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Archive for January, 2012

Turandot remains my favorite opera, largely because of the aria Nessun Dorma. I think of it often, the aria, when I’m dead tired with so much yet to do. The lyrics begin with Nobody shall sleep and end with I will win! Makes me push on and be triumphant! Pavarotti performs it best, in my opinion; it’s almost as though Puccini wrote it just for him.

In these days Nessun Dorma rings through my head while I have little sleep but look forward to the setting stars and the coming of dawn when I shall have conquored the obstacles.

Nobody shall sleep!…
Nobody shall sleep!
Even you, o Princess,
in your cold room,
watch the stars,
that tremble with love and with hope.
But my secret is hidden within me,
my name no one shall know…
No!…No!…
On your mouth I will tell it when the light shines.
And my kiss will dissolve the silence that makes you mine!…
(No one will know his name and we must, alas, die.)
Vanish, o night!
Set, stars! Set, stars!
At dawn, I will win! I will win! I will win!

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Last week I talked about my fantasy shop, or at least one of my fantasy shops. There are many floating around in my mind, each catering to a different market. It’s fun to imagine these shops, which would most like be located in touristy areas. Except when I fantasize about having a brick and mortar shop (or many) I forget sometimes that I have an actual shop to which I must attend. That would be my little space on Etsy.

If you’ve never been to visit I’d love to see your tally on my stats page. Oh, I know that sounds horribly impersonal, but believe me, when I see those little tallies I know they represent actual people. Sometimes it’s fun to imagine what those people are like, depending on what they’re looking at. Yes, I see you looking at specific items, and I love you for it!

I have lots of lovely candles for your visual and aromatic enjoyment. They come in a variety of colors and scents and are made of paraffin or palm wax. The ever-popular beeswax candles are on their way to my shop this year. As much as I like palm wax and paraffin, beeswax is my favorite. I think the reason they haven’t gotten into the shop yet is because I burn them all myself before they get there.

I have a variety of cute, nostalgic, funny and bizarre bottle cap magnets. There are lots in the shop right now, and so many more to come.

That’s just a little sample of what’s in my real shop. I hope you’ll stop by sometime and come back often to see what’s new. Your tallied presence is what drives me be more productive and to add things to the shop more frequently. You are my reason for existing as Auntie B.

If you have any ideas of things you’d like to see in my shop just let me know in the comments below.

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Having a crafty biz makes me more in tune with shops and websites and businesses in general.  I think lots of people, at one time or another, fantasized about owning a brick and mortar shop.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my fantasy shop lately.  Of course I would carry my own hand-crafted items in the shop, but I’d also want to fill it with the handmade wonders of others.  Beautiful cards and papers for old-fashioned letter writing, and why not some sealing wax and presses too?

Writings By Bluebirds

I’d have a little section of quaint hats, the kind that never go out of fashion, certainly not the type found at the wedding of William and Kate.  Jewelry?  Not so much, but some pieces that are truly one of a kind to make a statement.  I think I’d like to have some antique pieces in my shop too, just to give the hint of a musty smell and to bring the past into everyday life.  Maybe some custom fragrances in pretty bottles, and I’d offer free sniffs for all.

Filigreen

Linens would be delicate and plentiful, perhaps with some hand-stitched embroidery to give them some whimsy.  There would be colorful garden tools for those who like to make things grow, and dried flower arrangements in rustic baskets.

The Flower Patch

Cozy and entertaining.  Traditional and trendy.  Coming into my shop and you’d be treated like an honored guest.  I’d have home-baked treats for anyone who stopped by, and maybe a spot of tea.  My shop would be the first place ladies would look for gifts for themselves as well as others.

That’s just a peek at one of my fantasy shops.  If I had two, the second would be…

 

Photos and dreamy gifts are compliments of:

Writings By Bluebirds

Filigreen

The Flower Patch

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Flour Girl

One of the things I like most about winter is the freedom to turn on the oven whenever I want.  Not that I can’t turn on the oven during any of the other seasons, it’s just that in winter the added heat in the house is appreciated.  Of course I can’t turn on the oven unless I’m going to cook or bake something.  That’s also a good thing, because usually anything that comes out of the oven is pretty yummy.

One lazy Saturday I discovered a couple of pears in the refrigerator that were on their last legs.  They were delicious pears but just too soft to eat like you would normally eat a piece of fruit.  Really, really juicy and pretty soft.  I was sad about the pears thinking I had to to ditch them when it occurred to me to make some pear bread.  So on that lazy Saturday afternoon I chopped up those pears and let the flour fly.

I found a recipe at Smitten Kitchen and made some very minor adjustments.  I ended up with a nicely warmed kitchen and two loaves of incredibly moist and flavorful pear bread, one to eat right away and one to freeze for later.  Husby loved it too!

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

3/4 cup butter, softened, or 3/4 cup vegetable oil

3 eggs, lightly beaten

2 cups sugar

2 cups peeled, cored, and diced ripe pears

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Heat your oven to 350°F (175°C) and lightly grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan or two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans.

Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl, and whisk to mix everything well.

Peel and core pears, then dice them fairly finely.  You’ll want two cups total; set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the butter or oil, eggs, sugar, diced pear, and vanilla, and stir to mix everything well. Scrape the pear mixture into the flour mixture and stir just until the flour disappears and the batter is evenly moistened.

