Jul 072014

Biblio-files for May & June 2014

May was a reading bust. Manic Trout was having a "moment" and I was so tired every night that I made it though only a page or two before I fell asleep. I think I read 2 books the entire month and one was a business book that I simply finished in May, most of it had been read before that month. In realizing this sad truth, I decided to start including the business books I read in these round ups as I know many of you are as interested in them if I am. My shame has however proved quite motivating as July is off to a bang and in the first 6 days of the month, I have already devoured 2 books. Yay for not falling asleep in two minutes!!

1. Evenings At The Argentine Club by Julia Amante. Do you match up the characters in books with faces of people you know or see (such as bloggers or celebs)? Well I do that all the time and through out reading this book, I pictured Ugly Betty. Even though you may not get the same visual pairing, if you watched the show, you'll love the book. That's all I have to say about that.

2. Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart. I'll admit that this was the book that made me fall asleep. However, it was not at all the books fault, I actually loved it and was irritated that I couldn't make it through more than a few pages at a time. Excellently written and amazing story. I found myself constantly thinking about this one during the day and couldn't wait to get back to it...even it was only a few pages, each night.  The second of Shteyngarts books that I've loved and I'll keep keep reading whatever he writes.

3. The Botox Diaries by Janice Kaplan and Lynn Schnurnberger. There is one downside about reading a lot. You sometimes don't remember a book you've read, especially if it wasn't that great of a book. Right before this book, it took me a whole chapter to realize that I had already read the book I was starting. The entire time I was reading this one, I had a nagging feeling that I had read it before as well, but I couldn't decide if that were the case or if it was that generic of a story.  So yeah.

4. The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion. Excellent book. Engaging, well written. I love Didion because I get lost in her sentences. Each one is so carefully sculpted that I enjoy them as parts as much as the whole.

5. Heart of The Matter by Emily Griffin. I went with this one after Didion in my classic reading method of alternating a serious novel with fluff. This woman cranks out the chick lit like a well oiled machine, but she does it well. Looking for a beach read, this is perfect. The meat of the story is dolled out in snippets throughout the book so it keeps you wonderfully engaged and at no point are you gagging on cheesiness.

6. Kick Ass Social Commerce for E-Preneurs by John Lawson. The title pretty much sums it up perfectly. Covers the big guys. As much as I know about social media (and that is a great deal), I still learned some new things. It also convinced me to try and actually use my Google+ account. Although admittedly that has not been going so well, but at least now I know why I should!

7. Custom Nation by Anthony Flynn & Emily Flynn Vencat. Loved this book. If you know me IRL and have a business, we've talked about how much I loved this book and how much it has influenced my thoughts on customizing. If you own a business, you need to read this.

So what have you read lately that you loved? I have been off the goodwill book buying and instead am trying to pay attention to books I really want to read so I can order them used online from Amazon. There is just way too much chick lit and crap at good will, its making my cupboard of books to read a little to full of vapid chick lit crap. Its a daunting task to browse on Amazon with out a list though. Give me some direction people, what have you been reading??

Jul 022014
watermelon salad

A summer staple: watermelon, coarse himalayan pink sea salt, fresh mint and evoo.

This morning as I ate the same breakfast I have eaten for the past almost month straight, I found myself gagging a little on my avocado. Not because it was not tasty or anything was wrong with it, but simply because I have been eating ½ an avocado a day for a month and I had about burned myself out on them. This got me thinking about my current food obsessions. This past week, Adam and I made an unscheduled, drop everything and leave the house in the middle of the night due to a family matter trip. As it's pretty difficult to eat out at most restaurants living a paleo lifestyle, I stopped at the store to pick up the things I would need to survive the next 4 days. I looked down at checkout and there they were...the food that I have been eating over and over again.

A few of my favorite things

A few of my favorite things

  • Fuji Apples
  • Crunchy Almond Butter
  • Local, Raw Honey
  • Sugar Snap Peas
  • Carrots
  • Avocados
  • Blueberries
  • Watermelon
  • Fresh Mint
  • Almonds
  • Pepperoni
  • Eggs
  • Coffee

If you told me I could only have these foods for the rest of my life, I would ask that maybe I have some chicken or fish to add in there and I'd need salt, pepper, lemons and coconut oil but otherwise I'd be fine with it. I could totally live with only these things.

Do you do this with food, am I the only lame-o who is so boring with food choices?

