Thursday, September 30, 2010

Clearance Baskets

My mother always starts thinking about Christmas shopping the day after Christmas.  She'll store things for 12 months so she can take advantage of all the deals and we have one heck of a holiday.  So, whenever I see a clearance section...I visit it.  It's in my genes.  Generally, when we shop we think about what we need today.  But, planning can really save you some dough. 

I stopped by a craft store recently where four bins were filled with items marked 50cents.  They were random items...from gardening tools and ribbon to packs of popcorn.  I started to look for themes.

I noticed the store was getting rid of several movie related items...napkins, packages of real popcorn, drink coasters, cute ceramic cups labeled for butter, and even invitations with matching colors.  This had all the makings of a movie night party for a college kid.  I am a big fan of giving people movie tickets for gifts because everybody goes to a movie now and then.  But, there is nothing pretty about handing someone a ticket and crafty people like to give pretty gifts.  I added all of these items together and knew it'd make a cute basket. 

I used newspaper to fill the bottom of the basket and made a little hill on one side to give the items in the back some height.  I used a little clear tape to hold the napkins together and make them stand up straight.  Give tiny items height by attaching them to a stick, like the card in the center.  That adds more dimension to the basket.  I covered the newspaper with easter grass.  You can get that or shredded paper at the dollar store.

The 12 items I grabbed cost $6 at the register.  I've given movie tickets to friends and family before, but it always seemed so impersonal to hand over tickets in a card.  Now, that gift will be a PRESENTATION.  If you like to give dvd's as gifts, add them to a basket.  The point?  A collection of matching clearance items can make a great basket that looks far more sophisticated than it costs.  The downside?  You may have to store what you find for awhile.
By the way, the baskets were free.  They were given to me by a friend who found them on the side of the road!!  Yes, I wiped them down, but they were already clean and undamaged.  As long as they are safe and clean, used baskets are fair game.  All of us have gotten flowers delivered in a basket at one point or another.  Who doesn't reuse the basket after the flowers die?  Save them.  Besides, the people getting the gifts won't know where the baskets came from....unless they read this blog.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Artist Spotlight AND Giveaway!!!: Abishai

Every sexy dancer needs a  sexy statement bag to put their dance shoes in!!
The woman behind these beautiful shoe bags is my new friend Fatima Bey from Schenectady, New York. Fatima spent 15 years in the retail management business, 10 of them in the bridal business. By dealing with nervous brides on a daily basis she's become accustomed to providing superior service with a smile! She's so sweet and I was more than happy to give her my money for my very own Joy shoe bag! Loves!!

Q: Fatima how did you go from brides to bags!? LOL!

A: After many years of the retail and bridal world, I wanted a change. I felt it was time to put action to my dreams. I have wanted to own my own business for a long time and I am a designer at heart. The Shoe Bag and Shoe Purse idea came about out of noticing a need. As a dancer, I noticed all of the plastic or gym bags men and women would bring their shoes in. People would get all dressed up, but walk in with a gym or grocery store bag in hand. So, I came up with a more attractive way to carry our shoes and what we need.

Q:You and I met at a Salsa Social. I have to confess, you had me at hello when I saw your bags! I had to make the Joy Bag mine! I thought it was the best idea because every dancer usually shows up with shoes in a recycled duffle bag or in nothing at all! Your bags are sexy and eye catching! Talk about the thought process in selecting colors and some of the features of your bags.

A: When I create a design, I ask myself 2 primary questions:

1) Does it look average? If so, I make some changes. I don't want them to look like they were purchased at a chain store in the mall. I make it a point to make my designs above avereage.
2) Does it make you go "Wow"? For me, it's not good enough just to be pretty or nice looking.  I want people to look at my bags and have just the reaction you did!
This second question also gives balance to the first. By asking both of these questions, I'm more likely to ensure that my designs are different, but not too different.
As far as features on the bags, I try to make them practical. For example: the pockets on the insides are large enough to fit a large cell phone. I have also talked with many people while out dancing to find out what is practical for them. That is why you see different features on some of the bags, such as wrist loops or shoulder straps.

Q: I admit, the only sewing lessons I've ever had were in elementary home economics! I love sewing, but don't know my potential. What are your top 3 sewing tips?

