22 September 2009

Goat Vote

The time has come for you to vote for my mom to win some angora goats! Hooray!!
Just go to this link and click on the star under the pictures ONCE. Please vote only once. (I will get disqualified if people try to cheat, and yes, they can track that kind of thing via IP addresses.) Voting closes this Friday, September 25th at midnight eastern time. Once the voting ends, they will contact the top vote getters to be sure they meet all of the criteria for winning the flock (which my mom will). Then the good people of Martha's Vineyard Fiber Farm and Sand Creek Post and Beam will choose the winner, which will be announced no later than October 2nd. I'll keep you posted. In the mean time, get voting!! Thanks a bunch!!

Update Monday: We ended in 4th place out of 50 applicants with 555 votes! Thanks so much to everyone who voted and spread the word. It was so fun and exciting to read all of the comments and see people voting from all over the world (literally) and from so many different spheres of our lives, from my mom's high school friends to people from my church to Delanco people to Wheaton friends and their friends and their friends' friends. It was so encouraging and humbling and overwhelming to receive so much support.

Because there were some glitches with the voting system, the contest people have accepted the top 10 vote getters (instead of their original intent to only accept three) into the final round, where they will contact the top people, make sure they have the resources to care for the goats, and then choose the winner. They originally said that the decision would be made by this Friday, but having to screen 7 more people than they intended, it might take a little longer. I will definitely keep you posted.

Thanks again for all of your support!!

Update 2nd Monday: Well, it turns out that we did not win the goats. You can see the results and read the winning essay here. I was definitely a little disappointed at first, but I am still glad that I entered my mom into the contest. I got to share her story with a lot of people, and she felt so very loved. We are both blown away by all the support we received, so thank you so much to everyone who voted and spread the word. My mom is looking into buying a few angora goats of her own, and the funny part is that the contest people get their goats from people who get their goats from the same people from whom we got our first sheep. Did you follow that? Basically, she's most likely going to start her herd of goats from the same farm where she started her flock of sheep. I think that's pretty cool, and it probably wouldn't have happened without this contest and your encouragement. So thanks again!!

17 September 2009

Little Go-oats!!!

I found this Mighty Big Giveaway link on Soule Mama. It is for 5 angora goats and a little barn in which to house them. Now, the fact of the matter is that I would love to have 5 angora goats and a little barn in which to house them, but I'm not even allowed to have a goldfish on campus. Seriously. Not. Even. A. Goldfish. But this giveaway was much too cool to pass up. So I thought that my mom might like to own some angora goats. Because that's a cool thing to do that I don't think she's done yet. So I entered her into the giveaway with this essay, which I now include for your reading enjoyment:

Our story begins in 1975 when Niki Negus began working at Towne of Historic Smithville in South Jersey. Although she was raised in Princeton where her father was a professor of graduate level 18th century German literature, Niki had found her way to folk and fiber arts at Stockton College, where she majored in Early American Crafts and Culture, a combination of art, history, and business. She had originally intended to be an animal behavioralist, but upon failing chemistry, she took a year off from her studies to apprentice under a weaver and spinner in Batsto, New Jersey, learning all sorts of wonderful things about fibers and how to turn them into something new. So after developing a new major and upon graduation, she found her way to the Towne of Historic Smithville. Smithville was a community of craftspeople and actors designed to transport people back in time to the Federalist Period of American history. Niki was hired to be a demonstrating weaver and spinner. She dressed in period costume and worked her craft while talking to visitors as if she were from 1825. Our story begins here in Smithville because this is where she met Gary Giberson, who was the demonstrating duck decoy carver at the village. Gary was a talented artist and a natural performer. Niki was thoroughly captivated by him as he spoke to the crowds, carving away on his schnitzelbank (a traditional carving bench). Gary soon took a liking to Niki and began courting her in costume. He would bring her wildflowers and chocolate eclairs, and to give himself an extra edge, he would sneak into her studio and take a wedge out of her loom so that it shook while she was weaving. Naturally, she would have to call on the village carver to fix it, and he would whittle a wedge on the spot that was the perfect fit. She was very impressed, unaware that Gary knew what size to carve the wedge because he had taken out the original. Before too long, the two fell in love and were married. Niki joined Gary on his property in Port Republic, New Jersey, a 33 acre plot of land, which has been in his family since 1680 when it was granted to his ancestors by the King of England. The couple started a family and worked for the owners of Historic Smithville, even after it closed.

