Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Corner Views: Spring

Spring? If you're thinking of the season that vacillates between snow flurries and floods, then yeah, I've got some spring for you. The tide in my back yard has ebbed, once again, leaving mud in its wake. (Aheh. So much for those earlier-than-ever seeds we planted last week.)

If you live in New England, I imagine the scene in your "corner" is much the same. If you don't, I hope you have gorgeous views of tulips, forsythias, daffodils and crocuses.

More shots of spring at Spain Daily.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


The blogging world has opened up many windows of opportunity for me, and not only for my jewelry. I have found a world of connections with fellow artists and bloggers—all whom share parts of their lives quite generously. In the past few weeks, the depth of those connections have revealed themselves in interesting ways.

I have been reading voraciously lately, steadily working through the stack of books on my nightstand. A few weeks ago, I was reading Day After Night, by Anita Diamant. As I read the line, "Now get me a syringe, won't you dear? she said, taking a small orange out of her string bag," I immediately felt a sense of deep-rooted history and cross-cultural kinship. What a beautiful coincidence that I have been participating in string-a-long 2010, making string bags along with women from all over. My reading of that book also corresponded with Susie's trip to Israel, which she blogged about while there. Her photos and stories from her visit are amazing, and helped me to create vivid pictures in my mind as I read the story of the detainee camp, Atlit.

Last night, while reading Beloved, by Toni Morrison, I stopped short when I read this line, "It's when you bump into a rememory that belongs to somebody else." Rememory! Comes delightfully close to my daughter's word remembery (of Remembery Capsule fame). I love knowing that people have melded words together to make a perfect definition for generations.

So much is intertwined. Time and distance dissolve. The lines between my life, family, and friends is blurred by connections with folks from other areas and even countries via the world wide web. Suddenly it is clear— the planet is quite small and time has not changed the fundamentals of humanity much at all.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Ode To A Magnetic Strip

My workshop has never been neat and tidy. Don't get me wrong, everything has a place, but when I'm in the midst of fabricating, I need it all right at my fingertips. Tangles of tools pile up in an order that only I can decipher (sometimes). Pliers, hammers, wires, saws, and tweezers heap together and begin to hinder. Efficiency goes down the drain and takes motivation with it.

And then there are my metal files, hanging neatly on that magnetic strip (picture me, head tilted to one side gazing lovingly). Just look at them all— waiting at the ready, like soldiers in formation. Simple physics keep them orderly, recognizable, and within an arm's reach. Makes me want to...make.

What makes life easier in your workshop/studio/home?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Flowering, Budding

Oh, it is truly a cause to celebrate. Spring! My mind is flowering, and ideas are budding. My thoughts are brightly colored with...

All things garden

Spring-time crafts (Just paper mache a balloon, then cut out an opening. Stuff with some grass and give a pompom chick a new home!)

Tiny baskets, filled with goodies

...and Cyclops Bixters. Apparently, they come in sets of six, packaged neatly in egg cartons. Heh.

What's sprouting in your mind?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Raised Garden Bed Tutorial

Now that our yard has absorbed all that water, we can get on with the business of spring (!) gardening.

Remember back when I said we always order too many seeds? Well, this year is no exception, so a new raised bed was in order. Here's how to make our version:

Start with a couple lengths of 3/4" x 7 1/2" wood (2"x 6" boards are standard, but this wood was less expensive, so we went with it), and cut them to the dimensions you want the bed to be (we made ours 5' x 8'). Cut small blocks of wood (from a 2"x 3" board) to match the height of the raised bed, and screw or nail one into each inside corner, making the frame. This will secure the boards together and make for strong corner connections. (Be sure to use only galvanized nails or screws, as anything else will rust.)

Next, screw or nail the boards together where they overlap on the outside.

Before you move on to the next step, you should make sure the spot where you plan to put the bed is level. Use a shovel and/or rake to even the surface out. If the site is not level, water will pool in low spots, and the frame may warp.

You'll need four stakes to anchor the frame into place and strengthen it . "A" took a 2"x 3" board and cut off four pieces at an angle, approx. 16" long each. These are simple and cheap stakes that could be used for many outdoor purposes (we use them to secure our swing set to the ground, too).

Placing the straight side of the stake up against the outside of the bed, use a mallet to pound the stakes in.
You want the height of the stake to be even with the top of the bed, so be careful not to pound it in too far. Place one stake at each corner of the frame. Next, nail or screw the stakes to the boards. This will secure the bed to the ground. The frame for your raised garden bed is now done!

Before you can start planting, you'll need to fill that bed with lots of good stuff. I'll be posting a tutorial on making good soil for your raised beds soon.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Corner Views: Front Door

Welcome! Come on in through my front door. This door opens to a 3-season porch that makes our home oh so much bigger in mild weather. I love all those little windows but we're missing the lower left one. It one got smashed last year when a couch was moved in. We never did fix it because, as you can see, that hole has taken on a new function—kitty door. Our little cat, Pepper, stands at the window on tippy toes and surveys the situation. Once he is assured all is well, he leaps out and carries on with his quest to dominate the neighborhood.

