What Happened With Etsy?

il_570xN.193773102I’m not sure what’s been up with Etsy these last couple of years. Maybe it’s just my shop. Maybe I don’t do enough to advertise. (True.) Maybe it’s because they grew too much and too quickly and diluted the market. Maybe there’s more competition now. I am not sure.

But whatever the reason, for me, things have slowed substantially. There was a time where I had dozens of orders each and every week. I once made a decent amount of money selling lollipops. I was also fiercely loyal to Etsy because they’d always been super helpful. Etsy used to be a huge part of my everyday life.

Back in 2013, things began to slow. I still received a ton of holiday orders, and that kept me busy between October and December. But the rest of the year was really quiet.

2014 was a lot of the same, except that the holiday season was also really slow. After 6 years on Etsy, I considered quitting.

This year, things have been totally dead. I think I filled maybe two orders. I honestly can’t remember. But I do know I stopped visiting the site and maintaining my page. I wasn’t even buying much off Etsy anymore, something I used to love to do. And then at some point my phone did something wonky and the Etsy app was lost completely and I never got around to reinstalling. I was pretty sure my listings were slowly expiring. But I never checked.
Screen Shot 2015-11-07 at 6.54.38 AM

Yesterday an old friend wrote asking me if I was still in the lollipop business. He wanted to buy a bunch to hand out to clients, something he’d done before. I went to have a look. Sure enough, nothing was active. And it made me feel kind of sad.

So I’m going to give it one more go before calling time of death on my good ol’ Etsy shop. I’m up and active again. For now. We’ll see how things go.

Falling Leaves and Acorns.

Oh my goodness, MORE COOKIES. And a backstory as to why I made them.

IMG_3130

Last Spring, we took Elliot out of school. He was enrolled at a full-time daycare, which we never really needed. I’d pick him up way early, we were paying the full tuition, and it just didn’t make sense for us anymore. Plus, he went through a really rough transition in late spring when they switched him from 9 children to 23. I won’t go into too many details about that transition, or how bad it was for him, because it’s personal to him, but it was very, very bad. He showed signs of total regression. It was just a bad scene all around. So, we left.

He is now at a pre-k program that is 2.5 hours a day (except for Fridays) and it’s been absolutely wonderful. Not just for him; for me too. I have met some great moms, something I have needed to do and yearned for since we moved here two years ago. I have one friend here, really. And I adore her. (She knows who she is.) But I feel lonely most of the time. Particularly on this street where there is a very tight group, a group I gave up trying to get in with.

Anyway, I think—I hope—I can forge some new friendships with some of these other moms. It helps that many families at this school have one full-time parent. That’s the thing about living here: I don’t know many people who stay home with their kids. I know they’re out there, but most everyone I’ve met works full time and has hired help. NO judgment there. I get it. I get why people need to and want to. I’m lucky I don’t have to. And honestly? Some days I want an office job again, but I think that’s because being a full time parent has become a really lonely job.

Holy crap, I just turned a post about cookies into a post about how lonely I am. Maybe that’s why I’m making so many damn cookies as of late? I’m baking in hopes of making friends? Baking them cookies? Holy shit! How pathetic am I?

OK, back to the cookies. So, yeah. At Elliot’s new school (which, I’ll just admit straight up is affiliated with a church) we have to take part in the community. Which means we must be teacher helpers. We must do two cleanups per year. It’s a co-op, basically. And that’s been great.

One of the absolute musts in being a part of this co-op is helping out at the annual bake sale, which takes place on election day. Everyone must make one savory, and one dessert; OR two savory dishes to sell to the community at large.

So: COOKIES.

Fall leaves and acorns. (Not zombies!)IMG_3132

Barnyard and Zombie Cookies Using Royal Icing

I had a customer ask me to do 50 barnyard cookies to accompany a barnyard cake. I obliged. I was a touch nervous at first, but ended up having a blast. So much so, I found myself getting up at 3:30 AM just so I could work on them. I’d like to share them now.

Here is a rooster.
12049513_902013866545493_8251925026197565176_n

Some pigs, a barn, a couple of horses, cows and some chicks.

