Athena Magazine

Fashion, lifestyle, passions

Quick and Inexpensive Gifts You Can Make December 22, 2009

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Butter Jewels (Yield:  5 dozen)

2 cups butter (4 sticks!)
½ cup sugar
2 tsp almond extract
4 cups flour
1 tsp salt (omit if using salted butter)
12 oz. assorted brightly colored preserves (my choices are apricot and cherry)
  1.  Cream butter and sugar.
  2. Mix in almond extract.
  3. Add flour and mix.
  4. Roll into 1” balls.
  5. 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)
  6. Fill center holes with jam. (if transporting, do not over-fill above top of cookie).
  7. Bake at 350° for 8 min.
  8. Cool thoroughly before moving.  (Refrigeration or a cold porch really helps them “set.”)
Notes: 
  • 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.

 

Mexican Chocolate Butter Wafers (Yield:  5 dozen)

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
  1. Over medium heat, toast almonds, cinnamon, and cayenne until fragrant (about 3 minutes).
  2. Grind almond mixture in food processor until very fine.  Set aside.
  3. Melt 4 tbsp butter over medium heat.  Add cocoa powder and espresso powder and stir until mixture forms smooth paste.  Set aside to cool
  4. In separate bowl, cream butter and sugar.
  5. Add cooled cocoa mixture and salt (if using).
  6. Add egg yolks and vanilla.  Mix until thoroughly combined.  Scrape bowl.
  7. Whisk nut/spice mixture into flour.
  8. Add and mix in flour/nuts/spices in three additions.  Mix thoroughly, but no more than necessary, scraping bowl after each addition.
  9. Shape dough into two logs 2 “ in diameter and 12” long .  Wrap in parchment or plastic wrap.
  10. Chill until very firm and cold, at least one hour.
  11. Roll chilled logs in decorative course grind sugar.
  12. Slice cookies ¼” thick and place on cookie sheets. 
  13. 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.
  14. Cool 5 minutes.
  15. Dust with confectioners sugar.
  16. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

 

Molasses Cookies (Yield:  20 dozen)

1 ½ cup butter
2 cups sugar
½ cup molasses
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp salt
Additional sugar to coat formed cookies
  1. Cream butter and sugar.
  2. Add eggs one at a time, mix well.
  3. Add molasses, mix well.
  4. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt, Add to butter/sugar mixture
  5. Chill overnight.
  6. Taking @ 1 cup of dough out of the refrigerator at a time, shape in ½ inch balls.
  7. Roll cookie dough balls in sugar (at this point balls can be refrigerated for future baking).
  8. Bake for 6 minutes (8 minutes if cookie dough balls are frozen) at 375°.
  9. 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

anna maria horner study hall skirt pattern

The delicious Study Hall Skirt pattern from Anna Maria Horner

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.

 

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!

 

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 …

 

Set the Table – Vintage Tableware & Linens September 29, 2009

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

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.