Next month:
June 2008

what a thrill

Can I just say how totally blown away I am by the response to our store and to ourselves?!  It's such a big step we took, such a risk -- not in terms of money (though there is that) -- but in terms of ourselves.  We put our creations on the walls and let random strangers sift through our lives.  We have a vision and dream of what makes us happy, what inspires us, and we try to share that.  Will they be open to the possibility that we present?  Will they reject us because they don't like the colors or the prices or they don't appreciate our time or vision?  Will they be bored? annoyed?  It's nerve-wracking!

But I am just writing to say that it is TOTALLY worth the risk.  Yes there are people who are not interested or enthusiastic about what we have to offer, and that is totally fine, but there are other people who are so inspired and enthusiastic.  I know, I'm repeating myself from previous posts, but it's a wonderful and amazing thing.  To be able to share ourselves and our creations and vision, not just with the friends and acquaintances who come to our homes, but to the casual passerby, has proved immensely rewarding even after only three months of being open.  I am so grateful.  I came to a point in my life a while ago when I felt that my calling was to make the world more creative and though it took a few years to get from there to here, I can honestly say that I am fulfilling my calling.

People are responding to what we have created, and I simply HAVE to share this email that I received recently.

"Hi Laura,I'm the fan from Milwaukee. Let me tell have no idea
how freaky it was to read your 5/26 post about my visit. I hadn't planned on stopping on State Street on Monday, but ended up detouring that way, getting an easy parking spot and then your store just happened to be around the corner. Your button sign drew me in. But the juju of the shop stopped me from leaving. When I asked if I could set down my drink, it was because I felt like I was in someone's sacred spot and didn't want to disrespect it. I could feel the love and care that went into creating both that space and all the art it contains and inspires.

I don't know how to explain it, but I could appreciate everything that you put into your store, every detail of every display, every ounce of
imagination behind your artwork, your sister's art and everyone  else's. It felt good. It felt comfortable. I wanted to rummage through your cupboards and peek behind the back curtain to see what I was missing. I wanted to pull up a chair and play. I felt like I do when the sweetness of that first big breath of blossoming summer clover hits my nose and fills my lungs. Alive."

Are you just getting goosebumps?  I am.  And my mom got kind of teary when I shared it with her.  This is it.  Do what you love.  Follow your bliss.  Find what it is you are meant to do and don't be afraid to follow it.... all those quotations I can throw at you.  But I'll leave with this:

Different Plans by Brian Andreas

I don't know
how long I can do this,
he said.
I think the universe
has different plans for me
& we sat there
in silence
& I thought to myself
that this is the thing
we all come to
& this is the thing
we all fight
& if we are lucky enough
to lose,
our lives become beautiful
with mystery again
& I sat there silent
because that is not something
that can be said.


altered calendars

Dsc00502It really started with July.  For some reason that was the month I was inspired to start with.  As in most situations, I just start where I feel like, rather than the logical beginning which is January.  I was collaging a calendar for Jen as a Christmas present.  The background calendar pages were black and white pictures of trees and I intended to create various interior scenes with windows out onto the trees.  I used some acrylic paints for painting window panes in some areas, but mostly used the UHU glue stick to adhere pieces of magazine pages -- Pottery Barn and Anthropologie are especially good for such projects.  The next month was February.  Now, being single in the month of February is never very fun and so the dreaded holiday has been renamed.  Now we celebrate V-Day.... but that is Viggo Day, and believe me, it is much more pleasant.  Because, I confess, I am more than slightly infatuated.  It's not just that he is easy on the eyes, it's the poetry-writing, the publishing, the art-making, the uncompromising pursuit of his own dreams.  Well, I won't bore you with the depths.  Suffice it to say that when I decided to make the February collage, I thought, 'what better than to have Viggo in your bed?'  And then when I was done with February, I thought, 'one month isn't enough!'  And so began the process of inserting Viggo into every month.  For diversity I added one month of Daniel and one month of Clive.

