Out of money and time? Try these budget-friendly DIY gift ideas …
Dazzling Cookies December 18, 2009
by Julia Pantoga, resident Domestic Goddess
This year I made cookies to give away for the holidays. I picked three recipes that travel well and are unbelievably delicious.
- Cream butter and sugar.
- Mix in almond extract.
- Add flour and mix.
- Roll into 1” balls.
- Indent in center (1/4 tsp measuring spoon works well for even indents, make sure the bottoms are not too thin, or the cookies will fall apart when moved)
- Fill center holes with jam. (if transporting, do not over-fill above top of cookie).
- Bake at 350° for 8 min.
- Cool thoroughly before moving. (Refrigeration or a cold porch really helps them “set.”)
- As with all cookies with no eggs, that are comprised largely of butter and flour, these cookies are extremely fragile, especially when hot. Once they have cooled, they are fairly sturdy.
- These cookies will not rise or change shape when baking. That’s good because you don’t have to worry about cookies spreading and sticking together. However, that means you need to be careful about the appearance before you bake them: wipe off any errant jam and shape the cookies carefully.
Note: Once cool, these sturdy cookies are ideal for sending. These are so delicious, they are TOTALLY worth all the steps and dirty dishes.½ cup sliced almonds 1tsp. ground cinnamon ¼ tsp cayenne pepper ½ stick (4 tbsp.) butter ½ cup cocoa powder 1 tsp espresso powder 1 cup (2 sticks) butter 1 cup sugar 2 large egg yolks 1 tbsp. vanilla 2 1/4 cups flour 1/4 tsp salt (omit if using salted butter) ½ cup course grind sugar crystals Confectioner’s sugar
- Over medium heat, toast almonds, cinnamon, and cayenne until fragrant (about 3 minutes).
- Grind almond mixture in food processor until very fine. Set aside.
- Melt 4 tbsp butter over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and espresso powder and stir until mixture forms smooth paste. Set aside to cool
- In separate bowl, cream butter and sugar.
- Add cooled cocoa mixture and salt (if using).
- Add egg yolks and vanilla. Mix until thoroughly combined. Scrape bowl.
- Whisk nut/spice mixture into flour.
- Add and mix in flour/nuts/spices in three additions. Mix thoroughly, but no more than necessary, scraping bowl after each addition.
- Shape dough into two logs 2 “ in diameter and 12” long . Wrap in parchment or plastic wrap.
- Chill until very firm and cold, at least one hour.
- Roll chilled logs in decorative course grind sugar.
- Slice cookies ¼” thick and place on cookie sheets.
- Bake 10 minutes at 375°. Do not overbake. Rotate baking sheet halfway through cooking time. If cookies begin to darken on edges, they have overbaked.
- Cool 5 minutes.
- Dust with confectioners sugar.
- Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
- Cream butter and sugar.
- Add eggs one at a time, mix well.
- Add molasses, mix well.
- Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt, Add to butter/sugar mixture
- Chill overnight.
- Taking @ 1 cup of dough out of the refrigerator at a time, shape in ½ inch balls.
- Roll cookie dough balls in sugar (at this point balls can be refrigerated for future baking).
- Bake for 6 minutes (8 minutes if cookie dough balls are frozen) at 375°.
- Cool on rack.
Note: When I freeze, rather than refrigerate ,cookie dough balls, the resulting cookies taste as good, but don’t look as nice.
The Best of Indie Sewing Patterns December 13, 2009
Read the latest DIY Design column for the top picks in indie sewing patterns. Click here.
Learn, Baby, Learn: The best of online sewing instruction December 4, 2009
You don’t have to live in a big city or go to a fancy fashion school to get top notch sewing instruction. Read my column about online sewing classes here.
Technically Speaking: Hi-Tech Sewing Supplies October 24, 2009
Read the latest DIY Design column and learn about a few of the coolest sewing tools. Click here …
Set the Table – Vintage Tableware & Linens September 29, 2009
Meet Del Hylton, owner of http://www.myspace.com/setthetable of Orland, Florida.
Tell us a bit about your business, Set the Table.
Thank you for asking me about my business, Set The Table–Vintage Tableware and Linens. Selling vintage (and some antique) china, crystal, silver flatware and linens on the http://www.eBay.com site has proven to be a satisfying second career for me. Specifically, I sell to anyone interested in my particular collections. Personally, I am an Anglophile, that is, I prefer everything English, due to my family background. Professionally, I prefer whatever the customer prefers. Set The Table’s mission would be to “preserve the past” and to keep such household treasures circulating as long as possible. Quoting from The Fusionalists web site: “We are the keepers of things from the past…”
When did your interest in vintage tableware and linens start?
I was born into the love of “old stuff,” and am very proud of my southern heritage, being born and raised in historic Mobile, Alabama. My aunt valued the few pieces of cut lead crystal from my grandmother’s housewares, the only pieces saved from a storage shed. My mother, on the other hand, was a total 1950s devotee. So, in my 1950s childhood home, we had the pink flocked Christmas tree, and in my aunt’s home, she had furniture and china which reflected the “old days.” I should mention that my grandfather, an interpreter in China in the late 1880s, was originally from London, England. My grandmother, a Baptist missionary in China, was originally from Ft. Gaines, Georgia. They met and married while in China.
When did that interest transform into your own business and how did that come about?
