Baking Organization and Some Creativity

GOT TUPPERWARE?

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I really wanted to join A Bowl Full of Lemons’ 21 Day Challenge, but I’m such a slacker.  I’m only 3 weeks behind everyone else.  Really…I have an excuse.

Marielle was in the hospital for 5 days.  She had some type of virus or something.  Thankfully, she’s all better now.  So, this past weekend, I emptied out my Spice cabinet and baking cabinets…

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Actually, I had the housekeeper empty them out, wash down the shelves and wipe down all my treasured Pink Tupperware.  Whatever.  I did, however, organize it all back into the cabinets.

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Can we say Tupperwhore™?  Seriously.  It’s taken me 20 years to collect.  That’s a lot of Tupperware parties!  And this is only one-third of my pink Tupperware collection.  Yes, I know I have a sickness.

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Organizing the main spice cabinet was easy with the Tupperware Spice Carousel and Modular Mates.

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Then onto the upper Lazy Susan cabinet which holds bulk spices, bread crumbs and seasonings.

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Finally, the lower Lazy Susan cabinet now holds all my baking ingredients.

A WANNABEE BAKER

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I spent the month of January baking like June Cleaver.  I baked some Paula Deen cupcakes and some Ghiradelli Brownies.

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I even found my candy thermometer…

anticipation

so I make a batch of vanilla caramels for the first time ever.  Don’t make this recipe unless you have a full hour to stir it CONTINIOUSLY over the hot stove.

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Talk about a project!  Just cutting the little wax paper squares is enough to send the most sane person over the edge.  Considering all those joints I rolled in High School, you’d think I’d be better at wrapping the homemade caramels. Regardless, they taste awesome!

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And then I baked some more cupcakes…

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and some more brownies.

 CRAFTINESS

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My best buddy, Diana Bagels™, bought the fugliest baby carriage I’ve ever seen.  Diana’s sister picked it out—Diana has much better taste.  It’s vomit green, gray and black…and it’s for her sister’s new baby girl.  WTH?  She asked me to frou-frou it up with bows and tulle…and this my friends, is still way too ugly for a beautiful princess.  Just saying. (Don’t bother telling me you love the color and have the same one…it’s still ugly).

WON’T YOU BE MY VALENTINE?

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My older sister got me these adorable “DIVA” Sweethearts.  I thought she had them made especially for me.  No such luck…all my friends told me they are available at their local dollar stores across the U.S.

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Speaking of special…every February I put out my creations to celebrate Valentine’s Day.  And every year, the same people are offered some of my “special” homemade chocolates.  Only one problem…they’re FAKE ceramic…you cannot remove them.  They fall for it every year.

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Last Year’s Summer in the City Diva-Q After Dark – Part II

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lighted Lumi-Loon helium balloons

Zebra helium balloons

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Arianne and Lady M™

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Arianne

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Eileen, Arianne and girls

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Arianne helping Sue

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Lisa, Renee, Myrinda, Sharlene, Jacq, Lisa’s Mom Peggy, Heather, Eileen, Arianne, Jenn and Stefan

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Arianne, Sue and Eileen dirty dancing.

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debbie

delicious

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doublefall

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eileensharlenebounce

erikasuejenn

Erika, Sue and Jenn

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Myrinda, Brian, Jacq, Lisa, Eileen and Arianne

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Heidi and Jenn

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Joe the Bartender and NYC’s Finest.

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littleboys

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onthefloor

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pink

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Sue and Heidi

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Uncle Joe lighting sparklers for Hannah and Sierra

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Whitney and Gavin

With friendship,

Lisa

 

The Secret Recipe for Eggplant Parmigiana

I’ve just got to share another awesome recipe from my buddy, Diana…the sweetest eggplant you’ll ever eat!

Let’s get started…

Ingredients

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Peel Eggplant.  Slice Eggplant lengthwise.

Add Milk to Eggs.  Set aside Egg mixture.

Mix 1 handful of grated cheese, a few handfuls of bread crumbs, salt and pepper together.

Dip Eggplant in Egg mixture.

NOW PAY ATTENTION.

POUND Eggplant while covering both sides in Bread Crumb mixture.  This rids Eggplant of bitterness.

Fry Eggplant in Vegetable Oil.

Place finished Eggplant on dish covered with paper towels between each layer (to absorb excess olive oil).

