Category Archives: friends

Secret Collaboration

So secret that my collaborator doesn’t know about it yet. Hi, Erin! ::waves::

My friend Erin is, among other things—many other things—a painter. Her paintings have been commissioned by businesses (Oklahoma Employees Credit Union, for instance) as well as individuals, and you should probably get yourself an original before her work really takes off. If that’s not in your wall space allotment right now, she also sells her work in the form of prints, calendars, and iPhone/iPod cases. Erin recently posted a photo of a painting created for Pencil Shavings Studio, now that it’s hung in place:

Custom abstract art by Erin Cooper for Pencil Shavings Studio

Custom abstract art by Erin Cooper for Pencil Shavings Studio

Lovely, right? And also, wouldn’t that make a fabulous border print for a sheath dress? Which I mentioned to Erin. So now I’m just waiting for her to decide to make a Spoonflower order and ship me the fabric, so I can sew her up a dress of her own art. Something kinda sorta like this:

The Cooper Sheath, as imagined by me.

The Cooper Sheath, as imagined by me.

But with better shoes, because it’s Erin. She’s an excellent stylist.

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Plans of Planning

NOTE: This post inspired by Pippin & Pearl’s post from this morning.  The opinions expressed are my own, but have been influenced by every wedding I’ve ever attended (or was unable to attend because the couples in question eloped to Las Vegas with little-to-no notice. Aherm.)  

Don't freak out; I was just modeling it for a friend. This was so long ago that I didn't have a mannequin available for such purposes.

Don’t freak out; I was just modeling it for a friend. This was taken before Tiddleywink Vintage had a mannequin available for such purposes.

Someday, I’ll get married. That’s the plan, anyway. And with each wedding at which I’m present, I make mental notes. Band too genre-specific/DJ hiring too stressful: use an iTunes playlist. Awkward, cliquish socializing: invite only your closest friends/relatives. Starving vegetarians: serve at least a 70:30 ratio of meat-free food. Disappointed parents who missed the event due to surprise elopement: just don’t do that. The most down-to-earth, smart, sane people I know getting caught up in the spiral of wedding planning: keep it simple. No, not etch-your-own-beribboned-mason-jars simple, but REALLY simple. Still, it’s a special event, and should be treated accordingly. I think I found what I’ll eventually be looking for in a book I recently enjoyed reading called Let’s Bring Back: An Encyclopedia of Forgotten-Yet-Delightful, Chic, Useful, Curious, and Otherwise Commendable Things from Times Gone By, by Leslie Blume. She writes:

MORNING WEDDINGS The typical American wedding used to follow along these lines: a ceremony in the morning, followed by a wedding breakfast or luncheon at the bride’s parents’ house. The guest list: relatives and intimate friends. The couple would then leave for their honeymoon in the early afternoon. Compared to the expensive fanfare of today’s circus-like weddings (the average American wedding reportedly costs upward of $20,000), the simplicity of this old ritual is very appealing.

The book also includes a “Small Wedding Luncheon” menu taken from the 1966 edition of The New York Times Menu Cook Book. Punch, an assortment of chilled salads, rolls. Cake, coffee, and strawberries served in sparkling wine. Now, that’s more my style. Assuming I get married in this neck of the woods, I already have a cake bakery picked out. Given my careers-slash-hobbies, I’ll still stress over the perfect dress and invitation. But hopefully not much else.

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Filed under family, friends, holidays, reviews, romance, relationships, vintage

It couldn’t be a lily or a taffy-daffodilly…

…It’s got to be a rose ’cause it rhymes with Mose.*

logo-collage

Holy smokes, it’s already been a week since my last post? And I promised you then that I would try to clear up some confusion over my assortment of online names. Taking a chronological trip in Ye Olde WABAC Machine… ::insert wooblie soundtrack and WavyVisionâ„¢::

Once Upon A Time, circa 1998 or ’99, I unofficially name my freelance company Ampersand Ranch. Technically, the full name is Ampersand Ranch Graphic Design and Prairie Dog Refuge. Which is a teensy bit funnier if you, like me, are living in Boulder, Colorado during the Great Prairie Dog War of the late ’90s.

It isn’t until 2006 that I officially register Tiddleywink (consciously misspelled to avoid run-ins with duplicate names, HA-HA) with the State of Colorado, to encompass both my freelance work and my first Etsy store.

