Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Moving Day

I moved!

My virtual home, I mean. I'll give you all the deets on how this came to be soon, but for now I just wanted to let you know I have a new pad.

My new site is, go check out my new digs!
Here's the direct link to the (somewhat) new blog. You can find me over there from here on out.

here's a little peek at what's in store

Don't forget to bookmark the new space. If you are subscribed to the blog in a reader, you don't need to do anything, that all moved over too.

Friday, May 13, 2011

(Still) Celebrating the Foxes

What do you do when you want to celebrate 1.) starting your own independent multi-media publishing company 2.) writing and releasing your very own book 3.) the release of another book that you contributed to?

You commission a custom charm bracelet from me. That's what.

Congrats to Valarie on all her recent accomplishments. Now she has little reminders of each of these milestones dangling from her wrist at all times.

(***sorry about the re-post, but Blogger seems to have lost the original one)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Celebrating the Foxes

 It was something worth sharing. Last winter, Valarie had spotted a mama fox and her four little kits. She grabbed her camera and started clicking away, and promptly shared those photos on her blog.

I saw those photos, read her words, and was an instant fan. Those babies were just precious, and to see close-up photos of them was a rare treat. One blog post turned into two, and then into a weekly series call the The Fox Diaries.

Every Thursday morning I'd pop over to see what those babes were up to, and every Thursday afternoon when the girls came home, they'd ask if there was a new fox post. And so it came to be that for a few months the girls and I delighted in the adventures of the kits. We learned their names, and how to identify each one by their markings. We started to know their individual personalities, each one so very distinct from the next. We felt like we had front row seats, watching them play, snuggle, sneak away, learning to hunt, and compete with each other and for mama's attention. oh how we fell for that family of foxes.

Then, as the spring came to an end, the foxes left Valarie's garden. She would look for them in their usual places at their usual times, but they were gone. The Fox Diaries blog posts came to an end and I had to break it to my girls--the foxes had moved on. As much as we knew it was as it should be, we were so sad to see them go.

But the story doesn't end there. A few months ago Valarie wrote to tell me that she had been compiling her Fox Diaries series into a book. 

Today, I'm here to celebrate the release of Valarie's book, The Fox Diaries! As I write this, a beautiful bound copy of the story of those little foxes sits in my lap, with a sweet note scribbled on the inside cover, from the author herself. 

Valarie is kindly giving away a copy of The Fox Diaries here on Elemental this week. Leave a comment to be entered to win. The winner will be chosen on Friday, May 13th.

Click here to purchase your copy of The Fox Diaries, and enter the coupon code "foxes" to get 15% off. 

***CONGRATS to Barbara from Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain on winning the book!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Kitchen Firsts & Lasts

So much changes in the kitchen this time of year. Out winter stockpile dwindles just as we transplant the new seedlings. We simultaneously welcome fresh ingredients and say goodbye to all those hearty cold-weather recipes. Firsts and lasts abound.

~first corn, last jars of freezer jam and pesto~

~First green smoothie, last frozen blueberries, picked in July~

~first store-bought garlic, last batch of lentil soup~

I am keeping my fingers crossed that this is the year I planted enough garlic to get us though until the next harvest. That this is the year we pick not ten, but twenty pounds of blueberries. That this is the year I jar up double the amounts of jams and tomatoes. That this is the year we rely more on our own food production than ever before. 

What comfort foods are you saying goodbye to for the summer? What things are you welcoming back into your warm-weather kitchen?

Monday, April 18, 2011

How Do You Do It?

I don't know how y'all do it.

My past few weeks have been quite busy, filling orders one after the next, and going through the lessons in my class. I can't complain. My two children both attend full-time school, which leaves me with a large chunk of daytime working hours, and during those hours, work, I do. But somehow, I'm still working every evening too. And barely finding time for life's work, dinner, and oh, being a parent.

And then there's this wild and wonderful online community of folks who seem to do it all. With grace, and wit, and talent to spare.

Take Lisa, for instance. She home schools her four children, has a photography business, cooks up a storm, and finds time to write thoughtful, honest posts several times a week.

Erin got a surprising amount of posts published while she packed up her home and moved cross-country. And drove there with her two young kids.

Ella writes often, her blog full of gorgeous styling, very cool downloadable freebies, delicious recipes, and fun crafts--all while dealing with a health issue that effects her every day.

Heather is posting creative projects just a few short weeks after the birth of her third child. Oh, and she home schools her two older boys.

So many of you share so much, even when your husbands are far away for long periods of time and all the responsibilities of a family fall square on you (Erin, Emily, Francesca).

