Monday, November 29, 2010

My favorite recipe is also my favorite Christmas tradition!

Fruitcake!  This ain't your grocery store stuff!  This ain't even your mail order stuff!  This is the real McCoy from 150 years ago!

The real thing!
 Want to see pictures with the recipe?  Right here! (ACEO giveaway was for 2009, not this year!)

Want more details about the recipe?  Including a few hints! (ACEO giveaway was for 2009, not this year!)

Just want the recipe? 
Here you go (along with a few comments from me!)

9 eggs

2 cups of butter (real butter, not margarine or shortening!!!)

2 cups of sugar (regular white sugar – not brown sugar!!!)

4 cups of flour (I like unbleached white flour for this fruitcake – no one has ever used wheat in this recipe)

4 pounds of fruit and nuts – use Candied pineapple, cherries, citron, orange and lemon peel; golden raisins (not dark raisins), pecans, and currants (if you like them – my sis and I don’t use the currants because we don’t like them =p). Just make sure that all of the fruit and nut amounts add up to 4 pounds. Doing the math is the hardest part of making this fruitcake. Take a calculator. Totally!

1 cup of molasses (we use unsulfured dark molasses – yummy!)

1 cup of brandy or fruit juice (I like orange juice in the fruitcake – Mary likes brandy. Just make sure you use the same brandy to soak the fruitcake. We usually use peach or apricot brandy. Oh, and don’t soak the cakes in orange juice even if you did put it in the fruitcake – yuck! Just pick one of those brandies and use that to soak the cakes.)

You will also need one tablespoon of each of these spices (don’t omit any of them!!!) ~ allspice, cinnamon, mace, nutmeg, and cloves.

Okay – here come the directions. Remember that this recipe came with very few instructions! Nana wrote it out and then I made notes through the years…

Messy job number one: Grease the pans. Line the pans with paper. Grease the paper. Nice. We use shortening to do this (we, Kimosabi? I use shortening to do this... One year Mary did the pans and I did the fruit… Pans are nice – the shortening makes your hands soft *winks*  Fruit is sticky...) So for the 9 egg fruit cake you will need a herd of small loaf pans, or three small loaf pans and a big tube pan. I like the tube pan because I think the cake is really pretty even if it is harder to get the paper in there. Hey – it’s what Nana used *smiles* But, if you use the tube pan be prepared for it to cook a looooong time…

Messy job number two: Wash the raisins and pick out all of the stems. Do the same with the currants if you are using them. Nana used to do this the night before and leave them all to dry overnight. She liked currants so she always used them, too.  Don't skip this job.  Stems are yucky in the cakes =p Now take your candied fruit and prepare to get really sticky. Cut all of the candied cherries and candied pineapple pieces in half. After you have all of the fruit cut and the raisins and currants are dry, mix them all of the fruit and nuts together.

Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add eggs one at a time and beat after each addition. Add molasses and mix well. You can use a mixer for this part (newly added to the instructions… hehe – but this is the only time to use the mixer!)

Sift flour and spices together. Combine the sifted flour/spice mixture with the fruit. This is very important because otherwise your fruit will all sink to the bottom. Ugly and not so good. It’s okay if you have a little flour left – or you can just add it all to the fruit. I told you the instructions were a little sparse in the original! I have done it both ways, though, and as long as the fruit is totally coated with the flour mixture it will work okay.

Now you can put your mixer away unless you are not at all attached to it and you don’t care if it’s little motor burns up… (newly added to instructions due to life experience of a recent recipient of this recipe…) Note, again, the need for a huge wooden spoon! The wooden bowl is the one that Nana used all the years that she made fruitcake.

My sister and THE bowl that Nana used.  It's about 100 years old now.

Now is also a good time to pre-heat your oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. And – VERY IMPORTANT!!! – put a big pan of water in the bottom of your oven. I use a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Make sure that this is always full of water or your fruitcake will be really dry.

