Thursday, December 23, 2010

DIY Gifting: Part 4, Making Cards with Amy Hornburg Heilveil

I've been excited to see this blog thread continue over the last few months and so happy that Amy volunteered to participate.  Amy has mad skills when it comes to almost anything artsy/craftsy and is one of the few people who juggle more hobbies than I do, so I knew she would have loads of DIY gifting experience.  
As many folks feel so overwhelmed by the mass commercialism during the holiday season, making gifts gets us all out of the malls, so we can spend more time at home. The last couple of weeks I've been  baking like a madwoman.  While doing so, I'm helping my son study for science or talking to my mom on the phone.  My husband and son also look forward to partaking in my baking endeavors and their taste testing skills are most necessary to ensuring my cookies will be enjoyed:)  
Amy is a fabulous baker, but one thing I didn't know until recently is that she makes gorgeous handmade cards.  Here's Amy's DIY gifting idea #1 in her own words, which I might have to do for my grandma next year.   

"With all of the papers and stamps available today, it's simple to make cards to give to people, but how about making a package of cards to give to someone so that they can give the cards away?  Several members of my family express how much the enjoy getting cards from me for occasions because I make my own and they find them beautiful and unusual. 
This year I decided to make up several packages of cards to give as gifts.  Pictured are three of the 'assortments' that I've given as Channukah gifts, which went over wonderfully."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Three Philosophers' Grilled Cheese

Cheese is my favorite food.  Without cheese, I could very easily be vegan.  Considering my lactose intolerance I probably should be.  I try to balance my daily intake of dairy via cheese with soy milk, olive oil spray, tofu spreads, avocado and such.
This grilled sandwich was inspired by my love of Welsh Rarebit and an already opened bottle of beer in the fridge.
Three Philosophers' Grilled Cheese

sliced onions
1/4 cup Three Philosophers' beer by Ommegang Brewery
whole wheat bread
olive oil spray
dried oregano
cheddar + swiss cheese

Saute onions (how much depends on you) in small saucepan with olive oil spray (or butter), slowly adding the beer.  Slice as much cheddar/swiss as desired and layer on whole wheat bread.  Spray pan and bread with olive oil (or again, use butter) and cook on medium heat.  I cover the saucepan so that the cheese thoroughly melts.  When cheese is melted and bread is gently toasted on both sides, open up sandwich to sprinkle on oregano and add onions.  Yum!

Back to the Future

Records are more than just nostalgic at this point- they are here to stay.  Whereas I feel sentimental about cassette tapes, I actually prefer listening to a record now and then.  Most people like the warm sound of analog over digital.  The cover art is an obvious bonus.  I appreciate the time it takes to put on a record.  I'm obviously not alone because a lot of bands still insist up creating albums on vinyl.
Let's face it- MP3's are too easy.  Kind of like McDonald's, without the grease.  Remember how hard it used to be to find a cassette by that college radio band you adored way back in high school?  Well, I feel the same excitement when I've found something I really wanted on vinyl.
So, slow life down.  Stop what you are doing and take the time to play side B.  Rock out to the Doors or Blondie like there's nothing else you have to do.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Yogi Tea Inspirations

Part of my daily morning ritual is a mason jar filled cup of tea every morning.  The last few weeks I've been taking a break from caffeine (and thus, my fav, Green Chai) and have been trying different Yogi Tea brand teas, like Rooibos Sweet Peach & Aztec Sweet Chili.
I'm not sure why Yogi Tea, over any other brand, is a must in my jar every morning.  Is it their uniquely delicious blends, nostalgia for Eugene or the little inspirations they have stapled to their tea bags?  Probably all of the above.  It is their daily meditations, however, which corrects my vision every morning and helps me see reality more clearly.    

Friday, December 3, 2010

I Wanna Be a Superhero for Christmas

I'm pretty ambivalent about whether or not I want to be a superhero now, but when I was 5 years old I would have traded all of my Barbie Dolls in for an invisible lasso. Without any nudge from me, my son developed a fascination for superheroes and their powers early on.
My son is now a teenager and has become closet comic book geek. These days he only discusses D&D, superhero, and anime with myself and my husband, as many of his peers aren't openly interested. I'm sure that it's just a matter of time before he runs into one of them at the comic book store, however.

Anway, before I get off-topic, here are some rad gift ideas for superhero geeks.
This custom Batman lunch box is by Specially You
I love the old metal lunch boxes!

I don't really dress up much for Halloween- it's just too cold for me, but if I were still 10 years old and had the dough- this outfit would be mine!  No doubt I would spend hours gazing at myself in front of the mirror.

