Monday, October 11, 2010

It's October Already??!!??

Happy October to everyone!! I've been very very bad about my blog and I miss it!! So I'm here today, to share a little bit of this and that with you all.
I'm a bit slow to get my Halloween pictures up. I got this awesome mummy hand at the craft store. I'll be taking many more pictures of my more haunted pieces of jewelry this afternoon. Doesn't it look creepy?

I've been making these little bracelets. They are so fun!! I have so many seed beads and I haven't used them very much for a very long time. So I decided to have some fun and make up a bunch of these bracelets. They are super fun to wear by the dozen!!

I made this little necklace with an adorable coin purse I've had to ages. I always knew it would be on a necklace and this week it finally happened! The key is a super cool Master key with the lion. The bead is from a vintage rosary. I have not listed this necklace for sale yet because I'm not sure I'm ready to part with it! I have my quarter in it, for the grocery stores that take a quarter for a cart. When you return the cart you get your quarter back. This is a handy and cute way to keep it within reach!

My husband and daughter took this last week off for some vacation time at home. It was a beautiful week and we are enjoying a bit of Indian Summer the last few days. Yesterday we went for a drive in the country and to one of our favorite antique stores. I found these three globes for only $5! They are the size of softballs. So cute!! I don't know what I'll be doing with them, but I just had to have them!!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Some New Pieces!

Wow, it's been a full month since I last made an entry here! I've just been busy and quite honestly, having a little trouble getting my head in gear. With the Fall weather making it's first appearance, I'm feeling a bit more energized. So here are my newest creations, fresh out of the studio!

Friday, August 6, 2010


So I was going to throw out the failed sourdough that I still had in the fridge, right? I took it out and opened the lid and what do you know - it was GROWING!!!!!! And it smelled like YEAST!!! EUREKA! So I mixed up my bread dough with it and it rose!!!! I have it in the bread pan rising now and I am keeping my fingers crossed until it rises for baking....wish me luck!!

Thursday, August 5, 2010


I did not have success with my sourdough attempts. I will come back to that another time, maybe next week. I think I was not feeding it frequently enough and it was consuming itself and dying in its own alcohol. What a way to go huh?

I made some chili yesterday and had two 15 oz. cans from the tomatoes and beans that I thought would be useful to hold my tools and pencils and what-nots on my desk. So I washed them and decided to decorate them. I have tons of printed pictures and designs from my altered books and bottles so I got out those file folders and found some things to use.

It's very simple to do this and so fun. I first painted a layer of Gesso onto the cans as a primer to help the paint and glue adhere to the shiny surface. Then I painted my color all over. Then I glued on my pictures using Mod Podge. I finished them off with a final coat of Mod Podge and voila!

I was so happy with my first two cans and I wanted to do more. We don't eat a lot of canned foods so I had nothing in the recycle bin, so I had to open a can of peas to get one more can.

My continuing theme - freedom!

And here's a little necklace I made last week. Took me forever to figure this one out. I had a picture in my head of criss-crossed wire sticks. Seemed simple enough. Turned out to be quite complicated and I used up a lot of wire getting this right!! I think it was worth the effort. I'll be listing this in the shop.

Well I guess that's about it for my daily rambling - as if I blogged daily! I am always amazed by all you bloggers out there who do blog daily. I just don't have the mental fortitude to keep up with it like you all do. I'm far too scattered!

I wish you all a terrific day!!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Good Bread

After all the failure this week in the sourdough department, I felt I needed to just make a good loaf, the way I know how - with store-bought yeast. This loaf is the best I have ever made. It's a cranberry walnut whole wheat bread. We have had cranberry walnut bread from the Whole Foods bakery several times. I decided to make it myself instead of paying the $6 for theirs. It came out so good! It's just a simple wheat bread to which I added 1/2 cup of honey, and dried cranberries and walnuts.

