How-To: Recipe Box Journal

recipe, box, lid, chevron, wooden

Alright, it’s the end of January. How are you doing on those resolutions? Or was your resolution to stop making resolutions and make changes for the better any darn time you want? That’s more my speed and when I found this idea for a recipe box journal I thought it was the perfect, low pressure way to start recording my family’s memories.

This journal is a recipe box filled with note cards, one for each day, with dividers for each month. On each note card there is enough space to write just a couple lines for each day over five years- basically like the 5 year journals or one-line-a-day journals you may have heard of. That also means that you can start any day of the year you want, and also end any day you want, and skip any day you want. Just make a note of which year it is you’re writing for that day.
process, cut, paint, notecards, watercolor
watercolors, flowers, amy rice art, calendar
To create mine, I used one of the beautiful, laser cut wooden recipes boxes we carry at Homespun from Richwood Creations. These are beautiful keepsakes that will last a lifetime, perfect for saving family recipes or memories. Not only do you get a unique and high quality box, but part of your purchase is donated to youth programs in Applachia. This box fits 4×6″ note cards, and for the dividers I cut 12 sheets of 8.5 x 11″ cardstock into 4.5 x 6″ rectangles. Depending on how the lid of your box fits on, you may need to experiment with sizes for these. Since I was working on this at the beginning of the new year, I found an old 2017 calendar with beautiful illustrations by Amy Rice Art and decided to use those to decorate my divider cards. I added some color with my son’s crayola watercolors (honestly it’s just as important for me to have washable paints) and cut the names of the months from another wall calendar we had left at the shop.
trace, cut, glue, paste, divider card
For some of the dividers I also used pages from a vintage book I had lying around, and I love the change from color to black and white as you shuffle through the cards. Since I was cutting from some really large images, I laid the divider card down on the part of the image I liked best, then traced it with a pencil and cut it out with my paper cutter. I glued the two together, added the cut month title, and smashed them in a press (a big dictionary works just as well).
close-up, may, vintage book, pencil, glue
journal pages, notecards, divider cards, pictures
Count out the amount of note cards to correspond with the number of days in each month, then label the top of each note card with the date. Add years as necessary and you’re ready to go! Keep it anywhere around the house you think you’ll be most likely to take out a card and jot down a note. And just a tip from a lifelong journaler, ANY detail about your day is worth recording. You’d be surprised how entertaining your everyday details are 20 years from now. All of those little details change and become a memory and any recording of the day’s vibes is relevant. If you have children or other members of the family they can pitch in, too, and write something they did or remembered from that day.
I hope you will take the time to make this project, it really pays off- especially the second year you’re writing and reflecting on that same day from the year before. Tag @homespunindy on social media if you make this so we can see your work!
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Meet Your Maker: Toys by Jean Elise

Jean Elise of Toys by Jean Elise is passionate about the world, and about bringing the world into the everyday play of children. Her toys are colorful and playful, but they also take kids seriously: from play money, to notebooks for documenting backyard discoveries, these are the types of toys for the truly curious. Learn more about Jean Elise’s travels and passions that make her so good at connecting with kids and making brilliant toys.


jean, elise, toys, table, display, for sale

1| How do you describe your work to people who don’t know anything about crafting/art? 

I aim to create work that inspires children to be inquisitive and imaginative and make discoveries in the natural world. I want to spark their interest in looking at bugs or get them intrigued to learn more about countries all over the world. To create my toys and games, I draw upon interesting and educational aspects of world culture and the natural world. I design toys and kits that allow children to explore and grow in ways that make sense with various stages of development.


2| Why do you make/design things? 

Because it’s fun! I also think it’s just inherit in my nature. As a child I was constantly drawing and making. I have a very specific memory of me and a friend wanting to throw a birthday party for our stuffed animals. I spent the entire play time making tiny hats, treat bags, candies (out of paper and rubber bands) and little costumes for them. I never even got to the part of “having” the party! The joy for me was the process of creating all the tiny things, and I really haven’t changed the much when I think about it!

pirate, treasure, map, dabloons, chest

3| Tell us about your creative process. Is everything hand-drawn? How does an idea become a final product?