Wonder Woman costume with tiara, cuffs, and lasso by Three Muses Clothing

And if you were a 70's kid, I'm sure that you remember Underoos!  I had Wonder Woman and Spider Girl Underoos.  Can't believe I never snagged any for my kid when he was a little guy.  I did bid on some Yoda and Batman Underoos for him on Ebay but never won:(
These cool Shazam Underoos are from Mi Book Casa

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Less than half an hour to midnight.  I'm listening to the wind rushing and whooshing against the trees and house outside.  Something exciting about a powerful wind raging on a dark, chilly night.  Was inspired by this quote by e.e. cummings as autumn is on the verge of leaving us, and thankfully so.  Cannot bask in spring until winter has come and gone.

A wind has blown the rain away and blown the sky away and all the leaves away, and the trees stand. I think, I too, have known autumn too long.
e.e. cummings

Last Day of November

November is a big month.  The first stirrings of winter- light snow, bare trees, down coat, long nights.  Celebrating thanksgiving and togetherness with friends and family.
With the holiday season- Solstice, Hanukkah, Christmas- right around the corner, I just wanted to take one last moment to bask in November.  Life passes by much too quickly and it's good to hold onto the moment before it is gone.
This poem by American poet Elizabeth Coatsworth captures November well:

November comes
And November goes,
With the last red berries
And the first white snows.

With night coming early,
And dawn coming late,
And ice in the bucket
And frost by the gate.

The fires burn
And the kettles sing,
And earth sinks to rest
Until next spring.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Really Good Gluten-Free Brownies

I do a lot of baking during the holiday season.  I love trying different ingredients out in the kitchen and found this lovely organic coconut flour by Let's Do...Organic.   Perfect for gluten free baking and higher in fiber than most flours.

I took their recipe for wheat free brownies from the back of the bag and altered it- trying to create a somewhat healthier version.  It originally called for a lot of eggs, more sugar, no bananas/applesauce- which I'm sure is delicious, but since I added vegan marshmallows, tried not to make it too rich.  This is a double batch in 13x 9 Pyrex dish.

Hope's Wheat Free Brownies

8 eggs
2/3 c butter
1 c cocoa powder
1 1/2 c brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 c unsweetened applesauce
1 cup Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c organic coconut flour
1 large banana, mashed
1/2 c Sweet & Sara's Marshmallows (if you want these to be totally gluten-free, add a gluten-free marshmallow- these are processed in a plant with wheat products)

Preheat oven to 350.  In a saucepan over low heat, blend butter and cocoa powder.  Remove from heat and let cool.  In a separate bowl, mix eggs, sugan, vanilla, applesauce, and mashed banana.  Stir this into the cocoa mixture.  Then slowly add the coconut flour until batter is no longer lumpy.  Pour into pre-greased Pyrex (13x9) glass baking dish.  Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly on top of batter.  Cook about 45-60 min.- testing w/ knife or toothpick.  Chop marshmallows into 1/2" bits and gently push into the brownie.  You can bake the marshmallows too, but my son and I thought they tasted better when added at the last minute.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Free Holiday Shipping!!!

Yes, Thanksgiving is almost here and it is surprisingly warm in the Catskills today. Hard to believe it in this weather, but the time for holiday shopping has begun.
In honor of Black Friday & Cyber Monday, I'm offering free shipping within the US & discounted worldwide shipping on all journals, cards, and postcards in Blackbird & Peacock

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Vegan Mofo Fav Food: Sweet & Sara's Marshmallows

I'm not a big fan of marshmallows, probably because they aren't technically vegetarian AND come out of a plastic bag. Typically, I prefer savory over sweet. My son has a sweet tooth, though, and when I saw Sweet & Sara's vegan Vanilla Marshmallows at Cooperstown Natural Foods, they became my 'impulse' purchase of the day.

What I loved about these: they don't taste as disgustingly unnatural as most marshmallows do. Where some vegan products fail is that they often try to replicate a food item, but the vegan version will end up being way more processed than the meaty counterpart. For example, I can't stomach most vegan cheeses. Taste horrible and the ingredient list is far from natural.
What Soren loved: They taste better than marshmallows.
These are handmade and the texture is so much nicer- a little firmer. They keep for several weeks and need to be refrigerated. I cut them up in bits and add them to my brownies- although Soren and I found that they taste better added the minute the brownies emerge from the oven.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Vegan Mofo Recipe, 2: Last of the Harvest

I love fresh veggies.  After years of moving, I often fantasized about having a large garden.  The growing season for garden veggies ended a month or so ago here, which makes me sad.  I love the Catskills, but the short growing season makes me wish I settled somewhere warmer.

