the hungry toddler

Nothing from the Makery today.  It is a holiday after all, although my daycare provider opted to swap today for another Monday so the little one is there and I'm working.  Well, okay, my printer is printing while I essentially take a break from working to update my blogs.  And in an effort to whittle down the family budget a wee bit, this may be my last childfree Monday until said child goes to preschool in the fall.  For my childless readers, going from four days of daycare down to three does not in fact save a whole lot of dough but every little bit helps.  And I think I can swing the wedding invitation orders in three days.  I hope.  What it does mean, however, is that I'm having to streamline the kinds of activities I do during my daycare days, prioritizing the things that make me money over the things that don't necessarily.  So the Makery is officially on hiatus for a few months.  If I have a brilliant idea, I'll figure out a way to make it happen, but I doubt it will happen every Monday.

In the meantime, since it's been awhile since I blogged about anything else, I thought I'd take this opportunity this final Monday to write up a little review of a new restaurant in Oakland's Temescal neighborhood.  Homeroom is dedicated to a food we've gotten to know pretty well around here the last few years: mac 'n' cheese.  I wouldn't normally try a new restaurant during its lunch-only opening week, especially with my toddler in tow, but with a playdate planned Friday morning at Sadie Dey's, right around the corner, and considering their child-friendly fare is almost as much, I thought it would be a fun adventure to end the pre-quiet-time activities with some comfort food.

And adventure it most certainly was.  The restaurant is, I think, in the lower limits of the trendy neighborhood (when did Oakland become hipster central?); it took us a solid 15 to 20 minutes to walk there from Sadie Dey's, a long walk with one infant and two toddlers in steady drizzle.  And when we got there around 12:30 or so there was, not surprisingly, a line nearly out the door.  The line, lack of seating, and undeniable hipster vibe didn't dissuade me so much as the almost unbearable wait in our immediate future.  We waited in line. For so, so long.  In the meantime, a booth opened up so I continued to stand in line and ultimately order for the group while the rest of the group staked claim to the one open table, entertaining the toddlers with smart phone shenanigans.  Unless they anticipate business slowing down considerably (which I'm sure they don't want), I'm not convinced one register is going to cut it.  And while I appreciate the card catalog/gold star return customer reward system they've got set up and how it's in keeping with their overall "homeroom" theme, it's a tad fussy.  Several times while I was in line a customer ran back up to the front of the line so the one cashier could put their gold sticker on.  Then they had to weave back in and out of the line to get to the card catalog, where you file your personal card until the next time you visit.  Nice idea; less successful in reality.

By the time I ordered and got back to our table, the toddlers were already beyond antsy.  Aside from YouTube videos, all we had to distract them were the banana puffs intended for the infant among us.  Shortly after placing our order, the server brought the two homemade oreo-style cookies I'd ordered for dessert to "tide us over."  Not such a good idea to bring dessert to a table with two toddlers well before the meal was to arrive.  And the wait was, as I mentioned before, almost unbearable.  I didn't time it exactly but I know it was at least 45 minutes from the time I ordered to the time we got the first of four dishes.

Our order did not come out together.  Mine came out first, several minutes ahead of the kids' orders, and a final, fourth plate came out several minutes after that. 

The worst part is, in spite of waiting for what felt like forever for our food to the point of overly hungry crankyness, the kids' "little macs" were too hot too eat!  There was much eager biting and subsequent burnt tongues and spitting food out.  Eventually I used the plate under my bowl to spread out the bowl of "little mac", helping it to cool down quicker. 

Anyway, waiting aside, the food was good.  I had the trailer mac (classic cheddar mac with hot dog bits and crushed potato chips) while my companion had the little mac.  I can't say I was blown away, but I would go back (after the crowds die down and sans toddler).  I think the problem is it seems like they're making each bowl of mac 'n' cheese to order.  And I get it - I understand that the whole point is to sort of elevate this basic comfort food.  But it's mac 'n' cheese.  Several dishes, for example, seem to use the classic cheddary mac as their base.  So why not have a big vat of that ready to go, with toppings prepped ahead of time?  I mean, it's not an Italian restaurant in North Beach, you feel me?

But at the end of the day, the entire experience was redeemed by this deliciousness:

Homemade oreo cookies, like chocolatey Little Debbie oatmeal creme pies.  So. Good.

I think we were all, "Wait? What wait?!" after sharing a couple of these. You should go and get one. Just allow ample time to enjoy it. Don't worry if your skinny jeans are feeling a little snug. It's worth it.


fresh from the Makery: me against the tools

No project this week, folks. Nope, instead of working on one of half-a-dozen project ideas yesterday, I was struggling with the pop-up butterfly paper punch necessary for one of two client orders I'm trying to wrap up and ship out this week. 

