Monday, February 25, 2013

pool tradeshow recap

I spent all of last week in Las Vegas for the POOL tradeshow.  Overall, it was a good experience.  I met a lot of awesome people and made a few good wholesale deals which never would have happened if I had not put myself out there and exhibited.

I had a goal to break even on all I spent {booth fees, hotel, food, etc} and that didn't happen.  So, I immediately felt like a huge failure.  I guess I naively thought the orders would just roll in and that did not happen.

I killed myself getting ready or the show, so I was beyond exhausted.  I was in the cash and carry section which meant that I had to have plenty of product on hand to sell right there.  I made about four of each item in my line, which was just ridiculous.  Every bone in my body was aching by the time we arrived in Vegas.

The first day of the show was SO slow and my confidence went down and down.  We stopped for dinner on the way back to our hotel room and my husband asked me the question "what woud you do differently if you did not have my salary to fall back on and all you had was the money your business made?"

I thought about this for a few seconds and decided nothing.  I give every bit of myself to my business.  I eat, sleep, and breath {Acute Designs}.  It truly takes up a majority of my life.  I sometimes don't know what else I can do or where I else I can pull from to make this business better.

I continued to reflect on Neil's question and went into day two refreshed and more confident.  I realized that this business of mine has grown from not even existing to a profitable and fulfilling venture.  I did that.  It was my hard work and literally my blood, sweat, and yes, sometimes tears, that got {Acute Designs} to the place it is now.  There is no reason why I cannot take this business to the next level.  So, I stopped feeling sorry for myself and had a much better time the next two days.

I could not control who will buy and how much they will buy, so I decided to focus on what I could control.  

I made a lot of connections with other designers and buyers and received a ton of good advice from those who had exhibited in past shows.  

So many other designers told me that orders often roll in after the show, once the buyers have time to go through all the line sheets they collected throughout the week.  I passed out line sheets like it was my job {because it is} and am positive that a few of those connections will turn into future orders.

There were some tough moments throughout the week but I am happy with the way things turned out.  There is no sense in dwelling on what could have been.  All I can do is move forward and try to be even better the next time around :).

Thursday, February 21, 2013

quesadillas - three ways

I love, love, love Mexican food.  If my husband didn't hate it so much, I would probably eat it even more than I already do...and I would definitely frequent Mexican restaurants more often.  Isn't it sad what we sacrifice for our marriages?  For me it's Mexican food and my sanity...haha.

I love making quesadillas when I am on my own for lunch or dinner.  I always have flour or corn tortillas in the fridge and they can be stuffed with just about anything for a super easy meal or snack.

quesadillas - three ways

 one - kale and corn 


Steam a half cup of corn kernels and mix with a cup of chopped kale and some fresh cilantro.  In a frying pan, lay down one tortilla, top with the kale/corn mixture, a little queso blanco, and a second tortilla.  Brown on each side for about 3 minutes.  Slice and enjoy with fresh salsa, sour cream, guacamole, etc.

two - bean and cheese

This option is a somewhat "traditional" quesadilla.  Just spread a large scoop refried beans {I like black, vegetarian refried beans} on a tortilla, sprinkle on some cheddar cheese, top with a second tortilla and brown on each side in a fry pan.  I like to eat mine with a little guacamole and salsa.

three - cinnamon and sugar

This is a lazy woman's crepe.  I love to make actual crepes, but sometimes two flour tortillas will satisfy that crazing in a just a few minutes.  To make these, simply spread a tablespoon of butter on one flour tortilla and sprinkle with lots and lots of cinnamon and sugar.  Top with a second flour tortilla and brown in a pan until the butter and sugar melt together into a sticky, buttery goodness.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

diy - vintage jewelry stand

I think 2013 is the year I am going to get organized.  I just can't stop organizing everything. Sometimes my organization projects create even bigger messes than I began with, but we won't talk about that.....