Pour the creamed mixture into a huge bowl (trust me – big is not big enough) and add the fruit mixture a little at a time, alternating with a little brandy. Blend well after each addition. Continue adding the fruit mixture and the brandy until they are all in the creamed mixture.
Okay – now fill all of those greased little and big pans about two thirds full of batter. You can bake them all at the same time, but make sure that there is a little space between them.
Your fruitcakes will take between one and three hours to bake depending on the size of your pan. Listen to them – they make a happy sound when they are cooking. When they are done, they are silent (mostly). Test with a toothpick, too, but remember that they are moist. Also, look for them to pull away from the edge of the pans just a teeny bit when they are done. Doneness timing is tricky – you may have to experiment until you find the right timing for your oven. Little loaves take about an hour; tube pan takes about two or three hours. Heavy on the “about”…

When they are done, let the little yummies cool completely. Now, grab that brandy – you do have some left, don’t you? Pour a bit of it in a bowl and then dip cheese cloth pieces in the brandy. You can also use the old kind of ‘flour sacking’ cotton dish towels for this if you would like. Squeeze it out a bit and then wrap your fruit cake up. You don’t want too much brandy on the cakes or they will get squishy on the outside and you won’t have any brandy left to sip on New Year’s Eve. After you have them well doused, wrap them tightly in heavy aluminum foil.

*laughs* Here’s the hard part – store the fruitcakes in the fridge for about a week before you eat it – for the best flavor that is. My brother-in-law says he has to sample it the day it is made just to make sure it is okay and fit for human consumption. He is my sister’s official food taster =p

Here’s another variable, too – my sister prefers to store her cakes in the freezer. I prefer to store mine in the refrigerator. They seem to keep well both ways as long as they are tightly sealed. Get careless with that aluminum foil, and your cake will get dry.

Well, I hope you enjoy this tradional favorite recipe of mine!  Any questions?  Just post them in the comments and I will be happy to answer them. 

Mikayla, Cynthia, Naomi and Mary hard at work - while I goof off and take pictures!
 Mmmmmm!  The house smells so good with the fruitcakes baking!

PS This Etsy Bloggers' Carnival is all about your favorite family tradition - or your favorite holiday recipe - Well, as you can see - fruitcake covers both of those AND it covers all the holidays from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day, too!  Thanks, SpottedCowSoaps for the great blog carnival topic!

Monday, November 22, 2010

If you haven't seen these, you need to!

Thought I would share a few of my favorite places to visit online.  If you haven't found these - stroll on over and have some fun!

Hershey in Winter
 Want to check out my very first blog post?  I mean like ever?  Here you go ~

You have to see this little video ~ even if you have seen it before!  It's called GoD and DoG ~ grab a tissue!

Like to play games?  I mean real games!  If this place doesn't have it, it just doesn't exhist!

Shhhh....  over 50?  Want to know who did what when they were your age?  This is funny ~

What's on the menu tomorrow?  Well, we will be gathering for our annual fruitcake baking.  Want the 150 year old recipe?  Here it is!
Just so you know, the Treasure Hunt is from when I wrote the post ~ Just posting this link for the recipe =)

Do you like to do crafts with kids?  Homeschool art?  Or just like simple and fun things to create?  Check out Deep Space Sparkle!
Just a hint ~ if you work with 'seniors' in an art program, there are some things that could be adpated for them, too.

Want a fast and easy way to search the Bible, have a reading program, or explore some in depth study?  Here it is ~ right at your finger tips!

Want some ACEO fun?  This blog is really cool ~
You can enter the challenge and/or vote for those who have artwork entered!  Lots of cool ACEOs entered for this challenge, "Winter Beauty"!

Want to see poetry in motion with horses?  Jean Francois Pignon is a French master of Natural Horsemanship ~
These are some amazing and well trained horses!

And, last but not least...  One of my more fun blogging momments ~
The comments are really fun in this blog post!

Happy Monday!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Adoption, adopting, adopt... art?

Yes, I know - adoption is really on my mind, lately, isn't it?!  But, Adopt Art? 

Well, yes!  As you know, Cynthia and Timothy are in the midst of adopting - and, as you probably know, adoption is expensive.

But what kind of price can compare to the life of a child? 

Think of the little (and big) common expenses that many people have...  Starbucks?  cable TV?  caller ID?  extra camera? cell phone?  HDTV?  two cars?  three cars?  horses?  new pair of shoes?  dog food?  magazine subscriptions?  a villa in the Bahamas?

Care to add to the list?  There are so many things that we take for granted...  Well, maybe not the villa in the Bahamas - but somebody probably does take that for granted!  Take a look around you...  yeah...  I just did the same thing, too, and gave the same big *sigh* that you did.

How would you like to make a difference and have some fun at the same time?  I knew you would ~ so join me this week and "adopt art"!  Check out the details on my new page, "Adopt Art!"  and watch as fun artwork waits for you to take it home in the "Adopt Art Gallery"!
Another Brilliant Sunset - just one of the lovely paintings waiting to be adopted!

Thank you!

God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law,
so that he could adopt us as his very own children.
Galatians 4:5

New Living Translation

Friday, November 19, 2010

Funtry Friday ~ You might have livestock if...

