13 December 2009

Home, Sweet, New Home!

The past month and a half has blown by like the wind! Big changes are in the air, and have recently swept through my life, for the better. At the end of October, my husband and I started talking about the possibility of going back to college. The economic recession has hit hard in Idaho, and after over a year of my having no job, and my husband's hours at work becoming tenuous, we decided that if we are going to be cash-strapped, we may as well be cash-strapped students. With that decision, we were caught up in a whirlwind of change, and in just a little over a month, we had received financial aid, enrolled and signed up for classes at Idaho State University, found a new place to live, and moved to Pocatello. Not only was it quick, but it is probably one of the smoothest life transitions I have ever had! We have been in our new home for 13 days, and I fell as if I've lived here for years!

Carlos and I came to Pocatello for a week in November, to sign up for our classes, and look for a place to move to. We stayed at a friend's place while in town, and looked at a number of houses. All of the houses we looked at were about the same price range (half what we paid for rent in Hailey), but were, shall we say, DUMPS! One house reeked so badly of cigarette smoke that we walked in, and immediately turned around and walked out again. Another house had the potential of being good (the location was great! the back yard went right up into the hills.), until we looked inside. Dismal, cheap 70's paneling covered all the walls (including the fronts of the kitchen cupboards), and all the lights were industrial fluorescent bulbs with warped plastic covers hanging half open. We came back to our friend's place after looking at these, and decided to check to see if there was anything on Craigslist. Bingo! A cute, little 2-bedroom house close to campus had just been listed. When we stepped inside with the landlady, We both knew our search was over.

From the outside, the house looks ordinary, but inside, it is a gem! The living room and bedrooms are carpeted in a neutral, low-pile carpet. The kitchen floor is tiled in ceramic tiles, and the dining room has beautiful wood floors. When she and her husband bought the house, they replaced the windows, and the landlady stripped the trim around them down to bare wood and stained it. She then proceeded to strip all the trim throughout the house, so all the eggshell walls are trimmed in dark wood. The bathroom is located between the two bedrooms, with doors opening to each room. Though the house is quite a bit smaller than our last house (which was really too big for just the two of us), it sits on a full basement, so there is plenty of storage.

Several of our friends gave us help with our move: our friends Erik and Alison loaned us their pickup truck with a 4-bike rack on the back, which we used to take most of our bikes, and a few other big things to Pocatello in November. Krista came over several days to help me pack, and on moving day to clean. What would we have done without her? Tammy brought boxes and helped with cleaning projects while we packed. Sue and Paul were the biggest help, gathering and bringing boxes to our house, and Paul's helping us load the truck and clean all day on moving day, then driving all the way to Pocatello with us, sleeping on the floor, and helping us unload the next day and return the truck! We are so blessed with all of our friends!

Unpacking began right away, as we realized that we couldn't find the charger for the phone, and the battery was almost dead. Within a few days, it looked like we had lived here for years! Yes, there are still boxes to unpack (mostly books), but we are essentially here. My work table is set up in the spare room, and I have even finished a project, and started a new one! We still have a few weeks before classes start, so we can relax and enjoy the holidays. This week, I will be retaking the pictures for my seahorse tutorial, with the hope of finishing it before the new year. Change is good!

Wishing you all uplifting changes in the coming year!
Thanks for stopping by! :D

08 November 2009

Variations on a Roman Theme

After almost a year, I finally finished the second of a pair of earrings which were inspired by a gorgeous, 2000 year old, gold, pearl and emerald, Roman earring that was found in Jerusalem last year. Here is a picture of the earring:

My version was made with sterling and fine silver wire, and, though I didn't have small emeralds, I did have two larger, polished round emeralds that I used as the focal on the tops of the earrings. I wreathed the emeralds with faceted ruby beads, and where the original Roman earring had the emeralds, I used rubies there, too. Suspended from the bottoms of my earrings are four Akoya pearls, to complete the look. I made the first earring the day after reading about the Roman find, then set it aside for almost a year. But now that I am getting ready to move, I have been trying to finish up those incomplete projects on my work table, and the pair is done.

After I finished these earrings, I decided to play around with the design, and started another pair yesterday. I received a bunch of beautiful pearls and beads as part of a bead swap on JewelryGeeks.com, and decided to use the lovely fresh water pearls I was sent. I paired the coin and biwa pearls with some rosy red carnelian beads, to give the earrings more of an old world flair (the Romans didn't have Swarovski crystals), and to tie the rich colors together, I wrapped them with copper wire.

