Thursday, June 24, 2010

Please Minnie, don't stop Moaning...The Mad Hatter!

It is clear that I love style, but I also buy style that has form and function. You won't see me sporting a diamond tennis bracelet or pricey sunglasses with a small dog as an accessory or to use as a doll to dress like me. (I find that cruel!)

(The Lady in Red - Left)

I kinda had this health issue where my long locks of thick Irish hair was failing a rapid rate. I later found out what the medical issue was and have since been working on remedying it. Nothing was hiding the thin spots so I thought a hat might work. One night while cruising the Etsy pages I came across Moaning Minnie and her lovely hats. I instantly fell in love with her black Kashmir cap with buckle. So I ordered it.

My my was so soft, comfortable and became a staple of my wardrobe. Most pictures you see of me I am wearing my favorite black cap.

(Black cap like mine but in linen instead of Kashmir for the warmer months of the year.)

After a while I decided I needed a few more hats. The quality was undeniable and I was constantly getting compliments. I grabbed a few sale hats and later a brown cap and blue/brown cap. I love them! I feel rather naked without a hat on now.

So I had a few questions for her and she was kind enough to reply. So here you go, The Fabulous and talented
Moaning Minnie....

Why Moaning Minnie as a name?

This came naturally to me. My mum has always called me Moaning Minnie, apparently I moaned a lot as a child! She taught me everything I know including my sewing and pattern making skills. When she was the age I am now my Mum was a Bag Designer and pattern maker for a major retailer so had great skills to pass on.

Why hats?

I have a large head and mainstream hats are always made to one size and always too small for me. I love hats and this inspired me to make my own and the business side of me realized I'd found a niche in the market. A win win situation, I run a business selling a product I love to make with a passion.

What are your favorite materials?

First and foremost,fabric. High quality natural fabrics. I especially love wool tweeds. Secondly, vintage buckles. A weird obsession but I do genuinely love buckles!

What can we look forward to seeing in the near future?

MM is just a baby at one year old so the future is exciting. In the short term you will see new products including arm warmers and a new design of hat. In the autumn you will be seeing a fab new range of bags, all in wool tweeds and some leather. In the longer term you will see a new shop selling home wares.

Needless to say, to not have a Moaning Minnie upon my crown would be like a day with no sunshine. They have become a trademark of mine. I recently saw similar hats being sold in the mall. Blah! Flimsy, no lining, horrible material and the craftsmanship... well let's just say they are meant to be "disposable." I'll have my Moaning Minnie hats and head bands for years to come.

So keep up the Moaning, Minnie...we like it when you do so!

This Raven gives Minnie 5 out of 5 feathers for quality, creativity, friendly service and for just being and out and out great gal. Only on Etsy can you shop in England, Prague, Germany and Seattle all in one day. Who needs a mall??

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Blues and the Browns

Update! My first treasury made FP on Etsy! I completely missed it, but others saw it and here is the link: The Blues and the Browns

Thank you to everyone for providing such beautiful items to share!!!
-Cher (The Raven)


My first treasury! That is way to fun, addictive even. I have to watch myself there. Anyway, many of you will most likely recognize yourselves on there and I think it all look FAB! Click on image for full treasury and thanks!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Let them eat cake!


Or so I said, which was quickly followed by laughing, snickering and someone handing me a mixer.



So much for being the QUEEN, I was now the baker. When I said for dinner "Let them eat cake." I was thinking more along the lines of a frozen pizza...instead I was now making pound cake. Not just any pound cake, but my sour cream pound cake AND I was baking it in my grandmother's tube pan. Anytime I use any of her bakery items I just feel good all over.

My grandmother was an incredible cook, and (Damnit! I am trying to post this blog and my business partner who lives in New Zealand is at some conference and is taking photos of New Zealand made sweaters of New Zealand spun wool. This is soooo not fair!)

Ahem...where was I? Oh grandmother was an incredible cook and always liked to eat her dessert before her dinner. When asked why she would say "It's my favorite part of the meal." Hey, who am I to argue with such wisdom!

The thing I miss so much was not the complexity of her deserts....oh she could sling them out when necessary...but my favorites where her simple deserts. Even a bowl of sliced up strawberries with fresh milk and a sprinkling of sugar was such a treat!