This Halloween weekend, my husband, son and I traveled to southeast Pennsylvania to visit family and friends.  The growing season lasts a few weeks longer and my parents have a garden, so I was much appreciative when Mom loaded us up with hot and sweet peppers, cherry and roma tomatoes, oregano and rosemary- all straight from her garden (which is organic).  Also scored Mom's homemade pickles, which are my son's favorite pickles in the universe.  If that weren't enough, organic gardener/cook extraordinaire, Debra Parry, gifted me her delicious hot relish.

Today I was finishing up the last bits of the harvest down south and made a delicious vegan lunch.

Here's the recipe, serves 1:
Saute 1/3 small green pepper (strips) and 1/2 small onion (1/2 inch slices) in olive oil spray on medium heat until soft and mushy.  Mash 1/2 small avocado with 1 tsp. mustard.  Spray 2 slices whole wheat bread with olive oil spray and lightly toast.  Spread avocado mixture on one slice and 1 TBSP hot relish on the other.  Layer thinly sliced tomatoes (2 slices is great), 1 lettuce leaf, pickle slices, and pepper/onion mixture.  Open wide and enjoy!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

‎2nd Annual Studio Holiday Sale Extravaganza

Big Bad Art Collective and Studio 2029 are hosting The 2nd Annual Studio Holiday Sale Extravaganza!!!!!  Saturday, December 11th at noon- 8 p.m.  16-20 East End Avenue, Oneonta, NY.

 Come on over to the East End and check out what local artists have been making.

Jewelry, art prints, vegan soaps, paintings, ceramics, knitted goods, holiday cards, journals and postcards, items for kids, and more kool handcrafted stuff will be available for sale.

Work by local artists/crafters: David Kenny, Karin Bremer, Diana Cozzens, Joseph Von Stengel, Hope Von Stengel, Stephanie Rozene, Caitlyn Davey, Dorothy Wisnewski, Elizabeth Brzezenski, and Lori Kenney-Dozel.

Wine, beer, coffee, tea and all sorts of delicious treaty goodies will be available to enjoy. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Vegan MoFo Recipe: Mushroom and Rice Miso Soup

Been really into making combinations of mushroom and miso soups lately.  In the past, I've made mushroom and onion miso soup, mushroom and tofu miso soup with spring onions, and spicy pepper and mushroom miso soup.  Usually these are soups for one.  Really easy to make, warming, and healthy.
This week I had some leftover rice, which was the inspiration for this.  

I always saute the veggies/tofu first in about tsp. of olive oil or sesame oil.  This time I used 5 porcini mushrooms, a few slices of banana pepper, and 1/2 cup of leftover brown rice.  Cook until mushrooms are soft.

Heat 1 cup of water in tea kettle.  Right before boiling pour it into your bowl and add about 1 1/2 tsp. miso.  I used yellow miso.  Stir until miso is dissolved and add veggies.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Snowy Afternoon

It's snowing!  Not the first time it has snowed in Oneonta this fall, but the most I've seen land so far.  Just took these pics about 10 minutes ago and already more snow has accumulated.

When my puppy, Owen, came home with us from the Humane Society last January it was snow season.  He loved jumping and playing in the snow then and when I took him outside with me today to take photographs, he raced around the yard.  Here is our buddy, Owen, curiously watching the snow fall, in a rare moment of stillness.

Still snowing as I'm writing this.  Hard to believe that it was bright and sunny this morning.  Not a big fan of cold weather, I do love watching the snowflakes land while sipping a steaming cup of tea.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Totally Radical Holiday Cards

Joe and I have been busy little elves creating some awesome holiday cards.  Between Winter Solstice, Christmas and New Years' Eve, we do a lot of celebrating this time of year.  Already started making cards for family and friends, but here are a few from our store

Really into collage and retro holiday decorations.  This combines a bit of both.  Had to tear off each little piece of rice paper to create the snow, but it was worth it.

