Archive for the 'She’s Crafty' Category

Fun for All, CONSTRUCTOR-Style – Craftaholics, Cupcakes, Tunes and More!

The annual CONSTRUCTOR Craft Fair Saturday promises DIY goodness.

Saturday!!! Saturday!!! Saturday!!! Prepare to get CONSTRUCTOR-ated!

It’s the “bad-ass” 4th Annual CONSTRUCTOR Craft Fair, an all-ages, free admission gathering in beautiful Berwyn, Ill., with something for everyone – homemade goods, grub, music, booze and CUPCAKES!

Organizers Norah Utley,  Fly Bird’s Julia Nash and 45 like-minded crafters gather to share their wears and eats with fellow craftaholics. The first 50 folks who show up receive a free swag bag full of goodies. The event is from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at FitzGerald’s Nightclub.

Find jewelry, soap, house wares, clothes and accessories, plushies, earth-friendly creations and baby goods made from crafters nationwide – plus food trucks  stocked with fresh, locally made yums, including everyone’s favorite – CUPCAKES! Check out the vendor list.

No fair is complete without some jams (would you expect any less from Utley, Ms. Shit Sandwich Records herself?). Show goers enjoy performances by Girls Rock! Chicago (GR!C) campers (Woot! Our April Charity of the Month!). Indoors, the grads of GR!C June DJ camp spinning records (on the very same stage graced by Elisabeth Shue in “Adventures in Babysitting,” as a matter of fact). The outdoor stage will feature performances by camper band C4 at 3:30 p.m., and GR!C solo superstar Alex Lund at 4 p.m. GR!C’s booth will be selling posters, drink coozies, tote bags and more! Don’t miss it!

Gimme The Candy!

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Ollie was DJ Lance Rock from Yo Gabba Gabba for Halloween this year. It was funny hearing my mother-in-law explain who he was to some people in the neighborhood who don’t know DJ Lance Rock from Adam.

He was mistaken for Austin Powers at one house. I could totally see it. Plus, he refused to wear the fuzzy orange hat, which would have completed the look, but wasn’t necessary. His auntie’s efforts were spot-on down to the gold “ROCK” buckle and boom box that doubled as a candy bucket (she used a  six-pack carrier – genius!).

It was cute seeing Ollie get the whole trick-or-treating thing this year. Last year, he was just a furry little Ewok that we carried around everywhere. This year, he thought an open door was an invite inside at the first house, which was sort of priceless.

At another house, a lady at the door bend down to his level to chat and brought the candy bowl down with her, out of which Ollie proceeded to take one, two, three pieces. And a sucker for the road. In Ollie’s defense, she was an enabler.

What a great day for Halloween. You never know what you’re going to get in the Midwest this time of year. No rain or wind and it was sunny – perfect for trick-or-treating and pic-taking.

Halloween is AWESOME!

I probably loved Halloween more than a lot of kids growing up. I went to a Catholic grade school, so the opportunity to ditch the plaid jumper, white blouse and knee socks for a day and get dressed up was quite a thrill.

My costumes were always handmade or pieced together using regular clothes and flair. My mom put a lot of imagination into our costumes whether we were clowns, witches, genies, babies or cats. And to this day, if I’m going out to a Halloween party, I don’t purchase a pre-made costume or rent one from a costume shop. I’ve purchased props and wigs, but I always make my own costumes. There’s something really exciting about creating a costume from scratch.

Make no mistake, I am no seamstress like my mom was. I can hem on a pair of slacks and mend a hole in a stuffed toy, but I don’t have a sewing machine and patterns kind of scare me.

I feel so lucky that Ollie’s auntie is crafty and knows how sew and create costumes, that and that she volunteers to make Ollie’s and doesn’t protest my wacky ideas! Last year, he was an Ewok and she put a lot of time and thought into his outfit. My favorite part was the hoodie/cape with ears – and boy was it toasty warm!

This year, considering Ollie’s fandom of Yo Gabba Gabba, I thought a DJ Lance Rock costume would be a lot of fun. I also briefly considered Nacho Libre after my friend sent me a pic of a crazy-adorbs toddler in full regalia (including a painted-on mustache), but I thought a bare chest would be a little chilly.