In 1986, Niki received a phone call saying that her great aunt Millie was dying in Florida and she would have to fly down right away if she wanted to say goodbye. So Niki and Gary packed up their three girls (Amy, Megan, and Robin) with all their favorite toys, brought them to their grandparents' house in Princeton, and flew down to Florida, leaving Gary's eighteen year old son Gregg (Niki's step son) alone in the house. In the middle of the night, the wood-stove overheated and the house caught on fire. Thankfully, Gregg was able escape safely, but before the fire company arrived, the house was ablaze. The walls burned from the inside out, leaving the house completely in ruins. Upon the family's return to Port Republic, they found that there was little left of the home where Gary was born and had lived all his life. Where could they even begin? The people of Port Republic all came together to support the Giberson family. They found them a house to rent in Port Republic. They made meals for them and donated food and clothes. They threw a shower for the family, giving them pots and pans and grocery store gift certificates and furniture and everything else they needed. The Gibersons were overwhelmed with gratitude. As they began to rebuild, they wanted to give back to the community that came to their aid in their darkest hour. So they decided that instead of putting back the original house, they would add a classroom where Niki and Gary could teach others the crafts and skills and history that had brought them together. So in 1988, Swan Bay Folk Art Center was born. Out of their new home studio, Gary taught decoy carving, and Niki taught basket-weaving classes. (She had to retire her loom when her oldest daughter relentlessly played it like a harp.) They taught classes for children, teaching history through hands-on activities: sewing, carving, colonial games, tea parties, doll-making, and shorebird painting. They cleared some land and put up fences for a small flock of sheep so that Niki could give spinning demonstrations and the children that visited could feed the sheep. Gary and Niki's three girls even joined in by teaching alongside their parents and helping to care for the flock. From the ashes of the 1986 fire, a whole world of discovery and artistry was born, and traditional crafts were rediscovered and shared with new generations.

This is the environment in which I was raised. My name is Robin, and I am the youngest of Gary and Niki's girls. My parents always encouraged us to find our passion, follow it, and share it with others, and I am deeply thankful for their encouragement to live outside of the box and to trust history and tradition to point us in the right direction. I will always feel a debt of gratitude to my parents, and especially to my mom, for their example and for the skills that they have taught me. My mother has taught me to spin and knit and felt and dye, all from the wool from our own sheep. She has welcomed me into the rich history of fiber arts and traditional crafts. Just about everything I know, I learned from her. So when I saw this giveaway, I felt that I should enter in my mother's story, hoping that her passion for history and fiber arts would be as inspiring to you as it has been to me. After twenty years of caring for a small flock of sheep, I know that my mother would be ecstatic to add angora goats to her farm. Not only will she be able to diversify the fiber crafts she creates; she will also care deeply for the animals, as she does for everything she touches. I cannot think of a more appropriate way for me to show my gratitude to her than by offering you this story, in hopes that you will award my mother--a richly experienced, equipped, and deserving shepherdess--with the angora goats.

Swan Bay Folk Art Center is still in operation today (www.handsonhistory.com). Although Gary has mostly retired from carving due to arthritis in his wrists, Niki continues to teach classes to adults and children and hosts school groups and scout troops on the farm.

And because posts are more fun when they have pictures, here are a few for your viewing enjoyment:

I'll keep you posted about the giveaway. I think that people get to vote on the winners, so I'll be counting on you when the time comes to get my mom some goats!
Little shee-eep, get ready for some new roommates! :o)

Update: I just read on the blog that's hosting the giveaway that there were 61 applicants for the goats! I still think our chances are good. I'll keep you posted.

14 September 2009

Business Update: Ponderings and Upcoming Events

So I've been reading this book called Craft Inc. It's all about turning your creative hobby into a business. It's a little overwhelming at times...copyrights, commercial zoning, marketing, etc., but for the most part, it seems pretty doable to me, and I've enjoyed thinking up collections I could make and how I would organize my files and what kind of logo and banners I would want. I've always been good about the planning and the brainstorming. I've always been excited about dreaming up new possibilities. But when it comes to the actual making, I don't have a great track record of follow-through. Call it procrastination or perfectionism or both, call it laziness or lack of time or energy or skill. But when it comes down to it, the part I like most is the stage of inspiration, design, imagination. If I could be a professional creative idea and brainstorming person, I would be set. But so far, I haven't had any job offers matching that description. In fact, most job offers I've received are the opposite of that description (i.e. receive other people's ideas and busy work and figure out a way to organize it efficiently in an environment governed by inefficiency and communication break downs). Lovely.

