Monday, December 31, 2012

New Knits and a Giveaway

When I'm not making jewelry, I usually baking, cooking, making cards or knitting. Yay for knitting! The only problem with my love of knitting is that the finished products keep piling up. I know you're thinking I should either stop buying yarn and slow down my knitting, or try selling some of it. Well, I can't seem to stop buying yarn and I do try to sell some. But I don't try very hard. I have some scarves listed in my other etsy shop, A Peaceful Life and I have some bags and scarves for sale at Dragonfly Gallery in Soldotna. These two outlets don't even make a dent in the pile of knits I'm looking at.

Soooo, it's time for a giveaway!

 I bought this gorgeous hand-dyed yarn from Phydeaux Designs. Check out her etsy shop where you will find tons of lovely yarns and fun patterns. I purchased a beautiful neck warmer pattern from Rabbit Ridge Designs. It was a match made in heaven. Here is the resulting neck warmer:

Sorry, but that is NOT the item I'm giving away. What a tease, right?

Naturally, I had a bit of that multi-colored yarn left over. I searched through my massive yarn stash and found some solid green pima cotton/tencel blend yarn that looked great with the Phydeaux yarn. I turned to one of my favorite scarf patterns and here is the result:

It's about 62" long and 4" wide and the body of the scarf is done in seed stitch, which adds a nice bumpy (but so soft) texture. The ruffle is done with the leftover yarn from the neck warmer.

 As you can see, 60" is long enough to go around your neck twice. Yes, this is the item that I'm giving away! All you have to do is leave a comment and I will use a random number generator to select the winner. Because this is a holiday, I'm going to keep this giveaway open through the end of the week. I will select the winning number late on Friday, January 4.

May the odds be ever in your favor!

(Yes, I stole that line from the Hunger Games.)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Butter Balls

I've been having fun trying some new cookie recipes this year. These chocolate chocolate chip butter balls are Rick's new favorite cookie and he won't let me put any into the goodie bags for our neighbors. Selfish cookie monster. This recipe is so simple and I'm anxious to try some variations, like substituting white chips for the chocolate ones.

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Butter Balls

1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg, beaten
2 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups chocolate chips

Cream butter. Add brown sugar and beat until smooth. Add egg and vanilla until well combined. Stir in flour and cocoa. When that has all been incorporated, stir in chocolate chips. Roll rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into 1" balls (approximately). They will not spread, so they can be placed pretty close together on the cookie sheets. Bake on greased cookie sheets in a 350 preheated oven for 20 minutes.

Pour a cup of coffee, tea or milk and dig in when they cool a bit!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

My Faith Has Been Restored ...

... in the US Postal Service. You better sit down to read this story. You may not believe it. Here goes ...

A lovely customer in Hamlin, Texas purchased these earrings on November 23:

I printed the shipping label using Click-N-Ship as usual and dropped it at my local PO on November 24. On Monday, November 26, I got a phone call from a postal employee in Lubbock, Texas. Apparently, the label had come off of the Small Flat Rate Priority box I used to ship the earrings. This amazing man found the label, googled my name and got my phone number. He said he would be on the lookout for the box and its contents.

(Someone had shipped some whiskey, which broke and it got a lot of packages very wet, causing labels to come off.)

I alerted my customer via Etsy convo, assuring her that I would make her another pair if the original ones did not show up. On November 27, the very next day, the same man from the Lubbock PO called again to tell me he found a box and could I describe my packaging to him. After I did so, he said it was indeed the one he found and he would repackage it (it was all wet on the outside) and send it on its way.

Later that same day (unbelievable, right?), my customer let me know that the package had arrived, albeit it a bit messy. We were both quite relieved.

Thus, my faith in the postal service and worker dedication has been restored!

Monday, November 19, 2012

I Knit Too!

Many of you already know that I am an avid knitter as well as a jewelry maker. What you probably don't know is that I sell my knitted things in an etsy shop. They are mingled in with a bunch of other things like handmade books and various supplies.

This one features some gorgeous wool/bamboo yarn in a really pretty ombre pattern.

