Another Treasury!

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I am always so pleased and grateful when someone chooses one of my items to feature in a treasury.

Today, I got a convo from Vicki of vsilcoxdesigns to let me know that she put my Caged Chalcedony earrings in a treasury.

And what a treasury it is!

Vicki makes beautiful painted glassware. If I dared to have glassware in my house, I would probably have to buy some! I really love that handpainted torcherie lamp shade.

Among the other treasury items, I particularly like the Golden Nightengale cuff by arttoweardiva. Not only is it beautiful, it also gives me ideas about how to use some of the gorgeous fabric I have lying around in my studio. I simply don't have time to sew up vests and dresses and purses right now - but I do love to have a small project to work on that can be finished in a reasonable amount of time, is portable and can include beadwork, fancy trims, embroidery and all manner of decorative fabric finishes. I may have to try some cuffs of my own this winter.

Arttowear has lots of other beautiful cuffs in her shop as well as this magnificent bag.

Also, as I was poking around in yellowplum's shop, I saw these very sweet and clever prayer wheel earrings. I know how to do that stitch in beadwork - it is simple but requires some attention to get the tension right so that the beads line up well in a neat cylinder. I just love seeing those little beaded tubes paired with those elegant sterling bead caps. Her stitching and finishing are very tidy and precise and it looks like all of her jewelry is crafted with the same level of care. Her prices are great, too!

Well, I have a Halloween costume to whip together this morning and scarves to paint all day so I had better run. My thanks to vsilcoxdesigns for tempting me to spend a little more time than usual in Etsy-world this morning. I really enjoyed looking at all the beautiful things in that treasury!

Winter Wonderland calls for Sweet Potato Bisque

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Now, we have had snow in Upstate NY before Halloween in the past but this is a little bit much!

It rained most of the day Tuesday and by late afternoon the rain had turned a bit slushy. We had several inches of accumulation before nightfall. Nevertheless, I attempted to go buy some onions at Martin's farm stand around 4:00. I crawled along for about a mile and had decided that onions weren't worth risking my neck for when I came upon a truck that had flopped into the ditch. I offered the poor young soul walking away from the truck a ride home but we couldn't convince my car to climb the slight incline to get onto Rt 11B from Sheldon Road. I turned my car around and he had to walk the rest of the way home, thinking about his truck - which is surely a bit broken. I'm still wondering how angry his parents are with him.

Because the plows weren't doing anything at all early in the evening, Bry canceled his meetings for the night and we had a nice evening at home enjoying a very yummy soup, a crackling fire in the woodstove and an early episode of Sesame Street together. Snowplows finally started coming around late that night and schools all over the county were canceled and delayed yesterday.

Here's the soup I made Tuesday Night. It was an attempt to re-create a wonderful Sweet Potato Apple Bisque I had at First Crush a couple of weeks ago. This one was almost as good.

Luna's Sweet Potato, Apple Bisque

6 sweet potatoes, halved, rubbed in olive oil and baked at 350 'till soft.
1 very large sweet/tart apple (or 2 medium sized apples)
1 small head garlic, roasted
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cups of stock or water with vegetable or chicken boullion
4 Tbsp butter
2 cups milk
Nutmeg, Ginger, Cardamom & Salt

Roast Sweet Potatoes and garlic.
Sautee onion and apple in butter untill soft in large soup pot. You could use Olive Oil instead but - really - it won't taste as good.
Peel sweet potatoes and garlic - these should just slip right out of their skins.
Add stock gradually, mashing potatoes and garlic. I puree everything with my blender-on-a-stick right in the pot. Cook and stir until everything is thick and bubbly, add milk and more water or stock until soup is teh desired consistency.
Season to taste with nutmeg, Ginger, Cardamom and Salt. I used 4 crushed Cardamom pods, about 1 TBS Ginger and 2 tsp nutmeg.

Molly's Christmas Blog & Holiday Gift making

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My amazing Sister-in-Law, Molly, has opened a Christmas themed blog for the holidays. You really should go check it out. Gingerbread and Candy Canes is full of recipes and descriptions of our family's holiday traditions.

