Tuesday, November 23, 2010

FIRST winner in the Holiday Swag Giveaway!

Serenity now...om...

Congratulations to Tiffany Corl of Middletown, MD!! She's the first random winner in the Holiday Swag Giveaway!

Again, become a fan of Jen-A-Fusion on Facebook and be entered automatically to win some free swag each week between now and Christmas.

This year, I am thankful for the few moments of serenity, when they come my way. I am thankful for my family and friends. I know that sounds cliche, but it is so true! What are you thankful for?

Have a wonderful holiday!~Jen

Sunday, November 21, 2010

FREE Holiday Giveaways Galore!

Ingredients for pumpkin muffins

This is a very long post about me baking some muffins to try to win some free stuff. This is also about me giving away some free stuff. You do not have to bake some muffins.

You can scroll down to The Part Where I Give Stuff Away on Facebook. Also, check out the bottom of the post, the Suggested Use Tip~Fingerless Gloves. It is a funny little story that might help with some of those 'hard to shop for' guys in your life.

The Long Story Longer

Thanksgiving is this week and thus the holidays are officially upon us. And, so it begins- the mad rush for everyone to try to get your money, as you rush to give it to them. Toss in some stress, holiday weight gain and cold and flu season, sounds like a recipe for disaster. How about a recipe for success? Well, in my family, we need this quite literally.

This year, my whole immediate family went gluten and wheat free. Plus, neither of my sisters eats dairy and the older doesn't do eggs. It has been a fairly good journey, not easy, but very much worth it. The thought of eating wheat free- no bread, no hamburger buns, no cookies, no stuffing, no pumpkin pie- makes some people ill. However, now, for me, the thought of eating all that is what makes me ill.

So, as this holiday season approaches, I started getting stressed out about my Beloved Stuffing. It is my absolutely favorite Thanksgiving dish. One year for Christmas, my brother in law made me a batch of stuffing for my gift. All for me. No one else got any. YUM.

As anyone with a dietary restriction will tell you, there are versions of things they can't eat made from something they can. Those things are often pricey, sometimes lame, seldom exact replicas of the original. However, the longer you go without eating the 'real' thing, the less you remember it. (I had a 'real' piece of pizza a few weeks ago. I almost cried, it was so good. But, I paid for it later.)

Saved By The Internet

I didn't want to have some shotty substitute for my Beloved Stuffing. So, I turned to Gluten Free Girl to save me. Shauna James and Daniel Ahern are foodies, chefs, writers, fighters and other things that I'm sure I missed that they would not have. Read more about Shauna, her journey to being gluten free and why and what they do.

Most of successful GF eating means just having foods that are naturally without gluten. However, Thanksgiving is not one of those times where you can choose much of that. Luckily, Gluten Free Girl and the Chef have been posting recipes, videos and tips about how to make a gluten free Thanksgiving. YEAH!

Then, I found out they had challenged other chefs and bakers to develop GF Thanksgiving recipes, which they posted on their blog. Then, they challenged their readers and followers to made said dishes, post about them and THEN THEY WERE GIVING STUFF AWAY. Like their new cookbook. Like a Kitchen Aid mixer. Like OMG.

The Part Where I Give Stuff Away on Facebook

Wait, very cool idea. Give stuff away to people to get them to pay attention to you? Ok, why don't *I* do that? So, I am.

Starting tomorrow, Monday, November 22 and each Monday between then and Christmas week, I'll pick a name at random from the Jen-A-Fusion Fans on Facebook. Click here to get to the page and "Like" it. Yes, my friends and family will be included. They have been supportive and deserve free swag too. However, no one will be able to win more than once. Not on Facebook and don't plan to be? Email me and I will include your name in the chance to win. Invite your friends to Like the page, and your neighbors, dog walker and book club members too.