Now layer everything in a disposable aluminum tray (less clean-up!). Layer starting from the bottom (of course):

EGGPLANTPARM

Now put it in the oven for 30 minutes or until top layer of mozzarella is completely melted.

Remove from oven and let sit on counter at least 3 hours.  This helps it all firm up.  Otherwise it’s too gooey.

Note:  Tomato Sauce Recipe can be found HERE.

Choosing the Right Ingredients

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When selecting Eggplant, choose large firm ripe ones.  Use regular Eggplant, not Italian Eggplant.

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Don’t skimp on cheese.  Use Locatelli Pecorino Romano cheesePeople are serious about the types of cheeses we use here in NYC.  There’s no excuse…just order it online either here or here.   It has a brown rind with the Locatelli name on it.  Buy it ungrated if not purchased locally and grate it yourself.

mozzarella

Hopefully, you have access to Fresh Mozzarella at your local Italian specialty store or grocer.  You can cut slices of it or shred it.  I prefer it shredded as it melts quicker.  If you’re lucky, you can buy it already shredded locally.  If not, you can buy it on the Internet.  If you can’t you can use Polly-O Whole Milk Mozzarella (about 2 16 ounces packages) and shred it yourself.

Enjoy!

lisasiggie2

The Secret Recipe for Best Ever Italian Meatballs

I’ve tasted so many different meatballs growing up here in NYC.  Some are too spicy while others are made with too much bread and/or breadcrumbs.

My friend, Diana (aka Diana Bagels), spent an afternoon teaching me how to make the best meatballs I’ve ever tasted.  And how could I not share the recipe with all my friends?

So let’s get started…

Ingredients

  • 10 cloves of Fresh Garlic chopped
  • 10 Fresh Basil Leaves chopped
  • 10 Fresh Parsley Leaves chopped (Italian flat leaf variety)
  • 2 Handfuls Locatelli™ Pecorino Romano cheese grated
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2 pounds Ground Beef (Chuck)
  • 1 pound Ground Sirloin
  • 5 Fresh Oregano Leaves chopped
  • 2 large Eggs
  • 6 slices White Bread
  • 1 cup Whole Milk
  • Fresh Breadcrumbs* (2 handfuls)
  • Olive Oil for frying

In a big mixing bowl, soak white bread in milk to moisten.

Drain milk.

Add all other ingredients.

Mix well with hands.  Oh, the gooey mess…LOL!

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Form big meatballs.  If you make the meatballs too small, they will fall apart in your sauce.

In a skillet, fry all sides of meatballs in Olive Oil over a medium flame.

Add 1/2 of them to the Italian Tomato Sauce recipe here.  We eat the other 1/2 of the meatballs while we’re cooking the sauce!

 meatballs

* Making fresh Bread Crumbs is easy peasy.  Just take day old Semolina Italian bread and put it in the food processor or blender until it’s fine.

Enjoy!

lisa

The Secret Recipe to the Best Italian Gravy (Tomato Sauce)

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First let me say, I’m an Irish gal married to an Italian guy.  My mother never taught me how to make tomato sauce, so I’ve had to learn from different strangers and friends over the years.

There are a million ways to make Italian Tomato Sauce.  I’ve tried so many different recipes.  Things changed when I tasted my friend, Diana’s (Diana Bagels) sauce.  It was by far the best one I’ve ever had and think you will agree.  I’ve changed the recipe slightly to make it my own.

Now, before we get started, let’s talk about ingredients.  If you want great sauce, you need to use top-quality ingredients.  Everything needs to be fresh.  Let’s face it, canned chopped garlic isn’t the same as fresh garlic. Same goes for basil.

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Don’t be using Hunt’s or another cheap tomato puree.  Go for the good stuff.  If your local supermarket doesn’t have Tuttorusso, order it online, or substitute Progresso or another quality brand.

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Now I realize Amore™ Italian Tomato Paste costs about $2.99 a tube. However, you only need 1/2 a tube and can refrigerate the other half.  Figure a regular can of tomato paste costs $1.29, but you can’t save the other half and end up throwing it in the trash.  Plus, the Amore is easily squeezed out of the tube.  No more tiny cans!