Molly really does do all of these things she describes on her blog, but I'm not sure how she manages it. She has 5 children ranging in age from 9 to 1 and she is on the go all the time - exercise classes for her, dance classes for the girls, pre-K for her 4 year old, two little ones at home, doctors appts. Church activities, etc .. etc . . . and she still finds time to decorate to the 9s for holidays, run two interesting blogs and cook up all these great treats and traditions. To top it all off, she's skinny and fit!

Here's a photo of our 4 year olds atop Mt. Azure this summer. Don't they look like they belong in an Indie rock band together?

When I start feeling down on myself for not having the same amazing Holiday festivities for my kids that she does for hers, I remind myself that Molly doesn't have her holidays season filled with freshly dyed silk dripping from every possible hanging surface in the house. :) My kids get Christmas presents only because Mom has silk dripping and beads spilling from every corner of every room for the whole of October and November!

I probably won't have to feel too badly about this for long. I think my homeschooler might be ready to take on some of these recipes herself this year. Good thing she's got an Aunt Molly to inspire her.

Speaking of dripping silk - expect a tutorial on using Procion fiber reactive dyes to paint silk velvet & satin devore (burn out pattern) scarves in a few days. I will also be offering a workshop on painting silk scarves as a holiday benefit for the St. Lawrence County Arts Council on December 6th. This will be an excellent opportunity for people to try the process without having to buy all of their own supplies. The basic participation fee will be $15.00 and goes straight to the Arts Council. Supplies will cost $12.00 per scarf, participants may dye up to 3 scarves. Registration deadline is November 18th.

I really shouldn't tell people this but - this workshop is a great opportunity to make awesome holiday gifts for friends and family at a very low cost. If you do all three scarves, each one will only cost $17.00. If you buy them from me, these scarves would cost $35 to $40 each. Keep your eyes open for my tutorial if you want to know what you're paying me for when you buy a scarf!

School Pictures - Why?

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So - last week was photo day at school for Maxx. I really didn't want to get his photo taken this time around because he hasn't been eating well & has grown another 2 or 3 inches recently plus he cut his own hair a while ago and we had to completely shave his head to finish the job. What with being extra skinny and having almost no hair, he looks like a small prisoner in a concentration camp. Not an image I want to send around to family and friends!

So I thought, "Well, I'll just order the smallest package so I can get the class photo for his memory book." When Molly was small, you could order the small package for 10 to 15 bucks and get a 5x7, a couple of wallets and the class photo. And they had lovely backgrounds and were just very pretty photos, as you can see.

Their business practices always bugged me, though. I would order a small package that I could afford and they would send home a larger package including things like stickers, bookmarks, more large prints, etc... with a letter demanding that I either pay for those items or return them to the school. Since the kids open their packages on the bus and give away half the stickers to their friends before parents even get to see them, most families ended up having to pay through the nose for the extra stuff sent by the photo company. If parents sent stuff back to the school instead of paying for it, the school was supposed to shred the extra prints.

Now, the same company is only offering mottled color backgrounds and if you want a bright color instead of a blah grey, you have to pay an extra 5 bucks. If you want the class photo, you have to pay an extra 10. If I had wanted to get a photo of Maxx that didn't look a prison mug shot and would include the class photo sheet, I would have had to pay 30 bucks.

Last year $30 wouldn't have been a big deal, but living on half salary makes it seem like a much larger chunk of change than before. I couldn't stomach the idea of taking that amount of money out of our grocery budget and giving it to a huge national conglomerate school photo scam job for a picture that would surely make my kid look like a starved convict.

As I looked at more of the package prices, I saw that some of the bigger packages were running over a hundred dollars. I am totally mystified! Why would anyone spend that kind of money on school pictures? Even if your kids looked super on photo day - even if they were using beautiful backgrounds? If I had hundreds of dollars to spend, I would go out and find a professional photographer who would take some time to get GREAT photos of my kids. Maybe the dog could even be in the photos. I would be so much happier about spending photography money in a way that supports a real live local artist and helps a local small business.

Last night I stayed a little late at the Arts Council to help out with Fright Night and I met the very photographer I would hire if I had hundreds of dollars to spend - and if Maxx had any of his beautiful hair right now!

