29 October, 2013

An Apple a Day

I've been having a love affair -- with apples.
I know that they have their season every autumn, and most times, I get in a trip to an orchard or two for picking, and I enjoy eating them and baking with them. This autumn, though, I've been *really* into them.

B & I kicked off the season at an orchard up near his where his family lives. We'd been there once last year, but not to pick. This time, however, we took a spur-of-the-moment picking trip with his mom. Here's B and his mom at Bob White Orchard:

The apples we got that day were okay -- but it had rained the days before and it was tough to find ones that weren't split. So we just picked a few.

Then we discovered *the* orchard -- my new favourite orchard, not far from our house. We'd been there last year, but at the very end of the season, and pick-your-own had already ended. I'd loved the small-ness of the place, though, and our impression of it was that it was really chill and no-frills -- totally the opposite of some of those big-operation places near us.
So we returned a few weeks ago and were delighted to find that our impression was true.

This place, Barnard's Orchard, is amazing! There's no signing in, there's no getting on a tractor, no posted rules of what you can and can't do -- you just walk up, grab a bag from outside the shop, and walk into the orchard, looking for the hand-written signs indicating which rows house which kinds of apple trees. And the rows go on and on forever! And there are barely any other people there! And they even have ladders - and they don't seem to discourage pickers from using them! It is soooo pretty there, and the apples are delicious!
So, we went the first day and picked a peck. And then, maybe a week later, I went back on my own and picked two pecks. And then, despite having an entire crisper drawer full of apples, I told B that going back to the orchard was what I wanted to do for my decompress-day after the Martha event in NYC. And we picked two more pecks. That's a lot of apples!

I'm not one to usually just eat an apple, but since that first trip to Barnards, I've been eating almost an apple a day. Besides just plain apple slices (I almost never just bite into an apple.) we've been really digging them smeared with peanut butters made by fellow American Made vendors Yumbutter. Also delicious was a dinner of cheddar and apple (and pickle!) grilled-cheese sandwiches.

Aand I made apple crisp (twice), and apple cinnamon oatmeal, and an apple pie. That apple peeler/core-er/slicer is one handy kitchen gadget!

The apples have also made for brilliant props for chez-sucre-chez photos. If you've seen my instagram feed or updates from facebook or twitter, you've seen the apples!

Here they are with the bowl covers:

And with the monogram tea towels:

(I'm running a special on tea towels before the holiday rush season begins: 4 for $64 - which is $2 off each!)

I stitched up, photographed, and listed some napkins today and the left-over apple pie from this weekend made it into some shots:

We've still got a crisper-drawer full of apples -- any suggestions on what else I should make? Do you have any knock-out apple recipes? Please share them in the comments if you do!

Next up - pumpkins?

PS - If you're also a fan of apples, cooking with apples, and picking apples, and especially if you live in the Boston/New England area, I suggest you check out my friend Liz's blog, Applelogs. She's the most crazy-about-apples person I know and she's posted some great recipes and reviews of orchards. Hi Liz!

28 October, 2013

The Martha Stewart American Made Market

I cannot tell you how psyched I am to be a part of the newly launched Martha Stewart American Made Market. You know that the team behind Martha Stewart Living has an amazing eye for all that is wonderful - and now they've put together this collection of some of the best new American makers. I have to pinch myself when I remember that chez-sucre-chez was invited to be part of the launch; it's just so cool!
Launched last Wednesday, the Market is a carefully curated collection of goods by American Makers like myself -- small companies of good people doing making cool products. You can shop the collection by categories like food, home & decor, and crafts & supplies, or you can just view the whole collection.

Most of the artisans and business featured are ones who had been a part of the American Made awards and events in NYC -- and all are such inspiring folks. This site is a terrific resource for one-stop-shopping in support of small businesses and hand-made goods -- click on over (here) and check it out if you please!

23 October, 2013

Martha Stewart American Made - the Marketplace

Oh, I am so behind on blog posts! Last week, I was in NYC for the second year of the Martha Stewart American Made event. Being last year was like a dream come true, so to have been asked to participate again this year?! I was psyched. It is *such* an amazingly exciting and inspiring event - I was so happy to be there!

Having moved out of NYC, leaving Brooklyn in 2008 for the Pennsylvania country-side, I don't get back to the city nearly as often as I thought I would when I first left. Now, so many of my friends who had lived there at the same time I did are gone, too, and I have even less reason to go. Boooo! This past week, however, was a joy to be in the city -- not as a visitor, but as a worker-bee, a temporary resident with a purpose. I loved getting back into that routine of briskly traveling through streets and subway tunnels (and all of the stairs!) on my daily commute. The Market days were long and full -- I didn't get much time to catch up with friends outside of it -- but it was, as expected, a terrific experience.