Consider yourself warned: if you do come to visit, you'll have to get past the guard at the door. (Our only problem is, the ferocious guard kitty is napping more than half the time.)

Visit Spain Daily for links to all the other 'corner views'. There are some great ones this week!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Flood, an Anniversary, and a Snack

Ahoy! Here's the state of my back yard at this very moment:

Everything is a little topsy turvy right now with a pond for a yard, a wet basement, and two days of school canceled due to flooding. (Makes the mini flood of last summer seem like a walk in the park.)

Here's the good news: today is my one year blogging anniversary! I owe it all to my college roomie, Erica (the original Remembery Capsule recipient), who gently pressed me (many times) to start this blog. It was to be a marketing tool for my jewelry business, which I suppose it is, in a roundabout way. What I never could have imagined was the connections I would make, the knowledge I would glean, and the doors of opportunity that would open. So glad I finally listened to her good advice and started this...I don't know, the word blog just doesn't seem to do it justice.

Another good note: these bread sticks (recipe from Petit Appetit; Eat, Drink, and Be Merry) are the perfect companion for a jar of Nutella. Oh boy. They're made from whole wheat, so that balances out the chocolate, right?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Linky Love, the First of 2010

Want to know what has inspired me lately? There are far too many different people, projects, articles, and art to mention, but here's a (small) sampling of my recent favorites:

First, Kate of Marmalade Moon has reviewed books on creativity AND she's giving away one of my sterling silver bookmarks! Head on over to her blog, read her book reviews, and leave a comment to enter to win.

I am participating in String-a-Long 2010, hosted by Mousey Brown's House and Rattling On... Here's one I have already completed. These string bags work up super fast and easy, so I am making a whole bunch.

Mandy's illustration, Yellow Iron with Steam, is winning me over (even though I don't iron)

I am loving anything and everything Made by Joel

We are planning to craft a large flock of these Spring Birds

I'm brimming with ideas from the e-book 52 Weeks of Blogging Your Passion

Happy to have found 3 great ways to spend MORE money

Drooling over this recipe, from Staten Eats

The graphic artist in me has a crush on these Daily Drop Caps. I might just have to decide on a fav to use on my blog.

I'm excited to suggest Green Fundraising with Let's Go Green at the next school parents' meeting.

Jane's family (of Jane Was Here) has received roughly 720 cards, and counting. AMAZING!

...aaaaand last but not least, I had fun making a few of these Swat Team Kitties for my nephew Nicholas and another little friend, Elizabeth (happy birthday to you both!) . I hadn't knit or crocheted any new friends since the holiday projects and birthday gift. It was a much-needed break but it's good to be back at it. The girls have noticed a lack of new stuffed cuties, too, and they're putting the pressure on now. Stay tuned for more...

There's so much out there to be found on the web. I wonder what I'll stumble upon next? What will prompt me to start along a new creative path, try a new ingredient, or rethink how something is done? I promise I won't hoard all the good ideas.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Corner View: Minitaure Worlds

Miniature worlds? This one was easy. Anybody who knows a child or two knows they love all things tiny, and in my house, Lilliputian items abound. A quick glance around the house yielded this handful of mini objects.

I have to agree with the children of the world—teeny versions of larger things are irresistible. Until you step on them with bare feet.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

More Cabbage Love

Ever notice how gorgeous red cabbage is? I have. And I even dedicated an entire blog post to this most visually-pleasing cruciferous vegetable. Those pretty purple folds create such a striking formation. The contrast of color, the randomness of the swirls, the lineal arrangement that changes depending on how it is cut—it is nature's ultimate graphic design.

I vowed to one day give this cruciferous the props it deserves. Well my friends, that day has arrived. (I imagine you are on the edge of your seat right now? Ok, maybe not. Fair enough.)

The girls and I started off sketching and painting a cross-section of cabbage. Observing and then actually drawing/painting the many lines was fascinating and, for the girls, a little tedious. They both started off with gusto but eventually got bored of all those little layers and loops. Not me.

The obvious next step was an interpretation in silver. And since March is, apparently, the month of bent-and-hammered-wire designs for me (see Jane pins, and current header) I started with a strand of thin silver. I bent and swirled it in a random configuration, then hammered it all flat and rough, and soldered in onto an oval backpiece.

It turned out to be not-so-literal, this interpretation, but the cabbage influence is definitely there. My cabbage-in-silver series has only just begun, and I will surely show you more as I go. For now, this piece can be found in my shop.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Design in the Drink

This weekend we found design in some unlikely places—our drinks:

Just-juiced fruits and veggies merged, then separated into a rainbow of layers.

Before it was stirred, the chocolate syrup lay in heavy swirls on the bottom of a glass of milk.