A: 1) Be accurate when cutting. Make sure the pattern is placed on or against the grain, depending on the project. Also, make sure the fabric is flat before pinning the pattern and cutting. Cutting incorrectly can sabotage a project before it really begins.

2) Get some knowledge about the fabric you are using before attempting to sew with it. Is it the right fabric for what you are attempting to make? This is especially true of special ocassion fabrics, for example. Certain fabrics can be ruined by using the wrong needle or tension setting. There is a wealth of information on the internet. Use it. Take the time to learn a little bit ahead of time and save yourself some of the frustration. Most people would benefit best from taking a class or two.

3) The biggest tip is to be patient with yourself. You are going to make mistakes and that can be frustrating, but the main thing is to learn from them and try again. Don't get discouraged because you're not a master seamstress or tailor over night. I've never met a master sewer that became excellent overnight. We all had to work at it.

Q: Your business name "Abishai" is unique, yet for some it may be familiar. For those who don't know... tell us how to say it, what does it mean and how you came up with it.

A: Ab-ish-shy
I wanted a name that meant something; a name that encompassed everything the business is about. So, I began searching through my Bible Dictionary. The more I learned about Abishai, the more I identified his character with that of my own and the business. Abishai was actually the nephew of the Biblical King David. He was a chief warrior and extremely loyal. He was also a strong leader. I would like Abishai to be a strong leader in the fashion industry. He was, by all accounts, above average. I want all Abishai products to be above average too.
Just as important as who he was is what the name means. His name means "Source of Wealth" or "Gift of God".

Q: A portion of every sale you make is given to a charity close to your heart. Can you tell us about that?

A: A portion of every sale goes to Warm Blankets Orphan Care International. This is an organization that rescues orphans around the world in several different ways. My particular interest within this organization is the prevention and rescue of young women and children from the sex slave industry. There is no subject that I am more passionate about. I have always loved children and have had a soft spot in my heart for young women. While I may not be able to save all of the children and young women of the world by myself, I can help those who are already doing it. I decided to give an exact percentage of every sale so that as the business grows, so will the funds to help these young women and children. I'd like people to know that when you buy from Abishai, you are helping young women and children all around the world!

Q: Where can people find your bags?

A: People can visit, where they can purchase the Shoe Bags and see the other products that are available.  For those who would like to see where Abishai will be next and want to see the products in person, there is a link titled "Calendar" on the home page.

Thank you so much Abishai for being our first friend to spotlight!


Would you like to win your choice of any one of these beautiful bags found on the Abishai website?

Contest Rules:
-Leave a comment telling us what you love about this post on our blog and/or facebook page.

-You must be a follower of our blog (to do that-look to the right column) or someone who "likes" our Facebook Page.

-You have double the chance to win if you do BOTH!

-you have 1 week to enter. Contest ends at noon on next Wednesday October 6th. Random winner will be announced October 7th. GOOD LUCK!!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Giveaway Time Coming

Here it comes! An awesome giveaway for followers of and those who "like" our Facebook page! More details tomorrow! Be sure to sign up now!

Monterey Chicken

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Monterey Chicken
By Chef Donavan Kenney

4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast
1 Ripe Avocado (removed from skin and cut into 16 thin slices)
3 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 Tbsp Chili Powder
1 Tbsp Granulated Garlic
1 Tbsp Ground Cumin
2 Tsp salt
2 Tsp Crushed Black Pepper
½ Tsp Chili Flakes (if desired) for heat
1 Medium Onion (small dice)
3 cups Vegetable Oil
4 Slices Monterrey Jack Cheese
½ cup of Sofrito Sauce (available at most grocery stores in the ethnic food isle)
2 Tbsp Corn Starch
½ cup of water

Clean all excess fat and sinew from chicken breast, rinse under cold water and pat dry with paper towel.

Combine flour, chili powder, garlic, cumin, salt, pepper and chili flakes into a bowl and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place oil into a cast iron skillet or non stick pan and turn on flame to med/high and bring oil to 325 degrees.

Start by dredging chicken breast in the seasoned flour, and place on plate.

Very carefully place chicken into hot oil**

Lightly brown on both sides of chicken,remove from oil and place on a baking sheet pan and place into preheated oven.

