Thursday, February 28, 2013

Recipe: A Super-Easy 220 Calorie Berry Medley Smoothie to Start Your Day

how to make a great berry smoothie recipe for breakfast recipe

You will need:
1. 1/4 cup orange juice
2. 1/8 cup nonfat Greek Yogurt
3. 1 cup of frozen berry medley
4. 1/4 cup of baby spinach leaves
5. 1/2 cup nonfat milk

how to make a great berry smoothie recipe for breakfast recipe

This one's so easy, I barely need bullet points!
• Defrost your berries in the microwave for about 2 minutes. You want them to be still a bit frozen so that your smoothie is icy and cool.
• Add ingredients, blend & serve! mmmm! (Double the ingredients for two!)

Images: Andie Powers

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Project for the Day: Handwritten Letters

the anatomy of a well-written, handwritten letter inspired by Emily Post's etiquette
Stationery by ilfant Press, available here.

I don't know about you guys but we LOVE handwritten letters. The art of handwriting is sadly dissipating. In an article called "The Case for Cursive" in The New York Times, Katie Zezima relates that "...learning cursive helped students hone their fine motor skills." This may eventually create better artists, illustrators, or architects!

My personal handwriting is a mix of cursive and printing, but I am proud to say that I am able to write in all forms of cursive and shorthand (I actually was in one of the last high school classes that had the opportunity to learn short hand). I've looked over my teacher husband's shoulder as he is grading his high school students' papers, and I have to say that I'm afraid we may be going backwards in the art of writing. I see no cursive whatsoever, and even the printing is sloppy at best.

Will you teach your children cursive? Will you teach them the art of the handwritten note? How about thank you notes, the most important kind of notes of all? Here's our version of the handwritten letter:

the anatomy of a well-written, handwritten letter inspired by Emily Post's etiquette

• Dear So & So or "Hello Joe, what do you know?"
• Always include the date. It will be so fun for your grandchildren to find these notes and be able to see the long-past date.
• Emily Post says: "If you take the trouble to write a letter, you have remembered someone in a friendly way, otherwise you would not be writing at all." With that in mind, tell them why you are writing, what you are thinking, etc.
• Answer their questions, or elicit a reply by asking your own. Give your own news, good we hope! Another Post-ism, on Letters of Gloomy Apprehension: "The chronic calamity writers seem to wait until the skies are darkest, and then, rushing to their desks, luxuriate in pouring out all their troubles and most especially their fears of trouble-to-come on paper to their friends."
• Nothing special in ending a letter, simply lovingly end the conversation. "Adieu!"

Now it's your turn: write us a letter! You may just get one back ;)

To: Emily & Andie
c/o Assemble Shop & Studio
PO Box 30904
Seattle, WA 98113

PLUS, these beautiful Earthscapes stamps deserve more than just the phone bill:

Emily Post quotes via Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage by Emily Post, 1956
Earthscapes stamps via USPS

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Point + Shoot: 12 Tips to Shoot a Great House Tour

I'm no professional photographer, but I have learned quite a few tricks of the trade while working for Apartment Therapy and our ongoing work on Assemble. Here are a few of my favorite tips for shooting a great house tour!

andie shooting a house tour for Apartment Therapy in Ladies and Gentlemen home
Photo of me shooting via our Instagram

1. Turn off the lights. If you don't have lots of amazing lighting equipment, an odd lamp on here and there will sometimes inhibit your editing capabilities due to the contrast. If the room is pitch black, obviously a light is necessary, but try on and off and then see what you come up with.

2. Don't be afraid to get into weird positions. I always ask the home's occupants if I can sit on their furniture, lay down on their bed, or squish into a corner to get the best shot possible.

3. Take some candid shots. Not everyone is a professional model, so sometimes staged photos can prove to be dull or rigid--candids can save you! Capture them in their element, working or chatting. (Not eating--that's just not fair!)

4. Take wide shots of each room from several angles and lots and lots of detail shots. People want to see the "lay of the land" so to speak, but really enjoy seeing the tiny details that make a house a home.

kitchen in Chika of Velouria's and R&L Goods home
A wide shot of a Chika Eustace's lovely kitchen in one of
my upcoming House Tours for Apartment Therapy

5. Watch for shadows and reflections! These can take the viewer out of the experience.

6. Don't be afraid to fix things. Cat walked on the bed? Straighten the bedspread. Make the space look as wonderful as it can.