Speaking of this trip, I came home to realize how important it is that Adam waters our garden every night. As he still is away until tomorrow and I have not really gone out there since I came home Sunday, I noticed today when I went out to cut mint that everything is wilting in the Texas heat. I'm hoping that with a good watering tonight and then being back to a normal schedule tomorrow will revive them, but I feel horrible that I didn't notice for two days. Will everything bounce back?

Jun 252014
Lick Honest Ice Creams, South Lamar Austin

This weeks non dairy options at Lick

Is it just Austin where the majority of the population is gluten free, dairy free, meat free or some combination of them all or if this is something that is going on all over the US? Either way, it seems that there are now very few restaurants in Austin that are not open to accommodate the vegans, pescatarians, paleos, fruitarians and everything else that many of us are these days with their menu options. This has never been more apparent to me then these past few weeks after I discovered that my beloved Tutti Fruitti closed its doors at the location near me. I went on a quest to find ice cream shops that catered to dairy free eaters in Austin and was pleasantly surprised at what I found. I have been lactose intolerant for years whith some minor allowances for cheese, but I never eat ice cream milk or cream. So I was always on the lookout for basically what I thought was my only option, sorbet...which Tutti Fruitti had, along with a soy ice cream, which was eh, just ok. Honestly though, my favorite part of Tutti Fruiti was the toppings bar, specifically that they had sour gummi worms AND lots of fresh fruit which was paradise so who cares what went under it!

Lick Honest Ice Creams, South Lamar Austin

Hers and his on our ice cream date

The best option I found was Berry Austin on 2nd St, as they too have toppings, but their toppings are mostly chocolate and cereal and they have just one sorbet option which is often super tart. It didn't really do it for me. Then one day I was talking to one of my favorite customers, Tracy, while she was shopping in the studio with her mom and she suggested I try LICK on S. Lamar.  Adam and I tried half heartily few times but it was too crowded so we vowed to come back on a quiet Monday, which we finally did this past week. All I can say is, WOW! They make their own ice cream and have new flavors all the time, one of the dairy flavors sounded amazing, oh how I wish I could eat the Beet & Mint!!! But for me, I was over the moon that they offer up 4 dairy free options, woo hoo! Two of these are also vegan, fyi and all are made from a coconut milk base. I had one scoop each of the strawberry and of the tart toasted coconut, which was so delightful that I brought a pint home with me. The fact that there is a pint of hard ice cream that I CAN EAT in my freezer right now brings me such a wonderful happy feeling!

Lick Honest Ice Creams, South Lamar Austin

It was so good, I brought some home...and posed it with a random pineapple!

I should note that I live in South Austin, so ice cream shops north of downtown are not very practical, however...if you are north, Sweet Ritual has from what I hear, 16 delicious vegan flavors at their shop! The only downside is that I would never get Adam to eat vegan ice cream, so I would have to go there with a fellow lactose intolerant friend. Ahem...Renee, when are we going?

Do any of you have food intolerances that keep you from some of the wonderful delights in the culinary world? How great is it when you find a tasty alternative, am I right?

Jun 242014

sharpies in the manic trout studio I was staring adoringly into the cup of sharpies on my desk yesterday when I started thinking about how much the materials used to make art inspire so much creativity themselves. I can't even begin to count the amount of times that I have over come a lapse in creativity simply by looking at a box of colorful gemstones. Its the easiest way to set myself off on a design binge, cover my desk in materials and bam! I'm off and running.  When I moved to Austin a few years ago, I had to go through a major possession purge so that I could fit all of my belongings into a pod and moving it 2000 miles. There was also a very emotional last minute, we ran out of space and now I have to let go of a few of my favorite worldy possessions because the movers would not unpack the packed pod to fit these things, such as a chair I have had since I was young that I am obsessed with and my easel. I'll admit, I may have cried a few times these past few years over the lose of these two things even though they are just things, but they are very sentimental things. The chair is irreplaceable and the easel was what I painted on at the end of art school and for my duration as a professional painter (which did not last that long, but still...it was an important landmark in my creative journey). I know they are just things and I have almost gotten over it but they were my favorite things. Somehow during the chaos of having to leave these things behind, I lost the box of "dry" art materials. All of my pencils (there were SO many!), charcoal, pastels etc disappeared into thin air. Again, just things and very replaceable things, but there was something about the boxes of half used chalk pastels that every time I looked at them I wanted to throw myself into making something, anything...I just wanted to get my hands on them. I have tried many times to re-buy the pastels, but I just can't bring myself to bring home those boxes of shiny new, un broken pastels. It was one things to add a new a box to the mix, but to have all brand new pieces...eh. Sometimes the materials we reach for over and over again, the ones that show the patina of years of work are the ones that take us to that creative place the fastest. Don't believe me? Check out the photos below that artists have snapped of their well loved materials...so much beauty and inspiration in them! material inspiration 1