12096066_902012606545619_4203013240379447701_n 12096257_902014369878776_8018892147302994776_n

And so, naturally, I had to take this innocent project and turn it into blood and gore and zombies. Truth: I love The Walking Dead. I’m not sure if I’ve ever publicly admitted this online, but I am a huge fan. (AND OMG LAST NIGHT! SO MUCH I WANT TO SAY!) I love the show so much, my house is peppered with TWD toys and figurines. I don’t really give a shit about zombies, but I love that show. And one day I hope to write the longwinded post as to why I love the show so much. But for now, I’ll just share some cookies with you.

These were made for our halloween block party.

DSCF0203

They were made for kids and I only realized after setting them down on the table outside that they might be a touch too graphic and/or gross for young eyes. But then I watched my own son bite the head off of the guy on the left and well that made it all worthwhile. DSCF0194

That’s all for now! I’m really enjoying blogging again. Although I’m not sure anyone actually reads anymore. :] But that’s OK. I haven’t been documenting my life much over the last several years and I miss it. So, maybe I’ll just think of it as a personal archive/diary of sorts, which is kind of funny because that’s why I started this puppy way back in 2001.

Over and out.

Because I Live In An Asylum.

This morning I called into The Brian Lehrer Show to discuss my Etsy shop. The segment was called Checking In On the Maker Economy. Etsy was brought up and how they’re going public. So I figured what the hell? I make things and sell them on Etsy. I have a unique product. I am a “Maker”. Let’s do this!

So I called. The line was busy for a while, but I kept trying. After several attempts, a woman answered. She asked me my name, where I was calling from. She asked me what it is I make. I answered. She put me on hold.

Today is another snow day. Which means all three kids are home with me and they are all also completely insane. They are always completely insane, but throw in some cabin fever, the excitement of being home instead of at school, and Walter’s recent round of vaccinations, and we’ve reached asylum levels of insanity. Come to think of it, there are moments where I feel like I live in an actual asylum. It’s perfect madness. I live in a house surrounded by perfect madness, the madness of children.

As I sat on hold I began looking around the room, taking it all in. Walter was crying and drooling from underneath my desk. The other two were riding wheeled office chairs around the living room, dueling like they were on horseback. What had I been thinking? Calling into a radio station to talk about “making stuff”. What had I been thinking? I can’t have a conversation about my business right now, not one with any order or decency. How was I going to hold an adult conversation with another adult while on the radio as countless others listened in?

What the hell is wrong with you, Michele?

And then it happened. Brian Lehrer introduced “Michele from _______” and BAM! I was on the air.

I swooped down, picked up Walter and made a mad dash to the other side of the house, in search of the most quiet corner I could find. And I think I began to talk. I can’t remember what happened actually because I live in an asylum. But I think I mentioned that I make lollipops. That they are unique—blah blah blah. There is one called “The First Trimester” made from lemon and fresh ginger—blah blah blah. I think I mentioned “Rise ‘n Shine” and maybe a wine or two. I can’t remember what I said, really, because I live in an asylum.

What had I been thinking?

I think I kept talking and so did Walter, fussing in the background, endlessly whining from my right hip, directly into the telephone.

What had I been thinking?

And then without missing a beat (which is incidentally why I listen to him every day) Brian Lehrer quips, “Sounds to me like you’re in the fifth or sixth trimester right now!”

I think I laughed, but I’m not sure. But that doesn’t matter because the best part about this? The part that surprised me the most? I GOT IT. I got his joke, like, immediately. I didn’t have one of those parent moments where you’re like, “Uuuuhhhhh duhhhhhh, whaaaaaa?” No. I GOT IT. There wasn’t a brain delay at all.

I got it.

And then it was over. Just like that. Probably because he didn’t want to hear Walter fuss into the phone, or listen to my other two children beat the shit out of one another while riding around on office chairs. And I can’t say I blame him; that doesn’t make for very good radio. But it does make for a good asylum.

