Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Ninth Annual Soroptomist Jewelry Show

Do you love jewelry?
Do you love local artists?
Do you love supporting women's causes?
Are you fond of me?
Join me at Objects Found on Frederick Rd in Catonsville this weekend for a celebration of local jewelry designers, Saturday 11-8 and Sunday 11-3 (still plenty of time to get to your Ravens' Super Bowl party).
There are nine designers scheduled to participate, as well as refreshments and wine.
It is always a hoot.
Plus, this will be the one year anniversary of the ReWearables line. Who could have imagined at this time last year that i'd be a full-time jewelry designer and small business owner now?
Twenty percent of all the jewelry sales will be donated to Soroptomist International of Arbutus to support both local scholarships for women and national and international battles against domestic violence and human trafficking.
Join us, won't you?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

are you ready?

Are you ready for the game on Sunday?
I mean reeeeaaallllly ready.
I mean you own one of a kind purple and black earrings to show your team spirit ready.
I'm here for you if you aren't that ready.

Today i restocked the Ravens tree at the Antique Depot in Ellicott City (booth 110).
Plus, i will have purple and black Quirkees this weekend at the Soroptomist Jewelry Show at Objects Found. Like all Quirkees they are hand made, one of a kind and $7.
If you want a pair but can't get to either place, leave a comment.

Monday, January 28, 2013

salvage operation

Often i am asked in conversation, when describing my two different jewelry lines, where i get all of the raw materials for ReWearables.
Over time i have collected and amassed quite a bit of broken beautiful things in my studio; they were used in mixed media projects and to create things for myself. Since i started NikCo my friends and family have been very supportive, gifting me jewelry that is broken or they simply do not wear any more, but more often than not ReWearables are created from beads and bits that i have actively salvaged.
It is important that when i describe a piece as having vintage this or that, it is true. With beading and jewelry making being a trendy craft right now stores are filled with all sorts of lovely beads, some of which look like beads from the past. I do have modern beads for the Quirkees so i sort and store them separately from the ReWearables beads to avoid any confusion.
This is what the vintage beads look like sorted and stored by color family, ready to be used in something fabulous

But of course that is not how they come into the studio.
Here is the last salvage purchase i made:
That is a pretty standard junk box from a dealer; it cost $10 and needs some serious attention.
The first step is to sort it, culling the junk and trash from the pieces with promise. I try to save as much as possible because you never know when something that looks like crap today might be exactly what you need tomorrow. Old strands are taken apart and corroded hardware is cut off.
In the end i have three distinct piles: trash, not trash but not ReWearables material either and the actual salvaged bits, which move on to the next step.
Some of these things are 70 years old. They have been in somebody's basement or attic or garage or under a rug. Great-great-aunt Millie wore it on the hottest day of the year in 1952 and it still has ancient sweat or makeup caked to it. Plastic has broken down, metal has turned, paint has cracked, strings have dry rotted. Plus all of the pieces have been entwined with trash, dust and general ick. They need a good cleaning.
In small batches everything gets soaked in really hot water with seriously heavy-duty detergent; it took five batches to do this set. I'll change the water and soap as many times as it takes to get each batch to have clear water on it. Each small batch is then rinsed thoroughly in a strainer with hot water and laid out to dry on towels.
At the end you have this:
water from the first rise
This might seem like a lot more work than is necessary,
but trust me,
it is necessary.
Blech... shudder...

Not only is it important to get everything clean, this is the step that will reveal damage.

If a vintage finish can not make it through my cleaning process then i don't want to use it.
We are a lot rougher on our jewelry today -tossing it in our purses, lending it to our friends who dance like maniacs when they drink, "packing" it for travel by wadding it in the bottom of our carry-ons, wearing it in the rain, sleet & snow, covering it in sunscreen- than women were in yester years. I need to know that any piece i create and sell will stand up to today's life. And sometimes if a finish cracks the bead can still be saved if i am able to peel it down naked to the white or clear glass underneath.
After a few hours of drying i rough sort the load into two bowls: miscellany and beads-ish.
I have any where from one to ten of these bowls sitting around the studio, kitchen, dining room, living room at one time. When i watch a movie or have some down time i grab a bowl and fine sort it; beads are divided by size, color and shape while metal is sorted by color, size and original purpose and then they are stored in the correct container so that i can easily find the right thing when i am designing.