7. Try to capture the homeowner's personality. Are the worker bees? Fun-lovers? Take photos that illustrate those traits. Collections can truly set the stage--what are they reading? What tools are in their offices?

handmade pillows and plushies in ladies and gentlemen and R&L goods Jean Lee's home
A lovely handmade and unique pillow collection in Jean Lee's adorable living room in one of
my upcoming House Tours for Apartment Therapy

8. If a photo doesn't work (sometimes bathrooms are impossible with amateur equipment) throw it out. Don't publish photos that don't work.

9. Use Lightroom (my recommendation) or Photoshop to make sure the White Balance and shadows are under control. If one of these doesn't look right, the photo is immediately subpar.

10. If you aren't sure how to use the photo-editing programs you have, watch Youtube or Vimeos to learn tricks of the trade. There's always room for learning!

11. Slow down. The slower you are, the better the photos are, and you won't miss anything! It feels intrusive to take your time in someone's home, but they want it to look great as much as you do (if not even more!)

12. Check and recheck your photos and camera settings. I learned this lesson the hard way on poor Blair Stocker's home tour. I shot the whole tour on a bad setting and had to reshoot. Be careful!

Images by Andie Powers for Apartment Therapy

Monday, February 25, 2013

Andie's Office Makeover // Part 2

I thought I'd include an update of my old office makeover. Since introducing all of my Assemble Studio goodies, the office has had to change just a bit, and while we're still building up our official studio space, I'm quite happy in my space!

assemble a brand new office space makeover part 2

1. Our "It Makes Toast" graphic from the Assemble studio wall. I think it fits quite well in its new home.

2. Bakers twine, galore! We use this to wrap up every Assemble order. White butcher paper + baker's twine + sticker.

3. A Yellow Owl Workshop trophy that I bought from our collection. Makes me happy to look at!

4. Our open/closed sign. Always open for business!

5. My glass head that Christian wishes I would get rid of. Never!!

6. The famed Assemble Vintage Cursive Typewriter--this inspired our colors, style and is a treasured piece of my typewriter collection.

7. A sweet Lisa Congdon Print to remind me of "Comfort and Ease." (All of Lisa's prints are on sale in our shop right now).

Friday, February 22, 2013

Favorite Friend Friday: Kathryn Murray of Kathryn Murray Calligraphy

We did our first Favorite Friends post about Kathryn Murray, but since it was our first, we weren't quite sure what we were doing! Now that we've got our format down, we wanted to give Kathryn her just due!

Kathryn Murray is one of our favorite people. I personally have known her for about eight years, having met in Los Angeles (during a one-year, wander-lust move). Back in the day, I would pay her with coffees to address envelopes here and there for me, and then later, hired her to provide calligraphy for our wedding! She is an incredibly talented artist and calligrapher, and with wedding season coming up, we're proud to introduce her to you, plus we'll vouch for her incredible workmanship!

Photo courtesy of Kathryn Murray Calligraphy

When did you start doing calligraphy?
I started doing calligraphy about a year after I got married. I had tried my hand at it for my own wedding and struggled through the 100 invites. I am not entirely sure how it started, but people started asking me to calligraphy their envelopes and place cards, and the word spread. My true secret weapon is my very talented husband, who takes all of my photos and handles all of the web design. Without him and that help, I wouldn't have even gotten off the ground.

Is your background in art and design?
I always wanted to be an artist. In fact, as a child I envisioned college as the place where you could do as much art as you wanted and no one would limit you. In a way that was true, I was lucky enough to have that dream come to fruition and attend Parsons in NYC. I studied illustration, typography, and printmaking. I thought I would end up being more of a traditional illustrator, but things evolve and become more, and different than what I expected at 20.

Photo by Jaquilyn Shumate Photography

Photo courtesy of Kathryn Murray Calligraphy

Did you always want to have your own business?
Yes. I always wanted to have my own business and be more of a freelancer than an employee. I wasn't sure how I would do it, or what it would be exactly, but I knew I wanted to have my own business. I am an only child, which for me has meant that I am good at working on my own. It took several years to leave the "regular" job, but I am really happy to be here.