That's My Baby!
Shopping at a feed store is more exciting than shopping for shoes.

You can only wear one style of shoes because both of your feet have been remodeled.

You know what I mean by ‘feet that have been remodeled’.

Wormer, trimming feet, what you found in the goat pen last week that you couldn’t identify are all dinner conversation.

You tell your truck to “giddup”!

All of your pockets have hay in them.

When you want the kids in the vehicle, you tell them to “Load up!”

You have lost count of the number of hoof picks that you own, but it doesn’t matter because they are all over the house, barn, truck…

The word ‘car’ is not in your vocabulary.

“Bull” has a different meaning to you.

You can tell where your friends have been with one sniff.

You can identify five major types of poop and six minor ones.

You know what I mean by ‘major’ and ‘minor’ poop.

Cat does not mean domestic short hair.

You can sleep through the TV in the same room and wake up with a horse whinny two pastures away.

And you wouldn’t part with that one eyed, 32 year old, skinny bag of bones for anything!

Hope you have a great Fun in the Country Weekend!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A few more hints for selling on Etsy!

Etsy has made a lot of changes over the last few years, and, no doubt there will be more changes made in the future. One recent change involved the Profile Page. Here is what mine looks like now...

Here is what Etsy has designed the profile page to look like - I don't have my 'favorite materials', favorites, or treasuries showing on my profile page. The orange text shows you where those things would be if I had them there…

One of the main problems with having your favorites, treasuries, and favorite materials showing on your Profile Page, is that these are all direct links that take potential shoppers away from your shop.
Want to see how many places on your Profile Page lead to somewhere outside of your shop? Take a look…

Everything inside the red leads to somewhere else on Etsy. Either to another shop, a place to search items, Etsy's home page, help pages, information pages, etc. Lots of these links are 'normal' web page links, but about 300 links can be found in your favorite shops and treasuries (because of the number of links associated with each favorite shop item and each treasury item).

The little green links lead to your main Etsy shop page.

Take note of the fact that your avatar is not surrounded by a green line. Neither is your shop name right below your avatar. What happens if you click these? You stay on your Profile Page. Etsy admin, Sean, has stated that eventually all avatar and all shop name links will lead to the Profile Page instead of to your main shop page.

See this forum thread link for more details ~ 
Admin's comments appear on these pages ~
13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 24, 27, 52, 66, 73, 121, 123, 208, 213, 215, 219, 221, 348, 349, 351, 401, 403, 430, (458 by LisaJune about abusive posts & 459 LisaJune did invite us to convo her with questions about profiles.), 488 (These were all the admin comments posted when I visited page 501.)

Check the highlighted areas to see what I did to help remedy this little link traffic migration a bit…

• I added some information in my bio to help people navigate this maze. There is a link to my main shop page, a link to my Policies page and a brief note to 'click read more' so that people will know that they can expand the now truncated biography into a pop-up window.

• I removed my 'favorite materials' list because it was just one more series of links out of my shop.
• I made my favorites private. Some of my favorites are shops of friends, some are surprises for friends and family, some are competitors, and some are crazy items I want to share because they are crazy. I promote my friends in other places, gifts need to be private, and the rest I just don't want to share! *roflol*
• I have never made a treasury (just not my thing), but I think the only way you can remove them is if you delete the treasury. Otherwise, you have a lot of potential links to other shops on your profile page.

If you want to make your favorites and/or your purchases private, go to:
• Your Etsy
• Look under Your Account
• Click on Account
• Click the tab that says Privacy
• Click the space next to Only you (private) under Favorites and/or Purchases

There are some issues with Etsy's internal searches for their promotional items in connection to keeping your favorites private. Those issues are addressed in the forum thread.  If you read all of admin's comments, you will have a good idea of the direction that Etsy wants to take with the Profile Page as well as a few other things they have in mind.

Hope this gives you a little more information and helps increase traffic to your main shop page with your items that are for sale!


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Some helpful tips for selling on Etsy!

Etsy is a big place - so how do you get noticed? Well, here are some things that you can do to get your shop noticed by buyers who are cruising the corridors of Etsy. 
Daphne's Breakfast

• Make sure your photographs are clear and make sure that they adequately show all angles of your items.

• Use all of your photographs. If you don't require them all to describe your item, then fill up the other images with photographs that show related items, a way to display your item, special sales or discounts, or a little mini-biography about you.

Best Friend with a reminder to check out mt other artwork.

