Monday, June 29, 2009

A sneek peak II.

Behold the second sneak peak into my new Etsy shop. I am still not ready to debut the project in its entirety, but I have been working on it diligently and I can't resist showing off my work just a bit, even if it is obscure and mysterious.

I learned recently that interestingly enough, most Etsy sellers are college educated women in their twenties and thirties. They are not the usual older women you imagine crafting while wearing a sweatshirt with a cat applique. Upon further research, it turns out Etsy crafters fall largely into the category of Third-wave feminists. Unlike our mothers’ generation of Second-wave feminists, who rejected all things associated with the home, Third-wave feminists are reclaiming knitting, sewing, and other crafting activities traditionally feminized and associated with the private sphere. The theory goes that through this reclamation, contemporary women want to reconnect with the female-dominated arts in order to legitimatize the importance of previously undervalued crafting. The idea is to show that 21st century women have the privilege to express themselves through craft, thanks to the hard work of the Second-Wave feminists.

I guess the idea is that by embracing domestic arts while identifying as feminists, Third-wave feminists are making the choice to embrace domesticity. Choice is the key word there. As long as it is a choice, not a social mandate, its totally cool to cook and knit and darn socks and have a bunch-o-babies. The cultural movement is proving that women want to be women again, and many of us enjoy the privilege of baking pie and sewing dresses and housekeeping and child rearing. It was not until today that I really thought about my crafting from a social and political point of view, but it does raise some interesting thoughts, doesn't it? I will ponder as I finish up these sneak peak projects and hope to return with additional insight, as well as a finished project and open storefront, sometime soon.

In the meantime, enjoy the peak.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The perfect mix - Anthropologie in Austin.

This month's Anthropologie catalog arrived a week or so ago to my great delight. The publication is always a beauty with good design, quality paper, lovely photography, and of course interesting items for sale. I save all of them as future sewing inspiration (as my long-term goal is to improve my sewing skills to a point where I can recreate their clothing, tailored for my personal shape and taste). So naturally this edition of the catalog was a welcome addition to the mail pile. I picked it up right away. Imagine my delight when I opened the cover, and lo and behold, there were images of my favorite Texas city as the backdrop to the issue. Anthropologie featured Austin, Texas! I am very proud to say that I recognize many of the places in the catalog, which only serves to reinforce my self esteem and affirm that indeed, my tastes are as cool and hip as those of my favorite overprices store.

Being so delighted with the featured location, I spent very little time looking at the clothing, and much more time looking at the sites and scenes in the catalog. So I guess it turns out that location may be my #1 favorite fashion accessory, not shoes.

To prove my passion for the city, I have featured some of my favorite locations in the catalog along with personal anecdotes (and ramblings) about how you too can partake in the magic of the place. Just don't forget to wear your best folk-urban, drapey-fitted, multi-layered, vintage-yet-fashion forward outfit. You will fit right in.

South Congress Street:
This model is undoubtedly standing on South Congress Street, a main north-south avenue that runs from the Texas State Capital south past the river and into South Austin. This is where the street gets interesting. Rumor has it that in days before my time, this street was rampant with nothing but ladies of the night, sleazy bars and cheap motels. Now it hosts quirky local eateries, hip shopping - both local boutiques and chains, and my favorite hotel of all time, the Hotel San Jose (its a revamped 1930's motor court!). You may remember my ode to cupcakes at the airstream bakery Hey Cupcake! from a few months back. Well that is just one of the notable features of South Congress. I can (and sometimes do) focus my entire trip to Austin on this stretch of road.

Jo's Coffee:
This little caffeine haven sits in the parking lot of my favorite hotel ever, the Hotel San Jose (see above). Granted, it is a bit presumptuous of me to call it my favorite hotel, as I have never stayed in the place, but I have sneaked in to use their bathroom on multiple occasions and that offers some credibility (the lobby restrooms feature transparent frosted glass doors and vintage music posters on the walls). I have also spent time drinking sangria on their pool deck with the beautiful people of Austin. But the hotel aside, Jo's is my favorite place for coffee in Austin because of their signature drink, the Iced Turbo. It's part coffee, part sweetened milk, part chocolate, part ice, and part utterly delicious. Also, they are a strictly outdoor venue with a big covered patio where they play live music and where I once pet the most beautiful gray standard poodle. Good times.

