Thursday, December 30, 2010

Xmas Feast Recipes

Sorry to re-use a photo...

 I got most of the recipes for our Xmas Feast from my mother's old issues of Cuisine magazine -- and wouldn't you know it, they're online too!  The oysters came from the lifestyle section of the newspaper, and they are also online, you're in luck :)

Oysters, crispy bacon, avocado, and champagne vinegar (I couldn't find champagne vinegar so used a tiny bit of white wine vinegar).

Salmon and mushroom tart

Grilled asparagus, tomato, and feta bruschetta

Prawns, avocado, and pink grapefruit with rocket and dill aioli

Roasted potatoes, capsicum (bell pepper) and baby carrots with rosemary

Go forth and cook!  The best thing is that all these recipes are very easy -- I love to cook for a crowd, but I'm also kinda lazy...

The Holstee Manifesto - Words To Live By


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 Reflection

Some of 2010's highlights
I've seen a few bloggers summarizing their experiences of 2010 and intentions for 2011 in a word (or five). Here are mine, good and bad, with brief explanations:

1.  Friendship - DAMN I have some amazing friends.  Seriously.  The kind that I can really say are "my people."  Most of them are scattered around California, though I have reconnected with a couple of wonderful friends back in Auckland.  And of course the fabulous women I met through the Flying Lessons e-course and through blogland in general.
2.  Creativity - it's been quite a year of it.  I've made jewelry, painted, taken classes in sewing and needle-felting and soap-making (I think I did them all this year at least), knitted a scarf, made cards, baked and decorated cakes, taken photos...
3.  Activity - I trained for and completed a half-marathon with two of the aforementioned amazing friends.  I also feel like I can finally say , age 29, that I can swim (albeit only 25 yards at a time). 
4.  Discovery - Through training for the half-marathon, I discovered discipline I didn't know I had but have always wanted.  I also discovered new interests and enjoyment in all the crafts I tried. 
5.  Fun - all of the above!  I also saw some fantastic concerts at the Hollywood Bowl, had some great nights out dancing, and a hundred other days and moments of fun throughout 2010.

The other kind:
1.  Clusterf*ck - the year started off with a clusterf*ck of epic proportions on the work front.  Somehow, I survived what felt unsurvivable.  Enough said.
2.  Upheaval - the move back to NZ.  I have had several years in a row of upheaval, I guess generally of my own creating.  I'm ready for that to stop.
3.  Frustration - again mostly with the move back here, the difficulties in getting jewelry supplies, pulling out of the craft show, and then my feelings on the jewelry I made this year also.
4.  Boredom (periodically) - this cropped up throughout the year, despite all the fun and activity.  It looms overhead now too during this period of unemployment, but I've been keeping it at bay this last week by sewing.  More on that to come...
5.  Stress - the move again.  Since that took many months of planning and consideration, I felt like much of 2010 was overshadowed by this.

What I want for 2011:
1.  Discipline - I loved experiencing this during my half-marathon training this year.  I have always thought of myself as quite an undisciplined person that can't finish anything.  I love that that's changing.  I've signed up to start a Postgraduate Diploma in Health Management via extramural study, so I'm going to need discipline to juggle that and the new job with everything else I want to do in 2011.
2.  Peace - more tea-drinking, more yoga, more meditation.  More mindfulness and pausing and calm.  More acceptance and letting-go of those things that really need to be let go of already!
3.  Fun - again!  In 2010 I think I gained a better sense of what I find fun -- physical challenges, creativity, learning new skills, the occasional night out -- and a better sense of what I don't -- going to events out of obligation, spending time with people that I don't really connect with.  I'd love to improve my swimming enough to complete a mini-triathlon.  I also want to do the Tough Guy/Gal Challenge (extreme mud-run!) and am contemplating the full Auckland Marathon.  I have this strong urge to try Stand-Up Paddling.  I also want to keep learning, and keep taking art/craft classes and workshops.  Last but definitely not least, I want to continue to meet more of "my people" who will join me in all these adventures.
4.  Comfort - hopefully around May 2011, I'll be in a position to find Kenzo and I a new (rented) home to call our own.  I have to pretty much start over with acquiring all new household furniture and items, so I want to really create a comfortable haven for us.
5.  And now, I need your suggestions.  I can't think of a fifth that doesn't fit in with one of the others.  What would you suggest?

