• Letting Go

    P1080257Lately, I've been asking myself why we get so emotionally connected to objects. I need to make a little more space in our house, and it hasn't been easy. I had somehow convinced myself that it was mostly my husband's collections in the studio/spare room that we're trying to clean out, so I had been waiting for him to get started. The other day, I took a closer look. When I scanned the room, from the bookshelf to the two desks, my heart sunk a bit because I realized it was all my stuff. It was a collage of my many hobbies over the years. It was a sobering thought that I was going to have to filter through years of creating and collecting—and that a good amount of it needed to go completely.

    I decided that for this process to work, I would take one look at an item, and then close my eyes and throw it away unless it was something that is useful to me right now. In this way, stacks and stacks of old magazines, paper, and collections of things like Altoids tins have made their way to the trash. And it feels liberating. I still have a ways to go, but I am prepared to face this new challenge with vigor and optimism.

  • Reflections

    P1080302I'm the type of person who likes to start a New Year with resolutions. These thoughtful musings have contained echoes of the same basic elements over the past decade. Most, if not all, of these new beginnings have included wanting to find my ultimate career or job. This year is different for me in several respects. First of all, we were just back in the US on New Year's Day from Scotland and England, and my brain was still absorbing the trip. I've been jet lagged and scattered since and not in the best state of mind to be resolute about much of anything.

    The second and more important difference is that I'm coming into 2013 with a real career plan. When I officially started my business in April of last year, I felt good. And I've continued to feel better and better about the choices I've made this year. Me and Paper Cake Scissors are ready to embrace another busy and profitable year. Instead of having to reinvent what I'm doing this year, I can fine-tune: make goals, look at financials, and brainstorm new ideas that I want to incorporate. This is such a relief after circling around and around the career question for too many years. And as a result, I feel ready to look outside of myself. I can stop being selfishly engulfed in the What am I doing with my life? question. I can move on.

    I'm especially happy to have this clarity now, because I know that 2013 will be one of the most challenging, satisfying, and rewarding years yet for me, my business, and my family. Happy New Year.

  • Taking a Break

    P1080160After a whirlwind month, full of truffles and sweets (thanks to you!), I'm taking a much-needed break to spend time with family. This space will stay quiet for a little while.

    Thanks for your support and friendship through the year, and please have a happy, healthy, holiday season. See you in 2013!

  • An Announcement

    An update—Use coupon code CYBER12 to get 10% off in my etsy shop until tomorrow at 10 pm! http://www.etsy.com/shop/PaperCakeScissors

    After procrastinating for an embarrassing number of years, I finally have an etsy shop up and running! There is a small selection of items available now, and I will be adding on in the coming weeks. Please take a look and spread the news to your friends and family! Follow me on facebook (Paper Cake Scissors) or twitter (@Emilypapercake) to get the latest on a Cyber Monday coupon code that I'll be revealing soon.

    If you're in the southern VT/northern Berkshires/eastern NY area, you can find me at two more holiday markets. They're at the First Baptist Church in Bennington, VT on December 1st and 15th from 10am to 2pm.

    Thanks, and Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Trying to Relax

    Some people are naturals when it comes to relaxing. Some can find a quiet moment, pick up a book, and get lost in it for an afternoon. Others require a few days and maybe a beach to get in the proper zone. Usually, I'm not in either of these camps. Relaxing for me can take days away from my house and even then it's not a sure thing. So, when I recently relinquished a couple of my volunteer duties, I was surprised at how quickly I felt the stress peeling off of my shoulders. And it was noticeable—two friends remarked on separate occasions how relaxed I looked. Generally, I am all in favor of helping out when things are tough. But this shouldn't happen at the expense of caring for yourself.

    I know this may seem like a harsh and confusing message when so many in NY and NJ still need help after the hurricane. But there has to be a point in life when you put your needs first. While I still have miles to go in my lessons of relaxation, I feel like I might be getting just a little bit closer.

  • Process

    I'm not good at recording what I do when I'm in the kitchen. I have tried to correct this quirk, especially with my preserving recipes so I can replicate it (or not) the following year. Usually my best strategy is to have a little notebook next to me, preferably one which can lie flat open and is just the right size to stay in one place while I'm writing. This notebook is used expressly for in-process recipes because it winds up too close to my projects and picks up spills, or at the very least, water spots from my hands all over the pages. Luckily, the recipe I want to talk about here doesn't need directions. It's a simple, one-ingredient wonder with a history.

    We planted St. Croix variety wine grapes several years ago from a friend's pruned cuttings. My husband built a lovely structure (Geneva double curtain) for them to grow into and has been vigilantly pruning and caring for them. Every year they produce slightly more fruit, and we are always at a bit of a loss as to what to do with the crop. Last year, I made grape jam and jelly, and I wasn't really thrilled with either. I happened to catch a tweet from Mario Batali giving advice on what to do with excess Concord grapes—he recommended making mosto cotto (also called saba and vin cotto). I checked out a few recipes and decided that it was a perfect use for the grapes and maybe a perfect condiment for us. It is also a traditional "slow food" which is not made very often anymore, even in Italy. After convincing my husband that we did not have enough grapes to make wine this year, we harvested them and I got to work. About 25 pounds of grapes were destemmed, crushed, strained, and cooked down for two hours to make about a quart of mosto cotto. It's good—sweet yet balanced with tart acidity, an unctuous texture, and amazing color.

