Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

I've been meaning post about my first Christmas tree, but I'm just now getting around to it. I've lived in my current apartment for the last 5 years or so and never got around to getting my own Christmas tree. I finally got one for $20 at a local grocery store near where my parents live. I lugged the tree in the truck of their car and drove it back up to San Francisco so I could decorate it.

For those of you who don't know, I'm pretty obsessed with penguins. I'm not sure when it started or why, but I love penguins. They're cute, they waddle, they look cuddly, and they look handsome all the time. People have gifted me penguin ornaments over the last several years and I've put some up on my parents tree every year. This year though I decided to use then on my own tree.

My aunt had some bulbs that were from my grandma from years and years ago so I put those up. They've seen better days, but in a way, it's a nice little remembrance of my grandma since it's our first Christmas without her. The strings of lights were kinda popping out since half the strand went out. My little tree I think has 3 strings of lights on it because I couldn't' be bothered to properly disconnect the bad string with a new string. Then the new string I put on, half the strand went out so I couldn't win. Oh well!

So my little penguin Christmas tree sits nice and happy, even if I'm not spending Christmas at my apartment.

I spent yesterday baking snicker doodles, chocolate chip cookies and oatmeal cookies for our giveaways. Then this morning woke up at 10am (I was so tired from baking the night before) to bake a batch of sugar cookies. I came over to my parents house to eat some tamales and sit on my butt for a while. My niece and nephew were heading over and they were looking forward to baking with my mom, so while they did that I helped my mom do some wrapping so she didn't have to spend all night wrapping.

The cookies are all set out for Santa and I'm sure the kids are ready to doze off any minute now. It's time to get ready for bed and wake up to open gifts with the family. May you all have a very nice, healthy Christmas wherever you spend it and who you spend it with. And for my Jewish readers and friends, may you all have a Happy Hanukkah!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tamale update

I went back home recently to learn how to make our family tamales. Of course my camera battery died so I ended up having to take photos with my phone.

Granted it's pretty darn hard to make tamales in one day. I'm sure you could, but it's exhausting. My dad had cooked the beef and pork the day before. He also cleaned out the chili peppers so we could use them for the sauce. We boiled them and then tossed them into the blender along with with roasted garlic and onions. Once that was done, we strained it so we got the nice, smooth sauce that would be used for the beef and pork. We actually did this with 2 different types of chili peppers. The beef used just one kind of chili pepper and the pork used both.

At the same time we also were making the picadillo filling which is made with ground beef, squash, carrots and jalapeno juice.

After we finished this my mom and I cut up the jalapeno cheese that we use for the cheese tamales. Oh such yummy cheese! By this time I was exhausted and we'd just done the fillings!!

The next day my dad and I went to pick up the pre-made masa. We were aiming to make 100 tamales so we got 2 bags of masa which was about 25 lbs. My dad took out last year's corn husks that we didn't use and soaked them in hot water. My aunt came over to help assemble and we had a tamale assembly party!

It took about an hour and a half to get them assembled and then we put some on to cook. Usually my dad and, uh some other family members start asking 15 minute into them cooking, "Are they done yet?" It takes a while to cook them (steaming), but it's always worth the wait when they're finished.

The verdict? Amazing! I don't know when I'll get around doing it all by myself, but at least it's a start. I took some tamales to my coworkers and then some of my other coworkers said "Heeeeeeeeeeey, where'd the tamales come from?" The tamales get around. I also asked my dad about how many tamales did we make last year? He estimated 900! Isn't that crazy!!! I told him to keep count so we'll see if he actually does when I go home for Christmas. Anywho, it's certainly not Christmas in my family's house without tamales cooking on the stove! Yum yum!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Wedding bells

Here are a few new cards that will be posted soon. I figured these would be ideal for newlyweds :)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Tea time!

I was talking to my sister asking what my niece might like for Christmas this year. She apparently loves to do tea time so I bought her a little tea time set. Here's a few from a tea time inspired treasury I made.

Pink Hand Bag

Felt Sugar Cookies

Natural Stuffed Animal

Tea Party Hairclips

Vintage Teapot Pouches

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Happy belated Thanksgiving!

It's been too long since I've posted. I've attacked the tamale making tradition, hit up the aquarium again and a bunch of other stuff over the last couple weeks! So I have to back track a bit ...

I had a really nice Thanksgiving. It was my first holiday without my grandma who passed away in early August so in that sense it was hard. It was probably her favorite holiday because she loved cooking and she would welcome anyone who wanted to join us for it.

