General

NEW HEADBANDS for Spring/Summer 2013!

Whoo-hoo! The new headbands are finally here! They are not ready for the website yet, but if you are interested in purchasing one, please send me an email at sherryl@lizzieizziejames.com. I hope that you like them!

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Valentines Day DIY Gift Ideas

If you are feeling crafty, here are some very nifty gift ideas to make for Valentines Day!

Top Row (left to right):

1. Valentine Heart Barrettes from The Purl Bee

2. Stamped with Love from Clever Charlotte

3. Heart Knot Friendship Bracelets from Hart and Sew

Middle Row:

1. Valentines Cookies from Bakerella

2. Little Matchbox Valentines from Inchmark

3. Valentines Day Goody Bag from That's My Letter

Bottom Row:

1. Heart Shaped Soaps from Martha Stewart

2. Conversation Heart Cookies from Food for Thought

3. Felt Fortune Cookies from Martha Stewart

Cute stuff! But if you don't feel like being crafty, don't forget that I have some Valentines Day products that are ready to ship the next day (and packaged all pretty to boot).

There's also this little cutie for your own Princess of Hearts:

Happy hearts day to all!

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Show a little "HEART" for Valentines

Here at Lizzie, Izzie + James, we believe in showing some "heart" all year round - especially for Valentines Day!

Go on and show off your "heart". Everyone will love it.

Oh, and don't forget that shipping is only $3 for first class domestic orders under $50 and FREE over $50.

Counter clockwise from top left:

1. Be My Valentine, $18

2. Valentines Bouquet, $8

3. I "HEART" Hearts, $15

4. Valentines Heart, $8

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Crazy for French Macarons!

French Macaron photo by David Lebovitz

A few years ago, my cousin who lives in New Jersey, came up to Connecticut for a visit. She brought with her these little pastries that looked like a stiffer, smaller version of a whoopie pie. They are called French Macarons, she said, and she bought them from a french bakery in NYC. It was love at first bite. Crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside with a burst of flavor from it's fruit ganache filling. I was in heaven. But at $2.50 a piece, heaven came at a price. I decided to try to make them myself. How hard could it possibly be?

My first batch was a disaster. The macaron cookies cracked and fell apart. The first lesson that I learned was to never try to make your own almond meal. I've attemped to make them again over the next few years, learned from more mistakes along the way, until I finally made a perfect batch. Hooray!

A macaron cookie must form a "pied" or a foot when baking in the oven. Without it, the pastry cannot be called a macaron.

A macaron pied are small, pleatlike frills that form at the bottom of each cookie. Macaron pied formation depends highly on how the batter (called macaronner) is formed during the macaronage process (the coming together of the meringue and other ingredients). I will incorporate some tips on the recipe that I adapted below.

Basic French Macarons adapted from Hisako Ogita "i love macarons"

2/3 cup ground almond flour meal (I use Bob's Red Mill)

1 1/2 cup organic powdered sugar

3 large egg whites at room temperature

5 tbsp. granulated sugar

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1. On a piece of parchment paper or silpat mat, start by tracing 1 1/2 round circles about 1 inch apart. You will use this as a guide when piping out your macaron batter (also called a macaronner). In a separate bowl, mix together the almond flour and powdered sugar (if you are doing a flavor, this will also be the time to mix them in). In an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on low speed (the egg whites MUST be at room temperature - meaning that it has been left sitting out of the refigerator for at least 1 hour. You must also make sure that none of the yolk is contaminating the egg whites. Otherwise, your meringue will not form). Add the granulated sugar and vanilla and start mixing on high speed. Mix until the meringue comes together and stiff peaks form (you can test the meringue by taking the whisk attachment and turning it upside down. If the meringue does not drip, it is ready).

