Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I lived in New Orleans, Louisiana, for 9 years, and worked in the French Quarter for most of that time. Beignets at Cafe du Monde were a staple of my diet, and much missed.

We're in the middle of completely reorganizing the basement, and I've been going through things we haven't looked at in years. Tucked away on a bookshelf was an old Creole cookbook that used to belong to my husband's mother, and in this gem of a book, I just found a recipe for beignets.

(Creole Doughnuts)

Yields 2 1/2 dozen

1/2 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons shortening
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 package yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 egg, beaten
3 3/4 cups sifted flour
confectioners' sugar

Pour boiling water over shortening, sugar, and salt. Add milk and let stand until warm. Dissolve yeast in warm water and add to milk mixture with the beaten egg.

Stir in 2 cups flour. Beat. Add enough flour to make a soft dough. Place in a greased bowl, grease top of dough, cover with waxed paper and a cloth; chill until ready to use.

Roll dough to 1/4" thickness. Do not let dough rise before frying. Cut into squares and fry, a few at a time, in deep hot fat (360oF); brown on one side, turn and brown on other. Drain on absorbent paper. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Dear President Obama

As you begin your Presidency, I would ask you to keep these few things in mind for the next four years.

Firstly, please remember the history of this country. Some of the earliest colonies were founded by people who wished to leave behind a government who was attempting to dictate how they must worship. Religious freedom is a principle that is being threatened by the encroachment of doctrine. Organizations funded by government monies discriminate against people who are not of the “proper” religious orientation, and spiritual agendas are being pursued by some in office who have begun to cross a line in mixing their political and spiritual beliefs.

Secondly, please remember that a large percentage of your constituency is fighting to retain the long-fought right to control what occurs within their own bodies. Whatever a person’s beliefs are, it is not in the public interest to remove the possibility for the means to prevent an unwanted pregnancy, or the ability to obtain a safe medical procedure for those who would choose to pursue that option. Those who believe they have a right to deny a woman’s choice should not be allowed to practice in a field where they can act on their beliefs.

Thirdly, I would ask that you work towards the possibility that all who love would be able to express that love regardless of their gender. Allow marriage to stand only for two people’s love and choice, and not be defined by prejudice and intolerance.

You begin your term at a time when so much is wrong. It is not humanly possible, I believe, to fix what has been broken in four years, or even eight, but I hope that the hope that you have inspired can give you the strength to begin to repair the damage that has been done to this country, in bringing the balance back to our system of checks and balances, and will stay with you even when public opinion changes, which it will when things do not magically change for the better overnight. I truly admire anyone who would wish to shoulder this great responsibility, and believe that you are our best chance to mend, at least in part, the issues that plague our nation.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Possible Scam for Vintage Sellers:

Here is the email chain that developed today, which as it unfolded made me more and more suspicious. I feel that I was being singled out for a possible internet mail scam. I’m posting the details here, with the names and specific addresses removed, as a warning to other sellers.

This took place over approximately six hours this morning, starting with this email:

Hello Sales,
My name is XXXXXXX. I will like to order for some product from your store,down to my store in Australia . So i will like to know if you do mail order and also if you accept payment via credit card. Kindly get back to me with your official web site so that we can make some progress.



Street Address, KYNETON Victoria Australia

My initial response:

Mr. X,

Thank you for the inquiry. I can do mail order, and can also accept credit cards directly, although my website is not set up to accept them - I usually conduct such business over the phone.

My website is www.designsbyvictoria.com, but it is mainly a framework directly people to other sites in which I have an online presence. A good portion of my work is one of a kind, although I am able to reproduce many of the earrings and some of the necklaces I have for sale in my Etsy.com shop.

Does your store have a website as well? I'd love to see it.

Designs by Victoria

Received this response a couple of hours later, as a new email instead of a response to the previous thread:


Thank for your email,I would like to proceed with my order via
email,here is what i will like to order for,Will like to order below,

Vintage Red Wool Suit........QTY (1)

Vintage Baby Deer Black Dress Traininers child size 3.5W........QTY (1)

Vintage or Antique Fur Stole.......QTY (1)

I will like you to get back to me with the total cost and the shipping
cost.and here is address for you to the shipping cost and please
kindly get back to me if this items is in stock because i do not want
any delay on this.