So his auntie is putting on the finishing touches of DJ Lance Rock this week, which we’re now dubbing DJ Ollie Rock. It includes a cardboard ghetto blaster/candy bucket – just like the one that contains the YGG toys in the TV show! “Am I a bad auntie that I used a six-pack to make the boombox?” she asked?! Ha! I told her of course not! I would have done the same thing. 🙂

I positively can’t wait to see it.

It gets better – one of my friend’s got Ollie a DJ Lance Rock hat and glasses over the summer, and although Ollie’s not nuts about the hat, he LURVES the nrrrd glasses and wears them around all the time! So at least that’s one prop I know he’ll use!

  • Any great Halloween memories from childhood? One of our neighbors’ sons was a horror film nut and would decorate the front door entrance every year with ghouls, skeletons, lights, music and props.
  • Do you prefer piecing together/sewing your costumes or buying/renting them pre-made?
  • What is your favorite costume idea this year? I really love the thought of being Flo from Best excuse to buy a Bumpit® EVAR (unless you count Snooki)!
  • What’s  your favorite treat? Growing up, we had a neighbor that gave away king-size Snickers – score! My girlfriend said a woman in her neighborhood gave out a roll of 10 pennies taped together! Ha!

Foodie Friday: A Chat With EyeCandy’s Nichole V.

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For our first Foodie Friday, I’d like to introduce you to someone who is near and dear to my heart: my sister and confection connoisseur Nichole V. Some of my earliest foodie memories include cooking and baking with this lady on weekends when my mom was at work and my dad was occupied with yardwork or car projects. This freedom to create in the kitchen inspired her life-long passion for cooking and baking. To this day, even informal gatherings around her kitchen island turn into bountiful feasts of epic proportions! No one goes hungry in Nichole’s presence.

Today, she’s taken her life-long panache for whimsical sweets and cake-y treats to the next level with her EyeCandy confections business in the southwest suburbs of Chicago.

Catering friends’ and family members’ baby showers, baptisms and birthday parties was a natural fit for this young mama of six-year-old Nicholas. This summer, her venture has taken off big-time, and just about every weekend, she and biz partner/BFF Becky G. have been up to her eyeballs in flour and sugar for big custom cookie and cupcake orders all over town.

I got the chance to talk to her about the secrets to her sweet success and how she balances baking and being a mom …

EB: What inspires your creations?

NV: Mixing art and food together makes for a happy event. Our clients trust our inspirations and creativity.

EB: What about being in the kitchen makes you feel most at home, most comfortable?

NV: Although a successful recipe largely comes down to science, baking is also very therapeutic. Where else can you listen to your iPod and girl talk all day while playing in flour and sugar?

EB: When did you get EyeCandy off the ground? What were some of your first orders?

NV: EyeCandy was founded in 2001. It started off as kind of a hobby – experimenting with chocolate making holiday candies and cookies for friends and family. One Halloween, we made some taffy apples for a friend and jokingly, she said “You should do this for a living.” After that, we started making taffy apples and cookie designs for friends and family. It wasn’t until a good friend asked us to create a design to raffle off at a silent auction for the United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) that we got serious. The design received a lot of attention and sold for more than $160. This opportunity gave us the confidence we needed to take our talents outside the realm of friends and family.

EB: Everyone loves your lemon cookies – they’ve become your signature. How did that come about?

NV: Like any good baker, you need to do your research. After many trials and errors, we finally found a recipe that would stand up to our design but needed a little more pizazz. Lemon is known for brightening up dishes – it seemed like the perfect complement for our sugar cookies. It is our No. 1 seller.

EB: Who inspires you? Do you have a favorite chef?

NV: There is something to say about having a best friend. Mine is Becky G., who I’ve known for 35 years and is also my business partner. I can remember her running over to my house asking my mom if I could come over to bake cookies with her and her mom. I’d drop everything and run right over. Her mom was so patient, letting us crack the eggs, roll out the dough, use her fancy cutters and whip up some of the best buttercream you’ve ever tasted. Honestly, every time we whip up a batch of dough, it takes me right back to my childhood.