2. This step is when you make your macaronage (the act of mixing together the meringue and the flour mixture). This is an important step! With a rubber spatula, mix half of the flour mixture into the meringue until incorporated. Then put in the rest. Once all the flour mixture is incoporated into the meringue, continue to mix and fold your batter - spreading out the batter against the side of the mixing bowl as you mix and fold. Do this for about 12-15 times until you achieve the desired consistency. When the batter becomes nicely firm and starts to drip slowly from your spatula when you scoop it out, the macaronner is done!

This macaronner has raspberry bits in it for flavor.

3. The macaronner is now ready for piping. You can use a pastry bag with a round tip for piping. I used the Wilton Dessert Decorator Plus - it is a lot easier and less messy to use. Place your parchment paper or silpat onto TWO baking sheets (one of top of the other) - this prevents the cookies from burning underneath. Pipe inside the circles that you traced for your guide. You want your cookies to be around the same size. After piping, tap the sheet a few times on the counter. Don't skip this process - this helps the macarons hold their round shape and help the "pied" to form. Let the batter dry on the counter for at least 10 minutes before baking. You can pre-heat the oven at this time to 375 degrees F. After drying, bake for EXACTLY 13 minutes. If your oven is not as hot as mine and you find your cookies still soft after 13 minutes, bake for another 3-5 minutes but keep a close watch!

4. Let the macarons cool completely before piping in the filling. To pipe the filling, turn the macarons upside down and pipe underneath and put two similar size cookies together. Keep refrigerated and in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Flavor and fillings - the possibilities are endless! These are the two flavors that I used:

Chocolate with chocolate ganache filling

Add 2 tbsp. good quality cocoa to the almond flour mixture as indicated in step 1. To make the ganache, in a small saucepan, mix together 2 cups of heavy cream, 1/8 cup honey, 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract and bring to a boil. Pour over 1 pound semi-sweet chocolate until the chocolate melts and whisk until smooth. Let cool before piping.

Raspberry with raspberry buttercream filling

Add 2 tbsp. crushed freeze dried raspberries to the almond flour mixture as indicated in step 1. To make the buttercream, cream together 1 stick butter (room temperature) and 1 cup powdered sugar in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment. Add 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup raspberry jam until smooth.

These macarons make wonderful gifts all year round! For some packaging ideas, go here. Happy baking!

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Homemade Gift Ideas - Holiday Food Gifts

I love giving food items away as gifts especially for the holiday season. Here are some really great ideas for holiday gifts.  These are not only inexpensive but are also relatively easy to make! I love packaging them in mason jars. My personal favorite is the Cookies in a Jar from Bakerella. I made a bunch of these last Christmas and gave them away to friends, neighbors and teachers. They were a huge hit (and yummy too!)!

 

Enjoy and happy baking!

Images are left to right starting from top left:

 

1. Cookies in a Jar

2. Christmas Cookie Dough

3. Lemon Loaf

4. Banana Bread and Honey Butter

5. Salted Caramel Sauce

6. Peppermint Cocoa Stick Jar

7. Toffee Blondies in a Jar

8. Vanilla Sea Salt

9. Candied Pecans

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Serendipity Living Easter Photo Shoot

One of the highlights of the past few months was a photo shoot for Easter with Serendipity magazine. I had so much fun picking each headpiece for the models and the pictures turned out really great!

This was the spread in the magazine that was published in the March/April 2012 issue of Serendipity:

Quinn Carroll from Christopher Noland Salon in Greenwich did all the hair on the models and she was wonderful with the kids!

Bruce Plotkin was the photographer for the shoot and look what a fantastic job he did with the pictures! They all came out so lovely.

You may notice some of the headbands on the models are not on the website. They are my Rosette headbands and are made with individually hand rolled fabric rosette flowers. The older girls and moms love them because of the sophisticated look. The model on picture #8 is seen wearing a pink version. I am hoping they will be part of the website soon. But for now, they will be available on my trunk shows and once in a while, I might put one or two on facebook to sell.

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Serendipity Magazine Feature

Lizzie, Izzie + James is featured in the September / October 2011 issue of Serendipity Magazine. Whoo-hoo!       