The Alamo Drafthouse:
This place is a signature Texas thing to me, as it is pretty much the first place where I have had the chance to catch a flick, grab dinner, and relax with a pint all at once. That's because The Drafthouse does it all, and they do it with attitude. They show standard and unique films. They serve food. And as you can tell from the name, they also serve beer. It's good. Every row of seats has a generous bar in front to accommodate your pints (or wine glasses, if you prefer). You can order and eat throughout the movie. The theater, now a Texas chain/franchise, plays a lot of new releases, but they also have a strong local event schedule with special features to suit their regulars' preferences. Think along the lines of a "The Big Lebowski" screening, where anyone wearing their bathrobe receives a free White Russian. They also broadcast sports, Oscar award ceremonies, and this year they did a special season finale screening of Battlestar Galactica. They spotlight homemade pre-show entertainment (my favorite includes "What to do in case of zombie attack" with instructions in retro-styled graphics on how to destroy a zombie's brain), plus lots of local micro brews, and good food. It's a casual movie-going experience that focuses on the whole experience of attending a flick, not just the film itself. And the most beautiful theater is in Austin, pictured above.

Deep Eddy Pool/Austin Swimming Holes:
The model above is standing near a Deep Eddy Cafe sign. I have never been to the cafe, but I can vouch for the Deep Eddy itself. In classic Austin fashion, Deep Eddy is a spring fed public pool fed by crisp Texas waters. Not only that, but the place is historic, complete with a renovated bathhouse. The Deep Eddy Bathhouse provides me an outlet for my outdoor shower daydream. Just look at theirs. The men's room even features an outdoor pagoda and shower. I love outdoor showers. Someday I will share with you my plans for a dream backyard (hint, it involves installing my very own custom outdoor shower), but for now just enjoy the though of an old-school Austin swimming hole and cocktails at the cafe after your dip.

Austin's vintage and boutique shopping:
Austin is full of great shopping - vintage, kitsch, boutique, artisan and generic chain shopping. The one problem with shopping in Austin though is that everybody is shopping in Austin. That means that sometimes the pickin's are slim, and always the prices are high. Just try to find a second hand plaid button up shirt or a pair of vintage leather knee high boots for thrift store prices...fat chance. The beautiful people of Austin have already swiped them up, and for three times what you would pay in another city. But I am not complaining, because even though I rarely buy in Austin, I love to browse. Austin stores stock the kind of hip, funky stuff that the rest of Texas can only dream about and drool over in glossy magazines. I mean look at that location in the photo above, it looks like an Anthropologie set, but that is a bonafied real store. Wow.

* As a quick side note, I am IN LOVE with the "Airy Surplus Sweater" featured in this picture. What a dream with its drapey sleeves and cut and cinched in waist with three covered buttons. I see myself it with a blue camisole barely peeking through, a chunky blue or green necklace, and maybe a headband.

I couldn't let this catalog tour of Austin end without showing you this picture. I don't know where this photo was taken, but it does indeed embody Austin's vibe. The place is retro, fun, and casual, but still maintains a very large and in charge attitude. I love this picture though, probably because I love large letter postcards.

So there you have it. One of Texas' most perfect cities, feature in all of its glory as the set for an unnaturally perfect retail chain. And this of course brings me to one final point about Austin AND Anthropologie. They are both a bit unattainable. Austin sometimes feels like a walking Anthropologie catalog. It is full of beautiful people, most of them well dressed and painfully hip. I attribute this to the massive student population. Those that are not overly hip are undoubtedly independently wealthy from lucrative business ventures. So it is hard to feel like a standout among the city's population. Nonetheless, if you aren't there to make a splash, it is one of the more charismatic and friendly cities to enjoy. I hope you visit soon.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A sneek peak.

Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the first exclusive sneak peek of Sincerely Yours, Kate's new Etsy endeavor. There are only two other people in the whole wide world that currently know of this project. My husband by default knows, as we share a living space and he sees me working on the project at the kitchen table. Also, my sister Anne knows because she is getting in on the gig with the intention of helping me with some incarnations of the project later down the line.

For those of you new to the concept of Etsy, it is a website which provides the general public with a way to buy and sell handmade items, including art, photography, clothing, jewelry, and toys. The site follows in the tradition of open craft fairs, giving sellers personal storefronts where they list their goods for a small fee. Etsy makes money by charging a listing fee of 20 cents for each item and getting 3.5 percent of every sale. Since its launch in 2005, Etsy has grown to tens of thousands of sellers and five times that in buyer accounts. That is encouraging. I expect at least one in every ten thousands people who like handmade crafts will want to purchase something I make.