Photo courtesy of Kathryn Murray Calligraphy

What is it like to work for yourself?
Most of the time I love it. It is quiet and I have the freedom to make my own schedule. It can be frustrating at times because you have to monitor yourself. This is not always easy if you get sucked in to Pinterest or can't seem to focus. I actually prefer the "wedding season" when I am busier. It forces me to stay on task and run a tighter schedule. February is my slowest month, so this year I am re-doing my studio while I can.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed or stressed?
Of course there are times when I am overwhelmed and stressed. Sometimes I wish I could have someone else do my bookkeeping, or answer emails. One of the strangest and best things is that the internet is both my source of employment and source of frustration. It is a HUGE blessing that people like my work and trust me enough to be a part of their wedding, but I think they forget that I am a real person, not a machine and that if they don't tell me what they want, it is really hard to divine. This work is important to me and I want it to be as perfect and as beautiful as possible. I recently got a so-so review and it bummed me out for several days. The bride thought the ink I used was too pale. I wish she had contacted me and let correct it rather than post it on the internet. I think we all forget that there are real people on the other side of that email.

You gave a few quickie calligraphy lessons to some famous folks--we want details!
Probably the most famous one was Helena Bonham-Carter. I worked at a stationery store in Beverly Hills (with Andie!) and we had tons of celebrities come in on a regular basis. At some point I was scratching away, making signage for the store and the lovely Mme. Bonham-Carter asked if she could try my pen. I use what is called an oblique nib, and it is rather Burton-esque. I don't remember too much about it other than that she wrote her kids names, and that she looked like a beautiful rag doll in a Vivienne Westwood plaid skirt.

Helena Bonham Carter's calligraphy Billy Burton The Corpse Bride
Editor's sidenote: Kathryn GAVE me the piece of paper Helena was working on! I've treasured it ever since, here it is!!
(The top "Mr. & Mrs." is Kathryn, the rest is Helena)

You've received a lot of press attention--which were you most excited about?
I love all of the print stuff but I was probably most excited when I had work on the Martha Stewart Weddings Blog. I have partnered with a wonderful bakery here in LA, Modern Bite, that makes these delicious shortbread cookies that can be adorned with calligraphy. I do the artwork, send it to them digitally and it gets printed on edible paper with edible ink. Not only do they look great, but they are SO delicious. We have been doing them for a few years for favors and place cards, but last year someone at MS Weddings blogged about them. It is definitely a dream to have work in the magazine someday too!

Photo courtesy of Kathryn Murray Calligraphy

Other than custom calligraphy, what other design components do you offer?
I do menus, invitations, signs, custom stamps, stationery, etc. You name it. One of my favorite things that I did last year was custom coasters and napkins for a wedding in Washington D.C. I do a ton of stamps as well. These are really fun to do and I think they look fantastic. People surprise me all the time with creative things they come up with. I had a bride last year use the stamp for coffee sleeves. And another took their monogram and projected it on the wall at the reception.

Photo courtesy of Kathryn Murray Calligraphy

What do you like to do in your off-time?
I am currently obsessed with needle-pointing. I spend hours researching, planning, reading and stitching. But this is not granny needlepoint, I am attempting a more modern take on an antiquated art. I am drawing all of my own designs since the pre-made ones are a bit of a bummer. It is a great activity to do if we are watching TV, or when we are doing my other favorite activity, traveling. We went to Italy for Christmas, and if you can believe it, I was a little (only a little) disappointed I didn't have more down time to needlepoint!

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
If it is a fantasy (and money is no object) then I would live in the South of France. Close enough to go to the beach if I wanted to, but far enough from the crowds to live a quiet life of wine and crusty bread. Then I would jet off to Italy on a whim, or pop over to London to go to Liberty. I am pretty happy in LA though, this was a hard one to answer. I am really in love with Hollywood (the actual place, not the celebrity/movie stuff), and have been for as long as I can remember.

If you could eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Dirty Martini with olives to start, crusty bread with delicious spreads, charcuterie platter with meats, almonds, mustard and quince paste. Followed by a lovely glass of red wine and fruit.

What's your dream job, besides what you are doing now?

No question, textile design.

You get to organize a dinner party, who is there?

My sweet husband, Matt. Simon Doonan, because I think he would be so interesting to talk to. Comedian, Paul F. Tompkins, because he makes me laugh like no other. Christina Hendricks, because I secretly want to be her best friend. Our wonderful friends Josh & Rafi that own and run FORM Interior Design just because I love them (and would need witnesses for this epic party), and Tricia Guild of Designer's Guild because I secretly want to be her.

See more of Kathryn's work on her website.
Thank you, Kathryn!!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Those Girls: Are you Behind Your Friends?