Xmas Feast

My Xmas plate

As promised, here are the photos of the Xmas lunch I cooked for my family.  Err yes, there were only five of us...

Oysters with bacon, avocado, and chives

Sourdough bruschetta with basil, tomatoes, asparagus, and feta

Shrimp, grapefruit, and avocado salad
Salmon and portobello mushroom tart

Roasted potatoes, red bell peppers, and baby carrots with rosemary

Fruit mince tarts, and chocolate-dipped strawberries (forgot to take a photo of the pecan pie)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays!

It's Christmas Eve here... we are not of any particular religious persuasion in my immediate family but we have always done Christmas with a tree and presents and good food.  There's just my parents, my brother and I in our little satellite family unit in this corner of the world.  My brother's girlfriend will be joining us also, bringing our total to 5 plus little dog and big dog.

Since I am unemployed this year, my gift to everyone is doing all the cooking and baking for our get-together.  Today I made pecan pie, fruit mince tarts, and chocolate-dipped strawberries in white chocolate (to cater for the caffeine-sensitive) and dark chocolate (for the lactose-intolerant)...  Tomorrow's menu has been compiled from five separate issues of Cuisine magazine and is anything but traditional.  I'll take pictures and post them.  Let's hope I can pull it off!

Happy Chrismakwaanzakuh to you and yours from me and mine :)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Rolled Fabric Flower Bib Necklace

Here's another flower bib necklace I made, using strips of fabric rolled into rosettes and glued onto a felt backing.  I already had all the materials for this one in my stash, it's so satisfying not having to buy anything!

I googled "rolled fabric rosettes tutorial" and found a variety of instructions.  Most tutorials produce rosettes that show the raw fabric edge, like this from mama monster:

Very cute too but I prefer them without frayed edges, so I was just extra careful when folding my fabric stripes to keep them tucked under.

I love how it turned out!

Another bathroom mirror/iPhone photo

If you'd like to make one, here's a tutorial from Tortoise and the Hare.  Enjoy!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

New Zealand Handmade Holiday Ornament Swap

I am a terrible swapper, I just realised I forgot to post about the ornament I received in the swap organised by New Zealand Handmade!

My swap partner was Debbie, a nurse in Surrey in the UK.  How cool to swap with someone overseas, kind of reminds me of having a pen-pal as a child.  Debbie has a blog that she first started when she was still studying to be a nurse, called Student Nurses Allotment.

For some unknown reason, I did not take pictures of the ornament and card I made for Debbie!  Good grief.  But hopefully she will take some :)

Here are the darling little ornaments she made me (two!  how lucky).  They are about 5cm (just over 2") across.  They are cross-stitched, which I am super impressed by as I have absolutely zero cross-stitch experience.

I really enjoyed the swap experience, it's the first one I've ever participated in.  I'll be looking for more!

Lace Flower Bib Necklace

Since attending the Auckland Art and Craft Fair, I've been itching to get my craft on...  I spotted this guest post tutorial for a lace flower bib necklace by Little Miss Momma over on Tater Tots & Jello.

It's super cute and very easy.  The first couple of flowers I made didn't turn out well though.  My lace had a raw edge instead of a nice tidy binding like the kind she used in the tutorial, so I think that's why the "petals" kind of stuck straight up like a cup instead of a flower shape.  Also, the blue pearl beads I used looked small and kind of lost.  Then I tried pleating the lace as I glued it down, and it turned out much better! 

Bathroom mirror/iPhone photo

You know you must enjoy something when you burn the crap out of your fingers every ten minutes with hot glue, but keep doing it anyway...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Auckland Art & Craft Fair

Yesterday was the second Auckland Art & Craft Fair, which if you follow my blog you know I was supposed to be partaking in but had to pull out of (sulk).  Anyway, I put my big girl panties on and hopped on the bus to go check out what I was missing.