I also decided to try a technique I'd seen some other wire artisans use on the frame, and wrapped looped wire around the frame for decorative purposes. The top loop also made a handy place to attach the ear wire. I used sterling leverbacks for the ear wires, because I knew that copper ones would turn my ears green, so I wrapped the fronts of the sterling wires with copper wire, to tie in with the colors of the rest of the earrings.

I am now quite taken with this design, and the myriad possibilities for variations on it, and will have more earrings of this style in the future.
Thanks for letting me share my design process with you!

06 November 2009

A fly in the works...

As you may know, I have been working on a tutorial for my seahorse pendants for some time. I finished taking the last of the pictures over the last couple of days,and was excited to be so close to being done, but when I sat at the computer to edit them and insert them into the tutorial, I discovered that my husband accidentally deleted a section of them from the middle of the batch when he was updating our computer, so now I have to start over again making another seahorse and retaking all the pictures. He felt so bad! I told him not to worry about it, and I plan on pushing today to try to retake them all in one fell swoop. Good thing I did all those chores yesterday, so my day today is free. On the bright side, the first seahorse I made turned out beautifully, so it isn't a total loss.

In the evenings, when my husband and I hang out together, I often sit and do wire work while he works on his laptop in the chair next to mine. The other night, I was looking at a big (10+ carat), orange tourmaline briolette in my collection, and thinking I wanted to make something with it. Another wire artist friend of mine makes these cute little wire bugs, which I've always wanted to try, and I thought that the briolette would make the perfect insect abdomen!

I opened my sketch book and started drawing up the image I had in my head. I imagined lacy wire wings, so that the color of the briolette would peek through, and planned the paths the wires would take to become the legs and wings. I didn't start it that night, as it was getting late, but the next evening, I began cutting and wrapping the frame together. I made the first wing that night, and couldn't wait until the next morning to finish it! It turned out even better than I planned! And, I have several large marquise-shaped briolettes of smokey quartz that would also work nicely with this design, so I plan on making another one soon, and taking pictures to make a tutorial for this design, too.

Now, I'm off to gather the things I will need to retake my seahorse pictures.
See you again soon! :D

03 November 2009


The end of October found me itching to play with my wire again, and after a jewelry friend mentioned sneaking in making a ring between her other projects, I decided a ring was in order, too. I had a vague idea in my head when I started it, and wrapped the band and part of the setting base, but then I had to look through all my stones and beads to decide what to feature in the ring. Nothing seemed to look right until I spotted a small octahedron fluorite crystal, like two pyramids with their bases stuck together, sitting on one of my shelves in my work room.

The crystal is a very pale shade of blue, with golden flecks of iron pyrite crystals near the point of one of the pyramids, and when I held it to the base of the ring, I knew it would be perfect! For some reason, the color and shape of the stone reminded me of Atlantis, and I curved and curled the wires of the setting into coiled waves rising up around the stone, like the temples of Atlantis sinking into the ocean. The coils of the setting lace around the stone like filigree, and the shape of the crystal peeks through the swirls.

Since I finished the ring, it has become a new favorite, and I have hardly taken it of since it was done. It sits majestically on my index finger, and looks like a ring a high priestess would wear. The night after it was done, I wore it to bed, and was awakened in the wee hours of the morning by the full moon shining through my window onto my pillow like a spotlight. I raised the ring to the light, and marveled at it in the moonlight. Magical!

30 October 2009

So much for National Blog Posting Month!

Here it is, the end of the month, and I am finally posting in my blog - so much for National Blog Posting Month! I spent most of October madly canning up the pears from my trees before they went bad. I canned 24 pints of pear slices, 5-1/2 quarts of pear pie filling, 8 pints of pear sauce, and three jars of pear butter. The pear butter took a couple of days to make, and a half a stock pot full of peeled and sliced pears cooked down to three small jars, plus enough for a slice of toast. It tastes divine! Well worth the effort!

I was in a slump with my jewelry making, so I whiled away my free time crocheting. I found a really cute sweater pattern online some time ago, and decided, finally, to make it for myself. I used Lamb's Pride yarn in a sunflower yellow. I had to alter the pattern a bit, as the sleves were too small when I followed the pattern.

I used some of the leftover yellow yarn to make the tapestry crochet skull in a Dia de los Muertos bag, inspired by a variegated yarn that looked like serape material when crocheted. I added crocheted roses below the skulls on the bag, scallops of bright sapphire-colored yarn along the bottom, and a fringe of turquoise stones and bone skull beads along the top of the bag.

