Did you know this was a thing? The International Biscuit Festival

Biscuits will save your soulLast year during my “Great Dolly Parton Adventure” in Knoxville, Tennessee, I learned that I had just missed an event of monumental proportions: The International Biscuit Festival.

This festival spans a jam-packed weekend each May and celebrates the Southern biscuit making tradition with a juried art exhibition, a songwriting competition music, dance and a Mr. and Miss Biscuit pageant. I was also interested to learn than the Southern Food Writing Conference is held concurrently with the festival, making me disappointed my schedule did not allow me to make a trip to Knoxville this year.

To soothe my disappointment, I’ll read these biscuit making tips from the Tupelo Honey Cafe and watch an excerpt from Alton Brown’s former Food Network show, “Good Eats.” (Specifically, this clip where Alton Brown makes biscuits with his meemaw.)

How about you? Do you looooove a good biscuit? Have you ever been to the festival?

8 tips for surviving the outdoor handmade marketplace and flea market shopping experience

Outdoor market shopping? 8 survival tipsIf you’re like me, one of the best parts of summer for you is attending outdoor handmade markets and junking at a good flea market.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot of survival strategies (and observed a lot of poor behavior by my fellow shoppers). To help you be prepared for the upcoming season (come out and see us at the Hudson Flea in Hudson, Ohio!), I thought I’d share some of my tips.

  1. Set a budget & pay with cash. Before you head out, figure out how much you’re prepared to spend at the event. Then, go to the bank and withdraw that amount. If you leave your credit cards at home, you’ll curb impulse buying (and you’ll save the vendors, who are cost-conscious small business  owners, credit card vendor fees).
  2. Scope out vendors before you go. Many handmade marketplaces and flea markets promote the heck out of their events and the products the vendors will bring with them. This will help you prioritize your “must buy” items and help you stick to your budget. If you’re lucky, the event host will provide a map of where each vendor will be located prior to the event date. If so, take some time to take a look at it; doing so will help you plan your trip and make the best use of your time (which is super important when the event is large or your time is limited).
  3. Bring a notebook and pen. (And get a printed vendor location map, if one is available.) If you want to think about an item before buying it, you’ll think you’ll remember where the vendor is located. You won’t. After seeing your fifth Steampunk jewelry artist, fourteenth typography booth and your twelfth upcycler, you just won’t. Trust me, you won’t regret having a method for note taking.
  4. Social media sharing is fun… but make sure the vendor is okay with it. Most vendors welcome social media sharing so others can learn about their products (as long as you tag their business in your posts). However, a lot of vendors at handmade marketplaces are artists who carefully control how their work and ideas are shared with the world, so ask before taking pictures or sharing on social media. If they are okay with it, help promote them effectively by asking how they prefer to be tagged in social media.
  5. Apply (and reapply) sunscreen. Sunburn, premature aging and skin cancer suck. Do what you can to avoid these conditions.
  6. Pack a lunch and a water bottle. This is good advice for many reasons. You want to save your cash for buying new lovelies. Market food and drink is pricey ($5 bottles of tap water, I’m looking at you) and if there is a super-hip food truck at the event, the lines will be looooong. Avoid the risk of hassle and getting hangry; bring your own provisions.
  7. Bring your own bags. Once you start acquiring your loot, you’ll want something more comfortable to carry around than a plastic grocery bag (I recommend a sturdy canvas tote). If you’re planning to bring home a lot of stuff, bring a granny cart along, too.
  8. Do NOT bring a wagon. Your (well-behaved) kids are welcome but if they can’t handle walking around for a long period of time, please find a sitter. Handmade marketplaces and flea markets are crowded. Wagons take up a lot of room and are difficult to move around, to the annoyance of many. Don’t be that annoying person.

What about you? Do have any other tips to share with your fellow outdoor shopping aficionados?

 

See us on 4/25 at The Mom and Pop Shoppe in Akron!

Crafty Mart Mom and Pop ShoppeImage credit: Crafty Mart

That’s right, we’re hitting the road! On Saturday, April 25, we’ll have a booth set up at The Mom and Pop Shoppe hosted by Crafty Mart, Akron, Ohio’s longest-running handmade market.

Vendors offering a wide array of handmade goods will be set up at three different locations Musica, Summit Artspace and the Akron Art Museum. We’ll be at Musica (51 E. Market St., Akron, Ohio) from 10 AM to 5 PM.

