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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Oh Come all Ye Bookworms


My book club friends LOVED their sterling silver bookmarks, by the way. I had placed them in their napkins so they found them as they sat down to a dinner of "Almost No Chopping Black Bean and Salsa Soup," accompanied by a salad with butter lettuce, avocado, fresh spices and gluten free cornbread. What a wonderful evening. We sat and talked about anything and everything under the sun (except for books, of course, since this was the one time of year we allow ourselves to simply have a party and not be serious about a book). We'll discuss "Thirteen Moons" by Charles Frazier next month, but it does seem everyone is enjoying it.



My somewhat new neighborhood had a girl-gathering as well. I've been here around four years, but it's only recently that we've all started getting to know each other. This was called the "First Annual Ornament Exchange." Wow! Lots of women drinking champagne and having a happy good time.


Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas in case I'm not back with another post before the first of January! Enjoy the holidays!

:)

Monday, November 13, 2006

All Tied Up in Celtic Knots


I am skipping my last Repousse class this evening because I have finished the two projects I started in that class and need a short break from all the pounding. It can be a bit rough on the neck and shoulder if one doesn't sit properly, something I need to work on. I do enjoy it, though, and find it somewhat meditative. Time flies by quickly as I sit in front of my bowl of red pitch, tapping away until the desired height and shape is achieved. Above is the celtic knot design, the first thing I made in class. Below is the bracelet, project #2.



I have learned a lot from doing this cuff bracelet. I discovered that by using 20 gauge silver, one is virtually guaranteed of never pounding hard enough to cut through the metal, but it does require a heavy hand to make the impressions. I realized too late that the tool I was using to line everything was too thick. Next time I'll know better.

When it was completely done, I formed it into a bracelet on a bracelet mandrel. Then I polished it up and it's now on my arm as I type! :) Next time I'll try doing another cuff bracelet with more variations of height in the design.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Can't Judge a Book by it's Cover



A few years back I decided to give all my book club friends a handmade bookmark at our December holiday gathering. If my memory serves me correctly, that first year I made embossed cards using red and green paper, rubber stamps and embossing powder. I remember Elaine saying, "I can't believe you MADE these." Little did they all know then how much much time I spend "making things."

This year I decided to create sterling silver bookmarks with pretty little beads and charms dangling from the top. I added a rectangular piece of silver on which I stamped each of their names.



I'll give the instructions here in case anyone would like to make some for their friends. Basic metalsmithing tools are required.

1. Cut 10 gauge round sterling silver wire into approximately 4 or 5 inch pieces. Gently
shape into a long, stretched out "S" shape.
2. Roll each piece through a rolling mill until desired flatness is reached. Lightly file the
top and bottom to remove rough edges.
3. With a chasing hammer (round end), pound on each side of the wire, making chasing marks. (Don't forget to stamp your bookmark with a "sterling" stamp.
4. Drill a hole through the top.
5. Add a good sized jump ring and solder it closed (soldering is optional, but recommended).
6. Put them in the tumber and tumble to make shiny (about 30 minutes or more).
7. Add your beads.
8. To make name tags, simply stamp the names into 24 gauge silver and cut out with
Joyce Chen scissors or use a jeweler's saw. Flatten tag on steel block if it's warped at all. Drill a hole at top. File the edges to remove sharpness. If there are scratches in the silver, sand them out with sandpaper (First 220, then 320, then 400 and last 600 grit - coarse to fine). Tumble in tumbler about 30 minutes. Attach to bookmark with a jump ring.

I hope the girls like them. :)




Sunday, October 29, 2006

It's Howl-O-Weenie Time


Imagine a park filled with little dachshunds in all sizes and colors on a gorgeous fall day playing games with their owners...and most of them in costume! The very first contest involved the wee ones wearing all kinds of creative attire. Here are our own little chorizo dogs, as well as the one dressed as a chicken. :)



The Howling contest followed. This is Andy with his owner. Andy sang his little heart out and the crowd loved him.