I ran into a friend there and got so wrapped up in things that I of course forgot to take photos.  I did however swipe a business card from everyone that I admired.

You also probably know how broke I am, so it was somewhat torturous, although I did lay down a whole $3 for this bookmark from Honey Design:

Some of the other wonderful vendors were:

 I also got to meet the lovely Jessica from Foxes, at whose table I was ogling the wonderful work of Devon Smith:

It was a nice big space, plenty of room for everyone, vendors and customers alike.  I was very impressed with the quality of goods for sale!  I'll definitely be hanging onto those business cards for when I start receiving a paycheck. 

I hope it was a very successful day for everyone involved, I heard that the next fair is planned for May 2011, so maybe I will have quit sulking and figured out how to source supplies and wrangled with my other artistic crises in time for that one...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

DIY Holiday Gift Tutorials

This holiday season I find myself on quite a tight budget! I spent some time yesterday scouring the internet for DIY holiday gift tutorials that wouldn't break the bank. Here's what I found:

And a gazillion other project tutorials from Design*Sponge, that would all make lovely gifts.

Do you do DIY for the holidays?  What's your favourite DIY gift to give?

Monday, November 15, 2010


Thank you SO much for the kind words of support about my last post, I am incredibly grateful to each of you.

Those long-awaited supplies finally arrived today. My blood boiled when I saw the mailing date on the envelope - November 10th, a full 3.5 weeks after I had paid and after the seller had almost immediately marked the item as "Shipped" on Etsy. I would understand if it had been mailed within a few days after I paid and it was just the postal service or customs' fault for delaying delivery, but that wasn't the case. The actual delivery only took 5 days from the U.S. to Auckland.

My business cards and labels also arrived -- they look AWFUL. The image is unsharp and dark and the business cards are flimsy and cheap. Thankfully Vistaprint have a satisfaction guarantee and have refunded my money.

A good friend emailed me, suggesting that by wanting to give up now I appeared to be choosing pessimism and putting roadblocks up to my own success. I've been pondering this, the source of my willingness to pack it all in when only a few months ago I was so excited to devote the next year to really giving Art & Clasp a shot. I have had some personal situations that have left me feeling like I have few resources left to deal with frustration. Additionally, a big part of it is financial - I am struggling on my very low, very part-time paycheck. After paying for gas, which I seem to constantly be putting in the car, my handful of monthly expenses, and assorted Kenzo-related costs, there is not a lot left. Living with my parents, far from everything, is proving to be much more difficult than I anticipated. So my recent experiences with wasting money on sub-standard supplies has really hurt.

But mainly, I think the problem is that I am not proud of the jewelry I make. I feel like it is assembly work with pre-made charms and images that anyone could do. As you probably know, I don't make those pretty images in the pendants myself, I buy them on Etsy - and I am always acutely embarrassed when someone thinks I do make them myself. A hole punch, a bit of glue, choosing a few charms, some opening and closing of jump rings, what is talented and creative about that? Even some of the lovely comments you left, using words like "unique" and "lovely" and "beautiful" -- I feel like they are not warranted. If I made those images (and I have tried unsuccessfully), or handmade the charms, I would be proud of my products. But as it stands I feel kind of like a sham, gluing a few pieces together and calling it "handmade" creativity.

This (and my last post) are NOT an attempt to fish for compliments or encouragement. I just want to explain where my head is at, and not appear like a child stamping my foot and throwing everything away because something isn't immediately going my way. So for now, I have decided to put my Etsy shop back on vacation, while I figure out my next steps.

What I really want to do is work on my painting so that I can eventually put those into pendants. There are a couple of painting workshops in the new year at universities here in Auckland that I would like to take (there are some wonderful workshops online, but after signing up and paying for one I discovered the internet connection at my parents' house is too slow to handle the videos for it...). In the meantime, I've accepted that I need to find fulltime work in order to find a place to live and to fund any future creative attempts.

