Athena Magazine

Fashion, lifestyle, passions

Holiday Prep – Already?!? October 31, 2009

Serving Hot CocoaBy Julia Pantoga

Don’t come complaining to me about those crowded mall parking lots in December. I’ll be home drinking hot chocolate or cranberry vodka with friends. You can be there too, with a little advance planning.

Last year I went all out to give you timely holiday prep tips and I have little to add this year, so here’s a list of all the holiday prep articles from last year:

holiday cookiesGiving Away Baked Goods

Holiday Roll-out Cookies – Part One
Holiday Roll-out Cookies – Part Two
Holiday Roll-out Cookies – Part Three

Packing for Holiday Travel

Holiday Entertaining Made Easy

Great Baking Gift Recipes

Decorating Your Home

Handmade Gift Ideas

Super Yummy Fast Fast Party Snacks

In order to kick back in December, here’s a list of things to start this week:
1. If you are going to give away baked goods:

             a. Decide what you are going to make (last year I gave away little gingerbread cakes, this year is all cookies, I’ll share my recipes with you in a few weeks.)
             b. Start collecting containers for putting the baked goods in (see photo below)
             c. Keep your eye out for sales on specialty ingredients (If you are using commercial candy in your holiday baking, you will probably find it on sale on Sunday, November 1, the day after Halloween)

gift containers

Containers I have accumulated so far, for less than $30

     2. If you are going to make decorated holiday sugar cookies, make the dough and freeze it now.

     3. If you are going to send holiday cards:
              a. Go through your list to make sure you have complete addresses for the entire list.
              b. Pick out the holiday cards you are going to use (I KNOW you have them because you bought them right after the holidays last year like I told you, right?) Put the card box next to where you sit to watch TV. Put a pen in the box and print out a list of everyone you will be sending cards to. During commercials, address the envelopes. Be sure to put the pen back in the box. I have learned over the years that addressing the envelopes is a big job and there is no reason you can’t do it in advance and make writing cards that much more pleasant.

Finally, it is never too early to begin making bags of Super Yummy Fast Fast Party Snacks and start storing them in your freezer to grab on your way to a party!


Nicolas is out! Catch up on last week’s Project Runway October 29, 2009

Filed under: Fashionista Files,Totally handmade — rebmas03 @ 12:58 am

Nicolas-hoverSurprisingly, Nicolas didn’t make the cut last week. Read all about it!


Technically Speaking: Hi-Tech Sewing Supplies October 24, 2009

sewRead the latest DIY Design column and learn about a few of the coolest sewing tools. Click here …


Project Runway Episode 9: Yep, Shirin’s really out October 17, 2009

projectI know it doesn’t seem right. After all, Christopher has been in the bottom three, three times running. But it’s true. The chirpy Shirin is gone. Read the recap from last night here.


Meet Tanya & Attit of Aardvark Silver of Thailand October 16, 2009

Submitted by Marjorie Cunningham, owner of Marjorie’s Cracked Plate Jewelry and manager of the Reclaimed to Fame Market at 1000 Markets.

Tanya Boden, who together with her husband, Attit, owns Aardvark Silver in Bangkok, Thailand.

Tell us a bit about Aardvark Silver and what it’s all about.

Aardvark Silver is my way of giving back and sharing the lovely things I have access to. After all, how many people can get on a plane and come to Bangkok and even when they get here, are able to find the items I have access to at the great prices I have them for? It’s about making new friends as well as customers and about providing the best I possibly can in both product and service. It’s about giving a quality product at a competitive price so that the savings can be passed on to others. Aardvark Silver is about allowing me to give a business point of view to the qualities I hold near and dear to me. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, share and care, honesty and loyalty.

Where did you come up with the name for your business?

I love the much misunderstood little Aardvark. It’s a great insect eater and works behind the scenes a lot. A bit like I have for most of my life.

You and your Thai husband Attit run Aardvark Silver together. What advice do you have for married couples working together?

Keep your own individual interests alive so you have something external to chat about. I still go to work a few hours a week (I teach Science in English) and we talk about my job or students or whatever and it gives us non-business stuff we can share. Make sure your pillow talk is not all about orders and customers, forward planning and inventory. Make a date once a week and go and enjoy yourself separate from the business stuff. Communicate as clearly possible so there are no misunderstandings. This is essential in our house due to language barriers as well.

Do what you do best and let them do what they do best. If you are not so sure then test your skills out on the side so you don’t step on toes and take over. Maybe after that if you find a better way it can make for change but be gentle in how you approach it all. You have to live with the other person still. Sharing tasks and decisions is what a partnership is all about. Credit where credit is due. Make sure you say Thank you when a job is well done or completed on time. “Thank you” is so important.