There was a kissing contest (blech!) where the number of licks the pup gave it’s owner were counted in a 30-second interval. Very gross – me being never one to want doggy tongue on my face (or lips!). Then came the doggie dash. Poor Hannah was clueless about what to do and just wandered around the field. But it was such a hoot to watch!


I had never seen myself as one of those dog people who would attend such an event, but I'll now admit it was a ton of fun. Just watching these little weiner dogs in costumes kept us laughing the whole time. Especially our own. :)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Autumn

It's been a beautiful fall day here in Georgia. Sunny and slightly cool with a pleasant breeze blowing the first of the leaves off the trees. It's getting dark outside earlier now, as well, which I'm always ready for. It's a true toss up between fall and spring, but I think this just may be my favorite time of year. What a perfect day to try out Karina's Black Bean & Sweet Potato Enchiladas! I would have never imagined combining sweet potatoes with black beans, so it's a good thing we have people like Karina around whose creativity knows no bounds.




When I first saw this recipe posted on her blog, "Gluten Free Goddess," it looked a little complicated. But it isn't. Once you get all the ingredients together, it's actually very simple...and quite tasty! Next time I will make a bit more of the sauce, though, and add a touch more goat cheese to each enchilada. As Karina suggested, I served this alongside a green salad with some mandarin oranges, and threw some dried cranberries and nuts on the top. This is a great meal for my vegetarian daughter. Can't wait to try it out on her when she's in town. :)

Recently I've been working on a filigree pendant while taking a break from all the pounding on metal involved with Repousse. You truly need to take time off every now and then or your neck/shoulder muscles will begin to scream. Here's a sterling silver pendant with a blue Kyanite stone and a cultured freshwater pearl I just finished. Because it is so small (about the size of a quarter), I've decided to use a purchased chain (oh, such guilt!) instead of trying to make a chain that would be small enough to look right. I truly don't think anyone will mind! :)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Eastern Repousse

Yea! A new class! I've been waiting to take Victoria's Eastern Repousse class for a good long while now. She only offers it every couple of years, so Monday night when we all gathered for our first lesson, everyone was quite excited to be there.

I took a 4 day session in Chasing & Repousse last fall with Valentin Yotkov. His studio is in Brooklyn, New York, but occasionally will travel to give workshops. This photo is what I was able to accomplish in that class. It was the design given to all of us who had never attempted repousse before.



It's very rough, but gives you an idea of what chasing and repousse is. Basically, a piece of metal (usually silver or copper)is placed in what is called a pitch bowl (filled with pitch) and then a design is pounded out in the metal using forming tools and a hammer. Work is done on both sides of the metal. I remember it causing a bit of neck strain, so I'll be sure to sit properly this time around.

I'm hoping to make a cuff bracelet with some kind of design on it, but that might be a bit much for a beginner. Perhaps something smaller to start would be a better plan!

:)

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Wiener Wonder Dogs

While we were off enjoying our trip in Canada, the little pups were off being trained at Atlanta Dog Trainer. They lived with a trainer, Stenelle, for 2 weeks and came back transformed! Here's a photo of them doing their "sit command:"



An added benefit of all of this training, one which I had not anticipated, is they will now stay in one place while being photographed. :)

And here's them doing their "down" command:



What good girls!

So maybe you're not as amazed as I am. In all truth, I was beginning to wonder if Bella could be trained. She seems to have a seriously short attention span. They told me she was definitely a challenge. But now, on command, they'll both sit, stay, down, come, get off people and couches with the command "off," and Hannah can even shake hands/paws! Susie, the owner of Atlanta Dog Trainer has even gotten Hannah to the point of being able to walk past other dogs without completely freaking out (barking, pulling, etc.) Plus, they worked on the barking issues, and they are both MUCH quieter since arriving home yesterday.

Of course, this is an ongoing process and we have daily work to do with these two to keep up their good behavior, as well as improve upon it. Needless to say, I'm quite pleased with the progress Susie & Stenelle made in only two weeks with our little weiner schnitzels.

