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Back in March, I got an Etsy Conversation notification from another Northeast Ohio entrepreneur who encouraged me to view her Kickstarter video and then get back to her if I was interested in sewing aprons for her soon-to-hit-the-streets vintage trailer bakery!  I know a great idea when I see one, and by the end of that day, I had a new business associate and friend, Shannon Keiber!  We worked together to select fabrics to compliment her logo and color scheme, I placed a huge fabric order and she gave me a down payment on 10 aprons that would be worn by her and her sales helpers, as well as be given out as rewards to her Kickstarter backers. 

We selected an adorable Tossed Trailers print fabric from Timeless Treasures for the apron skirts.  The pink background coordinates perfectly with the flowers in her Floured Apron logo.  The gingham in the logo is reflected in the bright blue Riley Blake fabric I ordered for the apron bodices and adjustable neck strap and ties.  Shannon liked the idea of using teal ric rac for accenting the deep functional pockets and apron waistlines.   Reminded of the old adage, “measure twice – cut once”, I measured about five times and did all sorts of mind-numbing calculations before I cut into the fabrics.  My other challenge was printing a simple black version of her  logo onto white fabric for a colorfast image that would withstand washings. 

Shannon understands branding and marketing.  She brings the knowledge she gained over twenty some years in corporate America together with her love for baking together in her new business venture.  Her Kickstarter goals were met, her custom vintage style trailer was built, and she is making her dreams come true by delivering “Homemade baked goods, straight from the heart!”  She uses high quality, local ingredients and bakes cupcakes, brownies, cookies, pies and breakfast pastries that are simple, beautiful and above all, delicious!

And, Shannon really loves aprons.  Check our her three part series from her blog here.  I was so pleased when she told me she had chosen me to make her aprons because she loved the many aprons I have available in my Etsy shop. After I had the 10 aprons made, we decided on a Starbucks about half way between our two homes as a meeting place.  I recognized her immediately because she was carrying a box of cupcakes (for me!).   

I felt an instant kinship with Shannon.  We sat over coffee and talked about our upcoming markets, problems with establishing fair pricing that also yielded profits, and the things that keep us awake at night. At that point, her trailer, which she named Rosie, was not finished.  She had debut dates lined up and I promised to keep in touch for progress updates.

I have to sing the praises of her product.  These chocolate cupcakes with chocolate ganache icing and fresh raspberries did not last long at our house, and even made a great breakfast the next morning with coffee in my new Floured Apron mug.

Since our first meeting, we have kept in touch.   The Floured Apron was a hit at its Cleveland Flea debut, made a local television morning show appearance, and I hear a Cleveland Magazine feature is upcoming.  Shannon said there has been enough interest in her apron that she would like to sell them, along with a few of my other aprons.

Just yesterday, I surprised Shannon at Aurora Farms where she was parked selling coffee, cupcakes, brownies and cookies.  I brought her an armload of aprons for her holiday weekend vending events.  And I finally got to see Rosie!  Bright blue and shiny white – you won’t be able to miss her this summer.

  

  

And as of today – there are aprons for sale!  Unfloured, one of a kind aprons, handmade and straight from the heart! 

All the Bright Places

I don’t want to give too much away, but the moment I finished reading All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven,  I posted a quick message to my teacher friends alerting them to tell all their book-craving students to put this title at the top of their summer reading lists.  The unlikely relationship between Theodore Finch and Violet Markey begins when they meet atop their Indiana high school’s bell tower.  In that instant they become “lifesavers” for one another – bouying each other through mean cliques, exaspering teachers, family issues, the wounds of the past and the uncertainty of the future.  

I fell in love with this book!  I devoured it.  It made me laugh and cry.  If I were still teaching I would be buying copies as end of the year gifts for my favorite students.  Of course Niven’s story is not entirely unique.  Of course the movie version, reported to star Elle Fanning as Violet, will be a hit.  Because the prose is smart and literary, the characters are flawed and real, and the theme strikes a chord with teens that still resonates in adults, All the Bright Places will become the next essential YA novel. 

Mosquitoland by David Arnold

March 13th, 2015 | Posted by Lackey in My Reading Life - (0 Comments)

Immediately, this book had three things going for it – a great first sentence, the fact that it is a road trip narrative, and the Greyhound bus that the protagonist is sitting atop on the front cover is taking her to Cleveland, Ohio (my hometown).  The first sentence is – “I am Mary Iris Malone, and I am not okay”.  In fact, that single sentence is the only one in the first chapter  titled A Thing’s Not a Thing Until You Say It Out Loud.  Mim Malone is 16  years old, she lives with her father and new step-mother in Jackson, Mississippi (aka Mosquitoland), and her mother is very sick in Cleveland.  During her happier “Young Fun” days, she lived with her mother and dad in Ashland, Ohio, so when she decides to get on the Greyhound for Cleveland, 947 miles away, she is sort of going home.  Of course, often the theme of YA novels that deal with divorce teaches you can’t revisit the past, even if you make it to Cleveland in time for Labor Day, a day Mim and mom made special together  when times were good.

