Monday, November 30, 2009

A Year in the Making, Day 90

The end of November already. This year has flown! And the last three months especially. I'm 1/3 of the way through my year in the making!

Tonight, we celebrated the munchkin's birthday a couple of days early. I'd promised her she could get her ears pierced. Her birthday's not till Wednesday, but grandma leaves tomorrow morning, so we moved it up so we could all go together.

A necklace tonight, from my Celtic knot line, Freshwater Pearls and Vesuvianite:

Still love to make these, even after all these years. I'm still head over heels with the knots, even though the Celtic rage has died down in recent years. They'll always be a part of my signature style.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Year in the Making, Day 89

How was Ninja Assassin, those of you who read yesterdays post might be wanting to ask? I'm sure there was a plot in there somewhere but I got distracted by the pretty shiny pointy flying things, the fountains and fountains of fake blood and the well-built topless Asian boy thing.

Munchkin had her traditional birthday dinner at Red Robin early, as the maternal unit flies out the day before her birthday. I remembered to bring my camera. The batteries, however, were dead. Curse words were subvocalized. It is a family restaurant.

We have begun playing Sorry with her, to much hilarity. I loved that game at her age. As with so many of the games I used to love, I understand now so well why my parents had to be begged and wheedled into playing with them me. They don't end. It's board game limbo.

Today, despite the festivities, I managed to complete another necklace, more pastel confection goodness. Here's the newest, Amazonite and Aventurine necklace:

And I got some good pictures taken of yesterday's creations as well:

After Dinner Mints Necklace:

Pretty in Pink Earrings:

Pink/black Jasper and Faux Pearls Earrings:

White Optic Glass and Faux Pearls Earrings:

Did you realize there's only 25 more shopping days till Christmas?!?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Year in the Making, Day 88

Today was a day of wandering downtown. We had a supremely yummy pizza called "Spanish Steps" with sausage, roasted red peppers, fresh basil, and gorgonzola at Zeke's, and took a trip to the top of the Space Needle, the first time for the husband and my mother, although I'd been up a couple of times previously.

The Space Needle, Seattle

Then home again, and playing with some new beads outside my regular palette - some pastel shades that reminded me of after dinner mints:

After Dinner Mints

So here's three new pairs of earrings and a necklace:

Pastel Earrings Trio

After Dinner Mints Necklace

And now, since we have babysitting with my mother being here, the husband and I are off for an evening of mindless martial arts eyecandy, to see Ninja Assassin.

Why Big Shopping Bargains are Bad News for America

An article from Time Magazine that I wish I'd found and posted before Black Friday:

The price wars have gone nuclear. From Target's $3 coffeemakers to Best Buy's half-price stoves to Staples's $300 laptops, the theme of this holiday shopping season is, without a doubt, "we sell for less." Even Wal-Mart's commitment to "every day" low prices isn't preventing it from going lower. An online skirmish with that started with $9 hardcover books (books normally sold for three times that amount) has dominoed into other categories, driving down prices on everything from mobile phones to Easy-Bake ovens. The deals are everywhere. (See pictures of expensive things that money can buy.)

Well, pardon my saying so, but I don't want them. I don't want to pay less. If anything, I'd rather pay a little more.

Crazy talk, I know. Where is this coming from? Well, it began with some reading I've been doing about the trade-offs we make for ultra-cheap goods — the child workers in Bangladesh who sew our clothes and brush their teeth with ash since they can't afford toothpaste, the oceanic dead zones that come with $5 factory-farmed salmon filets. They're the sorts of stories that make a person think that buying carts full of cheap stuff — ensuring the production of even more cheap stuff — shouldn't be the social goal we've made it out to be.

I've got a collection of vintage clothing, and I was recently having a discussion with a friend who has similar tastes, about how unlikely it'll be that clothes from this era will survive to be worn by someone fifty years from now. Everything's made to be discarded. Even the laptop on which I'm typing this is a product of this mentality, I'm ashamed to say.

cat furniture

But when I broke the screen on my old laptop a year ago and the cheapest replacement we could find was almost $200, whereas I could get the reconditioned Dell I have now for $500, with an increase in RAM and storage space? We still have the old one, as since then we've found a site where we can get a replacement for $100, so it's being saved as backup for when this one goes kaput, but it's a prime example of how manufacturers encourage you to not be thrifty.

I've been scaling back on Christmas the last few years. Not because we were in a tough situation financially, but because I just decided I didn't like the way things were. Now I give homemade food gifts to my coworkers, and unusual handmade items to friends and family, bought from independent crafters like myself. Because I don't want to encourage this mentality, and help foster this cheap throwaway society we find ourselves in.