Monday, July 10, 2006

A Dachshund Delightful surprise

One day while stumbling around the internet I came upon a photo contest, so via the ease of digital emailing, I sent a photo of Bella as a puppy in my son's old dinosaur toy. Then I forgot all about it - until last week, that is, when I received a phone call that my photo had won in Animal Wellness magazine's photo contest for "happiest" dog and that I'd be receiving a prize soon. Woo Hoo! They were sweet enough to send me an advance copy (new issue comes out July 18th) so check her out in the green dinosaur.



A few days later a call came in from Dachshund Delights asking me for Bella's measurements for her special "harness" they were going to make for her. How much fun is this?


The new harness arrived today, so here's the weiner schnitzel wearing her newly won apparel:



This is the second photo contest I've ever won, so I still get overly excited about these types of things. Thanks for bearing with me! :)

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Summertime...and the livin' is easy

I was finally able to attend my Thursday night metalsmithing class after having missed the first three. Because I've been taking a little vacation from jewelry making, I felt a bit out of it and don't know what project I want to tackle next. HB gave a demonstration on granulation and there is a class starting on that subject this month, but making all those teensy little silver balls and fusing them onto metal seems like it would require concentration and focus... and I'm in summer mode. This must be the residue of feelings from that extraordinary trip I was was just fortunate enough to have been able to experience. So...I'll save granulation for something to look forward to learning in the future.

Meanwhile, the hubby and I are still on a cooking spree. We even went out yesterday and ordered a new grill!

The last night Jess was here (sniff, sniff), we made Moroccan Fish Skewers from a recipe in a book called "Grilling" by Louise Pickford. I found it at Crate and Barrel. The author added couscous, but I made a side of rice instead. Here's a photo:

To this I added and a salad with simple greens, feta cheese and arugula...along with our homemade salad dressing (which happens to be the only one we use, for the most part). If I haven't already shared this recipe, here it is: It's 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. black pepper, touch of sugar and 1 chopped garlic clove.












Moroccan Fish Skewers:

1 1/2 lb. swordfish steaks
extra virgin olive oil
24 large bay leaves, soaked in cold
water for 1 hour
2 lemons, cut into 24 chunks
lemon juice
1/2 recipe Moroccan Rub
8 wooden skewers, soaked in cold water for 1 hour.

Using sharp knife, cut swordfish into 32 cubes (I actually made larger cubes and made less that that). Put into a ceramic dish. Add a sprinkle of olive oil and the Moroccan Rub and toss until the fish is evenly coated. Marinate in refrigerator for 1 hour.

Preheat grill. Thread the fish, bay leaves and chunks of lemon onto the soaked skewers and cook over hot coals for 3 to 4 minutes, turning halfway through until cooked. Serve over couscous or rice. NOTE: One hour is sufficient to flavor the fish with the rub and any longer could cause the flavors to be overpowering.

Moroccan Rub:

1 tbls. coriander seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
2 cinnamon sticks (I used a teaspoon of cinnamon instead)
1 tsp. whole allspice berries
6 cloves
a pinch of saffron threads
1 tsp. ground turmeric
2 tsp. dried onion flakes
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. paprika

Toast the whole spices and saffron threads in a dry skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Transfer to a spice grinder (I used a mortar and pestle) and rush into a coarse powder. Mix up remaining spices and mix well (I continued to crush it all up with the mortar and pestle).

As you can see, this recipe takes a lot of preparation. I'd suggest making the Moroccan Rub earlier in the day.



Friday, June 23, 2006

Cruisin...

What a fantastic trip we had! From beginning to end, we had a blast! That's our balcony, where we would spend some time each evening as the ship left shore, heading for the next destination. We would order some wine and yummy nibbles from room service and sit on the balcony talking about how lucky we were to be there. Then we would change clothes and meet up for our nightly four-course dinner in one of the ship's restaurants. The food was excellent and the staff was friendly and very accomodating with my need for gluten free selections. This was my third cruise (and BEST!) but I've always found the staff very accomodating to my need for a gluten free diet. (And, just as a side here, Lufthansa airlines provided the most spectacular gluten free meals I've ever experienced on an airplane.)