The sections of the novel are marked by cities and miles to go.  Passages of Mim’s cheeky first person narration are interspersed with letters she write to Aunt Isabel, in which she refers to herself as Our Heroine and signs off Mary Iris Malone _ Mother-effing Mother-Saver.  Of course she meets a cast of cleverly drawn characters, of course she has scrapes with good and terrible luck.  Of course her father and step-mom are worried sick and intervene.  Those details are pretty predictable.  What isn’t so predicable is Mim’s wisdom and raw honesty.  As she says, “Opening scenes are funny, because you never know which elements will change over time and which will stay the same.  The world was, and is, mad.”

I loved Mim, and although this book is recommended for 12 and up, I loved this book.  David Arnold had made a brilliant debut! He is also a musician and his book trailer offers a great sneak peak at the story and his musical talents.

I close too many book reviews “If I was still teaching” but I would truly put this on a short list of books to preview for Book Circles and class reads.  I want to meet Mim and sit next to her on the bus.  Even if I’m already in Cleveland.

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The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins rose to #1 on the New York Times Bestsellers List last week, and I finished reading it just in time to agree – it is the new Gone Girl.   I never read Gone Girl, haven’t seen the movie either.  I would generally say crime fiction isn’t my genre, but after a recent train trip to Chicago to see our daughter, I found myself in a large downtown Barnes and Noble bookstore where I picked up a copy of this book intending to read the first page.  The first page turned into the first chapter, and then another and then another.  That is why The Girl on the Train will stay atop the best sellers list.  The narrative travels at a speeding train’s pace and, as the cover image hints, it compels the reader with a Hitchcockian, “Rear Window” brand of intrigue.

Rachel, one of the three female characters, is a sort of train wreck of a character.  She is an out of work, alcoholic divorcee who continues to take the train into London each day to keep up the charade of employment, so that the girlfriend who she is temporarily living with won’t kick her out of the apartment.  Since she isn’t really going to work, she can drink canned gin and tonics on the train and allow herself the revelry of staring out the window, imagining the lives of people she sees on the front porches outside the stations where the train stops.  And so it begins!  She sees something curious and disturbing one day – or does she?  Due to her abuse of alcohol and her fragile mental state, she frequently blacks out, or seriously doubts her memory in hungover light of day.  So can she be a reliable witness for a murder case?

She isn’t even a reliable narrator.  Neither is Anna, wife of Tom, Rachel’s ex-husband.  Neither is Megan, murder victim and wife of Scott, who has a secret past creepier than the events surrounding her murder case.  These three narrate the novel which switches frequently from story teller to story teller, from past to present, from the discomfort of home to the safety and anonymity of a moving train compartment.

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

February 15th, 2015 | Posted by Lackey in My Reading Life - (0 Comments)

I loved The Rosie Project  and I can’t wait for the movie.   I love Don Tillman and his hilarious wife, Rosie, so I knew I would live the Rosie Effect.  I got a digital library loan of the novel, which was my first read in OverDrive.  I’m not sure I like it as well as I like reading Kindle editions, but it did give me the added satisfaction of letting me know I opened the book just 25 times and finished it in 6 hours and 36 minutes.  And what a fun six and a half hours those were.  (I read most of by a fireplace as a winter storm pounded the Northeast Ohio Lake Erie shore.)

In this sequel Rosie is pregnant with a baby she and Don had not discussed having together.  His quirks and idiosyncrasies as a man and husband look as if they will be exacerbated by the responsibilities of parenthood.  I laughed out loud many times while reading about the troubles Don manages to get himself into.  It is hard to believe that until recently Graeme Simsion was a name associated with the theory of data modeling and not a popular author.  Everyone I know who has read The Rosie Project loved it and I will be recommending the Rosie Effect for a long while to come.

Us by David Nicholls

February 1st, 2015 | Posted by Lackey in My Reading Life - (0 Comments)
I really enjoyed One Day by David Nicholls and had read enough pre-publication hype about Us to convince myself that I would love it too.  I was not disappointed!  Nicholls is an author and screen writer and I am already anxious for the movie version of Us, especially if the movie is true to the European vacation itinerary of the novel.
Connie Peterson tells her husband, Douglas, that she plans to leave him after they return from a trip they have planned to take with their son, Albie, who is about to leave for college.  The plan is a grand tour of France, Spain, Amsterdam and Italy, complete with all the art museums and requisite life-changing tourist stops.  But the life-changing happens as a result of people more than places. The reader travels along inside Douglas’s simultaneously humorous and painfully honest narration.  Although the optimistic reader hopes for a happily-ever-after ending, pleasant realism is a pretty good was to end a pretty endearing story.