After I hung up, and then after some time went by (because of course it did), it occurred to me that I completely failed to mention the name of my shop. Because…

Elliot Turns Four

Elliot turned four a couple of weeks ago. We decided to have a party for him and invited his entire class. Prior to this year, we’d only ever invited the immediate family.

Anyway, last year, he wanted an Emmet cake. And so my massively pregnant ass made him an Emmet cake. This year, he wanted a dinosaur cake. And a dinosaur cake he would have.

This is how it turned out.

IMG_0188

The party wasn’t great. I mean, I guess the kids had fun and the parents were gracious and kind. We used Fresh Direct to cater the party. They did awesome. I will definitely use them again. I opted for a “Pass The Parcel” game for the kids, where you wrap up a bunch of small gifts and every time the song pauses, whatever child has it on his or her lap unwraps one layer taking the gift inside. That went over REALLY well except that Elliot didn’t understand what was happening and thought we were giving away HIS birthday gifts. What a disaster. Needless to say, Elliot became overwhelmed and had a massive tantrum. I felt terrible. He’s growing up and he’s trying so very hard to be like his older brother, which is problematic to say the least. Anyway, we’re working on things every day and I have seen some progress. He’s got so much going on in there, so many emotions swirling about, emotions he’s not really sure how to communicate just yet.

What can I say? It’s been hard. Living with a three-year-old has been hard. But we’re hoping age four brings some calmer waters.

Sorry I haven’t updated in a while. It’s been a crazy couple of months and the weather isn’t helping. I’m not one to complain about winter, but it’s just been far, far too cold. I’m ready for spring.

Mom It Down! Orange-Basil, Maple Cookies

Commenter, eep suggested I post the recipe of the orange-basil cookies I consumed before my long run on Saturday. It’s a mega easy recipe. It’s not the healthiest cookie on earth, but when you plan on running off over 1000 calories, I think it’s OK to indulge in a cookie or four.

What you will need

  • Cookie sheet(s)
  • Parchment paper OR silpat
  • Standup mixer

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2/3 cups sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons finely chopped, fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups flour, sifted

Mom It Down!

Preheat often to 375. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or silpat. Set aside.

In mixer, combine butter and sugar. Beat for 3 to five minutes. Add egg, mix. Add orange zest, honey, basil, vanilla and salt. Mix. Add sifted flour. Mix.

Form roughly 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch balls in palm, roll in sugar, place on cookie sheet, and press with fork, glass bottom, or fingers. (These will take patterns and keep them pretty well. So feel free to use something decorative to press them with.)

Makes 24 cookies depending on how big you like your balls. :]

Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until golden.

Overcoming Obstacles

I bet you could make this dough ahead of time and refrigerate it until ready to use. It’s pretty sturdy dough. They are very simple.

Variations

I think lemon zest would be amazing as well. And really any spice would work. The dough is very versatile. I might try a rosemary version of this as well.

You can use honey instead of maple syrup.

Nutrition

Each cookie is about 150-155 calories and 15-20 grams of carbs. (Let me know if you need more nutritional information. I have it all.)

Mom It Down! Chilled Cucumber Soup

We’ve seen an overabundance of cucumbers this year. It seemed every time my kids went outside, both at our house and at my parents’ they returned with cucumbers. People were growing a bit tired of cucumber salad so I decided to try a cucumber soup. I’m super happy with the outcome and decided to share it.

What You Will Need

  • Blender (or food processor)

Ingredients

  • Three large cucumbers, peeled, halved and deseeded.
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (I used low fat. Greek works as well)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 shallot
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 loose cup dill
  • 2 tablespoons tarragon
  • jalapeño pepper (to taste. I used one small, VERY hot one.)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mom It Down!

Put everything in your blender, purée. (If you have a heavy duty blender, you can do it all together. If your blender is on the smaller, cheaper side, you might do the cucumbers in two installments.) You’re done! Chill for at least 8 hours, overnight is best.

Overcoming Obstacles

There are none! This is the easiest recipe ever. If you don’t have a lot of time all at once (which is common here as I have a baby and two kids to take care of) you can mise en place ahead of time. Cut the cucumbers and store them in the fridge until you have more time.