For this next scarf, I used a multi colored wool yarn in a thick-and-thin format.

Next up is a scarf fearing chocolate brown yarn in a wool and linen mixture. Lovely.

I have a few more in that shop as well. Here's the link to the shop: A Peaceful Life and a link to the Knitwear Section. Have a look around at the knitted scarves as well as the supplies. You may find something you can't live without or didn't even know you needed!

Friday, November 16, 2012

What's On My Work Table?

I haven't done one of these posts in a very long time. While there have been lots of things going on with my work table, this particular picture of it is something I don't think I've shown you before.

I decided to resurrect an old style of earrings that I made for many years ... and then stopped making. This happens because I tire of the design or the components become unavailable or my customers stop buying it. These earrings disappeared because I tired of making them. They were good sellers for many years and now I feel the need to reintroduce them.

As you can see, the design centers around these triangle glass beads that have the holes across the top. And yes, they come in lots of colors and two different sizes. Here's a look from a different vantage point.

Don't forget, you can click on the photo to get a larger view.

And what do I do with these triangles, you ask? This is the only pair I ever photographed and they sold on etsy back in 2008.

Pretty cool, huh? One length of 20 ga wire, made into a spiral, then flattened and formed through and around the bead. I will probably work on these earrings next week and I plan to list some in my etsy shop!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Key West Pork Chops

This is a recipe I've been making for years. As a matter of fact, the cookbook that provided the inspiration for it came with me on our 7 year sailing adventure. There weren't very many times that pork chops were available (ones that I would eat, that is), but when they were, this was a go-to recipe. I've adapted it from The New York Times Cook Book, by Craig Claiborne.

Key West Pork Chops

2 TBSP oil
4 - 6 pork chops (not the boneless kind - they dry out too much, even with this moist recipe)
1 1/2 cups raw rice (I think long grain white rice works best here)
1 onion, sliced
lemon or lime, sliced
salsa (your favorite brand, or homemade)
3 cups tomato (or V-8) juice
tabasco sauce

Brown the pork chops on both sides in the oil in a large frying pan. Here, they are just starting on side one:

Remove the chops to a plate and stir in the rice, just to coat with the remaining oil. Turn the rice into a large greased baking pan. You need a deep-ish one. Arrange the pork chops on top of the rice.Sprinkle with salt and pepper if desired. Distribute the onion and lemon (or lime) slices on top. Spoon some salsa over each pork chop and add a bit of tabasco here and there. Here's what mine looked like at this point:

Pour the juice around the pork chops. Cover tightly with foil. Bake at 325 for 1 - 1 1/2 hours. I forgot to take a picture of them on our plates, but here's what the baking pan looked like after we ate half:

I served this with roasted brussels sprouts, because that's what I had on hand.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

New Jewelry in my Etsy Shop

I've been steadily adding new items to my etsy shop over the past few months. Actually, I do so all year long, but this time of year calls for more steady production.

Just this week, I listed these earrings. While the crystal cubes have been in my "stash" for quite some time, I've never used them quite like this before. I think this design is perfect for holiday dress-up.

The coloration of these crystals is a bit mysterious. It is called Heliotrope and yes, there is some purple there, but there's also teal and lots of gold, including a bit of coating on two sides. Super special, especially when dangling from sterling silver disc chain.

This necklace is also brand new. I've been doing pearl and gemstone clusters for a long time. This chalcedony briolette was just begging for some white keshi pearls. It's like a match made in heaven.

Click on either of the photos to go directly to the listings. And thanks for looking!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Bad Girls of the North Rock Fairbanks!

Last weekend was our annual Bad Girls of the North craft show in Fairbanks. Once again, I am awed and humbled by the customer turnout and the enthusiasm with which we were greeted. I love when there's a whole crowd of people just waiting for us to open then doors to the banquet room. Thank you Fairbanks!

On a more personal (and when I say personal, I mean Orion Designs) note, my asymmetrical necklaces were a big hit again. I had 5 of them with me and sold 4 of them on Friday evening. Why is it that nobody will ever buy the last of something? Seriously, about 4 people tried on that fifth necklace. Maybe there's comfort in seeing a whole batch of something. Makes me wonder: if I had 8 of them with me, would I have sold 7? Dunno. Can't really go back to test that theory.

