Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Welcome, Summer! Welcome, Direct Checkout!

Well, its the first day of summer.  It certainly feels like it here on MV - it's soooo hot and sticky!  Even my cats don't seem to want to go play outside.  Everyone is lazy and sluggish in the heat, and tomorrow will be even hotter!

And along with summer, something new and exciting has come to my shop!

Announcing the arrival of Direct Checkout at Beach Plum Cottage!  You no longer have to use PayPal to make a purchase from my store - I accept credit cards directly.  Easy Peasy!

In celebration of summer and Direct Checkout, I am having a BIIIG sale - Use coupon code: LETFREEDOMRING for 15% off your entire order from now until July 4, 2012.  Enjoy summer everyone!  :)

Monday, June 4, 2012

And now for something completely different... Cake!

Thus far on this little blog adventure of mine, I've talked mostly about my Etsy shop and a little bit about the gorgeous island I live on.  Aside from the photos of jewelry, crochet and nature here on Martha's Vineyard, I haven't even touched another big part of my life - FOOD!

As many Americans do, I have a sweet tooth.  I loooove chocolate, fruit, caramels.  Even worse, is that I know how to (and LOVE to) bake for myself and my friends!  Last year, I won 2nd place in the MV Ag. Fair for my blueberry muffins and got an Honorable Mention for both my cookies and my cupcakes.  I plan on going back again this August and sweeping the category.

Every one of my friends gets a special cake or pie for their birthdays...  Anything they choose, I promise to make.  From the Silver Palate Chocolate Decadent cake in February to New York cheesecakes in August, I love for ANY excuse to get in the kitchen and start bakin'!

Which is why my boyfriend, Alex's birthday was no different.  Ever since we got together in 2008, Alex has insisted that I make him his favorite cake for his birthday - The Funfetti cake.  Even though we are now creeping closer to 30 years old rather than 10, Alex's tastes just stay the same... and each year, he demands this same, fun and funky Funfetti cake.

Americans will probably find this a familiar birthday treat for children's parties.  

THIS year... was different. Months ago, a good friend of mine was browsing some of her favorite baking websites and happened upon this recipe.  She e-mailed it to me and I immediately put it on my to-do list.  This would be PERFECT for Alex's birthday - so that's exactly what I did.

Instead of the normal box mix, I spent 3 hours measuring, scraping, mixing and baking to come up with this AMAZING cake!  This recipe is my adaptation on the Momofuku Milk Bar's homemade funfetti cake.  It takes the sugary, rainbow-y taste of Funfetti and knocks it up a notch.

Funfetti Cake - for grown-ups

Cake crumbs
  • 100 grams granulated sugar
  • 25 grams light brown sugar
  • 90 grams cake and pastry flour
  • 2 grams baking powder
  • 2 grams salt
  • 20 grams rainbow sprinkles
  • 40 grams grapeseed oil
  • 12 grams vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or a piece of parchment paper.
  2. Combine the sugars, flour, baking powder, salt, and sprinkles and mix them on low speed until they are evenly mixed.
  3. Add the oil and the vanilla, continue beating the mixture until the ingredients clump and form small clusters.  DO NOT break up the clusters!
  4. Carefully spread the delicate clusters in a thin layer on the prepared baking sheet and bake them for about 20 minutes. 
  5. They dry and harden as the cool into crispy crumbs. Let them cool completely before using them. By the time you've made the cake and frosting, they will be ready to be used anyways.  Make sure to do this part FIRST!

Here are the crumbs before they get baked.  The grapeseed oil and delicate mixing is what makes the little balls.


  • Butter and flour to prepare the pan
  • 245 grams cake and pastry flour
  • 6 grams baking powder
  • 3 grams salt
  • 50 grams rainbow sprinkles
  • 55 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 60 grams vegetable shortening
  • 250 grams granulated sugar
  • 50 grams light brown sugar
  • large eggs
  • 110 grams buttermilk
  • 65 grams grapeseed oil
  • 8 grams vanilla extract
  • 25 grams rainbow sprinkles
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Prepare 2 10" round cake pans by coating with butter and dusting with flour.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and 50 grams of sprinkles.  Set aside.
  4. Cream together the butter, shortening, and the sugars on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down as needed.
  5. Add the eggs (all at once) and then beat again on medium-high for another 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl.
  6. In a 1-cup measurer, weigh out buttermilk, grapeseed oil, vanilla. With the mixer on low, add the wet ingredients in a steady stream. 
  7. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and beat for another 4 to 6 minutes. The mixture will double in size almost, and will appear light and fluffy - There will be no trace of oil left.
  8. With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients, and mix for another minute or so until the ingredients are all combined.
  9. Pour out the batter into the prepared pans, spreading it out into an even layer. Sprinkle with the remaining 25 grams of rainbow sprinkles.
  10. Bake for 30–35 minutes until the cake bounces back slightly when gently pressed in the corner. The center of the cake should no longer jiggle when the pan is shook. Cool the cake completely in the pan on a wire rack.

