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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Plastic bags are evil

Okay, apparently I'm on a 'green' kick today. I may have to add that as one of my official topics for this blog! As if I don't have enough already. I have been reading the No Impact Man blog lately and came across an entry about how horrible plastic bags are. Of course I already knew they were horrible, but this gave me even more information than I had previously.

I've already come a long way in reducing my plastic bag use, but I want to do more. So far, I use my own (cloth) bags when I go shopping about 95% of the time, and the bags that come home with me the other 5% of the time (either paper or plastic) get re-used as garbage can liners in the kitchen. I've all but eliminated my zip-top bag consumption by relying more and more on reusable plastic containers for leftovers and lunches. I have still been using plastic bags for produce at the grocery store (I try to reuse them if they don't get too icky, but still...not good). That's what I'm going to cut out next. I just ordered these to use in the store instead of plastic bags and these to use once I get home to reduce the amount of produce that goes bad before I get around to eating it. Yay!

Now, if only I could find a way to eliminate the plastic bags I use for my jewelry without compromising quality... my beads go out in little plastic bags, and so does much of my finished jewelry. It's important for keeping the sterling silver from tarnishing, and to keep loose beads contained. Any ideas, anybody???

PG&E Launches ClimateSmart - A Green Energy Option for Californians

I was excited to receive this information from Pacific Gas & Electric today!

Dear Tamara,

I am pleased to announce the public launch of ClimateSmart today. ClimateSmart is a first-of-its kind, voluntary program that allows you to make your energy use "climate neutral.” Designed to be a best-in-class program, ClimateSmart will invest 100% of the funds in independently certified greenhouse gas emission reduction projects in California.

We are all responsible for climate change due to the lifestyles we live. Many of our daily activities – including using energy in our homes and offices – generate greenhouse gases. The most cost-effective way to reduce these emissions is to use energy more efficiently. Take advantage of PG&E’s energy efficiency, rebates and programs at While doing what you can to reduce your energy use, ClimateSmart lets you make the rest climate neutral.

We invite you to return to We have recently launched new tools and information on the program including:

· ClimateSmart cost estimator – use this online tool to estimate your ClimateSmart amount based on your use of electricity and natural gas.

· Learn about the competitive bidding process we are using to select independent, high quality ClimateSmart greenhouse gas emission reduction projects.

· Discover your carbon footprint with our online carbon footprint calculator.

Enroll online today!

To learn more or to sign up, please visit:

Yay! I've been waiting for this for a while. They say it will cost the average household under $5 a month to participate - well worth it if it truly delivers on its promise to effectively neutralize your home energy usage. I just tried to go sign up but I need my PG&E account number and I don't keep my bills, so I guess as soon as the next bill comes I'll be signing up!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I finally did some cooking

I have been seriously neglecting the food situation in this house for the last week or so, but tonight I got caught up. Well, somewhat at least. I tried two new recipes and both were amazing. My photos don't do them justice but here they are:

Sweet Potato Stuffed Shells with Coconut Curry Sauce

I found out about this recipe on vegan noodle's blog and it looked so incredible, I went out and bought the ingredients that same day and cooked it the next day. (This is unlike me; usually I print out recipes that look good and they languish in my very poorly organized recipe binder for months before I eventually get around to trying them.) I'm so glad I made it - this is one of the best and most original vegan main dish recipes I've cooked in a while. It's definitely good enough to make for omnivorous company. The recipe came from the Eat Air blog (recipe here). Thank you Chris and Darlene for this awesome recipe!!!

Spiced Apple-Cranberry-Pecan Muffins

These came from the vegilicious blog (recipe here - do check it out, her photos are so much better than mine) and they are SO good. I used a bit less oil and they turned out fine. I love it that they are made with whole wheat pastry flour; I'm always trying to find more ways to use more whole grains. I think I should have pressed the crumb topping onto the muffin batter a little more forcefully though, because they are a little hard to eat with the crumb topping falling everywhere. Still, REALLY REALLY good. I will definitely make these again.

