31 January 2009

Praise for String Me Along

In this season of award shows -Grammys, Oscars, Golden Globes - I too have received critical acclaim. I was given very high praise from a very particular and finicky individual. After a thorough appraisal of some of my recent jewelry designs, the verdict was passed:

"Well, you are very silly, but you're really good at making things."

This judgement was passed by my five year old niece. What a charmer.

29 January 2009


Today is my two year etsy-versary. I have struggled a lot, learned a lot, sold a little, but most importantly, I have met some amazing people.

In March 2007, fellow etsy seller, dandee started a forum thread for Canadian sellers. I think we were all surprised that day after day we continued to meet. Since then we have met online to chat, share, praise, critique, cheerlead, offer guidance or a shoulder to cry on. The group has grown steadily and with each new addition comes the comment, "What a great group of people in here". A truer statement has never been heard.

So today, a shout out to all of the wonderful etsyians who I have met on that thread. I consider them all to be friends, even if I have never seen their faces, and I look forward every morning to meeting them over our virtual coffee.

If you want to meet some of them for yourself, look off to the right, and scroll down to my blog list. That is most of them, right there!

28 January 2009

Every Girl Loves Flowers

I recently discovered the beauty of faux flowers. Not silk... LUCITE! Oh so pretty. They make fabulous jewelry.

Look at these simple chrysanthemums turned into feminine rings.

Most of these are on their way to Kitchener, ON to be sold at Rarefunk. One is available right now at my etsy store.

And a larger sakura bloom to make a little bolder statement:

Little lucite bell flowers, once dressed up with peridot green Swarovski crystals and a little sterling silver become sweet, little lily of the valley earrings.

Finally, a very dark and dramatic piece. This is made of one large black rose, and two pale grey chrysanthemums. Pewter coloured pearls add extra romance, and black chain makes for an antiqued look.

26 January 2009

How to NOT be Popular With Your Neighbours

So it turns out that if you live a small apartment building, and you feel that not enough of your neighbours are glaring at you and muttering under their breath anytime you walk by, the answer is to purchase a hammer and anvil. There is nothing like the sound of a repetitive "tink, tink, tink" through thin walls to get your morning off to ripping start.

Sorry folks, but when I am consumed by the creative urge, I am willing to risk my meagre popularity. So, this past weekend I went out and bought a ball peen hammer, an anvil, new diamond drill bits, and grinding and polishing bits for the dremel. Lucky, perhaps for the neighbours, my fun metal bits are in transit so I can only make modest amounts of annoying noise.

I have been practicing however using spare metal headpins etc, so the "tink, tink, tink" is occasionally present. I am having a marvelous time watching how metal pins can flatten out into a wobbly-shaped strip, but learning too that to make a smooth plane takes decidedly more finesse. I am learning that a 90 degree angle is not metal's best friend, but that a gentle curve is stronger and perhaps more visually appealing. I am discovering the intricacies of the flat versus the round part of the hammer; seeing the different textures that each side can create, and the destruction (ooops) that each can cause. I have only once, thankfully, felt the gentle bash of hammer against finger, an action that reminded me that I had also purchased a sizable large tweezer assortment.

I have much experimenting to do yet, and hopefully I will have mastered some simple technique before the eviction notice comes. *insert evil laugh* Wait until the tumbler starts running day and night!

Here are some early practice pieces.

Favorite Things - Jan 26

I had such a pleasant feeling last week after I compiled my list of favorite things, that I have decided to make it a weekly exercise. Each Monday I am going to share one thing that makes me feel happy. Let's try starting the weeks off on a positive note for a change. Seems lately that all we ever hear is bad news, so let's try to remember the good and the happy things in our life. And maybe this can be a little reminder that money does not always equate happiness.

So here goes. My favorite thing for this Monday, January 26th is: over sized attractions. Of the many that I have seen and enjoyed are the Trenton, ON Giant Apple; the Sudbury, ON Giant Nickle; the Shediac, NB Giant Lobster, and the Giant Potato of PEI.