Where have you been finding design?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Friday This & That

In November I sponsored a giveaway on Garden mama's blog. I offered a custom Remembery Capsule to the winner, and Nicola, of Which Name? was the lucky one. She sent me an assortment of family photos of the past year, with a few captions, and I set to work.

Maybe it's the voyeur in me, but I really love going over the photos that will be included in the capsules. I start to feel connected to these people and, inevitably, it motivates me to make the capsule with great care and love. I have crafted a good handful of Remembery Capsules now, and they are my favorite piece to make. It could be because they are a break from the tiny intricacies of jewelry, but I have a feeling it has more to do with the attachment I form with the piece and the family. I think Nicola would agree that, in working together on this Remembery for her family, we have forged a friendship as well.

I shipped off her prize last week, and Nicola blogged about it today.

Also, I have been seeing Corner Views on lots of blogs recently, and I'm always intrigued. Jane, over at Spain Daily gives a theme each week, and folks all over the world post their interpretations. This week's prompt is coffee companion, and here's my 'view':

I don't drink coffee, so this is my morning tea. And I usually drink it unaccompanied. The mug, made by Olaria Studio (who makes mostly jewelry), is my absolute favorite. The handle broke off a while back (my fault). I could glue the handle back on, I know, but then it wouldn't be machine washable, and I'm not sure I want that compromise. Instead, I will continue to drink from it each morning and risk burning my fingertips. That's some mug dedication, there.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Rag Tag

Our small change for March is not groundbreaking. It is not original or progressive in any way. In fact, families have been doing this for centuries. I hope you're not too disappointed.

My family is going to make a greater effort to use rags (I know, last month I wrote about trash, this month...rags. Can I bore you any more? But for the sake of the One Small Change challenge, bear with me). We have already cut out paper goods for the most part—we use cloth napkins, dishrags and the like, but I have a confession to make. We almost always have a roll of paper towels in the house. Yes, we buy the 100% recycled kind and use them sparingly, but still. I suppose we keep them on hand because there are some messes that I just can't bear the thought of having to do any more with than just get rid of, and fast. Like cat puke, or a dead mouse dragged in by said cat.

Part of me has been wanting to do away with paper towels for a while now, so I decided that if we just have enough rags, an over-abundance of them, then it would be no big deal if a few needed to get tossed every now and then. So we went through the drawers and found the clothes that were too stained or otherwise destroyed to go in the donate pile. Then we cut them up, making our already-impressive stash of rags even more plentiful.

Now all our cat-related messes and beyond, that I just can't bear the thought of throwing in the wash, can be wiped up with a rag and immediately disposed of. And the rag bucket under the sink will still be overflowing. (Now? I just need to come up with a clever way to store those rags, that would make them more easily accessible. Suggestions welcome.)

Bonus! The girls had fun saving the 'good parts' of the clothes we cut up. The embroidery, buttons, ruffles, and appliques were carefully cut off and gathered up for some future crafty fun.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Jane Was Here

A few weeks ago, a friend called to commission a couple of special pieces for some special people. These people had a six-month-old baby who recently passed away. She went on to tell me the amazing story of baby Jane and her family, and then explained a bit about exactly what she was requesting. In order to understand the pieces I made, let me tell you that story.

Jane was born 13 weeks early. As you can imagine, her first weeks were scary and the constant phone calls and emails from concerned friends and family were getting to be too much for Jane's parents. To inform the masses, Jane's mom started a blog and reported on Jane's daily progress. Over the next half year, the blog, Our Girl Jane, had caught on. People from all over were following Jane's story, sending love and prayers. Sadly, after six months of doing all the things babies do in their first part of life, sweet Jane passed away. In lieu of condolences or sympathy cards, Jane's parents asked that people send a postcard with just this simple message: Jane Was Here.

You see, Jane's big sister is a huge fan of the story Horton Hears a Who. You know—We are here! We are here! We are here! And that was exactly the sentiment Jane's family wanted to be reminded of—that Jane was here, and there. That her time was filled with love, friends and family.

After telling the story, my friend casually said, "I'll leave the designing to you. Just have it say Jane was here."

Well, a tissue box later, I peeled myself off the floor and started to design the pin in my head. Then I started to panic. How would I come up with something that would capture so much emotion, so much love? How would I make it original, and as unique as I imagined Jane was? How could I make something worthy of her? Eventually, it struck me clear as day.

I made the pin the shape of the speck of dust that the Whos lived on. I used silver wire to spell out the message, and added a tiny heart as well. The only thing left to do was to mail a card with those three special words written on it, so I did.

Since her passing, Jane's family has received more than 400 postcards, from all over the world. Jane most certainly was here, proving 'a person's a person no matter how small.'

Was Jane there? In your heart? on your mind? If so, let her family know and send a postcard.

Our Girl Jane
5 Winter Street
Montpelier, VT 05602