Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Monday, April 18, 2011
My last few weeks have been filled with fresh air, connectedness, and restoration. In the week day come and go, I fail time and again to take slow, deliberate breaths, embrace that which empowers me, and devote myself to love.
It's been in these passing days that I've made a little more time for myself and the one I love. We've spent a series of weekends reconnecting with ourselves, each other, and dear ones. Together, we've taken a couple walks, several naps, and eaten many meals out and about (something we rarely do). It was over Thai food last weekend, that I finally exhaled. I miss our dating ♥ So we've agreed to be more deliberate in our togetherness, to step away from work-work and home-work and house-work, to love on each other. Yes, indeed, it's been just what I've needed.
In the past few weeks, I've spent much time in the kitchen, cooking and eating delicious meals with our newest roommate, Alex, who doubles as an Italian gramma and claims to not be a chef (his pita-bread pizza is to die for)! Alex stays in our sun room and awaits the finish of our second bedroom which will become his. I've rediscovered my bread machine and have baked Italian Herb, Cinnamon Raisin, and Zucchini Chocolate Chip (which awaits me at home). I'm still snacking on raisins, sunflower seeds, and almonds and working to cross things off my mental spring cleaning list. I dusted off my bike and rode to work a couple days.
Our last bed has been built, but awaits compost. The Hyacinth I swore I killed is blooming as are our Daffodils. My beloved Hostas are peaking out of the ground. Our chicken coop sits patiently as we prepare for later-summer chicks. I've begun breaking up concrete around the mailbox (where our shed will go). Yesterday, Jimmyredhed and I drove out to Angelic Organics for free seedlings :: beets, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet onions, storage onions, scallions.
We're driving to Cuba this weekend for our first visit of 2011. I'm participating in a craft show at the high school and I'm one week away from the end of the semester. As we live and breath in these spring days remember that life begets life. Are you living a life you're proud of?
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Beautiful April showers in celebration of our SEVENTH market. Skip down to Lincoln Square today to join twenty local artisans and five acoustic Old Town School musicians at the Grafton Pub.
Monday, April 11, 2011
Friday, April 8, 2011
Our second bedroom renovations are coming along quite steadily. I'm a little late in my updates this week, but I wanted to wait for our big project (within the project) to finish!
|Our carpenter framed out the window and then cut into the house!|
We've added a second window on the west wall of this oddly shaped room! There was a built-in air conditioner as there has been in every room (and we've despised). We were planning to dry wall over the opening, but decided to expand the hole into a window!
|Removing the siding before installing the window!|
As we've never cut a hole in the side of a house before, we enlisted the help of a local carpenter to install the window. The room's solitary window, we soon found, was an odd size. Instead of paying extra money to custom order and install a second odd sized window, we purchased one of normal size for around $200. Our carpenter was able to frame it out in a way that you're not able to tell much of a difference in the room though it does look different on the outside. We've also realized that all three of the windows on the east side of our house are different colors. Oops. Doesn't bother us any!
|The west side of our home.|
There is a bit more electrical to do before the drywalling starts.
Hopefully we'll have a ceiling to show by the end of next week!
|So much natural light!|
Thursday, April 7, 2011
Suzy Homemaker's got nothing on me!
|italian herb bread|
I worked from home today and while the men folk were cutting large holes in the side of our house, I baked italian herb bread in the bread machine and made my favorite, most delicious, vegan ginger snap cookies!
|vegan ginger snaps|
Vegan Ginger Snaps
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 1/2 tbs. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 c. canola oil
1/4 c. molasses
1/4 c. soymilk
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
4 tbs. coarse sugar
Preheat oven to 350
Sift dry ingredients (except sugar) into a bowl and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine wet ingredients, including sugar.
Whisk (or beat on medium) until blended.
|dry and wet ingredients|
Stir in dry ingredients and mix until well combined.
Roll dough into balls approx. 1 tbs, flatten
Dampen your hands to work with sticky dough
Press coarse sugar onto cookie tops.