These days I grab my grandmothers tube pan and make up a traditional pound cake that would make her proud. I love pound cake because of its simplicity, but also because of it's diversity. You can mix up the flavorings for vanilla, almond, lemon, lime, orange or whatever your heart desires. Extracts are nice to have. But if I am going to go with lemon, the juice of one and the zest of two lemons works wonders.

This recipe also allows you to drop in an unlimited list of dry goodies to customize your cake anyway you like;
Chocolate chips
Dried Cherries
Blueberry's (Blueberry and lemon would be great!)
Swirl in some preserves such as strawberry, raspberry...whatever tickles your fancy.
Icing or glaze can also be used.

This is a heavy solid cake, so it can take a bit of punishment with add- ins.

So here is the basic recipe:

Preheat oven to 350 degree F. Spray bundt or tube pan with cooking spray like Pam.

1/2 pound of salted butter at room temperature
3 cups of sugar

Cream butter in mixer and add one cup of sugar at a time till fluffy.

1/4 tsp salt
3 eggs

(They do not call this pound cake for nothing!)

Add salt and continue to beat on medium adding in one egg at a time.

2 tsp of almond extract, or vanilla, or both, or none or add juice of one lemon and zest of two lemons. This is when you get to be creative with flavors.

Beat until mixture is creamy and almost fluffy.

Put 3 cups of flour into a bowl and mix in 1/4 tsp of baking soda. Set aside.
Measure out one cup of sour cream.

Pour one cup of flour into egg/butter mixture and beat on medium low. Add in half the sour cream, blend, add second cup of flour, then second half of sour cream and then final cup of flour. Mix until all flour is absorbed and there are no lumps. This is also when you can mix in your add-ins such as dried fruits, nuts, etc.

Going into the oven...

Pour batter in to greased tube or bundt pan and even mixture out. Bake at 350 f for one hour to one and a half hours (depends on your pan, your oven, you altitude.) Start to check it at the one hour mark. Mine works best at 1 hour and 10 minutes.


After knife comes out of cake clean, set out to cool for about 25 min. Take knife and clean sides of cake from sides of pan and don't forget the middle too!

Flip cake out onto plate, then flip it again in hands and turn it so the baked side is up. Wa-la! A wonderful pound cake. Sounds simple eh? Well it is... and just how I like it. My preference is either almond or lemon. No icing, no other fillings....just plain Jane pound cake.

I would honestly share with all of you, but...this cake is lucky to last a single night in my house.

So speaking of experimenting with flavors and having fun cooking up something new and exciting out of something so simple and easy.

Allison over at Epically Epic Soaps has this deal where you can custom make your own lotion, soap or roll on fragrance from a huge list of oils she has available. The super fun part is that there is no limit on what you can mix together. Talk about fun! And there are no dirty dishes left over after you get done experimenting.

Well I had been experimenting with Epics lotions and a few of the roll on's for months. It was a lot of fun. I liked everything I had her mix together for me, some more than others, but never a mission fail. She has admitted to having just as much fun in the process. For only $6.50 a tin of lotion it was certainly worth the gamble.

Then one day I noticed she had added violet to the list. I am not a huge floral person, but I do love violet. And I was reminded of those violet candies you can get in France.
I was also a big fan of her vanilla bean soap. I also saw blueberry on the list and somehow I came up with a mix of vanilla, violet and blueberry. A friend of mine speaks French so we came up with a name of bleuets a la vanille violette. Well as accurate as that name is which just means blueberry vanilla violets, NOT the easiest for customers. Apparently Allison took a liking to it as well and decided to rename it to Blue Bell Knoll (much easier to pronounce and remember) and add it to her regular line of goodies. I was so HONORED, THRILLED and EXCITED. I could just point folks to the scent we created and tell them to go for it. This is very new and recent news, so if you have not visited Epically Epic Soaps in a while, you must! And if you want it in a custom soap, I do believe you can order 3 bars for $12.00. I have had it in the soap, and trust me....they are wonderful!

