerful aren’t really any greater than the adjectives they currently embody (like humble, selfless, modest) and they’re actually perfectly okay with it.
Because many women believe power, or the admittance of having power desexualizes them, Bennetts says that many of those women choose to gain their power sort of second-hand–through a marriage. She warns that such an abdication of personal power can only end in being let down, for, Bennetts highlights, when we rely on other people (specifically spouses or children) to give us power, we risk everything on someone we cannot control. Her case in point? Grace Kelly. Bennetts interviewed Kelly twenty years after her marriage to The Prince of Monaco. Thinking she was going to interview a real-life fairy-tale story, Bennetts was shocked to discover Grace Kelly was instead a woman wrought with “sadness and regret.” Kelly regretted the loss of her acting career, the loss of “command[ing] respect for her own work, earn[ing] her own keep, and [being] acclaimed for her own efforts.” Bennetts highlights Kelly because her life is something of a posterchild for the argument women should chase those “better,” usually ‘male” adjectives. Male adjectives give you autonomy, power, a sense of self, pride, direction, while female adjectives, Bennetts says, make you passive, reactive, self-effacing, powerless. A pretty good argument for self-empowerment, yes? Yet, Bennetts missed that Grace Kelly, in all her regret for giving up her career to “rely on someone else,” was still relying on something outside of herself for her sense of power and happiness. No, it wasn’t a someone (i.e. her husband, children) it was a something: her acting career– and the loss of which concluded in the same result of regret and sadness.
So, what’s the answer? If male and female adjectives both get you nowhere, what do you do? You don’t listen to this insidious new attack, because “adjectives are frail; don’t ask them to do more work than they should.” How you describe yourself with whatever adjectives you choose still misses a very important part of speech, that is the noun: you. Who you are is what really matters. Being powerful and ambitious isn’t greater than any other way you could describe yourself–those adjectives are just modifiers to whatever you really are. If you’re modest, humble, selfless, and happy about it, that’s far, far more powerful than the most ambitious person in the world who is content at nothing, proclaims his/her own glory at every turn, and in the end will lose him/herself when the next ambitious self comes along to trump their grandeur. Relying on ambition and power is just as dangerous as relying on a person. Don’t believe the lie that any one adjective is better, pay more attention to the nouns that embody the adjectives. And, if you need something to glean your power from, I would much rather rely on someone I love and who will love me back than something that merely describes me.
Template. I used this image, but just do a simple google search of “fox outline” and you’ll get a bunch to choose from. The simpler the better.
Fabric. I used a thicker, almost felt-like grey fabric. You need something a little thick so your stitching won’t wrinkle and pucker the fabric, but color is your choice, a cranberry would be super cute for December.
Embroidery thread. Color is your choice!
Stuffing. It’s not pictured but you’ll need this or a pillow form to fill up your pillow!
Cut out your fabric into two rectangles (mine are 18″ wide by 22″ long).
Cut out whatever animal outline you chose and pin it to the center of one piece of your fabric.
Using the embroidery thread, stitch around the outline of the template. After I pulled my template off, I went back and added a few details like the tail, eye, and ear.
After you’ve finished outlining your animal, put the right sides of the fabric together and stitch around the edges to make your pillow. **Don’t forget to leave a little opening on one side to turn it right side out and stuff!**
Turn the pillow right side out, iron the edges to make it lay nicely, stuff it, sew up the open hole and you’re done!
I’m planning on doing a moose/reindeer on cranberry felt for December, maybe an owl for Winter and perhaps a bunny for Spring? You get the idea…they’re so easy and it actually turned out better than I imagined in my head. I was worried stitching around the paper outline would be difficult, but just make sure you pin your template down so it doesn’t move around and it will be super simple.
Happy Friday everyone! I can’t believe we’re two weeks from Thanksgiving. I’m planning Christmas posts so I’m already in the mood and I can’t wait for you to see them! I’m also planning on revealing my rather exciting news that I’ve been hinting at for a few weeks in December so get excited!!!