What will you get? Stuff that I made- perhaps a little zippered pouch, or a pair fingerless gloves or a scarf or who knows what. I'm winging it here, people, thanks for putting up with me! :)

Back To Me Trying To Win Free Stuff

So, I decided to be inspired by GF Girl and the Chef, not only passing on the love but also rising to their challenge.

I decided to make the pumpkin muffins from the Gluge Gluten-Free blog. Some of the other items sounds so, so good. Hello, I'll take a slice of the Gluten Free Pumpkin Roll with Mascarpone and Nutella Filling and one of Gluten Free Maple Sweet Potato Cheesecake with Gingerbread Bottom and Sour Cream Marshmallow Topping
but I'm not going to make them. No time, don't have the right pots or pans or ingredients, or even pateince. But, again, would love them.

And, I couldn't even make the stuffing for Thanksgiving that I will be bringing to my friend's house for dinner, as my mom is bringing the bread and she doesn't arrive until Wednesday and I must enter this contest today....

I do love a mean pumpkin muffin, though. I have made two batches this fall already, by altering GF mixes. Both were pretty good, so I thought I would try those.

I come from a long line of bakers. We're not so much chefs in my family, nor food snobs (yet) but we all bake. My grandma was known for her famous cheesecake and my dad won a blue ribbon on a cherry pie he forgot to put sugar in. Baking is also a more exact science than cooking, and I don't have much experience with GF baking, so I am still learning how all these different flours work. Making these muffins seemed easy, but would still be a challenge.

Pumpkin seeds for the streusel

The recipe is pretty simple. Looked like I had all the ingredients. Good start. Tia, the blogger and baker, had a link to a previous post about a crustless pumpkin streusel pie. Hm... streusel would be nice on the muffins. And, thus, my usual MO kicked it- start with a basic recipe and cater it to your tastes, hope it comes out well and eat it anyway.

I made the recipe as called for but ran out of pumpkin pie spice. I put a little cinnamon, and nutmeg in. Then, dumped in a handful of chocolate chips.

Started looking around for streusel ingredients. No oatmeal. I got rid of it during my 'non- GF' purging. While my roommate was rummaging around for some, she found a little package of pecans. She also only found instant oatmeal, maple walnut flavor.

So, I dumped the pecans into and turned on the mixer. Oppss... looks like it was pecan 'chips', not finely chopped, but definitely changed the texture of the batter. Especially since this recipe it just almond flour, wasn't sure how this was going to work out...

I made the streusel from the instant oatmeal package, a handful of pumpkin seeds I chopped fine in the blender, butter, cinnamon and the brown sugar. Popped in the oven. Yummy smells make my stomach grumble.

Fresh out of the oven

They smell and look so good when they come out. Sadly, they totally fell apart when I tried to take them out of the pan. This could be due to the fact they are still warm or that I didn't have muffin liners and ran out of non stick spray, so a lot of the muffin is sticking to the pan. Or, just due to the nature of GF baking. The gluten is what holds the baked goods together. Take out gluten and thus it tends to break apart. This goes for most GF goods.

So, I enjoyed the muffins with homemade raspberry jam my aunt in California made and a glass of apple cider. They are *probably* nothing like the original recipe was supposed to be, but they are really so yummy. Good texture, not rubbery, not too fluffy. The instant oatmeal added just a hint of maple, a nice fall touch. The streusel ended up a little runny, but was a good addition. I'm sure my mom and I will polish them off this week.

Well, enough of this. Between baking, cleaning up and writing this post, hours and hours have gone by. How do those foodie bloggers do it all the time?!

OK, back to my own Holiday Swag Giveaway. Remember, suggest the Jen-A-Fusion Fashion Accessories FB fan page to others that might enjoy free stuff. Check back on Mondays to find out the winner!

Also, this blog and the FB fan page have my up to date schedule for holiday selling. Lots of dates in December. Buying local, from local and it has a bigger impact on the local economy than sending your money out of the area...