• Use all of your description tags. All 14 of them! Be sure your main category is first and your next most descriptive word is second. Don’t forget to use color, size, medium, season, scent, shape, etc. - anything that you might search for if you were looking for this item. Do not use 'cute' phrases in your tags unless that is a legitimate way to search for your item.

Here are some tags that I might use for Beach Baby~
art, original painting, collage, acrylic painting, tern, bird, beach,
summer, blue, brown, feathers, castteam, tapestry316, roeth 
• In some of your listings, include your real name as a tag. Include your shop name, both without spaces and with spaces (like: tapestry316 as well as tapestry 316). Many times people will search 'all items' for the shop name instead of using the drop down menu to search for the sellers. Some people who know you may not remember what your shop name is, but they will remember your name.

• Spend time connecting with people in the forums. There are LOTS of great threads there for both buyers and sellers and it is a wonderful way to meet some very fun people on Etsy. Chat with them, leave meaningful and helpful comments, and visit their shops. They will probably do the same for you.

• Join a team - or two or three! Don't go team crazy - join only the teams where you can successfully participate.

• Promote your shop outside of Etsy. Many people use Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks to share listings, treasuries and team activities. Blogging is another way to share what is going on in your shop. Some people create an email list to send a newsletter for special sales, etc. Experiment and see what works best for you!

Well, that's enough to get you started! Stroll over to your shop and check your listings. How do you photographs look? Are your tags relevant? Been to the forums lately? Once your shop is all spruced up, spend a little time sharing it both on and off Etsy.
While you do that, I will get together some information about some of the recent changes to our Profile page along with a few suggestions on how to keep the traffic flowing to your shop items!
Happy selling!

Monday, November 15, 2010

You might be an Artist if...

You look at the sky and say cerulean blue with a dash of sienna…

You have used a paint brush to hold your pony tail up and you didn't discover it until you were checking out at the grocery store.

"Just one more minute" stretches to three hours at your easel.

Your plein aire supplies are always packed and ready to go.

You have touched up a nick on your kitchen cabinets with your $42 per tube oil paint.

You think nothing of letting the grandkids play with your paint, but they had better not touch your brushes.

You would rather buy art books more than just about anything except, perhaps, art supplies.

Your camera is always with you just in case…

Paint colors make you drool.

Everything you own has paint on it - somewhere!

Déjà vu? Have another one to add? Share it in the comments!

Happy Painting!


Sunday, November 14, 2010

An interesting question - what's your answer?

Patch, one of the Etsy Bloggers team members, asked this question for her blog carnival ~

What is always inspiring you for your shops,
your works, or anything in your life??

Such a great question!  Not just what is inspiring - but what is always inspiring!

The wonder of nature can inspire us, until the moment has passed.  A sunset can be and inspiring, but only for a few minutes.  People can be an inspiration, until they disappoint us.  Beautiful paintings can be satisfying to the eye, but are they continually inspiring?  Success?  Fame?  Fortune?  Are they the pathway to permanent inspiration?  Passion?  Can a passion be always inspiring?  No, only until another passion takes its place...

At the bottom of my blog is one of my favorite Scripture verses:

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Philippians 4:8

Inspiring?  Yes.  always inspiring?  Perhaps... but more like a street sign pointing the way to real inspiration.  Truth, honesty, justice, purity, loveliness, goodness, virtue, praise worthiness...  What is always inspiring me for my shop, my artwork, or anything in my life?  Only one - Jesus Christ is always inspiring!


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Oh my! Truly Devine!

The featured Etsy Blogger for November is wonderfully devine ~ Devine Designs Jewelry, that is!  In her Etsy shop, Cindy features beautiful creations that are handcrafted with excellence in mind.  This eye candy is going to cause you to have a major *gasp* attack!  Be sure that you read her wonderful descriptions so that you will know the quality and care that she puts into each item.

Earings to capture the imagination!

Unique creations like this exquisite scarf pin!
Incredibly Devine Designs like this one of a kind lapis bracelet!
 If you can manage to tear yourself away from her lovely shop on Etsy, then stroll over to her blog, Devine Designs Jewelry, where you can keep up with what's new in her life. 


Thursday, November 11, 2010

That you might be free...

...they have made a sacrifice!

Thank you, Veterans!
God bless you!

Dad, 1946
Richard Golter
Blessings to you on this Veteran's Day,

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Oh, the problems of pricing artistic creations!

Did you ever have someone ask you why something you made cost so much? Did you ever have someone want you to drop your price? Give them a special deal? Include free shipping or a discount?