Wow, this is a long post. If you read this far, thank you! I am so very grateful to have my online friends and community. Thanks for being wonderful!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Major Frustration, and Contemplating Closing Up

As I posted on Facebook this morning, I have decided, with a very heavy heart, to withdraw from the Auckland Art & Craft Fair. My current inventory is very low, and I have been waiting for the supplies I’ve ordered from the USA and Hong Kong to arrive. I’ve searched and searched for New Zealand (or even Australian) suppliers, but the very small handful that I’ve found have limited inventory and rather steep prices.

I have had three very frustrating situations with ordering supplies since I have moved back to New Zealand. Firstly, one lot of pendant settings and cabochons I ordered from a US supplier almost four weeks ago still hasn’t arrived. I was hoping to check the quality of these and then order more to make necklaces for the craft fair if I liked them, but it’s too late for that now.

Secondly, I ordered some 20 inch silver snake chains from another supplier on Etsy, only for them to tell me that they didn’t have any in stock, they only had 18 inch chains. I told them I didn’t want the shorter ones, but they didn’t respond and sent them anyway, as I found out when they arrived two weeks later!

Finally, I received one lot of brass charms that I ordered off an Etsy supplier a couple of days ago, and I am very disappointed with them. The photos on the supplier’s Etsy store are lovely, but the actual charms are very lightweight and cheap-feeling, and I’m not happy using them.

It costs too much and takes too long to send the supplies back from NZ to the USA, so not only was it a waste of time and money, I still don’t have the supplies I need. I have been searching frantically for more (using up my limited internet data allowance), but realized I will still have the same problem – the long wait for the supplies to arrive, and the uncertainty of their quality. The craft fair is only four weeks away, thus my decision to withdraw.

These frustrations are also leading me to consider closing up shop entirely. I don’t have the funds to be throwing at supplies that take weeks to get here and may or may not be usable when I can’t feasibly return them. The exchange rate and the cost of postage to have them sent here is also difficult to justify.

I’m so sad and disappointed. I have spent several hundred dollars on the business in the last few weeks. I returned the printer I bought (a miracle, given how difficult it is to return things in New Zealand if you just change your mind, thank you Bond & Bond), so at least that’s $300 back in my bank account (albeit briefly, the dog needs a growth excised from his gum and tested, to the tune of $500…) My regret at returning to New Zealand is mounting.

Anyway, watch this space, since I could well be announcing a closing down sale soon!

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Cost Of...

New stickers

New Canon printer and 5 x ink cartridges:                            $300
Business cards, stickers, return address labels, and banner:  $179
Domain name re-registration:                                             $10
Starting to feel like I am getting on top of my to do list:        Priceless.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Craft Markets, Displays, Business Cards -- Money!!

The Aotea Centre, venue for the Auckland Art & Craft Fair on December 11th, 2010

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you might have seen that I was accepted as a vendor at the Auckland Art & Craft Fair on December 11th. I am thrilled about this – the Fair ran for the first time in July of this year while I was still in the U.S. and I was so excited to see this sign of the growth of the handmade market in New Zealand. The venue where it is being held (the Aotea Centre in downtown Auckland) is very nice and of course being two weeks before Christmas is prime gift-shopping time.

With this excitement though has come some major stress! December 11th is only six weeks away. My stocks are dwindling and I can no longer source the same copper pendant bezels I have been using. I have been thinking about making a move into making brass and silver items as well, so there is my push to do that. However, that means sourcing and buying whole new “sets” of supplies in each metal – chain, clasps, jump rings, and bezels. I ordered a small amount of silver supplies from a supplier in the States on Etsy but it has been two weeks and they still haven’t arrived.

I also need to create (read: buy and make displays for) my table at the fair. I didn’t have room in my baggage to bring anything with me, so I am starting over from scratch. There are several Flickr groups of craft fair displays so I have been perusing those and found some ideas, but when it comes to materials I have nothing!