    Not only did I create something useful and a product that will last well into the dark days of winter, I felt my husband's grandmother peering over my shoulder, remembering the process from when she was a little girl, growing up in the south of Italy. It's a food with a sense of history and a strong sense of place.

    **If you're interested and want to read more about mosto cotto, see the NY Times archived article here for recipes and sources.

  • Summer Lovin'

    I love the summer. I always have. When I was a little girl, I thought I was super lucky to have a summer birthday—I pitied the kids who had birthdays during the school year. They didn’t get to have a big outdoor party, complete with games like the peanut scramble, and mint chocolate chip ice cream cake from Baskin Robbins. Daylilies started to bloom right around my early July birthday, and I thought they were meant exclusively for me. When I got a little older, summers were long stretches of endless books to read….and then a summer job….and then a break from college. They always felt, well, summer-like until I had a regular job.

    These days, summer is my busy time. The farmers’ markets are in full swing and people are getting married and having parties, and they need sweets. Fruit is local and bountiful and finite, and needs to be put in jars as fast as I can keep up. Coincidentally, my husband is a teacher, so summers are his big break from work. This leaves me where I was last week, alone in the hot house, with lots to do. My husband was at the beach. Sometimes I long to be six again.

  • Finding the Sweet Spot

    If you know me well, you know that I can talk sweets with the best of them. I love what I do with flour and sugar. But sometimes I need a break. With another foodie deadline looming, this morning I went for a walk and worked in my garden. Most importantly, I didn't feel guilty about not being in the kitchen. I knew that I needed a little break, that the line between work and play is often precarious if you work from home. I know that since I officially started my little business, I want to do well, be profitable and productive. And that today, being productive needed to be something other than making sweets. I got back to work this afternoon with a little extra kick in my step. Soon, I'll have more than a few hours for myself. But for now, I'll look for the small moments in the day that I can claim as mine.

  • Market Update

    You can still find Paper Cake Scissors at the Walloomsac Farmers' Market at Bennington Station on Saturdays from 10am to 1pm. In addition, I'm at the Manchester, VT market on Thursdays, from 3pm to 6pm at Adams Park. I will be regularly updating my facebook page with what I'll have and when I am not able to be at a market—so , I'll see you over there!Image

  • Blur

    This is what life feels like lately. Days fly by in a cloud of flour and sugar, or words, or dirt (it's garden time, too). Life grows ever busier as we get closer to the summer. The days don't wait for me. They charge forward, second by second, willing me to keep up. I am forever counting the hours, adding and subtracting them like a bank account I could manage with the right budget. I want more, but instead moments must fit into what I have.

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A confession

Well, I was a little premature in my last title, the freeze! Since just the other day, the temperature has dropped dramatically into the single digits. It hurts to go outside. Even with the wood stove cranking, we've had to use the heat more than we would like. It's hard to keep the house warm when it's so frigid outside.

Now for my confession: I love Martha Stewart. Maybe that's not so shocking for those of you who know me well, but at least I'm willing to admit it! I'm impressed at her breadth of knowledge about cooking, baking, gardening, and really any and every craft out there. She has a smart and well-honed sense of design and both her magazine and show are quality. I've been watching her show and endless Christmas crafts lately, and I'm thinking it may have caused some brainwashing...but please don't think any less of me!

Speaking of Martha, our friends had a gingerbread house decorating party last weekend. They bought these cute sets and had gobs of candy, pretzels, and cereal to use. Oddly enough, I don't think I've ever decorated a gingerbread house before. Sugar cookies, yes. Paper houses, definitely. It was fun to do something holiday-related since I haven't gotten out any decorations this year. Matt normally calls me "Scrooge" and every year I have to be cajoled into cutting a tree and decorating it, but I secretly enjoy it. Especially the first night when it gets dark and you turn the lights on to make everything sparkle and twinkle. You can't help feel warm and cozy and loving and a bit sentimental for childhood. Since we're going away, we didn't put up a tree and I see no need to make lots of cookies or cakes. I can't go to Tuscany already fat and stuffed!

We realized something interesting as all of the houses were sitting on the table together--each was very different. Matt and I's houses illustrate this point perfectly. One is fanciful with lots of color and detail, while the other is practical with a well-constructed chimney and realistic wood pile. The first has gum drop steps leading to nowhere, while the second has an orderly border of shrubs around the perimeter. Guess who made each one?

I guess it's lucky we found each other or I'd be very cold and he would have blank walls!

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