Craft Fairs this Weekend

Looking for something to do this weekend? Check out one of these holiday craft fairs if you are in the Boston area:

 December 3: Jamaica Plain Holiday Fair
First Church Jamaica Plain, 6 Eliot St, Jamaica Plain from 11am - 5pm.
Boston Handmade members exhibiting together at this event:
Kerry Hawkins Photography 
Kerrie Beck, Cody's Creations
Karen Mahoney, City By The Sea Ceramics
Leah Ammerman, cricicis design
Beth Brennick, Elizabeth Brennick Designs
Sharon Fischer, Stray Notions
Diane Ivey, Lady Dye Fiber Arts & Design
Lucie Wicker Photography

 December 4: Bazaar Bizarre Boston 
Center for the Arts/Cyclorama, 539 Tremont Street, Boston from 12 - 6pm.
Boston Handmade members exhibiting together at this event:
Karen Mahoney, City By The Sea Ceramics
Leah Ammerman, cricicis design
Nancy McCallum, nancy rosetta
Evan Webster Ink
Sharon Fischer, Stray Notions
Diane Ivey, Lady Dye Fiber Arts & Design
Cristina Hurley Designs
and exhibiting in a separate booth:
Anne-Claire Regan, Hibou Designs

 A great weekend to get some things checked off your shopping list - for others, or for yourself!

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Sugar Frosting

Happy Thanksgiving! Today I am responsible for bringing a dessert to Thanksgiving Dinner. I decided to make Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Sugar Frosting. The cupcake recipe is adapted from Smitten Kitchen, and the frosting is a twist on a basic buttercream recipe (Smitten Kitchen's frosting recipe is probably great, too, but I didn't have all the ingredients!)

When I made the cupcakes, I accidentally forgot to add the vanilla extract. That is the second time I have done that while baking this week! I need to get myself together. Regardless, they still came out great! Here's how to make them:

Pumpkin Cupcakes:
(yielded 24 for me, adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
1 stick butter, room temperature
1 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk mixed with 1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line cupcake pans with liners.
2. Beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes.
3. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and pepper into a medium bowl.
4. Add the eggs 1 at a time to the mixer, scraping down the sides after each addition. Alternate adding the flour and milk mixtures, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat in the pumpkin until smooth. Scoop the batter among the cupcake liners — you’re looking to get them 3/4 full.
5. Rap the filled pans once on the counter to release any air bubbles. Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool the cupcakes on racks completely.

Maple Sugar Frosting:
(basic buttercream frosting with maple syrup)

3 cups confectioners sugar
3/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
several tablespoons whipping cream
1/4 cup maple syrup (or, to taste)

Mix together sugar and butter on low speed until well blended, and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes. Add vanilla, maple, and 2 tablespoons of cream and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream, if desired, for spreading consistency.

Plaid Is the New Black

Everyone knows about Black Friday, but do you know about Plaid Friday? The name Plaid Friday celebrates the diversity and creativity of independent businesses. Plaid Friday is the fun and enjoyable alternative to the big box store Black Friday, and is designed to promote both local and independently owned businesses during the holidays.

Plaid Friday brings back the neighborly nostalgic times when shopping for friends and family was a pleasurable leisurely activity. Celebrate Plaid Friday by wearing plaid while shopping at independent businesses on Friday, November 25th!

Life in a Day: Now on YouTube

On July 24, 2010, people all over the world put their day, or portion of their day, on film to submit to the Life in a Day Project on YouTube. The long awaited feature film premiered in movie theaters on July 29, 2011. Now it is available on YouTube here:

On July 24, 2010, I was at a wedding watching the bride hula hoop. Do you know what you were doing that day?

Love Your Body Day!

Love Your Body Day is October 19. It is a day that we are reminded to fight back against media stereotypes seen in fashion, cosmetic, and diet industries. Each year, the National Organization for Women runs a poster contest to advertise this campaign. I learned about Love Your Body Day as a senior in college and submitted this design:

While I did not win the competition, the contest and the campaign in general has definitely gained momentum over the years. Here are some other posters that have been included in the poster contest:

Learn more about the poster contest

A Typeface for Dyslexics

Typographer Christan Boehr of StudioStudio has created a typeface that makes it easier for dyslexic people to read properly. The font, "Dyslexie," uses specially shaped letters to exaggerate some of the differences between letters that dyslexics find hard to distinguish from one another.