Today Carlos was hanging out in the garage with Matt and I got some really cute pictures. Here's the best one.

The dark spot on his jeans is spilled juice, not pee. Well actually, not spilled juice so much as juice that went in the mouth and then got repeatedly spit out because it was so much fun to watch it run down his body.

And I'm pretty sure I've never posted a picture here of our sweet Rowdy girl, so here you go.

A few simple pieces...

Life has been super hectic lately but I have managed to throw together a few simple things. I'm itching to do something more ornate but just haven't had the time... soon, I hope - I have some amazing new cabs that I can't wait to wrap and incorporate into necklace designs.

And here's a picture of the new cabochons I have waiting to be wrapped - well, technically the larger two aren't new - I've had those for awhile; they came from ahna on Etsy. The smaller ones just arrived late last week from stonesinmotion, another Etsy seller who I happen to have actually met in person. He does awesome work and I can't wait to find time to play with these beauties!

Finally, the Voice of Reason

I wrote a while ago about the irresponsible and idiotic editorial written by Nina Planck in the New York Times, which has had the vegan community in an uproar ever since it was published. I was happy to read this reply from The New York Times' Public Editor, Clark Hoyt, which was printed on Sunday.

The Danger of the One-Sided Debate
Published: June 24, 2007

The op-ed page of The New York Times is perhaps the nation’s most important forum for airing opinions on the most contentious issues of the day — the war in Iraq, abortion, global warming and more.

“We look for opinions that are provocative,” said Andrew Rosenthal, the editor of the editorial page. “Opinions that confirm what you already thought aren’t that interesting.”

But some opinions provoke more than others. Two very different columns by guest contributors, one last week and one last month, caused enormous reader outcries and raised important questions. Are there groups or causes so odious they should be ruled off the page? If The Times publishes a controversial opinion, does it owe readers another point of view immediately? And what is the obligation of editors to make sure that op-ed writers are not playing fast and loose with the facts?

[The first column that Hoyt addresses is not related to veganism or Nina Planck so I'm editing that part out in the interest of space-savings, but if you'd like to read his entire piece, it's here.]

Rosenthal and Shipley said that, over time, they try to publish a variety of voices on the most important issues...This wasn’t the case, however, with a May 21 op-ed by Nina Planck, an author who writes about food and nutrition. Sensationally headlined “Death by Veganism,” Planck’s piece hit much closer to home than Yousef’s. It said in no uncertain terms that vegans — vegetarians who shun even eggs and dairy products — were endangering the health and even the lives of their children. A former vegan herself, Planck said she had concluded “a vegan pregnancy was irresponsible. You cannot create and nourish a robust baby merely on foods from plants.”

Her Exhibit A was a trial in Atlanta in which a vegan couple were convicted of murder, involuntary manslaughter and cruelty in the death of their 6-week-old son, who was fed mainly soy milk and apple juice and weighed only 3.5 pounds. The column set off a torrent of reader e-mail that is still coming in — much of it from vegans who send photos of their healthy children or complain bitterly of being harassed by friends and relatives using Planck’s column as proof that their diet is dangerous.

If there was another side, a legitimate argument that veganism isn’t harmful, Planck didn’t tell you — not her obligation, Rosenthal and Shipley say. But unlike the Middle East, The Times has not presented another view, or anything, on veganism on its op-ed pages for 16 years. There has been scant news coverage in the past five years.

There is another side.

Rachelle Leesen, a clinical nutritionist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told me that Planck’s article “was extremely inflammatory and full of misinformation.” She and her colleague Brenda Waber pointed me to a 2003 paper by the American Dietetic Association, the nation’s largest organization for food and nutrition professionals. After reviewing the current science, the A.D.A., together with the Dietitians of Canada, declared, “Well-planned vegan and other types of vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood and adolescence.”