Here is one of the baked cakes!

Cake Soak

  • 55 grams whole milk 
  • 4 grams vanilla extract
  1. Whisk together the milk and vanilla in a small cup or bowl. Set aside for later.


  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3-4 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • up to 4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream

  1. Beat butter for a few minutes with a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed. Add 3 cups of powdered sugar and turn your mixer on the lowest speed (so the sugar doesn’t blow everywhere) until the sugar has been incorporated with the butter. 
  2. Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, and 2 tablespoons of milk/cream and beat for 3 minutes. 
  3. If your frosting needs a more stiff consistency, add remaining sugar. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add remaining milk 1 tablespoons at a time.

  1. Place one of the cooled cakes onto your serving plate
  2. Brush with 1/2 of the cake soak with a brush, make sure that it absorbs
  3. Carefully spread top with a layer of frosting
  4. Top with cake crumbs, making sure to press them gently into the frosting
  5. Top with the second cake
  6. Brush with the second 1/2 of the cake soak
  7. Frosting
  8. Top with the last of the cake crumbs, gently pressing into frosting
  9. Cut with a large, sharp kitchen knife and serve!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Exclusively yours

A while back, I thought it would be nice to include some handmade gift cards with my items.

I figure - whether someone is ordering a gift, or they are getting something nice for themselves, its always so satisfying to find it it wrapped up nicely, with a thoughtful card, just for you.  Everybody deserves a present, now and again!  :)

So, I contacted Rachel from PaperBeau, which is a handmade paper studio in the UK.  We're both one woman bands - so to speak - so I was happy to patronize her shop.  I love to support my fellow Etsy shop owners, especially single artisan shops run by one person - like myself.  Call it biased, but there's certainly a feeling of camaraderie amongst us Etsyans.

To my pleasant surprise, Rachel made these ADORABLE owl cards for me on lilac, coral and carnation pink paper - and they turned out even more adorable than I imagined.  The purple has flecks of silver leaf in it, the pink is slightly distressed and has speckles of white and color, and the coral is well-textured with bits of white fiber throughout.

I now proudly give each and every order from my shop one of these super cute owl cards.  Designed just for Beach Plum Cottage by PaperBeau.  Just another way for me to say, "Thanks for buying handmade"  Honestly, from the bottom of my heart - THANK YOU!

Supporting handmade artisans is a lot harder than just going to your local Target or shopping mall.  By buying handmade, you're not only giving a gift that was made WITH care, but to the artisans that you support, you are saying "I care!"

The time and love put into making, giving and owning handmade products... it's worth it, I promise!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A thousand words

When people ask me what living on Martha's Vineyard is like, I answer honestly and simply: like heaven.

I would not at all be surprised to die, and wake up back in Chilmark.  And rather than try and TELL you about it, rather than attempt to describe to you the oak scrub forests filled with birdsong, or the beautiful clay streaked cliffs, or the sunrise over the ocean is like...  Rather than tell you...  I thought I would just show you.

Here are some of my very favorites from my personal collection.  I have taken these photos over the course of the past three years, here on Martha's Vineyard.

A word of warning!: This is a BIIIIG block of photography - so if flowers, animals and beaches are boring to you, you should look away now!  Avert your eyes!

...But if you didn't like those things, you wouldn't be here in the first place, would you?  :)

Friday, May 18, 2012

One woman band

One of the things I've had to learn since opening shop at Etsy is how to be a one woman band.

It began with just the love of crafting... Simple enough, right?  Just the thrill of being creative and productive was what started this whole crusade.

Somehow, last summer it started with "Oh, I won some ribbons at the fair for my work... Friends and family said I should sell my goods online.  Etsy looks fun and easy!  How hard could it be?"

