Friday, October 28, 2011

Works in Progress and My Old Lady Hands

So there's a new idea I've been playing with for a while - resin cubes with flowers inside.  Not just any cubes - a few different kinds.   The kinds that require you to saw up your kid's Jenga blocks (sorry Sam!) and troll industrial acrylic websites looking for perfect shiny cubes to use for molds.  There's the one I made out of the wood block, so it has a matte wood texture on the sides so you see hazy shape and color, with a shiny transparent window in the front to see in - I actually really like this one.  And then the one that's shiny and transparent all around so you can see the flowers from all of the different angles - that's Clark's favorite.  And then the smaller version of the transparent one for earrings.

They should've been finished a while ago, but as usual life kind of intervenes.  Both in the lure of the woods, and also the fact that the candles and lanterns have been selling well, so then I have to. . . make more of them.  Which is hardly a hardship, except I tend to get focused on one thing (resin cubes) and then feel slightly resentful when something else (lanterns and candles) needs some attention.  Especially since I figured out how to make the lanterns and candles years ago - I'm the kind of personality that likes  new, shiny things.   Lanterns??  That's so last year!  Unless you're trying to sustain a business, in which case that's so "get yourself up to the studio and make a batch right now."

But - it finally fell into place, and in conjunction with a never-ending World Series game I had plenty of time to play with my new toy.  So - here are a few pictures of the new resin blocks.  It's kind of hard to get a good feel for how they're going to look once they're totally finished and actually on a person, but here's a teaser anyway.  And at some point (soon???) I'll have them photographed for real and an actual finished product.

If you're wondering what the strange blue background is - it's a silicone mat.  Word to the wise - if you like playing with resin (and really, who doesn't?), silicone is your friend.  Because resin, even when it's not-quite-cured won't stick to it.  And why would I be fooling with resin before it's all the way cured?  Because it's a LOT easier to screw in little, tiny screw eyes when the resin's still a little soft.  There - for all of you out there occupying yourself with resin hobbies, there's my tip of the day.  Oh - and one more - just be careful you don't put your fingerprints in it.

Along with the resin blocks, I also finally got my molds for a larger (size 9) ring.  I've been waiting for this mold for ever.  Seriously, it took it something like 7 weeks to get here from an Etsy supplies seller in Canada.  I'm pretty sure she used the mule train method of package transport.  Or that someone in customs wanted several size 9 resin rings and just borrowed the mold for a few weeks.

I'm pretty taken with the shape - it's a lovely rounded dome, and these guys should be up on my Etsy site in the very near future.  And why don't you see it on my hands?  Because, as my mother informed me, I have old lady hands that aren't really appropriate for photography.  

I'll admit I was a little taken aback with that pronouncement, but upon closer examination I had to concede that she's correct.  Which is a problem because in the Etsy listings it's nice to see a ring on someone's hand so you can see the proportions.  And the only other hands in this house belong to a 9 year old boy and a 40 year old man - not much better (worse?!) for showing off a ring.  So I hadn't quite figured out what to do about this problem, until I stumbled upon a brilliant feature in iPhoto - edge blur!  

It turns out, if I blur the edges - a lot, like as much as it will let me - I can induce a nice soft focus effect that somewhat hides the true state of my hands.  Not that I mind my hands - they're sort of proof that I've actually *done* stuff.  I'm always slightly suspicious of people who look untouched after the very first blush of youth should have worn off.  I wonder what exactly they've been doing with themselves, and I suspect the answer is not much.

But  - that still doesn't mean these hands make anyone want to buy jewelry.  They probably make people want to buy alpha hydroxy products.  Thus - soft focus!  It allows me to go from this:

To this:

I think that's an improvement.  Or at least a good disguise.  And in the meantime I'm still on the lookout for some fresh-handed teenager that would like to moonlight as an amateur hand model.  Except that sounds kind of weird, and also where am I going to find one of those every time I want to photograph a ring? So  for the time being it looks like I'm sticking with edge blur.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Happy Mountain Biking

So when last we met I was not mountain biking - because the universe had told me it had other plans for that day. But this day the universe seemed perfectly happy to send me off on my way, so I took pictures.