I decided to address this question not as a accusation of malice, but as a reminder of forgetfulness. In the creative world, awesome people are everywhere, and are usually very busy. What a Catch-22, right? With so many creative, unique people, it's easy to get caught up in the projects with new people you are working on and put old friends on the back burner. That's human nature--there are only 24 hours in the day!

On the other side of the coin, it's easy to become resentful of our busy and successful friends when they are absent. However, when we really examine the true feelings behind that resentment, is it because we miss them? Or is it because we are envious of their success? I love this quote from Oscar Wilde:

Anybody can sympathise with the sufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature to sympathise with a friend's success.
-Oscar Wilde

Do you see any part of yourself in this quote? It's difficult to turn a mirror around on our faults, but I definitely can name a few instances of the green monster rearing its ugly head in my reflection. In moments like this, it's our responsibility to be accountable for our feelings and support our friends, regardless of our own dreams and struggles.

Everyone's lives and careers are mapped out in peaks and valleys. When we are in a peak, it's easy to get caught up in the celebration of our own successes and lose touch with the people that love us. When we are in a valley, it's easy to glare up at those on a peak.

I have homework for each perspective (and I'm not going to tell you which one I'm doing!)

For those who feel they are on a peak: Reach out to someone that you love that you know isn't doing as well as you are. Whether personally or professionally, someone you know (and care about) is bound to not be doing so well. Make sure they know you think they are great. Give a great reference for their company to someone you are working with, take them out to coffee with a great connection you have, or even just write them a quick note. There is no need to apologize for being busy and successful--but remembering who was there for you when you weren't, is what's important.

For those who feel they are in a valley: Create a journal--it could be pocket-sized, or part of your regular work notebook--and designate a small area each day to write that day's successes and joys. It could be something as simple as "I didn't look at Facebook at all while I was working today," or something like, "I got an email from a potential client." This area is just for you, and when you're feeling hopeless, you can go back and remind yourself of the great things you actually have. Remember, there is ALWAYS someone who is happy with less than what you have.

handwriting by Andie Powers

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

National Cherry Pie Day!

It's National Cherry Pie Day! We wanted to re-share our favorite Cherry Pie recipe for the occasion. Yum, yum!!

Andie's Baked Cherry Cream Pie
• 2 homemade -or- store-bought pie crusts of your choice
• 2 cans of cherry pie filling -or- 2 lbs of pitted cherries
• 1/4 cup of sugar if using filling, 3/4 cup sugar if using fresh cherries
• 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
• 1/4 tsp. salt
• 1 cup heavy -or- whipping cream
• 3 egg yolks (save the whites)

- Heat the oven to 450° (or degree pertaining to your specific pie crust recipe).
- Line the bottom of a 9 inch pie pan with one sheet of pie crust, and lay a sheet parchment paper in the bottom, on top of the crust. Use pie weights or rice to weigh the crust down, and pre-bake for about 10-15 minutes.

To make the filling:
- If you are using fresh, pitted cherries, cut them in half and put them in a medium saucepan with about 1/4 cup water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the cherries are steamed well, about ten minutes. Remove the heat and mash them into a lumpy, puree. Add the sugar, cinnamon and salt, and stir to mix well. Place in a cool bowl.
- If you are using cherry pie filling, put the filling into a colander and shake over the sink, to get as much of that oozey (and delicious) liquid out. Do this for about five-ten minutes. Once complete, put the filling into a large mixing bowl, and add the sugar, cinnamon and salt, and stir to mix well. (Remember you will be using less sugar with the store-bought filling).
- In another bowl, combine the cream and egg yolks and stir with a whisk or fork to combine.
- Add this mixture to your pie filling, and mix until blended.

To finish:
- Pour the filling into your pre-baked pie crust (you may have a bit left over, just put that to the side for ice cream toppings!)
- Place your second crust over the top, crimp edges together and decorate as you wish.
- Use the remaining egg whites and brush over the top of the crust, until shiny. This will give you a golden brown finish.
- Bake the pie for about 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on top.
- Cool on a rack or tea towel and serve!

mmmm. Eat itttt!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Today's Playlist: Une Liste de Musique Française

It's no secret that I'm a lover of French culture. I'm in the process of taking my second French class and the departure from regular every day work into such a lively, passionate language is a great vacation. I thought I'd share some of my favorite French songs with you, to listen to while you work, craft, or take a long walk. Spotify is free, so download it (or listen to the few sample songs without a download), and go straight to my playlist. Enjoy, mes amis!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Quickie Stamp Tutorial: Masking with Yellow Owl Workshop Stamps

masking rubber stamps tutorial with yellow owl workshop stamps

Have you ever seen a stamped image like the one above and thought, how the heck did they do that? It's a simple stamping technique that comes in super-handy: masking. See below for easy instructions!