I begin creating most of my toys by exploring a subject matter that I notice many children are interested in, or a special niche interest that a few children I know hold dear. For example, I’ve observed many children lovingly select small treasures they spy when playing outside or on nature walks. It’s a fantastic introduction to the natural world. I then ask myself, what’s a way a child could take this interest a little bit further? What about a special box where they store all of their treasures? This keeps their specimens safe, tidy and accessible. An additional step further would be to include a small catalogue book so young naturalists can begin the practice of recording what they find.  They can write (or have someone help them write) the date and location, what the object is and what their observations are about this object. They might write about how the object looks, feels, sounds, or even what it smells like. In other words the object’s phenotype. They are not “pretending” to be scientists, they are scientists. They are doing the work of a naturalist – so how do I embody that in my product? There’s a lot of effort that goes into the writing and the wording, and the kit design in that regard. After the concept and writing is figured out, I move on to how to execute the product with the resources and materials available to me. My business is just me, my toys are not produced in a factory, so I have to figure out how I alone can produce what I need for my toys and kits to work. Once I’ve got a good idea of what the each product entails, I start to draw and design. All illustrations are hand-drawn by me with good old paper and pencil. I then ink them, scan them in and tweak them on my computer to be easier to use my design software. I’m completely self-taught in all the design software and am always learning new little tricks and tips. Then it’s just a matter of printing and putting it all together.  Then packaging, distributing, selling, etc. Then, after a bit of time, I go back to that original design and re-do some or all. These changes might be due to new materials or tools I now have, a change in personal style, a change in the goal of the product, or it might reflect feedback from customers, friends or fans. Kinda neat that I have some fans, right? They are super great and I feel so loved when they shoot me a message, like something of mine on social media, or stop by my booth at a show.  The creative process, as you might imagine, never really ends!

4| What do you love about your job?

Running away in my head with a concept for a new kit or toy is so dreamy. How can I make something for children who have a penchant for mycology? Astronomy? Cartography? What about the kiddos who want to know everything there is to know about bridges? Or ants? Air ships? Foods of the world? And then there are kids that would love to learn a new skill, like drawing. Or sewing. Maybe even fortune telling? Creating toys that fuel a child’s specific interest is pretty special.


5| What is the biggest challenge in making toys for kids?

The biggest challenge for me is, more or less, figuring out what to prioritize. There’s just a lot that I want to do, and everything takes a chunk of time! Especially if I want to do it the way that I want to do it, which sadly doesn’t always get to be the case. I have big dreams for things I want to include with my toys or games, but again, since it’s me and not a whole factory, I have to pick and choose what makes sense for me to produce at any given moment. That’s tough! I’m also, in a way, competing with so many toys that have more bells and whistles – electronic toys and apps that of course can do things my toys and kits can’t. There’s a very old-fashioned feel about my toys and kits and finding a place for that can be hard. There are a LOT of inexpensive plastic toys in this world. Some of them are favorites and get played with again and again and can be passed down from kid to kid. Some, however, can get boring pretty easily and get tossed in short order. They sit in landfills and take who knows how long to decompose. I’m pretty determined to make toys from materials that can be recycled and can actually decompose. I don’t want my toys to be another plastic thing thrown in a toy box. I’ve got a background in Montessori education, and a major component of that educational approach is to only offer children beautiful materials made from more natural materials, like ceramics, baskets and wooden tools. This shows a respect to children by honoring their aesthetic needs while also helping them learn how to respect the materials and resources available to them. That’s important to me and I work hard to try to embody that sentiment in every toy and kit.

entomologist kit, bugs, jar, critter, toy

6| Was being a working artist always your plan or was there an “aha” moment?

Hm, neither really. It just slowly, slowly started to occur. Some friends (and strangers!) expressed interest in purchasing some little felt craft things I had made, and then I started sharing a booth at different markets with a friend. However, once I made my first board game Jungle Chess (which you can still purchase on my Etsy site) for a friend, I think that sealed the deal. Who doesn’t find being a professional toy-maker appealing?


7| How do you work, and where?

I get a lot of my ideas from my work with kids – I’ve worked with infants all the way up to middle school and every age in between. They are my number one inspiration, and from their interests and quirks I base the creations of my toys. I flesh out my ideas by doing research into a variety of topics – folklore, zoology, and art history. I’m inspired by turn of the century ornamentation, Korean animation, scientific drawings and various authors and other illustrators I admire. I spend a lot of time sketching at home or at cafes, then I scan my work in and digitally arrange and color them. There’s a bit of more manual work as well – cutting, sewing, gluing, sanding, etc. There’s also writing, proofing and editing work which I usually have to enlist the help of good friends to assist with! Part of my apartment I’ve converted into a studio so the bulk of my work (that can’t be done out and about) is done there.

blocks, mix and match, fox, coins, drawings, colorful

8| I love the specificity of your toys! Do you make custom toys? If so, can you tell us about a favorite custom project?

