A Salad Story: Best Lettuce in Greenville

Not all salads are created equal.

This summer has been stupid-hot, and all I really felt like eating for the last few months is a light & tasty salad at every meal. Pretty simple craving to deal with, right? No, not at all.

There’s a lot of crap salads out there, sprinkled with disappointment and dressed in gross-ness, and I’ve eaten them all. This summer, I made it my mission to find & eat the best salads in all the land (Greenville, SC specifically) and now that October is here and those 100 degree days are hopefully over, I think I’m finally ready to share my top 10 list.

10. "Watermelon Salad" from Tupelo Honey: it includes sweet watermelon, spicy arugula with honey yogurt dressing, and it’s topped off with country ham crumbles and candied basil. Never in my wildest salad dreams would I have put those ingredients together, but it’s outstanding.

9. “Asian Salad” from Fresh to Order: All the things I like, presented in an elegant way- mixed greens, avocado, mandarin oranges, ginger, candied walnuts, and I usually I sub out the dressing for the apricot ginger vinaigrette.

8. “Pop’s Caesar Salad” from Luna Rosa: It’s gotta be the dressing. This simple classic (topped with grilled chicken, of course) has never been better, and it doesn’t hurt to chase it with a little gelato. Unfortunately, my top 10 gelato picks will have to wait for a future blog post.  

7. “The Toscana” from Caviar & Bananas: mixed greens + crispy prosciutto, + vanilla poached pears and a bunch of other gourmet ingredients tossed in a chianti vinaigrette = one gloriously flavorful meal that’s unlike any other.  

6. “Smoky Salad” from Sidewall Pizza. Don’t get me wrong, they have excellent pizza too, but their salads are phenomenal. The “Smoky” features roasted corn, broccoli, grape tomatoes, onion, candied walnuts, and a fantastic basil dressing. Oh, and order the small portion if you’ve got a fairly normal appetite. The large will feed a village!

5. If you’re picky like I am, and you love to do the whole build-your-own salad thing at restaurants, be sure to check out Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar. I know, I know, a burger joint for a salad? Trust me! The ingredient list is long, and has ALL the good stuff. My personal concoction includes romaine, red peppers, chick peas, kalamata olives, avocado, fresh mozzarella cheese, grilled chicken, and balsamic vinaigrette.

4. “Strawberry Chicken Salad” from Stax's: this one is practically a dessert. You’ll get strawberries, blueberries, caramelized Georgia pecans, and grilled chicken breast over a bed of mixed greens, and a really interesting merlot vinaigrette.

3. “Greek Salad w/ Shrimp” from Taziki's Mediterranean Cafe: this restaurant is making their way across the southeast, and my husband and I are HUGE fans. Ever since they opened in Greenville, we’ve eaten there at least once or twice a week. On paper, Taziki’s Greek salad sounds pretty standard I suppose, but in person - in your mouth - it’s by far the best Greek salad I’ve ever had. Top it with grilled shrimp, chicken, or salmon - you really can’t go wrong.

2. “The Baja” from Caviar & Bananas: romaine, cucumber, tomato, avocado, corn, cotija cheese, and something called “jicama” that I’d describe as a sweet ugly apple that grows in the ground, all mixed together with a chipotle lime vinaigrette and topped with citrus grilled shrimp.

1. “Summer Peach Salad” from Sidewall Pizza: this is a seasonal special that makes me long for summer, even though I hate summer. The salad is full of perfect southern peaches, candied pecans, red onion, cheese, and a lovely basil vinaigrette that’s so good you’ll probably do something embarrassing to clean your bowl when you’re finished.

Bonus round!

Here’s a few favorites from national chain restaurants you can get in just about any city in America.

“Quinoa Salad” from Zoe’s Kitchen - it’s crunchy, it’s healthy, it’s good. The end.

“Mango Chicken Salad” from On the Border: sometimes chain restaurants can really surprise you! This one has mango, beans, corn, jicama (it must be a trending food?), romaine, and grilled chicken.

“Green Goddess Salad” from Panera - another chain restaurant does it right! This one is definitely about the beautiful pale green dressing, and if I could get a bowl of it and a spoon, that’d be great.




 

Indie Craft Parade 2016 Recap

What a weekend. The 7th annual Indie Craft Parade took place this past weekend, and it was, as always, one of the best weekends of the whole year. This festival of all things handmade takes place every September, and it’s extremely competitive to get a spot as a vendor, but it’s a total blast once you’re in.