Here is my sister, Andrea, caught in the clutches of Shediac's beast, as the Sou'wester clad lobster fisherman, rather than offering assistance, gazes into an Andrea-less future.

I love the kitsch of these mammoth sculptures. I guess it is the way they represent the spirit and culture of a place; the way that generation after generation families have posed with these familiar pieces, and how years later they will evoke warm memories of childhood vacations; the way that they represent a simpler period when road travel was filled with the license plate game and eye-spy, and other pastimes that made you look around and appreciate the scenery, rather than sulking in a corner with an i-pod or engrossed silence as a backseat DVD plays and the ever-changing scenery flashes by unnoticed outside.

My personal dream is to one day step into a cool retro airstream trailer and tour the country from coast to coast to coast, visiting each and every one of them! That would be the trip of a lifetime.

25 January 2009

Winter Relief

I just might have a case of the winter doldrums. How about you? I can't really afford to take a vacation from life at the moment, so I indulged last night in a little retail therapy. It helped immensely.

If you need a little winter relief, I am hosting a WINTER RELIEF SPECIAL in my etsy shop.

Shipping is free to anywhere. PLUS, on all orders over $30, I will refund 10%.

23 January 2009

My Favorite Things

Naturally, following the Christmas break, I had the popular refrain from "The Sound of Music" in my head for about a month. Today, I decided to compile my own list of some of my favorite things.

1) Seagulls... when they are silent and not pestering you for a bite of your food. The way that when the light is just right, the seagulls soaring in the sky, appear to be the purest white and seem positively illuminated.

2) Down duvets. Piled, and heaped upon the bed, they create a comforting weight and a cozy barrier against a chilly night.

3) The smell of a pine forest after a light rain. The evaporating waters take with them the heady scent of the forest and the air is filled with a perfume so perfect. The ground is softened by the damp, and your tread falls so lightly. If you are crawling from a dampened tent at the end of the rainshower, so much the better.

4) Vintage travel posters, postcards, luggage stickers. I wish that I had been alive in the golden age of travel, when coiffed airline stewardesses presented your meal alongside cloth napkins and real silverware, or when you dressed for dinner in the oceanliner's swaying dining room. When camera-toting tourists were in the minority so the full of experience of place was yours to behold. When even the shortest venture felt like a huge adventure.

5) Marshmallows roasted on a stick over an open fire. I prefer the quick and crisp method where the marshmallow is set alight and quickly extinguished. The burnt and crunchy outer coating slips off to reveal a soft and gooey mass within.

6) A fresh new journal with nary a mark upon it. The promise that awaits you on that first page, and the exciting anxiety you feel as you first touch pen nib to clean paper.

7) The way that my husband's hand is twice the size of mine, and that he is always willing to hold my small cold hand in his big warm one. In that hand is always the combination of warmth and security.

This is merely a short list of my favorite things. I invite you to add a comment sharing yours.

22 January 2009

A Hint of Good Things to Come

Look at us, said the violets blooming at her feet, all last winter we slept in the seeming death but at the right time God awakened us, and here we are to comfort you. ~Edward Payson Rod

Though the air remains cold, and the earthy remains icy, the days slowly are stretching longer, and the promise of spring grows stronger. For those of you in the throes of winter's desolation, I bring you a hint of the good things to come: tiny stems unravelling from the frozen earth, exploding into bursts of colour; breezes that, rather than chafe and snatch your breath away, warm and soothe, and bring floating along a summer's worth of winged beings; frozen crevices that with a soft giggle, once again turn into happily babbling steams.

All of these pieces and more can be found in my etsy shop. The link is on the right hand side.

21 January 2009

Don't Futz....

... with perfection.

I received a bead order in the mail a few days ago, and snuggled in amongst my treasures were two sets of beads that were sheer perfection in their simplicity. They were simple cylinders of pure colour. One set was a frosty matte cobalt, the other a transparent, lightly AB coated rose. Clearly these are not precision cut beads as there is a simple wave to the cylinder, which lends them a vintage feel, harking from the days when things were not 100% perfect, but had charm because of and in spite of that.