In case you don't remember what necklaces I'm referring to, there are several in my etsy shop.

Click on the photo to go directly to that listing. Or, click here to see all of my asymmetrical necklaces.

And if you just haven't seen enough asymmetry, here's a pair of earrings that might satisfy your craving:

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sale in My Etsy Shop!

I don't do it often (and I actually do it less frequently than I used to), but I'm here to announce a sale in my etsy shop.  This one starts today and ends Friday, the 14th.  The entire shop is on sale at 25% off.  You need to use Coupon Code AUTUMN to get the discount.  And don't forget to click "Apply" after entering the code!

Here are a few new things in my etsy shop that might tempt you.

As always, click on any of these photos to go directly to the listings in my etsy shop.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Best Bran Muffins . Ever

I've been making these bran muffins for over 15 years.  I worked on the recipe for a few years before I got it just the way I wanted it.  The truth is, it is a conglomeration of several recipes, with enough changes that I feel I can call it Mine.

Vicki's Bran Muffins

1 egg
3/4 cup milk (I use 1 %)
1/2 cup oil
1 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups All Bran cereal (that's the one that looks like twigs)
1/3 cup honey
3 tsp baking powder
1 cup raisins

Pour the milk on the cereal and let sit 1 - 2 minutes. Beat the egg with the oil, then add the milk/cereal mixture.  Stir to blend.  Add the honey, flour and baking powder, stirring just until moistened.  Stir in the raisins.  Spoon into 12 muffin cups, lined with papers.  Bake at 400 for about 20 minutes.

This etsy shop has some really cute cupcake liners: Cupcake Social

Happy baking!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

What's On My Work Table?

After what has seemed like an endless round of making earrings, I noticed that my necklace inventory was having that "picked over" look.  I had sent some of my most colorful pieces to galleries on consignment and I was left with lots of neutral pieces.  Time to brighten it up!

I spent a few hours selecting gemstone duets and trios (the funnest part, for sure) and then spent the next day or so wrapping with wire and assembling the necklaces.

Here's the line up:

Most of these are slated for general inventory, but I have selected a few to photograph and list in my etsy shop. If one of these catches your eye, let me know and I'll provide a better photo for you to examine! Then, if you simply must have it, I can list in for you on etsy.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Quit Your Day Job

Just in case you wanted to know even more about me and my life story, I've been featured on the Etsy blog as part of the Quit Your Day Job series.  You can read the whole article HERE.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Cherry Plum Crisp

So, I had a bowl full of cherries and a few very ripe plums.  What to do, what to do.  A crisp!  I haven't made a fruit crisp in ages -- obviously a long overdue dessert.

Cherry Plum Crisp

Fruit Layer
4 cups of fruit (I used about 3 cups of pitted cherries, halved and 1 cup of chopped plums)
  (I think this recipe could have benefited from another cup or 2 of fruit)
1 1/2 TBSP brown sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon (I completely forgot this)

1/2 cup rolled oats
2 TBSP chopped walnuts
1 TBSP brown sugar
2 TBSP melted butter

Combine all of the fruit layer ingredients and turn into a greased 9"x9" baking pan.  Combine topping ingredients until well mixed.  Bake at 375  for 30-45 minutes.  Keep an eye on this so as not to burn the oatmeal.  Of course, this is best served topped with vanilla ice cream. 

Two notes about this recipe:

I adapted in from my favorite apple crisp recipe, so feel free to substitute any fruit for the cherries/plums.
The oat topping will be chewy, but I like that kind of texture.  If you don't, you may want to either grind up the oats, use the quick cooking type or pre-cook them.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A New Earring Design!!

I've been plugging away, building earring and necklace inventory for our busy Alaskan summer tourist season, relying on tried and true designs.  Then, just 2 days ago, a new idea popped into my head.  It's actually a variation on a design I did a few years ago and allowed to fizzle out.  I love when this happens -- just when you think you'll never come up with something new, there it is!