I have my sourdough starter in a plastic bowl this time. I am waiting to see it grow. Then I will try again for my first sourdough loaf!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sourdough: Stage Three - Epic Fail

Well, here are the results of the first sourdough experiment. I just couldn't throw it away without giving it one last chance to rise in the oven. So here it is in all its, um, glory?

Gee, it almost looks like bread in this shot!

You can see there are no air holes. That's because there was no living yeast left by the time I got through with it. I am sorry.

You could leave it whole and use it as a discus. It is quite heavy.

Of course it would make the perfect classic bookend. I think these babies could hold up Webster's and Roget's.

Or make it a pair of bookends. It looks kind of "kool kitsch", don't you think?
I could throw them in the pool to use for diving toys.
I could put them in the suet feeder and watch it drive the squirrels mad.
They would make good chocks for a trailer or an old car you have sitting around.

There are SO many things you can do with these, so you see it wasn't a complete waste of time and flour. The only thing you can't do is eat it. And I have learned to kill yeast. I put the starter in a metal bowl - a big NO-NO! The only other way I know to kill yeast is to heat it over 100°. I've started my next starter in a plastic bowl. Hopefully the next pictures I have will be of edible bread.

The very first "starter" I experienced was back when I made a bust out of papier mache last winter. I put the flour and water solution that was leftover in a container on the counter and forgot about it. I was saving it in case I would need to touch up my project. Within a couple days it was bursting out of the container. It was not usable of course since it had newsprint and all kinds of other 'ickies' in it. But I didn't even know that was sourdough!

For those of you who are feeling adventurous and want to try making sourdough, it's really very simple. Just mix up 1-1/2 cups of warm water with 1-1/2 cups of flour. You don't even have to measure it exactly. Put a piece of cheesecloth over the top so that it can breath. Set it someplace warm for it to grow. Yeast is everywhere. It will take a couple of days before you start to see it foaming and the bubbles forming. If you've ever proofed yeast, you'll know it's growing both by the look and the aroma. Once it's ready, you make your bread using the sponge method. If you don't know how, just 'google' it. Be sure to save some starter for the next round. Sourdough starter can last for centuries. Maybe I can get one to last long enough to get a loaf of bread out of it!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sourdough: The Continuing Saga

It's the sun! It's an alien moon! No wait - it's my failed sourdough! Heehee - just had to have a little fun with some photo editing on this one!

Here it is, after the entire night. It is a teeny bit bigger than it was last night. But you can see my fingerprints there. It didn't spring back.

I poked it again, just to be sure. I'm sure. I think what happened is when my starter outgrew it's container, and crawled out of the cabinet, I lost a good portion of it so it's just not strong enough, or numerous enough with the little critters.
I hate to waste. So I'm cheating. I am proofing some store-bought yeast and will mix up a dough, and then incorporate this dough with it. That's several cups of flour in there! And it does have a very lovely scent. Could turn out to be a great loaf of bread! Or several loaves!

I've already started the starter again. This time I put it in a larger container. And I placed the container inside a large bowl so if it does go wild, at least I can save it!!

It's SO simple - and if it works this will be great! It's just one cup of flour and one cup of warm water. Put it in a warm spot and wait - but watch!!! Haha!

Wish me luck today!! I'll be back with more results later!

Addendum: I was just reminded by a friend NOT to use a metal bowl for sourdough!! This could be my problem in it's not rising! I knew not to use metal, but then when it came time to do the next rising, the china bowl was dirty, and it was so late, and I was so tired, and I got lazy and just grabbed the clean metal bowl!!!!
Now it's in china again. We shall see!!!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Adventures in the Kitchen

Today I am making sourdough bread. I made my starter and it's ready!! I've been wanting to do this for many years and it's just been one of those things that I hadn't gotten to yet. I will let you know how it comes out!

I was making dinner a couple days ago and I noticed something had spilled on the dish drainer in one sink. So I rinsed it off. I continued about my work and then I noticed the spill again, this time it even looked bigger. I wondered how I missed it, and rinsed it off again. I went back to my dinner preparations once more. Then I saw the same piece of globby stuff on the drainer again! I thought now what the heck IS this??? I looked up, wondering if something horrible was seeping through the ceiling and as my eye passed the cabinet door on the way to looking at the ceiling I remembered that I had put my sourdough starter to ferment in the cabinet above the sink! It had overgrown its jar and was filling the cabinet and dripping down into the sink!!! At least I knew it was alive and ready!!