In summary,
this mess 
becomes this necklace
Royal Honey, for sale here
with a little time, soap and elven magic.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

roast beef and noodles

On my mother's side of the family the most requested "special meal" was roast beef and noodles.
No one knows if it is an Ohio thing or what, but the recipe came from my great-grandma Craig (mom's dad's mom). My grandma learned it after she married my grandpa, taught it to her daughters who taught it their daughters.
It is labor intensive and the most delicious food on the planet.
Roast beef and noodles is legend in my family: my sister made it the night before she had my first nephew and to this day swears that rolling out the noodles started her labor.
Growing up i watched every time it was made, eventually helping out. But since the meal only happens once or twice a year it took a while for me to finally be ready to try it myself.
The first time i did the whole meal on my own was Father's Day 1998. Yes, there is a scrapbook page about it. Since then i have made it... let's see... carry the 2... zero times.
So imagine my surprise and delight when i was told that we were having roast beef and noodles for Christmas dinner. And that i was cooking it.
You have to start with a nice piece of beef.

I know nothing about roasts.
I feel like we have used bottom rounds or chucks or something in the past, but i could be making that up in my head. Mom and her sister, Aunt CC, discussed the issue for a good, long while and decided that we needed an English roast.
Never even heard of it, but this lovely 9 pounder that the butcher cut for us looks pretty good.
It also looks pretty large.
Traditionally the roast is seared and then cooked in a dutch oven, but this meat was not going to fit into any dutch oven. Mom had foreseen this problem and had a ginormous crockpot in which to cook it.
After freaking out about the crockpot (listen, i only know one way to cook this splendid meal and was already feeling the pressure -self imposed, of course- to get it right so i feel justified in my teeny tiny meltdown about breaking tradition) and coming to peace about it, the next obstacle was how to brown it.
The meat has to be seared in a good amount of shortening to get the right flavor. No pot is big enough to hold, you can't really get a crock pot hot enough to sear, and i was afraid of setting the kitchen -or my skin- on fire with splattering grease if we tried a frying pan.
In the end we went with a frying pan/splatter shield combo that i felt somewhat confident about, though i did make my mommy leave the kitchen when i first introduced the meat to the hot pan just in case. I had to hold the roast in place with forks to brown the four short sides, but it was an unqualified success.

Transferring it across the kitchen to the crockpot was nerve-wracking,
 but i didn't drop it on the floor. Even the super big oval crockpot barely held the roast, but with some maneuvering and shoving i was able to cover it with water and get the lid in place.
Two hours on high, flip the meat and one more hour on low brought to medium rare. I took out the meat, let it rest, sliced it up and put the slices back into the crockpot with some broth on high to speed it to a juicy medium finish.
While the roast was cooking, i turned these three humble ingredients into homemade noodles.
Normally we use three room temperature eggs for a family, but with 10 people coming mom thought it best to use five.
 Basically, you beat the eggs in a bowl with a fork, salt them a little and add flour a little at a time until it is the correct consistency.

that rolling pin belonged to my grandma;
i want it
This is a lot harder than it sounds, so i did a full batch with 3 eggs, another with 2 eggs and then combined them when it was time to roll.

You roll and roll and roll and roll
and roll and roll until you have a thin layer roughly the size and shape of Australia. There is no width measurement that i can give you; again, it is done by feel.
Mixing with just a fork is tiring, but the rolling is the killer. I am not exaggerating when i say that you have to be careful not to sweat on the noodles when you roll.
 Our female ancestors were TOUGH, people; weaker sex, my a**.
Make sure the surface of the the noodles is liberally floured because then it gets cut into strips that are about this big (let's call it anywhere from three-quarters of an inch to one and a quarter inches; this is the final length of your noodles) and the strips get stacked on top of one another in piles of about six.

Personally, i cut the long strips in half (momma doesn't) because now we are at the part that is both hard and tedious: noodle cutting!
With a paring knife slice tiny, little, wee, itty-bitty pieces off of your stacks. This is the final width of the noodles. To get them thin enough i could only have three noodle strips in my pile, but mom was doing piles of four and piles of six (she does have like 50 years of experience on me).