Venice, Italy. Everyone had told me I had to visit it at least once in my lifetime and they were right. It's the most unique place on the planet...over 100 small islands connected by bridges and something like 163 churches! Important art is everywhere you turn. We walked into a church and there was Titian's "The Assumption of the Virgin" hanging right before us! Amazing place.



Split, Croatia was tiny, but cute. We took a little tour and were told the people live so close together they not only know everything about everyone else's business, they even jump in and get involved when families argue. It's probably true.



Montenegro. I'll never forget the morning I woke up and opened the curtains as we were pulling into port in this country I'd never even heard of. It was breathtakingly beautiful. It was still very early so the only sound was that of a rooster cock-a-doodle-dooing in the distance and an occasional scooter driving along the road that followed the edge of the sea. Montenegro made me think that this was probably what California used to look like a long time ago - before it got too built up. I loved it.



I had no idea what to expect in Turkey. We booked a tour to "Ephesus," second only to the Acropolis in ancient ruins and it was mind-boggling. This is where the Ephesians lived. These were the people St. Paul sent his letters to, which can be read in the bible. Cleopatra walked these streets and spent her honeymoon there. Absolutely amazing place.



Here's Brian & Connie, and they are the friends who made this trip as fun as it was! We toured together, ate together, danced together and laughed together each and every day. I am so grateful to have them in my life.



Santorini, Greece. It's everything I thought is was going to be. We sat in a cafe overlooking the sea having a bite to eat and were mesmerized by the beauty all around us.



Speaking of food, how's this for a Greek feast? Restaurants were everywhere in Athens and each one of them had a man standing out front trying to lure us in. Sometimes they succeeded, as was the case here. It was delicious.



So now I'm home and my clothes feel a bit snug around the middle, but I'm afraid to step onto the scale. I'll give myself a few more days before facing reality. No need to rush into these things. :)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

She's got a ring in his nose and a ring on her hand

I don't even remember what song that line came from, but it's there, stuck in my brain forever. It was between that and "I'm so excited, I just can't hide it" because as I was finishing my ring today I was EXCITED! I rarely ever make rings, so as I began to see that this one was going to actually come out okay, I found myself feeling...well...ecstatic! :) Making rings can be difficult. You might start out trying to make a size 6, but by the time it's done, it can morph into a size 7. So I made an effort to make this one smaller than I needed. Sure enough, after polishing it all up, it fit perfectly. I wish I had made the opal's bezel in gold, though. It would have been prettier. But seeing as it was my first ring in well over a year, I didn't think it appropriate to be overly confident.

Last night was my very last filigree class. Oh oh...now I'm on my own. I'm still obsessed with it and have a pair of earrings in the pickle pot, a newly finished pair sitting in my jewelry box and a pendant waiting for a chain and a stone to be set into it. New ideas keep flooding in daily, which I'm drawing on some graph paper for future reference. My new designs, combined with my new acquisitions will keep me happy for a good long time!

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Quilt it. Quilt it good.


Elaine is an incredible quilter (and she has most organized quilting room I've ever seen). Yesterday was Amy Strickland's wedding shower and Elaine presented her with a pillow she had made from the photo on Amy's wedding website. How cute is that? Made me want to pull out my sewing machine and start quilting again! Ed better keep an eye on me because I could take over all the upstairs bedrooms and he wouldn't even know it. This room for quilting, this room for jewelrymaking, this room for...

Upon returning home, I decided to finish up the earrings I'd started on Friday afternoon. The original plan had pearls hanging from the bottom, but I decided blue chalcedony beads would be better.
They are quite long - measuring a whopping 4 inches from the very tip top of the ear wire to the bottom of the bead, but are very light and delicate. I'm happy with how they turned out.