Jodi Durow is new to St. Lawrence County and she does child, family and pregnancy photography in black and white. She was asking about promotional opportunities at the Arts Council for photographers and when I mentioned my frustration with school photos, she pulled out her beautiful business cards. I visited her website this morning and I am just so impressed with what I found there. Her photos are warm and personal. Her subjects look happy and comfortable with the camera. Her fees are appropriate for her services and to top it all off, she is a very engaging and peaceful person. In the few minutes that we were able to speak with each other in the crowd and craziness of Fright Night, I felt like I had met a new friend.

(Jodi's Business cards are from Moo and they are amazing! The photograph is saved here in very low resolution so that no one will want to steal this beautiful image but the actual card is beautiful. It is very sturdy, the image is crisp and it feels substantial and professional. That does it - I have to get some Moo cards!)

She is also an infant bereavement photographer. If you are unaware of what an infant bereavement photographer does, you can visit the NILMDTS website. This service is one of the most compassionate and one of the most most difficult things I can imagine doing for another family. As I was looking at the Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep website, I realized Jodi's calm manner and engaging approach makes her perfect for this service.

I can't afford Jodi's photos right now but I do appreciate the fact that we have a real live talented portrait artist right nearby. And I'll be saving this business card against the day when I do have some extra money to spend on portraits.

Autumn in my Yard

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The last few days have been so glorious!

This tree is the reason I bought this house. Perfect for swinging.

Looking Up.

Looking into the canopy.

One perfect leaf.

Our French Intensive Double Dug garden bed - potatoes all removed and ready for the winter.

Friends had helped me remove the potatoes from this bed back when we had our work party. We ended up with a 5 gallon pail full and then some. They thought it was a good yield but I was a little disappointed - it just didn't look like enough. When we started getting this bed ready for winter - guess what - no one had dug deep enough. There were at least Twice as many tubers left in that dirt! And what wonderful dirt it is! What a miracle these double dug beds are. Bat and horse poo and some well rotted hay helped quite a bit, too!

Maxx loves to use the hose.

Daddy is lucky he didn't get wet.

Etsy Bloggers' Featured Seller for October

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Does this look familiar?

I stopped wearing jewelry when Molly was a baby - breastfeeding and carrying around a curious little person completely changed the way I accessorized. She yanked at my earrings, she broke necklaces, bracelets got in the way.

Don't get me wrong - she and I were good at breastfeeding. When she was small, I could do my shopping and breastfeeding at the same time. But by the time she was 4 months old, she really wanted to be seeing things and doing something while she was eating. In public she would happily eat for about 3 minutes and then reach up with her little arm and remove our privacy blanket in one large, dramatic swoop.

And then she would grin widely at her audience and go back to eating. She scandalized more than one elderly gentleman at church with that behavior. I never worried about it - we didn't have a mothers' room back then and I didn't feel like it was realistic to relegate breastfeeding moms to the changing bench in the back of the ladies room for half their time at church. So she ate in public and probably made lots of people uncomfortable.

I wonder if it would have been easier to remain private if she had had a pretty necklace to play with while she ate?

Jen over at bfbeads makes wonderful breastfeeding jewelry; Pendants for babies to play with and reminder bracelets that move easily from one wrist to the other so mom always remembers which side to start with next time. This is what she says about her products:

"Designed to keep baby happy at the breast, each necklace is also crafted with mom in mind. Baby can hold the pendant or slide the beads on the necklace cord itself. Since both necklace and pendant are made from one continuous length of cord, there's no chance of one part breaking off from the other. These necklaces are sturdy: I do not use any findings or clasps, because they are often the weakest part of a necklace, and each is secured with a double knot in the back. (If your necklace breaks during the first year of use, assuming normal wear and tear, I will restring your beads for free!) They are long enough for mom to put on over her head and for baby to comfortably play with while nursing, but they can easily be shortened all the way to choker length simply by sliding the adjustable bead at the back."

What a great concept. If you have a baby to feed, check this shop out. If you are done feeding babies, you might want to pop over anyway - her designs are well executed and affordable.

My "Other" Job

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One of this month's themes for the Etsy Bloggers' Team is to write about our jobs other than arts and crafting. My "other" job is at the St. Lawrence County Arts Council.

I work one day a week as the Class Coordinator for our Arts Council and the job is so enjoyable that I jokingly call it my "paid day off." It truly is a sanity saver for me.