You will need:
1. Stamps! I used Yellow Owl Workshop's Owl & Tree set, $13.
2. Crafting or precision scissors. Mine are from Martha Stewart's crafting line.
3. Ink pads! I used a few Colorbox pigments--Peony, Moss Green and Sky Grey (available at most craft stores).
4. A surface to stamp on, some scratch paper and some thin paper such as a post-it. I used some bright white Mohawk paper for all of the above.

masking rubber stamps tutorial with yellow owl workshop stamps

To begin, ink your owl stamp and press it a few times on your scrap paper to get it good and ready. I've found that stamp impressions always look the best after a few impressions and ink saturations. Once you've done this a few times, ink the stamp and press it onto your post-it or thin paper. The post-it works well if you don't have the steadiest hand, because you can utilize the glue on the back of the post-it.

masking rubber stamps tutorial with yellow owl workshop stamps

Get a really good impression and wait for it to dry. Then cut around the impression, staying just inside the lines.

masking rubber stamps tutorial with yellow owl workshop stamps

When you have a good cut-out or "die-cut," stamp another impression of your owl onto whatever you would like to use as your finished piece (a card, a piece of stationery, etc.) Get a good impression and then lay your cut-out (the mask in masking!) you just made over the impression. This is where the post-it glue comes in handy, as the glue keeps it in place. Get it completely lined up with the final impression.

masking rubber stamps tutorial with yellow owl workshop stamps

Repeat the inking and impressing process to get your tree stamp ready for the finished product. When it is inked evenly, gently place it over your masked owl and press down firmly. Try not to move the stamp, but make sure you press evenly, especially around where the owl is. Then, lift the tree off of the page.

masking rubber stamps tutorial with yellow owl workshop stamps

Perfect! Your owl is now sitting in the tree. Use Windex and a paper towel or a baby wipe to clean your stamp (or if you're fancy-pants, use real stamp cleaner!) and repeat.

I love this technique, you use do it for many types of projects and can create whole scenes with different colors by using the masking technique. Good luck!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Those Girls: A Retrospective on Failing Up by Michele Tansey of Homestead Seattle

I met Michele and Ryan Tansey of Homestead Seattle last year when I was lucky enough to take photos in their home and write their house tour for Apartment Therapy. They are both absolutely delightful and incredibly talented, so I was excited to read Michele's heartwarming entry for our Failing Up writing project. Thanks to everyone who wrote entries, and although we responded personally to each one, we also wanted to thank you here on the blog for your amazing and inspiring words. I'll hand it over to Michele below:


michele and ryan tansey homestead seattle wedding
Photo by Kristen Marie Photography

Andie's post about "failing up" really struck a cord with me. Being a small business owner comes with perks and drawbacks. One of those drawbacks is isolation. When you work with a big team you have an opportunity to bounce ideas off of each other, give encouragement and also commiserate when things aren't their best. Aside from Ryan I don't get a chance to hear from other small business owners about the challenges that we all face trying to make our way alongside big corporations and established businesses. It's easy to get stuck on all the things that we could be doing better. It's easy see every little setback as a failure. Andie's post helped remind me that I'm not in this alone and how important it is to use what may seem like failures to learn and improve.

My last corporate job was as a Store Manager of an Urban Outfitters. I ran a 7mil a year store and had 50+ employees. At 24 I had achieved something in my life that I was very proud of. When I left Urban I knew I was on to bigger and better things but I was having a hard time giving up "my store." Every time I walked into the store I felt respected. I felt empowered. This tangible, enormous, beautiful, well oiled machine was run by me. I felt proud explaining where I worked and what I did. I felt accomplished in my life. My friends and parents were skeptical about me leaving a great job that I was very good at.

After Urban I started running an unnamed vintage furniture business out of my house while I went back to school. I wanted to sell furniture so that I could buy more furniture (and not be a hoarder). I ended up loving the job but I needed an extra set of hands to grow the business, so I asked my husband for help. With Ryan's photography and muscles we were able to buy more furniture, move furniture around easily and take more professional looking pictures. I was selling exclusively on Craigslist and my price point was super low, but I still made almost as much money as I was making at Urban. I could see the potential in my business but I needed to make it more real. I felt embarrassed telling people my job was selling used furniture on Craigslist. It's definitely not the same feeling as telling someone you run a well known, successful store. My new goal was to pick a brand name and create a website. That was in July of 2011.