After they are all cut, spread them out on a tea towel to dry.
You can make them the night ahead of time, but i wouldn't do it any sooner than that.
It took about 45 minutes, with both of us cutting at the same time, to finish cutting this five egg batch.
Complete prep time was probably about 2 hours
They may not look like much now, but wowza after they are cooked they are heaven.
All of the broth from the crockpot went into a dutch oven and i added beef broth and water to bring the level up to three-quarters full. At this point, it is much easier if two people are involved. Several handfuls of noodles go into a colander, the majority of the excess flour is shaken off over the sink and then carefully sprinkled into the boiling broth while constantly stirring. There is some debate about at what level of boiling you add the noodles, but i like it to be at a rolling boil.
Cooking the noodles is the next to last thing you do before serving the meal (potato mashing is done while they cook) so my sister had arrived by the time the noodles went in. I looked at her and said, I don't remember; how long do these take to cook? and she replied, Until they are done.
I rolled my eyes and looked to our mother who nodded, shrugged her shoulders and said Thirty minutes give or take; you just cook them till they are done.
And this is why old family recipes never make it into cookbooks.
Traditionally you are supposed to eat them with your meat and over mashed potatoes like gravy.
Yes, a starch on top of a starch; remember this is an old, country recipe from when food had to sustain the level of work people did every day. Personally, i think putting them on mashed potatoes just diminishes their flavor and takes up precious stomach space.
 If i could get away with it, i would eat noodles by themselves out of a bowl.
Or straight out of the pot.
With a ladle.
They are the yummiest food ever.
I love them more than steak.
 More than moni cheese.
More than the color pink.
More than glitter.
It had been at least six years since i had noodles and they were delicious.
In fact, they were so good that mom and i decided on New Year's Eve we had enough meat left to make another, smaller batch.
So, so, so, good.
As we were putting things away and straightening up to go to bed around 2am i joked that she should put the leftover noodles in separate containers because i was gonna eat mine for breakfast and didn't want to take more than my share (which i would because they are like crack to me and i can not resist the noodle). This is what i found in the fridge the next morning.
ahhhhhhh... family...

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

perfect day for a photo shoot

The sky is a brilliant blue with nary a cloud in sight;

the trusty mini table is covered with deep red cloth for Valentine's Day;

a champagne flute to be used as an earring stand is full of glittery beads and fake bubbles to catch the light;

a bevy of heart-alicious Quirkees are ready for their close-ups;

and the photographer is prepared.

Did i mention that it was 18 degrees this morning?
Valentine's Quirkees will be in the Etsy store later this evening.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

question everything

Last night Rea and I were having a serious discussion about our progress on the Week 1 Get Organized Challenge [read: making fun of things we saw in each other's before pictures]. She asked if i really had a gourd in a basketball hoop on my floor (it is actually a gourd in a lazy susan) and i asked if she really thought she needed 8 keyboards not hooked up to anything (she pointed out that it was in fact only 3 keyboards, thank you very much).
Having now moved every piece of furniture in the studio, swept, swiffered and dusted every inch of floor and wall and started the purging process, here are some of the many other questions that have occurred to me over the last two  days:
What is that?
What does that do?
Why do i have that?
Is there an expiration date on these things?
Where is the hammer i just had in my hand?
WHAT is that?
Why are there so many dead bees under my paint cabinet?
When did i get this?
Why did i get this?
I didn't actually pay money for that, did I?
What IS that?
Did that dust bunny just move?
Do i really need that?
Why do i have my medical records from my pediatrician?
And why were they filed with envelopes?
How much could i get for this on Craig's List?
Where is the pedal for my sewing machine?
What is THAT?
What should i do with this USGS map of Fort Yukon, Alaska from 1956?
What is that smell?
How did i end up with ten orange pens when i don't even like orange?
Does this belong to me?
From whom did i borrow that?
Is the floor level anywhere in this room?
and, of course,
Where am i going to hang these antlers?

mmmmmm... organization

Do you know what a girl likes to see when she sits down to make some cards?
Fumbling... searching...
Find the right pen! No more chore -
Rainbow of pigments.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

hows about changing that quote, Nik?