This video, which I originally saw on, explains the development process:

i think this is such a great concept, and I hope it begins to help the millions of people who struggle with dyslexia!

Breathe New Life into Old Photos with Photo Restoration ad Retouching

I have always enjoyed photo editing. It might not sound so glamorous, but I can spend hours adjusting imperfections in photos, balancing color, removing scratches and brightening smiles. I am now bringing my photo retouching skills to Etsy as a service! It's tough to package the service up but I am starting with a basic listing that should cover most retouching needs. Here are some before and after examples of what I have done with pictures both old and new:

If you are in the market for photo restoration, shoot me an email at allison [at] fraskedesigns dot com!

There are two types of people in this world: Those who like Neil Diamond, and those who don't.

(My ex-wife loves him)

Today, I bring you my current favorite Etsy items that tribute Bill Murray.

We will start with this lovable onesie with one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite movie: What About Bob?

There are TWO TYPES of PEOPLE, What About Bob, Bill Murray, Funny Toddler T-Shirt, Baby One-Piece Bodysuit, Romper, Onesie by Little Patriot
What About Bob? onesie by Little Patriot
What About Bob? is the first movie I ever remember seeing Bill Murray in, and it changed my life - and influenced my sense of humor - forever! Of course, looking back, I am sure I saw Ghostbusters and Caddyshack before I saw What About Bob?, but I was unable to appreciate those movies in the 80s. It wasn't until the 90s when I reached double digits in age that I could really begin to appreciate these films. One thing I DO appreciate, however, is this adorable set of Ghostbusters Wood Peg Dolls by CreativeButterflyXOX:

Ghostbusters Wood Peg Dolls Toy Set of 7 READY TO SHIP Bill Murray Peter Venkman Slimer Stay Puft  Marshmallow Man Sigourney Weaver 1984

As I creeped through my teenage years and hit high school, my taste in movies got a little more refined. Conveniently, that's when Wes Anderson movies came into fashion. To this day, I can watch most of them over and over. I think they get better with each viewing. Rushmore was the first one I saw, and have seen all of them since then (including Bottle Rocket which came out before Rushmore but who's keeping track of chronology here?). Here is a nice silhouette referencing Murray's character in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Life Aquatic T-shirt featuring Bill Murray's Red Knitted Hat.
Life Aquatic shirt by Mr. Cloud

Of course, perhaps the most heart warming item on Etsy that references Bill Murray is this cute, sweet card quoting Groundhog Day:

I got you babe - Greeting Card
I Got You Babe card by Canton Box Co.
It's the most awesome little card!!!!

That concludes my Hot Bill Murray list for 2011, which by the way, is in honor of his 61st birthday, today, September 21, 2011. Bill Murray, here's to many more happy and hilarious years!

Parsley & Garlic Butter

I have been wanting to make a custom herb butter at home for a while. I am a big fan of herbs, spices, AND butter, so why not combine them?

It turns out that making herb butter blends is super easy. I did a quick search online for suggestions, and recipes and ingredients varied greatly. I settled on Parsley and Garlic Butter, influenced by this video.

You can vary your ingredients to taste, but I used:
4 sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature (actually important in this recipe)
a handful of parsley
a teaspoon or so of minced garlic (next time I'll use fresh chopped garlic but I didn't have it available for this instance)
salt to taste (optional)

Gather your ingredients. Next, finely chop your parsley leaves. I did not include the stems, but I don't see that being an epic problem if you opted to roll them into the recipe. Just make sure you chop them finely, and after you are done chopping, gently but firmly pat as dry as possible with a paper towel. It's a good idea to get as much water out of these as you can, to make basically parsley flakes. It makes for better mixing.

Next, throw all of your ingredients in a bowl and START STIRRING! That's where the "room temperature" phrase comes in handy. Stirring room temperature butter is a lot easier than chilled butter. I hand mixed, so no electric mixer. I don't think an electric mixer would yield great results. Just be patient in your mixing and soon you will have perfect Parsley and Garlic Butter! I added a pinch of salt at the end, but that's really up to personal preference. The parsley and garlic balance each other well without salt, too.