I think it's amazing that there is yeast already in the flour, and in the air, and in the right conditions you can grow it to make bread with it! This is the way it's been done for thousands of years. Talk about retro! I love every opportunity I can find to make it myself instead of buying it off the shelf at the grocery store. Don't get me wrong - I do appreciate the grocery store! But there is something in doing it yourself that is so satisfying. Usually it's better quality than the grocery store version too!

More later when my bread is bread!!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Taking Back My Kitchen!

I have a wonderful book called The Improvisational Cook by Sally Schneider. It teaches you all you need to know to be able to cook meals of your own making, without recipes ultimately. It has been on my bookshelf for over a year. I have read many chapters but I had forgotten about it, being that I live a swiss-cheese life style - with holes in everything and incontinuity reigns. Now I have it out again and I am going to take another crack at it.

I'm taking back my kitchen and my cooking. I had given it away for a low carbohydrate diet that I heard about 8 years ago. I tried it and felt so good on it, I've been trying to do it ever since. I can't do it for more than a few days at a stretch because quite honestly I don't like meat and cheese that much. So I never had the success it was supposed to bring. When I realized that all these years of trying have gained me nothing but an extra 60 pounds, I knew I had to dump this idea, once and for all.

I know, you're thinking good grief, why did it take me so long to realize? I don't know. I do have a serious problem with continuity in my life and this has been one of the many casualties. What's done is done and now it's time to move OUT of this phase and onto something more productive!!

That means I get to do what I know how to do, which is cook. I love to cook. I am a good cook when I allow myself to use the ingredients I know so well, which is absolutely going to include carbohydrates. Good healthy energy-giving carbohydrates in the form of fruits and grains and seed and nuts and great homemade breads.

Today I've been reclaiming my kitchen. I retrieved my favorite vintage canisters from storage and put them out again. There's a whole world of cooking that goes bye-bye if you eliminate all carbohydrates. There's all my bread baking equipment and tools. I don't use a machine. I make it the old fashioned way. So I have a huge rolling pin and special board only for bread dough, things like that. I'm putting it all back into service. At last I will recognize my kitchen again and I will know what to do to make a meal. I've been so lost for so long. Sheesh. What else can I say but sheesh!?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Still In Pursuit Of Inner Freedom

Good morning dear readers. I have not written on my blog here in way too long. It's not that I haven't wanted to. I come here everyday wanting to write something wonderful and interesting, but for many weeks I have had nothing wonderful or interesting to share with you all. I do tend to do things in spurts. That is a fact of my life. But I miss writing to you all!

I started this blog because everything I read said that this is the thing you do when you have an Etsy shop and it will help increase your exposure and your sales. I don't know if it has helped my sales. The true is, I don't really care if my blog has affected my sales. This is just a wonderful place to connect with fellow artists and I love that connection! What started out as a part of my business has become a part of my life, and a part that I don't want to let go for anything!

I guess I am breaking a lot of old "rules" these days. It is sometimes very difficult to do but in the end, always freeing. It frees up things you may not expect, like your creativity. I'm in my fifties so a lot of the ideas in my head are very well set and hardened. That's one reason it's so hard to break them. Another is that they are very well hidden and disguised as "the right thing to do". They are not all worth breaking of course. But the ones that bind and blind you, those are worth the effort.

How do you know where these rules are hiding? It's a matter of listening. Just get by yourself and get quiet. They will come to you. They always do. It takes time. You can't rush it. You have to be polite enough to let them speak. Do you have a place in your life that is constantly frustrated? That's a good place to go listen. Remember, these hard and fast rules are just doing what they have been taught to do. They don't live in the present. They don't know that you are all grownup now and that you get to decide for yourself what is best. Treat them gently. Let them tell you their story. Try not to judge them harshly. Let them become your friend. Then you can start teaching them about freedom. Then you can set each other free.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Wild Creature In The Willow Tree!