I read on your Facebook page that you now read, write and speak Thai but that your husband does not speak English. Did this ever create any difficulties in the two of you working together?

YES LOL I use a dictionary still quite often because my vocabulary is still quite small. I am going to school for up to 10 hours a week and my language skills have improved but still have a long way to go. We have to speak with pictures sometimes and so I use drawings, maps and even printed pictures to get across what I need so there are no misunderstandings.

There are times when I get upset at things, like when the computer wipes out my documents or whatever, and I sound off in English. Attit gets quite confused as he has no idea what I am going on about but he sees me angry. Thais don’t express emotions the same way as Westerners do so they tend not to understand strong emotional outbursts. His English usage is limited to Thank you and Sorry, LOL so I have learned to take more care with my words and to think things through before running off at the mouth. Training and teaching new skills has also been a challenge because I just don’t have the words to explain sometimes. Sometimes it’s not even the language that is the problem. There are a lot of cultural things that are also very important and these are a challenge at times to say the least. As Attit doesn’t read English and he still has problems with my handwriting, I have had to write labels in both languages. So for example if you get a funny squiggle on your label it may say “pair” in Thai because Attit needs that so he can get the order right. It’s a fun skill but means I write things twice a lot of the time.

Tell us about the quality of the silver that you have available.

Our silver is 92.5 Sterling with a hallmark most times. Those pieces without a stamp are because to stamp the piece would ruin the surface or because the item is unsuited to a stamp and so it’s better without one. We also have Fine silver, which is made by the Karen people. Our Fine silver is 95-99% pure silver and is sometimes quite soft. It is lovely to work with though. The Karen are a Hill Tribe and have been working with Silver for 100’s of years. All their items are handmade and so each has its own little differences which add to the character of the piece. I do specify which item is which silver. Fine silver tarnishes less easily as it has no copper content to oxidize and for this reason some people prefer to wear it.

You have a wonderful new website at Do you sell your products at any other places? is our Etsy store is our Etsy jewelry store. is our gems store on Artfire. We have special offers on a regular basis. You can email me or subscribe to our newsletter through the web site to be kept updated about what we have new or what we are offering as special items or discounts. We also have been selling here in Bangkok.

Which of you creates the lovely jewelry that is sold on your website?

We both make items together and separately. I make a lot of painstakingly wrapped stones and fiddly bits that are time consuming. I have also begun to use the torch and make some bases for my wire wrapped items.

Attit does a lot of knotting, tying and threading. He also uses the torch but mainly for making supplies. Currently he is working with crystals and memory wire as well as rhodium plated cubic zironia set spacers and a very cute Sterling silver spacer that he has claimed as his signature feature.

Sometimes we work together and then go out of our way to compete to get ooohs and aaahs from the other one. We sat one day and made earrings, 50 pairs in 3 hours and none were the same style. It was a little competition between us to see what we could do. The charity we sent them to was so delighted and has sold them to raise funds towards a new clubhouse. It’s another way we Pay it Forward.

When did you first realize you have a talent for creating jewelry?

I love the stones I sell and I had some base metal findings that were lying around so I decided it couldn’t be that hard to make my own pieces. Well, I sat and taught myself and put together some very passable first pieces that my Thai friends wanted and so I went from there. The positive feedback about the pieces I make and wear is what keeps me making things. I have always been creative from when I was a child and now have the time and the materials to be able to express that better. I am a seamstress by trade amoungst other skills and so have had design training and can pick trends for future colour ranges etc.

Attit learned to play with tools and metal when I put a couple of pairs of pliers in his hands one day, gave him 5000 jump rings and he proceeded to make some base metal chain maille. That was an eye opener for him and he saw he could easily do what I was doing. He has not looked back and has learnt from watching me or from playing and messing up stuff. Like all good artisans learn.

What advice do you have for aspiring jewelry artists?

Just go for it. Don’t get too hung up on the technical stuff and just because someone else does something one way doesn’t mean you have to as well. I have taught myself most of my skills and yes they are different and my end item is not the same but that it what makes the pieces unique. You want to find your own style along with the technical know how but if you get stuck in the details of techniques your flow will be stopped and when that happens and its not fun, its much harder to create.

What is the most satisfying thing about your business?

When someone says “Thank You, I love it”. When I get to see what someone else has created with items I hand chose to sell. The honour of meeting so many many wonderful people. Turning a bad experience into a great friendship. I have some great friends now that came into my life because a parcel got lost or something else went amiss and we were able to sort it so that we were all happy.

What qualities do you think you need in order to manage a home-run business successfully?

