A twenty-something's foray into the domestic arts.

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Why I Don’t Blog Anymore & A Giveaway to Apologize For It

So as it turns out, The Modern Lady has a day job. I’ve mentioned before that I am a Digital Marketing Consultant for a family-owned agency. There, I wear a lot of hats… but recently it seems like my primary job role is being a ghost blogger for companies. (I won’t lie, I like that title.) I write and syndicate posts for our clients on a wide range of topics and spread their message using social media platforms. It’s an awesome job when I think about it, but I’m a little bummed that at the end of the day all my love for writing has been drained on other “people’s” blogs.

The poor Modern Lady has been neglected for months now, the longest no-blogging spree since her inception. I just wanted to pop in and apologize to my readers for not posting and let you know that I’ll be back soon. I have a ton of projects I’m sitting on, overwhelmed by editing photos and gathering up my thoughts. For those of you who have emailed or asked me in person why I don’t blog anymore, know you are guilting me into this and rightly so! I need to make a triumphant return and it’s coming soon! Stay tuned and thanks again for giving me the boost I needed to get back to it.

To show you how much I care, I’m offering a surprise giveaway to a reader who leaves a comment below. Please tell me what you’d like to see a post on or what topics interest you most! One lucky commenter will receive a prize pack worth winning, promise! This giveaway will be open until Friday, October 14 at 2:00 pm EST. Comment away friends!

Layla Apologizes on Behalf of The Modern Lady

October 11, 2011   7 Comments

Another Lorelei Apron – This Time… Nautical

While I’ve been doing a lot of it lately, it seems that sewing posts have been thin around here. This project I completed over a month ago now, but never shared. It’s another version of the Lorelei apron from A is for Apron by Nathalie Mornu.

This apron was a commissioned project for my good friend, Matt. It was a gift from him to his mom for her birthday. They have an awesome lake house and he wanted to go with a nautical theme so it would match there. He was very dedicated to making sure it turned out just perfect for her, and even drew sketches on what colors should be where, the placement and type of appliqué, etc. He was sort of like having Nina Garcia for a client when you’re a designer on Project Runway – fabulous, but frightening.

Although Matt’s sketching left me little room for creative interpretation (or so he thought), I was able to sneak in a few surprises.  The first was the anchor appliqué. While Matt wanted it a solid red, I found a sweet little red with white polka dot print that worked perfectly. I thought a solid red would have made it look cheap. The line on the collar was originally intended to be a solid navy blue line. I replaced it with a thin red ric-rac for a nice pop on top . I hate ric-rac because it takes whatever you’re working on and instantly transforms it into a “homemade craft” project, but for some reason the thin ric-rac worked here. Lastly, the lining was something Matt and I didn’t discuss. I know had he been in the store with me that the diagonal red, white, and blue fabric I used never would have made it home. However, he loved it when he saw it on the finished product. Even though the apron wasn’t his per say, it was fun working in a few surprises along the way just to see his face when he picked it up!

The modifications to the Lorelei pattern were the same as those done on the mommy/daughter aprons I posted awhile back. For this apron, I was able to find a cute pleated trim for the bottom in the store so I didn’t have to make the ruffle. Although I generally like doing my own ruffles, the nautical nature of this piece called for something crisp and perfect – so I think the store-bought white trim works well here. Also, I took off the pockets and opted for the large appliqué instead. I applied the appliqué prior to putting in the lining, of course.

August 22, 2011   5 Comments

Made in America: Yard Sales

As a Digital Marketing Consultant, I live and die by email. So when I get a stupid junk forward in my inbox, I’m generally more than peeved. However, this little gem came across my desk today and I just had to share. You know how I love yard sales!

Sometime this year,  we taxpayers will again receive another ‘economic stimulus’ payment. This is indeed a very exciting program,  and I’ll explain it by using a Q & A format: 
Q. What is an ‘Economic Stimulus’ payment ? 
A. It is money that the federal government will send to taxpayers. 
Q. Where will the government get this money ? 
A. From taxpayers. 
Q. So the government is giving me back my own money ? 
A. Only a smidgen of it. 
Q. What is the purpose of this payment?
A. The plan is for you to use the money to purchase a high-definition TV set,  thus stimulating the economy. 