For one day a week, I don't have to debate with myself what the most important piority is for the day, I don't have to be constantly interrupted by children, I don't have to step over the messes in my livingroom or work around the piles of dirty dishes in my kitchen.

I go to work in a gorgeous gallery space with happy, upbeat people who are as interested in the arts as I am. I get to talk with artists about the sorts of classes they would like to offer in our community. I get to meet great community members who are interested in art and have plenty of opportunities to help educate the public about the importance of buying local and the value of supporting the arts and artists in our small, rural county. I get to meet other artists with all sorts of facinating skills and backgrounds every week.

I am always learning something new from and am constantly being challenged and encouraged by our director, Hilary Oak.

I get to teach other people's children about arts through my three kids' art series: Art for Small People, Teen Jewelry Club and Art Afternoons. These Kids' Arts classes help me remember to do art with my own kids because I test drive all of my projects on them.

I also get to schedule time for teaching adult arts classes in jewelry, complex cloth, silk fusion, etc . . . These adult classes give me a great excuse for making the investements necessary to learn new crafts and techniques so that I can offer classes in them It keeps my skill set constantly growing.

Working in the gallery once a week helps me monitor my inventory very consistently - I know what is selling at any given point of the season and I can watch what people are interested in to gauge the most popular colors and trends for our community.

The fact that this is a once a week job allows me to concentrate most of my energies where they should be right now - with my family and especially with my growing Maxx, who is not coping well with Pre-K. I don't have to harbor any guilt about "neglecting" my kids for the sake of my career and yet I have no worries that my skills as an organizer, a salesperson, a teacher, a writer or promoter are getting rusty or being wasted.

I recognize that I am abundantly blessed to have this job. The income is quite tiny, considering how few hours I put in, but the benefits in terms of my own professional development, income from teaching classes and the regular relief from daily homemaking drudgery are immeasureable.

In speaking about my job, I have to say a bit about my boss, Hilary. I'm very grateful the one day, about seven years ago, Hilary asked me if I would like to work part time in the arts gallery she was managing back then. When Hilary left that shop to open the Arts Council's gallery and gift shop and focus more of her energies on providing greater services for artists in St. Lawrence County, she brought me along for the "ride." Hilary took a small, inexperienced and somewhat reluctant board, one very part time employee and a cash flow of about 300 bucks a year and has turned it into a thriving organization with a full staff (!) that organizes classses, an annual studio tour, a cultural resources directory, the annual Arts Show for the Remington Festival, the NYSCA Arts Decentralization Grants program for 3 counties, multiple gallery exhibits throughout the year, a Live Music Fridays informal concert series, a quarterly newsletter and is about to host the first Cultural Blueprints Meeting for 7 counties in the Northern NY area this month! She has done all of this in the space of 3 years. There are lots of other things that happen at the Arts Council but I simply am running out of time to tell you about all of them! I am constanly awed at how much she can get done and by the fact that she has never given up. What a hero!

My Dream Workspace

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October's take it Further challenge is to think about our work spaces and how they affect our work. Way back in January, I posted photos of my messy studio and shared some information about the challenges associated with my space. As my business grows, and I have been expanding into selling supplies as well as creating accessories, I am coming to realize that my space is simply not sufficient. I need at least twice as much room as I have now, possibly three times as much, as well as better storage options and a reliable water supply.

I've been fantasizing about having a yurt studio. Bryan thinks I'm nuts - or just obsessed with yurts because I've also been suggesting that we ditch our bat infested, polluted water home in Ft. Jackson and go live in a yurt at his parents' while we build something smaller, greener and more suitable to the lifestyle we want to be living.

I used to want my studio to be integrated into the general living quarters of the house. I'm recognizing that this is not an effective strategy for someone who really wants to be productive. Plus, in order to have a studio the size I would need, that could mean that we would need to have an Enormous house. As things are now, I have to keep chasing Maxx out of my studio so that he doesn't get the scissors or chop up some important piece of paperwork with the craft cutter or get his hands on my creme brule torches (affectionately dubbed "mom's mini flame throwers"). He and Molly invariably seem to need my attention whenever I'm in my studio, which wouldn't be so much of a problem if the space wasn't already so cramped. As it is, if I get one more body in there while I'm working, even a small one, I simply cannot move to reach the things I need. If I had a space of my own that was larger and separate from the rest of the house, it would be easier to say "mom's working," easier to ignore the phone, easier to enforce mom-space rules and more possible to set up a small area for kiddy crafts.