Shipping Address.
Street Address, KYNETON Victoria, Australia


I replied with a brief:

I'll get the quote on the shipping for these items this afternoon.

Another response, a couple of hours later:

Thanks for the email..i will be waiting for the total cost more over i usually have problem with delivery so i have a personal shiping agent that assist when it comes to delivery , i just contacted him and he is ready to do a pick up as soon as am done with the order. Kindly get back to me with the cost of my order and i will proceed.

I was a getting a bit suspicious as this progressed, as he had not responded with any information about his supposed shop, and this business about the shipping agent made me even more so. So, I responded again, quite rightly:

Thank you again - I'll have the shipping total for you shortly.

In order for the sale to proceed, these items do need to be purchased through my Etsy shop, as otherwise I will be practicing fee avoidance.

I received this reply:

i don't do that online ..get me the cost of my order and i will give you my card to charge.

At this point, I decided it wasn’t worth the risk. We’re talking about $150 in merchandise here, and as I’m just starting out, I most definitely can’t afford that kind of loss. So I replied:

I'm sorry, then I cannot proceed with this transaction. Items that are listed in my Etsy store must be purchased through the store. If you decide not to proceed with the sale, thank you for your time, and I will be replenishing my stock from time to time with new merchandise if you wish to begin doing business in this fashion.

And I haven’t heard back.

So I may have lost a legitimate sale, but the grammar, the insistence on completing the transaction as soon as possible, the unwillingness to do anything that would leave any kind of trail, the poor grammar and punctuation, plus the funny business with the shipping agent made this just seem like it’s not worth the risk. If you get a similar contact, you may decide otherwise, but I feel more secure having not gone forward with this transaction.

Here are the items that this person wanted to purchase:

Addendum to post, 1-17-09: Although according to Google Analytics, I have had no views in my shop from this territory in Australia, I have had one visitor from Nigeria.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Potato Leek Soup with Roasted Corn

Perfect for a cold rainy winter day.

¼ lb bacon
5 leeks, whites only, diced
1 stalk celery, minced
6-8 small to medium sized Yukon Gold potatoes
5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 pint heavy cream or half and half
1 can corn
4 oz cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper

Pre-heat oven to 400oF. Line cookie pan with greased sheet of aluminum foil. Drain can of corn, spread out evenly on foil and bake for 20 minutes, stirring once half-way through

Cook bacon till crisp
Drain off all but 1-2 tablespoons of bacon grease, and sauté leeks and celery till translucent, ~15 minutes
Scrub potatoes, then dice to ¼- ½,” leaving skins on
Add broth, leek/celery mixture, potatoes and cream or half and half to 3-quart saucepan, bring to a boil, and simmer till potatoes are fork-tender, about 25-30 minutes
While still simmering, whisk in cheddar, stirring till melted
Using hand mixer, puree soup in pan till reaches desired consistency (I like mine chunky, so don’t blend it all the way)
Add corn
Salt/pepper to taste
Serve garnished with crumbled bacon and shredded cheese
Can be served in a bread bowl

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Silver polishing tip

Super-quick post:

With my wire-work, and the delicate-looking chains that I use, polishing cloths just don't work, as they can't get the tarnish from between the twists of wire or at the joint of the chain links. Since I use so many pearls, dipping solutions aren't an option either.

So here's my 10-second silver polishing trick - baking soda toothpaste and a toddler's extra soft toothbrush.

A miniscule dab of toothpaste and a few swishes and brushes in the palm of my hand, followed by a good rinse and being set between paper towels to dry, and the piece is as shiny as shiny can be.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

"Hot" chocolate cake

This is the cake I made for my work's holiday Christmas party dessert contest. I won third place, behind a homemade pear tart and a from scratch coconut cake.