After finishing up my crochet projects, I finally felt like playing with my wire again, and decided to make a ring last night. I had a vague idea of how I would make the ring, but didn't decide on a stone to use until it was almost half way done. I had a small fluorite crystal I had been carrying with me for years, and realized it would be perfect in this ring. The crystal has inclusions of pyrite - small golden flecks that sparkle in the light. The stone is the palest blue, and I wrapped the coils of silver wire up around the stone, over the pyramid shape of the crystal's top like the waves drawing over the lost land of Atlantis.

Now, I am back in the swing of things with my jewelry, and am off to make something else.
Thanks for stopping in!

25 September 2009

Pears Today, Pears Tomorrow (or Pippi's Adventures in Canning)

I love this time of year! The fruit trees are all heavy with their bounty, and I can't help but take advantage! I was out in my garden yesterday, and my neighbor called over the fence to me, "Pippi, the plums are ready! Come get some!" So I gathered up my picking bucket, and chatted with Marie as we picked the small, deep purple plums that covered the branches. They looked so pretty, I soon ran to get my camera, too!

I picked 3 gallons before heading back to my kitchen to clean and wash them, and cook them into jam. The plums are a small Italian variety - tart, and about the size of a large olive, and I knew that pitting them all by hand would be a huge chore, so I decided to try something different.

I cooked a smaller pan full of the plums, with a little bit of water in the bottom of the pan, and when the fruit had softened enough to fall off the pits, I poured it through a strainer, and mashed it with a wooden spoon, to get as much of the pulp from the pits as possible. Then, I poured the fruit puree back into my stock pot, and made the jam as usual. Way easier! I took these pictures while the second batch of jam was still in the heat bath.

I made 18 jars of the plum jam last night, and decided that I would can pears today. Last year, we had a good crop of pears on the two trees in the front yard, and I dried most of them, so this year, I decided to make canned pears, instead of drying them. I picked about 40 pears this afternoon from one tree, brought them in, washed them, and started peeling and cutting them into eighths.

I made a light syrup with organic cane sugar, and a small amount of orange juice (to help keep them from darkening), and then, as I filled each jar with as many pear pieces as I could stuff in, I poured the syrup over them, closed them, and then heat treated them to seal and preserve them. I filled the twelve wide-mouth pint jars I bought this morning, so as the second batch was in the heat bath, I scooted down to the store to buy another dozen for tomorrow's canning. I'm sure I will be buying even more jars before I am done! It will be so nice this winter to have pears whenever we want them.

I think I am going to play around with canning pear pie filling, too. Pear pie is one of my favorites (that and cherry), and we usually only have it in the fall, but it would be so nice to make a crust, pour a jar of pear pie filling into it and bake it in the cold winter months, too. I'll let you know how it goes!

Happy Fall, everyone!

14 September 2009

5 lessons about the way we treat people

Several people have sent me this in an email in the past, and as I saw it again today, I thought I'd share it with all of you, too.

P.S. Thanks, Dave! :D

5 lessons about the way we treat people

1 - First Important Lesson - Cleaning Lady.

During my second month of college, our professor gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student, and had breezed through the questions until I read the last one:

"What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?"

Surely this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times. She was tall, dark-haired and in her 50's, but how would I know her name?

I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade.

"Absolutely, " said the professor. "In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say "hello."

I've never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.

2. - Second Important Lesson - Pickup in the Rain

One night, at 11:30 p.m., an older African American woman was standing on the side of an Alabama highway trying to endure a lashing rain storm. Her car had broken down and she desperately needed a ride. Soaking wet, she decided to flag down the next car.

A young white man stopped to help her, generally unheard of in those conflict-filled 1960's. The man took her to safety, helped her get assistance and put her into a taxicab.

She seemed to be in a big hurry, but wrote down his address and thanked him. Seven days went by and a knock came on the man's door. To his surprise, a giant console color TV was delivered to his home.. A special note was attached.

It read:

"Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway the other night. The rain drenched not only my clothes, but also my spirits. Then you came along.
Because of you, I was able to make it to my dying husband's' bedside just before he passed away... God bless you for helping me and unselfishly serving others."

Mrs. Nat King Cole.

3 - Third Important Lesson - Always remember those who serve..

In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less, a 10-year-old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him..

"How much is an ice cream sundae?" he asked.

"Fifty cents," replied the waitress.

The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied the coins in it.

"Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream?" he inquired.

By now more people were waiting for a table and the waitress was growing impatient.

"Thirty-five cents," she brusquely replied.

The little boy again counted his coins.