If you look at the crotch of the tree you will see my dog Alfie! He climbed up there to get closer to the birdies!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Late For Lunch

I was mowing today and discovered a brand new flower blooming at the old picnic table.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Bath Time For Birdy!

I just missed getting a shot of this Robin taking a bath in the rain water from last night. I took this picture through the screen so it's not so sharp. At least I caught him on the wheelbarrow! He looked to cute taking his bath! He looks cute anyway.

Monday, May 31, 2010

In Search Of Inner Freedom And Peace

First I want to say a huge heartfelt THANK YOU to all of our incredible service men and women who defend this great country of ours and who willingly put their lives on the line for us to live in freedom. God bless you and your families!!

Here is a shot of the lovely mammatus clouds that passed over us earlier today, at the tail end of the thunder and rain. Aren't they cool looking?

I haven't been blogging as much as I'd like to lately. I've been studying SEO and making changes to my shop. With over 200 items it is quite time-consuming and I am really hoping that these changes will help my sales start to climb. I feel like I've done as much as I can handle for awhile, having spent the past month on this, almost exclusively.

For a little change of pace I am looking at re-organizing my work area. For those of you who read my blog, you know this is an ongoing project for me. I am still in search of that ever-elusive perfect arrangement! This time I'm trying to apply some of the techniques I have learned for other areas of the house, like putting items nearest to their 'point of use'. I have certain drawers and places that are easier access than others. For those places that are prime real estate, I want to only keep things that I use most frequently. Things I use less frequently will go in the harder to reach and farther away spots. That seems simple enough until you start to apply it and there is limited space and it can get rather complicated.

Being a person who recycles old jewelry and bits and pieces of almost anything, makes it even more of a challenge to maintain order. I keep things that many people would deem "trash". Of course it also makes it hard to ever get rid of anything! I do have to be a bit brutal here and let go of some of these things. I just dread the thought that I will finally get rid of a piece and the next day the inspiration for that piece will hit me, and I just threw it out! It almost seems inevitable. But I have to thin things out a bit so I will have to bite the bullet! I can at least place those questionable items in a farther away place from the work area.

One thing I find most challenging is how to store my tools. I use them constantly, so I don't want them in a drawer. But I don't like them strewn about either. For now I have them in a re-purposed oatmeal box. I cut the box to the right height, then removed the inner cardboard circle from the lid and replaced that plastic rim onto my cut down box for added strength. I keep all my tools in there and it's worked very nicely. It's not the most attractive piece. I could finish it with duct tape, which would make it even stronger, or I could paper over it. I don't mine the Oats label enough to bother.

I'm a huge fan of "bouquets" - those open round containers like this one, for keeping tools, or kitchen utensils or pencils in one easy to reach spot. It's so much easier to grab something out of a bouquet than to open a drawer and go fishing around. I have a stainless steel one in the kitchen for all my wooden spoons and cooking utensils. I found it at the thrift store of course. That's where about 75% of my belongings come from. I especially love finding the kitchen throw-aways from restaurants, which are very high quality stainless steel pans and utensils. Maybe they have a dent or ding but they are perfectly usable for me and I could never afford this stuff new!

Another project on my mind is to set my house to "cottage mode" for the summer. I like to lighten the load in whatever areas I can so that I have to spend less time washing dishes and doing laundry, and can spend more time doing fun things like yard work and swimming, and making jewelry.

One way to lighten the load in the kitchen is by reducing the number of dishes we use. There are only three people in my little family, so why do we need 8 dinner plates? Whatever number of dishes I have, that is how many will be used. It's a law of housewifery. It doesn't matter how many people there are, or even how often I wash the dishes. At some point, every plate in the house will be dirty, and this will happen often. I don't own a dishwasher so even with only three people, dish washing is a constant chore. I will give each person one plate, cup, bowl, and silverware set. Then the most I will ever have to wash is 3 of each item! Sounds good to me. I'll keep the rest in an upper cabinet for when we have company.