I started with one of my sterling silver tornado elements and wrapped size 15 seed beads all around it.  Yes, I have done this part before.  The new variation is the dangle on the bottom.

I will probably list a few pairs in my etsy shop eventually and the rest will be for my booth at the Alaska State Fair and my fall craft shows.

Whiskey Quartz cubes with gold seed beads

Garnet Briolettes with rosy seed beads

Amethyst Briolettes with purple seed beads

And yes, there are plenty more pairs completed and several more in the planning stages!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Margarita Shrimp

Last night's dinner was fabulous, if I must say so myself!  I can't remember where I got the original recipe, but I've modified it a bit for our personal tastes.

Margarita Shrimp

1/4 cup sliced green onions
1/4 cup oil (I used this stuff, but you can use any vegetable or olive oil)
1/4 cup tequila
1 tsp grated lime peel
2 TBSP fresh lime juice
2 TBSP honey
1/2 tsp salt

Combine all the above ingredients and add 1 pound of large shrimp.  Marinate for 4-6 hours.  You can broil them for 5-7 minutes, but we prefer skewering them and grilling them.  I like to boil the remaining marinade and serve alongside the shrimp.

Shrimp on skewers, ready for the grill:

On my plate!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Fused Glass Tile

A couple of weeks ago, there was a lovely event up in Palmer called "Who Let the Girls Out".  There were activities and special things going on all over town.  While at Half Moon Creek delivering some new earrings, I decided to take advantage of their offer to make a fused glass tile.  The upstairs studio was full of people and cute kids making tiles.

All manner of glass in a rainbow of colors was available to use on our tiles: shards, chips, stringers and small bits (not the right name, but you get the idea).  All we had to do was arrange some glass on the clear tile and they did the fusing for us.  Here's what I made:

I love the way it turned out.  Pretty cute, huh?  I think I'll hang it in the window in my studio.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Volcano Arts :: Enamels

I just returned from a short stay/class at Volcano Arts in California.  It was sort of a last minute trip and I wasn't sure what I would work on this time.  I thought I wanted to make a sterling silver ring with something decorative (not sure what) riveted to the top.  Christine convinced me to try my hand at enameling a small copper cut-out to rivet to the ring-to-be.

Well, the ring project never got off the ground!  It quickly turned in to a pendant, which I know I will wear more that the ring anyway.  The copper flower was just too big for a ring, at least for me.  I used heavy gauge sterling silver sheet for the base of the pendant and the 2 pieces of enameled copper are riveted to it with a handmade copper rivet.

I love it!   I had big plans to do something fancier with the bail, but I forgot to anneal the silver before adding the enameled pieces, so I was limited as to how much manipulation the silver would endure.  The best laid plans ...  There's always more to learn when working with metals.

At this point, I was in love with the idea of enamels and proceeded to spend the rest of my class time making more enameled components.  Anyone who loves color, and has a healthy respect for heat and fire would be right there with me.

Lest you think this is just about sprinkling on some enamel powder to get this magic to happen, there are a series of steps that must be completed before the Fun With Color begins.  This series of components all required the following:
  • cut, saw or punch out a shape
  • mark the center
  • dome
  • drill the center hole that you marked earlier
  • clean with fine grit sand paper and pumice

I like the idea of layers of color for use in a piece of finished jewelry.  I had so much fun choosing the color combinations.  Of course, Christine has every possible color, so much time was spent ogling tempting color charts.

Aren't they cute?  I'm anxious to get started incorporating these into some pendants!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Seed Bead Projects

For a while now, I've been wanting to start working with seed beads again.  I used to do quite a lot of bead weaving, but in recent years, that activity hasn't had much appeal.  Suddenly, the desire came back!

I signed up for a beaded cabochon class at the Alaska Bead Company and made a wonderful brooch.  I have a bunch of these gorgeous labradorite cabochons and selected one to work with in class.  I'm very pleased with the way it turned out.

Even though I somehow got the pin back finding on crooked, it won't matter once it's pinned on.