A few weeks ago, it was my endless supply of ribbon and my packaging materials {which I organized in this Ikea cart} and this week it is my jewelry.

I have so many little dishes that I use for rings, hairpins, earrings, etc but they were crowding the top of my bookshelf and I was running out of room.

I stopped by the Salvation Army last week {on 40% off day!} and bought a few brass candle sticks and two small vintage plates.  I added one plate that I already had at home, some super glue, and boom - simple, super easy, and cute vintage jewelry stand.

 I love it!

Monday, February 11, 2013

tres leches banana cake

This weekend we had a little get together for Neil's birthday.  Neil is the social type and loves to entertain.  I am not all that social but the party was fun. I am happy we did it.

In honor of Neil's birthday - I made all of his favorite foods.  Needless to say, there was a lot of meat and potatoes and grease {his three favorites} on the menu.  

We had sausage rolls, beef stew, barbecue chicken, brussels sprout and bacon skewers, stuffed mushrooms, and cheese and crackers.

For dessert I made mini cheesecakes and a banana tres leches cake.  I have never made a tres leches cake but I saw this recipe on how sweet it is {which, btw, one of my favorite food blogs - if you don't read it, you need to do so} and it looked amazing.

I followed the recipe almost as is but made a small substitution with one of the "tres leches."  Instead of using sweetened condensed milk, I used International Delight Caramel Macchiato creamer.  Caramel goes so well with bananas. Same with chocolate, peanut butter, ice cream, etc.  Bananas are the best.

This cake turned out really good but it was really dense.  Like super duper dense.  The recipe I followed mentioned that it would be dense but I was expecting a lighter texture.  If you are looking for a super light cake, this is not the one for you.  But if you are in the mood for a dense, banana flavor explosion, gooey sweet milk type of dessert - then this is your cake.

Banana Bread Tres Leches Cake {recipe found here}
-2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
-2 teaspoons baking powder
-1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1/2 cup butter, browned
-1/2 cup brown sugar
-1/4 cup granulated sugar
-2 eggs, separated
-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
-4 bananas, mashed 
-2/3 cup milk {I used 1%}
-1/2 cup coconut milk
-1/2 cup International Delight Caramel Macchiato Creamer
-1/2 cup evaporated milk

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Separate the egg whites and set aside {save the yolks}.
3. Brown the butter by heating the entire stick in a saucepan over medium heat until it melts.  Once the butter is melted, stir until brown bits appear and immediately turn off the heat.  Pour the brown butter into a small bowl to cool. Set aside.
3. Measure the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt and whisk together in a bowl.
4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the sugars and egg yolks until fluffy. Add in the vanilla extract and mashed bananas and mix until combined. 
5. Add half the dry ingredients, then the 2/3 cup milk, then the rest of the ingredients until just combined.
6. Using and electric mixer {or a whisk if you're up for the arm workout} beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. I used my hand mixer for this so that I didn't have to clean out the bowl of the electric mixer.

7. Use a spatula to fold the egg whites into the cake batter and pour the whole thing into a greased pan.  I used a nine inch spring form pan but a square or rectangle baking dish would work too.
8. Bake for about 35 minutes - test with a toothpick and continue baking if need be.
9. Wait for the cake to cool for a little bit and then poke it with a fork making lots and lots of tiny holes.  Whisk together the coconut milk, evaporated milk, and International Delight Caramel Creamer and pour over the cake.  My cake was on a serving platter with slightly raised edges so the milk wouldn't run all over the place.

10. Let the cake soak in the milk for about an hour before serving.  You can frost with any type of frosting you like or use whipped cream.  I caramelized two bananas {1 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, and two bananas, sliced....saute all in a pan until the banana pieces are gooey and slightly browned} and spread them over the cake then piped whipped cream around the edges just before serving.

I just ate a piece of this cake and it was SO much better.  Maybe the trick is to make it the day before and let it soak in the milk all night.....