In the late 70s, I wanted to start a bakery, selling my custom decorated cakes. My Italian mother-in-law just laughed at the idea, so I accepted that. In the early 90s I wanted to open a muffin/dessert/tea shop, and did a lot of research into the food side of the business. I consulted with a S.C.O.R.E. person, and he totally discouraged the idea. A month later, a muffin/dessert shop opened in the exact location I was considering. Set The Table was created in 2005, when I realized that my elderly mother’s home caregiver even had her own business. She was making/catering food for friends. I asked her as many questions as I could think of, not knowing anything about starting a business. I knew that I already had an incredible amount of family and purchased vintage tableware and linens. My score on eBay was 100%! To shorten this very long story, I leased one room in a neighborhood 1920s home-turned-professional building, from a lawyer and her psychologist husband. At the same time, I started the process of getting the rights to use “Set The Table–Vintage Tableware and Linens, LLC” as my business name. You can’t do anything without a business name first here in Florida.
I see that you sell from your home in Orlando, Florida. What are the benefits and disadvantages to working directly from home?
Selling from home far surpasses selling in a stand-alone shop, which I opened originally. One of my 3 bedrooms is devoted specifically to packing/shipping my “treasures.” My computer work area is set up so that I can conveniently communicate with buyers/shoppers, print shipping labels, and do research on items which I may possibly list for sale. At the same time, as I am working in my den, I can watch my favorite English BBCAmerica shows while I work at my listing and selling. My inventory is displayed/stored all over my living room, dining room, and sun room, although some is stored in my “shipping” room. This allows me to rotate items when needed, to photograph items in a home setting, and to enjoy looking at all the things I love. Honestly, sometimes I walk through my house, take an item off a shelf or wall, and list it for sale. I am just that random. There is much emotion in my choices.
There is no disadvantage to working directly from home, as I have a full-time career as a life-long professional educator and my children are grown. Living so close to a post office, and being able to have items picked up from home for shipping makes the process very easy for me.
What made you decide to start selling online and take your business one step further?
The cost of keeping a shop open was prohibitive for me, as I could only be open during the evenings and the weekends during the school year.
Where do you find your vintage treasures?
I find my vintage treasures from my extensive collections I have purchased or been given by relatives. I have had no need to look for more items as I have enough to last for many years.
What advice do you have for those interested in starting a business selling vintage items?
That is a hard question. I am not a yard sale person, so I do not go looking for more treasures. I would say that if you are going to start a business, start online first. You must, MUST, be willing to be a people person, if you are not one now. A space will be required for packing, shipping, photographing, and working online. OPEN YOUR OWN BUSINESS CHECKING ACCOUNT AT A NEARBY BANK. Don’t shut yourself away from your normal activities or family just to run your business. Be open to new knowledge and helpful comments from your customers. Do not listen to family/friends/busybodies who will discourage you or demand that you make a profit to justify what you are doing. If you are passionate and driven to do what you love, you will have a measure of success.
What is the most satisfying thing about your business?
Truly, the most satsifying thing about my business has to be the knowledge that someone else recognizes the value of saving our past. What qualities do you think you need in order to manage a home-run business successfully? I would say organization is required, but I am hardly organized. I did recognize the need, the requirement, of specific areas to complete one’s transactions from beginning to end. I have known some sellers who adore the selling but hate the shipping, so they put this part off, which in turn puts the customer off. Identify the whole process, and be sure you know what steps will be needed. Getting paid is but a tiny part of running your own home business, believe me. Being flexible and accommodating also helps in selling online. Keeping your business money separate from any household/family money with a separate business bank account, is essential.
Anything else you’d like to share with us about you and your business?
I have a goal of continuing Set The Table long into my retirement years, and I hope that you will contact me if you have questions and/or comments concerning my experiences. My thanks go to Marjorie Cunningham for asking me to participate in this interview. I’d also like to express my gratitude to www.myspace.com, which made it possible to navigate the web to specifically find others who had the same interests in vintage as I had.
You can find more info and photos of Del’s inventory at Set The Table – Vintage Tableware & Linens.
Organic Envy blog: Modern Green Living+Spa Wisdom September 14, 2009
I just found a great new organic blog, an offshoot of Organic Spa magazine:
Welcome to Organic Envy! After launching Organic Spa Magazine in January 2007, we felt it was time to open the doors to communication even further. The mission of the magazine is to bring spa wisdom home, as well as to highlight the spas that are leading the organic way. Is there something special you do to find that elusive balance we all seek? We love to share ideas and exchange thoughts revolving around a healthier planet and a healthier you. Please join us in the conversation.
Organic Envy belongs to the Organic Spa Magazine, if you love the publication you will enjoy this green blog.
Get the scoop on Project Runway’s Season 6 kickoff August 21, 2009
Project Runway, now living in L.A., was off to a fashionable start last night with Season 6’s 16 new designers. Find out who made the cut and the surprising upset here: http://www.stylelist.com/blog/2009/08/21/project-runway-season-6-kicks-off-with-strong-and-quirky-desig/
The power of yarn August 7, 2009
During our recent move, I found a box of yarn that I had been using to make afghans that I forgot about – not surprising, right? We managed to locate a local church that accepted items for women (some with children) who lost their homes and we stopped by with a few items. The organizers were thrilled when they saw the yarn. Their enthusiasm came as a surprise at first. Previous donations at other places never created this kind of joy. They reminded me that it wasn’t just yarn – it was a chance to create a present for the holidays, a much needed sweater for a child, an afghan for the winter, or to create something wonderful to sell and that the donation of yarn had reached the perfect home. Hooray! Just a little reminder for us all to share our new found yarn and a season of mindful kniting and crochet.
Marg (grateful, gleeful, and groovin’ to the power of yarn)