So, what is the complete project, you ask. Well, I am not ready to share that yet. But rest assured that a few additional sneak peaks are on the way, and if you stay tuned you will certainly be privy to the initial launch of the full Etsy shop. Until then, I hope these colorful images pique your curiosity, and perhaps your desire to purchase something handmade.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Vintage buttons.

These are my first vintage button acquisition, and they are so pretty. I picked up two extra large buttons that will make a nice accent to single button item, or a closure on a bag or accessory. I found six matching blue buttons which will be nice on a shirt dress, two turquoise and white buttons that can form a closure on the back of a blouse or on the straps of a sundress, and four luminous blue buttons that will surely find their way onto something pretty. I like these buttons because I imagine their history. In my mind, they spent years sitting in another young sewer's stash, anxiously awaiting their addition to a homemade garment. Who knows what they were purchased for or what intended garment never made it into fruition to deserve these buttons, but somehow I feel like using them will be completing a small piece of history.

I picked them up at A Painted Pony the other day when I purchased my new $10 red velour jacket. The buttons cost $8, so all in all I feel like I ended up with lots of treasures for only $18. My poor husband would beg to differ. His reasonable argument goes along the lines of "a deal on something we don't need is not really a deal." We are in constant debate about spending on little items like this. I, on one hand, feel compelled to make these small purchases as they arise. I never really like delaying purchase gratification. He, on the other hand, is a strong voice of reason and moderation. Together I think it makes us a good pair. He reins me in, and I made sure we don't miss out on the little one-of-a-kind purchases he might frugally overlook. These buttons make it into this category, at least for me. I hope someday you see a post here on Sincerely Yours, Kate featuring none other than these little treasures.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Attack of the killer fruit flies.

We went to the farmer's market on Saturday and I picked up a huge basket of "almost perfect" peaches on a great deal. I even got a few extra due to the imperfections. I thought to myself, "wow Kate, great find, you are a real farmers market spendthrift. Good job." Then I brought the peaches home and I learned an important lesson. Mainly that "almost perfect" peaches can mean fruit fly infestation.

Our peaches are lovely and ripe. They smell good and they have fuzzy, pinkish yellow skin. They were in a snap freeze earlier this spring which caused their pits to split, leaving a tiny canyon from the stem down into the center of the peach. The farmer kindly explained that this would mean trimming a bit extra from the peach before eating. "No problem," I thought, "as I am going to cut the fruit up for a cobbler anyway." What the farmer did not mention was that the split pit canyon is actually a great home for a swarm of fruit flies. Ick. Sunday I woke up to a beautiful fruit bowl of peaches and a not-so beautiful swarm of tiny, pesky, annoying little fruit flies.

So, along with my lesson learned that "almost perfect" peaches come with the caveat of fruit flies, I also taught myself another important lesson - how to control a fruit fly infestation. A quick Internet search led me to a multitude of different traps to catch the buggers, and being a bit overly grossed out, I opted to try five different traps. The good news is that they all work marvelously.

First, I made a cone trap with a piece of paper rolled into a cone with a very narrow opening at the point. This was placed point side down into a tall jar filled with a bit of cider vinegar and taped around the rim for a seal. Flies could find their way in, but not back out. Then I made two bowl traps, one filled with cider vinegar and the other filled with a piece of rotting peach. I covered each bowl tightly with saran wrap and poked small holes in each. The flies crawled in, where they stayed because they could not find their way out. I also put a piece of rotting peach in a Ziploc bag, which I sealed leaving only a small opening. I propped the opening a bit with a plastic fork, and in went the flies where I could seal them shut.

These four traps were swarming with the little bugs before bed. However I was perplexed as to how to actually dispose of the trapped bugs, until my smart husband suggested the microwave. I know, I know, it seems a bit cruel, but I think it was probably very quick and painless. I just sealed up each trap with a second piece of saran wrap and nuked them for :15 to :30 seconds, then rinsed everything down the drain.

Before bed we put away all of the fruits, veggies, garbage, recycling, and anything a fruit fly might be attracted to. Then I put a pan with some pieces of peach and a dish with some cider vinegar into my oven, leaving the door open. This morning before I hopped in the shower I quick shut the door and cranked the oven up to about 450 degrees. By the time I was finished we were rid of another small swarm of flies. I left a new saran wrapped bowl fruit trap on the counter today and expect to capture more flies throughout the day. We will keep this up as long as it takes, and hope that we are capturing all the little buggers before they can lay eggs and start the life cycle over again.