It’s also a LOT of hard work. I spend every minute of the summer preparing for this show, and when the weekend is over and the dust has settled, it feels like I’ve just accomplished something big, something that’s been months in the making. Today, as I write this, everything is sore: my face (from smiling non-stop for 3 days), my feet (from standing for the better part of 18 hours), my back (from load in load out), and my brain (from keeping track of sales and trying my best to remember names), but I’m beaming with joy. I met so many wonderful customers and fellow artists, and I got to share my work with 7,000 people. There’s something really thrilling about that!

This year was another record breaker, and I’m so thankful for everyone who came by my booth. I absolutely love to see people coming over to shop who are wearing jewelry they purchased from me years ago.

I did lots of shopping as well, and these are my 2016 purchases. 

1. Bird cup from   Moonbird Pottery   2. Necklaces from   Twenty Two West   3. Ceramic ring cone from   Paper&Clay   4. Screen print on wood from  Bone and Ink • Drawings by Jennifer Janeiro Allen  5. Painted ornament from  Origin Tale  6. Print from  METHANE STUDIOS  7. Metal bunny bowl from  January Jewelry  8. Large woven wall hanging from  WARP & WEFT  9. Angry cukes, Little Rock Caviar, and Drunken Tomatoes from  Doux South  10. Bible verse cards & holder from  Thimblepress  11. Push-pop Confetti from  Thimblepress

1. Bird cup from Moonbird Pottery
2. Necklaces from Twenty Two West
3. Ceramic ring cone from Paper&Clay
4. Screen print on wood from Bone and Ink • Drawings by Jennifer Janeiro Allen
5. Painted ornament from Origin Tale
6. Print from METHANE STUDIOS
7. Metal bunny bowl from January Jewelry
8. Large woven wall hanging from WARP & WEFT
9. Angry cukes, Little Rock Caviar, and Drunken Tomatoes from Doux South
10. Bible verse cards & holder from Thimblepress
11. Push-pop Confetti from Thimblepress

As in years past, I’m sharing some show stats, mostly because this event is fun to track from year to year. I sold less items than I did last year, but I earned more, and I also noticed I didn’t do as well on Sunday as I usually do, but I did almost double my usual sales during the Friday night VIP gala. You just never know how things will shake out!

In addition to stats, I thought I’d share a few practical tips and tricks that have worked well for me over the years. These things might be useful to anyone considering doing a craft show, or even the craft show veterans out there.

  1. If you’re going to sit down at any point during the show, bring a director’s chair or taller stool so you’re still able to chat with customers and handle transactions without being hidden behind your display. It will feel more natural to talk to customers when you’re eye level with them, even if you’re going to sit. I know some pros say you should never sit (or eat, or be on your phone, etc.) but let’s get real here - you will probably need to do all three at some point!

  2. If you know you’re going to be standing for the majority of the show (either because you’re in the “never sit down camp” or because it’s going to be a busy show and sitting isn't an option) bring one of those comfort mats to stand on. Half the time I’m standing barefoot on one of those things and it really helps keep my legs from tiring out over the course of the show (and nobody can see it anyway!).

  3. You can never have too many business cards, bags, or dollar bills on hand at a show. Every stinkin year, I think I have more than enough for Indie Craft Parade, and I’m wrong. This year I packed over 400 bags, nearly double what I packed the year before, and darn it, I still ran out. I also took 100 bucks worth of one dollar bills and ran out by the end of the day Saturday. Be prepared, or better yet, be beyond prepared! I have never run out of business cards as of yet (thankfully) but I have seen plenty of vendors who did, and I just hate to see them losing potential follow-up business because their customers have no way of finding them after the show.

  4. Pack lots of food and water. If a show is really busy, you may not be able to leave your booth for a meal, and only a handful of shows offer lunch deliveries. Also - when you’re thinking through what food to pack, I find it a lot easier to eat things with a fork (no sandwiches or pizza, etc.), so you can sneak in a quick bite here and there, then get back to your customers after minimal chewing without having to worry about leaving to wash your hands, food in teeth situations, or having to take a long break to eat something big & messy in one shot.

  5. Be prepared for 60 through 90 degree temperatures, because both are possible and you have no way of knowing which. I’ve done shows where the AC was so extreme my fingers went numb and I shivered the whole time, and I’ve also had shows where I was a sweaty mess when the AC wasn’t at it’s best, so dress & pack for both extremes, no matter what time of year it is.