I sat on Etsy for SO LONG, just waiting to get noticed.  My product photos were so-so, and I kept waiting for the day that Etsy would just get the word out to the world about my little shop.  I eventually realized that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.  Learning what to do, and how to do it, has been a long and trying process.

Now I am my own product photographer, photo editor, social media campaign strategist, Facebook fan club president, and so on...

These days I am constantly shipping and receiving packages, and the post man knows my name.  He sees my car pull into the parking lot and has my packages up on the counter, scanned and ready to carry away by the time I walk in.

I shop so frequently with Amazon and other supplies companies, that I've almost always got SOMETHING in my shopping cart.  Whether its a new batch of beads or ribbon, I'm always looking for something new for my shop.

Recently I got a HUGE batch of great things in the mail - all for Beach Plum Cottage.

BOTH of my business card orders came in on the same day!  

Etsy has great deals going on with both and - I was able to secure these for very little!  I really LOVE how my products looked on the back of the mini Moos (top photo).  This is my second set of Mini Moos, and these are probably my favorite, by far!

The Vista Print set (bottom photo) matches my shop banner, so I like how that all ties in together.  I also got a rubber stamp from them so I can mark my packaging!

See?  I got a big lot of brown kraft paper envelopes for merchandize.  Each bag has my stamp which reads "Made with care by BEACH PLUM COTTAGE Martha's Vineyard"

As you can see, I also bought some organza drawstring bags for jewelry and gift boxes.  I bought a lot of gift boxes a few weeks ago, but did not order nearly enough!  I'm sky-rocketing towards 50 pieces of jewelry in my inventory, so this surge of bracelets and anklets for summer meant I needed more supplies.  Which was great, because now I can include these cute little drawstring bags.

All jewelry orders now come packaged like this.  :)

Last, but not least, was an old order of ribbon.  I ordered this so long ago that I forgot I had even bought it!  It must have gone on back-order and Amazon being the amazing little helper that it is, filled the order for me later after restocking the items, even though the price had gone up by then.  Isn't shopping online easy? 

These are American Craft ribbons.  Not pictured, but I also got a BEAUTIFUL lot of Martha Stewart ribbons that look like this.   I'm going to be using them in some future up-cycling gift jars and gift wrapping projects.

I'm adding new projects all the time!  Make sure to stop by and see what's up!  <3

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Crafts and cats

Hello again from Chilmark!

It’s a wonderfully sunny weekend here on Martha’s Vineyard.  It’s been raining and gray Monday through Friday, but seemingly as soon as Saturday hits, the weather clears and things are just B-E-A-UTIFUL!  :)

The rainy days actually make for better crafting days for me.  The cold damp always makes me stay indoors, make a cup of tea and get down to business, while the sunnier days like this see me outdoors, wandering around in the meadow, taking photos of all the new flowers and playing with the kittens, Charlie and Butters.  

Such talkative little ones!

I adopted these kittens from the Animal Shelter here on MV last fall and boy were they ADORABLE when I first got them.  They’ve matured into wonderful, friendly animals and Chilmark is the perfect place to allow them to explore safely.  We live relatively far back from the main road, and we’re surrounded with woodlands and grassy meadows for the cats to play in.  We began taking them outside about six weeks ago, during our unseasonably warm March and April.  The hot weather made for perfect opportunities to take Charlie and Butters out for some training sessions.

As you can see, they LOVE to be outside!  
Most of their day is spent rolling in the dirt, hunting for bumblebees and other small animals.

When they are inside though, its a different story! Butters likes to get into my crafting supplies and has devoured a full yard of pink organza ribbon before!  They are good little finders, as they discover beads and yarn scraps I didn't even know I had dropped, until I hear them skittering across the floor - the latest "cat toy" for Charlie.

I have to keep all of my things - especially my hemp and bamboo cord for jewellery making - well out of reach of these little scamps.  

They’re also suckers for playing with my yarn balls when I’m trying to crochet.  I like to let my yarn fall to the floor at my feet where I can just let the lead come naturally, rather than yanking at the skein to get some loose yarn every few stitches.  This is great for my crochet stitches, but also extremely tempting for little kitties.  

Every now and again I'll feel a tug on my work, look down and see one of the cats looking up at me, with their paws on the yarn. Their face seems to say, "WHAT? I didn't do anything!", but I've caught them red-handed!  