Did it frustrate you after all of the hours you spent creating, photographing, listing, packaging, traveling to a show, etc., etc., etc… And that doesn't even take into consideration the sleepless nights you had while creative ideas danced through your head at 2 AM in the morning!

Did you ever wonder how you could politely tell someone that you really have placed a fair price on your item? After all, you really do want to sell this and you do want your buyer to know that they have made a wise investment.

Well, here are some things that just might help you to have some high flying sales this Fall, no matter what you are creating and no matter where you are selling it!

• Take the time to write a detailed description of any special materials that you used and keep it with your creation. If you have used especially high quality materials, let people know! This can be a tag on clothing, or a card on the back of framed artwork that goes to the customer with their purchase.

• Give a few details of any special techniques that you used. Things like Iris Folding, felting, and printmaking are not always familiar terms to the general public.

• List any education, classes, workshops, etc., that you took to learn the skills necessary to make your creation. If you are a master soap maker, tell people why! If you teach your craft, tell people where =)

• If your artistic endeavors require a lot of time to create, tell people how many hours, days, etc. your process takes. Sometimes things look very simple, but the process is very complex. People will view wire wrapping much differently, when they know the amount of time it takes to create an intricate piece of jewelry.

• When you are listing items for sale online, make sure that your photographs are clear and excellent. Show as many different views and images as you possibly can so that the buyer, who has never seen this item, will have a good idea of what it really looks like from all angles.

• Include information about the care of your creation. This simple addition lets people know that your creation is a treasure with value and worthy of special treatment.

• Be sure that you adequately describe your creation. Each creation will require special attention here, but some basic things to consider are size, color, weight - basically anything that gives the buyer an idea of its value.

• Think ahead. Do you want to offer a discount if your buyer wants to purchase more than one item? Be prepared to let them know what you will or will not do.

• Write down all of this information even if you will be selling your items in person. You may have to step away from your booth for a moment or you may forget an important point to share in the middle of a conversation. If you have everything written down, it is easier to get the information to your buyer - especially if the information is on your item.

• Above all, think of how you would answer these questions if your dearest friend ask them. You never know, your next buyer might just become one of your best friends so start out by treating them that way no matter what they ask!

How about you? What special tips do you have for helping to let your buyers know more about the price of your creation? Let me know what you say to them in the comments!


Thursday, November 4, 2010

First Thursday ART SPLASH on Etsy!!!!

Search 'artsplash' (one word) to see more great fine art on Etsy!

Dancing Rain Designs

Dora Art * Design Studio

Lee Pierce


For more lovely *art candy* stroll over to Etsy and search 'artsplash' (one word)!


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fall is in the air!

And, for those of us who sell online, that means it is time to get ready for the busy Fall selling season.  Deb of Storybeader blogging fame, is hosting the EtsyBloggers' carnival this week and she wants to know what hints people have for getting ready for all those sales. 

Well, here you go!  Here's a handful of quick ideas to get *and keep* your Fall sales rolling ~

  • First of all, make sure you look your sparkly best!  Polish up your blog and your shops!  Look at everything you have and pretend you have never seen it before.  Is it inviting?  pretty?  a good gift item?  Now is the time to remove things you don't like and add things you love.
  • Get organized!  Don't wait for the sales to roll into your shop to start getting orgainzed.  Make sure you have plenty of business cards, thank you notes, and mailing supplies.  Packing and shipping will go much easier if you plan ahead now.
  • Think about some fun and decorative wrapping ideas for your items.  Lots of people will be giving gifts this Fall.  Are you ready to ship to a different address than the seller?  Do you have a little gift card you can include from your buyer?  How will you wrap your lovely little creations?  
  • Do you have a 'game plan'?  November is not the time to develop a Fall sales plan!  Do you have a series of items you want to add to your shops over the next couple of months?  Have you made them all ahead of time so that they are ready to list them now?  If not, get to work!  Don't wait until you get an order to get it ready to ship.  As the season progress, both your online and your real life will get busier.  Plan ahead now!
  • Plan time to slow down!  Yes.  I said that!  You have to plan time to slow down when you are facing the busiests of times.  Trust me in this one!  If you run at a crazy, hectic pace non-stop for weeks at a time, you will make more mistakes, have a lot less fun, and give much worse customer service.  Plan to take a break every day - even if it is for just a few minutes at a time.  Take a walk, enjoy some music, visit with a friend over a wonderful dessert.  You will return to your work greatly refreshed and ready to give your best to all of your wonderful customers.  
There you go - five little hints to help this Fall sales season be a spectacular one for you.  Have a wonderful time with family, friends - and customers!

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