Thanks to the gentle shoving encouragement of my techgeek friend Dave, I join Twitter in early 2007 (pre-SXSW). This is back when all Twitter users combined post an average of 20k tweets a day. So you see, I can have just about any username I want. And, since Twitter is purely social, I go with my now-purely-social name: AmpersandRanch. The frequent mistyping by a Twitterfriend of my username leads the change to Ampersandwich shortly after (obviously, before a Reply To shortcut becomes a feature) so Bryan should get all of the credit for that bit of portmanteau genius.

By 2009, Twitter is more business-friendly. I decide it would be a good time to switch my username to Tiddleywink to encourage my clients and customers to find me socially as well. Except that, however unlikely, someone has by this time registered my misspelled name! The account is inactive: no tweets, no followers, and following only 1 account. I send a message to the account holder, asking if she’d mind letting me have the name. I don’t hear back. I put in a request with Twitter to get the name switched over to me—they’re still small enough then that they will do this if you can prove cause—but I’m informed that there is a backlog for the service. Before my position in the queue (ticket #600496) comes up, Twitter has stopped assisting with inactive-account-name-takeovers.

Instagram comes along in 2010. It and Twitter are very good friends, sharing user lists and all, and having a common username between the two is logical. Tiddleywink is still being squatted upon at Twitter, so I open my IG account as Ampersandwich. I briefly change it to Tiddleywink but, fearing confusion between followers, I change it back.

Present Day: Instagram and Twitter are no longer friends. I rarely post to Twitter anymore, and while I have half as many followers on IG, the IG community is much more interactive. I decide it’s safe to change my IG username to Tiddleywink…only to discover it’s been taken. The account is private and the user photo appears to be a blurry, 1979ish snapshot of Prince Charles in a trenchcoat, but at least the account has posted some photos so I don’t feel as though my “rights” are being squandered.

As for ShoesAndPie and Winkorama…well, this post is already too long. See you next week! Maybe with a post about pie!

*If you don’t already have this song stuck in your head, you can watch the movie clip (a loose a-rose-by-any-other-name reference) here.

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Filed under day job, friends, the office

Checking In

Whoooo-ie, it’s been a while since I’ve had a day “off” to check in with all y’all! I’m not dead. Or even ill. I have been suuuuper busy. I can’t promise that I’ll get back to writing with frequency, but I have made a concerted effort in the last 24 hours to dust off (figuratively) the inventory at Tiddleywink Vintage.

Speaking of Tiddleywink Vintage, some items have been noticeably stolen from the Shoppette. This does not bode well for the continued existence of said Shoppette, so if you’ve been putting off a visit—and the rare ability to try on items—then you’d best get over there before the current lease expires in August. I expected there would be some theft, but it has averaged, dollar-wise, about 30% of actual sales, and that’s more than I’d allowed for.

Speaking of Tiddleywink Design (close enough), good things are afoot. One regular client has given me an unexpected raise, which is flattering, inspires confidence, and is also so very useful. Raises make an excellent gift. And then there’s a brand new client (potentially; contract in the works) that is in for an excellent design piece, should they decide to go ahead with the proposed project. The ideas are flitting around in my head like butterflies. Beautiful, silky, sleepy butterflies. I know I typically focus on the production end of things, but print design still tickles my fancy when the client has, or at least desires, a vision beyond “I don’t know, what does everyone else do?” You would not believe how often I used to hear that, and that is one reason why it’s important to choose clients as carefully (hopefully) as they choose you.

Related: I was chatting with a colleague yesterday, and she put forth an idea about visually testing interviewing clients before accepting a job. She was joking, but I think it’s an excellent idea. Not only will it red-flag designer/client head butting far in advance of any actual disagreement, but it also acts as a way of sussing out the visual style of a person who may have difficulty speaking in terms that us artsy-fartsy types use. I frequently ask clients to send me samples of what they like, even if unrelated to their specific needs, but I think many non-creatives feel overwhelmed by the request or quite frankly don’t know what they like and just send a random assortment of stuff in hopes of earning an imagined good grade. I’m paraphrasing here, but part of the discussion with my colleague went something like “I’m looking at a client’s submitted “mood board” and it makes me want to stab myself in the eye.” If we, as designers, take control of that task and ask the (potential) client to simply check boxes, it has the potential alleviate some undue stress on both ends. Maybe.

Also Related: I need a traffic manager. Can work remotely. Salary paid in baked goods. Or homemade ice cream.