Cook until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.

Mix Corn starch and water and set aside.

While chicken is cooking, drain extra oil from the pan but DO NOT remove the flour that is in the bottom of pan. Sautee onions until translucent. Add Sofrito sauce to pan and cook until sauce bubbles and is somewhat loose. If it is not loose add water ¼ cup at a time. Simmer for 10 minutes. Thicken with corn starch and water mixture. Sauce should coat the back of a spoon nicely.

Place 4 slices of avocado on each chicken breast and cover with Jack cheese, return to oven and cook until cheese melts and you are able to see avocado through the cheese about 5 minutes.

Remove the chicken from oven. Serve on a bed of White or Brown Rice with Black Beans.

Ladle about 3 Tbsp of sauce on each chicken breast and serve.

Top with the delicious crispy corn salsa I introduced you to last week!
I hope you enjoy this classic American dish with a Spanish twist.

** Always place product in hot oil going away from your body. Just in case it splashes, or pops it goes on the stove top and not on your arms or hands. Been there done that! LOL**

You can see a new recipe from Chef Donavan every Tasty Tuesday right here on Crafty Life and Style.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sand it Smooth

Do not fear the woodworking section ladies.  Go there.  If you like to buy inexpensive unfinished woodwork in the craft store, you know these little drawers can be fixed up into beautiful gifts.  But, they are very rough around the edges. 

The first few times I bought raw shelves or shadowboxes, I have to admit, I just stained them and added my decorations.  Then, I started a project while visiting my father and he was aghast that I didn't plan to sand down the bumpy and dented corners of the wood.  He dug through his tool shelf and pulled out a thin piece of sandpaper.  I ran the paper along the surface of my tiny drawers and the smooth transformation made all the difference.
You don't need a big powerful electric sander for everything.  For very small items you can buy thin sheets of sandpaper.  Fold it to get into creases and wrap it around corners.  It is flexible and incredibly easy to use.

If you have a long and flat surface, it may be easier to buy a handle that you can attach the sandpaper to, giving you a solid grip.  These are good for surfaces that you need to run over repeatedly with a little more force.  You can buy sheets of sandpaper at any hardware store.  Don't skip the sanding step.  It gives your project a professional looking finish that you can be more proud of.  If you're curious to see how my project turned out...I stained my drawers, added paper with modge-podge, embellished with flowers, and personalized the gifts with wooden letters for a few of friends.  Each gift cost under $10 to make and my friends loved them for storing buttons or brads and lots of other scrapbooking odds and ends.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Shutterbug Sunday

And it rained...

Sometimes the only thing required for a great shot is... waiting.  A bit of patience will yield some wonderful photos. I manually focused on the surface of the water and switched my camera settings to take a series of shots in rapid succession. I probably took about 25 shots to get this one but it was definitely worth it.

Until next week. Stay sweet. ♥tlb

For more of Tammy Lee Bradley's beautiful images, visit

Saturday, September 25, 2010

So Many Faces Of Me

My two favorite forms of art are Scrap Booking and Art Journaling. For those of you who have seen my work before you know this! You will likely see many entries in the future on these topics! I find art journaling very therapeutic and recently discovered my love for it when I took a class. I also love that through these pieces of art I am leaving a little piece of me for future generations to discover. I do quite a bit of genealogy research and all I see are names and dates- It would be my greatest treasure to discover something like this and I hope a descendant of mine will feel the same way. While I’d love to share many more of my art journal pages with you, right now I’m drawn to this page because I found it very challenging for me.

First off, I found that my first Art Journal was very much influenced by the direction of my teacher. I loved her class and when it was over I felt a void so I kept on journaling. This is a page I put together without direction in my second journal. Not having guidance proved to be a challenge for me so I just started doodling on a piece of paper. I never fancied myself as a doodler so when my first few pictures came out ok-- I kept on going.
I thought it would be fun to try and pinpoint the many faces of me. Then when I really started liking the page I had a little fear that I couldn’t replicate it on my art journal- so, in true art journal form- I threw out my idea of being “perfect” and decided it would be taped to the page. I also threw out the idea of using color-something I always like a lot of. I stuck to the basics and tried to create with in the black and white.
I first whisked some black paint on to the page. There was no real goal here. I just did what I thought would look good. Then I taped my paper down in the corner with Washi tape and stared at it. It needed some journaling. I wrote with a white pen about how my eyes and eyebrows giveaway my thoughts and in the end that’s ok-- just be yourself!
It was a fun page to do. Do you like to Art Journal? If so, I’d love to hear about your experiences or see your pictures on our Flicker page.