material inspiration 2

material inspiration 3

material inspiration 4

material inspiration 5

material inspiration 6

material inspiration 7


images via

Jun 202014
Hibiscus flower

Summer: Bad for online traffic, great for flowers!

The other night over dinner I was lamenting that online traffic had been slow this week. As I became increasingly agitated, Adam not so kindly told me that this was the third year in a row that he heard me talk about this exact same thing this exact same week (and then tried to tell me enough was enough). I sighed and told him that he better get used to it, because in the 11 years I have had an online business, I have gotten upset when summer hits every. single. year. I talk a big game leading up to it telling myself all of the amazing things I can do in the slow season, but once it comes I just want to crawl under the covers and cry. The good news is that as I have been changing the way I run the business so that it's focused so much more on wholesale, and I therefore never get quite as slow as I used to.  Actually for the start of the slow season I have been super busy, so hooray for that!  I however am not really prepared for what happens in July, I'm actually terrified of it because when sales start flowing like molasses on a cold day, I start to freak out. For reals.

In other news, I have been picking up sassy sayings like the molasses business from watching Hart of Dixie on Netflix and it has also confirmed a few things.

1. I do not not live in the South (with a capital S).

2. All small towns are the same, regardless of region.

3. Austin is the anomaly of Texas cities.

The show is cute, and makes me not miss living in a small town, at all. Also fun, in season 1 there are cute Friday Night Lights references for Scott Porter.

Oh and one thing that summer is good for? Gardening.  See that big hibiscus flower up there, well we grew that flower. Bam!

Jun 182014
Blueberries and cream

I have been eating this snack of  frozen blueberries with a sprinkle of sugar and (almond) milk since I was a tiny girl.

I love food. I also love routines. Loving both of these things makes it so I latch on to a few really delicious meals and make them over and over and over again. I usually get bored after a few months and toss in something new and then bring back a few things I haven't made in a while but this just means the cycle starts all over again. Most of this I blame on my lack of meal planning/its easier to grocery shop this way. I still am doing a weekly meal prep (you can read more about that here, here and here) and I admit that it has made my habit of eating meals on repeat worse. As in, Adam complains about it, a lot. I both feel bad that I force him down my path of food boredom and that he should be really, really happy that his wife cooks all the time and shut up about it. Guilt seemed to win this week though because I gave in and ordered 3 new cookbooks that I have been really wanting. I realized that every time I buy a new cookbook, I get all into it and add amazing new food to my repertoire. So by buying them I am basically solving all of my problems with one click. Yeah, that was some amazing shopping justification going on there!

One of my favorite parts about eating Paleo is that it basically is just putting a name to the way I have preferred to eat for most of my life. But it now means that I can find countless blogs, websites and awesome cookbooks that are dedicated to cooking the way I like to eat. It also means that when I buy a cookbook, I no longer have to cross out half of the recipes because I don't eat most of the ingredients, like dairy. It's actually been really awesome and has made it so I cook all the time. I bought and instantly fell in love with Well Fed at the recommendation of my friend Clare, so it made sense to order Well Fed 2.  Well this quickly became an If You Give A Mouse a Cookie scenario because Nom Nom Paleo and Against All Grain basically fell into my amazon cart after that. I blame prime, it makes me make irrational decisions. Anyway, the awesomeness that is prime means that they will be here tomorrow. I'll keep you posted on how I feel about them, but I have a feeling my instagrams will speak volumes on that as well. Wish me luck ;)

Have you been stuck in a food rut lately as well?