Christine will be bringing flavors of soap that are not currently available in the Emmet Street Creations Etsy store. Mango Papaya was inspired by her recent vacation in Costa Rica and Rosemary Herb Loofah was the successful result of her Loofah Soap experiment. Supplies are limited, so get yours before they’re gone! Of course, you’ll also be able to purchase customer favorites like Soap á l’orange and Citrus Clouds, too.

Remember if you come out to The Mom and Pop Shoppe, you’ll save the shipping costs you’d pay when you order on Etsy. You could use that savings to get a pizza at Luigi’s Restaurant, an Akron favorite since 1949. Just look for the giant pizza hanging on the exterior of the building (or follow the good smell wafting through the air).

See you there!

Know someone who loves to support handmade makers? Why not share this post with them so they can plan to attend? It’s easy! Simply use one of the sharing buttons below (Note: If you’re reading this via e-mail or reader, you’ll need to link to our website to use the sharing buttons).

Traditional Costa Rican coffee

Traditional Costa Rican Coffee

I’ve never been much of a coffee connoisseur. I settle for a single cup in the morning to wake me up and after that, I don’t think much about it. That was until I discovered a traditional Costa Rican method for making coffee that changed my life.

While staying in Monteverde during my recent trip to Costa Rica, Matt and I took a walk through the town and stumbled across the Cafe Orchid Coffee Shop. This cute little coffee shop is one of the few places I found that makes coffee using a traditional “chorreador.”

A chorreador is a wooden stand that allows a cloth filter, called a “bolsita,” filled with coffee grounds to be suspended over a small pot or a coffee cup. Hot water is slowly poured into the filter and drips out the bottom.

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The cloth filter allows all the smooth rich coffee taste to leach out and leaves behind the harsher acidic notes that sometimes bother my tummy. The filter is also reusable, which cuts down on waste. We had our coffee con leche (with milk) and snacked on a yummy chocolate brownie while taking in the beautiful decor of the shop.

Cafe Orchid Coffee Shop in Monteverde

I was immediately hooked on this coffee. So hooked that I bought two chorreadors as souvenirs. Every Saturday and Sunday morning, I make our coffee using this method and it brings a little something special to the start of our day.

Want to change a coffee lovers life? Why not share this traditional method with them? It’s easy to let them know, simply use one of the sharing buttons below (Note: If you’re reading this via e-mail or reader, you’ll need to link to our website to use the sharing buttons).

 

Costa Rican getaway: 3 fun ways to see wildlife

3 ways to see wildlife in Costa Rica

One of the best things about a vacation in Costa Rica is the chance to see wildlife that you normally only see on television. From insects and lizards to birds and mammals, Costa Rica is rich in biodiversity. The best way to maximize your chances of seeing amazing wildlife is to hire a professional guide to take you through one of Costa Rica’s many parks.

Professional guides in Costa Rica go through a degree program to learn about the flora, fauna and history of their country. They are bilingual and speak excellent English and they are incredibly adept at finding creatures large and small. And, thanks to technology, they are in touch with nearby guides via cell phone so they can share exciting finds.

During my recent trip to Costa Rica, I went on several guided tours and saw a great variety of creatures. I’d like to tell you about my three favorite

Caño Negro National Wildlife Refuge

If you’re staying in the Arenal region, don’t miss this six- to seven-hour excursion. You are typically picked up at your hotel and driven to Los Chiles, close to the Nicaraguan border. On the way, you’ll stop at the very popular Restaurante Las Iguanas.

 

Restaurante Las Iguanas

If you love iguanas, this is the place for you. The trees around this restaurant are covered in dozens of iguanas of all sizes. Our guide explained that years ago, the restaurant owner fed the iguanas in order to serve them on the menu. This is no longer a legal practice, but the iguanas have stuck around in the hopes of getting a yummy meal of left over vegetables.

Iguana in a tree

After a brief stop, the journey continues to the Rio Frio where you will board a covered pontoon boat for a leisurely float down the river. Within the first few minutes of our tour, we saw several species of birds, including jacanas, anhingas and a crested caracara. We also saw three types of egrets (great, snowy and cattle) which are beautiful, white shore birds.