Stopped Cold

What stops you cold? Honestly for me it's a sale on craft items! I headed to the craft store to get four items for a planned project and I literally saw this sign 3 parking lots away from the store!

Next thing I knew, I was searching through bin after bin of clearance items. I ended up leaving with $50 worth of CLEARANCE ITEMS!!

I forgot all but one of my items I intended on getting! Am I alone in this insanity?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Crispy Corn Salsa

Since Chef Donavan's introduction was the most visited post on our blog yesterday he decided you deserved a treat!

Here's a very simple recipe (he's easing you in) to put together this weekend. It's a very fresh, light dish that will take you just 10 minutes to complete. If you can resist eating all of it, it will be the perfect topping for your very Tasty Tuesday recipe set to come--- well, on TUESDAY! LOL

*4 ears Fresh Corn on the cob (corn cut off cob)
*3 Large Tomatoes (small dice)
*1 large onion (small dice)
*1 bunch fresh cilantro (rough chopped)
*Salt and pepper to taste
*2 tsp ground cumin
*1 large bell pepper (small dice)
*1/4 cup olive oil
*1/8 cup vinegar (red or white)

-Cut corn off cob and boil for 10 minutes or until Al dente (a little crunch still in the kernel)

-mix all the other ingredients together and set at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Serve with all kinds of foods or use as a salad on a cool day.

Tip: make sure when you are dicing your onions, peppers, and tomatoes that they are about the same size as the corn or just a bit larger. You do not want the corn to get "lost" with the other ingredients. Remember the corn is the main ingredient so highlight the corn.

Finding Inspiration

It is a beautiful morning in Upstate New York here in the USA! I just wanted to share my view of the world with you. I hope it inspires you to have an amazing day and maybe create something special for someone you love.

I took this picture with my I-phone. I love being able to take beautiful pictures even when I don't have my fancy camera with me. I'm thinking about starting a small scrapbook of the beautiful skies I see.
Drop me a note or share a picture from your part of the world on our Flicker page! I'd love to see what inspires you!

Decorating with Jewelry

I always want to have my jewelry laid out in front of me as I accessorize.  I want to see every necklace I own so I can make the perfect match.

There's nothing worse than trying to untangle the ONE necklace you want to wear from a ball of twisted metal and beads.  The problem is...chunky jewelry is in style right now and jewelry cases just don't offer much space.  So, you're forced to layer your necklaces and dig through them each day while they wrap around each other, forming tight knots.  Let's face you even know how much jewelry you own or do you pick whatever chain you can get to?  After years of apartment living and serious accessorizing, I've discovered a fun way to display all of my jewelry, save space, and give my bathroom a funky style....and it's FREE!!!!

The towel rack in my apartment is right next to my mirror.  I thought it was the perfect spot for my pearls.  I had stacks of necklaces around my bathroom...and quite frankly I didn't even realize what was in all of those piles.  I hung all of the necklaces up on the towel rack in no particular order and loved the look.  My counter was suddenly clear, my necklaces were all visible and accessible, and my towel rack actually became a pretty decoration in my bathroom.  My jewelry now has a dual purpose.  I dress up my neck AND my bathroom with pearls.  I've gotten compliments from many people over the years who have adopted the idea.  In fact, if there isn't a towel rack near the bathroom mirror next time I move...I'll put one there.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Beginning

We don't pay therapists to keep the peace in our lives--- well, at least one of us doesn't! We both Do pay for art supplies... A LOT of art supplies!  From the time we met years ago, these two friends have shared laughs, tears, nerves, and optimism surrounded by a pile of crafts.  Our similarities are as vast as our differences in style.  But, we both love creating...anything. 

Crafty Cat loves antiques, victorian accents, and deep rich colors.  The cat loves traveling all over the world and looking for adventure like a single girl should...and she will spend some serious cash to get what she wants.  But, like any crafty person, Crafty Cat always likes a bargain.  Crafty girl leans toward a modern decor, but gets giddy with any chance to rehab an old free find into a fabulous keepsake.  The girl is a mom and a wife, who does NOT like to spend her cash and is always searching for a deal.