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Smart Mom Picks May 13, 2011

Lizzie, Izzie + James: a "Smart Mom Pick"!

by Gigi Ross on May 13, 2011

I.love.hairdoodles.

That’s my catchall term for clips, barrettes, ponies, headbands, and whatever else can adorn a little girl’s hair.

My daughter’s birthday present last year was a giant box of hairdoodles.

The only major bummer is that my daughter’s hair is super fine, and a lot of the traditional hair accessories simply don’t stay affixed to her hair. They slide out, and by the time I pick her up after school, it’s danging at the end of a strand of a hair, like a fish on a hook.

Note: I am not a fan of my kid looking like an absolute ragamuffin. And that’s precisely what she looks like with sad hairdoodles that won’t stay in her hair.

I am encouraged by this online retailer of children’s hair accessories called Lizzie, Izzie and James.

The owner of this business started it because she couldn’t find hairdoodles that stayed in her kid’s hair. A woman after my own heart.

Lizzie, Izzie and James makes handmade clips, headbands and more.

The headband pictured above is from their Hydrangea line. All of these headbands are made of wool felt and mounted on a fabric covered headband. Isn’t the detailing on the flower pattern just precious?

One of the other headband collections they have is a sweet blossom pattern.

There are 4-5 other collections of headbands; they range from $10 to $18 each.

The array of hair clips is really cute as well. My daughter would love this “Flutterfly” design.

I also loved this piggie.

 

Two of the other styles offered include a rainbow and these adorable monogrammed clips.

The hair clips range in price from about $8 to $10.

I think these hairdoodles are really lovely. And, the sizing fits ages 3 up to adult – including the headbands – so these really are an investment you can make in quality accessories that will last a long time. To see all of the adorable styles, go visit Lizzie, Izzie and James.

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Examiner Interview - Do It All Mamas and Papas

We are so behind on updating this blog that I can hardly stomach it! Its just been an incredibly busy last few weeks and we are now coming up for air. Last week I met with the merchandising manager of nationwide department store chain and it looks like they want to carry Lizzie, Izzie + James! But first we need to jump through some hoops to get wired into their purchasing systems... stay tuned.

In the meanwhile, I want to catch up by posting a recent interview I did for examiner.com. The full text is included below.

 

Do It All Mamas (& Papas): Meet the mom behind Lizzie, Izzie + James accessories

By Angele Sionna, Early Childhood Parenting Examiner
April 21st, 2011 8:45 am ET

In today's Do It All Mamas (& Papas) the spotlight is on Sherryl Mascarinas, mom of three kids (6, 5, and 3 years old) (plus an 8-year old chocolate brown Weimaraner named Wendy), and the founder of the on-line children's accessories brand called Lizzie, Izzie + James.

Examiner: Tell me something unique/interesting about yourself.

Sherryl: I was born in the Philippines. When I was 4 years old, I told my mom that I wanted to marry one of the boys in my kindergarten class. The following year we were placed in separate classes and I forgot all about my future husband. At some point his family moved to New York and my family moved to Los Angeles. We bumped into each other by chance 12 years later when he was visiting family in California, and then saw each other again 2 years afterwards when I was visiting family in New York. We started dating during our college years, got married 10 years later, and have now been married for 8 years. So, my relationship with my husband has spanned two continents, the Pacific Ocean, 3,000 miles across the United States and over 30 years! That has to be pretty uncommon, if not unique!

Examiner: What is your business all about?

Sherryl: Lizzie, Izzie + James (www.lizzieizziejames.com) is a web-based children’s accessories brand. We launched in January 2011 with a collection of hand crafted hair clips, headbands, and crowns made from premium wool felt in rich and vibrant colors. As we move forward, we plan to offer an array of other high quality accessories, such as: school bags, belts, hats, gloves, scarves, etc.