Thank you! Specificity is definitely my jam. Also, I do make custom toys! I actually made a special variation of my play money for Conner Prairie, which was so much fun to do and a huge honor! I went there a lot as a kid with my family and my girl scout troop and thought it was such an amazing place. To know now that I have something there for other kids to use is so cool! The play money I make and sell for my own business reflects the amazing diversity in fauna we have in our country. Each of the beautiful, rainbow-colored bills features a specific region in our nation and showcases animals that live there. For the Conner Prairie bills, each paper bill features a specific habitat in Indiana and animals that dwell there. Cave salamanders and little brown bats in our caves, river otters and rainbow trout in our rivers and streams, and prairie deer mice and spur-throated grasshoppers in our prairies. Just to name a few! I loved doing the research for that project and learning more about the amazing inhabitants we share our state with!


9| If you could swap lives with another artist, who would that person be?

I’ve always admired ceramicists and potters. I have little to no skill when it comes to working with clay and envy those that do! Watching a potter use their hands to deftly turn a lump of earth into something so delicate is fascinating. It’s one of the oldest art forms and a perfect marriage of practicality and artistic expression. How poetic!

gameboard, game, money, dollars, play

10| What makes a handmade object valuable? 

A handmade object is created with intent. It requires concentration and it fulfills a purpose. Makers make things that reflect a time, a place, an emotion or a passion. When someone sees that object they might get a sense of that time, place, emotion or passion. A connection is formed. Makers recognize that someone will treasure this object –  it will be played with, it will be read or listened to or watched. It will be worn or admired or given to a loved one. That’s a wonderful thought and makes it so unique – a factory produced object lacks that concentration and devotion in it’s creation. It lacks that human to human connection.


11| Using that definition, what’s the most valuable object you own? 

That’s a very difficult question to answer. It’s not necessarily the most valuable but it’s up there… In the 1960’s my grandfather moved to Indonesia to teach forestry, along with his family (including my mother) and he knew lots of local artists. He purchased a handmade statue of a barong, which is a lion-like mythological creature in Indonesian. It’s utterly fantastic! In Balinese dance a barong combats a scary demon. It’s symbolic for the constant battle between good and evil. When my mother was living in Indonesia there was no TV for her to watch, so almost nightly she went to see traditional dance performances and puppet shows. I like to imagine her as a teenager sitting with her friends and watching the barong dance. I also think about my grandfather’s sense of adventure and interest in world cultures and how that influenced me – as a traveler and a maker! The intricacy in its creation and use of unusual (to me) materials demonstrate the craftsman’s talents and show me what artists used in that place at that time. It’s an object that gives me a fascinating slice of life of 1960’s Indonesia.


12| Tell us one true thing about yourself that people don’t believe when you tell them.

Besides making things, my other biggest hobby/life passion is world travel. I’ve now been to 36 countries and many of those I’ve backpacked through independently. I’ve hitchhiked in Kyrgyzstan, seen a bull sacrifice in Ghana and watched the sunrise over 800 year old temples in Cambodia. Our planet is beautiful, isn’t it?


13| Give us three more non-crafting-related details about you or your life.

I’m left handed.

I’m scared of (but also enamored with) caves.

Two of my favorite authors are Kurt Vonnegut and Haruki Marukami.

code, encryption, cipher, kit, secret, decoder

Come on over and visit the shop to check out these lovely toys in person, or visit Jean Elise Toys on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter or on her website. Thanks Jean Elise!

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Staff Picks ’17: Last Minute Gifts

last minute gifts, presents, party, flat lay

There’s always some reason for a last minute gift over the holidays- whether you’re meeting someone last minute, heading to an unexpected party, or you just thought of that person in your life who deserves a special thought this season, we’ve got the perfect thing. Stop in and find something sure to please at just the right price. Check out our suggestions below or ask one of our staff day-of and we’ll set you on the right track!


metal, pin, tired, uninspired, black, gold

Tired Uninspired Pin/ Patch by 1606 Supply Co., $10

Mark: A simple funny gift anyone can appreciate.


movie, candle, film, star wars, real

Candle Votive by Actual Film Cell Votives, $12

Hayley: These would make great last minute gifts because there are so many different votive to choose from that feature different movies on the front of each one!


Chocolate Bars by Curly Girl, $6.50

Anna: A gift and a card in one? Slap a ribbon on it and call it a day. Who can resist how delicious they are?!


gift card, homespun, shop local, last minute

Homespun Gift Card, $?

Claire: The perfect reason to come visit me in the shop and let the staff help you find something you love!


moth, ceramic, blue, handmade, clay

Insect Ceramic Mug by Linnea Campbell, $35

Lee: Everyone has a preferred cup-a, and no one can have enough mugs! I also love that the low profile of this mug allows for easy use under espresso machines, pour-overs, or other brewers of choice.