On top of this, I am out of business cards and need to order more. I am in the middle of trying to focus my branding (hence all the new photos), so need to redesign my business cards, stickers and address labels. Also, the website (yes, I’m going ahead with that idea), so that I can put the address on the business cards, and packaging/little freebies for the craft fair. When in the States I used Vistaprint and then Moo for my cards, but I don’t think that’s going to be the most time or cost-efficient option for me now. Any Kiwis have any recommendations?

It’s all money, money, money. I haven’t started getting paid yet for my part-time job and well, you saw what happened with the money I earned from Emily. I am waiting on some U.S. cheques for my apartment security and car insurance refund to clear but they take 21 BUSINESS days to clear, so essentially a month after I put them in. It’s very frustrating to see my available balance today is $19 when my account balance is much higher but I can’t touch it!

Six weeks. Can I do it all?!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

In Which Averil Spends More Money Than She Has

First off, let me say that I really appreciate the thoughtful comments on my last post. Thank you so much for taking the time to give me your feedback and opinions on websites and blog posts. You guys are wonderful!

Ok so today -- after Emily and I delivered and set up for two weddings,she suggested we peruse the vintage and secondhand clothing stores on Karangahape Road in the central city. All in the name of business, of course – I was supposed to be looking for vintage brooches to incorporate into the wedding jewelry line that I am contemplating starting.

Well, ahem… let’s just say I got a little distracted at The Paper Bag Princess (everything is $20 and under!) and spent most of the money I had just earned by working for Emily. Never mind that I had been complaining all morning about how I had to decide between buying dog food and groceries for myself (guess who won…) While we were out though I got an email from Etsy that I had sold two items, so that makes up for it. Hooray!

But look, the two pretty cream shirts I bought serve a double purpose --- as props in my new jewelry photos! It was quite fun taking these photos, I felt like a fashion magazine stylist.

The trench however, well, I just had to have that ($20!). It looks new and feels so, so soft. I am a total sucker for tactilely (is that a word??) pleasing clothing. You can’t really see it in the photo but it has kind of a bubble hem which is quite unique. And look at the belt! So pretty. Now I just have to wear it ALL THE TIME or Emily will make fun of me for buying it.

When I moved back to Auckland last month, I had to be pretty ruthless in deciding what I was going to bring from my clothing and shoe wardrobe (which was actually already pretty meagre as a result of moving between Auckland and L.A. 3 times previously in the past 5 years) in order to keep my baggage to a reasonable amount.  So I feel that these purchases are somewhat warranted, despite the state of my bank account (I know Emily will be laughing at me as I write this, that I am still trying to justify this several hours later...)

Hope you are all enjoying the weekend as much as I am!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Flying Lessons: Round Two Part Two and Questions for You!

Another one of my new photos.
Back to Flying Lessons!

In the second week, the lessons concerned developing an internet presence:  websites, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, etc.  I have all these, sans the website.  My wonderful friend Emily, besides being an amazing florist and my #1 creative-biz cheerleader, is handy with web design and has offered to build me my first website.  She gave me an assignment -- find some websites I really like and pinpoint the elements I like about them.  Surprisingly, this has not been an easy task.  I realized that I mostly look at blogs, not actual websites, so I had to go hunting for them.  And honestly, it was difficult to find some I was impressed by.  Do you have any favorites to share?

I have been thinking about my blog (and Facebook and Twitter too).  I feel like I should be writing more "high-value" posts (I can't remember where I saw that terminology, but I mean posts that give something to my readers that they value).  I have such lovely readers/friends and I'd love to hear your feedback - what kind of posts do you enjoy reading (here or on other blogs)?  What draws you in?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sneak Peek -- New Photos

I have been working hard to re-style my jewelry photos for Etsy with a little more deliciousness.  It is a lot of work and a definite learning curve (with help), and I have a LOT more to do!  Here is a sneak peek:

Monday, October 25, 2010

Updated Blog Roll And Links

I just spent some time updating my favorite links to other blogs and crafty inspiration sites in the sidebar.  I added a new list for "Creative Biz Links" (blogs or sites full of inspiration for those in creative business), removed a few dead or less relevant links, and added some of my new favorites.

