Sunday, June 28, 2009

Buttermilk Pancakes

Absolutely nothing to do with quilting, you can file this one under “Things that make me say hmmm…”.

I did some grocery shopping the other day and while I was putting things away in my pantry I realize that it was time to do a little cleaning out. I have a huge, wonderful, walk-in pantry. It holds everything you need and then some. While that sounds wonderful, it also means that it is extremely easy to collect “junk” or lose things in there because there is room for, well… everything.

After consolidating at least 4 boxes of penne pasta with 20 noodles each, tossing out the crackers that were way past their freshness date and wondering why I still have a jar of mint jelly that is so old it is a family joke, I stumbled upon this container of L.L. Bean Buttermilk Pancake mix.
It took some brain searching to remember how I had aquired this because I was quite sure that I had never invested in L.L.Bean as a grocery provider. Then I remembered that it had been part of a gift set. A gift set that I had received as a thank you several YEARS ago. (To be completely honest, the can is marked “best used by Nov 25 06”). I was wondering why I would let what is probably the most expensive pancake mix in the world go to waste. My family eats pancakes. My family loves pancakes. Then I noticed the instructions on the container.

To use this Buttermilk Pancake Mix you must add: 1 egg, 2 TBS of vegetable oil and 1cup of BUTTERMILK. I never have buttermilk. I know there is something like vinegar that you can add to whole milk to create quazi-buttermilk, but we never have whole milk either and trying to make 2% into fake buttermilk doesn’t sound appetizing.

The bigger question is what makes that a container of mix for BUTTERMILK pancakes anyway? Especially if I have to ADD the BUTTERMILK? Why not call them Blueberry Buttermilk pancakes and add blueberries to the list of things you have to add? For that matter, why not make them something really exotic like Lobster, Blueberry, Buttermilk Pancakes? Just add Lobster, Blueberries and Buttermilk…. Never mind, that is disgusting…. But I would bet they would charge more for the lobster version!

In defense of L.L.Bean, it does say “or ¾ cup of whole milk” next to the 1 cup of buttermilk. Now the question is if you add whole milk are they still buttermilk pancakes?
It doesn’t really matter, I’m not using anything with a 2006 expiration date!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Nothing but FUN!

Last night was the first of our Happy Hour programs here at the shop. This is a summer program that we do, just for fun, to introduce our customers to techniques that they might never try on their own. The free demonstrations are scheduled for Monday evenings from 6:30 - 7:30 throughout the summer and each one features something different. Some are messy, some are really messy, some are "artsy" some are just unbelievably cool! After the demo, if you want to stick around and try your hand at the technique you are welcome to roll up your sleeves and get involved.

I have a pretty extensive background in the crafting industry and this program allows me to have some fun with products on the creative edge of the quilting world. I enjoy it as much as the participants! I get a kick out of watching a room full of women (guys are welcome too) get excited about their creativity. One of the reasons that they get excited is that I can break down an unbelievable technique to the lowest common denominator and still have a product that you want to own.
Last night our project was silk painting with Sharpie Markers.
No fiber reactive dyes, not breathing issues, just Sharpie Markers.
Believe it or not these scarves were "painted" with those same markers that your Mom used to write your name in your clothes for summer camp... they come in better colors now!
If you want to give it a try at home, it is extremely easy, here are the basics of what you need:
White silk scarf, preferably pre-hemmed

Sharpie markers in the colors of your choice (I prefer broad tip and darker colors)

Clean spray bottle

Rubbing Alcohol

Freezer Paper

Tape, paper towels, protected work surface, iron

Here's How:

Using a warm iron, press the wax side of a piece of freezer paper to the back of the silk scarf. This helps stabilize the silk so that you can write on it.
Tape the freezer paper to your protected work surface (I do mean protected, you are working with permanent markers and alcohol, both of which will ruin the surface of your kitchen table)
Draw your design using the Sharpie Markers. Draw ANYTHING, you don't need to be an artist! the deep blue/purple flowers in the photo were drawn as "bulls eyes". Make simple shapes and lay in the color. Don't worry about details. The more color the better in my opinion.
Note: Keep you color selection to one area of the color wheel, green, blue, purple or red, yellow, orange for example. Colors opposite one another on the color wheel create brown when they mix and the next step is to make the colors run.
Once you are happy with your design, fill the spray bottle with alcohol. You can add a bit of water to the bottle if you like, this is the experimental part of the process. The markers are alcohol based and spraying them with alcohol will make them run. Water alone will not move the color, but the more water in the mix the more movement you will get when the alcohol hits the color. That can be a good thing or a bad thing. Experiment!
As soon as your colors have blended to the point where you are happy with them (in a minute or less) peel the freezer paper off the back and rinse the scarf in cool water until the water runs clear. Protect your ironing surface with clean paper towels and press the scarf dry to heat set the colors.
That's the basic idea, now you can experiment! Sprinkling sea salt on the surface before you spritz with the alcohol will create cool texture. Adding anything to the surface that causes a chemical reaction will create texture. An old toothbrush will create texture too......

Are your creative juices flowing yet?

Have some fun!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Great Day in Pittsburgh!

Done! Our family is officially finished with high school. I have packed my last school lunch, written my last note that begins "Please excuse Lindsay ....." and driven my last car pool. As of last evening our youngest is an official high school graduate. YEA!!! Now it is off to college at UNF in Jacksonville Florida.

After a rain delay from Thursday evening the ceremony went off without a hitch. It was a beautiful evening and great fun to see the kids that Lindsay has been in school with (in many cases for all 13 years) pass this milestone together. The moment they announced the delay on Thursday, the first thought was that graduation would be competing with the Penguins game 7 in their quest for the Stanley Cup. I knew in an instant that the Penguins would win. It just seemed like destiny for the class of '09's graduation memory to be marked by another momentous event in the city of champions!
Graduation also marks the end of a 6 week marathon of events that ranged from International Quilt Market, to the New York trip to Prom, Senior Dinner Dance and the Western Pennsylvania Shop Hop. Whew! There were several day in there when I wasn't sure if I was going to make it!
Now I can get down to my normal level of craziness. Artwork is due in New York on Monday, we have the first of our Happy Hour events on Monday evening (silk painting with Sharpie Markers) and my husband is talking about having the roof replaced on the building that houses the shop. - at least I don't have to help with THAT project!!!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

It is Shop Hop Time!

We are smack in the middle of the Western Pennsylvania Shop Hop. This year the 13 participating stores are each featuring a different movie theme. Our shop selected "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" as our movie. Not because of the plot, because the title was just too much fun to pass up! Who could resist the excuse to be crazy for a few days? We have candies that we are dispensing in pill cups. Our block for the progressive quilt is "Birds in the Air" and our setting squares are done in "Crazy Patch". There are signs on the door that say "Caution Enter at your own risk. Inmates roam freely". That has confused a few non hopping customers!

The overall theme of a hospital setting gave us the opportunity to dress as either part of the medical staff or as a patient. Several of us have been wearing scrubs and Debby or Dr. LeDonne as we like to call her has been wearing a white lab coat. She ran to Mickey D's yesterday and when they handed her her lunch they actually said "Have a nice day Doc"! But so far Patty takes the cake! Patty's real job in in the Dietary Department for a local nursing home. She borrowed the hospital gown from the nursing staff. Earlier this evening one of our customers said "I have something in my trunk for you" and THAT is where the fake behind came from! TOO FUNNY!!! (Patty wants you to know that isn't her real behind and hers doesn't have dimples!)

Funnier yet is someone that is driving around with a fake behind in their trunk just looking for someone to give it to!
Quilters are always unbelievably fun, but when you give them a "crazy" excuse, you are in for a good time!!!


Saturday, June 6, 2009

New York 2

After a few hours of wandering the shops in the garment district it was time to hoof it back to the hotel and change shoes. I was contemplating my choices for dinner and considering taking the subway down to Canal Street to visit my favorite "junk" stores before they closed when it occurred to me to check the hours for The City Quilter.