Quickly scrape the batter into the prepared pans and bake at 350°F (175°C) for 60 to 70 minutes, or until the bread is handsomely browned and firm on top and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool the bread in the pan on a wire rack or folded kitchen towel for about 10 minutes. Then turn it out onto a plate or a wire rack to cool completely, top side up. Serve it as is, sprinkle it with confectioners sugar or drizzle it with a simple glaze made from whisking 3 tablespoons buttermilk, a dash of vanilla and 2 cups of confectioners’ sugar together.

This bread is delicious by itself or with a healthy slathering of butter and tall glass of milk.

What are you warming up your kitchen with these days?

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That said, I will not sit idly by and accept my own home as done.  I have visions of doing some decorating, but right now time is taken by other, more pressing things.  Creating a home and keeping a home are two different things ~ both are important to one’s comfort and well-being.  These days I’m concentrating on keeping.

Pre-prison Martha Stewart was sort of my hero.  Well, maybe “hero” isn’t the right word.  More like inspiration.  I wanted to be a homemaker extraordinaire and she was a good reference.  Watching her old show, Martha Stewart Living, was always calming for me.  The opening theme song was so gentle, and so was Martha’s way.  Her new show is way too hyper and so uninspired and frankly I can’t stand listening to her talk without a script.  Martha Stewart pretty much let me down.

I like a gentle approach to facing the huge task that is homekeeping.  I found it in a book called Home Comforts.  In fact, I might have learned about the book on Martha’s old show.  It’s a big, fat book that covers everything homekeeping.

Why am I telling you all this?  I can’t really say for sure.  I do know the month of January started off horrifically for me and I needed some serious grounding.  I wanted to escape all the buzzy stuff in my head and was stuck in a gear that just wasn’t working for me.  I didn’t know if I should immerse myself in my business, in my personal life, or just run away from both.

I came to a conclusion that my house had become chaotic.  It wasn’t out of control by any means, but there was stuff everywhere, not organized, and I’m embarrassed to say a little dirty.  I also realized that when my house is in disarray I can’t function properly.  That’s when I decided to pull out Home Comforts and get inspired about tackling the homefront.  Not in a big, thunderous way, but in a calm, quiet, methodical way.  Something I could ease into and keep motivated with, like the old Martha would do.

Since picking up the book and easing into a routine I’ve begun to feel much better.   Being surrounded by tidiness and cleanliness inspires me to maintain that level.  It also grants me complete attention to other things I want to do, like my crafty work, without the nagging feeling that I should be dusting or scrubbing or other such thing.

If you’re anything like me you sometimes feel out of sorts and don’t really know why.  Try getting into a cleaning routine in your house.  Home Comforts is a great book to get you started and a wonderful resource for all of your homekeeping questions.  When your home is in order, neat and clean, you’d be surprised how relaxed you feel.  When you get into a routine it doesn’t take much to maintain the order and cleanliness.

Trust me, sitting down to read a magazine is much more enjoyable when there aren’t big, old lint clumps all over your rug.  You’ll be apt to cook a more elaborate meal if your kitchen is tidy and clean.  When the master bathroom smells lemony fresh imagine how free you’ll feel in the adjoining bedroom.  (I can’t believe I said that, except it’s true!)

Make the most of your home and keep it well.

(I haven’t been compensated to endorse the book Home Comforts.  My recommendation comes straight from the heart.  If the author or publishers wish to thank me for the glowing review they can feel free to send cookies.  After eating them I will promptly clean up the crumbs.)

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A Stranger’s Eyes

Sometimes we wander around through life feeling a little less than we expect from ourselves.  We compare ourselves to others and in our own minds don’t really measure up.  Who doesn’t want to be the best at something?  To own the most premium thing?  To be the most popular?  The thing is, we may actually be able to achieve greatness, and even be the greatest, but it probably won’t last forever.  Then what?  Back to feeling small and insignificant.

Here’s a little trick to cure those substandard feelings.  Try to look at yourself and your life through a stranger’s eyes.  Maybe not even a stranger, just someone other than yourself.

During some entertaining this past Christmas season I heard more than once how nice my home is.  How cozy this room is.  Having persistent insecurities about my ability to make a house into a home I dismissed these compliments as polite comments by my guests.

Just the other day someone said to me, “you’re so lucky to have a fireplace.  If I had a fireplace I’d light it nearly every night and watch a movie or work on a project or read a book.  You have such a relaxing house.”

This past weekend I decided to give my inner critic a break.  I took some of these compliments to heart and decided to take advantage of things I have at my disposal but my ignore.  I lit a fire in the fireplace and looked at the room as though I’d never seen it before.   Then I paged through a magazine, watched some TV, and basically just enjoyed the moment.

My house isn’t the most beautifully decorated, nor is it as clean and tidy as it should be.  My business isn’t as successful as some others are.  My blog doesn’t have national acclaim.  Despite my falling short of perfect I took time to appreciate all I am blessed with and indulge in my surroundings.  I looked at my life the way a stranger might ~ the way I might look into an envied stranger’s life, and saw I have indeed accomplished much and will continue to thrive.  The only person I have to compete with is myself, and if I don’t feel like competing I’ll be lounging around, basking in the success and hard work I accomplished when I did feel like competing.

See yourself and your life through a stranger’s eyes and you might see the person you’ve been trying to be all along.

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