New additions:

I have the pleasure of now working part-time with Emily of Blossom Wedding Flowers.  As I wrote about in this post, Emily and I have known each other for going on 12 years.  Emily is an incredibly talented floral designer here in Auckland (as evidenced by how busy she is this wedding season!).  She has just started a blog for Blossom Wedding Flowers and I highly recommend you take a peek at her beautiful bouquets and the other wedding and floral inspiration she is posting over there.

Craft eye candy.  Craft p0rn.  Call it what you want, it's heaven.

You all know by now how much I heart Jenny Lee Wentworth by now, right?  Not only is she one of my favorite customers, I really think this girl is the sweetest thing on the planet.  Read her blog, she's adorable.

Erin is a fellow Kiwi and self-taught mixed-media artist.  I love her work and her writing.  I am going to treat myself to something from her Etsy store as soon as I get a paycheck!

More eye candy, giveaways, craft book reviews, and general yumminess...

Goodness me how I love Michele from Pipi La La.  Michele is another Kiwi artist-in-bloom and she is so lovely and authentic on her blog.  I adore her work and am the proud owner of one of her pieces.  I also have my eye on another piece in her Etsy store and I check it daily to make sure it hasn't sold yet ;)

I think that's it for the new additions to my links, I hope you take and look and enjoy them as much as I do!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Etsy Favorite Finds: Baby Animals!

It's springtime here in New Zealand and it's a lovely time to live in the countryside - baby animals abound!  Here is a collection of Etsy finds inspired by the season :)

Top row, L-R:
Duckling Glass Tile Pendant by thelittlefox
Vintage Inspired Bird Nest Eggs Gift Tags by bljgraves
Mommy And Chicks Print by joojoo 

Bottom row, L-R:
Belle And Her Little Lamb Blank Greetings Card by belleandboo
Tiny Pig Print by acageybee
Ball Bunny Print by Thalitadol 

Top 5 Craftypod Podcast Episodes

I love the Craftypod podcast put out by Sister Diane (nope, she's not a nun, but I wondered that too...).  Every couple of weeks, Sister Diane puts out a new podcast of 'crafty goodness' aimed at the crafty biz crowd, and often including interviews of some of the craft world movers and shakers, like Tara Gentile of Scoutie Girl and Kari Chapin, author of The Handmade Marketplace.

The back catalogue of Craftypod episodes is so vast (my iTunes has episodes dating back to 2005!) that I have yet to listen to them all.  That said, here are my Top 5 Craftypod episodes (so far) for crafty biz inspiration:

1.  Why Your Story Is Everything, with Tara Gentile

2.  Making Ideas Happen with Scott Belsky

3.  Engagement Marketing For Your Crafty Business

4.  Craft Blogging:  What Should You Write About?

5.  Why Should You Plan Your Blog Posts Ahead?

Enjoy! You can also find more crafty biz inspiration in my post of my Top 10 Craft Business Blog Posts.

If you have any other crafty podcasts you recommend, I'd love to hear them in the comments.  Now, I think I need to go and re-listen to numbers #4 and #5....

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Terrible Pieces

Recently I posted about my desire to make a living from art, and my simultaneous fear of the learning process and of making mistakes (thank you for the encouraging words you left in the comments! :) ).   I figured one way to get over this hump was to give myself permission to make fifty terrible pieces of art (maybe that's a LOT of terrible art, but I figured better safe than sorry...)  Fifty pieces of technical mistakes, smudges, bad color choices, weird composition, flat faces, uneven facial features, give-up-in-the-middles...  And it helped.

As proof to you, here is Terrible Piece #1 (in background) and #2 (in foreground), both still in progress:

I really am horribly impatient.  I can't wait for paint to dry (even acrylic paint), so I end up smudging lines and smearing colors and tearing holes in paper.  Funny, because when people would hear what I used to do for a living for seven years (working with children with autism), they always exclaimed "Oh, you must be SO patient!"  No.  Absolutely not.  Not me.  Not in any aspect of my life.  I open the oven too soon to check on the cake.  I flip the pancakes before they are ready.  Maybe this explains why I like all my food a little under-cooked.