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During a recent trip to Chicago to visit our daughter, we mastered Uber well enough to get us anywhere we wanted to go in the city. And I wanted to go to Eataly, Mario Batali’s 63,000 square foot Italian food emporium.  Just inside the front door was a dedication to Ernest Hemingway that reassured me we were probably going to like the place.  Of course, I am a fan of Batali from my daily, treadmill-time watching of  The Chew, which he co-hosts.  Also, David gifted me with a copy of Batali’s new America Farm to Table cookbook from Christmas.  I had read enough about Eataly to be intrigued and, I must say, it exceeded my expectations in a way that any store as large as five Trader Joe’s might!

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The motto above the door is one I certainly approve of!  If we had know that we could have gotten a glass of wine and walked around with it, we probably would have.  As it was, we really didn’t have any intention of eating a meal at Eataly, but the power of suggestion overwhelmed us.  Inside the two-story building are eight Italian themed restaurants, the largest of which is La Pizza & La Pasta, where we eventually took a seat at the counter so we could watch the daily pasta dishes being prepared.

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Lucky for us, there was no waiting.  Probably because it was still Sunday morning, but David and I used the “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere” justification for ordering a glass of wine to go with a “pizza of the day”, which happened to be prosciutto!

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Our very friendly server started us with a plate of oil and a brown paper package of freshly baked bread before helping us select a Valle Reale Montepulciano d’Abruzzo to go with our pizza.

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We had a great time watching the preparation of the Daily Pastas and had no problem finishing the pizza, which had been perfectly baked in a stone pizza oven, also in view, and generously covered in fresh mozzarella and prosciutto.

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Fortified and ready to shop, we walked around for the best part of an hour taking in the fish counter and it’s corresponding restaurant,  Il Pesce, as well as the meat counter.  I understand there is also a meat-centric restaurant called La Carne, which is in  a remote corner of the second floor and a vegetarian eatery called Le Verdure, as well.

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If you to to Eataly, I would probably suggest starting the the center of the second floor, La Piazza, which is the busy Italian city center where you can order a glass of wine and stand at one of the tables to enjoy items coming directly from the counters or production corners located right behind them: La Mozzarella, Il Crudo, I Salumi & Formaggi and Il Fritto.

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We were off to investigate Italian wines!  I have a new interest in Nebbiolo, red Italian grape variety that is being grown at Quarry Hill Winery, where I work part-time.  Nebbiolo is most commonly used in Barolo and Barbaresco wines.  I though perhaps I could learn a little more about the grape from the young guy working in the wine department.  He was initially very interested in talking to me, but when I began asking some specific questions that were out of his range of knowledge and explained that I work at a winery in Ohio, he admitted he was also from Ohio – an OSU grad.  He suggested we could sample some wines at the nearby Vino Libero counter, where 6 casks of wine were “on tap” and, once again, you could stand at a tasting counter and enjoy your wine with a selection of marinated olives, or salumi, or prosciutto di parma, or even spicy tuna.

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I must say, the whole Eataly experience was a feast for the eyes.  Even the signs for the Toilette were clever!  We decided our trip home on Amtrack would allow for a small bag of groceries which we chose mainly from the selections of First Anniversary Celebration Sale bins that were prominently placed throughout both floors.

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In addition to a particularly flavorful Provolone that we found in the cheese shop, we brought home some a small jar of a white truffles and mushroom sauce, a tube of Triplo Concentrato dei Comodoro tomato paste, and a box of Barilla Bucatini n.9 – my new favorite pasta!

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Next time, and there will be a next time, we will plan on eating our way through both floors.  Mario Batali may have created a culinary circus in Eataly, but who doesn’t enjoy a culinary circus?

The First Bad Man by Miranda July

January 18th, 2015 | Posted by Lackey in My Reading Life - (0 Comments)

I love Miranda July.  I hate Miranda July.  I was totally amused by her collection It Chooses You a few years back.  I was drawn to her new novel, The First Bad Man, like a car wreck that I knew I probably didn’t want to see but couldn’t look away from.  Mostly, I admire Miranda July.  She puts it out there a little bit like Lena Dunham, another brash, young artistic voice I can’t entirely ignore.  And I didn’t hate this book as much as I thought I might.