But first, a little backstory - I wasn't on my bike at all this spring and summer.  Because I was too busy running.  And running, and running, until my foot didn't want to run. (Quick side note - I finally have an answer on what's wrong with my foot - yay!  Posterior tibial tendonitis.  I know, WTH, right?  But knowledge is power, and the PT seems quite competent, and I'm pairing this with an amazing rolfer to try to get straightened out once and for all, so I'm happy.)  Anyway - I finally faced the reality that a fast fall 5-K was not in my future, and got back on my bike.  Happy!  This is my favorite time of the year for mountain biking.  And so I celebrated by doing this:

I debated whether that was too gross to put on here, but I decided the smile on my face balanced it out.  Why am I smiling?  (a) Because this was the picture I sent to Clark and Sam to say I was on my way to urgent care  - yes, a few stitches were required, and (b) because I was such a dumbass to have done it in the first place.  That's partly  a smile of disbelief.  Because I didn't crash on anything impressive or death-defying - I just washed out in a perfectly fine curve.  Oops.  So this was (literally) my first ride back in a few months.  Welcome back!  Other than this small mishap, though, it was quite fun, and Kelly and Robin and I were happy to be back together.  Return of the Three Musketeers!

So I have since been on a few super fun, uneventful rides, most of which I have meant to document with photographic proof.  But I never seem to remember to pull out my camera - until yesterday.  Frankly I didn't do that great a job of it yesterday either, because to use it (it's my iPhone) I have to pull it out of my pocket that's buried under a layer of clothes (this was early in the morning), and then unwrap it from the waterproof bag and arm warmer (hi-tech cushioning), and *then* take a picture.  Burdensome.

But - never fear, I did manage to get a few - here's an October morning in Bent Creek:

Early morning in the parking lot - probably the only time on this whole beautiful day it was empty.

My fearless steed awaiting our ride.  I LOVE this bike.  It's a Serotta 650b hardtail, and it weighs about 21 pounds.   It's way nicer than I would have ever been able to buy - except that the fates smiled mightily upon me in the form of my friend's brother-in-law who works at a bike shop and was selling his personal bike.  I think he felt sorry for me (my previous bike weighed 32 pounds and was named Bertha), so he made me an incredibly good deal.  I am forever grateful.  Fred I love you!

Why the dorky orange vest on the bar?  Because it's hunting season and some of those very old and very young hunters walking around Bent Creek with a rifle look like they might have a hard time figuring out if it's me or a squirrel.  God forbid when rifle season for deer gets here - I'll add a blaze orange knit cap over my bike helmet.  And I'm not kidding.

Here's today's partner in crime: Kelly.  I know, awesome picture.   Kelly was also with me the day I bought the blaze orange vest featured above.  That was the day we were doing recon for Swank and inadvertently ended up biking in Pisgah on the opening day of bear season.  Exciting!  I stopped at Wal-Mart on the way home and bought the vest.

Here's the main reason I like to park at Rice Pinnacle - separate male and female bathrooms.  They're not always great, but it's still better than the co-ed one at Hard Times.  Gack.

Off on a beauteous ride.  It would have been better to take a picture of the single track, but alas I was busy actually riding on that stuff.

And - the payoff.  After climbing a fair bit, it opens up and - you're on top of the word!  Or at least Hominy Valley.  It was pretty much the most perfect day for mountain biking of the year.  Happy.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Weekend Update

I'm supposed to be mountain biking right now - but alas, I'm instead being quasi-business like.  "Quasi" because I'm actually playing on the blog, but *then* I'm going to go do business type stuff, so that counts.  I'm not on my bike because the universe wanted me to restock Woolworth Walk.  It expressed this to me by giving me a mild case of asthma upon awakening.  I almost never have asthma problems, except when I exercise hard in cold weather, but today the universe decided I should work.  Or maybe it decided I should stay off my foot.  Either way I decided to heed the warning.  When biking, I often find it useful to have full lung function.  I'm picking up some Singulair today, to go with my almost-never-used inhaler, and then all will be right with the world again.

Speaking of Woolworth, Southern Highland Craft Fair is in town today - which is not a non-sequitur, because the Southern Highland fair is held right down the street from Woolworth, and thus lots of people interested in craft tend to wander their way down the street to Woolworth also.  I had forgotten this when I went to restock Woolworth yesterday, and didn't bring enough stuff.  So I've got to go back today.  This is a good problem to have.

And speaking of restocking, we're also back at the Asheville City Market on Saturdays from now until the end of time.  Or maybe just Christmas.  I have to say, it was funnnnn going back for the first time last Saturday.  We've been doing that market for so long now that it kind of feels like home.  We do have a different spot - because they've got a bunch of artisans and crafters coming now and we're all in one spot - a critical mass of good design and interesting art, if you will.  But it turns out I like my new neighbors, so we're happy.  Except that Anomaly and her amazing cupcakes have been MIA the last couple of weeks, so when she shows back up all will truly be right with the world.  Or at least the market.