Do Good Wooden Banner by Savvie, $20

Grace: Simple, stylish, versatile and positive, this nice looking reminder to “do good” will fit into anyone’s decor.


Paper Holiday Floral Arrangement by Paper Peony, $54

Megan: You can never go wrong showing up with flowers- and bonus points for the creativity here.


candle, christmas, holiday, Christmas story

“You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out, Kid!” Candle by JKM Soy Candles, $19

Amanda D: A delicate and fan favorite scent for the Christmas season – perfect for anyone!


colorful, ceramic, trees, ornaments

Ceramic Tree Holiday Ornament by Art by Jen F., $12

Alayna: I love the beautiful simplicity of these ornaments! Sure to fit any decor.


Tea by Hugo Tea, $8.50

Amanda MT: Flavors for everyone and the packaging is so nice they won’t think it was last minute!


Hand & Dish Towels by Just A Jar, $28

Neal: Because you can never have too many kitchen towels, especially display-worthy ones.

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Meet Your Maker: Home Ec. Preserves

Jessica Sowls is owner and chef of Home Ec., an Indianapolis based jam and pickle kitchen. If you’ve ever sampled any of her creations you know how transcendent (yes, I’m going there) an expertly made jam can be. Learn more about the life of a jam-maker from the sweetest one in town, and make sure you get your jam/ jelly/ marmalade game straight.

fruit, preparation, kitchen, indianapolis, jam, peaches

1| How do you describe your work to people who don’t know anything about crafting/art?

I usually say something like “I make fancy jam and pickles,” and then elaborate if people seem interested. I always feel awkward talking about it, as it’s such a grandma/bourgeoisie mashup.


2| Why do you make/design things?

I have artists in my family, so it was a natural thing to do while growing up. Once creating things is in your blood, no other work will ever be as satisfying.


3| What do you love about your job?

The autonomy! I can work when I want to, take breaks when I want to, and make what I want to make. I also love the variety of things that need to be done as a one-person business. I do everything- from bookkeeping to social media to selling at farmers’ markets to picking fruit at orchards to experimenting in the kitchen. I love that I found a niche where I can be creative and make a living (albeit modest) at the same time.

jessica, apron, kitche, jam jars, jelly

4| Was being a working artist always your plan or was there an “aha” moment?

Being an artist was the plan, yes. Being a jam and pickle maker, no. I went to art school and wasn’t a good cook by any means. I was always interested in DIY stuff though, and when I moved into an apartment with a really great kitchen I started cooking a lot and canning. Around that time I had an art show in one of Big Car’s old spaces in the Murphy building (I think this was 2010ish). I was doing food paintings and embroidery, and I set up a little table in the gallery to sell my jam too. People bought it, and I started selling more jams, pickles, and cookies in my friend Casey Roberts’ art studio every First Friday after that. I did that for a couple years before getting confident enough to apply for a booth at the Indy Winter Farmers’ Market, where I got my official start in 2012.


5| How do you work, and where?

I rent part of Lick Ice Cream’s kitchen at Circle City Industrial Complex. We both used to rent a shared kitchen in a church basement that was pretty cramped and old, with equipment that broke down a lot, nosey churchgoers asking if we believed in Jesus while we were working, and my stuff occasionally getting stolen. Lick has this great commercial kitchen at CCIC now that they built out and invited me to join them. I am forever grateful for that.

As for how I work, it really depends on what needs to get done. In the kitchen I voraciously listen to podcasts and music to keep my mind occupied since most of the work is purely physical- prepping fruit and veggies, washing dishes, and labeling jars can get really boring after a few hours.

spoons, fruit, jam, preserves, local, card

6| How did you come up with your current (and future, and past) jam and pickle flavors? Which ones are the most popular?

I use a combination of others’ recipes and my own. Inspiration often comes from flavors I encounter in other types of food, and I look at a lot of cookbooks. There are limits to how much I can be truly creative with preserving, as long-term safety is the reason that preserved foods are the way they are.


7| Where do you source your ingredients?

I buy from many local farms as fruits and veggies come into season. In the summer I will often pick the fruit myself from places like Prelock Blueberry Farm and neighborhood fruit trees (this year so far I’ve scored sour cherries, plums, and black raspberries). What I can’t get locally I will buy from wholesalers, though I try to adhere to a US-grown policy, as I hate the idea of using fruit shipped halfway around the world. I do have to make an exception for pineapple and vanilla beans though, as that’s the only place they grow!

work space, shelf, jars, process, jam making

8| Can you pickle anything? What’s the weirdest thing you’ve pickled?