The task that I was confronted with was how to use these elongated beads. It was not long before I decided that there was really little that needed to, nor should be added to, these beads. I layered them therefore between simple metal spacers and left them to swing from an earring hook. If you want to draw attention to a pretty face after all, why not frame it, without overwhelming it, with an equally pretty accessory.

19 January 2009

The Force is Strong in This One

I admit it... I'm a plant killer. I water too much or too little. I am never able to determine how much shade is partial shade, and how much sun is partial sun. Really, aren't those the same thing?

I had pretty much given up the idea of houseplants because I felt too guilty bringing them home only to know that they were meeting their eventual doom. But, last week while shopping the after-Christmas clearance sales, I came across a cellophane wrapped vase that had inside it an amaryllis bulb, and a sealed bag of the soil it would need to grow. I normally would have passed that by, mainly because I know that I am cursed with a brown thumb, but also because when it comes to flowers, I prefer immediate satisfaction. Having to wait 6-8 weeks for a flower does not appeal to my impatient side. This time though, things were different.

I stopped short, took a step back, cocked my head, and squinted through the cellophane. Something looked odd. I picked up the package, turned it this way and that, and pulled at the cellophane a little. Was a bulb, outside of its nourishing soil, and tightly sealed in cellophane bubble meant to have green on it? "Its growing? ITS GROWING", I said aloud as people stopped to look curiously at me. Indeed it was. The force was strong in this little bulb. The bulb had a sizeable green shoot extending from it, and it was pressing itself against a cardboard wrap inside the cellophane, pushing itself up and out, free of its bonds.

I hugged the package to my chest and ran to the cash desk. If this bulb was so intent on growing, even I would be unable to extinguish its zest for life. I took it home and gingerly unwrapped it. I opened the bag of soil, moistened as per the directions, all the time wondering "Is that too much moisture, or not enough?". I set the bulb upright (I think) into the soil, and set it on a cabinet near the window so it would capture sunlight, hopefully enough, and nearish to heater so that it would be warm and cozy, but hopefully not too much so.

A week has passed and today the first ruddy red bloom has started to open, exposing the spiky stamens within. Close to its side another bloom is waiting to debut, while below another bud has poked its shy head out.

I am giddy about this little bulb and its will to survive.

16 January 2009

Hot Colours for a f-f-f-ff-f-Frigid Day

Yes, it is frigid here in Eastern Canada. At 1pm, it has warmed up to a balmy -20 degrees C. Add the wind factor, and it is colder than -30! It goes to show, you just can't trust a gloriously sunny day in January.

So how about a little burst of colour to jog us from the depths of icy white winter despair.

Do you feel the warmth? Look at the way the sun streams through the crystal andglass. The sparkle and shine is such a delight.

The round beads are a new discovery for me. They are blown glass and hollow, light as air, and so nervewracking to work on with sharp metal tools. They are pretty though. I sense there may be more of these beads in my future.

This necklace can be found here in my etsy shop.

12 January 2009

A Little Romance

With Valentine's Day around the corner, I channelled my inner blushing-eyelash-battering self, and designed a few pieces that are pure romance and passion.

This first piece is all about Victorian-inspired romance. An ancient skeleton key to lock away secrets and billet doux; a single copper leaf like one collected during a forbidden woodside meeting, and pressed in a book as a memory; and a single blush bloom, the colour of innocence, or perhaps a signal to meet at a pre-arranged time and place. Copper combined with soft tones of aqua and pink, this necklace imbues the romance of a by-gone era.

The next piece is a nod to fiery red passion. Beautiful crimson hollow blown-glass beads are coupled simply with open floating silver metal hearts.

A bracelet using the same open hearts, but this time with opaque cherry red glass beads, is no less saucy.

11 January 2009

Leftovers From the Fruit Basket

The holidays are over, and the feasting has slowed. What remains though are remnants of fruit basket bounty - not quite past its life expectancy, but perhaps also not at its most palatable. What to do....? Bake with it!

Today, I put to good use some bruised apples, slightly softened clementines and browned bananas. The end result: apple strudel for tonight's dessert, made with leftover phyllo pastry; banana bread for tea break snacks through the week and; clementine-cranberry muffins for the freezer. An added benefit... my home smells fantastic. No need for air fresheners or scented candles when you spend an afternoon baking.