After the launch of the website something great happened. I was extremely lucky that photos of our home, from our wedding, were featured all over the internet with a link to our photographer who linked to my website. Because of those amazing wedding photos our home was featured on Apartment Therapy (a life goal of mine) which also linked to my website and gave a lot of credibility to the business. It was the first time that I felt really proud of the new career path I was on.

michele and ryan tansey homestead seattle wedding
Photo by Kristen Marie Photography

Business was going great, but I needed Ryan full time. He was exhausted from essentially working two jobs and I couldn't continue to grow without him. In November of 2011, after some very forceful persuasion from me (and a severe lack of support from our friends and families) Ryan finally decided to quit his job. Just as I had felt sad and like a bit of a failure leaving my fancy corporate job, Ryan was in the same funk. However, in general we were feeling pretty confident and still getting featured frequently which was encouraging. We were starting to build the business that I dreamed of. We were really proud. Then we had the fire.

I don't want to go into lengthy details, but we had an electrical fire (on Dec 28, 2011) in the middle of the night that destroyed the second story of our home. Luckily we and our pets were safe along with our inventory, but we couldn't live at our house and we had to find a place to run our business. Less than two months after Ryan gave up his steady income. A few months after we had finally finished making our fixer-up of a home beautiful enough to be featured on Apartment Therapy. Never have I felt so down and so hopeless. This was a perfect time to just quit, get regular jobs and try to bounce back from this tragedy. I was a depressed shell of a person. My house was gone, but I refused to give up on our business.

For the first month we showed furniture out of our friend's 800 sq ft house while living there with four adults, three large dogs and two cats. In February we moved into a rental that we picked to best house our business. We had relied heavily on our customers' excitement to see our home, so not being there was an adjustment. We had to explain why we weren't there over and over again. I couldn't tell the story at all. I had to stop dealing with customers, it was too much for me. Ryan was happy to start working directly with customers. He is a rock. He also moved all of our product from our house to the rental. I physically couldn't go to the house, I was in tears the entire time, even driving by was too hard for me.

Everything seemed terrible but we kept going. Ryan worked on his furniture refinishing skills and I worked more with fabrics and our upholsterer. Ryan learned more about photography and photo editing. I learned more about writing copy and what product to buy. We had to go though the first year of our business (and marriage) living in a rental while overseeing a massive ($130K) renovation of our home that we didn't even want to renovate or have the life experience to deal with! We also lost both of our dogs to cancer - trying to motivate yourself to work thought that is impossible.

We didn't have our fancy corporate job titles, we didn't have our beautiful home and we didn't even have our dogs. It was hard not to feel like we failed, but we had this business and we had each other. When we felt stifled by selling solely on Craigslist we made an Etsy shop and then learned everything we could about shipping furniture. When we felt like our name wasn't really us we re-branded, had a couple of slow months because of it, but came out happier and more proud of what we had created. We learned more about furniture designers and the value of what we were selling, then got better product. We spent weeks looking though online shops that inspired us and then upgraded our logos, improved photography even more and launched a new website. We took what seemed like the ultimate fail and used it to motivate us to improve.

homestead seattle michele and ryan tansey

We are back in our house and the contractors were gone as of last week. We still have a lot of work to do to get the house staged and really feel proud of it again but we can finally focus on getting settled. We are happy, our business is doing better than ever and we have a new dog. Life goes on.

Photo via Ryan Tansey's Instagram

Even though things are going so well I still beat myself up over not being good enough. I cringe looking at the vendors on competitors' sites and seeing the exact things we sell priced 2-10 times higher than we can price them. My initial reaction is, "what am I doing wrong!?" Instead of getting down on myself for all the things I'm not doing I ask, "how do we get from where we are to there?" and focus instead on how far we've come. Maybe one day that will be a good fit for us, but right now I am thankful for where we are with our business and all of the progress we've made despite the odds being majorly stacked against us. We could have given up so many times, but thankfully we didn't let ourselves fail, we grew.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day! [+ our gift]

Happy Valentine's Day! Hug someone you love! As our Valentine's gift to you, please enjoy 15% off in our online shop for one day only, using coupon code LOVELOVE. xo

Hearts (The Valentines Day Video) from Moist Creation on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

We've Got a Question...