Q.  But isn’t that stimulating the economy of China?
A.  Shut up. 
Below is some helpful advice on how to best help the U.S. economy by spending your stimulus check wisely:    

  • If you spend the stimulus money at Wal-Mart,  the money will  go to China or Sri Lanka. 
  • If you spend it on gasoline,  your money will go to the  Arabs.
  • If you purchase a computer,  it will go to India , Taiwan or China . 
  • If you purchase fruit and vegetables, it will go to Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala. 
  • If you buy an efficient car, it will go to Japan or Korea. 
  • If  you purchase useless stuff,  it will go to Taiwan. 
  • If you pay your credit cards off, or buy stock, it will go to management bonuses and they will hide it offshore. 

Instead,  keep the money in America by: 

1)  Spending it at yard sales,  or 
2)  Going to ball games,  or   
3)  Spending it on prostitutes,  or 
4)  Beer or 

5) Tattoos. 

(These are the only American businesses still operating in the U.S. ) 


Go to a ball game with a tattooed prostitute that you met at a yard  sale and drink beer all day! 

No need to thank me,  I’m just glad I could be of help.

August 19, 2011   No Comments

Book Review: Tomatoland

While on vacation last month, I had the time to chill out, relax, and read a book. My publication of choice was ‘Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit’ by Barry Estabrook. Sounds like light reading, right?

In an age where too many of us have no idea where our food comes from or the non-monetary costs associated with it reaching our table, ‘Tomatoland’ is enlightening. Although focused on just the tomato, it is easy to see how industrial farming has impacted the way we eat and the people that produce our food. If you have ever purchased a tomato in the supermarket, I highly recommend reading ‘Tomatoland’.

The book was based on Barry Estabrook’s James Beard Award-Winning article that originally appeared in Gourmet Magazine (link below). While the title leads one to believe the primary focus is on the taste of today’s tomatoes (which the book does cover), I found it to be more about the involuntary servitude of Florida’s agricultural workforce and the appalling conditions they are subject to. It’s a powerful story that left me feeling guilty for being so ignorant about how we get our food and heartbroken for the people who are forced to harvest it for us.

I will never look at buying a tomato the same; in fact, I will never buy a Florida tomato again.

If you’re interested in learning more, check out the links below or pick up a copy on Amazon for $11.62.

August 15, 2011   No Comments

Burrata – A Trip to Maplebrook Farm

As a follow up to my last post on vacationing to food heaven in Manchester, Vermont, I wanted to make sure I shared my trip to Maplebrook Farm. Maplebrook Farm produces authentic fine cheese in the mountains of Vermont. It is co-owned by a cousin, Mike Scheps, and it makes the best mozzarella cheese I’ve ever tasted… in my life.

Admiring the floating mozzarella cheese balls

While we were there, we were given a tour of the cheese making facility, as well as a personal lesson on how to make several kinds of cheese. It’s amazing how many there are really – handmade mozzarella, machine-made mozzarella, smoked mozzarella, scamorza (hung & dried mozzarella), mozzarella in water – it’s a bit overwhelming. What I found most interesting though was the burrata.

Domenico making a huge scamorza

What is burrata you ask? Burrata is a handmade mozzarella filled with cream and stracciatelli (shreds of mozzarella).  It is an Italian delicacy that was derived to make use of the little scraps of mozzarella that were leftover in the cheese making vat. At Maplebrook Farm, they make it in the old-world manner under the direction of a master craftsman, Domenico Marchitelli. Domenico is from the Region of Puglia in Italy – the high heel of the boot – known for its burrata.

Me, filling the burrata with the help of Domenico

During our visit, Domenico showed us how the burrata, and a variety of other cheese, is made. We also got to participate by making some ourselves. The process is pretty amazing and it was really neat to see how much of making a quality cheese is simply doing it by hand. The burrata was a serious thing to craft, but we got assist the master by dumping the cream and stracciatelli into the middle of the mozzarella “bags” he had carefully hand pulled and then pinched shut.

Turns out my brother has the cheesemaking gene

Burrata can be used in a variety of dishes. However, it’s best to keep it simple to truly enjoy the quality of the cheese. When the burrata is sliced open, the cream flows out. The cheese is rich with a buttery flavor and it retains its fresh milkiness. It goes well with prosciutto, fresh tomatoes with olive oil and cracked black pepper, or a crusty bread and bottle of wine. You can also serve it on top of a salad or pasta.

I managed to snap up a pic before we cut into the burrata one night

Thanks again to everyone at Maplebrook Farm – especially cousin Mike – for opening up your facility to us. We had a blast!!!