This was not the best week in the Nikiverse.
It was rainy and grey and sleepy.
I felt sick and then i felt punk.
I was offered some opportunities that are exciting, terrifying and overwhelming -
you know, the mixture of emotions that makes one (read: me) crawl back in bed and pull the covers over one's head, but then not be able to sleep with all the planning and scheming running through one's head?
The six months for The Plan are almost over.
 (crap, that was fast)
Great strides have been made on both Part One and Part Two of The Plan. I am pretty happy with what i have accomplished since August, yet i am left with as many questions as before; they are just different questions.
Cruising the YouTube as i am often want to do when taking a break (this time from moving furniture, see previous post) i came upon a version of Shake It Out by the Capital Children's Choir that is amazing and lovely. [btw, if you watch that video see the footnote]
Afterwards i went and listened again to the original version by Florence + The Machine.
There was all my unease and hesitation in the lyrics.
I love it when someone else's words capture my emotions; it is good to know you aren't the only one feeling a certain way.
And i really love her answer to it all - SHAKE IT OUT.
The link above has all of the lyrics to the song, but to be a bit more concise with this week's quote (and possibly this month's, given how i've been slacking about changing it) we're gonna go with:
And it's hard to dance with a devil on your back,
so shake him off...
Gotta go dance, people.

footnote: did that little boy at the beginning of the video just slay you?
and how about that drum line? they were so freaking serious. did you see the two kids trying to do stick flips? hilarious. they need to watch my video of Ron from a few days ago
the guilelessness of the girls who can't stop themselves from swaying and dancing made me smile.

declare your intentions

My studio is a mess.
No, i mean a MESS:

How can i possibly expect to be productive and create everyday in the midst of such insanity?

Right now i have all of my jewelry making things set up on a card table in the living room.

As festival season quickly approaches [JEWELRY SHOW FEB 2-3] and i get closer to (possibly) a full retail space of my own i need to stream-line my studio, make it more useful and clear away the clutter.
To that end, Rea and I are doing an on-line class together called the Get Organized 2013 Challenge. It is 8 weeks long and we are going to stay on top of each other to get this done.
One of the assignments for this week is to tell people about the challenge to create accountability.
 We all know where i turn for accountability - HI!
As i was watching the first webinar on Tuesday i really looked at my studio space for the first time in a long time and realized that all of the furniture is exactly where i had the movers place it in May 2006.  hmmmmmmm... All of those decisions were made before i really knew how i would use the space and a lifetime before it became my real life work.
Tonight i move around all of the storage shelves to make them more accessible and logical for how i work at the table.
Yes, i realize i can't get to the table yet, but we gotta do this one step at a time.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

i didn't need that other stick

Ever wonder what music geeks do when they hang out?
Ron had just acquired a bunch of new lighting features and wanted to test them.
Just plugging them in would have been oh so boring so he positioned about eight of them around the electronic drum kit in his basement and proceeded to "amuse me" (read: amuse himself).
[video is just over 2 minutes of various styles and beats with much stick twirling; the post title comes from the very end of it; the lighting was much cooler live]
Okay... i'll admit it: he amused me, too.
He's a dork, but i love him.
I am not a big fan of electronic drum kits in general.
There are songs that totally benefit from their sound, but live i much, much, much prefer acoustic. Plus, when i met Ron approximately 900 years ago he always had his acoustic kit set up; it was the kit that i used to roadie for him during the Rare Forum/Letterbox days.
Combine those facts and you'll understand why i am generally whiny about the electronic kit being set up instead of the acoustic.
He is constantly trying to convince me that as technology gets better the electronic sound gets better, electronic kits can mimic acoustic kits, but not vice versa, these disturb the neighbors less because you cab plug in headphones and that all of the different sound settings and modules creates incredible diversity within one instrument... blah blah blah...
Forthwith after the previous video he once again started campaigning for me to come to the electronic drum kit side by hitting buttons and trying combinations to showcase its amazing versatility; I swear you'd think he was trying to sell me one.
Here are some video snippets:
37 seconds of an open steel sorta sound
36 seconds of a more jazzy/ standard sound morphing into a roundish Rush sound
34 seconds of some crazy sounds, which was my favorite (i also love in the middle when he just shrugs his shoulders like i don't really know what this is but i guess that i'm gonna go with it)
26 seconds of an interesting delay that he figured out and wanted to try to recreate later so he asked me to record it (it is really fascinating to watch his stick hits and compare them to the sound so that you can see and anticipate the delay period... sorry, have i used the phrase music geek yet in this post?)