To honor her and of course keep to Thanksgiving going, I ended up doing desserts. I ended up asking my best friend to help me because we were going to have my little niece and nephew show up early evening and it's pretty hard to work in the kitchen with little kiddies around.

It took us 7 hours, but we managed to make 4 pumpkin pies, 1 apple pie, pumpkin spice muffins and 1 pumpkin mousse tart. They all came out awesome, well except for the tart. That was too orangy for some reason, it was kinda weird. But everything else was yummy. It was my first attempt to make a pie from scratch (apple) and I gotta say I was pretty proud of myself!

We were exhausted getting things together, but it was totally worth it. The kiddies put on a random show while we ate and they sang about food which was pretty funny.

Overall it was bittersweet, but I think we did my grandma proud. We didn't burn anything, the turkey didn't fall on the floor while taking it out of the oven nor did we drop a pie. Everyone was full which is a prefect way to end a good meal.

If you celebrated Thanksgiving, what was your favorite part?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What to do with it all?

A few months back when I was saying goodbye to my aunt after visiting, she asked if I wanted a fairly decent stack of scrap booking paper. I used a little for packaging my stuff, but really I have no idea what to do with all this colorful paper.

Since photography's my thing, being "crafty" or "artist" in other ways is out of my comfort zone. I tried googling ideas on what to use the paper for, but I'm fairly low level when it comes to, well being creative with paper.

So I'd love some ideas! Especially from those of you who love paper projects. It's going to be raining for part of this coming weekend so something to keep me occupied would be fun.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Is it payday yet?

Ever have those days where payday seems so faraway?

I have film and prints to pick up from the photo lab. I can't wait. New cards are a comin'! Plus I love the funny guy at the photo lab. He reminds me of what's his face from Napoleon Dynamite. Oh, Napoleon. That's who he reminds me of. It's totally weird, he just has a longer blond curly hair in the shape of a fohawk. So funny.

I'm also in the process of thinking about Christmas shopping. Need some money for that, right? I don't have a bunch of gifts to buy, but I want to get a little more thoughtful this time instead of buying last minute or buying whatever because I can't figure what to get. I was thinking of trying to buy local, that is buy from little boutiques or check out Urban Bazaar over in the Inner Sunset to help support local artists. Maybe everyone will get a succulent plant from their succulent bar because those are kinda hard to kill. Everyone likes a little greenery, right? Mine haven't died yet. They also haven't burned in the kitchen window so that's a good sign that they're healthy plants. Either way, need to start making a list soon!

I'm helping plan my office's annual Hanukkah party next month. We do an elephant gift exchange every year and since I didn't participate last year for it, I figured this year I would. I was thinking of using a box of cereal as the gift. Maybe something like Fruity Pebbles or something. I may have something hanging around that would be better. I'd be happy getting a box of cereal!

How are things in your neck of the woods? Getting ready for the holidays yet?

Monday, November 14, 2011

It's almost tamale time!

The end of the year is quickly approaching and usually it means shopping, running around and eating lots of food!

In my family, every single year except for 1 year, we always make homemade tamales. Well, to be specific, my mom makes everything and some of us help assemble. If my mom wasn't around, we wouldn't have any homemade tamales. God bless her!

My mom told my siblings and I "You kids need to learn how to make these tamales because there will be a point when your dad and I won't be able to do it anymore." And since I'm the one kid who actually cooks and bakes, I figured I'll give it a try.

Here's a pic of last year's batch. I think we used about 90 lbs of masa. We always mean to count how many we make each year, but we get too overwhelmed and lose count. Maybe I'll try this year.

I remember my mom telling me that the very first time she made tamales (masa from scratch), they had a big gathering with family and friends. She recalls how horrible they tasted and everyone was so sweet and ate them anyway. No one said they tasted bad, but they didn't have the heart to tell her they weren't very good. It's the thought that counts, right? I wonder how bad they really were!

I don't recall ever making the masa with lard which is traditional. Granted lard makes it tastier, but you can use other substitutes instead like shortening. So my mom made them with Crisco. She'd take out the big metal container and mix up the masa by hand. She never used a hand mixer because the amount we made required to do it by hand. It seriously is a workout. The test that the masa was "done" was if you put a little blob of it in a glass of water that it floated. If it fell to the bottom of the glass, it isn't ready.

The corn husks soak in hot water until you are ready to making the tamales. We used to make only 3 types of tamales: beef, pork and picadillo (ground beef). But then my best friend went vegetarian so my mom didn't want her left out so tried to make a cheese tamale. This was back in the late 90s. Both the picadillo and cheese have slivers of chili in it to add some spice to it.