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Another important ingredient is your grated cheese.  Here in NYC, we only use Locatelli™ Pecorino Romano Cheese.  We don’t even call it Romano cheese.  We just ask for Locatelli as if it’s the ONLY Romano cheese…LOL!  If you can’t find it locally, order it online.  It’s worth it!

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And finally, let’s discuss meat.  This sauce is delicious because of the high-quality meats that are cooked for hours in the sauce.  It’s what gives it such a great taste.  Don’t settle for supermarket pre-cut meats.  Instead, go to a real butcher and splurge.

braccoile

If you want, you can make your own braciole or get it already prepared from your local butcher.

Now let’s get started…

Ingredients

* Meatball recipe is HERE.

In a 8 quart stock pot, add enough Olive Oil to lightly coat bottom of pan.

Add fresh Garlic and Onion.  Heat over a high flame until soft.

STIR.

Add a splash or two of Red Wine.  Lower flame on stove to medium.

STIR.

Add Tomato Puree.  Rinse 1 Puree can with a 1/2 can of Water to remove excess Puree from can.  Poor into next Puree can and so on until the 6th can is full.  Now add remaining Puree/Water mixture to stock pot.  By doing this you get all the tomato puree and waste none.

STIR.

Add Grated Cheese.

STIR.

Add Sugar, Salt, Pepper, Basil, Oregano and Tomato Paste.

STIR.

Bring to a boil.  Lower heat to a low to medium flame.

STIR.

Add lots of Fried Meat including meatballs, Italian sweet and hot sausage, braciole and steak.

STIR.

Do not cover.

Cook for at least 3 hours stirring every 20 minutes to ensure nothing sticks to the bottom of the stock pot.  Depending on how thick you want your tomato sauce, you can cook it for up to 5 hours.

Now that  you’ve made fantastic tomato sauce, why not make some Eggplant Parmigiana?  The recipe is HERE!

Enjoy!

lisasiggie

Sweet Sixteen and Never Been Kissed

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Unlike her friends, Marielle chose not to have an elaborate Sweet Sixteen party.  Here in NYC, parents seem to go over the top with these ridiculous parties which resemble mini weddings.  It is not unheard of for costs to go way over $30,000!!!

I was able to have one of our local bakeries make a terrific zebra cake filled with Strawberry Shortcake in just 24 hours!  Talk about customer service.  I shared Marielle’s transplant story with them and they went above and beyond what I could have ever hoped for!

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Meet Coconut.  I caved in and surprised Marielle with a 9 week old Maltese puppy.  Isn’t she adorable?  Marielle had been harassing me, but her transplant doctors said she had to wait until 6 months post kidney transplant.  Ok, so I jumped the gun and got the puppy a mere 3 weeks early.

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My friend, Jennifer (Jaybird Designs) sent Coconut the cutest collar and sweater.  Love them!  Thanks so much Jennifer!

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In addition to her new puppy, we also got Marielle a cute zebra dog carrier.  Oh and the other big gift — a spa day for her and 5 of her bestest friends at Pilo Arts.  Marielle and friends will enjoy facials, body massages, body scrubs, pedicures and manicures in 2 weeks from now!

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For a week, my home smelled like a florist!  Marielle’s aunts and grandparents showered her with flowers and other great gifts for her birthday.

Mother’s Day Miracle

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My friend, Tara, celebrated her 1st Mother’s Day this year.  And boy, did she get the best present ever.  Her son, Colton, received a liver transplant that day!  What more could any mother want more than the health of their children?!  Wishing Colton a lifetime of health and happiness!

lisa

Peaceful Easter Sunday

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Woke up Sunday morning to find the local ducks eating all my Koi fish food…and of course I spent the day chasing them out of my pond…LOL!

Easter dinner was filet mignon and rib-eye steaks on the BBQ.  Only my Dad for dinner.  Marielle wasn’t feeling well (doctors believe she is in kidney rejection–though I’m not so sure) and my MIL is in the hospital with a bad heart.  So we kept it simple this year.

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Did you know that Peeps have only 32 calories and 0 grams of fat?!  Peeps are a sure sign of Spring…especially the yellow bunny Peeps.

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Guess what Mr. Diva™ decided to do?  Have the entire interior of our 3,800 square foot house painted!  Usually we have a team of painters come in and get the house painted within a week.  This time we are using one guy to do the entire job.  It will probably take at least a month…ugh!  But hopefully it will be worth it.