You can find Maplebrook Farm cheese at a variety of stores, most notably Whole Foods Markets. For a complete list of places to buy, please see their website here.

August 13, 2011   No Comments

A Vacation to Food Heaven in Manchester, Vermont

This past week I had the pleasure of taking time off to visit family in New Jersey and Vermont. The first half of the week was spent lounging by my aunt’s pool in Ringwood, NJ and channeling my inner environmentalist (more to come on that). The second half I enjoyed stuffing my face with Italian food in Manchester, VT. It was divine.

This was my first trip to Vermont; I had been dying to go after my husband beat me to it on a motorcycle ride last year. The drive through the southern part of the state was beautiful. Following the highway was so unlike flat, field-riddled Ohio; out the window I saw nothing but green mountains. When we finally arrived in the small summer resort town of  Manchester, I melted. The historical New England architecture was beyond words. All of the little inns tucked down main street were incredible; it was like a movie.

A lot of our time in Manchester, VT was spent enjoying the company of family and eating at Al Ducci’s Italian Pantry. The Italian style delicatessen and food market is owned by my dad’s godfather, Al Scheps. You can read the history of the place here on Al Ducci’s website; it features an article titled “Streetwise In Vermont: How Two Italian Entrepreneurs Began Cooking in Pristine Machester” written by Sheryl Julian for The Boston Globe in 2001.  

The food prepared in that store is unbelievable… and I’m not saying that because I’m related to the owner. There was pizza from a wood-fired oven, bread baked daily, handmade mozzarella and hothouse tomatoes,  a selection of salads that were all delicious (the white bean and tomato being my favorite), Italian desserts like rice pudding, tiramisu and sfogliatelle and much more. I ate my way through all 3 days there and even spent time behind the counter for a personal cooking lesson on an Impastata Ricotta Cheesecake.

I would share the cheesecake recipe with you, but then I’d have to kill you. (I think that’s how the saying goes when passing on Italian heirloom recipes to those outside of the family, yes?) So, instead I’ve included a recipe for Al Schep’s Mother’s Rice Pudding. I do believe it trumps my previously posted rice pudding recipe, although both are family hand-me-downs and worthy of sharing.

Al Scheps’s Mother’s Rice Pudding

  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1 quart whole milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 1 cup heavy cream

In a large pan of boiling, salted water, cook the rice, stirring often, for 12 to 15 minutes or until it is just tender. Drain it into a colander.

In a large saucepan, combine the milk, sugar, and vanilla bean.

Add the cooked rice. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer the rice, stirring often, for 1 hour or until the rice has absorbed almost all the liquid.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the heavy cream. Remove the vanilla bean.

Let the rice cool, then press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the rice until serving. Serves 8.

We also toured Maplebrook Farm while were were in VT… post on that coming soon.

July 27, 2011   3 Comments

Fabulous Finds Friday … on Saturday

So I guess my plan for a post on a my finds each Friday is off to a great start, lol. Oh well, better late than never.

I brought my friend Lisa along on last week’s treasure hunt. She recently purchased an old farm house and is on the lookout for some vintage pieces to fill it with. It was her first time hitting an estate sale and we had a great time shopping together. Here are a few things she learned on the adventure:

  • Don’t carry your legit Coach purse if you want to haggle on price.
  • It takes two hands to shop; coffee cups should be abandoned… immediately.
  • If you think you might buy it, pick it up and keep going. Never leave a good man behind.
  • There are a lot of old people dying in Northeast Ohio; it makes for prime pickings.
  • Other old people like estate sales the most. The conclusion is – an underground competition for who has the most stuff when they die.
  • The Honda Fit is a roomy vehicle that will hold your goods.

Anyways… on to the finds.

For Keeps (Actually for Gifting)

A Stetson corduroy hat with feathers and 3 ties. My brother turned 23 yesterday and these were birthday gifts. At $1.30 total, I can clearly say I was the big spender in the family.

For Sale – Items up in my Etsy Shop now

Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book

Emerald Green Glass Pedestal Vase

LE Smith Green Moon and Stars Sugar and Creamer Set  

I got a sparkly blue vintage suitcase too, but forgot to take pictures. I’m hoping to make it into a cat bed for my girls.

July 2, 2011   No Comments

Fabulous Finds Friday

So this is a new feature I’m hoping to stick with. Life has been crazy lately, but one thing I always make time for is treasure hunting. Every Friday for the rest of the summer, I will post my great garage sale, estate sale and auction finds from the week before. Some of the items you will find up in my shop on Etsy, others I’m keeping for myself. I hope you enjoy it!