So my mom makes the fillings and then we start a tamale assembly line. We start spreading the masa over the corn husks and then my mom starts grabbing them and filling them with yummy goodness. After we finish one filling, my mom fills a pot and cooks them. We pretty much work like little piggies to get them all done. We can't cook them all at once, so we box them up and put them in the fridge while my mom cooks them in shifts over a few days. Once they're cooked, they freeze well for several months (if they last that long).

To cut down the labor, we now buy prepared masa from a local grocery store. Either way, it is a labor of love and a lot of work, but well worth it. This time around, I'll be visiting my folks in early December to make the ones we give away so folks have them for Christmas.

This year is the year of big changes in our family and it's time to start learning the traditions so my generation can keep them going. Because it doesn't quite feel like Christmas in our family like tamales cookin' on the stove.

For more fun holiday traditions, check out the EtsyGreetings Team Holiday Blog Hop below by clicking on either arrow!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Finding the path to ...

Over the last couple weeks, I've been really trying to put forth the effort to take care of myself. Whether it be getting a massage, working out, doing a quick session of yoga, volunteering at a local garden or taking time out for myself to just relax. And in a way, it's been hard but I'm slowly getting used to it. It's really, really nice I must say.

I'm not a big Oprah fan. I watched episodes of her show here and there when it was on. She launched her own network OWN and a few weeks ago started a show called Lifeclass. I found out about it because inspirational speaker Iyanla Vanzant was going to be on. The basic concept of this show is to work towards making your life better and to be happier. She touches on a lot of different topics, most which everyone at some point in life has dealt with (anger, resentment, loss, etc.).

The one thing that really struck me is was the episode that talked about finding your calling or purpose. So many people I know are stuck in their life. Or feeling like they're starting over but not sure what to do about their jobs, finance, relationships, etc. Wondering, "What am I supposed to be doing?"

I sometimes think that. What am I going to be doing in 10 years. Am I still going to be working at my current job? If not, what am I going to be doing? Will my Etsy shop take off if I keep working at it or will it fail?

I don't know. But it's ok. Not knowing isn't the end of the world. All I know is to keep doing what brings me happiness or joy and that's enough. Things will fall into place when they are supposed to. It may happen as I like it, or it may not. And to not give up if something isn't happening as I see it or as quickly as I want it.

I even started a Gratitude Journal to start focusing on the positive stuff that's going on rather than the negative stuff. Boy it's easy to see the bad stuff when it seems like that's all that's going on.

In short, it's time to start looking on the bright side and focusing on the things that bring you happiness and joy. Life is too short to focus on the "I can't" and time to look at life as "I can." The sky's the limit, don't limit yourself because of what you think you can't do. It's all in your mind!!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

How to be alone

I found this great little video posted on Birdcage Cards Blog. A very inspiring message on what it means to be alone.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Marin Etsy Show

I trekked up to Marin yesterday afternoon for the first ever Etsy event in the North Bay. Marin Handmade held the event in downtown San Rafael.

Jen of Jen Spilly Designs

Heather's stand for GstudioStyle

Melinda's display of Blue Banana Studio

Carol of Mid Century Mosaics

It was a beautiful day for the show and it was nice meeting folks who I had only known via SF Etsy's Team forums. Hopefully everyone had a good time and made some sales. Great job Jen, Heather and Robin for coordinating the show!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Mailing challenge, etc.

52 Weeks of Mail sponsored by EtsyGreetings Team has offically started. Well, it started on Monday.

I have the rest of the week off (yay for 4 day weekends!) so I sent this off to my hairstylist when I got home after a cut and color from him. I forgot I had these funny postcards hanging around. Good way to kick off the event, right?

Hopefully he'll get a kick out of these awesome mail-order fashion hunk postcards from 1970s catalogs. If you'd like me to send you something fun in the mail let me know in the comments!

Since I took out all this card stock/art paper my aunt gave to me recently, I decided I need to package up my magnets. I'm not sure if I like the color background for packaging or if I should leave it white or do nothing. Then to top it off I made color labels a while back for packaging and of course I can't find the sheet. I was turning my apartment upside down looking for it. I don't believe I used it up. I could have, but not knowing is driving me crazy. I'm too lazy to print a new sheet, but I guess that's what I have to do. I'll be busy tonight!

Tomorrow I'll be heading up to Marin for the first ever SF Etsy Marin show! You can check out the specifics here. I look forward to getting to meet some other SF Etsy members and enjoy the weather up there. It's been hot in the Bay Area!! A craft show and great fall weather? It doesn't get any better than that!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Urban Farming

I visited Hayes Valley Farm this afternoon to get my hands a bit dirty for the first time in ages.