Bake 10 minutes at 350 on greased cookie sheet.
|vegan ginger snaps|
They're soooo good when they're still warm. Yummm. I think I need another.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
If I had to choose a favorite yearly event, it would be spring cleaning, hands down. I've always been a giver-awayer ... much to my mother's dismay. Clutter, unused possessions, and things that don't have purpose breed anxiousness in my life. I love nothing more than tearing into my closet, throwing open all the dresser drawers, and swiftly donating all
junk previously loved treasures that I no longer need or use. As the boxes to donate are packed in the car, my world feels lighter and less burdensome. I have more mental energy to devote to enjoyable, more necessary endeavors.
|Bringing in the Last of the Wash print by hilariagalleries|
As I gear up for spring cleaning this season, I've taken a surprising look at one thing that needs cleansed the most. My life. My mental to-do list is full of tasks weighing on my mind. Some tasks are tangible and others are floating around on the border of consciousness. It was during a phone chat with Jimmyredhed yesterday that I stopped and said, "I need to spring clean my life."
|Facial Scrub Pad by RitzysAllNaturals|
The pressures of work, home, school, and business are constant and I most often balance them well. But at times, it seems as if there are too many loose ends. My mind gets cluttered and I find myself void of motivation for pleasurable activities. When I find myself working early or working late, my personal and home lives suffer. When grad work increases, my business stagnates.
|Custom Designed Address Card File by rfrantzdesign|
So I sat down for a mental spring cleaning session. In the quiet of the moment, I tried to listen to and identify any area that is feeling neglected or pressurized. I wrote a list because that's what I do. It's actually helped to see this huge, abstract goals along side my regular day-to-day goals.
In a mere half a day, I feel the motivation mounting as I cross of tedious to-do's. I ordered an external hard drive (to back up my computer), contacted our lawyer about a will, started in on the many emails I'm due to send.
Some tasks are much bigger. Scanning a lifetime of old photos probably won't get done this month, but seeing it written down makes it a bit more obtainable.
So far my list reads ::
Final Project for Class
Finish spring totes
Photograph/List spring totes
Apply to festivals
Build raised beds
Get dirt for yard
Portage Park blog post
Urban Folk finances
Order 2010 photo book
Take posters to Old Town
I've definitely got a long way to go and the list keeps growing, but making these tasks tangible is the start of the battle.
What is on your mental to-do list this season?
Monday, April 4, 2011
If ever there were a person who participated in too many craft shows, I'd say it were me. I'm hoping that my progression from a front yard card table to craft show organizer is apparent, but if it isn't, allow me to qualify myself further. I racked up 50+ craft shows in the past three years with 20 in 2010 alone. We're talking many-a tent-hauling, application-sending, twenties-breaking, lost weekends. Yes, ma'am.
It was in my third year of craft shows, burnt out from the 2+ day festivals with outrageous hours and booth fees alike that I thought, "Hell yes I can." So I enlisted the help of my best friendor, Jess Duff, and we set out to pave the path of the Urban Folk Circuit, our traveling craft market series.
Jess is a crafter too and I'd argue that our background in the Chicago craft community give us an important edge as craft show organizers. We know the ins and outs of setting up, of having mediocre organizers, of needing an opportunity to hock your wares, but wanting something more than what's available. We've participated in many fabulous shows where we've learned a lot and respect the organizers greatly. We've also participated in shows that we won't apply for in the future.
Organizing craft shows have also helped us understand the application process from the opposite side of the computer screen as well. The jurying process is down right hard. So much talent comes floating through our inbox every month and we maintain a delicate balance of choosing established artisans, wanting to empower those who are just beginning, maintaining a diverse and eclectic selection of merchandise at every market, and inevitably pissing people off in the process.
Organizing the Urban Folk Circuit comes with an added benefit to us as well. It has helped me strengthen my own application to craft shows. That's not to say that I am immune to rejection by any means (Renegade or DIY Trunk Show, anyone?). But through this experience, I work to improve my products and application process and strive to help you with yours too.