Or red-pawed, as it were :)

Do you all love animals, as well as crafting?  What sorts of trouble do your pets get into while you’re trying to be creative?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Greetings and Salutations!

This is my inaugural blog post!  If this were a boat, I'd call it the S.S. It's About Time! and break a bottle of champagne on her hull.  That is to say - I've been meaning to do this for a loooong time.  Well, I'm finally here!

Let's make the introductions, shall we?  :)

M, my name is Maggie, my store is Beach Plum Cottage.  I live in Massachusetts - Martha's Vineyard to be exact.  A lot of people have intense reactions to the words MV.  They conjure up images of the rich and famous, a presidential playground for the summer season.  And that's not entirely false - there are a good number of wealthy, and celebrities who come to visit us, but they give the island a bad rep.

This place is, at its core, a farming and fishing community.  When the summer ends and all the rich and famous go back to their homes in New York and California, the rest of us hunker down and get work done.  Islanders go back to herding sheep, bringing in crab and lobster traps, they busy themselves in their winter studios painting, creating, working their trades... trying to make a living the way that they have done since the 1600's. Yep, we were settled loooong before most of the rest of the country, and some of the byways and farms are still named after their original inhabitants.

We are an island of honest, hard-working folks who definitely did not grow up with a silver spoon in mouth.  We live relatively simple lives, free of any chain stores and fast food restaurants.  Heck, we don't even have a stop light!  I haven't seen a freeway on-ramp or heard a car horn in three months... since I was last on the main-land, of course.  Life around here moves reaaaaal slow, the way it probably did in the olden days.     We stop to smell the roses, we stop traffic for families of guinea hens crossing the road.

A sailboat lazily bobs up and down just offshore in Aquinnah

But because of our tourism-based nature, high cost of real estate, most of us live a pretty intense life.  The cost of living here is 60% higher than the national average - as all of our goods have to be ferried over on a boat.  Housing here is 96% above the national average and gas is steady around $4.50/gallon.  Fine for the vacationing folks who come here from the Jersey Shore to spend their money on a summer vacation, but for whose of us who try to eke out a living year-round, it gets tough, so you have to get creative.  Many people who own beautiful homes will move out, and live out of their car or a friend's bedroom for four months, just to rent our their house to tourists during the "high season".  We lovingly refer to this as "the Island Shuffle" - trying to make the most of what you've got, while you can.

As a result of all of these things, island living has made me into a very simplistic person.  If I don't need to drive somewhere, I don't.  If I can get there by walking, I use my Chevro-legs.  We cook all of our meals at home instead of going out to eat or grabbing a burger - simply because there ARE no burger joints!  And OH BOY, is crafting is an adventure...

Instead of going to A.C. Moore, Michael's or Jo-Ann Fabrics like many of you all do, there is not a craft store on Martha's Vineyard.  Instead, I order EVERYTHING online, especially my supplies for my Etsy store.

I "window shop" by making online shopping bags full of stuff.  I go to the company site for Red Heart, and end up with about $200 worth of various colors of yarn and crochet thread in my basket.  Of course, I can't afford to buy everything I see, but its nice to dream, right?

I end up buying a lot of yarn at once and then parceling it out as I go.  I try not to break into a new skein until I've found a purpose for every bit of the last color.  I up-cycle fabric, I re-use scraps and I invent new homes for found buttons and other tid-bits.

Where some people see a lost random button, I see the feature for a new flower headband.

Where someone sees a colorful bit of leftover yarn, I see a new shell for snail friend.

Since I order just about everything online and I live on a rural route where the postman doesn't leave packages, I get lots of little orange notifications.  I walk the half-mile down the dusty dirt lane to the main road where my mailbox is.  I open it and see a little orange slip of paper with my name on it!  Happy day - this means that something I've ordered online is coming in today!  *clicks heels together*

As I drive to the post office, passing rolling green sheep pastures overlooking a briny pond next to the sea, I wonder what I'll be picking up today.  A box of yarn?  Hot glue sticks?  That order of ribbons that I placed in April?  I drive to the Chilmark Post Office and I have to brake and wait for a group of wild turkeys to pass.

Hydrangeas frame an old cedar shingle Cape style house... Quintessential Vineyard

This is my little island life.  I live.  I craft.  I take pictures of wild turkeys and trees and flowers.

And now, I share it with you.  :)

Come visit me at my Etsy shop, won't you?