"I'll have the plain ice cream," he said.

The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table and walked away. The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and left..

When the waitress came back, she began to cry as she wiped down the table. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies..

You see, he couldn't have the sundae, because he had to have enough left to leave her a tip.

4 - Fourth Important Lesson. - The obstacle in Our Path.

In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a roadway.. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the King's' wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the King for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way.

Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the King indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many of us never understand!

Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition.

5 - Fifth Important Lesson - Giving When it Counts.....

Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at a hospital, I got to know a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare & serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year old brother, who had
miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness. The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister.

I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, "Yes I'll do it if it will save her."

As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the color returning to her cheek Then his face grew pale and his smile faded.

He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, "Will I start to die right away".

Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood in order to save her.

Have a great day!

04 September 2009

More Egyptian Coils and a New Steampunk Necklace...

As you know, I have been playing with the Egyptian coil technique for the past week. The whole time I was making coiled bracelets, the steampunk winged scarab I made as a demo for a step out article I recently wrote has been sitting beside me waiting to be made into something wearable. I wanted to incorporate the Egyptian coils into the chain for the pendant, but didn't want to overwhelm it with so many coils, and I only had a few feet of the 20 gauge copper wire I used for the frame of the pendant left - not enough to make the whole chain using the Egyptian coil technique, anyway. Another challenge I faced with this piece was how to attach the chain to the pendant.

As I looked at the wire wrapped scarab, waiting for the ideas in my head to come together, I decided to echo the spirals at the ends of the wings in the chain by making two sections of Egyptian coils, but with more open coils like the wings, and wrapping them with matching seed beads and watch parts, to tie the designs together. I had just enough of the 20 gauge wire to make six links - three for each side, and a shorter piece left over that I used to make the bail for the pendant. I also had some 5mm round Swarovski crystal beads left over from a bracelet I made for my daughter for Christmas last year that matched the seed beads, and I used these to make the chain, to give the necklace a bit more sparkle.

Each of the Egyptian coil links was wrapped with 4 feet of hair-thin wire, seed beads, and selected watch parts, and linked through the next. I didn't wrap a stone into the center of the coils like I did on the bracelets I'd made, as I wanted them to have free movement as part of the chain. The weight of the pendant helps keep the Egyptian links lined up when worn.

The bail was a bit trickier, and I doodled in my notebook for a while until I came up with the shape I wanted for it, and an idea of how I would attach it. I echoed the wrapped seedbeads from the wings around the top center of the bail, and wrapped one of the Swarovski beads into the loop, then curled the sides around and over the top of the wings to make loops to attach the chain. This also gave the scarab what looked like a head with curled antennae.

The bulk of the chain is made up of the wire wrapped Swarovski crystal beads. I added a couple of double coiled copper links to the chain, to give it some variation, and used a large, open gear at the top of one of the Egyptian coil sections to attach it to the rest of the chain. And, to finish the design, I made a coiled hook clasp, which I hammered flat, to bring it all together, so to speak.

This piece turned out better than I'd hoped, and gave me some ideas for the next piece I am working on for the Etsy Wire Artisans Guild's September Theme Challenge - Pirates. I will be continuing my experimentations with the Egyptian Coil technique in this challenge piece, using ideas from the necklace I just completed.

Stay tuned!:D

03 September 2009

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Years ago, when I worked on my friends' organic farm, harvesting would begin early in the morning, and we would take a break around noon for lunch. When the zucchinis were producing like mad, Katherine would make up a big pan of chocolate zucchini cake from her mother's recipe, and we would hurry through our lunch, so we could pig out on her cake for dessert. It is a great way to use up a bunch of zucchini! I wrote down her recipe, but lost it somewhere in one of my moves, but often thought about how yummy it was.

So, when my neighbors told me to help myself to the stuff in their garden while they were away, and I found two huge zucchinis, my first thought was chocolate zucchini cake! I looked through all of my cook books for the recipe I'd copied, but to no avail, so I decided to just wing it. Mine turned out so well, I decided to share the recipe with you all. This one is really rich and chocolatey! (and a great way to disguise zucchini for your kids!) :D

Pippi's Chocolate Zucchini Cake


2 cups (organic) flour (I use 1 cup white, and 1 cup whole wheat)
1-1/2 cup organic cane sugar
3/4 - 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Dagoba Organic Cacao Powder)
2-1/2 tsp baking powder (I use Rumford's non-aluminum baking powder)
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
4 eggs
1-1/2 cups (organic) olive oil
3 cups grated zucchini
5 oz. dark chocolate, chopped (I use Scharffen Berger 72% cacao chocolate - Chocolate chips work well, too.)
3/4 cup chopped nuts (or substitute 1 cup of rolled oats if you don't like nuts)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a spring-form pan (a 9" x 13" pan will work, too).