Valarie writes often on her three different blogs, in addition to her work as a composer/pianist,and if that wasn't enough, she just started her own publishing company and wrote a book.

Susie runs her busy illustration business, is pregnant with her third child, and is currently packing up/trying to sell her house, in preparation to their big move (newborn in tow) to a different country.

Me? I get a good healthy serving of what I have always wanted--an onslaught of jewelry orders--and I declare that something's gotta give. Total time-management wimp, I know.

I don't know how you all do it, but I'm in awe. (And I'm taking notes.)


Friday, April 8, 2011

Taking The Plunge

Between a vacation to Florida, a stack of orders thanks to that print feature, another show to get ready for this weekend, and a class to prepare for, I am swamped. I kinda feel like the little one on the front of this log ride. Not even trying to hide the sheer terror of it all--teeth clenched, but going for it with my eyes wide open. Perhaps instead, I should shout out my battle cry, like "A" did. But then again, I could always just close my eyes and grasp on for dear life waiting for whatever happens to happen, like my other girl did. I don't know.

Whichever way I decide to handle it, I just wanted to say I'll be absent from this space, and from making the blog rounds, for about a week, as I take the plunge and catch up on my current roller coaster ride.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Newsy Bits

A few things worth telling, on this very snowy April first.

I just got the April issue of Boston Magazine that happens to feature my Copper Jewel Ring. This is my first time having my jewelry in a magazine, and I am thrilled.

Have you heard about Molly's new site, Blarter? The name is a mash up of "blog" and "barter," and it's a little bit of genius. Finally a site that encourages the trade of goods and service between bloggers.

Have you read Francesca's story about the orange cake from war times? An amazing story worth reading.

Do you know about 21 Secrets, An Art Journal Playground? It's an online workshop featuring 21 different teachers/sessions. Check out Amy's class called Three Little Words. She's pretty much the authority on art journaling, and one funny gal, to boot. 

That's all for now. I'm off to shovel snow. Very funny, Mother Nature. Very funny April Fool's Day joke.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Another giveaway!

Just a quick note to let you know that Molly over at A Foothill Home Companion is hosting a giveaway. Click on over to win a fifty dollar gift certificate to my shop. That's right, you get to pick.

And while you are there, check out the two other giveaways she is hosting. It's pretty much a magical wonderland of giveaways over there now though Monday.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Notes From the Jeweler's Bench

A Metalsmith's Morning (Glamorous it is not)

Each day starts with getting the girls up and off to school, followed by a little computer time. Then the work day starts, without fail, like this:

Make a (second) cup of tea

Tape up (to cover the cuts and scrapes that I seem to get every day)

Open the valve of the acetylene tank

Turn on the very high-tech ventilation system (Yep. That's snow out there. Thanks a lot, spring.)

Turn on the listening entertainment (This week, it's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

Begin working my way through the scribbled "shop" to-do list

Do you have a morning routine that gets the "work" day started? I'd love to hear about it.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Just a quick not to let you know EarthMama is hosting a giveaway of one of my items this weekend. The winner can choose from the pieces pictured above. Click over for details and to enter to win. There's also an interview featuring yours truly.

As a bonus,  I'll be offering a 15% discount for one week to EarthMama readers. Go git the coupon code!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Mentor for Alex

Over the past two years, Alex (also known as "A") has been going through a piano tuning course, practicing on our own piano and tuning the pianos of friends whenever he gets the chance. But he always felt like he was missing something. He needed a teacher, a mentor, and had called a few local tuners to see if they would be willing to take an apprentice. All said no.

Last week, a friend put Alex in contact with an elderly man who is moving out of his home. This man is blind, and had been a piano tuner for 40 years. He had a lifetime of knowledge and piano tuning and repair equipment  in his home, and all he wanted was a worthy person to pass it all down to. Alex is over the moon to be that person.

And so the 80-year-old man whose hearing isn't what it used to be, who hadn't been down to his basement in three years, took Alex down there, blew the dust off a room full of tools and told Alex he could have it all, if Alex would just tune his piano.

He came home with old bottles of then-locally-made lubricants and glues,

antique tins full of tiny instruments used in piano repair,

...and more tools than Alex could  have ever hoped to acquire. Some of them cream of the crop, some clever hand-made inventions of a master of his trade. 