I always remember looking at calendars and liking some of the images but not all of them, being disappointed because my birth month image wasn't my favorite.  This is a good solution -- not that you have to put Viggo on all your calendar pages -- you can customize them however you like.  It has been suggested at the Bone Folders' Guild that we each make a calendar page that we can then reproduce so that everyone would have everyone else's art for a very artful year.  I've seen other swaps where people trade calendars around so that every page is an original work, or swaps where everyone gets a month in a daily planner to journal/collage.  So many options.Dsc00501_3Dsc00503Dsc00504_2Dsc00505

caramel brownies

Ok, what does that have to do with Anthology? Nothing really, but it might not yet be apparent to the casual reader that food is another passion of mine. Food is very important to the Komai family -- we enjoy eating together and many of our memories are connected by food -- the trip where we had the first pizza with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella, the first fajitas in southern CA, the lime chicken dinners, that really good shrimp dish in the tiny village of Gien, the list goes on and on. Food is good. It is about taste and smell but also about companionship, family, friendship.

Anyway, I could go on and on about food, but the point of this post is to share the famous caramel brownie recipe. When I attend parties and if I have the time, this is the dish to bring. The recipe has been refined from one originally found in the book Entertaining People. The brownie part was not adequate in my opinion so the recipe was combined with Aunt Thelma's brownies, which are my standard for chewiness. Make Aunt Thelma's brownies and then pour caramel on top.

1. Aunt Thelma's brownies:
Blend 1/2 c crisco and 1 c granulated sugar with mixer. Add 2 eggs, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 c flour, 3 T cocoa and a little vanilla. Mix by hand. I mean it. When I tried it with a mixer, there was too much air and it didn't work as well. Aunt Thelma was right. If you want, you could add 1/2 cup nuts. Some people use walnuts; I prefer hazelnuts. Bake at 325 degrees for about 25 minutes.

Let brownies cool. Meanwhile, make caramel. Do not use a nonstick pan even though you think it would be so much easier to clean up. The caramel doesn't caramelize. You will just have to soak the pan overnight and probably scrape a bit to get the burnt sugar off the bottom of the pan. Combine 5 1/2 Tablespoons of butter, 1 c powdered sugar, 1/2 c heavy (whipping) cream and 1 Tablespoon light corn syrup in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil slowly over medium heat. Stir only lightly (sugar will start to burn on the bottom and you'd rather that not get mixed in the rest of the caramel). Let the mixture boil until it reaches ... Well, the recipe says 220 to 225 degrees but my dad's notes say 225 to 230. I think I usually aim for 227 on the candy thermometer. You should smell caramel and the color should be light brown. It needs to be just so -- too early and you'll only have sugar, too late and you'll have toffee which is yummy but hard to cut. Remove from heat and spread immediately over the cooled brownies. Allow to cool until filling is set.

If you are impatient like me, you might pour mini chocolate chips on top before it has cooled completely. I like to do that so they sink in a bit to the caramel, though they melt and then re-harden. Alternatively, follow the recipe and: in the top of a double boiler melt one tablespoon of butter and 2 ounces of semisweet chocolate. Blend until smooth and spread evenly over cooled filling.

Usually the edges are rough and not suitable for dinner parties; trim edges (they are still edible of course-- cook's perk!). Cut the rest into small squares and serve.

just one person

No, more than that have walked through the door and made purchases.  Still, there is one outstanding person from the day, who leaves me marveling at how just one person can make such a difference.  A customer from Milwaukee who'd never been in before took her time in the store; she was really enjoying herself and clearly inspired.  And just like that, I am happy to be here.  Well, I was happy before, because I was playing with magnets and making buttons, but it makes such a difference to see such an effect, even if it is only one person out of the several who've wandered in and out today.  It's simplistic perhaps but it gives me faith in my own ability to make a difference.  Not that I was really questioning it, but it just reminds me how simple it is for any one person to change the course of another's day.

She was so enthusiastic -- yes, she made a purchase, but she will also be back and will tell her friends so it totally makes it worthwhile to be open today.  We reintroduced her to Teesha Moore so that makes me happy and she was just so generally positive.  Oh, and she didn't say, "good luck."  I don't know why, but it still feels a little strange when people say that; I can't complain because I say it myself, and I mean it genuinely.  Yet now that I am on the receiving end of it so often, it doesn't sit so well.  Is it because it doesn't seem like luck but hard work and persistence?  Is it because I hear the "you're gonna need it" that is unsaid?  Ok, that's reading too much into it, but I know I'm not far off the mark in some instances.  What did she say exactly?  What is it that others say that makes me happy?  What should I say?  Something with congratulations and happiness, but maybe I'll leave luck out it...