  6. Rethink your packaging for busy shows (or prepare it ahead of time). Unless you sell really high end or fragile items, I’d say the simpler the better. I always feel really awkward when I’ve made a purchase and I have to stand there while the artist makes fancy ribbon curls. I know not everyone agrees on this, but I wanted to put it on this list as something to encourage you to think through ahead of time.

  7. Bring back up devices for accepting credit card payments, extra battery backup, and all the chargers in the world. You don’t want any technology mishap to shut you down.

  8. Pay attention to the questions your customers ask (or keep a list, if that helps), because you’ll catch on to some repeat questions after a while which is a clue you may have something that needs to be addressed. For example, when I first started selling my Curious Cameo pendants, people were always asking if I had longer chains. I never even thought of that until people kept asking about them, so now I keep extra chains if people would like to upgrade to a longer one. Easy solution!

  9. HAVE A SIGN.

  10. Consider taking custom orders during the show. For the longest time, people would ask for a custom item and I’d give them a business card and send them to my Etsy shop, and never hear from them again. Now, I offer to take their order right then and there, and I’ll even apply any show specials I have going on, so that I’m not leaving this possible future order up to chance. I also make things easy by bringing a color chart to the show so customers can see all the available options and choose exactly what they want.

Best French Fries in Greenville

Attention health nuts: read no further!

A French fry is a glorious thing. These salty wonders made from something as unassuming as a potato are amazing enough to be their own food group. No matter how you slice, season, or dip them, there is no greater sidekick to your entree.

I’m a lifelong fan of pommes frites, and I can still remember my parents bugging me to eat the rest of my meal, because all I really wanted was the fries. Although I do make an effort in moderation these days, I enjoy those little sticks of Heaven whenever I can. Since I’m very serious about my fries, I recently embarked on a research mission here in Greenville, SC, to determine which restaurant was responsible for producing the valedictorian of local French fries. Let me just say that I’m not a licensed fry expert, I have no food critic creds here, just an intense love of fries, and I simply wanted an excuse to try them all (in the name of science, of course!!).

Let’s start with the runner’s up, a group of extremely tasty and respectable fries that almost took first place in my book.

Truffle Fries: The Lazy Goat

Sweet Potato Fries: Nose Dive

Shoe String Fries: Tupelo Honey Cafe

Crinkle Fries: Culver’s

Tater Tots: Southern Culture

Waffle Fries: Firebirds

Curly Fries: Como's Pete’s #4

Fast Food Fries: Freddy’s

There was a clear first place winner for me, and that was The Green Room. This Main Street favorite has won the triple crown of best French fries in Greenville, in my humble opinion. Try their truffle fries, sweet potato fries, and classic shoe string fries (notice I said “and” and not “or”). The texture is perfection, the flavor exquisite, the size, shape and texture are exactly what a French fry should be. You won’t find a better fry in all of the upstate.

Behind the Scenes: Artisphere 2015

Greenville, SC is home to one of the top ranked fine art festivals in the nation, drawing a crowd of over 75,000 people every year. This event showcases top notch art, craftsman demonstrations, and a wide range of performances. Artisphere is a big deal all around. To be a part of it as an artist...well, that’s a HUGE deal.

Nearly 1000 artists applied for 121 spots this year, so it was an honor to be selected. Being my first time exhibiting at Artisphere, I was certain it would be a great opportunity, if only for the exposure, but I truly underestimated things. It was a record breaking show as far as sales go, and to top that off, I won the People’s Choice Award. Thanks again to everyone who voted for me!

Preparing for Artisphere took months of hard work, and by the first week of May, I had more inventory than ever before. Although I’d originally applied for both jewelry and fiber art, I was only accepted for jewelry this time, but it ended up being a good thing. Focusing on jewelry alone stretched me to learn new techniques and expand my collection. I was also secretly glad to get a break from felting - it’s one of those things that’s enjoyable to do, but for the prices I’m able to charge vs. time involved, it’s barely worthwhile. Felting is fun for me, but bad for business.

As with every show, there’s highs and lows. This time, there were extremes of both.

High: winning the People’s Choice Award. It was an unexpected surprise, and we’ll be using the prize money for a nice weekend away for our 10th anniversary in June. I can’t remember the last time I had a day off and I’m really looking forward to it!

Low: pulling up Friday morning and realizing I forgot to rent a tent. I’m an over planner, an over packer, and generally lose sleep over the possibility of forgetting things, so to discover I omitted something pretty darn important, just hours before the festival opened, was a humbling & stressful experience that left me with a 14 hour migraine. Special thanks to the rental place that raced over within the hour and set up a tent, and to Carrie Braun, one of the organizers, for keeping me from bursting into an ugly cry.