Planck said she was aware of the A.D.A.’s position but regarded it as “pandering” to a politically active vegan community.

I won’t rehash the scientific dispute in a case in which Planck has her experts and the A.D.A. paper cited more than 250 studies, but I think The Times owes its readers the other side, published on the op-ed page, not just in five letters to the editor that briefly took issue with her.

I even question Planck’s Exhibit A, poor little Crown Shakur, who was so shriveled at his death that doctors could see the bones in his body. His death, she wrote, “may be largely due to ignorance. But it should prompt frank discussion about nutrition.”

Maybe, if by nutrition you mean a discussion about whether you feed a baby anything at all.

The prosecutor argued — and the jury believed — that Crown’s parents intentionally starved him to death. News coverage at the time said that the medical examiner, doctors at the hospital to which Crown’s body was taken and an expert nutritionist testified that the baby was not given enough food to survive, regardless of what the food was.

Charles Boring, the Fulton County prosecutor who handled the case, told me it was “absolutely not” about veganism. Planck and Shipley said they were aware of the prosecutor’s contention. Shipley said, “We were also aware, though, that the convicted couple continues to insist that they were trying to raise their infant on a vegan diet.”

But the jury didn’t believe them, and leaving that out put Planck’s whole column on a shaky foundation.

Op-ed pages are for debate, but if you get only one side, that’s not debate. And that’s not healthy.


Monday, June 25, 2007

What's new with me

Well, it has been a busy few days. Last Thursday I did a jewelry party at my friend Kodi's house, which was a lot of fun. Then my best friend Heidi came to visit from Arizona, and we had a really nice time. We went to Willow Creek for the day on Friday, which was beautiful and relaxing, plus I got to put Carlos in this adorable hat to protect him from the hot sun that we seldom see here on the coast.

It took me a couple of days to catch up after all of that, but I'm almost there now. I'm working on consolidating my website ( and my blog; I just can't keep up with both, so I'm working on integrating all (or at least most) of the features of my website here on the blog (hence the new area up at the top with the navigation buttons). That should make life a little easier for me. Let me know if you have any suggestions for improvement in that area.

We cut Carlos' mohawk off last night. I promised my mom we would do it before the family reunion we're going to in the bay area this weekend. But it might make a reappearance sometime later in the summer.

I'm still working in production mode - filling the last few orders I got at Kodi's party. Hopefully soon I will be able to start work on some more ornate pieces and when I do, I will be posting them here as always.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Yay! New homes for some of my favorite pieces...

I had a great week and sold a few of my higher-end, one-of-a-kind pieces. It makes me so happy to see them go to new homes where they will be worn and enjoyed. I put so much of my heart and soul into pieces like these - it's depressing to have things so beautiful sitting in boxes in my studio!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Mmmmmm... Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies are sinfully delicious. They are reminiscent of a traditional, Toll-House-style chocolate chip cookie, but completely vegan! I came up with this recipe after Matt confessed to missing plain old chocolate chip cookies (I tend to do oatmeal-peanut butter-cranberry-walnut type conglomeration cookies if left to my own devices).

Traditional-Style Chocolate Chip Cookies

2-1/2 cups flour (I use half unbleached white flour and half whole wheat pastry flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons soy margarine, softened
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening (preferably non-hydrogenated)
3/4 cup unrefined sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup applesauce
1 tablespoon soy lecithin (available in health food stores)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup nuts (optional; I usually make them without)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, cream margarine, shortening, and sugar in a large bowl. Add applesauce, soy lecithin, and vanilla and beat until smooth and creamy. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips (and nuts, if using) and drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake for 9-11 minutes or until just barely browned around the edges. (These cookies remain fairly light in color even once they are fully cooked, so be sure to remove them from the oven as soon as the edges are just slightly browned.) Cool on baking sheets for a couple of minutes before cooling completely on wire racks.
I am super busy this week so you may not find me to be my normally loquacious self. I had a lot of running around to do today (jewelry-business related), and tomorrow I have a jewelry party at my friend Kodi's house, and my best bud (all the way back from elementary school), Heidi, is coming to town and staying with us, and we're going to do all kinds of fun stuff (what a concept!) so I will not be glued to the computer as much as usual. Which is a good thing.