The rest of the weekend includes: the corn maze (we've never done it - I'm totally planning on having fun.  Or else I'm calling 911), Sam's last baseball game of the year (kind of ready for that one), some mountain biking, and dinner with an old friend who's in town.  Yay!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Recent Etsy Favorites

As part of my renewed dedication to my shop on Etsy, one of the great side benefits has been how many amazing shops and sellers I've discovered out there.  So, here's my guide to some recent favorites I've found.


Handmade Journal - love the graphics.


Handmade peacoat.  For real it's a peacoat - available for most any size of dog.  The creator of this coat must be a creative genius. Or maybe it's just the expression of the pug that's so genius.  Either way, I love it.


Hand drawn bike cuff links.  Kind of makes me want to find my old (old) shirts from my lawyer days and break out some cuff links.  Except I think I ruined them in ceremonial fashion by turning them into work shirts while farming flowers.  It was worth it.


Waterfall scarf.  It is completely beyond me how they can make this to order for $29, but I  love it.


Petals cascade necklace.  I picked this one out, but in fact I pretty much love all of her work.

The thing is, this could be a never-ending post because there's *so much* great stuff on Etsy.  But I'll leave it here for now, and instead give you the link to my Etsy favorites.  And also to my Pinterest - Pinterest is probably a whole 'nother blog post, but I love it - and would love to find more of you on it!  So email me with your Pinterest name (or follow me and I'll follow you back) - funnest exchange of creative ideas out there.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Picture Time

It's that time of year - new Sam pics!  We have the classic baseball pose, and the class picture debuting. . . drumroll please. . . his first decent haircut in recent memory.  Less 1970s baseball player, more I can see your eyes.  I think it's a winner.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Not the Shoes

So - it's actually not about the shoes.  Unfortunately.  As you might recall, I was hopeful some new running shoes would clear things right up with my foot.  But - as is often the case - my foot has other ideas.  I tried Nike Frees, and Saucony Kinvarras, and New Balance Minimuses (Minimusi?), and the foot is not having it.  (Fortunately all of the shoes can go back, so I'm not out a chunk of money to figure this out.)

To date, I've also tried:  chiropractic, acupuncture, ART, massage, taping, icing, and anti-inflammatories.  I also currently have appointments pending with a rolfer and a physical therapist who specializes in runners.  Let it never be said I leave a stone unturned!  Of course the one thing I haven't actually tried is a lot of rest.  It's such a bummer.  But - as I walked home through Montford today on my aching foot, I came to terms with the fact that it's probably time to get back on the bike for a while and let the foot have a break.  And also probably time to stop trying new iterations of shoe, tape, no tape, orthotic, no orthotic, etc.  And just leave the dang thing alone.  I'm pretty sure that's what it has decided is its heart's desire.

So, so as not to fall into the injury doldrums, today I was on the Swank website seeing if the race was full yet.  True, I have barely ridden my mountain bike since 6 Hours of Warrior Creek in April, but I still have a month to get ready!  Don't worry, I'm not that crazy.  Yet.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Bread. Seriously.

Ok, this post really is about. . . bread.  And I realize that's a bit of a departure, but bear with me.  I like *good* bread.  We're talking sandwich bread here, so it's not sophisticated, but it can't be cheap.  Like flimsy cardboard, and with a matching taste - no, that just won't do.  But when I get on a fiscal responsibility kick then buying the Greenlife bread for $5 a loaf seems a little silly.  So, when push comes to shove, I just make my own.  And since a lot of people seem shocked to discover I bake our bread - as if I needed Harry Potter's wand to conjure it out of thin air - I thought I'd share the recipe.  If nothing else it's a fun way to spend a slow day.

And - it does kind of take all day.  Not your actual labor, just the whole process.  So don't start on a day when you need to be out of the house all day.  This is a good weekend project.  Like, you could start the dough, go mountain biking during the first rise (it can take a while - and I'm pretty loosy goosey with timing and it still works fine), punch it down and put it in the loaf pans and then go out for dinner, and then come back and bake it.  Easy.

To give you a little incentive, here are the three loaves I made today.  Yum.  If you're wondering why they aren't the same size - my pans aren't the same size.  You might have noticed I'm not a particularly structured sort of person.

Here's the recipe.  I think this started from the King Arthur's flour website, but I've bastardized it considerably so now it's pretty much just mine.