Yes, we are only two teeny-tiny people, who have many, many HUGE ideas brewing in our brains. We want to do it all, but at the moment, it's just not possible--so, we are coming to YOU. Please help us by taking the time to click which choice you would be most interested in. It only takes one eensy little second, and we would so very much appreciate it from all of our readers. Thank you!

Which would you be most excited to see from us?
Assemble Rubber Stamps
A New Crafting Kit
A "Those Girls" E-Book
An Online Class
Create your own poll

Tongue-in-Cheek Valentines: Arrested Development & Wes Anderson

These crack me up. If you haven't had a chance to check out these Arrested Development Printable Valentines from artist, Marisa Seguin--take a look. They cracked me up. See more on her blog.

arrested development printable valentines by marisa seguin

And another great find, and hidden gem, these exclusive Wes Anderson Valentines by artist Jennifer Lewis for

wes anderson film printable valentines by jennifer lewis for flavorwire

Love them! Plus don't forget to download your printable template to make your own Papercut Le Cœur Heart Valentines, right here at Assemble. We want to see pictures!

Images via Marisa Seguin + Flavorwire

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Unrequited Love & Sam Cooke: His & Hers Valentine's Picks

I thought it would be fun to do a little couple's post before Valentine's Day. And NO--you do NOT have to be in a relationship during Valentine's Day. Some of my most favorite 'Valentimes' were when I was single, at home, cutting out paper hearts for my roommate and drinking rosé. Embrace love of all kinds--it's lovely.

Regardless, my husband, Christian, and I put together a few of our favorite romantic books, movies and songs. Albeit, this changes from day to day for me, but it was fun nonetheless. Although, I did notice an "unrequited" theme in my choices. What does that say about me? ...Here are our picks!

Book: “Araby” (from Dubliners) by James Joyce. One of Joyce’s finest stories, “Araby” follows a young narrator who falls in love with the older sister of one of his friends, and desperately wants to make her happy. Joyce captures the wild, irrational, and electric confusion of young love, as well as the ultimate frustration and bewilderment it brings.

Movie: Moonrise Kingdom. Wes Anderson’s latest movie is a charming portrayal of the innocence and simplicity of young love. Sam and Suzy take off, leaving behind the dysfunctional relationships of the unhappy and lonely adults around them, to have themselves a damn adventure. It’s a concentration (or celebration) of many of Anderson’s quirks and whims (imagined books and maps, perfect symmetry, impeccably controlled color). And it’s absolutely charming. View the trailer:

Song: Sam Cooke, “You Send Me” One of the best. There’s a purity to Cooke’s voice (as well as his writing) that comes across so poised, especially when paired with the simplicity of the arrangement. The backup vocals and guitar are floating, the percussion classically subtle, but that voice is rich, up front, and the absolute star of the show. Listen:

Book: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Okay, I'll admit it, I saw the movie first. But this story is by far one of the most romantic and lovely that I have ever read. I relate very much to Marianne Dashwood, who represents sensibility, although I wish I had a bit more of Elinor's sense. About unrequited love, true love and patient love, this is by far my pick for a perfect Valentine's read.

Movie: Christian argued with me on this one, but I found Celeste and Jesse Forever to be completely romantic, despite being incredibly heartbreaking. Without giving away the ending, this film, about a married couple that is getting a divorce, deals with best friends as lovers and vice versa. I sobbed. SOBBED. And I highly recommend it. It will make you laugh and hug your loved ones closer. View the trailer:

Song: The Smiths, "There is a Light That Never Goes Out." Little known fact about me (if you met me within the last seven years of my life)--I'm a Morrissey fan. A big one. I find his lyrics delightfully masochistic and romantic, especially in this old Smiths ballad, "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out." With lyrics like, "If a ten-ton truck kills the both of us--to die by your side, well the pleasure, the privilege is mine." Sigh:

What are your favorites?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Recipe: How to Make French Macarons with Buttercream Filling

This was my first foray into baking the macaron, and I have to say that I'm ridiculously proud of myself. I had heard that macarons were a difficult prize for pastry chefs, and perhaps I just got lucky: but these worked out! I got my cookie recipe from the lovely book, I ♥ Macarons by Hisako Ogita and my buttercream recipe is the one that I have perfected over the years (born during the cake decorating class that Emily and I took together in the beginning of our friendship in 2007). Awww. I'd love to share, and hope you send us photos of your Macaron adventures!