Lastly, roll your butter into "logs" of aluminum foil or parchment paper and chill. I popped mine in the freezer but the fridge will do. I would reccomend making small rolls of butter and freezing them, taking one out of the freezer at a time, per your usage.

I look forward to trying different combinations of herbs and spices!

Glass Etching Tutorial: Etching Text on Wine Glasses

I have always wanted to try etching glass but never got around to it until this summer. I must say, I wish I didn't wait so long, because it is so easy and fun! I think I was deterred a while ago because I bought the wrong kind of glass etch cream and got frustrated. Well, frustration be gone, I picked up some Armour Etch glass etching cream and gave it another go, with great results!

Etching glass is simple:
- Apply your stencil
- block out any area you don't want to be etched with painters tape or vinyl
- Apply etching cream over the stencil
- Wait 5 minutes
- Rinse
- and Voila!

For my first project, I chose to simply etch the phrase "Don't Worry, Be Happy" on some stemless wine glasses as a gift for my aunt. It worked out pretty well. The phrase goes around the entire glass so it is tough to get a good shot, but here's the final product:

It was such a success that I needed to hire an apprentice for my next project!

I should probably mention that Armour Etch is clearly corrosive and safety precautions should be made when handling it. For example, wearing gloves is a good idea, and lining your workspace so no surfaces get scratched is also smart. It's an easy enough medium to handle!

Third Annual Red Nun Music Festival

September 3 is the third annual Red Nun Music Festival at the Red Nun Bar and Grill in Chatham, MA. Above is the flyer I created for Sidewalk Driver, who participates in this event each year.

The Red Nun Music Festival benefits the Pals for Life Foundation is a response mechanism dedicated to providing emergency funds to families and/or individuals in need of immediate assistance.

Labor Day weekend is a popular time on Cape Cod, so if you are in the Chatham area on September 3, I encourage you go get out to this event to hear some great music and support a great cause!

Color Blocked Book Case

The floors in my apartment were recently refinished, which meant strategically moving around furniture to fully expose the floors that needed work. When it was time to piece my apartment back together, I decided to try something new with the way I arrange my books in my bookcase.

I have never been a stickler about keeping books alphabetized, but I have always had them in some sort of order - usually by author and then by category (reference, home, design/photography, nonfiction, fiction...). I have also cut down on my book library over the years by donating the ones I really won't use anymore to a person or place who could use them, so I only have one moderately sized book case to deal with.

This time around, I decided to group my books by color. Yes - a color blocked book case. It is more pleasing to the eye, and since I have a manageable amount of books, I can still find the book I am looking for very quickly, even if it's next to a totally unrelated book.

Sure - it's not perfect. It just so happens I have a colorful array of books with varying color levels, but I think it's a nice change at least! I particularly like the colors of the middle two shelves. 

It was also interesting to see how some books that fall in the same general category also have similar color patterns. The yellow block is mostly cook books and home-related books (yes I keep cookbooks in the book case, not the kitchen), and the pink block is mostly - you guessed it - books written with a female audience in mind. The blue section is almost all astrology books, with a little Martha Stewart Home Living thrown in for good measure!

I'm pleased with my book case color pattern and look forward to seeing how the rainbow grows over time!

Amy Sedaris' Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People

Did you know that Amy Sedaris, best known for her role on Strangers with Candy, is also an author? Well, I discovered this several years ago when her book I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence was published. I immediately bought it for myself and also purchased it as a housewarming gift for two friends who were new homeowners. It is both thoroughly entertaining as well as informative!

When I stopped into Porter Square Books this weekend (a nice activity on early Saturday mornings... they open at 8am!), I noticed she has a more recent book out focused on crafts: Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People. The title alone made me laugh out loud because I know how easy it is to put a serious dent in my wallet with one trip to a craft supply store. A stop for some glue or paint brushes can turn into "Hey, while I am here, I should get all the supplies I would need to start needlepoint, because I have always wanted to try that." Anyway, this book aims to keep crafters creative on a low budget. Or at least laughing at the ideas she has come up with.

You will "discover how to make popular crafts, such as: crab-claw roach clips, tinfoil balls, and crepe-paper moccasins; remember which kind of glue to use with which material (tacky with furry, gummy with gritty, paste with prickly, and always gloppy with gandy); create your own craft room and avoid the most common crafting accidents (sawdust fires, feather asphyxia, pine cone lodged in throat); and cook your own edible crafts, from a Crafty Candle Salad to Sugar Skulls, and many more recipes."