10 Tips to Boost your Craft Show Competitiveness
1. Sell something unique
Craft shows and creative workings of the mind never cease to inspire me. I leave shows with my head spinning and a hundred new ideas for refreshing my business. But I get used to seeing the same products at every show.
In the rare moments I come across a completely new (to me), fresh, and unique booth, I am over the moon. I want to gobble up these niche marketers for both the Urban Folk Circuit and my personal shopping agenda.
2. Paint an interesting picture
Do you doodle in your pajamas, collect precious rocks on mountain hikes or crochet blankets in your grandma's garden?
Identify your interesting story. We all apply to craft shows because we make something. What is it about your craft that sets you apart from others? Vera of Videnovich Farms sells stunning knitwear. She also raises her sheep, shears their wool, and spins her own yarn.
The most difficult aspect of jurying applications is choosing between two artisans who make the exact same thing. Given that all things are equal, we will always select the artisan whose "edge" shines through the application.
3. Use non-traditional materials
In a some-what saturated market, it can be hard to maintain an original identity. Many artisans within a craft use the same materials. You can develop a unique product and an interesting story by choosing your materials wisely. You can also qualify for specialized shows.
Evaluate your materials in a new light. Can you achieve better results and more sales by embracing different materials?
4. Take kick-ass photos
Most artisans I know struggle with product photography (myself included). Creative, professional photos are imperative for a great first impression and will make or break your application. If you cannot produce stellar photos yourself, beg, barter, or hire someone to do it for you. You will not regret it.
5. Familiarize yourself with the show
We want artisans who know our show, know it is a good fit for their business, and appreciate what we do. When you hear about a new craft show, do your research. Browse the website in its entirety, study the guidelines and the requirements (do you qualify?), and ask your friendors and past participants for feedback. If possible, visit the show first to understand set up, vendor dynamics, and crowd dynamics. Do not apply for a show you know nothing about.
A show may or may not be a good fit for you and it is your responsibility to make that call (not the organizer's). Do your homework and apply. It is usually worth the risk. I personally participate in every show twice before deciding whether it is a good fit.
6. Know your competitors
Do you know other artisans who make similar products? It will serve you well to keep tabs on them. Do your
internet stalking research to find out what shows they participate in. Would they be a good fit for you as well?
7. Follow directions
Unfortunately, we have to delete a handful of applications each month due to incompletion. Overlooking simple information like email addresses, business names, etc. can comprise your competitiveness and the organizer can't contact you! Attach the required amount of photos. Read through your application before submitting.
Additionally, read through all the directions before applying for a show. We require an IBT# to participate yet 10%+ of our applicants are not registered business owners. We get so bummed when we can't accept a great artisan due to a technicality!
8. Know your crowd
Research the market-goers to learn if it's the right feel for you. I've found that my totes do really well at summer festivals and right before Christmas, but indoor, fine art shows just aren't my crowd. I've since diversified my product line to accommodate a gradual change in seasons.
I no longer vend at church shows or markets who allow resellers as they're a different crowd than the one I'm trying to attract. Know who you want to market to and find shows that cater to those people in their own neighborhoods.
9. Invest yourself in a show
In my experience as a crafter and an organizer, the most successful shows are the ones you invite people to. Our March market was the most successful one-day show I have ever had. As I was going through my sales that evening, the vast majority were from people I knew!
Even in Chicago, where craft shows are abundant, many people don't know about the handmade marketplace. Show organizers can only reach so far in attracting show-goers through their personal word of mouth and print advertisement. Invite your friends and family to your shows. Customers come because they care about and support you. They will buy up your stuff much faster than a stranger will!
If you want to sell well, invest yourself in the success of the show.
10. Ask for feedback
Despite all of these tips, you won't get into every show. I don't! If you've applied to a show numerous times yet have been rejected, don't hesitate to ask for feedback. It may be a small oversight on your part or a larger factor you haven't considered. Most organizers will be happy to give you pointers to improve your application!
Friday, April 1, 2011
I spent the day gazing sadly into the light rain showering down on Chicago. I'm so ready for sunshine and yard work. Yes, yes I am.