So I've been thinking about having my own business and loving that idea. I've been thinking about what my craft show displays would look like and how I could incorporate teaching and community and events and tea sandwiches into my business. And I love those ideas. I've been thinking about how I can pair collections with EPs...little 5 or 6 song compilations that reflect the spirit of the crafts I'm selling. And I love that idea. But when I think about what I would like to make in mass...what I would enjoy making every day...what I would have fun producing ad infinitum... That idea does not thrill me. Because when it all comes down to it, I haven't found a creative process I enjoy nearly so much as dreaming it all up. I need to find something that is as fun to make as it is to design. Something I can enjoy and appreciate in the process of making it.

And I don't know what that is.
But in the mean time, I have some very exciting news that I’m hoping will provide me with the motivation to start making more and to figure out what I love to make along the way.

Without even trying, I've had 3 craft shows basically fall into my lap. The first is the Cranberry Festival in Chatsworth, NJ, which I will be doing with my mom and my sisters. I am absurdly excited about this because if I could envision my perfect job, it would be to move back to Jersey--and Amy would be there, too--and my mom and my sisters and I would revive the golden years of Swan Bay Folk Art Center when we all taught classes and went to craft shows and brainstormed and made things together. It was just lovely. So I am very excited about the opportunity to do this show with them. It's on October 17th and 18th, and I'll be selling aprons and embroidery hoop projects and other such goodies that aren't made yet. (I really need to get on the ball!)
This will be my first attempt to sell my work since I was very little. (Occasionally my sisters and I would make baskets at craft shows and sell them alongside my mom's.) I’m a little nervous but mostly really excited, and I’m thinking that the nervousness will subside when I have some projects out of my head and in my hands.

The second opportunity occurred as a result of Charlie and Amadeus. One of the professors I assist is interested in felting, so I had previously referred her to Amy's etsy shop. She's planning a show themed around Fair Trade and Local Made, and she asked me how far away my sister lived. I told her that she's in South Carolina, and the professor said, "That's too bad. 'Cause those [referring to Charlie and Amadeus] are so cute, and I think they'd sell at this show." And I said, "Well, I made those," and she said, "Well then maybe you could sell things like that at the show. I'll send you the info." So I'll be a vendor at the North Shore Bazaar in Peabody, MA on November 8th, selling mostly felted things and felting kits and hand-spun yarn and such. I'm especially excited about this because I made those owls in hopes of bringing a little bit of myself into an environment that can feel so hostile to my creative energy. So to feel so affirmed there and to actually have it lead somewhere was such a gift. I'm super pumped about it.

The third show is one that I haven't heard anything about yet this year, but in the late fall/early winter, Gordon-Conwell hosts a sort of holiday fair where people from the seminary community can sell things that they've made. One of my goals in starting the weekly make was to build up an inventory for this show, (which I haven't done at all).
I'll let you know when I have more details on that show.

And in addition to all that, this Friday, there is a coffee house at Gordon-Conwell celebrating the release of the first addition of Kalos, the journal that includes my tree wall-hanging. My wall-hanging will be on display in addition to the sonnet for my tree and a few more sewn/embroidered/appliqu├ęd goodies that have yet to be made. (This is going to be a very busy week of making, which is good because I'm a few weeks behind in makes.) I'm also going to get to sing a few of my songs because there will be an open mic. The coffee house will begin at 7:00pm this Friday, and it will be held in the Great Room on the seminary campus (where the big steeple is on top of the hill).
If you're in the area, you should definitely come.

I'm hoping that doing these events will be sufficient motivation for me to start making more. And if I don't sell everything, I'll start up an etsy account. I'm also hoping that in making more, I'll get more skilled and faster at it so that I can turn it into a lucrative business. And I'm hoping that I'll discover something that I really enjoy making...something that I would make just for the fun of it, even if I wasn't trying to make a living at it. That sure is a lot of hoping, but it all seems doable to me, even as I sit in my little veal box of an office.
I'm so excited that things are actually happening and that they're happening without a whole lot of struggle and striving on my part. I feel like God is affirming what I want to do by gifting me with the deadlines I need to be motivated and with opportunities to share what I'm doing beyond the blogosphere.