The title comes from the role of “the first bad man” attacker in the self-defense videos produced by the non-profit that Cheryl, the protagonist, works for.  Cheryl lives alone, is infatuated with a creepy board member named Philip and obsessed with the connection she felt with a baby she met when she was six that she named Kubelko Bondy.  When her boss asks if her 26 year old daughter, Clee, can move in with Cheryl temporarily, the book becomes sexually charged and borderline surreal.  In her review of the book, Lena Dunham wrote, “Miranda July’s ability to pervert norms while embracing what makes us normal is astounding”.

I almost stopped reading this book.  When I saw where it was headed, I wanted to stop looking through the keyhole at bizarro-world.  But the New York Times review of the book had already cautioned me that “challenging work tends to incite readerly resistance”.  I stayed with it until the end, shaking my head but a little in awe of the risky freshness that July makes her readers confront.

My Year in Etsy – A to Z

January 5th, 2015 | Posted by Lackey in My Creating Life - (0 Comments)

The past year – 2014 – was a big one for my Etsy shop – Linda’s Other Life.  I went beyond baby steps to realize how much fun managing my shop like a business and treating sewing like a job could be.  I decided to compile my progress A – Z as a way of motivating myself to be even better in the new year.

A – Aprons         Vintage feed sacks, oilcloth, Christmas aprons, many custom orders

B – Burlap          Table runners, embroidered VW bus pillows, my first wedding order, fish shaped perch pillows

C – CLE               Local stores, even the CLE Clothing Co., starting carrying candles, key fobs and hand sewn items

D – David           Because D is always for David, and it was his idea (inspired by Bono) for me to make this list

E – Etsy              Little did I know when I opened my shop two years ago that Etsy would open so many doors for me

F – Fabric           I’m obsessed with fabric!  I dream of fabric!  I have too much fabric and I don’t see it as a problem.

G – GBT              Girl’s Best Friend in Lakewood has become a new best friend and creative partner in retail

H – Hangers      I have actually gotten rid of clothes from my closet just so I could steal the hangers for aprons!

I – Intuition       I am learning to trust my intuition – about what will sell, about how to design, about styles and colors

J – Joann’s         I love going to Joann Fabrics!  I can spend too much time and money there.  I am there too often.

K – Keepsake     I have reconstructed keepsake items for customers and sewn items I hope will become keepsakes

L – LOL               My “brand” is truly becoming my “other life” and life is good

M – Mess            My sewing room is frequently messier than my desk at school used to be and I am fine with that

N – Network       I am enjoying networking with people at craft fairs  and making connections with retailers

O – Oilcloth        Fun and easy to sew, colorful oilcloth is one of my new obsessions

P – Pandora        My sewing music easily changes with my moods and Pandora makes it easy

Q – Quilt Shops  New Quilt Shops in every town we visited this year.  Favorites are always Amish country, OH

R – Repurposed  I love repurposing fabric!  Feed sacks, old pieces of lace and trim, burlap bags, vintage fabrics

S – Salty               Salty Not Sweet in CLE has been good to me and even led to an airport retail opportunity

T – Tables            Table runners, placemats, pub mats – everyone has a table that needs dressing up

U – USPS             Our jolly postman frequently trades postmarked packages from the box for fabric deliveries

V – Vacation        I actually allow myself  ”vacation” days from time to time and have enjoyed taking the holidays off

W – Wonder Fair   An in-home craft show was the best – and most profitable – idea of the year!

X – Xtras             I try to make my Etsy packages special by including little extras – candy, buttons, gift tags, etc.

Y – Yarn               I stitched some sayings in yarn on burlap to make some pretty cool pillows this year

Z – Zero               Pleasant year end surprise – cash to spend to bring my profit back to zero!

 

Time to start over!

 

I love to pick a book to read by the light the Christmas tree on my iPad during the holidays, and this year I was intrigued by all of the accolades All the Light We Cannot See was receiving – finalist for the National Book Award, New York Times #1 bestseller, Indie Next Pick and the list goes on.  I had read enough to know it is a WWII story of a young boy and a young girl who are united by the power of radio.  Historic fiction isn’t at the top of my lists of reading interests, but after reading a little bit about Anthony Doerr and discovering that he grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, I knew I had to read this book.  Doerr’s prose is beautiful poetry!  He weaves a compelling connection between his alternate narrators – Marie-Laure who lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History and a German orphan named Werner who is snatched up by Hitler’s Youth for his aptitude for science.  Although the book is very long – 544 pages – the chapters are relatively short and the jumping back and forth between narrators and time periods make it an unbelievably quick book.  I was fully satisfied by the novel and it was the rare sort that made me interested in doing more research into the ancient walled city of Saint Malo, the seizure of French art during the German invasion and the history of radio.  Doerr explains his various inspirations for the novel in this short video.