Tonight we are having peach cobbler for dessert. I expect it will be delicious, but for the first time ever I am not sure this simple dessert will be worth the effort.

Friday, June 5, 2009

My new little red jacket.

This is my new little red jacket. I post it here for two reasons, 1) because it was such a smokin' deal that I want to share it with the world, and 2) because I am considering a little reinvention work and I want your opinions.

I ventured into a little store across the street from my dentist yesterday called The Painted Pony. It is the retail outlet of a local San Antonio designer who designs and constructs her line of clothing here in town and then sells her line to stores all over the country. Her retail front sells all of her sample line and leftover fabric and excess inventor at a discount. This jacket was only $10. That's right, the same cost as a mediocre meal at a local chain restaurant, and less than a pair of nice panties at Victoria's Secret. It is 100% cotton velour with a nice umpeored waist that floats away from the midsection excatly as What Not to Wear would suggest. The color is cheerful and perfect for fall and winter.

The only thing I am not entirely sure about is the sleeves. I worry they stray into the realm of old lady wear (older ladies, please don't hate me fore saying that). The thing is, I want to make sure my wardrobe stays more in line with the modern and funky Anthroplogie look and less in line with old school Talbots. Are these flouncy sleeves older-lady trendy? If so, I see two options for reinvention. Either I could put a tighter cuff of sorts around the open end of the flounce to create more of a bubble/lantern style that pulls back in to the arm. Or I could simpley cut them off and hem the jacket for a very short 3/4 sleeve look. The only worry is that the sleeves will then be too short. Or I could leave it as is. What do you think?

To be fair, I have a lot of time to think about this. It is June in San Antonio, which means no one in their right mind needs a red velor jacket right now. Still I would like to make my decision and complete the alterations before I packet this baby away for the fall. Do I remove the sleeve flounce and hem the sleeves for a more streamlined look, or leave the jacket as is? Please share your opinions.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Eat here y'all.

So last month we were in Savannah (en route to the beach) and took the opportunity to visit the restaurant of a Food Network star, the great Ms. Paula Deen and her hugely popular eatery The Lady and Sons. It was an experience y'all.

Paula Deen started this place in 1989 with $200, the help of her sons, and an old 1910 structure.
In case you live under a rock and don't already know this, Paula has several best-selling cookbooks and also hosts a top-rated cooking show, Paula's Home Cooking, on the Food Network. Her recipes all include at least a stick of butter, and she is know for being the quirky (aka a little bit crazy) Southern lady, y'all.

We all ate her buffet, which can be described as Southern to the bone, including fried chicken, meatloaf, collard greens, beef stew, "creamed" potatoes, or macaroni and cheese. It was a veritable feast of fatty delicious food y'all.

The restaurant is now stupidly popular. Every day of the week, the hostess begins to take names at 9:30 am for lunch and dinner on a first come first served basis in front of the restaurant. You must appear in person to receive a priority seating time. The line literally wrapped around the building. She is popular y'all.

Her fried chicken was amazing. Fried chicken is one of those foods I have never and will NEVER make at home. I also try to avoid the fast food variety. Thus it is a dish I eat very little of, but a food that is so delicious, so decadent, and so finger-lickin' good that I crave it more than I would like to admit. Paula Dean's crispy, salty, lightly breaded breasts and thighs hit the spot. I only wish I had been hungrier for more. Her fried chicken had a delicate batter. It was not too knobby or thick, so with each bite it was possible to get both chicken and fried skin in the same taste. While it was appropriately greasy for fried chicken, it was not laden with oil. Best of all, it had flavor. There is nothing worse than the fried fryness that tastes of nothing but peanut oil. Her chicken was salty and savory flavorful. It was worth the buffet experience y'all.

The restaurant itself is less desirable than the chicken. It is a monolithic, three-floored, southern food factory serving so many guests it makes your head reel. The gift shop looms large through an open doorway between the waiting room and buffet, which is never a good sign of authenticity. The menus are over sized laminates, much like at Chili's, and nothing is cooked up in the kitchen by the lady or her sons. Nonetheless, eating at The Lady and Son's felt like the right thing to do while in Savannah, and I am glad we went y'all.