Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Penmanship: Needs Improvement

What has happened to handwriting? Mine is dreadful; it can start of okay but as the speed increases, it gets larger, messier, and illegible. As much as I try to slow down and write neater, it just doesn't last.

This seems to be a common problem and some suggestions have been: use a fountain pen, slow down, and take a penmanship course.

Fountain pen- check!
My reward for a good show for inviting!
Speed- I write to keep up with my thoughts (a mile per minute) so this will take much practice and patience. If you have tips, I'd love to hear them!

Penmanship courses/books- there are some online, and also books (luckily not all are designed for children- many are just for improving what we already know.)

available here
Theory + practice books





Bought this in England in 1999. Available here
Available here, and for Kindle.


I'm going to try out the kindle book, review my Universal Penman (and pull out the calligraphy pens), and have added the Spencerian ones to my amazon wishlist. Do you have plans to improve your writing, or does it not need it?

Cheers,
ashley 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

{In the Kitchen} Pumpkin Spice Biscotti

For your holiday dunking pleasure, here's my recipe (adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking)


Preheat oven to 350*

In medium bowl, mix:
2 cups flour
1.5 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

In mixing bowl, beat on medium speed for 3 minutes:
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
Beat in on low speed until blended:
1/2 cup melted (and cooled) unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
Add dry ingredients and beat until combined. Dough is soft and very sticky.

Divide dough in half. On a sprayed baking sheet / parchment sheet covered baking sheet, shape each half into a 10"x3" log, 3" apart. Bake for 23 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes. Reduce temperature to 300*.
On a cutting board, use a serrated knife and cut logs crosswise into 3/4" slices. Place them cut side down on baking sheet, 1/2" apart, and bake for another 17 minutes.
Remove from oven, cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then cool completely on wire racks.

Store in airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Enjoy!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

And After a Long Hiatus...

...I'm back! It's been a rough year, trying to grow the business. Really rough. Summer was, well, an exercise in remaining positive? I don't know what it was, just emotionally draining. But you have to take all the downs and find ways to turn them back up.

Since February:
  • Did my first show in San Antonio; great success and hope to return next April
  • We lost T's Grandpa at 102; spent time with his family in Brownsville
  • I picked up a part time job in May at a store I enjoy, where I work really hard and get paid very little. But I mostly enjoy it and generally get the hours that I want.
  • There was a fun trip to Washington DC in August (pictures still need to be edited for sharing on the travel blog; I'll share when ready)
  • Now I'm prepping for the holidays, both personally and professionally.
I promise to not be a stranger!

Cheers!
Me in DC, Jazz in the Park

Thursday, February 27, 2014

{Relationships} I Can Be Nice Sometimes

This week, my evenings are spoken for: last week I spent the evenings with netflix in the background, chatting with T while he did hobby-stuff, while I went through all my random notebooks, binders and post-its with inviting notes and ideas, and consolidated them onto one three-page list and the app Wunderlist. (Have since gotten several forgotten-tasks done, thank you very much.) This week, I'm being a good (rather a FANTASTIC partner) and helping T with his hobby stuff: getting him ready for the gaming tournament this weekend.
What does that mean? I'm painting Warhammer 40K miniatures/models.

Since this photo was taken some detail work has been done.
Yeah, I painted that.
It's not done, but has the required 3 colors, and we still have 1 more evening to do the detail-work. I painted 3 large guys like these and about 20 little guys. It's boring and tedious; the tedious part doesn't bug me though- most of my hobbies/work is repetitive. (Different colors would have been more enjoyable- i kept suggesting his armies be pink or sparkly purple but no.)

Why am I doing this? Because otherwise he wouldn't get it done and because I felt like being nice and helpful. To me, part of being an accomplished woman is also to be a good partner. So I help him out from time to time, even if it's for a hobby of his that I really don't give a damn about. (I'm not saying anything here that he doesn't already know, ha!)

I also make sure I've combed my hair before he comes home from work (at the risk of sounding like a 1950s housewife manual), that I don't pounce on him as soon as he comes home telling him every little (cute) thing that the cats did, and I sometimes cook something special for him for dinner. Last week we had steak, last night I tried chicken fried steak (never made it before but I know he likes it and it was really good!) and today I'm going to learn how to make his favorite dish from mexican restaurants, carne guisada.