I’ve yet to see anyone pickle potatoes, but you can pretty much throw some vinegar on anything and say it’s pickled. It’s a whole other level to be able to can or ferment the food and end up with something edible. Not sure which is the weirdest, but I’ve pickled winter squash, morel mushrooms, and starfruit. They were all really good.


9| What’s your favorite way to use one of your jams or pickles? Do you have a recipe to share?

I’m pretty boring when it comes to using jam and pickles. I eat my jam on toast and pickles straight from the jar. Both can be surprisingly good in homemade salad dressings. A spoonful of jam in a cocktail instead of simple syrup is good too.


10| If you could swap lives with another artist, who would that person be?

It would be fun to experience the life of someone very different, like Kanye or someone like that, who is the opposite of me in so many ways. We’re all human, but what other similarities would there be? I’d especially love to be inside the head of a man for a little while to see what goes on in there.

pouring, filling, jam jar, fruit, process, kitchen

11| What makes a handmade object valuable?

Value is completely subjective. For me the value lies in a connection to the object in a sentimental way or in appreciation of aesthetic qualities.


12| Using that definition, what’s the most valuable object you own?

Boring answer, but probably my car, which I’m terribly attached to sentimentally and aesthetically (it’s a 1980s Volvo that I’ve had for 15 years). It’s the only object I think I would be devastated to lose.


13| Tell us one true thing about yourself that people don’t believe when you tell them.

Maybe that I do my own car repair? Since my car is 30 years old I’ve had to learn how to fix a lot of things on it myself, and when done successfully it’s a really empowering feeling.


14| Give us three more non-crafting-related details about you or your life.

I grew up in rural Minnesota, on top of a bluff that overlooks the Mississippi River. I was a notoriously picky eater, though I always liked jam and pickles. Before coming to Indiana for grad school, I lived and worked all over the Southwest US, as well as the obligatory stint in Brooklyn (which was punctuated by 9/11).

canning, late night, kitchen, process, local, jam

Side question- what’s the difference between jam and jelly?

Jam is made with whole fruit, and jelly just the juice. Preserves are generally chunkier than jam, and conserves contain nuts and/or dried fruit. Marmalade is made with whole citrus fruit, rind and all. Sometimes I see people calling other things marmalade because it’s a cool word, but it’s not marmalade if it’s not citrus-based.


Need more preserves? You can find Home Ec. on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter @homeecpreserves. You can also find Home Ec. right here on the Homespun shelves in perfect little stocking stuffer/ last minute/ work party/ hostess gift sizes. They are just the sweetest little treat. Thank you Jessica!


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Staff Picks ’17: The Geek

Self-admitted or not, being a geek is nothing to be ashamed of. Geeks are cool. Geeks are genuine. And we have lots of genuinely cool geeky stuff here at the store to prove it. Here’s what our staff is buying for their geeky friends (or selves).


Zodiac Coloring Book by Mab Graves, $19

Mark: So many of my geeky friends are deep into astrology. And even if they weren’t, they’d still love this.


Princess Leia Pennant Banner by Oxford Pennants, $20

Hayley: Because who doesn’t want this iconic lady boss on their wall?


Alternate Histories of the World Book by Matthew Buchholz, $28

Anna: Historian meets monster fan. My kind of nerd.


Coasters by Green Bird Press, $10

Claire: Whether you’re shopping for Doctor Who fans, Star Wars fans, or superhero fans, these fun coasters run the geek gamut.


Star Wars Potholder by Umbrella Girl Productions, $9

Lee: ‘Cause every room needs some nerd flair, kitchens included.


Nintendo Controller Bow Tie by Perler Tricks, $10

Alayna: I feel like everyone geeked and had an obsession with Nintendo at one point in their life. It’s something you can’t get over.


Twin Peaks Coaster Set by Hunky Dory Studio, $49

Amanda MT: Twin Peaks is a nerd right of passage. If you know a nerd, you know they will love this.


Unicorn Lego Art by Smitten by Cat, $48

Grace: Unicorns and Legos? Sounds like a great combination to me!


Magnet Sets by Arthur’s Plaid Pants, $10-12

Neal: From Arrested Development to The Goonies, all the nerd staples are covered. Ready to cheer you up at every magnetic corner.


Platform 9 3/4 Print by Quiet Boy Studio, $20

Amanda D: A subtle Potter shout out perfect for the Hogwarts geek- like me!


Pocket Square by Handsome & Lace, $19

Megan: For your geek-on-the-down-low type- a nice, subtle pocket square.

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