thank you Diet Coke

Ahh... a successful night of catching up and accomplishing things, dare I say, even crossing items off the list?  Now, I'm not a coffee drinker, or tea either, which I think makes me more susceptible to caffeine, or maybe it is just my age.  Whatever the reason, I knew very well what the effect would be when I had a Diet Coke with dinner at 6 pm.  Including the trip to NY, I'm on 15 days in a row of working so I was ready to be done yesterday but those magnet frames were weighing on my mind.  So I purposefully had the Diet Coke so that after dinner I would get back to work.  And I did.  Hooray!  The magnet frames are all drilled and eyeleted; now all that remains is for me to tie the ribbon and match up magnets, and easy enough task to do at the counter today.  It was hard to get started but it feels so good to have them done.  Strange how that works.  You'd think it would be easy to get started knowing how much nicer it would feel at the end.  And then it was 10 pm but my mind was not ready to shut down.  Unfortunately, both my Netflix movies right now are subtitled and I can't watch them and work on projects -- back to some old standby....  Sweet Home Alabama it was, which I watched while I put together groupings of batik fabrics for the batik fabric rolls.  And then to bed where I lay awake with mind racing.  Thank you Diet Coke.

Now it is Monday morning, a holiday in theory.  I have to tie the batik fabrics in bundles and finish up those magnet frames, maybe type up some more bracelet verbs; tonight after dinner I need to iron and sew headband fabric.  Still, this is work that is satisfying and fun too.  I'll continue my holiday from filing though. 

more button bracelets

Dsc01843_2I can't help it -- I'm having fun.  Finally branched out from the two text bracelets.  Though I know a certain person who will not enjoy the fact that I am still working with text, it's what I love.  I was thinking about the scientist who studies ice crystals and found that pleasing shapes are made when water is frozen near positive words -- I like the idea of having verbs to aspire to around one's wrist, to be reminded of good things, maybe even make some changes on a small molecular level... or some such thing.

I debated for a long time about what phrase to work on but I've hit upon a solution that works well for me.  I just typed up a list of verbs -- the reference book I use, not complete, is 501 Italian Verbs, augmented by a browse through the thesaurus index (slightly shorter than going to the dictionary).  I'll need to look over the list and see what I missed, but for now, it was enough verbs to make an assortment of bracelets.  I made a batch in each of four different color groupings (rich, pastel, bright, cool), and then arranged the words as seemed right at the moment of gluing.  It was kind of mini free-form poetry.  Each bracelet is a different set of verbs which appeals to my need for variety at the same time it allows me to do a little assembly-line production.

What remains:
seek enjoy twinkle swoon collect fly
transcend know embark tend breathe grow
cherish trust leap love kiss enjoy
celebrate adore create relish dare become
cherish ask begin shine look be
invite wish thank sing remember celebrate
seize discover be change relish play
believe go play laugh shine unfold
begin reach persist renew grow dream

Since four have already sold, this gives me permission to make more -- I just made 12 for the test run.  I like the idea that no two bracelets will ever be alike  -- I'm no statistician but I think it's almost impossible given all the different verbs and all the different background papers to choose from.  I'll have to order more button supplies and  bracelets.  Though what I really need to do is drill holes and finish the batch of magnet frames I started.

Now it is June.  I used twinkling watercolors to paint the words so they are a little more than just cut out from computer paper.  It's one more color to coordinate so that fun just keeps growing.  I made more of the bracelets and now have enough that we can restock when they sell.  You can stop reading, because the rest is a list of all the ones that I've made.  I don't know, I just wanted a record:  (and yes, I know a couple other words slipped in there -- before I decided to stick to verbs, I typed some otehrs in the list -- like peace and strength -- and they were accidentally included)