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First up is Marielle’s lavender room.  We’re painting the walls hot pink and the trim black to match all her hot pink and zebra theme.

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Also, we are having her vintage-looking Vanilla bedroom set painted white so it pops!

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While the Sunshine Girl’s room is being painted, she’s taken over my Master Suite.  It looks like a bomb went off in my room!  She has already filled 4 garment racks just with her clothes!  And that doesn’t include all her dresser drawers.

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I decided to go a darker color (rusty brown) in the living room and will be painting the hallways chocolate brown throughout the house.

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The kitchen will go from a warm peachy color to a cinnamon rust shade.

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But my favorite so far is the 1st floor bathroom.  I’ve been dying to get rid of the lavender.

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I’ve chosen the prettiest tiffany blue paint for the walls.  In addition to tiffany blue bathroom accessories, I’ll add black and white, too. 

Guess I’d better get started on some matching curtains for all my new paint colors!

Hope you had a great Easter!

lisa

What Are You Thankful For?

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After last year’s Thanksgiving disaster, this year we opted to go to our favorite restaurant, Italianissimo, to enjoy a yummy feast.  In addition to the standard Turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes, we enjoyed Italian appetizers galore ( grilled Portabello mushrooms, baked clams, grilled shrimp, carozza, baby scallops, eggplant rollatine, and stuffed mushrooms), penne and porcini mushrooms in a white sauce (it doesn’t get better than that) and then some of the most delicious desserts.

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Yes, I’m thankful for a great meal.  But it pales in comparison to the more important things this Thanksgiving:  family and friends.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking.  Sometimes I just think too much.  Not with worry..no.  More about how I’ve never doubted for one minute that we would find a way through these difficult times.

Often people ask me how I’m coping and I tell them, “fine.”  Yet they will ask me the same question repeatedly as if they expect me to be terribly depressed or something.  I’m just not.  See, all this hospital and transplant stuff is second nature to me.  I started this journey 15 years ago when my daughter was diagnosed with liver disease at 10 weeks old and was told she’d never live to see her 1st birthday.

And even back then, I never doubted I would find a way.  I’d sneak into the bio-medical library in Philadelphia in the early hours to read the latest liver transplant journals–learning everything I could to make the best decisions.  Sometimes I’d read for hours a day.  I connected with other people–both parents and medical professionals throughout the U.S. and abroad.

I even fought our insurance company to permit us to do a living-donor liver transplant.  My daughter was the first child in the U.S. to be approved through an HMO–not an easy feat.  Although we weren’t able to find a suitable donor back then, we opened the door for all those families who followed us giving them the option if they chose.

For 7 years, I headed a large pediatric liver foundation and volunteered my time to ensuring families received all necessary support and referrals to pediatric liver transplant centers.  Heck, I even got a little girl a free liver transplant and medication.

But then it all came to a screeching halt–in one short year, I attended more funerals of children who died from liver disease and/or transplant than one should in their lifetime.  I just couldn’t do it anymore.  I couldn’t tell another new parent that everything would be ok.  I felt like I was lying to them.  And it was at that point that I closed the door to that chapter of my life.

Those doors have swung back open again and I need to take my daughter through another type of transplant.  Although kidney transplant is new to me, transplant is not.  Yes, I’ve had to learn new things, but none of it do I fear.  I use my head and not my heart as I make these difficult decisions.  And hopefully, my choices will get my daughter through this.

What am I thankful for?  I’m thankful I am ME even if I at times have false courage and unrealistic optimism.  I forge ahead knowing I have the tenacity and determination to see this through.  I am thankful that it’s 15 years later and many medical breakthroughs have occurred since then.  But like I said, I’m most thankful I am surrounded by wonderful family and friends.  Because without people, what would we have to live for?

Oh and I’m thankful we are home from the hospital and I can sneak out at 5am tomorrow morning to catch some of the Black Friday sales–especially at Joann’s Fabrics.  And Best Buy.  And Macy’s.  Etc.

Wishing everyone a blessed Thanksgiving!

lisa

P.S. – sorry to the poor photos…someone had messed with my camera settings.

Sew…I Get By With a Little Help from My Friends

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Heather aka little*e*designs managed to brighten my day big time!  We are both members of a Ladies’ Night In book club (we rarely read any books, cause swapping is so much more fun) and I was the lucky recipient of Heather’s goodies.  Yippee!!!