As with past shows, I geeked out on stats. Here’s a breakdown of the successful weekend in numbers:


Curious what happens behind the scenes, before the festival officially begins? It goes something like this...

Being a part of a show like Artisphere is an incredible opportunity to meet customers in person and earn a nice lump sum paycheck, but it's also a chance to invest in some pretty amazing original art. At every show we participate in, we allow ourselves to spend up to 10% of sales supporting other artists. It's easy to do, there's so much talent out there! Whether we're from different states or the same town, we're all a part of this creative community. I want to contribute to this very special economy, not just profit from it. If I'm going to be posting #buyhandmade or #shoplocal, I need to put my money where my mouth is, especially in my own community. But really, all of that aside, it's a total delight to buy original art right from the source. I know I'll treasure each and every one of these pieces, not just because they're beautiful, but because I met the person who created it. 

Full list of artists below:

1. Tiny vase by Tara Underwood http://www.taraunderwoodpottery.com/

2. Original painting by Janina Tukarski Ellis http://www.janinaellis.com/

3. “Joyce” Sculpted donkey head by Julie Kradel http://www.fatponystudios.com/

4. Pair of green pots by John Herbon http://johnherbonpottery.com/ 

5. Fox & Rabbit reproduction on canvas by Phillip Singer www.psingerart.com

6. Bunny tile by Julie Kradel http://www.fatponystudios.com/

7. Original painting by Joseph Bradley http://josephbradleystudio.com/

8. Bowl by Amelia Stamps www.ameliastamps.com

9. 2 Mixed media pieces by Michelle Prahler www.planetprahler.com

10. Original woodblock print "Night on the Island" by Kent Ambler www.kentambler.net

11. Sterling silver necklace by Leandra Hill http://www.leandrahillmetalworks.com/

12. Original woodblock print "Psalm 108" by Kreg Yingst www.kregyingst.com

 

The Makers Summit: 3rd Annual Kick in the Butt

Earlier this month I attended a 2-day conference for creatives called The Makers Summit, put on my Indie Craft Parade. This was the 3rd annual gathering, and I wouldn’t miss it for anything. People from all over the country come to Greenville, SC, to be a part of this event. There's workshops to attend, the chance to meet one-on-one with industry experts, hear keynote speakers share their story, and get to know other makers.

Each year, I’ve gotten something completely different out of the conference. It’s true the workshops and speakers change every time so the experience is never going to be the same, but I think a big reason why my personal takeaway is vastly different year to year is because my business is in a completely different place each time. A lot can happen in between one Makers Summit and the next!

The first year (2013), I was really wanting to improve my Etsy shop, so I signed up for one-on-one sessions with experts related to that, and made big changes in the following weeks to my tags, descriptions, and photos. At the time, I was also toying with creating a personal website where my jewelry, fiber art, interior design, and writing could come together (THIS website, the one you’re reading right now!). Lastly, I was inspired to pitch to a magazine for the first time after hearing Amy Flurry, author of Recipe for Press, speak at the conference. Backstory on my first magazine pitch & feature can be found here:  

Last year (2014), I was focused on re-branding and giving my business a better overall appearance, so by the summertime I was finally ready to take the plunge and get serious about this major overhaul. It was a huge thing to check off my Makers Summit to-do list, and now I can finally say I’ve never been happier with my logo and branding. Backstory on my re-branding can be found here:

This year (2015), I found myself tuning in to advice related specifically to wholesale. I already do a fair amount of wholesale business as it is, but I really need to step it up a notch (several notches, actually). Most of my big goals for this year are for growing my wholesale reach even further, and making that side of my business significantly more professional.

Post Makers Summit To-Do List:

  • Create a printed catalogue to showcase my linesheet

  • Develop SKU’s for all wholesale inventory

  • Launch my own e-commerce website with wholesale section

  • Simplify custom ordering process: color chart, setting options, designs, etc.

  • Exhibit at one tradeshow in the next 12 months (which is way different than a craft show)

So there it is, my official list. Now that it’s posted here, I really have to be accountable! 

The conference was, as it always is, a kick in the butt to take the next major steps of this entrepreneurial journey. My brain is still processing everything I heard. I’m still buzzing with inspiration, even several weeks later.

After the Makers Summit was #thebestcraftpartyever - which is exactly what is sounds like. Click through the album below for a peek at how crafty people get crafty just for fun, when they’re not making things because it’s their job.