I have to share this muffin recipe with you. It is delicious. It comes from the cookbook Muffins Galore, by Catherine Atkinson.

Clementine and Cranberry Muffins (makes 12)

3 small clementines, about 5 ounces in total weight
3/4 c water
2 c all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
Generous 1/2 c superfine sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 c dried cranberries
1 egg, lightly beaten
7 tablespoons butter, melted
For the Topping
1/2 c rolled oats
1/4 c light brown sugar
2 heaping tbsp all purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 c butter, cut into small pieces

1) Roughly chop the clementines (leaving their peel on), remove any seeds, then put the clementines in a small saucepan with the water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, half cover with a lid, and simmer for 20 minutes, until really tender. Remove the pan from the heat, and leave to cool for 10 minutes, then puree the mixture in a blender of food processor until smooth. Set aside.

2) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease or line a 12 cup muffin pan.

3) Make the topping by placing all the ingredients in a bowl and rubbing in the butter. Alternatively, put all ingredients in a food processor and process until lumps form. Set aside.

4) For the muffins, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, salt, and cranberries in a large bowl. Measure the clementine puree and make up to 1 cup with water if needed. Add to a bowl and stir in the egg and melted butter. Add to the dry ingredients and mix briefly until just combined.

5) Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, dividing it equally, then sprinkle the topping mixture over the tops of the muffins. Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes, or until well risen and golden. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn them onto a wire rack.

I have to admit that I totally forgot to add the topping mixture, once I set it aside. Without it though, the muffins were amazing, and probably just that little but lower in fat. We gave them a 4 stars out of 5. I am going to try them again with fresh cranberries, and I am going to remember the topping.

*Muffins, fresh from the oven

*Tea Break: Banana Bread, still warm and Harney and Sons Holiday Tea Blend tea.

10 January 2009

The Apprentice

The week before Christmas I entered into an apprenticeship from which I knew I would be sure to never hear the stern words of Donald trump: "You're Fired". I was not however ruling out the possibility of a quick divorce as I undertook a gingerbread house construction project with my husband.

In actual fact, the project went rather smoothly.

My husband took some architecture classes in college, so he drew up a quick and very accurate blueprint. I was in charge of the baking portion. I hauled out my trusty, well thumbed copy of Martha Stewart Holiday Cookies magazine, and peeled apart the pages that were slightly stuck together with molasses - unsulphured blackstrap molasses, that is. Measure, mix, chill, roll, and then measure twice, cut once.

As the gingerbread roof panels were in the oven, I encountered the first problem. I was using a silicone cookie sheet liner that was slightly too big for my cookie sheet. It started to wave in the middle, causing the roof panels to warp and curl slightly. I pulled them out of the oven and tried to remove the liner from beneath the cookies. This was not an easy feat, and in my attempts, I cracked one of the panels quite significantly. I was ready to start fresh on a new panel when Darcy suggested we just fit it together as best as possible since the dough was still pliable, and then wait to see if it held together once baked. I was sceptical but agreed to try, since after all, if it didn't work, it would simply be a delicious mistake. Miraculously, it did work. The panel fused itself back together, but there was a very obvious fault line still visible. The real test would be whether it would stand up in construction. Lesson learned, the walls were baked without further incident.

You can see the obvious cracks in the roof panels, especially on the broken piece on the right.

After the pieces cooled, I used my trusty Kitchen-Aid to beat senseless a heap of royal icing. I made it extra thick, and extra dry. The consistency was pretty close to actual building mortar. My husband gingerly piped and pieced the walls together. With our breath held, he lifted first one roof panel into place and secured it with extra icing. The severely damaged roof panel went on last. It turns out that with enough icing, anything is doable! It held together as one piece, and it clung to the rest of the house without issue. Wheeeeew... and resume breathing.

After the house was given time to settle and dry, my husband decided that to ensure the safety of future ginger generations residing in the house, the roof should be further secured. Strips and strips of icing were applied, and the roof was shingled in red smarties. Sturdy and delicious. Mike Holmes... take note!