how to recipe for macarons and buttercream filling

You will need:
1. Parchment paper
2. A nice rubber spatula
3. A flour sifter
4. 2/3 cup almond meal/flour (watch out! This stuff is expensive!)
5. 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar.
6. 3 egg whites
7. 5 tablespoons of white, granulated sugar
8. A pastry/frosting bag and circular tip, about 1/4 inch
9. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
10. Food coloring and toothpick to administer (for batter or buttercream)

how to recipe for macarons and buttercream filling

Set your oven to 375° and ready two cookie sheets. On your parchment paper, draw 1 inch circles, about an inch apart from each other. If you're confident in your pastry bag skills, you can skip this step. However...I was not.

how to recipe for macarons and buttercream filling

Combine your almond flour and powdered sugar in a sifter and sift until you have a nice, pretty pile. Set to the side.

how to recipe for macarons and buttercream filling
how to recipe for macarons and buttercream filling

In a mixing bowl, beat your egg whites with an electric mixer until nice and foamy. Gradually add the granulated sugar until they develop stiff, glossy peaks. (Sidenote: use your leftover egg yolks as a face mask. This is an Indian beauty tradition--massage egg yolks into clean skin and let sit for 5-10 minutes, or until you can't smile without cracking it. Then rinse with warm water and a washcloth. Perfect, supple skin).

how to recipe for macarons and buttercream filling

Add vanilla and mix gently. If the mixture gets a little soupy, mix on high with the electric mixer again for about a minute on high speed.

how to recipe for macarons and buttercream filling
how to recipe for macarons and buttercream filling

After the meringue is stiff and glossy, add about half of the flour/sugar mixture and stir with your spatula until mixed. Add the rest and stir again. Next is the macaronage process: stir until the mixture is even, then spread the batter against the sides of the bowl, then flip over and repeat. Do this for several minutes--around 15 revolutions. Here is a great video that demonstrates the technique. The batter is done when it slowly "glops" off of your spatula.

how to recipe for macarons and buttercream filling

Next, fill your pastry bag with the batter (remember to twist or clip the top or you'll have batter all over your hands like me!) Squeeze the bag to fill each circle. Stop when you reach the end of your pencil marks--the batter will spread wider and it will be the perfect size.

how to recipe for macarons and buttercream filling

Some French pastry chefs believe that this is the most important step in making a macaron: as soon as you are finished filling your tray with little dots of macaron batter, rap the cookie sheet against a hard service several times. This will set the pied or little pastry lip at the base of the cookie (an essential for an authentic macaron). Set your tray to the side and allow to dry for about thirty minutes. After thirty minutes, gently tap the surface of one of the dots of batter. If it does not stick to your finger, it's ready for baking. If it does, allow a bit more time.

how to recipe for macarons and buttercream filling

While you're waiting for the macaron batter to dry, let's make the buttercream.
You will need:
• 1 stick of softened butter (8 tablespoons)
• about 5 ounces of powdered sugar, or 2/3 cup (have a bit on hand to add if it is too runny)
• about 1/8 teaspoon of vanilla extract

how to recipe for macarons and buttercream filling

Stir all of these ingredients together until you have a light, tasty paste. Then add a touch of food coloring if you would like some color. I chose red for a nice Valentine's Day treat! There are a variety of flavors that you can add to all buttercreams and macaron batter, but for my first try, I decided to keep it simple.

how to recipe for macarons and buttercream filling

After your macaron batter is dry, stack your cookie sheet onto the second cookie sheet to ready it for baking. Using two cookie sheets will keep the bottoms of your macarons from burning. Place in the oven for about 8 minutes. After 8 minutes, turn the sheet so that the front-facing macarons are now towards the back of the oven for an even bake. If after 16 minutes, they are still super-soft, reduce heat to 325°, cover in aluminum foil and bake for 2 more minutes. Only bake ONE sheet of macarons at a time.

how to recipe for macarons and buttercream filling

When the macarons are done baking, take them out of the oven and let sit until relatively cool, then very carefully peel them from the parchment paper. Fill a new pastry bag (or wash the old one) with the buttercream and create about 1/2 inch dot on one macaron cookie, then sandwich another on top. Be careful not to squeeze the buttercream out on the sides.

how to recipe for macarons and buttercream filling
how to recipe for macarons and buttercream filling

A macaron! Or many! They are definitely better on the second day, as the butter has a chance to seep just a bit into the cookie and soften it. Delightful! Please let me know how you do, I thought that this was so much fun. Good luck!
how to recipe for macarons and buttercream filling

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