1 package chocolate cake - generic is best
1 package cook-n-serve instant chocolate pudding
1 tsp cayenne powder
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup water
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
4 oz dark chocolate morsels
3-4 ounces of red pepper infused chocolate (one half bar), chopped fine

one container commercial chocolate frosting
3-4 ounces of red pepper infused chocolate (other half of bar), chopped fine


Preheat oven to 350
Grease inside of bunt cake pan
Use 1-2 tbsp of cake mix to powder the inside of pan, shaking excess into mixing bowl

Mix all dry ingredients in medium sized mixing bowl - this helps prevent random "hot spots"
Add wet ingredients, use egg beater on medium till smooth, using spatula to scrape down sides of bowl
Add chocolate morsels and 1/2 of chopped chocolate bar at end of mix

Spoon into bunt pan, using spatula to spread batter evenly in pan.

Bake 50-55 minutes, until cake surface springs back when touched and toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Cool on cooling rack 10-15 minutes, then invert onto cake platter. Cake should separate easily from pan. If not, use spatula to loosen cake.

Allow to completely cool before frosting.

For frosting, melt chocolate in heavy sauce pan, and mix in frosting when melted. Use spatula to spread on cake. Dried hot peppers can be used for decoration/garnish, but caution your guests not to eat them (unless they really, really want to!)

Milk is a must with this sweetly spicy delight, and the powdered peppers can be adjusted to taste.

Unfortunately, I neglected to get a picture, so you'll just have to make it yourself and find out how beautiful it looks

Good things don't have to end

That's the title of the treasury I just curated.

Here's a screen shot, for when the link expires:

The CPSIA is threatening not only small businesses who produce children's items, but as I mentioned in my previous article, it also puts vintage sellers and thrift stores out of the children's business as well.

Imagine in today's economy having no option but to spend full price for baby and children's clothing and toys while you are unemployed or on reduced hours. And imagine all the items that will end up in dumpsters and landfills, treasures from the past and pieces that could become treasures in the future, because they can't be legally resold anymore.

The theory behind the act is a good one, but the legislation is overly broad in scope and contradictory in its own text. We do need to regulate imported goods, I agree, but we need to do so in a way that controls those who are violating safety regulations, and not at the expense of a whole industry.

The Nightmare of the Child Protection Services Information Act

So how many of you have heard about the CPSIA? This is a piece of legislation that passed very quietly in 2008, that states that all products geared towards children under the age of 12 must be tested for lead and certified by February 10, 2009. You can read it in all its confusing and contradictory glory here.

Seems like a good idea, yes? After all, we must guarantee the safety of our children, especially after all the stories in the news about contaminated children’s products in the past couple of years. But well-meaning doesn’t mean well-crafted, and this bill is a nightmare of contradictions and impossible restrictions.

Why am I worried about it, you might ask? I don’t sell children’s items, after all, and most of my jewelry is geared towards adults, with a few pieces that could be categorized as appropriate for the “young lady.”

Well, it does apply to me, because I have a 5-year old. I like to buy her toys and clothes from local artists at craft fairs instead of at mass merchandising chains, because firstly I prefer to give my money directly to the person who actually does the work of manufacturing the item, and I also like to know that I am purchasing an item that is most likely made of higher quality materials than mass-produced goods, and has a likelihood of remaining in decent shape till she grows out of it or tires of it. I also like to visit thrift stores, to garb her well in a decent budget instead of spending a fortune on clothing items she will outgrow in 6-8 months.

So as of February 10, my variety of choices will dry up. Thousands of small businesses and sole proprietorships will close up shop or change their wares, because at $300 or more a test, they cannot afford to conform to the strict testing guidelines that the CPSIA requires. Thrift stores and consignment shops, in order to comply with these guidelines it seems, will not be able to sell goods meant for the “children under 12” age bracket, because they will not have access to the certifications this bill requires for all items geared towards this age group. And toy manufacturers who produce quality items that conform to European guidelines, which are much stricter than those currently in place in the United States, have already stated that they will not import to the US once the new policies take effect.