A Year in the Making, Day 87

Today, Pumpkin Butter

This is a touchy subject for home canning, especially for me with my food safety background. To safely can food, it has to be heated all the way to the core and then chilled expediently to prevent growth of harmful microorganisms. Pumpkin and other squashes are extremely dense, so I took the traditional recipe, but cooked it for longer, bringing it up to as full of a boil as something this viscous can get, filling the jars while it was still bubbling on the pan, then boiling them in a hot water bath for 45 minutes.

The ingredients:

3 1/2 cups fresh pumpkin purée
2 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 lemon, juice and grated rind
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice

For recipes that have fresh pumpkin puree instead of canned pumpkin filling, they say to combine the fresh pumpkin with brown sugar, lemon, ginger, cinnamon and allspice in a large bowl and let the mix stand at room temperature 8 to 10 hours. That's a recipe for disaster in my book. The danger zone for the growth of microorganisms is 40-140F. I mixed the ingredients and let them sit in the fridge overnight.

So this evening, I pureed the mixture in my food processor, then cooked the puree in my stainless steel saucepan with a 1/2 cup reserved liquid left over from cooking the sugar pumpkins yesterday, and simmered on low heat, stirring often, for about 60 minutes. I boiled the canning jars while it was cooking, and ladeled the mixture into the jars directly after removing them from the water bath, leaving 1/2-inch head space. Capped them, placed the jars back in the canning pot and, as I mentioned earlier, let them boil for 45 minutes.

Pumpkin Butter

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Year in the Making, Day 86, part II

Today, I made my first (almost) from scratch pumpkin pie. I cheated with a pre-made crust, but made the filling. I started with sugar pumpkins:

Pumpkin Pie in the making

Now, I only made one pie, so the remainder will be finally made into that pumpkin butter I mentioned some weeks ago.

I spent about 20 minutes scooping out the pumpkins and chopping them up into chunks.

Pumpkin Pie in the making

These were simmered on the stovetop till they softened and separated from the rind, then mashed. I used the recipe straight out of the Joy of Cooking, which has been my kitchen bible since my mother gave me a copy when I moved into my first apartment.

The resultant pie, which doesn't look all that, but was quite tasty if I do say so myself:

Pumpkin Pie

And a gratuitous breast shot:

This year's turkey

The bird took about 3 hours less than expected. Something about brining seems to speed up the cooking time. It was a little dry, but still nummy. Frustrating, though, because to have it ready at the time I had told company to come over meant I was up at 6am prepping it for the oven.

And now I believe it's time for a nap.

A Year in the Making, Day 86

Turkey Day! Today, the first installment, my stuffing recipe. I can't stand bread stuffings, and have always made a rice version. I meant to post this last night after I made it, but fell asleep again. It should be prepared at least the night before, as the sitting time improves the flavor.

Wild Rice Stuffing

2 boxes long grain wild rice (Rice A Roni, Zattarain’s, or some other rice mix)
1 large yellow sweet onion
1 large apples (gala or braeburn are my favorites for this)
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
1 merliton/chayote squash
1 can water chestnuts
1 cup pecans, chopped

Prepare the rice according to the instructions on the package.

Prep the vegetables – peel & core the apple & chayote squash, and chop everything to ¼ to ½” pieces. Chop the pecans before measuring.

Mix all ingredients with rice in a large bowl.

Cram as much as you can into the turkey cavity, both ends. It doesn’t expand the way bread stuffing does.

Put the remainder in a glass casserole and after the turkey is done bake at 400F for 30 minutes. Makes the vegetarians happy this way!

Tasty goodness will result!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Year in the Making, Day 84

I really liked how the necklace I made yesterday turned out, and ran with it today, in a slightly different fashion. I have these wonderful leaf toggle clasps, and oodles of amethysts in various sizes, and my daughter is in a big grape phase. We must have grapes in the house at all times, and she really loves the huge red and purple ones. So as I was getting her lunch ready this morning, I got inspired, and this necklace is the result:

Grape Cluster Amethyst Necklace:

And say what you will about Seattle winter weather, the overcast skies do give the most perfect lighting for product shots. It cleared up just long enough this afternoon for me to rope my mother into taking some shots of me modeling the knitmonster, so I finally was able to list it as well:

Knitmonster #1, Mobius Strip Cowl/Scarf/Shawl:

Tool for bloggers

So those of you reading may or may not have noticed the little hit counter box a bit down on the right. It's a nifty tool provided by BlogPatrol, and it can provide you with a wealth of information on how people are finding your blog. Thanks to their stats tracking, I know that five people ended up here doing a google search for "Etsy how to", which lead them to my Etsy Tips article, someone else found me searching for wedding necklaces, and a couple other folks found me when they were looking up "teeth whitening", and are now hopefully informed on the popular scam related to that subject. I know I had 78 hits from people in the US in the last week, and also had visitors from Lichtenstein, Finland, and Turkey. Plus it gives info on referring sites, visitors per hour, and a lot of other great features. You should check it out.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Year in the Making, Day 83

Late post today, as the weekend caught with me, and I took an unexpected two and a half hour nap on the sofa this evening. But better late than never. Tonight, a new necklace, Peach Freshwater Pearls and Swarovski Crystals:

Turkey is beginning the thawing process in the fridge. I splurged and got a 20 pounder this year. Husband was talking about attempting a deep frying, but it looks like I'll be doing it the traditional way again. Well, traditional for our household, that is. I grew up with rice stuffing instead of a bread variety and have never acquired a taste for the latter. I always make it the day before, and I'll post the recipe with pictures on Wednesday when I'm getting ready.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Year in the Making, Day 82

The knitmonster is complete! 5 1/2 skeins of novelty yarn: boa, fun fur, and cha cha, in shades of grey, black, peach, purple, burgundy, blue, yellow, white, and ivory. Can't find the tape measure at the moment to give you the exact dimensions, but here's a length reference:

The Knitmonster project is complete!

(smiley face courtesy of me feeling embarrassed because of how tired I look after the all-weekend event)

It's long enough that I can double or triple it up:

The Knitmonster project is complete!

I'm hoping we can get some good outdoor pictures in the next couple of days so I can get it listed, although pricing is going to be fun. It's somewhere between 15 & 20 hours of work. How much should I be charging for this, do you think?

Three day week ahead! I'm feeling virtuous, as I have pretty much everything I need for Thanksgiving dinner already, with the exception of a few bits of produce. Turkey for roasting, yams for mashing, all the fixings for my wild rice pecan stuffing, and sugar pumpkins to try my hand at a from-scratch punpkin pie (with pie filling for backup just in case!).

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Year in the Making, Day 81

Today was day 1 of 2 for the EtsyRain Holiday Craft Show at the Intiman Theater in Seattle. Here's the obligatory display photos:

EtsyRain Holiday Craft Show Display

EtsyRain Holiday Craft Show Display

EtsyRain Holiday Craft Show Display

I didn't bring along the toolkit, as I've got limited space, which I'm sharing with my mother. It's a nice change, though, to have someone with me at an event so I can wander if I want to. Instead of the jewelry, I worked on the KnitMonster:

The Knit Monster, continued

There's an incredible fountain in the atrium of the theater, and I managed to sneak out to catch a few shots:




One day down, one to go.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Year in the Making, Day 79 & 80

I missed yesterday! Fell asleep on the sofa. Too busy cleaning the house, tired my poor self out. My mother arrived today, visiting for the next two weeks, a combination of Thanksgiving and the munchkin's birthday. I've been neglecting the housekeeping even more than usual, so the last two days have been a flurry of autumn cleaning.

Here's yesterday's piece, made with more of the cobalt blue pearls I'd mentioned in a previous post.

Cobalt Blue Pearl and Pewter Celtic Knot Necklace:

And today's, Rutilated Quartz

While I was cleaning, I discovered a piece I'd made months ago. I'd bought a light box for photography, anticipating the lack of natural light at this time of the year, but never played with it beyond the initial burst. I'd been using the necklace I'd just completed as a test subject, and left it down there sitting inside the lightbox. So here it is, finally photographed and listed:

Geode and Grey Banded Glass on Sterling Wire:

Tomorrow, heading out early for the EtsyRain Holiday Craft Show!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Year in the Making, Day 78

Last night, as I was doing a little reorganizing, I rediscovered a tote full of various colors and types of novelty yarn. The knitting bug bit me a few years ago. I had a coworker who was very into it, always knitting on her breaks, and making some incredible projects. So I decided to give it a try. I ended up with some scarfs out of the deal, but never progressed past the basics. Being the way I am, though, of course I built up a collection of yarn.

So on discovering this treasure trove, I decided to embark on a silliness. I now have a 36" circular knitting needle. We'll see where this goes.