Now as every girl knows, the fun part of home design is in the details. Window trim, landscaping, and candy! This was my task. I piped on (slightly irregular) windows, and a (slightly irregular) candy cane doorway. The landscaping included a stripy round mint walkway, and green and white gumdrop shrubbery. The final touch, glittery white snow.

It was exciting to see the entire project come together. And I was ecstatic to learn that gingerbread demolition is even more enjoyable.

*nom, nom, nom, nom*

5 January 2009


When I was young I was never a real fan of the big, expensive toys. Maybe it was because I didn't really have much exposure to them; or maybe because I preferred to dwelll in the land of make-believe (or maple-leaf as I believed it to be called for the longest time); or maybe it was because even at a tender age I instinctively knew that the simpler things in life are the things that keep us truly happy.

One of those simple things that kept me very happy were paint and play books. If you are unfamiliar, these were simple illustrations with faint smudges of colour that when touched with a damp paintbrush, the smudges would come alive, blurring and blending into vivid watercolours. In truth, there wasn't a whole lot of imagination to them. You did not get to choose the colours, and it was still recommended that you remain within the prescribed lines. You could however, if you were blessed with enough imagination, dream that you were a gifted, sought after artist; that the colours that you blended and the brushstrokes that you swept across the pages where the makings of museum-worthy masterpieces.

For a walk down memory lane, I received one of these paint and play books as a joke gift this past Christmas. As a nostalgic bonus, it is filled with images from Dick and Jane stories.

Today, I filled my glass with water, and dipped the rigid plastic bristles careful to allow the excess water to drip off before smearing it to the page.

I think that Dick and Jane are perhaps a little green with envy at the masterpiece that I churned out this afternoon.

4 January 2009

A Resolution to KEEP in 2009

This must become my mantra:


Darcy is currently trying to recover one of our hard drives.

Everything is still there.... he thinks.... but it is all inaccessible at the moment. Apparently this is because an elf used a crayon to break into the magical land of glarb, and while there had a lunch of cupcakes, the crumbs of which landed on and frizzled the waboot. Or something like that.... lalalala.

I may or may not have lost everything that I have stored on that computer, which includes thousands of photos. I got a new data stick in October. It is still sitting in its pretty lilac package on my desk. Well, actually, it is sitting on Darcy's desk right now, in its pretty lilac package and the instructions, "If you manage to find all my missing whoozits, could you add them to this pretty white and lilac data stick for me, please." *eyelash flutter*

3 January 2009

Resolutions to Break in 2009.

Welcome to the New Year, everyone. Here it is, all shiny and new and full of possibilities. Tradition dictates that I make a list of New Year`s resolutions that will last, oh, about a week. Since I am three days late making these resolutions, I have until January 10th to have them completely damaged.

So without further ado:

1) Make more soup. Not the same old soups time and again. Different soups, varied soups, hot or cold, creamy or brothy.

2) Use eye-cream. Regularly. Don`t buy it, and then hide it away at the back of the medicine cabinet to one day be discovered with a surprised querying exclamation of "I have eye-cream?". Father Time is not kind, and the crows are having a grand time leaving dancing footprints along the side of my twinkly peepers. To stop the progression the option is either eye-cream or a vacant, un-impassioned stare. The latter is really not going to work for me. My face is too expressive, and I do, on occasion, enjoy a full-on guffaw.

3) Resolve to not make any further resolutions. Honestly, stop kidding yourself. If you want to do something, just do it. Don't think so long and hard about it, that you eventually think yourself out of doing it. What happened to spontaneity? "Know what I feel like doing today... eating healthy and exercising! Oh wait, today's Tuesday? That won't work. I have to start that type of thing on a Monday. (shrug) Guess I'll just have to wait."

Can I even remember what last year's resolutions were? Well, yes, but only because I read back in my blog and reminded myself. There is one that I do plan to aim for again this year though, and that is to read 50 books. The dilemma today though is I started a book in the end of December and am still reading it. Would I count that against last year's tally, or chalk it up as the first read of '09?