Friday, February 29, 2008

Simple Pleasures for Simple Minds

Last month Kurt and got to spend a week in New York. Yep, bright lights, big city. More on the real reason for the trip (the Milkweed Mercantile was the recipient of an Eileen Fisher Grant for Women Entrepreneurs) in future posts. Right now I'd like to share what was REALLY exciting about the trip, at least for me.

Tender Buttons.

This tiny little shop in the Upper West Side absolutley oozes with charm. See those buttons along the wall in the photo above? Those are all little boxes (4x2x8") stacked and filled with the buttons that are affixed to the outside. It is an amazing experience to walk in and realize the limitlessness of the world of buttons. So I went shopping, supposedly for future hand-made Mercantile projects. Right.

exhibits a and b

teeny, tiny bags

When I walked out, all I had to show for my efforts (and payment) were two little teeny bags tucked into a very small bag (see exhibits a and b).

You'd think they'd at least give you a GREAT BIG bag so that you felt like you'd received some return on your investment.

But oh, what buttons! Mice-and-cheese buttons, mother of pearl buttons, hand-carved wood buttons, very cool buttons...

Years ago I attended the International Quilt Festival in Houston, where I had the pleasure of hearing Elinor Peace Bailey speak. She was marvelous, and what I liked best was what she had to say about fabric. Quilters are often consumed with enormous guilt about their "quilt stash." This is an undisclosed quantity, usually large, of fabric. Purchased in quilt stores, quilt festivals, and anywhere else imaginable, stashes continually grow. One never knows when might need that particular fabric. Green and blue dots? Hmmmm, that might come in handy some day, I better buy two yards. And so it piles up, and up, and up.

But Elinor put my mind at rest. She understood. She said that whenever one takes a pile of fabric out, and touches it, and thinks about it, and plays with it for awhile, one is using the fabric. That is the key. You do not have to cut it up and sew it into something to use it. Touching it is enough. Quilters are kinesthetic - we touch things. It's a visceral thing. I suspect it is the same with buttons.

Come over sometime, and I'll let you play with mine!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Cupcake is a Thing of Beauty, and a Joy for 3 minutes...

John Keats wrote:

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases;
it will neverPass into nothingness;
but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

I believe he was speaking of my cupcakes:

Carrot Cake Cupcakes, topped with cream cheese icing and candied ginger

Yes - beauty, sweet, health, quiet breathing (or is that panting and drooling?) - that about covers it!

Tonight is tri-community (Dancing Rabbit, Sandhill Farm & Red Earth Farms) potluck. And while traditionally a potluck means that one brings a dish that would be enough to feed one's family (i.e. the number of people in your party who will be eating at the potluck), when one brings dessert there absolutely MUST be enough to go around. Granted, there are a few non-sugar and non-wheat eaters in our midst, but if you want to avoid a kid-riot (and I do, at all costs) you bring extra.

The Recipe

From The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook

Preheat oven to 350

1 cup salad oil
1 c. white sugar
1 c. brown sugar
1 ½ - 2 c. water or soymilk

4 c. unbleached white flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp allspice

3 c. grated carrots
1 c. chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts)
½ c. raisins

Blend oil and sugar, add water and beat. Sift the flour with remaining dry ingredients and add to sugar mixture. Add carrots and nuts and mix well. Bake in a 9x13” pan at 350 for 35-40 minutes.

For cupcakes: grease cupcake tins. Bake for about 12 minutes.

1 container Tofutti PLAIN Better Than Cream Cheese
½ cube soy margarine
3 c. sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Beat together with whisk attachment. Add more sugar if it is too wet, soy milk if it is too stiff.

That's it for tonight. I've been thinking a lot about sustainable business, and how to have a store where selling things really is not the bottom line, and am working myself into a tizzy. So I made cupcakes. With lots of frosting. And lots of leftovers.