For your viewing pleasure, I have included her video tutorial on how to create Pompoms:

Russo-Japanese War: First war shown to the world through the media

On a recent trip to Portsmouth, NH, I stopped by the John Paul Jones House to view their exhibit on the Treaty of Portsmouth. The Treaty of Portsmouth of 1905 stands today as one of history's great peace negotiations. It ended the Russo-Japanese War and marked the emergence of a new era of diplomatic negotiations, multi-track diplomacy. This war was also the first war the world saw through the media.

By 1904, various media technologies were widely in use and a great number of publications could print lithographs and photography. Journalists sent numerous images of the war from the battlefield to the world. With no radio or television available, books, magazines, newspapers, posters, and postcards played a significant role on shaping public opinion.

Here are some photos of some of the postcards and printed material from this time period:

The treaty was signed on September 5, 1905. It was really interesting to learn about the Portsmouth Peace Treaty and America's role in making it happen. I would recommend a visit to the museum if you are in the area!

Summer, Cont'd.

More photos from summer, via instagram.

Street Performer, Harvard Square
Street Performer, Harvard Sq, Cambridge MA

Camden Yards, Baltimore MD
Camden Yards, Baltimore, MD

Pensive Man, Memorial Drive, Cambridge MA

Life in a Day: The Story of One Day on Earth

On July 24, 2010, people all over the world put their day, or portion of their day, on film to submit to the Life in a Day Project on YouTube. The long awaited feature film will be premiering here tomorrow, July 29, 2011. Watch the trailer here:

On July 24, 2010, I was at a wedding watching the bride hula hoop. I wonder if that made the movie? Either way, I can't wait to see the final product!

Etsy Treasuries

Occasionally, one of my photos is featured in an Etsy treasury. I have really liked some of them lately. Here are some examples:

Do you browse Etsy treasuries?

USPS Introduces Stamps Honoring Industrial Design

On June 29, 2011, the USPS issued a new set of forever stamps honoring 12 of the nation's most important and influential industrial designers. Encompassing everything from furniture and electric kitchen appliances to corporate office buildings and passenger trains, the work of these designers helped shape the look of everyday life in the 20th century.
I am excited the USPS is expanding their Forever Stamp offering with something as cool as this! I purchase Forever Stamps usually since you never know when postage prices will rise and I hate getting stuck with old stamps, but the downside to Forever Stamps is that the designs have been limited. I will definitely be grabbing some of these on my next stamp purchase!

Originally spotted via Craft

Sidewalk Driver at Middle East Downstairs

On Friday, July 29, Sidewalk Driver will be playing the Middle East Downstairs with a bunch of awesome bands. Above is the flyer I put together for them. 

Doors at 7:30 pm


$10 in advance | $12 at the door
Get yer tickets here!

Fun fact: If you purchase their new EP Car Broke Down in advance, you will get a free ticket to the show!

Sewing by Pattern at The Stitch House

I recently had the great opportunity to learn how to sew by pattern through a private workshop run by Beth Brennick for members of Boston Handmade. The Stitch House in Dorchester offered their space for us to use which was so gracious of them!

The Stitch House is a knitting, crochet, and sewing store offering high quality materials and supplies such as yarn, fabric, notions, tools, etc. The Stitch House also offers classes in all of the fiber arts including sewing, quilting, knitting and more. They are conveniently right off the Red Line at the JFK stop and I could truly spend hours in there! Here are some pictures of the interior:

Being a beginner sewer, I chose to learn how to assemble a tote bag. Beth did a great job helping us follow patterns and assisted us with steps A through Z until we all ended up with the final product. Here is a picture of my first tote bag, taken by Kerry Hawkins:

Now that I have the basics down, I can't wait to start sewing more and look forward to seeing what I will come up with next!

Welcome, Summer!

It's 4th of July weekend. We've got some beautiful weather and as I have been out and about, literally everyone seems to be in a good mood. So many people are smiling at each other on the streets I feel like I am in the south or something. But it's good!

I have discovered Instagram.

And it might be dangerous.

Behold, my first subject.

literal face melt.

Instagram is a photo-sharing phone app with several filters to play around with. It's very easy and fun to use.

Who is ready for their close-up?!