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Heather thought of everything…look it’s me, Mr. Diva, The Sunshine Girl and my Little Jedi!  Except my family must have been hallucinating in this portrait, KWIM?  That or I was having a bad dream.

So, Heather spelled out the word LEAF using my favorite colors (for my sewing room)–pink and black.  She’s just so clever!

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Pretty silk flowers and ribbon!

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This is my absolute favorite.  I just love dress forms!

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She even sent me a handmade polka dot apron.  I love me some polka dots!

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Love my cool new luggage tag and even Diva tickets!

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What a pretty pincushion!  It has a dress form charm hanging from it!  But check out my tiara pin!!!

Heather, you are the BOMB!!!  All these goodies have lifted my spirits more than you’ll ever know.  Thank you for being such a special friend.

Now everyone, if you need hair goodies, go check out her web site!

With friendship,

Lisa

divakey

SEW Busy and Then Some

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Another successful Diva BBQ is behind us.  But oh my–the clean-up is overwhelming.

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It will literally take me WEEKS!

DIVA’S NYC CARAMEL APPLES

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Lots of people have asked about my delicious caramel apples at the BBQ…so I’ll spill:

First, hop on over to Instawares and get yourself some Midway’s Finest Caramel Apple Dip.  I purchased apple bubble trays (buy the bigger size) and candy apple sticks from Sugarcraft.

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Next, tip your local produce guy a $20 bill at the supermarket and instruct him to hand select 100 big red delicious apples which MUST fit inside the provided apple bubble trays and stand straight (no lop-sided apples) or else…LOL.

Then go your friend’s Bagel Store (Diana has the BEST bagels in town).  Tell her you are swamped with BBQ preparations.  She’ll then ask you what she can do to help and it’s at that moment you hand over all the apples and supplies.

Next, have her employees wash and dry the apples.  Then put the sticks in.  Use their huge metal trays and line each tray with wax paper.

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Since we didn’t have a electric candy apple stove or an awesome gas apple cooker, Diana (not to be confused with Diana from Louisiana) used a huge stock pot (much bigger than I have at home) filled with water.  She then set the opened can of Midway’s Finest Caramel Apple Dip in the water to boil.  Something tells me we should have used the Quick Serve Apple Dip.  It took no less than 3 hours to melt each huge can of caramel..ugh!  Lesson learned.  There’s always next year.

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Anyway, just dip the apple, swirl and set it on the wax paper.  When the caramel apples firm up, just put them in the bubble trays.  Let’s hope Diana is still my friend!  Seriously, a HUGE thank you to my buddy!

FABRIC SCORE

Yesterday I was able to order a particular of a fabric I’m dying to use in my upcoming boys’ clothing line.  I’d seen a preview of the fabric at TALA (LA Fabric Show), but didn’t think the first printing would be ready in time for my salesman’s samples.  I wasn’t going to show you, but I just can’t help myself:

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Not sure if I’ll incorporate this colorway, but I ordered it anyway:

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Last month the fabric manufacturer showed it to me in these colorways, too.  But they aren’t sure if they are going to get enough orders to go into production.  Keep your fingers crossed:

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AHexclamgreen

MACHINE EMBROIDERY

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Got lots done yesterday in the sewing room (Lady M™ and I are some team…LOL). Spend most of yesterday finishing up an order for 15 personalized tote bags for Kacey‘s new students.

G.O.A.T.S.

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In the world of garment manufacturing, G.O.A.T.S. (graphics on a t-shirt manufacturers) are at the bottom of the fashion feeding pool.  Lots of people say they are “fashion designers” when all they are really doing is slapping some graphics or wording on a pre-made t-shirt.

When I set out to design my first season of boys’ clothing, it was important to me not to take any shortcuts on t-shirts.  I hate cheap t-shirts prefer a medium-weight cotton interlock over jersey knit.  I feel interlock is more substantial and holds up nicely to repeated washings.  Another reason I decided to create my t-shirts from scratch is fit.  I wanted a comfortable fit and a rib knit neckline which laid around the neck nicely…not all wonky.

My patternmaker is in town, so we’re going to meet up in Manhattan tomorrow morning.  It will be nice to put a name to a face.

Ok…I had better get back to work!  Have a great day!

With friendship,

lisa2 

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