My husband created this rad design for a card.  Long live the mixed tape! holiday mix

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Lovely Time at Alex & Ika Restaurant

I write a weekly restaurant feature on local restaurants in Oneonta and had such a fabulous lunch at Alex and Ika's Restaurant in Cooperstown that I had to blog about it, but haven't had the time until now.
Alex & Ika's is rare find on this side of the Catskills. Not that there aren't some wonderful restaurants in this area, but Alex excels at balancing the fine line between appealing to the gourmand and casual diner. How does he pull this off?
My husband and I sat down with executive chef and owner Alex Webster, his sons Oskar and Lukas, and PR extraordinaire, Elizabeth Huntington, to find out what has made Alex and Ika so successful over the years. He credits a reliable and happy staff, making everything from the
dressings to the soups from scratch, using key ingredients like coarse grain sea salt, and creating an establishment that is family friendly for customers and his own family.
Sure, these things do make a difference. But the food had an attention to detail that isn't common in this area. My eggplant was cooked to perfection, with exactly the right proportion of cheese/sauce/eggplant/breading. Usually I find cheesecake a little garishly rich, but theirs is creamy but not overwhelming. I love that the fingerling potato fries weren't anything you would expect. They were mashed, crispy bites of deliciousness accompanied by a chipolte aioli dip that made ketchup seem overwhelmingly ordinary. And I could rave about the wine and drink list- amazing- but don't have enough space.
The restaurant also has character. Alex is also an artist and it shows. The mirrors and artwork and bar (erected from the wood of an old bowling alley) become part of the visual ingredient necessary to "dining out". There is a reason why I let my husband, Joe, take over as interior decorator at home- he's an artist and knows how to create ambiance.
One last reason to go. Alex and the kids and Elizabeth are incredibly nice people. Oh, and it's vegetarian friendly.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

DIY Gifting: Part 3, Knitting Hits and Misses with Dorothy Wisnewski

Not sure how everyone else's gift making for the holiday season is coming along, but so far I have yet to make ornaments- although I have bought some of the materials.  I have made quite a few cards.  Baking does not commence until December.  Right now my biggest obstacles are keeping the cat off of my dining room table (a.k.a. crafting table) and not losing momentum.
It is November, however, and whether you celebrate Christmas, Solstice, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, if you are making your own gifts, then it's time to get going!
Just to get you started, here is some inspiration from crafty lady Dorothy Wisnewski .  Dorothy has created many knitted gifts in the past for friends and family and dishes the dirt to BBAC on past gifting hits and misses:

"Now, past gifts. I have given some stuffed animals that I knitted and were received well.  A few years back there was a monkey I made for a little girl, who named it Daffodil Moons. 

More recently I've done two little lambs (not from my original pattern, though), which also were a hit. It helps that I figured out how to embroider the faces properly! And I made Audrey a bat, which she quite liked, and also is loved by Lucian.

But there have definitely been some comical misses. The first sweater I made for Jeremy (Dorothy's husband) was not quite the right fit or size, so he wore it a few times and then stopped. But he never told me why. Finally, he insisted that we keep it around anyway, because it was the first full-size sweater I had made, which is kind of momentous in the career of a knitter. I, on the other hand, had intended to knit a useful thing, and did not appreciate this monstrosity sitting in my house mocking my inadequacies as a designer and tailor. So I ripped out every stitch, balled up all the yarn again, and have begun knitting it into a different sweater for him. There's still a chance this one won't work either, becuase of different design choices on my part, in which case it will become a vest and I will wash my hands of it.

The other funny failure that comes to mind also happens to be a sweater. (They're so conducive to imperfection!) When I was pregnant with Lucian, I wanted to make something special for Audrey, so that her baby brother wouldn't be the only one benefitting from people's generosity. So I made her a big sister hoodie, out of a lovely soft cotton blend, very comfy, with pretty cables all over. Since it was to be a surprise, I couldn't have her try it on as I knitted, but I knew that I didn't want her to outgrow such a labor-intensive sweater right away, so I sized it generously. Well, that was a year and a half ago, and we think she probably has another year or two before she can wear it. Oops."

Monday, November 1, 2010

EtsyVeg Spooktacular Event! Not too late!!!

It's Day 6 of the EtsyVeg Team Spooktacular Event.  Only 1 day left!!!  etsyveg spooktacular event  Storewide sales, giveaways, and more.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Halloween Isn't Over Yet

Seems like the holidays whizz by faster every year.  Halloween isn't even over yet and candy is on sale, getting ready to move over for Christmas ornaments.  Well, I still have a scary movie or two to watch and a party to go to before Halloween is said and done for me.  Heck- I don't even know what I'm dressing up as yet!
Here are some cool Etsy finds to help you get in a Halloweenie mood!  

Two Targets Skull by Skullhouse is super cool! 

As some of you may know, I have a fondness for retro holiday decorations.  This one from Grandmother's Attic would look spooktacular on my door.  

I'd honestly rather watch scary movies than dress up on Halloween, but I think I would look pretty cute in this Little Red Riding Hood costume by Lover Dovers Clothing

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sunday Trainspotting

Sunday Trainspotting

Trains capture our romantic imagination, like all modes of transportation, because we associate them with freedom and travel.  They also are a culturally significant relic that still exists, while being deemed an outdated technology.  Fountain pens or tobacco pipes are iconic of the past in the same respect.  They exist along more modern technologies like Bic pens and cigarettes, yet have retained their functionality.  