I'll let you know how the Beloved GF Stuffing comes out! Thanks for reading~Jen

Suggested Use Tip~Fingerless Gloves

Many (older) people are surprised at my fingerless gloves, think I made it up and aren't sure how to use them. I didn't make this idea up, it has been around since the middle ages. I just put my own polar fleece spin on it.

Also, some folks aren't sure how to use the. They are great for texting, talking on the phone, knitting, typing and whatever else you need to do in the cold, but might need your fingers.

Yesterday, a very nice grandmother type lady suggested something new. She was wearing a red visor, an embroidered holiday sweatshirt and a blinking light necklace.

Her: "These would be good for people who shoot guns."

Me: "OK... when?"

Her: "You know, when you are out, shooting."

Me: "Like... hunting?"

Her: "Sure, like then.... you know, because the fingers are free, they can shoot their guns."

Me: "Great, I'll keep that in mind."

So, if you have hunters, gangbangers, snipers or assassins on your shopping list, I have you covered. :)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Trash to Treasure:Green Craft Fair

I'm working hard and getting many many little cross body bags ready for tomorrow. All made from recycled and reclaimed upholstery fabrics. Also, making lots of fingerless gloves! Recycled materials are incorporated with some new materials too.

This show is great in ways that go way beyond all the wonderful artists and items that will be there. I *loved* the book exchange last year, picked up a few good ones. The clothing donation is so needed around this time of the year, as it gets colder and more people are being faced without a permanent residence.

NEW this year, SCRAP-DC will be at the show. SCRAP-DC is a east coast extension of an organization started in the west that takes and redistributes supplies, mostly of the artistic nature. I have several bags of fabric bits and some odds and ends to offer to SCRAP. What have you been planning to get rid of? :)

What: Trash to Treasure: Green Craft Fair

When: Saturday, November 13, 10am-4pm

Where: Watkins Nature Center, Watkins Park Drive, 301 Upper Marlboro, MD

Website: www.pgparks.com

Click on the poster above for more information.

This is a great event that will teach you a few new things, allow you to clean out some supplies and clothing, and get some holiday shopping done! See you there!~Jen

Green Tip~ Green up your knit

Just took up knitting or crochet? Making hats for Christmas this year? Experiment with sustainable fibers, such as hemp, organic cotton and bamboo.

Bamboo yarn has a beautiful hand, a silk like texture that can be worn year around. It takes dye wonderfully and the colors and weights available are stunning.

Search through Etsy for some wonderful examples. Such as this one. Or, if you are working on a bigger project and need more skeins, check out this website for a large selection of colors.

Friday, November 5, 2010

November Artist of the Month~ This Little Piggie

In my industry, there are many layers of people that participate in making my business a success. Of course, there are all my supportive customers. There are my family and friends, there is me. And, there are the wonderfully underappreciated show promoters, market managers and the like. They are the behind the scenes people who constantly and consistently toil away to create a successful show, for both the vendors and the clients.

What most folks forget is that this relentless, hidden force is usually headed by a creative individual, that got into the role of organizing shows from the position of being in shows. These people are often talented multi taskers that excel not only in the diplomatic running of markets, but in producing artwork or craft that is just as successful. Jessica Blaszczak is one of this ambidextrous people.

Jessica is one of the best market managers that I have had the pleasure of working with AND she creates fun, functional, affordable craft. This Little Piggy is simply decoupaged piggy banks, created one at a time, to bring smiles to little and big two legged piggies.

Read on to find out why Jessica is always smiling!

Q~How did you get started?

A~ Well, started with art in general? Always ... since I could cold a pencil. With decoupage, I remember going into Anthropologie (LOVE that store!) and I saw a decoupage tea pot for $200. I thought, like most people do when they see a decoupage teapot, hey, I wanna do that. And I did. And it was fun. And I got to use my love of paper to make something useful and pretty. So, from there, I basically combined my two loves: art and animals and got decoupaged piggy banks.