I'll be honest: the idea of releasing my creative world into the real world is a little intimidating. What if people don't get it? What if my little makes look cheap and simple when placed in the context of the work of "real artists"? What if people don't take the time to really look and consider the thought and the work that goes into what I do? In one sense, this blog is safe because it stands alone. It doesn't beg for comparison. And I have the freedom to explain
what everything means, every bit of artistry, the whole creative process. You see what I do in a very controlled context. This Friday, I'm stepping out from the shelter of my blog. I'm giving up the right to case my handiwork in disclaimers. And I'm nervous that my little art won't stand alone. But these are risks I have to take. They are natural steps in my creative journey. And I suppose there's no better time than right now.

09 September 2009

With my pole, baby, and my line...

Yesterday at about 4:00, I got a call from Jason. He asked me if I could research recipes for striped bass, or striper. Scott, a friend of ours from church, had taken Jason fishing, and Jason caught a 29 inch striper! He sounded pretty excited on the phone, but truthfully, all I could think about was, "I have no idea how to clean and gut and de-bone and fillet a fish. Please don't make me do that." Images of Julia Child hacking through fish heads with a machete were racing through my head. I think all I managed to say out loud was, "Umm..." Jason said reassuringly, "Scott said he'd cut it into fillets." Thank God. "That's great, Jason. Bring it home. I'll see what I can do."

I was envisioning some very cute little fillets, about the size we buy at the grocery store (because we still haven't found a good fish market, which is unbelievable being that we live in the seafood capital of the world). Well, Jason walks in with no less than 4 pounds of fish. That is a lot of fish. Especially when you have a family of two. I began to envision just how large the fish was that Jason caught for our supper, and I have to say that I was impressed. Still massively overwhelmed, but impressed nonetheless. We decided that since it was alive a few short hours ago, it would probably keep one more day, so maybe we could invite the whole building over for dinner tonight and somehow finish this sucker off. But I'd never made any sort of fish before other than salmon, which is the easiest thing in the world because it already has so much flavor. White fish? I was pretty clueless. So I decided that Jason and I had to be guinea pigs last night before I staked my entire reputation in front of the whole building on fish.

So I got down to business. I did some research and found a recipe for "heavenly broiled striper." It looked...questionable at best, but if it's so heavenly, how bad could it be? I had all the ingredients I needed, but why would I just follow the recipe? Where's the fun in that? So I thought to myself, "You know what this needs? Bacon!" Of course. "And fresh lemon." Yup. So Jason headed to the grocery store while I sat and stared at the leviathan on our kitchen table.

When he got back, I was all ready with the oven set to broil and the pan all ready and the topping made. I had him cut a large hunk out of one of the fillets and set it in the pan. And 15 minutes later, we were eating some of the most delicious fish I've ever eaten in my life.
It was wonderfully satisfying to eat a meal that was actually caught and captured by my husband. It made me want to quit my job (surprise surprise) and move to a cabin in the woods with a little stream and live off the land with my big strong man of a husband hunting and fishing up our main courses while my children and I scampered around the garden and picked berries in the woods. How pioneer-tastic! (I was totally born in the wrong century.) Thank you, Jason, for that lovely little vision and for catching a very large and very tasty fish for our dinner. I am very proud of you.

For those of you who are curious, here's the recipe:

2 lbs. striped bass fillets
1 T. butter, melted
3 T. mayonnaise
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Dash salt
Dash Garlic Salt
Olive Oil

Set your oven to broil. Coat the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan with olive oil. Place a few strips of bacon in the pan. Place fillets on top of the bacon. (If the fillets are thick, put the fish in the oven to broil for a few minutes, to get that side started. Then take it out and flip it.) Combine butter, mayo, parmesan, salt, and garlic salt, and spread mixture on top of the fish. Squeeze a little lemon juice on top. Broil fish 6 inches from source of heat for approximately 10 minutes, or until top is lightly browned and fish flakes easily when tested with fork. (Be careful not to broil fish too close to heat or topping will burn before fish is done.) Serve with a lemon wedge.

And that's it! Easy as...fish. I know it sounds pretty gross and terrible for you with all the oil and bacon and mayo and butter and cheese, but fish is so good for you that I'm sure it balances all that other stuff out. And it really was very tasty. Nice and crisp and parmesany on top and nice and bacony on the bottom. Mmm-mm good. >~O*> (<---That's a fish.)