begin know live seek learn renew
start delight fly skip think shine
expect seek encourage dance want be
ponder light live kiss promise learn
unfold fly reach smile breathe ask
leap find renew swoon reflect make
create hope relish trust begin move
nurture dream grow imagine wake lead
welcome surprise continue dance look give
reach dare jump create swoon begin
jump accept blossom look saunter find
celebrate smile create exist enjoy share
shine play follow thank tend live
discover encourage ask
twinkle sing invite nap adore help
believe teach smile sing expect whisper
sparkle transcend dream unfold move open
discover nap dance dream color do
skip give embrace play thank achieve
whisper love embark make wonder breathe
dare follow hope collect rise journey
reflect teach wish befriend thank learn
endure unfold send prosper look thank
wish enliven ponder manifest read remember
begin reach feel unfold laugh grow
embark invite gather flow sparkle follow
pick blossom flow jump endure cherish
travel give shine intend trust hear
swoon dance begin listen endure create
trust blossom thank discover cherish hold
risk celebrate play hope dream unfold
give wonder love praise embrace dare
remember persist celebrate become create laugh
begin persist awaken promise prosper cherish
blossom embrace lead relish praise kiss
give create encourage learn build transcend
manifest know pause stay reach kiss
know harmony follow listen embark smile
enliven surprise befriend swoon play seize
begin listen reflect intend celebrate persist
expect believe whisper create start ponder
dare surprise gather wonder smile find
seek cherish swoon grow breath unfold
bloom twinkle discover create collect wish
hold expect travel change sparkle nap
build renew journey believe see promise

find know give look seek celebrate
discover sing exist build read accept
cherish unfold bloom praise shine continue
make believe remember learn jump delight
bloom dance relish feel trust give
endure flow bless enjoy make touch
swoon bless include live look listen
welcome give love play hold look
become teach give discover intend dance
adore reflect exist learn risk be
embrace persist laugh grow begin wish
unfold saunter discover begin think breathe
sing embrace hold speak begin prosper
begin make share wake color want
speak live ask imagine adore learn
embrace blossom ask feel become swoon
teach change kiss look dance invite
discover find adore believe unfold breathe
pick love know sparkle dare persist
awaken enjoy ponder hope want journey
expect grow enjoy become follow leap

move change seek tend enliven celebrate
welcome sparkle think teach relish change
accept charm surprise gaze twinkle move
expect love collect paint listen exist
begin discover skip continue wake smile

send blossom discover make paint skip
send create draw dance risk learn
teach live fly stay feel welcome
lead follow ask pick leap dare
find light give endure live exist
rest fly make adore give create

awaken form help try make hear
embrace look trust include encourage view

invite sew leap travel wish discover

fairy preparations

Dsc01818_2Okay, it's almost June, fairy month.  All those things I was going to do for the window are mostly unfinished.  I had a good idea last night that kept me up late -- instead of mica houses, I am going to try some with the fusible Angelina fibers -- a little more sparkly.  Right now the plan is Angelina fibers for the walls and fake flowers for the framework..  We'll see what actually happens.  We've finalized the schedule and sent it out to our mailing list so now I'm committed.  I've put together the wire framework for one flower lantern.  It takes glue mixed with wallpaper paste so I'm waiting for a time when I can work on it.  And now making fairy house walls.  At least one fairy skirt is finished and I have a fabulous pair of wings.  Jen brought up her fairy godmothers from Milwaukee and I am excited to put them in the window.  And then of course my mind is spinning with all sorts of options after visiting ABC Carpet & Home; there's a little pent-up fairy energy since I never got to fully indulge those whims at my other job.  I should consult my list of things to do and see if I've made any progress but I'm almost afraid to look. 

New York New York

Dsc01807_2Oh my goodness, I can hardly wait.  First I couldn't wait for the trip, and now I can't wait for the shipments to arrive!  And yesterday afternoon I couldn't wait to get home.  Two nights in NY was all very exciting and thrilling and the Stationery Show was pretty much everything we wanted it to be.  All things considered, traveling with an 8-month old went smoothly but the screaming every 20 minutes from midnight to 2 am on the first night, that was not so fun.  Sitting in the sunshine at Washington Square (as pictured) after shopping at ABC Carpet & Home, that was fun.  Finding the vendors I've been looking for, including Martha Stewart Crafts, that was fun.  The screaming in the cab on the way to the airport (we had to have the driver stop so we could get the tiger blanky out of the trunk), not fun.