So the end result of the legislation meant to protect our children from mass-produced items of dubious quality will be that the only children’s items available will be mass-produced items of dubious quality. Funny, that. Well, not really.

Here are some items that will be illegal come February 10th:

This delightful Tooth Fairy Pillow, by TheCupCakery:

Baby Pirates Chenille Baby Blanket, by TurtleParkTots:

Set of Three Soft Blocks, by Whimbrella:

Hand-Painted Pea Pod Onesie, by LittlePod

Vintage Christening Gown, from TheSunnySidebiz:

And this pair of vintage baby shoes, from my other shop, MissVictoriasVintage:

Friday, January 2, 2009


Every now and then, every artist or crafter makes a piece that they just can't part with. I did that yesterday.

Here it is, a multi-strand necklace of grey Swarovski pearls, with an offset pewter floral accent. I put it on to take a picture of how it hung, and it just didn't come off for the rest of the day.

I'm sure you've done it too. Spill!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A different kind of post drawing on my professional background

By night, I’m a masked jewelry maker. By day, I’ve been working in Quality Control in the food manufacturing industry for years. One of the not-so-fun aspects of my job is researching customer complaints. The ones that I hate the most are what are referred to as “foreign object complaints.” There are valid ones. I even got to initiate a product recall once because of one. But sad to say, a large portion of them are manufactured by the customer.

Here are two actual complaints I had to deal with this year:

A lady returned a container of our product to the store from which she purchased it, claiming she’d found a “handle of something” in the container. Our salesperson for the region arranged with the store for the lady to receive a $25 gift card in apology. (The product’s value was $4.99.) The empty container and foreign object were returned to us so we could investigate. I received what was obviously the ceramic handle to the lid of a kitchen canister, of the type you would use to hold coffee or sugar. The broken off ends of the handle, raw ceramic, showed absolutely no signs of having come into contact with our product, which has a high oil content and should have stained the unglazed ends, and there was no odor on the piece at all (the product in question has a high garlic content). Verdict – fraud.

A woman claimed she had found a metal nut in a container of one of our products, sold to one of the larger bulk store chains that require membership. The filler for the product in question would not have allowed the nut to pass through, and the line is covered by heavy-duty clear lexan “sneezeguards,” with the hardware all being on the non-product side. Even if the nut had been in the product before filling, or had fallen off the line and into the container somewhere along the line, each container of product is run through a metal detector. When she returned the product to the store, instead of just asking for a refund, the woman demanded two free one-year memberships to compensate for her “horrible experience.” The store gave her one membership, which was approximately six times the value of the product. Verdict – fraud.

People know that many companies will offer refunds, or even better, free products or coupons, when complaints are filed, to keep the customer’s future business. They also know that a claim for damages for a small amount will also most likely be paid because it’s less expensive than court costs.

But what most people don’t realize is that it is now a felony to file a false tampering or foreign object complaint, and doing so can be punishable by jail time and fines.

By filing a false claim, for starters, you are wasting the time of both the store employees and the employees at the manufacturing facility, who end up spending hours investigating these complaints and trying to determine whether or not it is a valid complaint that indicates there is a flaw in their manufacturing process. We cannot discount any complaint for this reason. By “crying wolf,” the fraudulent complainer detracts from valid complaints, as when we receive too many of these, we begin to look at each complaint received as a possible scam, even though some of them are valid.

Large companies have started to keep lists of people who have filed complaints, and are sharing them with each other. If your name crops up too many times on too many lists, it could have serious consequences.

It is possible that if you file a false claim of tampering or product contamination, and an investigation proves that you were the source of the tampering or contamination, you could be charged with fraudulent schemes or practices, or deceptive practices. If convicted, you could face anywhere from $2,500-$25,000 in fines and a possible 1-5 year prison sentence.

At times like these, with the economy in recession and so many people out of work or working under reduced hours or salaries, looking for “angles” to try to stretch a meager budget can seem attractive. Do us all a favor, yourself included, and investigate other options to supplement your income or larder.