Bry and I also used to think that it would be nice to have our work spaces in a shared structure. (His dream, and he's moving toward it, is to create furniture from recycled barn wood and to learn to make canoes.) Considering that my work is strongly leaning toward textiles and his would strongly lean toward sawdust and varnish, we are realizing that this may not be wise. Someday when all of this is working the way that we want it to, finished furniture can come into my studio for upholstery.

Bry & I had a conversation about my fantasy yurt studio a few days ago. His expression spoke "my wife is off her rocker" quite loudly as he tried to explain that he could easily build me a small studio separate from the house, if he had the materials, for about the same amount of time & money needed to put up a yurt. I looked at him as if he were the crazy one and pointed out that with a yurt, you set up the platform, put up the wall and roof, roll on the covering, install the wiring & plumbing and it's done. DONE. No measuring twice and then cutting and then adjusting your cut. No doors and windows to measure and install. No fiberglass insulation to staple on. No wall board to put up. No painting to do. No surprise expenses at the last minute. It could be all finished in three days to a week and then I would get to move in and get right to work. Just Like That.

He argued against the quirky geometry of living in a yurt. I love quirky geometry. My bedroom in my parents' log cabin was right under the spot where the two roof angles came together. I feel at home in a slanted ceiling with exposed structural elements. I really dislike big, flat planed boxes. I agree that shelving might be a difficult issue, but I'm sure I could find a way to make it work.

This is what I would need in my dream studio:
- really good lighting - maybe some portable& adjustable light fixtures would be handy here.
- a double basin sink with a sprayer and at least one laundry sized sink all at counter top level with running hot and cold water
- a floor drain might be handy near the sink area
- a work station dedicated to sewing
- a work station dedicated to bead work
- a large, long table of counter top height or of adjustable height for silk painting, dyeing, and other arts and crafts
- a small area, well lighted to photograph my work that includes both a table for photographing small works and a dress form against a clean wall area for scarves, wearables and larger works.
- a packing center to hold boxes, envelopes, labels, tape, baggies and bubblewrap.
- small shelves to hold all of my little bead barrels. They are taking over my studio. Something like a pumped up and overgrown spice rack with a white backing would be handy - then I could see everything in each barrel with a quick scan instead of having to pick each one up as I search for what I need.
- a Medium size bookcase to hold my studio literature
- Cupboards or shelves to hold all of my fabric, chemicals, dyes, paints, stamps and other miscellaneous arts supplies.
- drawers under table surfaces for tools, jewelry wire, adhesives, paper supplies etc . . . . .
- a small heating unit - whether that would be a little woodstove or a small propane or electric space heater, I'm not sure.

I'm wondering if a 16' yurt would do the trick - I'm thinking it probably would not be quite big enough. Maybe a 20 footer? What I should do is work out a floor plan with little scale model pieces of what I need and go from there. That would be fun to do today but I have aclass to teach tonight and need to go get ready for that and spend some time on the treadmill. The yurt photos I've pasted in here are taken from the following yurt companies' websites:

Bue Ridge Yurts
Spirit Mountain Yurts
Colorado Yurts
Rainier Yurts
Pacific Yurts

Maybe someday I'll get to buy a yurt of my own!

Wasted Materials

8:39 PM Edit This 0 Comments »
Just a quick post and a small rant.

Remember our neighbor's house that was squished by two big cottonwood trees earlier this summer? Well - they have demolished that house and are putting up a double wide for her to live in. Sensible enough. Smaller home, easier to heat, she will get to stay in the neighborhood she has lived in all her life, we get to keep a nice neighbor.

The sad thing is that none of the materials from the house were salvaged. Yes, I know salvage work is time consuming and costly but it really broke my heart watching the big backhoe scrape perfectly good pieces of tin off her roof and crumple them. With so many environmental problems, don't you think we should be recycling more building materials???

Here's a couple of photos. Maxx really enjoyed watching the demolition.
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