We were at it for a goodly portion of the night and i drew several conclusions:
1. all of my friends are characters; i mean, Ron is one of my most normal friends
2. sparkley lights make me happy
3. i want light effect features in my house
4. drums really, really, really are my favorite
5. electronic drums can be cool, but they are better when they are set to play interesting and unusual percussive sounds instead of trying to sound like acoustic drums
6. if you want the sound of acoustic drums, just play acoustic drums
7. private performances are the best
8. especially if they include lights that change with the music
9. i still wish he had the acoustic kit set up
10. he didn't need that other stick

Saturday, January 12, 2013

not above cliches

It snowed quite a bit while i was in Ohio.
Mom's balcony faces the forest and the courtyard where there are bird feeders. We spent quite a while watching the birds forage during the storm. You'd think that they'd lay low until the snow stopped and then come out,  but no, they were flitting and flying about, fighting against the snow and wind to get food.
Here for your viewing pleasure -especially those of you in the south- are seven pictures of cardinals in the snow:


Falling snow, red flash.

Crest held high against the wind.
All for tasty seeds. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

this actually happened

This my friends is a barn in central Ohio; it is 20 degrees.
Inside the barn is both hay and straw.
They look pretty similar, but you'll want to know which is which because also inside said barn is a cow.
Hiya Bess!
It's time for the morning milking, so straw gets spread over any fresh manure in the stall [the manure holds in her body heat during the winter months so it doesn't get mucked out, but to keep Bess clean and comfortable layers of straw go over it] and hay gets thrown in the corner for breakfast.
I told you that you were gonna have to be able to tell them apart (or in my case be able to follow directions when the pro explains which is in which corner).
With the stall raked and strawed and Bess happily munching her "yummy" hay it is time to get the specialist equipment.:
Yep, little tykes chairs. They are just the right height for milking and have better lumbar support than a traditional stool.
Rea sat with me at first (hence the 2 chairs) to help me get the technique right; it's more of a squeeze and roll than a pull.

But soon enough she was on photographer duty:

1. See how her left leg is stepped back? You can't milk if she doesn't do that. When Bess gets restless, bored or wants to move onto the dessert portion of breakfast she'll move that leg forward so watch it carefully or your bucket might get kicked over.
2. I'm a-milking away when Rea points out that she can't see my face at all; it is 20 degrees, people, i need that hood pulled forward.
3. Of course i pause to pull back my hood for the camera. It's important to acknowledge my priorities in this endeavor; it doesn't count if i don't have proof.

Hey City Mouse, how does it feel to have milked your first cow?
It was an interesting experience to say the least. I could pretty reliably get milk with one hand, but failed miserably when i tried to do 2 at once. And forget about those two tiny teats of Bess', there was no chance this novice was getting any milk from those.
 In fact, i milked until i had completely covered the bottom of the pail then i turned it over to Rea so that it wouldn't take an hour for milking.
Normally milking also involves an udder wash down, but it was way too cold for that so we just gave Bess feed and took the pail inside for straining cause...

no one wants to drink that yet.
Rea uses several layers of cheese cloth inside of a kefir strainer to fill the glass jar,
which is then measured and recorded, labeled,

and taken out to the milk fridge  where jars are shuffled so that the new milk gets cold quick and dates can be checked for freshness.
Anything older than a week is given to the cats,
 who have not only been following you through this whole procedure, but almost crawl up your leg to get to the milk as you head for their bowl which is not at all tricky or dangerous on the snow/ice.

Lastly, you bring in any milk you might need for the day's cooking/baking/dairy-ing (is that a word? it is now).
Wait to you see what we did next.