This week I have a lot to share because I went to an awesome auction… my favorite!

For Keeps:

These two little “cups” I got free at an auction. Yes, free. Oftentimes, if you stick around until everyone else leaves at an auction… you will find a lot of goodies left  behind. These guys were buried in a barrel in an old garage and covered in dirt. They cleaned up nice. I plan to plant some hens and chicks in them and put them outside on my newly redone vintage bistro set. They are marked “Jiffy Ware Sebring Ohio” on the bottom. I couldn’t find out anything on this local company (not very helpful Sebring Historical Society website); anyone know anything they can share?

Hello, sweet green tea set! I got this at the same auction, for free as well. It was in the same barrel as the items above. Who just abandons things like this?! Amazing.

More freebies. I know these tea cups are chipped, but at no cost I couldn’t resist the handpainted branch and leaves on the insides. I’m sure I will find something to do with them that hides their imperfections. Any thoughts?

For Sale

Already up in my Etsy store:

Bought in a box lot at an  auction, these are pink depression glass plates in the Dogwood pattern. More on them in the Etsy listing.

Also an auction purchase, this set has a unique history; one in which I’d love to know. They were produced by a company known for commercial restaurant services – Syracuse China. More on them in the Etsy listing.  

Coming soon to the store…

I’m well on my way to becoming a hoarder, aren’t I?

June 24, 2011   1 Comment

Treasures from the Postman – or Tiny Apartment Crafts Rather

One of my favorite things in life is getting mail. I’m not talking junk mail or bills, no one wants those. But handwritten notes or packages… now that is heaven.


Today, these sweet little gems arrived for me compliments of Gabrielle from Tiny Apartment Crafts. The adorable camera strap and clutch were from  her Sew, Mama, Sew Giveaway Day prize package and I was the lucky winner. To be honest, I have been dying to make a fashionable camera strap but just haven’t gotten around to it. So to get one in the mail that is so cute, without having to do any work, was such a pleasure. She even threw in a chocolate bar for me, yum :)

If you haven’t had the chance to read a post on Tiny Apartment Crafts, I would highly recommend it. Gabrielle runs a great blog with awesome topics for crafters.  She also takes wonderful pictures, which is a biggie for me. I always wish my photos were better – I envy bloggers like her. I found her blog a few months back when she ran a post on a retro oilcloth shopping bag. You know I need one of those for my garage sale and flea market purchases!

Thanks again Gabrielle! I love my new treasures. The strap is already on the camera and ready to go.

June 15, 2011   2 Comments

Vintage Umbrella Planter Rehab

Whoa, what is this?! Free time to right a blog post?! I’m confused.

We have a love/hate relationship  with our house. We love being homeowners and making it our own, but we hate being slaves to it when it requires work. This Spring was our season of outdoor servitude. However, the hard work has paid off and the yard is looking lovely. So, I wanted to share some of my favorite projects.

Last year, I rescued this vintage umbrella plant hanger from my parents’ backyard. It stood on their back deck for years. It was all white and rusted and bound for the trash when I claimed it.  I gave it a solid coat of black spray paint and the hubs cemented it into our backyard.  

Needless-to-say, my spray paint job didn’t hold up and this year it looked like hell. It was nothing a wire-brushed tool tip and little oil-based black Rust-oleum paint couldn’t fix. That is definitely my paint of choice for metal items bound for the outdoors. I’m currently redoing some vintage furniture sets in it and it looks fabulous! It is a pain in the ass to get off, but I’ve found rubbing alcohol and some extra scrubbing cleans you up in no time. (For those of you who don’t know, paint thinner or gasoline is the usual method of removal for oil-based paint. Yucky.)

Anyways, once painted the umbrella was ready for some decorations. I picked up the black hanging buckets at Ikea for $4.99 each! They are clearly made for plants (they call them hanging planters), but they didn’t have holes in the bottom for water drainage. That was an easy fix with the DeWALT though.

They are filled with orange gerbera daisies and minifamous compact dark blue calibrachoa. I picked those flowers for their ability to withstand the sun – our backyard gets sun all day. They also both like well-drained soil and will bloom all summer long. The calibrachoa are an excellent choice for hanging planters as they will grow to spill over the sides.

Not to shabby for a free umbrella planter, eh?

June 7, 2011   1 Comment