I also have the roll on fragrance and it too is just wonderful. Perfect to stick in your purse. I love it! You smell good enough to nibble on with this one. It is soft, a bit sweet with a lovely light fragrance of violets. This one is a smooth ride...just lovely. It will be a signature scent for me as long as Allison is willing to produce it.

Have I also mentioned that Allison is an artist as well. She took a break from the art world to try a new art...and I must say that whatever Allison sets her mind on doing, she does it very well.

Seriously hankering for some blueberry pie now.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Dancing Mooney - My first date with Etsy!

My VERY first Etsy Artisan I ever purchased from is Dancing Mooney. I still have the little hand painted card with a butterfly in purples and blues with a brass button on it that says "Believe."
I bet she didn't know that!

I have watched Dancing Mooney evolve over time and I have to say she is one hard working and even more so, hard thinking gal. She is constantly trying to create balance in her shop, cater to her customers and come out with very reasonably priced high quality products that just make you FEEL GOOD.

We have never personally met but have become good friends and talk to each other about ideas and likes an so forth. What do you get with Dancing Mooney? You get one of the sweetest and classiest ladies running an on-line gift shop there is, who will go out of her way to make sure YOU are happy. This shows in the pride she has in her work. And it is always quality over quantity. No mass production of anything here. I have a bit of everything from her...soaps, to salts.. earrings and necklaces and even her art which she often does in collages. We are kindred spirits who love butterflies. :) I had to splash as many photos as I could on here today, as it is a bit dreary here and she always has so much beautiful color in her store. I hope you enjoy her as much as I have and still do and don't be afraid to ask her about what is coming up next, she is always cooking up new ideas and that is where you get them from....your customers. So here is here interview....

Why do you do what you do?
It's always been my dream to have a gift shop, and when I found Etsy I was hooked. It's been a process trying to decide where I want to put the focus on my shop because I love creating so many things, but what it really boils down to, is that I love creating items that make women feel beautiful, both inside and out. Be it a new piece of jewelry that makes you feel pretty, a fresh bar of soap that cleanses the body and refreshes the mind, or a piece of art that inspires your creative soul. My simple slogan has always been {Mind . Body . Soul} and I think that pretty much sums up how I feel about my work. I hope that women feel pampered when they get their packages in the mail, because doing a little something for yourself now and then is a treat, and I think we all deserve it.

What inspires you?
Gosh, I am inspired by so many things... Music, nature, color, food, fashion, gardening, girlfriends, you name it... inspiration is everywhere. Sometimes I am in the mood to make something poppy and bright, while other days I may keep it more earthy and neutral, but my ideas are really all over the place. It's hard to contain them sometimes, and it's been fun watching the true persona of DancingMooney evolve over the years.

What is your favorite thing to make?
I go back and forth. Well, I go round and round, how's that? Primarily I make soap and jewelry as often as I can, but sometimes I feel the need to get out my paints and get my hands dirty, and that's when making new collages comes to play. I don't know why I can't just focus on one thing, I drive my self crazy about it... but in the long run, I've narrowed it down, and I've spent a great deal of time trying to create balance in my shop.

What are your future wishes for your shop?
I feel like I am just now getting to the point that DancingMooney is finding her true self, and it's a constant work in progress. My goal for this year is to really spend some time developing my jewelry line and creating a more cohesive boutique feel in my shop. My intention was never to be a bath and body shop or a jewelry store... my goal has always been to be more of a gift shop, or a boutique. It's been hard trying to decide which way to go next, but I feel like I'm really starting to find balance within my variety and even though we are just now approaching spring, I am already thinking about fall and getting ready for the holidays. It's amazing as a small business owner how much forward thinking you have to do, and it's a skill I've had to learn, but my goals for this year are really just to keep moving forward, and see what happens next...

Just a few more pictures before I have to go. Coming up is Moaning Minnie and my Golf/Nascar/Autism showdown. (I did finally get some good photos with Moaning Minnie's hats....and now I realized I have a lot of cropping, editing etc to do. lol!)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Celebrating Diversity - Art by Raven Muse.

I wanted to do my post on Moaning Minnie tonight, but I needed some photos and the lighting conditions are not up to snub for what I need to do. Plus my 12 year-old son ran away screaming at the thought of modeling them for me. Wuss.