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cocoa powder until well blended.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the oil and eggs, and add to the dry ingredients. Mix well. Fold in the zucchini, chopped chocolate and nuts/oats until they are evenly distributed throughout the batter. Pour into the cake pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 50-60 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cake completely in the pan, before turning it out onto a plate. You can eat it as is, or frost with your favorite chocolate frosting. Enjoy!

01 September 2009

Egyptian Coil Variations

I have been meaning to try my hand at making an Egyptian Coil bracelet for some time now, and finally did it. And, of course, I couldn't stop at just one!

I followed a free tutorial on the blog of a fellow jewelry artist, Marie Christine, but added some small beads wrapped into the center of each coil, which I had seen on an Egyptian coil bracelet made by Delia Stone (though she tells me that she borrowed the idea from another artist, too).

My first attempt was done in 20 gauge copper wire, with tundra sapphires wrapped into the coils. I wanted the clasp to echo the spiral design, and fashioned my clasp with a large faceted nugget of moonstone. I had already made the chain, and wired the small stones into it, when I decided this, so I had to make the clasp while attached to the rest of the bracelet. A bit awkward, but it worked out. I was very pleased with how well it turned out, and immediately decided that I should make one in silver, too.

For this variation, I used 21 gauge sterling wire for the coiled links, and hammered them before linking them together. I raided my bead stash for stones to wrap into the chain, and ended up using the last of my little faceted amethyst beads. I didn't have enough of the small ones for the clasp, so I used some slightly bigger rondels around the faceted amethyst nugget in the clasp. It ended up looking quite stunning! I forgot to make the clasp first (again) and so had to build this one while attached to the bracelet, too.

I loved how the copper one looked so much, I decided to make another one, and finally made the clasp first! I used a gorgeous handmade lampwork bead by a talented Salt Lake City glass artist, Scott Tanner. (I bought my set from him on eBay, but am happy to announce that he now sells his work on Etsy!) I decided to go smaller with the beads set in the coils, and used bicolor green seed beads on this bracelet. They pick up the greens in the lampwork bead very nicely!

So here I am - three bracelets in three days, and I still haven't had enough of this design. I decided that I am going to make an Egyptian Coil chain for the steampunk piece I made up for a step out article for the Winter 2009 issue of Belle Amoire Jewelry magazine. I'm still playing around with ideas in my head before I start, but I'm sure that by this evening, I will be coiling away! I'll let you know how it turns out.

Glad you stopped by!

20 August 2009

foxyfindings.com August Facebook Contest

As I was checking in on Facebook today, I saw the posting for a contest on FoxyFinding's Facebook page.

Here's what you have to do to enter the contest:

1. Head over to www.foxyfindings.com and find that special item that catches your eye.

2. Write a blog post about the item. Why you love it, what piece of jewelry you’d like to use it in, how it inspires you. Let us know what you love!

3. Post the link on our fan page wall at www.facebook.com/foxyfindings

4. Get your friends to “like” your post! The top “liked” post at the end of the contest will win a $50 shopping spree on FoxyFindings.com!

5. Plus, voters have a chance to win! We will randomly choose a voter from the top “liked” post for a chance to win another $50 shopping spree on Foxy Finding!

A $50 shopping spree? and all I have to do is share what I want to make with some of the amazing beads they have to offer? How could I resist? :D

So, I went to www.foxyfindings.com, and found these lovely rhyolite beads. As soon as I saw them, they reminded me of a beautiful picture jasper bead I used in my most recent skull bracelet.

When I made this bracelet, I thought it would be fun to make a similar bracelet, but with the wrapped teardrop stones on both ends, and multi-stone chains between them. Sadly, that was the last of those jasper stones in my stash, but these beautiful, mossy green stones would make a perfect substitute! And with $50, not only I could buy the rhyolite beads, but I could find some fun beads to make up the chains in between, too! In fact, there would be more than enough to make two bracelets!

So here's what I will do, to sweeten the pot even more: If I win, I will have a little contest of my own, and everyone who leaves me a comment here, as well as liking my post on foxyfindings' page will be put into a drawing, and if I win the contest, I will make one of these bracelets just for you!

To 'like' my post and cast your vote, click here. Thanks!

You all have until the end of this month to get your votes in. ;)