Variations

I might like to try cilantro. I bet adding cream cheese in lieu of sour cream would be awesome. Really, if you think it’ll taste good with cucumbers, try it! Although, I am not sure adding tuna would be all that good. Ew.

Nutrition

I believe each bowl of soup (roughly 3/4 cup) is about 150 calories. It was hard to calculate as I didn’t measure the entire amount prior to serving. So I’m not sure how much each bowl amounts to. It’s less than 200, most likely nearer to 140 calories per bowl.

Toby’s Birthday Cake

Toby turned 36 yesterday. I asked him what type of cake he wanted and his only requests were: chocolate and that the boys decorate it. This wasn’t nearly as difficult for me to agree to as one might image. Y’all know how much I love decorating cakes! But not this time. This time, I sat them down in front of a piece of cake, gave them a bunch of decorations from my stash and let them go nuts.

This is what we ended up with:

1456494_562490693831147_851579870_n

Elliot was a lot more reserved with his cake, which didn’t surprise me at all. Emory, on the other hand, he turned his into a New Year’s cake, or possibly something that Liberace might create. I was impressed! Anyway, it was a lot of fun and I do believe this will become a tradition for many years to come.

Introducing: The Heisenberg

Perhaps the only good thing that came out of being sick for 15 weeks was the birth of my new lollipop. You see, while ill and lying in bed at my mom’s house, I watched all 5.5 seasons of Breaking Bad Netflix had to offer. (I’m still not caught up, so shhhhhh.) And behold: The Heisenberg was born.

The Heisenberg

It’s naturally blueberry flavored. And it’s awesome.

Also! My holiday lollipops are available again! The First Snow, Red Wine, Eggnog Latte and Trick Or Treat are all available. Stop by!

Mom It Down! Homemade Peppercorn Dressing

Forgive me for the long-winded lead-in, feel free to skip this and head straight for the recipe.

Cooking has always mystified me. I understand baking. I started baking when I was a kid. Nothing about baking makes me nervous, even making mistakes. But cooking? It’s just hard. I don’t know how people do it well (or at all up until recently). I remember trying to cook dinner right after Em was born. I was like the Swedish Chef. By the time Toby got home, I was stressed out, filthy and the dish wasn’t even all that great. So, I stopped trying.

Then I went to pastry school and things changed. I began to feel a great deal more confident and comfortable simply being in a kitchen. My knife skills improved. I understood flavor profiles a bit more. And then things really solidified while working for Mast Brothers. Every day someone had to make lunch for the entire staff. I was TERRIFIED when I learned this. I literally got the shakes whenever they nominated me for the first time. And while my meal didn’t end up being all that great, I did it. I did it and I felt pretty damn proud of myself for overcoming a huge fear and actually producing something edible. From that point on, I volunteered to help out as much as possible.

About six months ago, I started cooking a lot. Every day, first thing, I would plan a meal for that evening. I would hit the market, bringing Elliot along with me (Em was in school), and we’d shop together. I would then spend the rest of the day, here and there, prepping. And I’ve been having a blast. And since I like to try and use fresh, whole foods, I’ve been attempting to make the sauces and dressings from scratch as well.

I tend to be very conservative when it comes to baking. I don’t like to waste anything. When I make a swiss meringue buttercream, I’ll make a shortbread cookie dough (that freezes well) using the egg yolks. I don’t like waste. I think Americans waste far too much food.

Similarly, I like to know what goes into making the foods we consume. How much work is involved? What type of waste is produced by commercial foods? Is it possible for me to make almond milk from scratch AND use the almond pulp left behind?

These are two, HUGE sticking points for me: what goes into the things we consume; and what does one do with what’s leftover.

So, this philosophy (for lack of a better word) has led me to occasionally deconstruct the things I love to eat—such as peppercorn dressing. How hard could it actually be? Would it taste as good?

Yes!

What you will need

  • Blender

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • at least 1 tablespoon of peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 cloves of garlic

Mom It Down!

Add everything to your blender.

Mix it up. You’re done! I KNOW!