We think a business that can offer artisan quality children’s accessories coupled with an excellent customer experience can do very well. In addition to an obsessive focus on design and quality, we offer things that make shopping enjoyable, such as: next business day shipment, a super low flat shipping rate, and a very liberal and straightforward full refund return policy. We want our customers to be thrilled with us, so we treat them the same way we would want to be treated. Most times, we go even further.

Examiner: What is your favorite product that you make or sell and why do you like or recommend it?

Sherryl: I‘m a big fan of all our products, but recently I’ve been wearing two more often than the others: our Spanish Roses headbands and our Park Street Mini hair clips. Both collections are simple, colorful, and incredibly cute! They add an understated flourish to any outfit and are comfortable and versatile for both kids and grown-ups to wear all day.

Examiner: Why did you start your business?

Sherryl: It started as a hobby. I started making little hair clips and headbands for my daughters. Then I started giving them as gifts to their classmates and friends. Soon I was receiving frequent requests from family, and then from friends, then from friends of friends, then from moms who saw kids wearing my little creations around town. Eventually, I joined Etsy, an online platform for crafters and artists, and started selling under the name “Skylar’s Candy Clips”. I had customers from around the country and sold to a few boutiques in southern Connecticut, California, Texas, and even one down under in Sydney, Australia.

Ultimately, it was unsustainable because I was doing everything myself. I was making the products, taking the photographs, posting them on-line, blogging about them, packaging them up, and taking them to the post office. I would drive around to buy the raw materials and have to hunt for them when they weren’t available at the usual stores. I was trying to do all that while managing a household of three busy kids. It was gratifying to make things that people enjoyed, but the process was as inefficient (and unprofitable) as could be.

In the fall of 2010 I decided to pause and regroup, and took some time to figure out how to turn my hobby into a viable business. I got my husband to help me and together we figured out the people and the pieces that needed to be brought together to make things work. I re-opened my doors under a new name, a brand new and expanded product line, and a dedicated web site 4 months later, in January 2011.
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Examiner: What secret do you have to share with other parents about "having it all" with your family and business?

Sherryl: I wish I had the secret formula - I’m still trying to figure it out myself! I think like anything worthwhile, it takes hard work. Maintaining balance takes hard work. Achieving lofty goals takes hard work. I just try to spend my time on the things that really matter, and I let many far less important things go.

Examiner: What is the number one piece of advice you have for other parents?

Sherryl: I’m far from a parenting expert, but I think it’s really important to set aside personal time. This may sound like a fantasy to many overworked and super busy moms and dads, but I’m convinced that it’s a necessary part of being a happy and effective parent. You can’t possibly be at your best (as a parent or a spouse) when you’re not happy yourself. My husband and I still go out regularly – even when all we can do is grab a quick bite or a movie. We still see our friends (together and separately) and squeeze in long dinners with them as much as often as we can. My husband likes to go to the gym regularly and I sneak in quick workouts when I drop my youngest off at pre-school. I’m also preparing for my second half marathon in the summer, so the running regiment will give me consistent blocks of time to be by myself. My husband and I agree - we’d quickly lose our equilibrium if we gave up our personal time, so we work together to give it to each other.

Examiner: What is your (and your kids) favorite family activity?

Sherryl: We love to ski in the winter and swim in the summer. We also like to have friends and family over for long, leisurely, laughter filled meals. But most of the time, we like to stay in and watch movies together.

Examiner: Anything else you want to add?

Sherryl: I’m in awe of some of the people you’ve interviewed for this column. Thanks for taking the time to speak with me!
 

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April Trunk Shows

Its been a busy, busy month of trunk shows. Last week we had three back to back days... they're exhausting but a lot of fun. It's great to meet new people and to introduce Lizzie, Izzie + James. Its also really gratifying to receive very positive feedback in person. We had some customers snapping up over 20 pieces at a time!

Here's some pictures from our trunk show at Krik-it boutique in Fairfield, CT. They were taken by the lovely Lillian Hoyt of Portrait Parties, New Canaan.


We have a two week break to recuperate and to prepare for the next batch. We hope to see some of you at one of them in May!

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