I have done the same with bed linens and towels. Cut down the number of items available and it automatically cuts down laundry time. We've actually managed to cut our laundry time to half of what it used to be. We have one set of sheets that are washed, dried, and replaced on the bed in one session. No more washing several sets of sheets and pillow cases. We used to use, wash and dry a dozen towels every week. That's two loads even in the big front loader. We cut that in half by simply putting half the towels into storage, along with the extra bedding. When the ones we're using wear out, we'll pull out the next set.

If you are feeling really brave, you can cut down laundry time even further by taking an honest look at your wardrobe. Here's where the old 80/20 rule comes into play. It says that we typically use only 20% of the clothes we own. The other 80% sits there either waiting for "when I lose this weight" or "that special occasion", or whatever the case is that you have made for keeping it. The advantage to never culling your wardrobe of course, is that someday you will have a closet full of awesome vintage items! You can amaze your grandchildren. If you have plenty of space and that's your thing, go for it! If you want to live a little lighter, definitely give this a go. You will be amazed at how freeing it is to get rid of those pieces that you only hold onto because you spent "good money" on it - even though it's ugly or doesn't fit you anymore. It's a purifying and exhilarating experience to unload those pieces and in the process, unhooking yourself from all the bad feelings associated with them! Just imagine opening your closet in the morning and seeing only clothes that fit you today, only clothes that are flattering and pretty, and only pieces that you really like to wear! Talk about lifting your spirits!!

I take this philosophy to every room in the house. You can apply it to the bathroom shelves, the kitchen drawers, those storage units in the garage, everywhere you keep things that you own.
It is an ongoing process for me. I have purged the entire house a few times, and the result was a profound experience of new inner freedom and peace. Our material possessions do cost us beyond their purchase price. We need to periodically weigh those costs and benefits to be sure our possessions aren't possessing us and squelching us.

Here's to finding more freedom in our lives!

Friday, May 21, 2010

I Think I'm In Love!

Good morning folks!! Happy Friday to all!

Ok, I admit it...I had never heard of "rhodochrosite" before this week. I obtained some in my 'grab bag' of goodies from the antique store. Well I think I'm in love!! I do love pink - very very much. Copper is so beautiful with pinks and purples so I did a wire wrap of this little beauty. I'm very please with how it turned out. I will definitely be using this rock again! Plus I have several more pieces in my stash!!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ooh Pretty!

I went to my favorite antique shop last weekend. They have had a bowl of $1 items for many months sitting on the counter. I have found some interesting pieces in there from time to time. This time they consolidated all the items in the bowl into one bag for $6. I went for it! Here are some of the treasures I got.
There were several bags of semiprecious stones, most of them in a rough state. A few are polished. Not sure what I'll do with them, but they are beautiful!

There were also many chandelier crystals. I love these gorgeous pieces for jewelry. They're big beautiful chunks of shine!!

I wire wrapped one of the rhodochrosite pieces, and made a pendant from one of the extra large crystals.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Take Better Photos In Three Easy Steps

Go from this:

To this:

I've been reading every article I can find about improving my Etsy shop. Things have been very slow in the shop so I have plenty of time on my hands for expanding my horizons. In general I'm stuffing my head with every bit of information I can about this whole business of selling jewelry online that I can!

I've been making lots of treasuries in the brand new Treasury East on Etsy. What a wonderful! I think it is a fabulous way of finding great artists on Etsy and getting to meet them. It's a wonderful creative outlet being a curator of these beautiful collections.

In all my searches for brilliant items for my treasuries I have found my eye being trained to what kind of photo really "pops" off the pages of Etsy. That has led me to re-read my camera's manual. I've been experimenting with different techniques, lighting, settings, and re-shooting many of my items, while doing some editing of others. I thought I'd share some of what I have been learning.