An egret chilling on the Rio Frio

 

Cattle egret and horse

As we progressed down the river, we found troupes of howler monkeys and white-faced Capuchins. Where there are Capuchins, there are basilisk lizards, also known as Jesus Christ lizards. We saw a nice demonstration of how these lizards got their nickname. Capuchins regularly hunt and eat the lizards. We were able to watch one of the small green lizards make a fast getaway by jumping from a tree branch into the water, then running on its hind legs to the safety of a plant on the shore. The little Capuchin was not happy.

Green Jesus Christ lizard

After the tour, we were treated to a traditional lunch of chicken, rice and beans, and fresh pineapple. If you go on this tour,  be sure to bring an insect repellant, sunscreen and a camera. Some birds and animals, like the sloth, stay high up in the trees and are hard to see without binoculars so if you have them, bring them.

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

If you plan to visit the Monteverde Cloud Forest region, be sure to dress for the weather. You will be high on a mountain that is covered in clouds much of the time. This means cooler and wetter weather than any other region in Costa Rica. Bring quick drying clothes and a raincoat but expect to feel damp most of the time.

That said, the area is at the top of my list of places I want to return to. It’s stunningly beautiful and the greenest place I’ve ever been. A guided tour through the reserve is the best way to maximize the number of creatures you will see. The guides who work this park are there day after day and have an intimate knowledge of the area.

Our guide quickly pointed out a tiny abandoned hummingbird nest that was covered in moss and lichen.

Hummingbird nest in Monteverde

Walking the paths of the reserve is a practice in meditation. While we were there it was incredibly quiet and peaceful.

Trail in Monteverde

Our guide pointed out tiny objects, like a dead ant that had been taken over by a zombie fungus which was growing out of the carcass. He also found a caterpillar with amazing floral appendages hanging out under a leaf.

Caterpillar under a leaf

The prize of our entire trip came near the end of our hike. Our guide received a text on his cell phone and very excitedly rush us down the trail to a spot where several other people were looking up into the canopy. Sitting there, in all its wondrous glory, was a male Resplendent Quetzal, a bird of such magnificent beauty that it was considered sacred to the Aztec and Mayan people. Our guide let us snap a picture through his spotting scope and, unfortunately, we didn’t get a shot of its two foot long tail.

The Resplendent Quetzal

Before you leave, be sure to stop at the hummingbird gallery located right outside the park and get an up close and personal view of hundreds of hummingbirds and bananaquits visiting the feeders. Check out some amazing photographs (not taken by me) here.

Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park is located just south of Quepos on the Pacific coast. It’s surrounded by huge palm oil plantations and is a safe haven for 109 species of mammals and 184 species of birds. Although it’s tiny, it’s considered one of the most biodiverse parks in the world.

It’s important to note that the park puts strict limitations on the number of visitors allowed. Only 600 visitors are allowed on weekdays and 800 on weekends and holidays. Most tours start early in the morning. You can walk through the park on your own, but I don’t recommend it. You will surely miss out on some extraordinary wildlife without the trained eye and spotting scope of a guide.

Our guide allowed us to take pictures with our cell phones through his high-powered spotting scope and we got the best pictures of our trip here.

Bright green lizard

Normally, I immediately kill any spiders that are unfortunate enough to cross my path. But, in Costa Rica, even the spiders are beautiful and interesting to watch.

Spider on a web

Most of the frogs are nocturnal and we were lucky to catch a glimpse of one hanging out on a leaf.

Disapproving frog

The spotting scope can zoom in so closely that we only caught one crab in our picture. The ground around the trail was actually covered in crabs .

Red land crab

My favorite animal, and the whole reason I agreed to Costa Rica in the first place, is the sloth. I love all varieties of sloths. We saw seven sloths total, and six of them where in the Manuel Antonio region. Not one of them would turn and look at the camera.

Sloth eating in a tree

If you are planning a trip to Costa Rica, decide what type of wildlife you want to see and then research which places offer the best chance of seeing that wildlife. For our first trip, we focused on birds and, of course, sloths. We were happy to come home with a list of 81 species of birds along with three of the four types of monkeys (we missed seeing spider monkeys) and both types of sloth.

Know someone who is planning a Costa Rican getaway? Why not share these recommendations with them? It’s easy to let them know, simply use one of the sharing buttons below (Note: If you’re reading this via e-mail or reader, you’ll need to link to our website to use the sharing buttons).