So I thought I would share some of my digital art. What most of you don't know is that I could paint, and sculpt and draw....I mean really draw...sketch my heart away. I never left my home without a sketch pad or my little old mint tin filled with charcoal and a bag with various pencils and erasers. I LOVED to draw. One day it became painfully apparent I could no longer do it. One reason was I was so frustrated at the quality of my work and the other reason was the pain I was starting to experience. I have found out over the years I have this annoying bit of nerve damage from some spinal issues that causes pain and tremor in my hands. At this point I can barely sign my own name any two times and they do not look a bit alike. I like to say I have regal looking doctor hand writing!

Alas! All is not lost as I discovered graphic arts on a computer. Ahhh the wonders of the edit/undo button when I am having an especially "shake it up baby!" kind of day. This opened up all kinds of doors for me, and prevented he waste of lots of supplies.

So I am just going to line up a row of some work done over the past few years for you to peak. And hopefully I will get some decent light for better photos of my hats from Moaning Minnie. I'll get her story up next. Meanwhile you can visit her here. She is quite lovely, and so are her hats, bags, and other goodies you will find. All made in the highest of quality in an eclectic mix of styles where vintage is made contemporary. A very English collection!

On to my art. I do a lot of work designing logos for businesses as well as a lot of autism awareness graphics that you most likely have seen on the internet and never knew where they came from. I have donated autism graphics to the general public for over 10 years. My gift with no strings attached to the autism community. I did this because back in 1995 when the internet was first really up and running there was NO good if any nice autism graphics to create any autism awareness. You can find those graphics on my business site here. A few of the facts about autism need to be updated, but time has not permitted. Hopefully this summer I will have done that as well as creating some new goodies to hand out.

In the mean time if you wish to grab some cool deacals I have designed, you can visit ArtzCars where they produce my puzzle wing butterfly in a removable vinyl decal in any size you wish. It is a fabulous product that I keep using for many of our events.

Why a butterfly instead of a ribbon? I created a butterfly rather than a ribbon beacause I needed a change. I chose a butterfly because they are symbolic of growth and development, something our kids with autism and autism spectrum disorders struggle with day to day. So it just made sense to me.

So here goes....some of my art.

This is me....kinda what is in my head. Scary place. Writing on my head says "Harm None."

Pretty self explanatory. :)

I enjoy doing abstract work a great deal, it is relaxing to me. There are no rules, there is no wrong way to do it. It is just whatever flows from your head to your hand.

Some friends of mine, their two beautiful daughters.

This group participated in one of my fundraisers and had no logo, so I created one on the fly for them for the event. They kept it!

My youngest a few years ago sleeping on the couch.

A flower.

I don't know where I was here, my version of space maybe?

Again, my dreamy version of space or another dimension.

I went through this butterfly stage for a bit.

My universe melting (I have such technical names for things.) I don't like to give my abstract work names, because I don't want to suggest to the viewer what I think. I want them to see what they see.

I did call this one my "Ah Hah!" moment.

Logo I did for another autism group out west.

One of my butterflies, I have them in several colors and can produce any color combo. Please note the butterflies are copyrighted and you need my permission to use. Hate to be that way, but you know how it is these days. Please visit ArtzCars, more coming soon.

A word I live by. Believe in God, Believe in Bhudda, Believe in your toaster. Believe in something. It will help you get through a lot.

One of my first billboards, I was so excited!

A program cover for an auction fundrasier of ours from a few years back.

May need to click on this one, I call it fire and ice. I rarely have names for my collages...but this one just stuck. So be it!

A recent customer looking for a new logo/look.

I maintain menus and ocassional promotional materials for my friends at Prince on Delaware

Here is a sample of a coupon I
did for Prince on Delaware

Me poking fun at myself.

Logo design for 30th anniversary of my eldest son's school

Often my photos are what inspire me. Frequently I see things others don't.

I hope this gave you a glimpse into my art and the diversity of the work I do for myself, to non-profits and small businesses. My art has even appeared on the hood of a NASCAR Cup Series car and all over other NASCARS on bumpers so they would appear on camera.
You can see more work on my main site at

Raven Muse