Their weekly meetings are now the thing that Alex looks forward to most, and each week he returns home with boxes of this kind man's lifetime career. Yes, he comes home with his arms (and truck!) full, but I can see that he is full, too. His spirit is soaring, and his brain is buzzing with the knowledge the man is so generously giving him—a lifetime of tips, tricks, and secrets. My husband is brimming with possibilities again, and it is good. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ice Cream Scheme

The other day, I shared this picture of custom-ordered word stones with my friends.  I got some positive feedback and then one person (one of my oldest friends) said, "Can you buy ice cream with those?" I was instantly transported back to one of my favorite childhood memories.

Brian and I were probably about 5 or 6, and desperate for ice cream (desperate!), but neither of our mothers would give us money to buy some. Getting our hands on the good stuff was going to require some ingenuity. So, we spent some time searching for small, round, flat stones—ones that resembled coins—and when we were satisfied with how many we had, we strolled to the corner store. Nervously, we each picked out our ice creams, and placed them on the counter. When the cashier told us the total, we nonchalantly tossed the coins on the counter, looking in every direction but his face. He paused for what seemed like an hour then said, "OK. All set," with a smile.

We were stunned. Our ice cream scheme had been a success! As soon as we were outside the store we broke into a sprint, dying to recount every detail of our "trick" to our older sisters. They were equal parts incredulous and jealous. We were equal parts boastful and guilty. And full.

Oh, what I wouldn't give to hear the kind clerk's version of that story now.

What about you? Do you have any stories/memories involving stones?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thirty Four Seconds

1 package of clay
2 days of clay sculpting/photography
2.5 hours of post production thanks to "A"
3 story boards
10 sheets of construction paper
170 photographs
and countless clay poses

...all equal the 34-second long claymation movie, made by my girls. It features Super Horse and Power Puggy putting a house fire out. It's a real nail biter. (Don't be creeped out. The guy at the end is my husband, who didn't realize that picture of himself got in the mix.)

They'd like to thank the academy and, of course, their parents.

Wanna make one too? We totally winged it, but here's a good resource on how to make a claymation movie, if you're up for the challenge.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Teaching Kids the Magic of Color

The long cold days of winter are the perfect time to delve a little deeper into a few things I've been meaning to teach the girls. One such topic is color theory, and while the girls have known how to mix and make various colors since they were tiny, there's always room for practice. We also explored beyond primary and secondary colors, into tertiary colors and complimentary colors.

You want a big surface with enough space to mix lots of colors. I used baking sheets for this, and if you're using tempera or acrylic paints, it will wash right off with water. We started with only the three primary colors, along with one paintbrush and a palette knife. If you don't have a palette knife, you can substitute a butter knife or use clay tools, like we did.

Make a simple color wheel with blank spaces, and have the kids fill in the primary colors, and then have them mix the secondary colors. Encourage them to mix the colors thoroughly with the knife before painting.

From there move into tertiary colors, demonstrating how red mixed with orange makes red-orange, how blue mixed with green makes blue-green, etc...

After doing this exercise, my small girl exclaimed that there was no color she couldn't make. (I didn't have the heart to tell her about tone yet. YET.)

Next we talked about complementary colors, and how they relate to each other. We noted that they are opposite from each other on the color wheel, and that these colors tend to make the each other look brighter. Red and green, blue and orange, yellow and purple—all common color combinations that look good together

I encouraged them to mix the complimentary colors together, and the girls were surprised to see that they all made brown. We compared the difference between the rich browns we had just made and the brown straight out of the tube. It was clear to the girls the difference in richness of a color made "from scratch." We talked about how, really, we only needed the three primary colors, plus black and white in order to make any color they wanted.

In college, my professors were always telling us to make the color, not buy the color, and that a mixed color would have richness, depth, and interest that a factory color would be lacking.

Like a good recipe, it's the quality of each part that goes into the whole that's the difference between a ho-hum finished product, and an amazing one. Keep this in mind as you encourage your kids to make their own colors, using their knowledge of the color wheel as a guide. Their finished paintings will have a new level of interest to them, as well as an added level of involvement. And having kids push paint around with palette knives is a fine way to spend a long, cold day.

For more tips on teaching your kids to use color in their art, read my Beginner Drawing Lesson for Kids post on color.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


The imperfections

found in all things handmade

are the makers mark,

the joyous details,

the things I run my fingers across and linger on

with wonder and admiration

Monday, February 7, 2011

Just Ask

You never know what could happen if you just ask.

Shannon of The Spun Monkey is asking for help in getting her dream business off the ground. You can read all about the future Spun Monkey Dyeworks and Lounge here.

Jennifer of The Prairie Girl asked if I'd be willing to trade for a pair of my earrings. She's a crafty one, that Jennifer, so I opted for a surprise. Look what I received in return for my girls

But asking isn't always easy, I know.