Jun 122014

Red velvet Hey Cupcake

Sometimes, like during the last 3 weeks I find myself wondering why I even bother to have a blog anymore. Like most casual bloggers, I have moved to Instagram with my snippets of life updates and glimpses of the behind the scenes and posting that info here ended up feeling redundant. I also moved the blog officially over to the new domain a couple of months ago and lost all of my ratings, good standing with google as well as all of the social media likes on each post and it felt a bit defeating. So I let my posts slide for the longest I have since I started this blog in 2006. Which created guilt on top of all of those other feelings. I have gone back and forth over the years about if this space should have a lot, if anything to do with Manic Trout. If I should treat it like a separate entity or an extension of that business and I still don't have the answer. I do know that as the years have brought us further away from LiveJournal and more into Instagram and Pinterest land that the pressure to be less wordy and more about photos is strong and as I spend almost all of my time in the studio, that 99% of my photos have to do with jewelry. But I don't want to blog about jewelry. I'd rather write. Then I started noticing how many bloggers with another business (like being designers) abandon their blogs when the other business gets crazy, and as Manic Trout has been crazy, I wonder if I should follow suit. I have been thinking, am I crazy to try and find time to blog?

The other day, with all of this on my mind, my friend Indiana was in the studio with me and we were chatting about my being so negligent of this space recently and she assured me that my job was to design jewelry and to run Manic Trout, to just blog when I had something to say, no pressure. I took away from that conversation that the blog should the icing on the creative cake. Which got me thinking in the days after our conversation that it should be a place I love as much as I love icing, and not a place I dread having to figure out what to do there everyday. So that is where I'm at. Looking at this space as icing. What does that mean, I have no idea, but I hope you keep coming back to find out.

I will now share with you my deep thoughts about blogging (and icing) because if you've ever read this blog before, you know I love me some deep thoughts...

1. My favorite blogs that I read daily (many of these for years and years) are incredibly wordy.

2. Some do not even have photos in their posts (crazy, I know!).

3. Many have really opened up on the internets and shared some pretty intense stuff they are going though and I like that...you are officially warned.

4. This will never become a DIY blog. In fact, I rarely ever DIY at all.

5. This will also never become a fashion blog as I wear basically the same thing in my studio everyday and put makeup on like 1 day every 2 weeks.

6. I actually call it frosting, not icing and in fact I think most of the population does too. Who still calls it icing, is it a British thing?

7. My favorite frosting is the recipe that is (was?) on the back of the Domino confectioners sugar box...so amazing and alarmingly sweet.

8. I don't actually eat sugar anymore (ok I use a tiny ¼ tsp in my coffee, but thats it) so icing/frosting right now would make me feel ill and really twitchy.

9.  But it sounds so good.

10. And this is why I will not give up the blog...because things like this list, which I would never have have written down if I did not have this space in which to share it.

Wait, is #10 a good or a bad thing?

Jun 112014

Wear this while looking at that

Wear this Yellow Happy Pills Necklace while looking at that Chihuly piece

Wear this while looking at that

Look at those Bahemian starfish while wearing this Ocean Waltz Necklace

Wear this while looking at that

Wear these Zenina Sweetest Things Earrings while looking at that hibiscus

Wear this while looking at that

Look at those adorable elephants while wearing this Eleanor Over and Over Again Necklace

Most of the time I find inspiration in images when I'm designing but sometimes I see already designed jewelry in images. This jewelry pairs pretty well with photos from pinterest, doesn't it?

May 212014
As part of Fashion Alley at the UT Fashion Show and the kick off to Austin Fashion Week.

As part of Fashion Alley at the UT Fashion Show and the kick off to Austin Fashion Week.

Spring is trunk show season. I do very few shows, but I'll admit I really enjoy doing tiny trunk shows either in local stores or with other designers in a pop up shop. As Renee pointed out, they are more like in person look books than a show and I love that about them. The shows last a few hours, only take an hour to set up and are more about chatting with people then selling and I love that as well. As my business model is based online, it's tough to be out of the studio too often so I limit the shows I do each season to less then a handful, but once they are underway I always wish I did more as it's so great to meet customers face to face.

Set up for my Fashion Week Showcase with  *annemarie* and Ilonka Designs at Link and Pin Gallery.

Set up for my Austin Fashion Week Showcase with *annemarie* and Ilonka Designs at Link and Pin Gallery.

Then I get home and realize how exhausted I am from those few hours and am thankful that I decided to stick to the few I do. This year was the second year that Austin Fashion Week was in the Spring, so 2 of the 3 events were during Fashion Week which was a bit hectic, but I was able to fully receiver by the time the show at Langford Market rolled around.

With Annemarie and Ilonka during our showcase.

With Annemarie and Ilonka during our showcase.