After departing from Madison in the wee hours of the morning on Monday, we arrived to the Stationery Show in the early afternoon.  Lily did really well on the flight; she charmed lots of people -- at least when she is over-tired and over-stimulated the shrieks are only occasional and she can be diverted with silly noises.  Of course she didn't really fall asleep until we were in the cab on the way to the hotel.  She got a little nap but then woke up and off we went.  We managed to walk most of the aisles of the show on the first day, picking up catalogs and plotting what we'd come back to the next morning.  Lily walked with us the whole day we frequently had to stop so people could admire her.  She seemed to bask in the attention.  Dinner at the French restaurant was challenging -- we just took turns eating while the other held Lily.  The people at the restaurant were very friendly and welcoming and helpful -- they brought her French Fries and ice cream.  You'd think that would placate her but the day of traveling was just too much.  That was the night of the screaming and crying -- at least we all slept from about 2 am to 8 am.

Dsc01808The next day went much better.  We got up for breakfast and went to place orders.  There was  a little mix-up with meeting locations (why is it that something you are trained to do as a child -- ALWAYS agree upon the meeting place should you get lost -- gets shoved aside as you get older?  We were each SURE that we were meeting... at two different locations on opposite sides... but we never did that thing that annoyed us so much when we were little, which is my dad repeating the meeting place several times to make sure we all agreed.  At least we found each other after not much delay and then could proceed). 

The show was... well, perfect.  Ok, nothing's perfect, but we found some companies that I'd been eyeing at other stores (such as Artist & Display in Milwaukee), some companies that I always liked but hadn't been able to connect with, and some great new companies that we'd never seen before, including some small, individual artist-run companies.  Just as with our consignees, it's a treat to be able to meet the person who created the products you purchase.  There were interesting and fun greeting cards, inspiring art and craft supplies, and lovely sheets of wrapping paper.  I found the Italian paper I've been wanting and even got to meet Mr. Tassotti in person.  Oh, and I found the Amy Butler and Nikki McClure books that I've been wanting for the store.  It was also great to see how many people were making things with recycled paper. We ordered from one company with fun notebooks made with 100% post-consumer recycled paper and many others with  cards from recycled paper.  Sachi and I have always eyed the Jill Schwartz booth and we were excited to find some sweet little shadow boxes that will fit well with our store.  In my work at Little Luxuries, I've been to other shows which are much larger and this was a very manageable size.  Even with Lily we were able to finish our work by late afternoon on the second day so we had our last day free.

Dsc01728_2The second night went much better.  Lily got an afternoon nap and a two-hour nap in the early evening.  We took turns shopping at Lee's and Kate's Paperie and napping while Lily slept and then we all went out for dinner which went better since Lily was well-rested.  Plus, we got our coconut cake that we always like.

Wednesday was a little vacation.  The weather had been chilly and rainy but it was pleasant and sunny.  We walked to Washington Square and sat in the sunshine with Lily (she had a sunhat), strolled around the Farmer's market, ate homemade pretzels, and took turns shopping at ABC Carpet & Home and Fishs Eddy.  Then it was back to the hotel via subway, with a stop at the MOMA design store and 5th Avenue for pictures of store windows, and then on to the airport to catch our 5:30 flight.  Sachi and I felt like Lily looks in this picture so it seemed best that it was the last picture...even though it was actually the start, as we arrived at the hotel in NY.

Now we are each working a couple half days to catch up on what was left undone.  I have to make more button bracelets, again.  I made a commission photo charm this morning and some Madison charms as well and now it is on to preparing supplies for the comb-bound mini journal craft table activity and fairy month preparations.

i love twinkling H20s

Okay, they aren't paying me to say this and it really is true. I have been using them for my altered book pages recently -- what's not to love about watercolors that sparkle? I first got them for my mom to use with rubber stamps but I like to just paint them on pages. I love that you can paint right out of the jar and that they are portable. Unlike my glitter glue, I can take them through airport security (I'm not kidding -- they confiscated my glitter glue!) and I feel like I am not wasting paint the way I do when I use acrylics. Most importantly, they sparkle! I made a swatch book of all the colors we have at the store and had lots of fun with that. They sell them in sets but I think it is more fun to pick out the colors you want so I split up all the sets and have them in a jar like candy. When customers want to pick out colors, we dump the whole lot out on the counter and sort through. I also just like to dump the jar out and make sure we have one of every color represented. Poor Sachi just shakes her head and lets me play.


check the photo albums!

Finally! Took time this afternoon to take more pictures of the store and products. Since I can't quite figure this all out, it would be much easier if you just went to the photo albums to see what's what. Thanks!