I've always wanted to visit this middle of Manhattan quilt shop. It is such a marvel to me. I know shop owners have a hard time surviving in suburbia with rental spaces that are 1/4 the cost of city real estate, yet The City Quilter has been a fixture for many years. Obviously they are doing something right!

I checked their website and they were open until 7pm..... and only a mere 7 blocks away! Comfortable shoes and here we come!

I didn't get a very good shot of the outside of the shop. To be honest, it was trash day and the front sidewalk was heaped with discarded construction items from the place next door. You can't tell from this photo, but the shop is located on a beautiful tree lined street in a real "neighborhood" looking area, right in the middle of the city. It was also bustling with customers! There were several people shopping and a nice size class for what I gathered was a sampler quilt project being held in the back of the store.

When you are a shop owner it is always fun to anonymously explore another shop. Not for devious reasons, just because. I love to see what other owners purchase, what is selling, what isn't selling. It is a great opportunity to see the fabrics through another persons eyes. What did they buy that you passed over? What is selling well for them and sitting in your store?

Sooner or later I usually find myself in their "sale" area. I always take a deep breath and say a little prayer that I don't find any of MY stuff in sitting on those shelves!

I am happy to report that The City Quilter has wonderful taste, beautiful displays and is a delightful place to shop. Look what I found on their pattern racks!

There were a few of my bolts mixed in with other lines and I realized just as I was leaving that my entire Complexion Collection of fabrics were featured in the front window!

I knew I would like that store.

Friday, June 5, 2009

New York, New York

I am just back from New York. It was my traditional after Market trip for wrap-up and planning meeting for the next Market. While I am there I work with the art department on my next two fabric lines which are in various stages of planning, printing and marketing.
The normal schedule has me getting up at 4:30am to catch a 6:00am flight out of Pittsburgh. I fly into Newark and get a ride into the city and am in the office around 9:00am. We pack as much work as possible into 2 very full days and I go directly back to the airport and get home very late at night.

When I tried to schedule this trip the cost of a direct flight was ridiculous - over $800! - for airfare from Pittsburgh to New York! I could have gone to Paris for less! Someone mentioned that it had something to do with the Stanley Cup games in town and that one of the NY teams was playing the Pirates here in town. (I am happy to report that our Hockey team not only won both games but the Pirates swept the NY
games too - a minor miracle) I opted to fly through Washington DC and was able to book the flight AND 2 nights in a very nice hotel for less than $600. As an additional bonus I had another 18 hours in the city - all to myself!

The weather in NY was beautiful when I arrived and there is something about that city that makes me want to walk - and walk I did! Although Timeless is in SoHo, I stayed in Mid-Town right on the edge of the Fashion District. SoHo is wonderful, but I have done quite a bit of exploring there and it was time to check out someplace new. You have to love an area of a city that has street corner sculptures of a giant needle piercing a button! I'm not quite sure why the button is defective. What is with the 5 holes and why is one of them too small? It is an odd symbol for one of the premiere fashion centers of the world. Nice idea, poor execution. There was no time to ponder the number of holes in buttons, I had SHOPPING to do!

To be honest, I was LOOKING, not buying. What better place to track trends, color combinations, display ideas and check out things you could never afford. You can't imagine how much fun it is to stand in front of racks and racks of unbelievable yard goods and just ponder the possibilities! At $320 per yard, trust me, I was just pondering! The fashion district houses the shops that supply the costume departments of NY theater, dance troupes all around the world as well as wedding and special occasion fabrics for every nationality imaginable. Not to mention, notions, trims, beads, etc.

The bottom photo is just half of a very long thin shop that carries nothing but spandex! Although the store isn't even wide enough to lay the fabric tubes down and still have room to walk, they have FIVE floors of nothing but stretchy goods for swimwear and dance costumes. ... at least I hope that is what people are using that fabric for....
More about the NY trip later. Right Now I have tons of work to catch up on!