It's also pretty amazing when you set up with a group to be able to spend time and chat with one other. You never know who you'll be set up with if it's a group show, being set up at the UT Fashion Show was how I ended up doing the Langford Market show, as they too had a booth there!

Set up at Langford market on Guadalupe this past weekend.

Set up at Langford market on Guadalupe this past weekend.

When you set up in a store it's very different then setting up in a blank space like a big show, there is already a great deal of personality there that you need to make sure works with your display. I actually LOVED the fixtures at Langford Market (check out that light over head made from books!!) and had so much fun setting up there. I was having flash backs from architecture school using the drafting table and immediately utilized the drawers with all of my check out necessities like gift bags, pens and paper.

Detail at Langford market on Guadalupe this past weekend.

Detail at Langford market on Guadalupe this past weekend.

Each year I try to mix up my display a bit, but still keep it all within my branding. The week before the first show this year, I panicked that it would look too stale and impulse purchased a bunch of busts and 2 bracelet displays. Best decision ever. The above photo is proof of that.

A peek behind the scenes at a mock up booth I planned out at home.

A peek behind the scenes at a mock up booth I planned out at home.

My favorite part of trunk shows is that each display is different and no matter how much you plan it out, will have to adapt to the space you are given to set up. As you can see, I always create a mock up but sometimes tables are different sizes then expected or facing a different direction. This usually results in great displays I would never have done otherwise and like the busts on the scale a few photos above. Sometimes the unexpected can be amazing!

p.s. do you have a store in Austin that you think Manic Trout would have a great trunk show in? Drop a me line and lets talk!

May 062014

Biblio-files March april 2014

The stack of books in my finished pile didn't grow all that much in March, so I opted to hold off and merge the monthly Biblio-files with April. I truthfully was hoping to catch up and end up with my usual 4 books per month, but I seem to be falling asleep faster than normal these days...I blame allergies. I also blame today on allergies as I feel fuzzy. For that reason, I think it best to keep the chatter to a minimum and get right to the reviews while I can think straight.

1. Lone Star Legend by Gwendolyn Zepeda. I had read her other book, Houston, We Have A Problem a few years ago so I knew I would most enjoy this one as well, and I did. Lone Star Legend is set in Austin, and it's always interesting to read a book set in the city in which you live. It was a good read, great for a plane or vacation. Not really fluffy, but still lit lite. Is that a thing? It should be.

2. The Girls From Ames by Jeffrey Zaslow. The first non fiction book I've read in a while. A story about 11 girls from Iowa and their 40 year friendship. The catch is that it is written by a man. From my own standpoint, I have been in close groups of girlfriends throughout my life, but being one of 4 sisters, they are really the group of girls I am closest with and stay in constant touch with, it funny because it's true that they take up most of the room in my life for girl friends. Reading this book was especially interesting to see how 11 non related woman stay close for so many years. It's written well, engaging like a story for the most part. It's heavy, as real life is...I cried.

3. The Devil In The Junior League by Linda Francis. Another Texas based book and an engaging one at that. I four myself extremely wrapped up in it at times. Better than I thought it would be but not something I would tell you to run out and buy. More like, if its on the table next to you, sure pick it up and give it a go, but don't make too much of an effort to read it.

4. The Yokota Officers Club by Sarah Bird. Loved it. This one should go on your list. A coming of age tale about the oldest daughter in a military family in the mid 50's. Well written, great story. This is the one book out of the 7 on this list that you should choose.

5. Cocktails For Three by Madeline Wickham. Totally and utterly chick lit. I was skeptical as the author also writes the Shopaholic Series as Sophie Kinsella and that series is horribly written. I was curious to see if she was a better writer when not hiding behind a pen name. Maybe a tiny bit. Not worth it.

6. Skipping A Beat by Sarah Pekkanen. I found myself in a book store a couple of weeks and while walking past the half priced books saw two by this author. I had read her (I think first) book The Opposite of Me in February so I bought both immediately (which was actually a splurge compared to my normal goodwill books). I did not regret it. I was engrossed instantly and found myself mad at the characters within pages and bawling my eyes out at one point. Perhaps not a great idea to read it in public for these reasons.

7. In The Kitchen by Monica Ali. I thought I would love this book after reading the back. Eh. Not so much. I just couldn't click with the main character, although I believe that was the point and by the end I was pretty into it. Also very surprised, but that's all I'll say about that.

Looking for more book ideas? Check out more of my bibliophile posts!