EB: What is your calling card? Is it all in the product or do you think your outgoing personality and dedication might have something to do with your success?

NV: The dedication we put into these cookies comes from true passion. Our clients trust us and give us full range to be creative. Becky and I are both very detailed-oriented people. Some might say two strong heads in the kitchen is a recipe for disaster, but we really complement each other.

EB: What are some of the more unique projects you’ve done?

NV: Baby showers and graduations are the most popular requests for cookies. We did centerpieces for the Chicago Bears Super Bowl XLI. Every year, we raffle off a themed basket of cookies for UCP. Bachelorettes will order some “Sex and the City”-type cookies. Cupcakes have been high in demand, as well.

EB: You seem to be a big critic of your work — you’re always “test kitchening” and trying new recipes and tweaks to make your batters and icings. Tell me more about that process.

NV: One thing I will say, practice makes perfect. Every order we do we learn new tricks to make our product better each time.

EB: We have a lot of readers who are parents. What’s balancing parenthood like with the demands of cookies and cupcakes flying out of your kitchen every weekend?

NV: Nicholas (my son) loves to cook/bake. He’s not afraid to roll up his sleeves and help out. I make him his own dough to play with. He has his own rolling pin, apron and cutters. This gives him a sense of participation without being front and center when Becky and I are in production with an order. Our general rule is to bake late at night and frost early in the morning when Nick is asleep – that schedule helps me balance my mom duties!

EB: What can we expect from EyeCandy in the future?

NV: We would love to see EyeCandy in a storefront someday. As long as we’re filling orders, we will always remain dedicated to creating sweet treats that are truly unique to each individual and event.

Become EyeCandy and sister company FH Catering’s Facebook fan here. For more information on EyeCandy, contact Nichole at

Norah Utley: The New Sheriff In Town

I set out to promo an old friend Norah Utley’s baby bib e-store (Sheriff Peanut) and wound up reflecting a whole bunch. Is this a symptom of getting older or what?! Because I met her in Chicago during the height of my zine days, I started thinking about friendly folks I’d met in those eight years, mostly fellow zinesters, artists, bands, writers and DIY-types. Living among them completely changed me forever and shaped my whole outlook on life.  Most of what I believe, my favorite music, my approach to work and my mommy ethics can be directly traced back to my time in Chicago. The city is part of my family.

Norah is one of my favorite Chicago people. I met her at an urban craft fair probably five years ago now. I thought her quirky, hand-crafted bibs were a great alternative to big box shower gifts. They not only come in custom patterns and designs, but they are affordable and most importantly, functional (they’re covered in clear vinyl for easy cleaning). The egg and bacon bib is a fan fave!

Garage Rock Music Mogul

In addition to her crafty tendencies, Norah has tried her hand as label lady, DJ and musician (Airbrush, Headache City). I’ll never forget the Reader article touting her label Shit Sandwich Records (M.O.T.O., Tyrades, Busy Signals). I was waiting for the el in the subway and reading this story – totally engrossed and unfazed by anything going on around me. Her story of indie entrepreneurism gave me hope that if you love something and go for it, it can happen.

My little zine Love, Chicago was so excited to feature a fun Q&A that took place during Norah’s Six Flags misadventure with friend and writer Jen Hazen. Not long after, Norah agreed to spin my zine’s release party at Delilah’s (best Chicago bar, hands down). I had so much fun catching up with her over Chicago star-shaped cookies and beer. And Norah? She’s incredibly humble, effortlessly kind and a laugh a minute.

So Where is She Now?

When I googled “Sheriff Peanut” the other day, I saw the e-store has expanded into onesies, kids and adult tees, burp cloths, little stuffed animals, mirrors, magnets and keychains (SCORE!). She does shows all over the country peddling her wares, including  CONSTRUCTOR CRAFT FAIR, a show she has organized for three years now in Berwyn, Ill.

As if all that wasn’t enough, I sent her a facebook shout out and learned she and husband Paul are proud parents of little Ramona! The Sheriff now has a new favorite client for inspiration! How perfect.

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