Q~Why do you continue?

A~Because pigs ROCK!

Q~What is a great success story?

A~Okay. This is kinda cool. Homeward Trails, a local Arlington animal rescue organization, holds a charity art auction each year called PawCasso. I donated a large-sized cat-themed piggy bank to the live auction, which usually goes for around $75. I didn't really expect it to go for much because they was a lot of killer art there. Anyway, they started the bidding at $20 and someone bid. Then, another person bid. Then another. And then there was actually a bidding war! The Kitty Piggy went for about $130. And 100% of the proceeds went to Homeward Trails. That's a lot of dog food! Yep, that was pretty awesome.

Q~What is one of your greatest failures?

A~Oh, Lord. Where do I begin? In life? In art? Do we really wanna go there? :)

Q~Where do you get your inspiration?

A~All around me. Literally. I manage a local art market, The Ballston Arts & Crafts Market, and I help out with the Fenton Street Market, so I'm lucky to have the opportunity to work with talented artists all the time. So, really, art in general inspires me. But I also find inspiration in my friends, my coworkers, my husband, my pets. I'm surrounded by beautiful things. I think we all are.

Q~Why do you make/create what you do?

A~I think with art, you get a glimpse into someone's personality. Into their complicated minds without being intrusive or questioning. And when someone buys one of your pieces, it resonates with them, and some sort of connection is created. You get a glimpse into their personality, too. Art is personal. It's fun. It's fulfilling. And, I think the piggies make people smile. It's always nice to make other people smile.

Q~Where is your favorite place to sell? Or Favorite show?

A~The Ballston Arts & Crafts Market is my favorite show, of course! Check out the blog (shameless plug)!

Q~What is one thing you love about your business?

A~I get to make piggy banks in my spare time. What's not to love? Special orders are fun, too!

Q~What is one thing you loathe?

A~Nuthin. I make piggy banks. :)

Q~What is your dream about your art?

A~I'd like to be able to go further with it ... maybe branch out a bit. It would be cool to see my piggies in a boutique store as popular as Free People. But I have a lot of work to do before I can even entertain that idea.

Q~What is your mission?

A~To have fun. That's it. That's my mission.

Q~Where are you based?

A~Arlington (Clarendon!), Virginia

Q~Where would you live if you could live anywhere?

A~Ooooo ... good question. My two favorite US cities are Charleston, North Carolina & Seattle, Washington. Very cool cities for very different reasons.

Q~What would you be doing if not this?

A~Well, piggy bank-making isn't my full-time job. I'm an event coordinator and a freelance writer, so ... I also love to paint and sculpt. I like to make these cute, little art dolls that are also kid-friendly.

Q~What is next?

A~You name it!

Q~What is your favorite question to ask people?

A~What's your sign? Seriously! I love astrology!

Q~What is your answer to that question?


Q~ What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen sparrow?

A~I don't know. I'll Google it. ;)

Meet Jessica and her piggies in person at Cocktails and Craft, a happy hour party type thing, where you can buy all your holiday gifts and have fun too. It is TOMORROW night, Saturday, November 6, 5-9:30pm, at 3213 Kinross Circle, Oak Hill, VA 20171. Also, future shows can be found on Jess' website at www.thislittlepiggymarket.net.

Likewise this weekend, I'll be gearing up for major holiday shopping to start! Don't wait until the last minute like every year! Start early for the best selection!

I will be at two markets this weekend for you to kick start your holiday shopping!

What: Alexandria Art Market

When:Saturday, November 6, 10am-4pm

Where: The Del Ray Artisans
2704 Mt. Vernon Ave
Alexandria, VA

Website: www.thedelrayartisans.org

What: Bannockburn Craft Show

When: Sunday, November 7, 11-4pm

Where: 6314 Bannockburn Drive
Bethseda, MD

Website: www.bannockburncommunity.org

Hope to see you there!~Jen