I've used this pop-up butterfly punch from EK Success a few times before, but only on "text weight" paper, not the card stock folders I'm using for this particular order.  Even with a paper proof stage in my custom design process, sometimes you just can't anticipate what might happen when you try to do something 115 times.  Turns out pop-up punches don't work so well on card stock.  Fair enough, now I know, but...seriously?  These are for scrapbooking and card-making and all variety of paper crafting.  And they don't work on card stock?  It's not even crazy heavy thick card stock, at that!  So, okay, fine, this'll be the last order that uses this style of punch on this weight of paper, but c'mon EK Success! For a company that usually makes some of my favorite punches, you sure do have a dud on your hands (my Martha Stewart pop-up hydrangea punch works just fine on the 80# cover weight card stock, by the way, but alas, it was the butterfly motif I required for this project).  Thus, instead of a project to share this week, you get a heaping serving of complaining, backed up with photographic evidence.  Shall we begin?

Round one: For my first attempt at punching these folders, I used the butterfly punch I already had on hand.  Granted, I've used this punch for a couple of orders now so it might have been a little on the dull side (and yes, I've read the tip about "sharpening" it by punching foil but have noticed absolutely no improved punching after doing so).  But after unsuccessfully going through a dozen folders, the now two-piece punch in the above image is what I was left with.  I had no choice but to go out and buy a new punch, which required driving to two Michael's stores (obviously these things are available online but even expedited shipping wouldn't get a punch in my hands until early next week). 

Round two: They've changed the style a bit so instead of multiple little openings in the butterfly wings, there are now only two holes on each side.  I like the detail of the previous punch but thought the lack of detail might actually work in my favor for this project.  I had no intention of continuing to struggle with the heavier weight of the folders, instead giving my understandably disappointed client the choice of keeping the punches on the outside of the folder but using a lighter weight paper, or using the punches on the lighter weight invite that will be layered inside.  But when I got home this morning, I thought I'd give it a try on the folder.  And lo and behold, it worked great!  Well, not great, exactly, but better than the last punch.  I still wasn't confident it would work on all 115 folders, but I thought if I could successfully punch my way through at least half the stack I could always drive back out to Michael's and pick up the other pop-up butterfly punch they had in the store this morning.  Even this brand-new punch, however, required super-human strength, using both hands, standing and leaning directly over the punch for maximum leverage.

And sure enough, I struggled to get through half of my stack.  After about 40 folders it was a struggle to get the punch to punch all the way through, resulting in more waste than I had accounted for.

And the thing is, once you punch it, pull it out, and see that this is all you got for your effort, it's basically ruined since it's virtually impossible to try to punch it again in the exact same spot.  So I said, okay, let me be rational and patient about this (instead of the cursing and stomping that was happening around this time yesterday).  I decided to drive to Michael's in the hopes that that second punch was still there.  And thankfully, it was. 

Round three: Once again, it worked pretty well at first.  But once again, after a couple dozen folders, it got wonky.  And the frustrating thing is it was temperamental in a completely different way!  Instead of not punching all the way through, the punched area was sticking to the inside of the punch, requiring great care during removal so as not to rip the butterfly portion out altogether. 

Even the official page for this product warns, "may require Tweezer Bee to remove punched out shapes."  Really, EK Success?  I need to buy a second product to make this ten dollar piece of crap work?  Instead, I used a sewing needle to gently pry the butterfly wings from the inside of the punch before ever so carefully sliding the folder out. 

Even then, the antennae on each and every folder came out bent!  Easy fix, but still.

And as you can imagine, I added quite a few folders to my ever-growing pile of rejects.

So who won? Three punches, two days, and one very sore hand later, I have 110 of the 115 folders acceptably punched top and bottom.

Success! Right? I don't know, you tell me who the loser is in this story. I conquered the YuDu, for cryin' out loud, surely a $10 paper punch should not be this complicated!


fresh from the Makery: wildly adorable

I'm so excited to finally have this project tweaked and posted in my shop and ready to blog about.

This week I'm sharing a whole shebang of birthday party paper products designed around original, hand-drawn illustrations by Neal!

That's right, I'm using him for his drawing skills. Finally!  For this round, I used two sheets of illustrations - a gorilla and a snake in various poses and gestures - to create, in addition to the standard invites and thank you notes, favor tags:

...and cupcake toppers:

This ensemble is, I hope, the first in a series of husband-wife illustrator-designer type collaborations.  I look forward to future excuses to have cupcakes around the house.