So I had to smile at Evelyn's blog post on organic lawn care. I can't wait to try out some of her tips!
Organic lawn care not only benefits the health of your grass–it also protects you, your children, pets and other animals against harmful chemicals. By following these 10 simple steps, maintaining a chemical free yard can be easier and more manageable than you think and can be done at little or no cost to you.
1. Mow high
It’s important to keep the blades of your lawnmower raised in order to mow higher. Doing so offers many perks to your yard. It will provide more shade to the soil and deeper roots, both of which result in less frequent watering. The thicker turf your yard is, the less room for weeds to grow. A common misconception about mowing is that if you mow lower, you will not have to mow as often. The reality is that your grass needs blades in order to do photosynthesis, which is the process of converting sunshine into to sugar to feed the roots. When you cut them too low, the grass has to race to make more, so it actually grows faster. When your grass is cut too low, it also becomes weaker and more vulnerable to disease and pests. And when you keep your grass higher, it will shade the weeds to prevent their growth. They say the trick is to make things more favorable for the grass and unfavorable for the weeds, which in turn gets rid of the weeds in your yard–naturally. For more information visit Rich Soil.
2. Water Deeply and Infrequently
Another important factor when caring for your yard is watering. This should be done infrequently and only when your grass begins to show signs of distress. You can tell this when the blades of grass begin to curl before they turn brown. This will encourage the roots to grow deeper into the ground, deeper than weed roots. It’s important to water deeply, at least an inch, so the soil can soak up the water for the deeper roots. When the top few inches of soil start to dry out, the weed roots aren’t deep enough to reach the moisture, but the grass roots will still be able to soak up the nutrients. An advantage to watering infrequently is that the water washes nutrients out of the soil, so the soil stays nutrient rich with less watering. It’s also a good idea to water in the morning because leaving water on the blades of grass after dark can lead to pathogenic fungus disease.
3. Maintain Proper pH Levels
Maintaining proper the pH level in your soil will make a huge difference in your yard. While your grass thrives at a pH level of around 6.5, weeds such as dandelions flourish around 7.5, so keeping your soil within range of its optimal pH level will provide for a healthier lawn. You can buy kits to test the pH level of your soil, but they can often be unreliable. Buying the pH tester is an option, but they tend to be expensive, and you still have to calibrate the results. An alternative is to send samples of your soil off to a lab to be tested. This can be done inexpensively and provide more accurate results. If your pH level turns out to be too low or too high, there are simple, organic ways to adjust these levels naturally. If your levels are too low, you can use lime dusted across your yard to bring the levels closer to ideal. It has also been shown that dusted lime on the surface of your soil can drastically increase earthworm reproduction. If your levels are too high, applying gardener’s sulfur across your yard will drop the pH level back down closer to optimal. For more specific instructions on how to apply these to your lawn, please visit Rich Soil.
4. Soil Depth and Quality
The depth of your soil plays a big role in the health of your grass. Your grass needs several inches of soil in order to thrive. Also, the deeper your soil, the less you have to water. The moisture will soak into the soil like a sponge and hold it in longer. This will allow your grass roots to grow deeper in nutrient-rich soil. Recommended depth is between four and six inches of top soil, but recommended would be eight inches or more. The quality of soil is also an important factor. There is a difference between dirt and soil. It is difficult to get anything to grow in dirt. However, soil is rich in microbial life and contains a lot of organic matter.
5. Use Organic Fertilizer
Use organic, slow-release fertilizer to feed your lawn and the soil–these materials break down slowly and will continue to feed your grass over a longer period of time. Some recommended brands include Ringers, Greensense and Texas Tee. These are mostly protein based and must be digested by soil microbes before the roots can get the nitrogen. An alternative to a commercial organic fertilizer is using any ground seed or bean, such as used coffee grounds. You can also find the ingredients used in commercial fertilizers at farm or feed stores. It is recommended that you use organic fertilizers in the fall and spring, but they can be applied at any time. When you use organic fertilizers as opposed to chemicals in your yard, you’re protecting yourself, your family and your pets from potential harmful side affects.