Unrelated: I have TWO GALLONS of mango nectar, in two 1-gallon bottles. I’d intended to use them up making a series of delightful rum-based tropical drinks, but I don’t drink much and so haven’t gotten around to that. I asked (on IG and Twitter) for recipe suggestions, outlining that: I’d like to use up a GALLON of mango nectar before the open container goes fuzzy or vinegar-y, and I also noted that my household consists of only two people. The suggestions that I got, while all sounding tasty, mostly neglect to meet these confining restrictions. For instance: I’d have to make 448 mango-lemon cupcakes to use up the gallon. I’ll experiment today with a mango sherbet (creamier than sorbet because, well, dairy) and some mango iced tea. That should neatly use up a quart, anyway. The best suggestion was to donate the nectar to a food bank, and I think the second gallon jug will go that route.

Still Unrelated: I reached the 1,000 follower mark on Instagram, and so am running a giveaway contest. It’s Instagram-only, though, so you’ll have to take it up over there.

Upcoming Somewhat-Related Blog Post: Why I’m @ampersandwich on Twitter and IG, and @tiddleywink just about everywhere else.

Until next time!

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Filed under design, food, friends, life-threatening clutter

Nothing Like The Last Minute

New Year shenanigans running the gamut from glamorous to goofy, 2007–8.

Because I have pretty, dress-up clothes that I used to wear regularly.

Because I don’t think my champagne flutes have been used since the Coopers moved to OKC.

Because the Significant Other received a family-sized ham from his employer for Christmas, and it’s taking up not inconsiderable space in the fridge.

Because the last time I had people over was in July.

Because I was absent from my friends’ Christmas party due to caring for Significant Other during his 18-hour bout of food poisoning.

Because I miss my friends.

Morning, Dec. 26th (via text): “Do we have plans for New Year’s Eve? Should I invite some friends over?”

No response.

Evening, Dec. 26th (in person): “So, do we have plans for New Year’s Eve that I don’t know or have forgotten about?”
“Yeah, stay in and safely away from all the crazies out there.”
“I like that plan. Should we invite some of our friends over to ‘stay in’ with us?”
“Maybe. We’ll see.”

So, to any of my friends who would typically get invited to my our place for NYE—and you know who you are—if you don’t already have other plans, well, you may still not. But feel free to give me a holler on Monday and maybe, you know, swing by. There’s this ham, see.

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Filed under friends, holidays, nostalgia, romance, relationships

Mond…TUESDAY Rounderp!

You never call, you never write. Oh wait, that’s me. I skipped a whole week (plus) and you said nothing. Nothing at all. I will assume that this is because you are all so polite, and not because you simply didn’t notice.

The last 10 days, in summary: stuff and things, things and stuff.

Winners!

The Highlights

  1. Hey, remember my other “family” over at Reminisicin’ Racing? The last race of the season was held on Saturday, and not only did Reminiscin’ and her sister, Mile-Hi Flyer, finish first and second in the day’s races, but they finished out the season #1 and #2 in points. And there was much rejoicing!
  2. Throw another hat on the stack; I’m now working part-time for a local estate sale company. I know you’ll ask: Yes, I do get first dibs on stuff, but I pay full price and I have to be nice to every jerk who shows up on every day of the sale. There are far more nice people than jerks, but if you’ve ever been to an estate sale as a buyer, you know the people I’m talking about (arguing about prices, “secretly” switching price tags [we know], and/or flat-out rude). Also, my very first sale as an employee was in a mountain home that has been vacant for many months, meaning its corners and recesses were riddled with mouse poo. I went through a small bottle of hand sanitizer in three days. Yuck!
  3. My rack of unlisted stock for Tiddleywink is still packed as full as it can get, but I kinda sorta wound up with yet more stuff for you because my dear friend Erin of Theda Bara’s Vintage Boudoir and I just had to go shopping yesterday. I also acquired 4 more foofy wedding dresses that would fill up the whole rack on their own anyway. If any of my local readers can help me with the overwhelming task of photographing (and/or measuring) all this stuff, I pay in home-cooked food! Or maybe one of these lovely vintage coats! Help! ::buried under vintage clothing::

Coming Up

For the immediate future, my Thurs/Fri/Saturdays will be spent working at estate sales. Between the on-site hours and the travel time, those days are pretty much used up, and with fitting in design/production work on my days “off,” I won’t likely be able to post to the blog every weekday as I have been. Particularly if I ever want to list new items to Tiddleywink or Winkorama again! I’m once again running out of time to get the Christmas crafts magazines listed in enough time for you guys to actually craft from them, so it’s a priority I really need to work into my schedule. Tomorrow sounds good, right? Tomorrow it is! In the meantime, you can follow my daily “antics” visually via Instagram, where I’m @ampersandwich. If you don’t have an Instagram account, you can instead follow along at Followgram, where there’s an RSS link to make things easy.