  1. Put about 7/8 cup of hot water in a measuring cup, add a few drops of honey, and 2 1/2 teaspoons yeast.  Stir it with a knife (it sticks like crazy to a spoon).  Leave it alone for the yeast to come to life.
  2. In a Mix Master (you are a glutton for punishment if you make bread without a good mixer), add 2 cups minus 3 tablespoons whole wheat flour.  
  3. Add 3 tablespoons wheat gluten.  The easy way to do this is put the 3T wheat gluten in your first measuring cup of whole wheat flour - fill it the rest of the way with whole wheat, and you're good. I know the anti-gluten people can't believe I'm adding more gluten instead of figuring how to bake with less - but honestly your bread will be way better with the extra gluten.  It's why plain whole wheat bread can have the consistency of a brick.  And also why the gluten free breads range from somewhat palatable to awful.  Gluten - it's a friend of the baker.
  4. Add 1 1/2 cups white bread flour.  Sure, you could use all whole wheat instead - sometimes if I'm feeling virtuous I do.  Or if I'm feeling not at all virtuous I use even more white flour.  Live a little.
  5. You can also substitute other fun things - like 8 grain hot cereal mix, other grain mixes etc. - for some of the flour.  And you can throw in nuts or seeds.  Go crazy.
  6. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. 
  7. Add 4 tablespoons dry powdered milk.
  8. Whiz it all up in the mix master.
  9. Then add 1/4 cup honey (or molasses or maple syrup - they're all pretty good, but I can't tell a ton of difference in the final flavor.)
  10. Add 1/4 cup olive oil
  11. Add about 1/4 cup orange juice
  12. Add the yeast/water mix.
  13. Mix it up in the mix master with the paddle, then switch to the dough hook.
  14. Mix for about 6 minutes.  I don't know why I picked 6, but I tend to follow it.
  15. Check your consistency - I like my bread flour quite sticky - much more so than pizza dough, which I like to have the traditional "ear lobe" consistency.  I want the bread dough just barely able to be worked with.
  16. Oil a bowl, coerce your dough into a ball, roll it around in the oil (or spray a little more on there), then cover.  With cling wrap or a damp dish cloth - depending on how green you're feeling.
  17. Leave it there to double in size (more or less).  This can take a while.  A couple of hours if it's really warm, several hours if it's not.  Don't stress - it doesn't really have to all the way double - just make a sincere effort.
  18. Punch it down (kids love this part), oil your loaf pan, shape into something kind of log shaped, and put it in the pan - making sure the push it down into the corners.
  19. Let it rise again, covered - until it's as big as you want your loaf.  I like mine pretty well up over the top of the pan.
  20. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
  21. Immediately put onto a cooling rack, then let cool completely before cutting.  I usually leave mine in the microwave overnight.  Is that weird?  It's the one place I know crafty pets can't get it. I don't turn the microwave on or anything.  Sheesh.
Ok, so that's it.  The 21 steps make it seem more daunting than it is. Once you get used to it you can whip out dough without the recipe.  And I make 3 loaves at a time - because that's the number of pans I happen to have - so I only have to do it every 10 days or 2 weeks or so.  Not so bad.

A note on the cutting.  Here's a loaf I just cut.

It pretty much looks like sandwich bread, and I just cut it using the old bread knife in the picture.  A slicer would be entertaining, but it's totally not necessary.  This isn't exactly rocket science.  

That's my treatise on bread baking, such as it is.  Tomorrow back to our regularly scheduled program - running, or jewelry making, or poodles (poodles!) or romance novels.  Again - you might have noticed I'm not an especially structured sort of person.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


I just got back from a trip to Ten Thousand Villages, and I'm happy to report - success!  And here it is:

So now you're thinking - what does this slightly strange looking zebra print bracelet have to do with success?  Well - it's big.  By which I mean it's big around.  Because, my bangles are the standard size that one can get most anywhere in America.  I know, because I've compared them.  But  - a lot of women can't wear that standard size.  It's a little on the snug side.  So I've been trying to figure out where to find a slightly larger bangle so I could make a mold out of it.  [And if you're wondering how that works - look here, my treatise on figuring out how to make molds.]

And finally I had one of those eureka! moments.  Ten Thousand Villages is all hand made from artisans in little villages.  So I figured they wouldn't be making things the standard size - they probably wouldn't even know anything about the standard size.  And I was right!  All sorts of things to choose from.  And this zebra bangle fit the bill.

So - look out world, I'm breaking out the silicone.  And shortly thereafter, the bangles are coming in two sizes.  World domination of botanical resin bangles must be just around the corner.