Focus and dedication. In our house there are no days off. We don’t have time even for the holidays like Xmas because there are customers that need to be taken care of. Here we don’t celebrate traditional days like in the West so the post office is open Xmas day and other odd times when it would be closed in the West. Organization and communication are paramount and need to be taken care of carefully and often. Set your foundations up first so you don’t have to struggle later to put them in place. Systems of accounting and stock control etc need to be set up from the beginning even if you are only doing it as a hobby. You never know when it might take on a life of its own and grow so big you do it as your day job and if you have all the basics in place it is so much easier to change from part time to full time. Use the support systems that are available. It is amazing how much free stuff you can get these days and some of it is invaluable. Things like software for web pages etc can make your job so easy and they can be free also.

What are your future plans for your business?

To grow our small business into a larger one and to supply both retail and wholesale customers with the best possible products at the best possible prices so we are all happy. To meet lots of new people and to share what we do. I want to go to Tuscon next year for the Fair as well. It is a worthy goal. We want to employ an English teacher in our boys village. This is an expensive goal and will cost about $12,000 a year so we are saving to make this a reality. Hopefully next year we can do this and it will help to keep the kids in their home area longer instead of them coming to Bangkok at 15 or so and not completing their education. Learning is so important.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about Aardvark Silver?

I want to say Thank you. It is an honour to be trusted with your orders and your requests. It is an honour to be a part of your hobbies and your businesses. It is an honour to be considered your friend. Thank you.


Project Runway Episode 8: Epperson is out October 15, 2009

Catch up on last week’s episode, a bad wedding dress gone worse.project Click here.


Best Designer sewing patterns for Fall/Winter 2009 October 14, 2009

formCheck out the latest in designer patterns here.


Domestic Goddess – Old School October 12, 2009

Filed under: Domestic Goddess,Food is Good,The Real Stuff,Worldly women — rebmas03 @ 9:58 pm
Tags: , ,

Julia Child portrait 

By Julia Pantoga

You may harbor the fantasy that your domestic goddess spends her days cooking and reading cookbooks (I sometimes entertain that fantasy, too), but that is far from the case. Actually, I am in graduate school and I spend most of my time reading and writing. Truthfully, those of you with children or spouses at home probably spend more time cooking and planning meals than I do.



Anyhow, once every two weeks or so, about six of us students take a break from our studying and watch two episodes of “The French Chef” starring Julia Child, from the DVD set I was given for my birthday. This is high entertainment, especially for those of us who scrutinize cooking shows regularly and spend a fair amount of time in our own kitchens.

 french chef DVD cover

The first thing I noticed when we started watching is that the age spots on Julia Child’s hands are plainly visible. Does the Food Network use hand models or do all their actor-cooks have perfect hands? The next thing I noticed is how Julia Child dresses in the kitchen:  she wears her glasses and an apron and tucks a towel into her apron ties.  Hey, that’s how I look in the kitchen!  I thought I was the only one who doesn’t wear fashionable clothes that flatter my figure and reveal cleavage when I bend down to taste the broth.


Speaking of tasting, we just about died laughing when Julia Child tasted her potato dish, then returned her tasting spoon to the drawer!

Julia Child in the kitchen 

Not only does Julia Child wear a sensible apron in the kitchen, she wipes onion juice off the counter, splashes milk on the stovetop when she pours it and has to put a casserole on the dryer to cool because she has run out of counter space. Remember, this was the first cooking TV show, before the invention of such familiar TV tricks as turning the camera off for clean-ups, multiple takes and advance space planning.  







The best cooking show on TV today (in my opinion) is America’s Test Kitchen (ATK). Although the chefs wear appropriate attire in the kitchen, even they edit out their mistakes. I once saw one of the ATK chefs live at a bookstore, where she was promoting a cookbook and she summed it up this way: “Of course we always cook 10 of the same things at once. Turkeys are cheap. Television crews are not.”


You wouldn’t watch “The French Chef” today to learn how to cook; it’s really dated. For example, no one, but the most skilled professional, would cut ten cups of onions by hand today. Most of us would drag our food processors out. The amount of butter and cream used is laughable to our cholesterol conscious eyes and Child talks at length about how to take care of a carbide steel knife, which I have never even seen. But these old shows are amusing and I can pick up tips from watching anyone in the kitchen. (Did you know you can poach eggs ahead of time and store them in water in the refrigerator for future use?) Most of all, it was terribly re-assuring for me to see that other people look a bit dorky in the kitchen and spill, drop and splatter things too.


Designers get the blues as Louise leaves October 5, 2009

projectLouise is out, out, out, sadly, and there are only nine little designers left … catch up on Episode 7 here.


Vintage restyling and recycling October 1, 2009

formCheck out my latest column on on restyling and recyling vintage and gently used garments. See it here.