These two terrible photos are the only ones I snapped, but there are a lot of shots, and some great recaps on The Martha Blog. In this particular post, there's a photo of me -- slide 64. :)

One of the highlights of the event was being a guest on the Martha Stewart radio programming for SiriusXM. I'd never been on the radio before! I tried to send out notice via twitter, instagram, and facebook, but, as luck would have it, the building I was in for the broadcast had no reception, and my tweet/instagram/fb post didn't go through until after the program, and it isn't archived (publicly) anywhere. Sorry! I wish I'd gotten to give you all notice; I had been so nervous, but the interview/broadcast actually went really well I think! It was fun, I was on the program to talk about the American Made small business movement of makers/crafters/artisans, and the hosts, Eddie and Taylor were wonderful. I shared the airtime with Shon McKinley of Dust Bowl Dry Goods -- he had great things to say about how he got started and what it means to be a maker as part of the American Made movement... Good times -- sorry I couldn't have clued you in before it aired!!

Otherwise, just being in that beautiful room (it was held in Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Station) with all of that creative talent was enough to make my year. I saw the familiar faces of customers and chez-sucre-chez supporters from previous NYC events, met new friends, and hopefully made a few more fans. (Lots of folks purchasing the diy x-stitch kits to revisit the craft after a hiatus of many years; I hope they all enjoy it!). I was visited by one customer from last year who told me that the kits she bought last year were the thing that occupied her days during the power outage caused by Hurricane Sandy - that she stitched by the light of the day until it got too dark to do so. I love that she shared that story with me! She bought more kits this year - let's hope there's no disaster like Sandy to come along!

I'm so appreciative of all those involved in the event that believe in me and my little company. The editors of Martha Stewart living, Martha Stewart herself (!!!), and the whole team of individuals it took to coordinate and put the event together --- thank you. I'm amazed (and continually inspired) of all that they do and the power and reach of their creativity and motivation.

But this isn't even the whole story!! Stay tuned --- there's another exciting part to tell about; I'll be back tomorrow to tell you about The American Made Market (it's different than the Marketplace that took place in NYC last week). !!!!

But there's more! Stay tuned.... tomorrow or the next day I'll let you in on the next thing... !!!

05 October, 2013

busy days

Hello friends!
The last month and a half or more was intense. I felt like I was constantly racing to meet deadlines and didn't feel like I could take a moment's rest. Well, I'm in the clear again, sort of, I think, for now....

(mulling spices! the house smells so good when I work on putting these together.)

Now I'm working on getting ready for the holiday season! Yep, yep... I know, it's not even Halloween - no one wants to hear about Christmas season marketing, it's true -- but for little businesses like mine, now is the time to prepare. Whew.

First though -- bowl covers. I have no idea how many of these things I've made in the past couple of months.. I kinda wish I were more organized and would have kept some sort of record because man, it must be a lot. The first goal was Crafty Bastards, which was last Saturday and then, the Martha Stewart American Made Marketplace which is coming up in two weeks, but I had to ship all of my product on Tuesday of last week. So, you see the tricky timing? I sold out of bowl covers well before the end of both events last year, so I knew I had to make a lot more than that and I thought I did.... I took almost all of them with me to Crafty Bastards, leaving only 5 of each size here to ship to NYC. When I was packing the car and looking at the boxes and gigantic bag of bowl covers I was thinking, "KJ, you crazy, girl - this is WAY too many." But you know what, I came home with a lot less than I thought I would. Phew! So, I've been making them like crazy all week and now, I think I FINALLY feel on top - so much so, that I updated my shop and added the new colors. Woohoo!

Here are the current color/fabric choices:

The "DS" ones are fabrics designed by Denyse Schmidt for Joann fabrics and I just love love LOVe them. That blue one is my current fabric obsession; I just think it is absolute perfection. The "Autumn" one is a little bit of a different fabric choice for me but the other day, as I'd just driven a couple of hours through this amazing Fall/Indian Summer splendor, that print totally called out to me. It feel so warm and bright and fall-like to me. (Warm fall, not cold fall - I *hate* cold fall days.) And "Playhouse" -- why the name "playhouse"? Well, that's another fabric that is maybe a bit different from one I'd usually choose, but again, I was drawn to it and had to have it. It wasn't until hours later, after I'd come home, washed it, dried it, ironed it, cut out circles and was sewing bowl covers that it struck me -- this fabric is VERY similar to a print/fabric that my mama used to make a tablecloth for my little playhouse when I was six-ish years old.

I have this theory (maybe theory isn't the right word -- a musing? a thought?) that the people who are now designing for the big companies and the market at large, in fashion, home design, textiles, etc, are mostly my my age. It makes sense that the fashion trends that we loved in high school are coming back now, and the textiles that we grew up with are having an influence on the ones we see on the market today, right?

Aaaanyways. Bowl covers. Yes, they're back in the shop now!

I hope you're enjoying this *gorgeous* Saturday. The weather here is amazing -- feels like summer. I'm stuck doing my taxes this weekend (because I am a PRO-CRAS-TIN-ATOR), but in between, I'm gonna repot all of my little houseplants and take care of the garden. And I think I might go apple picking in the morning... We went last weekend and we still have plenty of apples, but really, with weather this great, I'm happy to go back to the orchard!