Nothing major or expensive, but little things to show I care and appreciate how hard he works so that I can run my business full-time. And if I end up with acrylic paints all over my fingers at the end of the evening, it's a small price to pay.

What's a favorite meal that you prepare to make someone feel special?

Cheers, 
ashley 


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

{In the Kitchen} Homemade Brownie Mix

Rather than picking up a cheap mix from the grocery store, I finally made my own mix to have on hand.
Yummy gooey brownies made with homemade mix to keep on hand.
Yum- super moist brownie. Least favorite words: portion control.
I looked online and started with one recipe, changed to another halfway through, and still made a couple more changes while baking. 

In an airtight container (or gallon ziplock bag), combine:
3 cups all purpose flour (i might sub 1/2 whole wheat next time)
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt (for baking I use LoSalt for reduced sodium)
3.5 cups white sugar
4 oz unsweetened cocoa powder (used my postage scale for measuring)
Mix well


When you're ready to bake brownies (hooray), preheat your oven to 350* and grease 8x8 (or your favorite brownie) pan
Mix:
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 Tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla (or peppermint extract, yum!)
2.5 cups prepared brownie mix
Stir until combined, pour into prepared pan, and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (25-30 minutes for me). Let cool.
Made tasty, fudgey brownies.
Next up, I'm going to try the mix with a can of black beans for "healthier" brownies, but I wanted to make sure the mix was good first. Will double the mix to keep in the pantry, though if I don't go through it in 3 months, it will live in the freezer with the fancy flours.

How do you like your brownies? Chocolate chips? Andes mint pieces? Nuts?

Cheers,
ashley 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

New Look + Handmade Items

So by now you've probably noticed the new blog header above, and logo to the right. I decided to start selling some of the items that I create while relaxing during the evenings which means I need a little earring card and a logo. (Which led to a whole bunch of things actually.)

But first up, the logo.
I have a vector file of vintage labels and found on that I liked. After changing the label part for Propriety with a twist in Jane Austen's handwriting, and the color to be more tiffany-blue/aqua, I was trying to get the logo to be squared just right. After taking the branches and skewing them, I laughed and thought it looked like the Cylon Raider toy on my desk.
And I couldn't change it back. A Cylon raider is the perfect twist to my proper little logo. Sold!

"You Can't Go Home Again," S1E5 is my favorite BSG episode.
Starbuck is the ultimate problem-solver.

So having a logo meant I needed to at the very least update the color of the blog header (but of course I couldn't just do that.) And the facebook page needed the logo / cover image, and the etsy shop needed logo and a banner for it. Oh, and instagram.

But Etsy. Banner, profile picture, and brief-brief-brief announcement/about. I'll worry about that on a weekend that I don't have a show. I have added the shop link above, under the header, and even added a product!

Might have to make a pair to keep for myself...
It's a start. (Not sold on the photo set up and need to work on my lighting. I'm so used to lighting paper, earrings are way different.)

With T painting his models every night, it's the perfect time for me to sit and craft, so that's what I've been doing. Waiting for a good hair day so I can model the necklaces that I've made. They're fancy!

Cheers,
ashley

Monday, February 10, 2014

Occurrences, Week of 2.7.14

Reading: Personal Velocity

Watching: More Dexter while working, and caught up on Downton Abbey, Sherlock & The Following. 

Listening: New 90s playlist plus the usual The Smiths station

Eating / Drinking: Surprisingly I made steaks for dinner! But that's about it- still baked oatmeals for breakfast and light snacks/lunches. Boring.

Learning: Last Friday night, T challenged me to learn the bass line for Otherside. I of course rose to the challenge and my fingers hurt- I haven't played bass in ages! It's funny that neither of us are big RHCP fans, but even I have to admit, it's a pretty good bass line.


Corresponding: Sent out a birthday card to my Grandma

Creating: Lots of jewelry!

Working: Had a show on Saturday so prepped for that, and created some new designs. 

Goals / Resolutions: Exercising 6 days a week! I feel a little slimmer but the scale isn't telling me it's true. Telling myself that while I'm weighing the same, i'm swapping chub for firm, so it's okay. Jeans are getting loose in the butt, might need to go shopping soon!

Cheers,
ashley