If you try it - let me know what you think and if you have any tricks to make it lighter!

This Valentine’s Day, share the love with recipes and homemade gift ideas! Don’t miss the International Delight Valentine’s Day Twitter Giveaway. Enter by following International Delight on Twitter and by tweeting your favorite ID flavor  with the hashtag #IDLove. Winners will be contacted on February 15th and will receive ID Valentine’s Day Sampler Packages!
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of International Delight. The opinions and text are all mine.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

diy - valentine's day dog scarves

I love little more than a dog in an outfit or accessorized and I am always putting scarves {and costumes} on my pups. Gordita hates anything beyond a scarf but Finn is game for whole outfits.  It's awesome.  He always looks so proud in his Halloween costumes.  I love having a dog that appreciates clothing :).

Last week I made my dogs cute little scarves for Valentine's Day.  This project is super easy and inexpensive.

What you will need ~

-lightweight fabric {Finn got dark red and Gordita gray}, about 12"x 18" 
-felt {I used two shades of pink and white}
-scissors/pinking shears
-fabric glue {if you want to sew instead of glue, the hearts will definitely hold better}

Step One ~

Fold the lightweight fabric in half and use the pinking shears to cut out a triangle, leaving two long-ish pieces at the top to serve as the ties.

Finn is pretty big so I made his 12" {from the flat edge to the tip of the triangle}.  Gordita is medium sized, so her scarf measured 10" from the flat part to the tip of the triangle.

Step Two ~

Cut a few hearts out of the felt and glue them onto the front of the scarves.  If you want the hearts to really adhere to the cotton, I would add a few stitches.  Fabric glue holds fairly well but a few stitches will ensure that the hearts stay in place.

Could they be any cuter??  

Monday, February 04, 2013

heart shaped snickerdoodles

Snickerdoodles are my husband's favorite cookie.  He always asks me to make them and I really don't mind because, well, buttery + cinnamon sugary = SO frickin good.  What is it about cinnamon and sugar that is so perfect?  It reminds me of my childhood and lots of loaves of my favorite Pepperidge Farm cinnamon swirl bread.  

For this batch of snickerdoodles, I decided to switch it up and make them heart shaped.  Snickdoodle dough is a lot stickier than the average sugar cookie dough, so you will need to heavily flour your work surface or roll the dough out between two sheets of parchment paper.

I like to use a mix of flour and mostly powdered sugar when rolling out dough - the powdered sugar prevents sticking but it won't dry out the dough as much as flour.

Snickerdoodle Cookies {recipe from the Food Network Favorites cookbook}
-2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/2 cup shortening
-1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
-1 1/2 cups sugar {plus 3 tablespoons for dusting the cookies}
-2 large eggs
-1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon {I like to add a little cinnamon to the dough} plus 1 tablespoon for dusting
-extra flour and some powdered sugar for the work surface {less than a cup of each}

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
3. Using an electric hand or stand mixer, beat together the shortening and butter until well combined.  Add the 1 1/2 cup of sugar and continue to beat until light and fluffy, this will take about 5 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each is added.  Finally, mix in the dry ingredients and blend until smooth.  Right towards the end of the blending, add in the 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon.

4. Flour/powder sugar the work surface, rolling pin, and your hands.  Working with about one fourth of the dough at a time, roll out until about 1/4" thick and cut with a heart shape cookie cutter.  Transfer the heart cookies to a baking sheet.  
5. Mix together the extra 3 tablespoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon of cinnamon and just before baking, sprinkle with the mixture over each cookie.  Press down gently so that the cinnamon-sugar mixture sinks into the dough.
6. Bake for about 10 minutes, remove from oven, and pull the parchment off the hot baking sheet and set on the counter so the cookies can cool.  

This recipe will make about 20 or 22 cookies....I guess it depends on how much dough you eat.  I always tend to eat way too much dough, so I only got about 20 heart shaped cookies out of this recipe :).  


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