We've helped each other get better over the years, kicking up our scrapbooking a notch or two and learning how to take photos with better composition, light, and focus.  As we grew, people began to ask us to do projects for their babies, weddings, or parties.  We started to hear more and more encouragement to explore our love for crafty projects.  So, this is the beginning of our venture to give you great ideas for a crafty life and style.

Dumpster Diving

Get your gloves, a flashlight, a face mask, and most open mind.  This is the ultimate recycling.  If you love going green, dumpster driving may make you feel like you are saving the world one recyclable at a time.

A friend recently confessed to me that she joins several other people to scour select neighborhoods for high-class trash.  The "pickers", as they call themselves, go on the hunt when municipalities schedule their bulk trash pick-up days once a year.  People clear out big old items like chairs, toilets, and patio furniture...then throw them to the curb for haulers to take away....unless my friend gets to the pile first.  This is a slowly emerging nationwide movement by green-minded and downright thrifty folk to find furniture, toys, tools, and anything else they can rehab and keep or sell for a little extra dough. 

These are not people who are living off of the bread line.  They are resourceful and their dumpster diving is carefully organized, competitive, and strategic.  Divers start with a map, identifying a target neighborhood scheduled for bulk pick-up each week.  They hook up a trailer, grab anti-bacterial soap, and pack a couple of high-powered flashlights because some of the best finds come out at night.  Some pickers are focused on gathering scrap metal, others want things for their own homes, and some just look for items to wash up and sell online or at a garage sale.  The nice homeowners even package up extra pieces and leave signs to let pickers know if their items are in working condition.

My goal was to find a project I could get crafty with, to prove that you can literally make trash look lovely for just a couple of dollars.  I spotted a simple wooden box with tiny shelves and glass doors on top of one of the first trash heaps we passed.  I was sold.  Here's what I used to fix it up:

Mod Podge
A small brush
2 pieces of 12x12 paper
A paper trimmer

I picked a bright and glittery paper with bold colors because I knew I'd be using the display case to store ribbon in my craft room where anything goes.  You can pick any paper with colors suitable to the room where you'd display your project.  I measured the wood surfaces I wanted to replace with my patterned paper and cut strips using a paper trimmer.  I pre-cut all my paper in advance so I didn't have to worry about my mod podge  drying out before I was ready to apply the paper.  I spread a generous layer of MP on the surface of the left door, quickly placed my strips...smoothing them out with my fingers to prevent air bubbles underneath, and I topped it off with another layer of MP to seal my paper in place.  When the MP dries, the white streaks become clear.

My paper was two-sided and I decided to incoporate both patterns.  I also put some paper inside the shelving to add depth and layers.  Admittedly I had all of these supplies on hand, so it didn't cost me a thing to make this project.  Since I used so few supplies I can't imagine it would cost a thrifty person more than $2 to make and I spent about 2 hours putting it together while I watched television one night.  Dumpster diving certainly isn't for everyone...but you can rehab your own trash.  Next time you prepare to throw something out or put it in a garage sale because you are sick of it...consider sprucing it up.  You can give it a whole new look with some scissors, paper, and mod-podge.  You just might turn that trash into cash.

Purse Makeover

I know it's officially fall and time to put away our white for a few months, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to show you a cute little project I made for myself when the weather was still warm and I wanted to cheer myself up!
Want to give your purse a fresh new look without spending a penny? Check out this D.I.Y. It will take you 10 minutes!

Take your plain purse and go shopping with it in your jewelry stash! I know all you ladies have big ones- so this shouldn’t be too hard.

I found this cute beaded yellow necklace and a gold chain. I also found a beautiful Yellow flower pin that I knew would make the purse look perfect.

Then I went to my ribbon stash and picked out a matching piece of ribbon. Tie the ribbon on to the end, then every few inches tie the ribbon to the necklace. At the end of the necklace tie a pretty bow.

Then, open the necklaces and loop them on to each end of the purse strap and refasten them.

Add your pretty flower and you’re on the go! Isn’t it cute?