I have found myself often frustrated in my treasury searches because I will find a piece of jewelry that is absolutely beautiful that I would love to include, but the photo is so dark and small that I can't use it. Here's what one may look like:

You can see this Aquamarine Teardrops In Steel Necklace is a lovely piece, but this picture doesn't do it justice. It needs to be brightened up and cropped. I use Windows Photo Gallery for all of my editing. It has everything I need. There are plenty of free online photo editors available like Picasa and Picnik. These are easy to use and have everything you need.

The first and most important part of taking pictures is to get a clear and crisp photo that is not blurry. For this you will have to familiarize yourself with your camera's macro setting. The macro setting is for closeups and is indicated by a yellow flower. If you don't have your camera's manual, you can use Google to find it online. Just setting the camera to macro is not enough for a clear picture. Here are three essentials for getting a crystal clear shot:

1. Plenty of light, either natural light or full spectrum bulbs.

I use Reveal 100 watt bulbs in a clamp-type lamp. I have two of these lamps and I can move them around for different effects and shadows. If I want more shadow I use just one lamp. I personally don't like to use natural light because it is impossible to manipulate. You have to go where it is and that is less than convenient. I have plenty of windows but not in positions that give me good angles. Direct sunlight is too bright and will wash out the pictures. Besides, the weather is never reliable! So I stick with my little clamp lamps. That way I never have to wait for a sunny day to get great shots.

2. Use a tripod.

I always use a tripod. You can get a tripod for as cheap as $1. I had one from the dollar store and granted, it did break after about 3 months, but that was more than my dollar's worth!! This tripod in the picture is one that my dear sister gave me. I don't know exactly where she got it, but you can get a desktop tripod for around $15-20. If you can't shell out for a tripod, then at least put your camera on a pile of books or a box - something solid that you can line up with your subject so that you are not holding the camera in your hands. It is virtually impossible to get a sharp picture when you are holding the camera in your hands!

3. Find the correct distance from the camera to your subject.

This is crucial. If your picture is blurry, there is nothing you can do to improve upon it in any editor.

You can get an idea from your camera's manual of what distances it can handle on the macro setting. But then you will have to experiment to find just where it works best. I read my manual fully, but when I went to apply it all, it seemed nothing was going the way I expected. So I just started snapping pictures and experimenting to see what would give me the sharpest shot.

I see lots of pictures on Etsy that are blurred simply because the subject was too close to the lens. Sometimes you have to take a picture further away and then crop it later in the editor. Don't worry about getting in close to the subject when you take the picture. Just make sure the picture is in focus and you can crop it later, which will make it fill the frame.

That brings me to filling the frame. The picture below is better as far as the brightness, but the necklace is too far away. You really want to see the central part of the item and nothing else. Too much empty space around the item is no good. Don't worry about showing the entire piece in your first picture slot. Just zoom in on the very best part of the piece for the first picture - that picture will be in all the searches where people are shopping! You really want to fill the entire frame with the best part of the subject.

So in the picture below, I need to crop out the extra space and hone in on that centerpiece of twisted wire and aquamarine. I also want to brighten it further.

Here is the final picture:

That really pulls your eye in nicely.

Next I'll show you a good first slot picture, and a better first slot picture.
The first picture of the Get It In Gear Earrings is fine. It's sharp and bright, easy to see. Not a lot of empty space around the subject. It's a very respectable photo. But I really wanted to add some drama and I wanted to play up the industrial feel of these earrings.

So I switched out my lace background for an etched glass tile and zoomed in very close to the earrings. I used just one lamp which made beautiful deep shadows which highlight the piece brilliantly.

Here you can see the difference between one picture taken of Etched Brass Steampunk Earrings in natural daylight (top picture) and one taken at night with only incandescent lighting (bottom picture). The daylight picture has a clarity that the other does not have. But it also has a kind of flatness about it.

I like the mood in the second picture better for this piece. I wanted it to have that "ruins" feeling to it.

Well, I hope this little article has been enlightening for you (pun intended). Have a wonderful photo session!!