And with that, I’m off to start putting up Halloween décor and to rummage the pantry for dinner. Until tomorrow, dear readers!

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Filed under day job, friends, Halloween, holidays, life-threatening clutter, shopping, vintage

Tirammmmisù

Do as I say, not as I do.

Tiramisù!

First, if you’re opposed to the consumption of raw eggs, stop right here. Come back tomorrow, when I share with you all how I manage to turn some unattractive TV trays into (hopefully) pillars of retro beauty.

Superfluous photo of Yolky, my goofy egg separator (which fits perfectly on a Fire King soup bowl) by JO!E.

Today, I’m going to give you the recipe for Tiramisù exactly as it is written on this (Italian) package of (Italian) ladyfingers (imported from Italy).

Are you catching that? I want to make this clear: this is an authentic, traditional, Italian recipe. As promoted by Vicenzi, the “No. 1 in Italy” brand of savoiardi (ladyfingers). This tiramisù may not be what you’ll find in your local supermarket bakery, and it may not be what you’re accustomed to. It is, however, delicious. And incredibly easy. When made according to these instructions.

Tiramisù
Ingredients for 6–8 servings
400 g Vicenzovo ladyfingers
400 g mascarpone
4 eggs, separated
100 g sugar
2 cups espresso
30 g cocoa powder

Beat the egg yolks with sugar until thick and foamy. Whisk in mascarpone. In separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff. Fold the mascarpone mixture into the egg whites. Line a rectangular dish with halve of the Vicenzovo ladyfingers dipped into coffee and cover with half of the mascarpone cream mixture. Top with a second layer of dipped Vicenzovo ladyfingers and mascarpone cream. Sift cocoa powder over the whole surface. Refrigerate until serving time.

The very first time I made this, it was exquisite. The only change I made was to use, instead of the Vicenzovo “hard” ladyfingers, an equivalent amount of Trader Joe’s Soft Lady Fingers, which had fallen into the back of my pantry and gotten stale anyway. They fit perfectly into my large Pyrex baking dish, and with the addition of the eggy mascarpone cream and a dusting of cocoa powder, the result was heavenly.

But I still have 400 grams of these Italian ladyfingers in the pantry. And an invitation to dinner with friends. “I’ll bring dessert,” I say. But this time…this time, things will be a leeeetle bit different.

Egg yolks, sugar, faux-mascarpone.

Have you shopped for mascarpone lately? My local supermarket carries two brands, at $5 and $6 per container. This recipe requires two containers. Now don’t get me wrong, I like my friends and all, but that’s a steep price for someone as cheap frugal as I am. Enter: the Internet. And an assortment of recipes for making a mascarpone substitute. I can’t imagine that any of them will taste like proper mascarpone, but I pick a substitute formula that I think will come closest: a mixture of neufchâtel, sour cream, and heavy cream. The ratios required will make too much “mascarpone” for this particular recipe, but I figure hey, did anyone in history ever once complain that their tiramisù was too creamy? Probably not. So I mix up a batch, thus cutting calories while doubling the prep time and dirtying an extra mixer bowl.

Lay, lady, lay.

I start lining my Pyrex dish, and these ladyfingers are not the same size as their Trader Joe counterparts. I have to break them to fit, and even then, each layer of ladyfingers is coming in well shy of the prescribed 200 grams. Oh heck, it’ll be fine, right? Right? I spread the layers of floofy (technical term, that), creamy cheese mixture, I dust with cocoa, it looks lovely. See photo at top of this post. Delightful, right? Because of all of the extra cream mixture, the dish is precariously full. I set it into another, larger dish for travel, and head to see my friends.

We dine on delicious black bean and corn tacos, we chat, we laugh, and now it’s time for dessert. I grab a spatula and some plates, and start serving…tiramisoup. The scant amount of ladyfingers can’t soak up all of the extra cream mixture. Well, that’s okay, it will still taste like…cream cheese. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I mean, look at cheesecake, right? But this does not taste, or feel, like tiramisù. It has a vague tanginess that cream cheese has, and which mascarpone does not. And it’s soupy. So, follow the recipe as instructed. Use a big enough pan. Learn from my mistakes. And enjoy!

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Filed under food, friends, kitchen, packaging, reviews