Another seed bead project involves a bracelet pattern a bought at one of the Tucson bead shows from June Wiseman of Tapestry Beads.  The bracelet is called Ebb and Flow and it's the perfect name for it!  The pattern was extremely well written and very easy to follow.  The resulting bracelet is fabulous, if I must say so myself!  Even the toggle clasp was easy, which surprised me.

I chose some metallic and metallic looking beads for this bracelet.  I think it will go with just about anything I wear.

I liked the pattern so much that I immediately made another one in blues.

What seed bead projects should I tackle next?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

New Wedding Jewelry

I purchased a few strands of these fun teardrop shaped pearls during my last trip to Tucson.  The shapes were just different enough to give them an organic feel, but similar enough to evoke a feeling of cohesiveness.  I created simple pearl solitaire necklaces that would be perfect for a bridal party.  The quantity listed is 5, but it is simple to alter the quantity in either direction -- whatever the bride needs for her bridal party!

Click on the photo to go directly to the listing in my etsy shop. Feel free to share this with any brides-to-be you may know  :)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Before and After

Jet was getting very raggedy and in dire need of a grooming.  We didn't get it done through the winter because of the brutally cold temperatures.  We go for long walkies everyday and we were concerned that he would get too cold without a full coat.

Now that the temperatures have become more moderate, we decided it was time to get Jet Man cleaned up. Well, his fur was so matted on his belly that the grooming was dramatic.  It had to be.

Here he is before, with his daddy :)

And now, he doesn't even look like himself!  We weighed him before and after -- he lost 3 pounds of fur!! He's a mere shadow of his former self. The good news is that fur does indeed grow back.  Can't wait for him to look like a Giant Schnauzer again -- right now he looks like a cross between a Great Dane and a Doberman.

For those of you wondering just how much snow we have received this winter, here's a look at our partially shoveled roof.  Rick did this last week as a precautionary measure.

And all of that snow had to go somewhere.  It is now partially blocking the window in the studio area of our house.

Here's a look down my driveway.  Whenever I drive in, I feel like I'm entering a bobsled or luge track!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Cold Connections

No, I'm not talking about dating in the Far North.  I'm talking about using rivets to connect metals.  It was one of the primary things I learned during my last class at Volcano Arts (almost a year ago now!)

When I returned from that class, I did a series of blog posts here, here, here and here.  And I also created some pieces last summer using the skills I learned and posted them here.  Now that my General Earring Inventory is close to where I like it to be (~200 pairs ready for either wholesale or consignment), I decided to tackle some new projects using rivets. 

The first few things I made turned out ok, but not awesome.  I think I was trying too hard to come up with interesting designs and not planning enough.  One of the most important things I learned in that class was to plan your piece from start to finish.  Otherwise, you can get yourself stuck in a corner, with no way out.  Not good.

This oak leaf pendant is well executed, but it doesn't excite me.  It's too flat ... or something! 

My dissatisfaction with this helped me make the decision to go back to a familiar design that DOES excite me.  Basically, I'm moving forward with "variations on a theme", an approach that has served me well with almost all of my jewelry making for the past 16 years.  With each piece I make, I learn something new and my technique improves.  Yes, the pieces are similar, but there's nothing wrong with that.  It lets me hone my skills, without the added pressure of coming up with new designs.

Better, right?

Even better yet!
(well, except for the stupid ding just to the left of the top rivet... grrr)

I'll be at it for the next few days, making more of these 3 dimensional pendants with copper, brass, pearls, gemstones and who knows what else!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Interchangeable Pendants/Necklaces

Remember this post?  Well, I now have a bunch of these interchangeable thingies listed in my etsy shop.  This basic listing is for the bail and 2 types of necklaces: sterling snake chain and black leather.  Here, it is shown with the snake chain.  The black leather lends a much more casual look.

I have also listed a bunch of pendants/drops/dangles -- can't really decide what to call these things in a new section of my shop, called Interchangeable Pendants.

If you have a moment, please take a look at a few of these listings and let me know if they are worded clearly.  I want to make sure that shoppers understand that the pendant listings are for the pendant ONLY and that the bail/chain/leather are listed separately.

Thanks for your help!