Monday, June 18, 2007


Here's a screen shot of my clearance beads - help me move 'em out to make room for the new ones arriving soon! Wee-ha, new beads!!!

Latest Offerings...

I can't seem to stop making these huge oversized cocktail rings. (Have you noticed that I get kind of obsessive about things?) I did something a little different with this one - I wrapped coiled wire the whole way around the ring band, and it gives it a lot more substantial feel on your hand.

Lime Rickey cocktail ring -
Smoky quartz, AA peridot, & sterling silver

It's odd, when I buy beads for my bead shop, sometimes the things I think are going to fly right off the shelves end up sitting around for a long time, and often they are things that I really love myself! Such was the case with these sweet, tiny little peridot beads - I'm selling full strands for only $8, which seems like a great deal to me, but they haven't sold well, and I'm trying to clear out some old inventory to make room for new (coming in the next couple of weeks - yay!), so I decided to make something myself with these lovely peridot beads. Take a look at that clasp - it's a work of art in its own right! (I can't take credit though, I bought it.)

Nine-strand peridot & Bali silver necklace

And finally, here are some simple earrings incorporating a couple of my new Bali beads with some charcoal grey Swarovski simulated pearls and handmade earwires. I really like the way the smooth, glossy pearls contrast with the nubby Bali silver beads.

Swarovski pearl & Bali silver earrings

So, back to the inventory clearout topic - I thought I would give you all some advance notice that I'll be marking a bunch of my beads down sometime in the next couple of days to try to make room for some of the gorgeous new stuff I have on the way. {Would you like a hint? Oh, okay... aqua chalcedony and prehnite will both be back in stock, as well as two varieties of labradorite that I had run out of, plus some cool new stuff - moonstone, green garnet, rhodolite garnet, citrine, iolite, and more!} I'll try to remember to post pics of the sale beads soon.

And on a totally unrelated but equally delicious topic, remember those vegan cinnamon rolls I mentioned earlier? Well, I made them yesterday for the second time and actually remembered to take a picture. I don't know if the pure deliciousness comes through or not in two dimensions, but here it is.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Vegan Blackberry Cobbler (Grammie-Style)

When I was growing up, I was fortunate to have not only my grandparents living close by, but also my great-grandmother (Grammie) and her sister (Auntie). And when I say close by, I mean like a mile away. Every day after school, when we were young, my brother and I would get babysat at Grammie and Auntie's house, where we would indulge in behavior that was not sanctioned by our parents, like eating rainbow-hued cereals and sweetened packaged oatmeal for after-school snacks and watching cartoons in the middle of the afternoon.

Grammie, 1941
(long before her days of babysitting me)

Those are my memories from my younger childhood; as I got older, the things I remember more about Grammie and Auntie were Grammie's amazing cooking skills (and her love of sharing them with her family) and Auntie's incredible talent for gardening (I think she was mowing her own [huge] lawn well into her nineties).

The two best things that Grammie cooked (in my opinion) were lefse (a traditional Norwegan holiday potato-flatbread-type-thing, maybe I'll post about that at Thanksgiving) and blackberry cobbler, which I always requested instead of cake for my birthday. When I was old enough to be interested, she taught me to make both of these delicious concoctions. Here is her blackberry cobbler recipe, veganized of course, but it tastes just the same!
Grammie's Berry Cobbler

3/4 cup unrefined sugar
1-1/2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons soy margarine
3/4 cup soymilk
4-5 cups blackberries (fresh or frozen)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together 3/4 cup sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the soy margarine until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add soymilk and mix until moistened. Spread batter in a greased 9x13 pan. Well, it won't exactly spread but just try to plop it in there evenly, like so:

Combine the blackberries, 3/4 cup sugar, and almond extract (if you're lazy like me, just use the same bowl you used to mix the batter - a little berry-batter cross contamination never hurt anyone) and pour over the top of the batter. Pour 1 cup of boiling water over the top of everything and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the crust is nicely browned and the berries are all bubbly, like this:

The original recipe called for a full teaspoon of almond extract, and I liked it that way just fine, but Matt thought it was too much so I've halved it for his benefit, but I kind of liked it the old way. (Ah, the sacrifices we make for our spouses.)

The original recipe only called for 25-30 minutes baking time, but it always takes a lot longer than that for me. I may have mentioned this before, but I have an old oven so your results may be different from mine.
Now the only problem is, I made this cobbler today but it's for Father's Day dessert tomorrow - how am I going to resist it for the next 24 hours? I might have to hide it from myself. Tomorrow is going to be a very indulgent day, foodwise. My mom and stepdad are coming over for homemade vegan cinnamon rolls in the morning and my dad and stepmom are coming over for vegan lasagna (I'll try to post that recipe tomorrow night) and blackberry cobbler. Yum!

Tonight, Carlos and I had homemade pizza with VeganRella, zucchini, olives, and mushrooms. And now I have a confession to make. I am not a perfect vegan. I struggle with the vegan cheese issue, and for the last several months, I have been eating Veggie Shreds, which contain casein (for you non-vegans, casein is derived from milk protein or some such thing). My rationalization had something to do with taste and something to do with price - the truly vegan cheeses are so much more expensive!

Well, I've decided to buckle down and be a better vegan, which just means I'm on a quest to find a decent vegan cheese. I don't eat it that often, but I do like to make pizza from time to time. The VeganRella we had tonight was just okay. I was fine with the flavor, but the texture was disappointing. In the past, the most common complaint I've heard about vegan cheese is that it doesn't melt; well, I'm thinking the makers of VeganRella were trying to correct that problem and overcompensated a bit, because this stuff was super melty, like annoyingly so. It was almost watery, and when you bit into it it kind of coated your teeth and stuck to everything. Not good. So - does anyone have suggestions for vegan cheese that (1) melts, (2) doesn't taste like feet, and (3) doesn't coat your mouth and lips with a strange clinging goo???

Bali Beads & New Creations

Yesterday I got a shipment of Bali beads from a new supplier and they are awesome! And so fun to photograph... I'll be listing these and more in my bead shop over the next couple of days (minus what I'm keeping for myself of course!)

And here's what I've been making lately:

Tourmaline & Sterling Silver Leaf Necklace

Swarovski pearl, garnet, & sterling silver cocktail ring

A simple but elegant necklace combining those gorgous muscovite beads I bought the other day with charcoal grey Swarovski simulated pearls and sterling silver beads

If you're fiending for some new vegan recipes, fear not - later this weekend I'll be posting an awesome berry cobbler recipe and my own vegan lasagna recipe. Stay tuned...

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Would anybody ever actually wear this?

Okay, I think this is super cool, but too gigantic for me to wear myself... is it just too insanely huge to ever actually be worn, or will someone fall in love with it and wear it? What do you think?

Enormous smoky quartz cocktail ring
with cloudy aquamarine, Swarovski
simulated pearls, and sterling silver:

Sorry about my ugly hands... just wanted to show the scale. :-)

This is getting a little ridiculous

Am I boring you yet with my labradorite kick? Here are two more pieces I finished yesterday - the first is a custom order ring and the second is an ornately wrapped labradorite cabochon pendant with prehnite briolettes and Bali silver... yummy.

labradorite wire ring
fancy labradorite necklace

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

More New Beads!!!

Look what I found today! These will be going up in my Etsy bead shop over the next couple of days. (Well, except the labradorite; I might just have to keep that for myself, tee hee.)