Nearly a year ago my family and I moved to the East End of Oneonta.  Our house overlooks the train tracks and when the leaves fall from the trees we can clearly see the trains go by.  This Sunday, the train stopped for a little while so I ran outside to take some photos.  My neighbors probably thought me a bit strange, but I'm still in love with hearing the whistles of the train and watching the different kinds of train cars travel by.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

EtsyVeg Spooktacular Event! October 24th-31st

Halloween Spooktacular Event Oct 26-Nov 2nd etsyveg event 

The Etsyveg team is offering up some great giveaways in celebration of Halloween! Some great items have been donated by these artists: Palafoxstudio 23 ,  Aktie9 ,  JF Illustrations and Blackbird and Peacock paper things (me & Joe).

Check out these shops for awesome promotions: Silent Lotus , MagglePie , Au Clair de la Lune , Lalu Jewelry , Gardenias Garb , and more!

More details available at the EtsyVeg blog- this link will take you there- etsyveg blog

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Musings on Deep Space Explorations

What I've been up to?  Traversing the universe with a lonely Astronaut who might be losing his grip on reality.  

Recently I finished writing 2 poems to accompany Joe's Deep Space Exploration photo series.  This collaboration will eventually turn into a book and interactive art piece.  Right now I've been adding photographs from the series online for sale.  Really enjoying writing the descriptions for these pieces.  Maybe there's an astronaut lost in space inside my head.  

Dear John,
So many strange and wondrous things to see. Don't know if I'm becoming delusional, having flashbacks of going to the arcade, or if there really is an 8 Bit universe. Wish you could find me to write back. 
your brother,
the Astronaut

Dear Marie, 
I'm lost somewhere in the Galaga Universe. Be home as soon as possible. Miss you and Spot. 
your favorite Astronaut

Monday, October 18, 2010

Eco-friendly card making supplies!

Mix it up this holiday season and make your own cards!  I've already gotten a head start, but there is still plenty of time.  So far, we have a few colors to choose from: holiday red, natural white, and olive.  All envelopes and cards are made with recycled paper!  blackbird and peacock- click here!                                              


shop link

card making tutorial

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Joe Von Stengel featured in the O-town Scene

Check out Joseph Von Stengel as featured artist in this week's edition of Oneonta's arts and entertainment publication, the O-town Scene!  the article

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

DIY Gifting: Part 2, Making Soap with Dorothy Wisnewski

There's something tiresome about shopping for presents.  Not because I don't like to give, but basically because a) I hate shopping and b) it's hard to find meaningful gifts at the mall.  Since I've been making cookies every year for family, I have been hooked on the idea that giving presents doesn't have to be a consumerist act.  When you receive something handmade it is precious, there is only one of its' kind.  The birthday card my son made for me is a piece of him- his imagination, talents, and time.  
Since I have this DIY mentality when it comes to holidays and gifts, I was curious to learn what other people craft as gifts.  Knowing that my friend, Dorothy Wisnewski, is a craftsy lady I asked her to add to this thread.  Dorothy is a woman of many talents- she knits, bakes bread, speaks Spanish fluently, and is a full-time mom.  Lately she's been making soap.  Really cool soap- especially the soda bottle molded soaps!  Here's what Dorothy had to say about her adventures in soap making:  

I have been using pre-made blocks of natural vegan soap that I've been getting from a gardening company, and experimenting with different ingredients (mostly what I already have in my kitchen) to add to small batches. I cut off a chunk, melt it in a bowl in the microwave, wait until it's cool enough, add stuff, then pour into molds. Not exactly in the artisan soapmaking tradition of doing it all precisely and from scratch, but I've been having fun with it-- and avoiding the preservatives in other soaps that had been starting to really bother my skin. 

Cocoa and cinnamon seemed like a winning combo, given that I've had them in so many coffee drinks. I like that lots of potential add-ins (e.g. cocoa powder, coffee, etc.) smell fantastic and also are nice exfoliants, or good for your skin in some other way. As for the shape, I was rinsing out bottles to recycle one day when I looked at the bottom of a soda bottle, noticed the wild rose shape, and realized I could cut off the bottom and use it as a mold. And my latest "Frankenstein's soap monster" was born. Actually, I had the thought that it would be fun to make gross soaps for Halloween, like anatomically correct brains, hearts, etc.... but don't have that kind of mold. I may have to learn to make them myself, too!