I'd always seen this place while going to and from downtown and been curious about what really goes on here. The interesting thing is this 1 block sized farm is smack in the middle of San Francisco. In fact, it used to be a big slab of freeway before it was a farm.

After a lot of hard work from the community and volunteers and of course donates and grants, it's a great piece of green in the midst of a busy area of the city. You'll find a green house, beekeeping, composting, solar charging station for electronics (free!), seed lounge, story telling area, yoga and all sorts of other on-going projects. It's amazing!! You don't even have to leave the city to learn about beekeeping or how to compost.

I spent the afternoon chatting with other volunteers and learning about what goes on there. I started mulching and then helped turn over and move some compost piles. They get their food scraps once a week from the SF Zen Center located just up the street. I have to say, the smell, well it was pretty ripe. I finished up by sampling some of cherry tomatoes that were freshly picked.

It felt good to get outside on a sunny day and get my hands dirty. I forgot what a workout gardening can be! I left tired, but it was good tired. Now I know where to go to get my green thumb fix in the City on Sunday afternoons.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Books, books and more books!

I wasn't planning on attending the SF Friends of the Library Annual Big Book Sale because my mom wasn't able to come this time around, but I decided last minute to go. It's the biggest book sale on the west coast! Any avid book lover would love this place. It's amazing! Books under $4 and today all the books were $1 or less.

I left pretty exhausted as did my brother who went for the first time this year. We did a little damage and I also picked up a bunch of books for my aunt's classroom. She has a mini library since the school library is shut down.

I walked away with 43 books for $43. Not bad. Can just imagine that if I paid full price, it could have cost several hundred dollars.

Until next year!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Etsy Shop Spotlight: The Painted Peep Show

I had the honor of getting to do an interview with Blake of The Painted Peep Show. He's a fellow EtsyGreetings Team member and makes pretty awesome cards. He has a great selection of cards to help you get set for the holidays that are just around the corner. Check out what he had to say!

Tell us a little about yourself, who's the guy behind The Painted Peep Show?

Me. I do everything. At least, it feels that way sometimes. I work in marketing by day, and Illustration by night. Hobbies take up the rest of my time, so there isn't much lounging about, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Get Well Soon

How did you come up with your shop name?

It needed to be something that was attention-getting, and I thought The Painted Peep Show sounded a bit scandalous. The majority of my cards take a voyeuristic approach, but not in a sleazy way. For example, my "Naughty or Nice" holiday cards show children breaking all the cardinal rules of Christmas.

Take us through a typical day for you.

Wake up. Shower. Breakfast. Etsy. Work. Lunch. Etsy. Work. Home. Etsy. Dinner. Wine. Etsy. (and that's just Monday)

Running Dachshunds

You describe your work as "sweet enough to be featured in a children's book, but have a humor dark enough for the older crowd to enjoy." Does a majority of your art have a dark side to it, or is it quite different?

I'd say I'm pretty consistent. I love a narrative, so most of my cards tell a story, or allow the viewer to make up their own. I love children's books and Halloween, so I blend those together and pepper with my tongue-in-cheek (aka, dry) humor. Occasionally, you'll come across a pretty landscape, or some other sweet imagery. Oh, and dogs!

What inspires and motivates you?

HALLOWEEN! Children's books. Folktales. Dogs. Campy movies and t.v.

Trick or Treat Boys

How did you come across Etsy? What motivated you to sell your cards online?

When the economy crumbled a couple of years ago, I was laid off from my job (which I hated) and my sister suggested I look into Etsy. It kept me in a schedule and motivated me while I was looking for full-time work.

Do you have any favorite Etsy shops?

Of course! But, they change on a daily basis. I love seeing what my peers are doing in the Etsy Greetings Team, as well as other Savannah College of Art & Design alumni (Scad on Etsy team).

What have you learned about yourself since you started selling on Etsy?

Like they say, you are your own worst critic! I had to ditch the self-doubt, get out of my comfort zone, and pursue my goals.

What's your creative space look like? Do you have a designated room to do your work or are you like me and work off the dining room table?

I live in a little Brooklyn apartment parallel to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (it's nicer than it sounds...I swear). I work from my dining room table (like you) and count my blessings that I'm not stuck in traffic on the other side of the glass!

A Christmas Story - Ralphie

Where else can we find you and your work?

Every year I do the artwork for Sooner Golden Retriever Rescue (this year's theme is Goldens in Wonderland, based on Alice...) and that's coming up in October. It's possible that my holiday cards MIGHT be featured in an HGTV Christmas show this winter. And, ShopSCAD in Savannah, GA has just started carrying my cards. Most of all, I hope to work on a children's book soon!