I have put a few requests out there to the universe, and I'm going to patiently wait to see what comes of them. In the meantime, I have asked myself to please resume my yoga practice before I turn into the tin man. I have  a strong feeling the answer is going to be an enthusiastic "yes."

Have you asked for anything lately?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Me? A Knitter?

When I mentioned I knitted a hat as a gift last month, some of you were surprised to know that I knit. Well, I do, but I don't really knit. My knitting career is not prolific, nor are my projects always successful. No, I imagine my life as a knitter started much the same as every one else's—too many scarfs to admit, a bunch of hats, a few pairs of mittens, the famous Clapotis—but that's as far as my knitting went. I was too intimidated to attempt an actual piece of clothing.

That's where amigurumi came in, which I have done lots of in crochet. Little did I know that it would be a crash course in every increase and decrease a knitter would ever need to know. For this reason, I would recommend knitted amigurumi to anybody who wants to learn a variety of knitting techniques in one project.

I started with this little lizard last year.

I recently made this eggplant, from Amigurumi Knits. (The smaller girl begged for this, though she wouldn't put a real eggplant near her mouth if I bribed her with a puppy.)

Then my older girl came to me requesting a Lochness Monster (note to self: hide the amigurumi book when not in use) and it sent chills up my spine. I had nothing to fear, though. With YouTube at my side, I soon learned I could conquer most any pattern.

Lochness Monster pattern from Amigurumi Knits 
Well, with all this knitting "success," I got a little cocky. After falling in love with this sweater, I decided it was time for me to go for it. I was going to knit my first piece of real clothing, and dammit, it was going to be for me. (I know what you're thinking. You're probably right. Read on.)

And isn't it lovely? It really was a pleasure to knit. Not scary at all. I knew every stitch I needed to know, and she came along quickly.

But, you see, when you don't pay any respect to the gods of gauge, the sweater you are knitting for yourself ends up fitting your 7-year-old-daughter just perfectly.

Me? A knitter? The jury is still out.

Monday, January 24, 2011

How a Rock Inspired a Party (and a pin)

I was perusing the 5 Orange Potatoes shop in the hopes that she-who-was-about-to-turn-seven would catch a glimpse of the screen and point out a favorite. Of course, she took the bait and flipped for this little pet rock.

From the moment she opened it, they have been inseparable, and it didn't take long for mustache mania to hit our home. It eventually end up as the theme of her birthday party, too. We cut out a mustache for each guest—one for every size and possible 'stache preference.

Well people, I'm here to tell you, that if you're ever looking for fun? Just add mustache. There is nothing more entertaining than a gaggle of girls running around in mustaches. And, while I'm sure you'd all love to see some pictures of that mustachioed madness, I didn't get any (shameful, I know). 

Luckily, I know a couple of girls that were happy to reenact the scene for the sake of the family photo album.

I caught a bit of the mustache bug too, and made a few little mustache brooches to commemorate this stage of hers. Picasso had his blue phase, Ruby has a mustache phase. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Notes From the Jeweler's Bench

I have decided to start a new series called Notes From the Jeweler's Bench, that I will post once or twice a month. I'll use the installments of "Notes" to:
1. show what I'm up to in the shop
2. give you tours of my space, tools, and equipment
3. demonstrate a few techniques, to take the mystery out of some of what I do
4. teach a few basic jeweler's skills.

You don't have to aspire to be a jeweler in order to appreciate this series. I remember being completely mystified (and curious!) when woman I knew told me she made her own wedding ring. Notes From the Jeweler's Bench is going to show you a bit of metal-shop behind the scenes, so when someone tells you they made their own ring/earrings/necklace you can totally play it cool and ask, "oh, is that cast or fabricated?"

Are you up for it? I hope so. Today, I'm going to show you the progression of a concept from sketch to finished product.

So much of the sketching I do is really just doodling. I'm not even drawing jewelry—just stream of consciousness pencil moving. Often, when I come up with something interesting, I'll turn into a drawing of some sort of jewelry. Recently I was doodling the most basic of doodles, a curly-Q line around a shape, and bingo! I hit on something. It started like this:

...and ended up like this: (I had been playing with the idea of translating my Christmas cards into silver)

So I made one of each of my girls...

...and strung them on a pretty chain that reminded me of those curly-Q doodles. Introducing the Doodle Silhouette Necklace. In addition to the necklace, Doodle Silhouette Charms are also available separately.

One thing leads to another, and new pieces are born from the original concept, like this Doodle Heart Necklace.

I think I'll keep playing with this, to see how I can develop it further. Until next time, happy doodling to you.