September 5th, 2010

I get emails occasionally from readers asking me questions, and I’ve noticed the same questions popping up again and again. You might find the answer to your burning questions here! If you don’t, feel free to email me (bethanyactually at gmail.com) and ask.

How do you pronounce your daughters’ names? Where did you come up with them?

Excellent questions. We pronounce Annalie the non-exotic way: ANN-uh-lee. It’s similar to the American way of pronouncing Emily, and is often misheard as that name the first time we say it. We deliberately spelled her name with an -ie because we didn’t want people mispronouncing it Anna-LEE. That has not stopped a number of our friends and family from pronouncing it that way, but oh well. I figure if Annalie wants to correct them someday, she will.

Elliora is pronounced basically like it looks: El-lee-OR-uh. It’s a Hebrew name that means God is my light, and I think it’s supposed to be pronounced more like El-YOR-uh, but we usually Americanize the pronunciation just like we did the spelling (we added an extra ‘L’).

Helpful (?) video:

When we were expecting Annalie, we liked the name Hannah, but it was a bit too popular for our tastes. I thought up the name Annalie one night as I was mulling over names before I fell asleep, and then the very next day I ran across that name in a baby name book. It’s a Scandinavian variant of Hannah, which means grace. The second name on our list when Annalie was born was Sophia, which means wisdom. We decided we liked that as a middle name.

When we were looking at names for our second baby, for some reason I was really attracted to named that had something to do with light, and I liked E- names, so Elliora was a perfect fit. Also, it’s similar to Annalie’s name in that it’s unusual but not aggressively odd, and it sounds familiar because it sounds like more common names—Ellie, Eleanor, Lora. Elliora’s middle name, Violet, was actually chosen by her big sister! When we told Annalie we were having a baby, she immediately suggested a series of flower names if it was a girl: Rose, Daisy, Violet, Daffodil. Violet jumped out at us because the spring that we found out we were pregnant, our backyard was covered in violets. And it’s a pretty name. I wish I’d had a camera handy to record the look on Annalie’s face when we told her that we were really, REALLY going to use a name she picked as her sister’s middle name.

I want to make vanilla extract too! Where did you get your bottles? Where did you get your vanilla beans?

I’m glad you enjoyed my post about how to make homemade vanilla extract. As I stated in the post, I bought clear Boston round glass bottles from SpecialtyBottle, and organic Tahitian vanilla beans from The Organic Vanilla Bean Company. UPDATE 12 October 2011: The company I originally bought vanilla beans from seems to be on hiatus. Last year I bought beans from the company Vanilla Products USA on eBay, and they were good value for a good product. Or you can just do a search on eBay or Amazon for “vanilla beans” and do your own comparison shopping, of course.

When I made vanilla again, I chose to buy the amber Boston round glass bottles, because the darker glass prevents the degredation of the vanilla, but it’s not really an issue as long as you store the vanilla in a dark cupboard. For my personal use, I just stuff a bunch of beans into a big bottle of vodka and use that for baking and the occasional White Russian!

Is there a difference between Bourbon vanilla beans and Tahitian vanilla beans? Do I have to use vodka to make homemade vanilla extract, or is there a nonalcoholic alternative?

There is a difference in flavor between types of vanilla beans, but it’s not a big deal. Any kind of vanilla bean works fine for making extract. I’ve used various brands of vodka, rum, and whiskey to make extract, and they all work just fine, though I think vodka is the most neutral flavor. As far as I know, there is not a nonalcoholic alternative for making homemade vanilla extract.

Does the brown gunk in the vanilla after the beans have steeped mean something is wrong? WIll the vanilla go bad?

The brown gunk is just the vanilla caviar; it’s completely harmless. Once the beans have steeped long enough you can strain the beans and caviar out if you want to, but you don’t have to. I never do. Vanilla extract will lose its flavor gradually over time, but even so you can still use it, you just need to use more. I guess it’s theoretically possible for it to go bad, but I’ve never had my extract last long enough for that to happen. I think it would take years. Maybe even decades.

How do you get your dots so perfectly round when you paint pottery?

I turn the paintbrush upside-down and paint with the wrong end. Really! You can read more in the post how to paint dottery.

Will you paint a mug/bowl/plate/spoon rest for me?

Probably! I love to paint, and I love it even more when other people pay to support my painting habit. I don’t really charge much, either, maybe a dollar or two over the cost of the piece, depending on what I’m painting for you. You can email me to ask about a custom order, or you can convo me via Etsy, which is where I sell the majority of my pottery.

Those spiral squares you crochet are so cute. So are the snowballs and rainballs, and the flower scarves. Will you tell me how to make them?

I sell patterns for the spiral squares and snowballs/rainballs in my Etsy shop. I’ve been thinking of adding a pattern for the flower scarves too. I might get around to that one day.

You travel so much, and you have a kid! Are you crazy? How do you do it!?

Troy and I love to travel, and since Troy is in the Navy and we live half a country away from most of our family, we don’t really have a choice about traveling if we want our kids to know their extended family. So we travel. From the day Annalie was born, our philosophy was, babies are portable! That said, the two most important tools in traveling with kids are patience and a sense of humor. Also, we always take extra changes of clothes; we allow ourselves lots of extra time; we are flexible about our schedules—traveling, sleeping, eating, whatever; and we keep in mind that most things aren’t going to happen according to plan. And that’s okay. (Perhaps you’d like to read the post have kid will travel?)

What kind of camera do you use?

I have a couple of cameras, a fancy DSLR and a little point-and-shoot that I take everywhere: a Nikon D40 and a Sony Cybershot DSC-W120. If you want to know details about lenses and aperture and ISO speed and such, you can look at the exif data on my Flickr photos. I love my Nikon; even though I’ve barely scratched the surface of learning how to use it, it’s making me a better photographer with every photo I take. The Cybershot is a really nice camera for the price, and I love how easy it is to stick it in my pocket when I don’t feel like lugging around the DSLR. My next point-and-shoot camera is going to be a waterproof one, though!

What is that little necklace I can see Elliora wearing in some photos?

It is an amber teething necklace. I bought it on the advice of my friend Sonja, who in her own words (more or less) is “generally pretty skeptical of woo-woo crystal-healing type things.” Her son wore an amber teething necklace and she said it did seem to help him, maybe. We figured, what the heck. It can’t hurt (as long as we are always supervising her when she wears it) and it might help! And it’s cute.


She’s worn it since she was about three or four months old. Once when we’d taken it off for a bath and forgot to put it back on for a couple of days, we noticed a marked increase in teething-type fussiness that went away again when we remembered to put the necklace back on. It’s entirely possible that it’s a fallacious connection, but we’ll keep using the necklace anyway.

Any other questions?

5 Responses to “FAQ”

  1. Sara says:

    How long do I leave the liquid to steep in a brown colored bottle? Do you leave the vanilla in permanently? Thanks.

  2. Liesl says:

    Hi Bethany!
    I love the vanilla making idea and started making mine about 3 weeks ago. I saw your FAQ about the vanilla gunk or caviar, but I have 1 bottle that is murky. Any thoughts? All the rest look the same, and I made them all at the same time. Weird!

    Thanks or any suggestions or thoughts you might have!


  3. hummy says:

    Do you have a non-alcoholic version to make the vanilla extract?

  4. Erin Lieuallen says:

    Do you really drink White Russian occasionally? Because, Dude.

  5. I love your daughters’ names!! Beautiful, and lovely meanings. Also SO precious how you used Annalie’s idea for Elliora’s middle name.

Leave a Reply