Here's the beginning:

The KnitMonster - the beginning

What prompted the discovery was the cleaning of the basement in preparation for the annual visit of the maternal unit. She'll be arriving Friday, to celebrate Thanksgiving and the munchkin's birthday (6!) with us. The spare bedroom has been a storage locker for all the clothing I've made to sell, the vintage pieces I will supposedly eventually list in Miss Victoria's Vintage, and other pieces that I acquired with intent to alter and resell. I did a hard weed, as I've had a lot of these things for a year or two or more, and haven't done anything with them. So I've got two garbage bags full in the back of the van to go to the thrift store tomorrow, and another three bags of things I'll save till the next clothing swap chilling in the garage. And the spare bedroom is now fit to be lived in again.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Year in the Making, Day 77

This afternoon, I decided I'd better get into the holiday spirit. I had a small stash of gorgeous green Swarovski bicones, and paired them with some garnets for this festive necklace and earrings:

Holiday Sparkle Earrings

Holiday Sparkle Necklace

Mother Nature finally gave me a break, a non-rainy spell long enough for the deck to dry and for me to get pictures of the two new parasols, so I've got them listed now as well.

Tan, Brown, and Ivory Steampunk Lolita Parasol

Brown Steampunk Pagoda Parasol with Ivory and Gold Lace

When the husband gets home, I will begin another period of XBox widowhood, as he'll be bringing home a copy of Assassin's Creed II. But I won't complain that much, considering how much fun I had watching him play the first one.

Monday, November 16, 2009

No new stuff today

Feeling a little bit of cold weather ick today, and not very creative. Instead, I've been posting some of the backlogged bits and bobs to Miss Victoria's Vintage. I've got two gallon ziplock bags full of shiny baubles to list. Here's some of what I accomplished this evening:

Buy Handmade

Holiday's fast approaching. How ready are you?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Year in the Making, Day 75

I had four of these brown pagoda parasols. The other three all sold within a week or two of completion, and I've been telling myself I needed to do the last one for weeks now. Well, last night, I had the added impetus that if I finished it, I could bring it along to the Steampunk Zoo Safari excursion today. Stayed up till 2am working on it, was back up at 7:30 finishing it off. I got it done in time, but not before it started raining again, so we're stuck with indoor pictures again.

Brown Steampunk OOAK Parasol with gold/brown/ivory trim & lace

Brown Steampunk OOAK Parasol with gold/brown/ivory trim & lace

Brown Steampunk OOAK Parasol with gold/brown/ivory trim & lace

The shots of the group on the excursion will be available later, as the zoo has to review and approve which pictures will be released. Here's a couple of incidentals shot today in between our turns to be photographed:

Jaguar dinner time

This magnificent cat was lounging on his heated rock right at the front of fhe display. I was getting out my camera when the dinner bell rang and off he went. Managed to get one not completely horrible shot of him before he disappeared.

Green snake

Our zoo liaison told me this was the first time in her three years working at the zoo that she'd seen one of these snakes move. Score!

Green snake

Extra special bonus - both snakes in the exhibit had just shed.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Year in the Making, Day 74

I started out the day by tea-dying the white cotton Cherokee button-down shirt we'd bought for the munchkin for her outfit. The tea took very well, better than my other tea-dying efforts. Maybe the difference between an old shirt and a new one? I also made her a vest, using Simplicity 2484. Tan and black striped fabric for the front, and more of the skirt khaki for the back. I used two antique mother-of-pearl buttons on the vest, and added some cotton lace to the wrists and collar of the shirt:

Front of the Safari Vest

Of course, when I sewed the buttons on everything looked straight, but the vest front now looks crooked in the picture. Will have to figure out if it's just how it's sitting on the hanger or if I truly mis-sewed.

The back, gathered with a spot of elastic

Back of the Safari Vest

And here's the full outfit, in test run, before I'd added the buttons to the vest or lace to the shirt:

On Safari

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Year in the Making, Day 73

Our local steampunk group, the SteamRats, were invited to participate in a promotional photoshoot for the Woodland Park Zoo's Steampunk Tropical Expedition. I've got the perfect outfit already, but the munchkin didn't. We're cheating for basics, as we picked out a white blouse and some tan suede boots at Target earlier this week. I re-used the pattern from her red and black outfit and pulled some linen and khaki out of the stash to make a skirt for her today:

Khaki safari skirt

Tomorrow, the plan is to make a vest to go with it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Year in the Making, Day 72

Yesterday was spent being miserable with a cold. Last night before bedtime, I whipped up another dose of an old classic:

The classic remedy

One shot whiskey, juice from one half a lemon, one tablespoon honey. I nuked it for about 15 seconds to melt the honey, and took it in four swallows over the course of about 10 minutes. T today the stuffies and the snifflies are gone! Poof!

Here's what I've been working on the last couple of nights, a new choker style for me:

Amethyst Waterfall Choker

and of course, the matching Amethyst Earrings

Maybe this weekend I will finally get that pumpkin butter I've been plotting about made.