Just watching Amy open the quilted pillow reminded me that it's time for me to make something for my mother, who has been waiting patiently for a handmade gift from me for far too long. These earrings would be too large for her, but I think I can design something more appropriate and get it to her by Mother's Day. I better get busy!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Here we go 'round in circles...

A circle is a shape found repeatedly throughout the world and is a symbol of perfection. It is acknowledged as an archetype of wholeness and integration, with the center symbolizing spirit...or essence. In Buddhist Mandalas, the circumference is "the grasping", i.e., grasping the essence.

This is a circular pendant I made using the filigree techniques I'm learning in class. It is made of 14K gold and fine silver. I had an exciting discovery while making the attached chain. Instead of using 22 gauge fine silver to make the round loops, I used Argentium 22 gauge sterling silver and was pleasantly surprised to find out they fuse beautifully. I did not melt one single loop as I fused them, which is unheard of in my studio! This is fantastic because I can now make chains that are both easier, stronger and highly tarnish-resistant. What could be better?

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Latest Bloomin' Creation

Phew! The pin took longer than anticipated. Anytime you add bezels and stones to a piece, it's going to take a bit longer...at least in my opinion. Here's the finished pin for Jessica's shawl (Sterling Silver with Amber, Jade & Garnet):



I can't imagine how it's going to stay in the shawl without falling out, even though I made the sterling silver straight pin part kind of squiggly for that very purpose. Susan suggested I make another one similar to the hair clips used in the past - the kind with a little stick that grabs the hair and slips through a rectangular base. It would be cute to attach the stick to the main clip with a little chain, as well. Holy Canoli! How many of these darn shawl pins can one person make???

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Pins and Needles

Jessica asked me to make her a pin for one of her knitted scarves to hold it together in the front. Susan gave me the idea to make a penandular brooch, and sent me home with one of her designs. So I made one this afternoon:



But I wondered if she would prefer more of a "pin" type of style, so then made this one:



Hmmmm...I still haven't made the straight pin design. It would be similar to a hat pin, but larger. My worry is it might fall easily out of the scarf. I think I'll give it a try anyway and see what happens.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Double Trouble

Earrings. I wear them just about every day, but they happen to be one of the things I make least often. Why? Because you have to make two of them. I need to get over that problem.

Here's a pair I made recently, experimenting with making tiny links out of 22 gauge sterling silver wire. It worked. I only melted maybe 1/4 of the links as I fused them.  Not a bad start.   :) The blue lapis beads add some color.



Did someone say double trouble?



Little do they know as they innocently lay there soaking up the sun that I am planning a little vacation for them at The Ruff House for a couple of days while I head to New York to visit Jess. Wait...they're looking at me funny...like they suspect me of something. They probably saw me putting their sleepover supplies in the car today.

I am SO excited about Thursday night in New York. Jess and I are going to have dinner at Risoterria , a restaurant in New York that makes gluten free Pizza!!! I haven't had pizza in a restaurant since the year 2000. The last time I was in New York, we went went to Happy, Happy, Happy, a gluten free bakery and stocked up on goodies. What a treat!

Friday, March 17, 2006

I love the smell of acetylene in the morning

This obsession with making jewelry happened FAST. After my very first metalsmithing class at Spruill Arts with Susan Saul, I think I was already making plans to buy a torch. When I did, I had to ask Dallas at JFF if he would please attach the torch to the tank for me because I didn't have a clue how to do it! He was very kind, thank goodness. Here's where I make stuff:

The problem lately is I can't find the time to design or work on new projects. Bella needs a lot of attention. In and out, in and out, all day long. She's only 5 months old, so it's expected, I guess. Here's the little bugger.
Oh oh -- Hannah will be jealous if I don't put her picture in here, too (they're SO competitive!)

Since I'm talking about jewelrymaking, here's photo of my latest pendant and chain. It's an Australian Opal and Garnet done in 18K gold and sterling silver.


I'm in a creative slump right now. Why else would I be spending this much time learning how to make a blog instead of upstairs making things? I need inspiration!