6. Weed Control
When you are able to naturally control weeds in your yard, not only will your lawn be healthier, but you will also do this without polluting your grass with potentially harmful chemicals. Following the previous steps should eliminate most of your weed problems, but there are always troublesome weeds that are difficult to get rid of. Organic fertilizer will also play a huge roll in weed control. The best fight against weeds is prevention. For a list of weeds and steps to take to eliminate them please visit The Organic Gardener.
7. Aerate Every Couple of Years
Aerating your lawn has several advantages. It eliminates thatch, which is a thick layer of living and dead organic matter on the surface of the soil. If you have more than half an inch of thatch, your yard is creating an ideal environment for pests and disease and making it difficult for grass roots to grow. Eliminating the thatch allows air, nutrients and water to penetrate deeper into the soil where the roots are growing. It also breaks up the compacted soil to allow for the root system to grow. Aerating can be done either manually or by using power aerator.
8. Keep Your Mower Blade Sharp
This is an easy thing to overlook, but keeping up with this can be very beneficial. When your mower blade is sharper, it reduces the tearing of the blades of grass. When the blades are torn, there is an increased chance of lawn disease. Your lawn will also be greener because of this. When the blades are shredded by a dull blade rather that cleanly cut, the grass tends to have a whiter appearance. Not only that, but using a sharper blade also decreases fuel consumption. This is because a dull blade produces more resistance.
9. Leave Grass Clippings on Lawn
This is something that is extremely effortless that will do wonders for your yard–as well as the environment. When the clippings are left on your lawn, they decompose and recycle nutrients back into the soil. It acts as a natural fertilizer. The clippings will also help provide shade to the soil which in turns keeps the roots cooler and reduces some of the moisture loss. When you leave your grass clippings on the lawn, you are also reducing the amount of clippings thrown into landfills. Recycling the clippings keeps you from using plastic bags to collect them and keeps landfills from being piled up with bags and bags of grass.
10. Corn Gluten Meal
Corn Gluten Meal is considered by some to be nature’s weed and feed. What it does is it prevents weed seeds from germinating while at the same time adding valuable nitrogen to the soil. Corn Gluten Meal is a byproduct of the corn milling process. It’s a powdery substance that has been used for years as a supplement in hog feed and is now used as an effective natural protein for lawns and gardens. It acts as plant food and also helps to suppress weeds. It works by inhibiting roots in weeds from forming during germination. When the roots don’t form, the weeds can’t grow. The cost tends to be higher than chemical-based weed and feed products but is beneficial and harmless to your yard. For more about Corn Gluten Meal visit Earth Easy.
Organically caring for your lawn isn’t difficult–and it doesn’t have to weigh heavily on your wallet. If you keep these 10 simple steps in mind, you will be able to easily and affordably maintain a healthier, greener and chemical-free lawn.
Thank you, Evelyn! Visit her original post here.
What are your lawn plans in the coming weeks?
The hammers and crowbars have not ceased as Jimmyredhed and Alex continue to tear through the second bedroom in Week 3 of Renovation.
All the old insulation, drywall, and debris has been torn from the walls and ceilings (there was no floor to begin with).
|newly insulated wall (that slants).|
New insulation adorns most of the walls and ceiling. Just a bit more to go to make the room nice and toasty!
|newly insulated ceiling|
We've also purchased a new window to increase the amount of natural light. It will also hold a window unit air conditioner if needed as we're removing the "permanent" one.
|looking into the closet.|
This is all the debris left to toss ... not much!
I can't wait to share all the treasures we found in the rafters! There is a bit of space between the ceiling and the peak of the roof. So far we've found parts to a clock, a wooden box, a toilet seat, an antique crock, pieces of a phonograph (we found other pieces in our crawl space last spring), and other random bits.
Follow our renovation tour :: Week 1 and Week 2!
Follow our renovation tour :: Week 1 and Week 2!
Can you even imagine what the finished room will look like?! It's so hard to do in this stage, but I can't wait!