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Friday, August 31, 2007

Register to win a $25 gift certificate here!

As promised, I'm instituting a monthly drawing for a $25 gift certificate, good in either my bead shop or my jewelry shop. To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment on this blog post. If you're posting anonymously, please be sure to give me a name or some way to identify you. On the 15th of the month, I will choose a winner at random and post their name here on the blog. You will need to check back here to find out if you won, so don't forget to return on or after the 15th. Good luck!

August Jewelry for Charity Recap & September Kick-Off

Yay! With your help, I raised $313 for Animal Place during the month of August, bringing my total Jewelry for Charity donations to $1,211 since the project's inception in May. Thanks so much for helping me help others!

As I mentioned earlier, I had a last minute change in my planned beneficiary for September. I had to come up with a new charity pretty quickly, and yesterday's post about the environmental impact of meat consumption made me decide to choose another group dedicated to protecting animals and the environment, and spreading the word about the benefits of a plant-based diet.

So, without further ado, September's Jewelry for Charity recipient is Friends of Animals. To read more about their programs, click here, or visit their blog for the latest news and updates. You can even download a free vegan starter guide!


Isa Chandra Moskowitz is a Goddess

I think I have a new favorite recipe - it's the Cold Udon Noodles with Peanut Sauce and Seitan in Isa's book, Vegan with a Vengeance. If you don't already own this book, it is worth buying it for this one single recipe, I promise. I actually thought to myself while eating dinner last night, 'I really don't want this meal to end.' (embarassing but true) I have been really terrible about taking pictures lately so I apologize for not including one... you will just have to take my word for it that this was one of those once-in-a-lifetime kind of vegan recipes.

I also made this delicious whole wheat bread from the Vivacious Vegan. It is very tasty and has a nice light texture, which can be hard to achieve with 100% whole wheat flour. We had it for french toast (I'm still searching for a vegan french toast recipe that makes me say 'Wow'... haven't found it yet), and on tempeh bacon/hummus/tomato/sprouts sandwiches. Thanks Crystal for the great recipe!

And finally last night I got a little bit of jewelry making done. I'm now offering these gemstone rings (iolite, labradorite, ruby, and prehnite) with gold filled wire in addition to sterling silver, plus I added a gold version of my triple-pearl ring (Swarovski simulated pearls - vegan, of course).
I tried making one of the Eni-style rings I've been so obsessed with in gold as well.

I'm fairly happy with the result; I think the combination of the gold with the beautiful charoite stone is really striking, but the gold wire is harder to work with so I don't know if I'll be doing too many more like this. (Does anyone know if you can buy gold filled wire in a softer temper, and if so, where? This gold stuff is totally new to me.)

Also, here's a picture of a wire-wrapped ocean jasper bangle bracelet I made a looooong time ago but somehow never got around to photographing. I like how the clasp turned out.

And finally, I have to share my excitement... tomorrow is the first day of a jewelry fabrication class I'm taking. I am SO excited! I get to learn how to solder and set stones in bezels and all kinds of fun things that will hopefully open up some new creative avenues for me with my jewelry making. The class runs for three Saturdays in a row, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. - I'm not sure in that amount of time exactly how much we'll be able to cover, but I figure I will at least be able to give it a try and see if it's something I want to pursue (and I have a feeling it will be).

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Stuff & Things

Just a quick post to let you know I'm still alive (just not making much jewelry and therefore without much to post about) and pass on this information, which I found on the No Impact Man blog, explaining the environmental impact of eating meat...

Why eating less meat helps the environment
By Colin Beavan aka No Impact Man

According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization’s November, 2006 report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow–Environmental Issues and Options”:

  • 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock (more than from transportation).
  • 70 percent of previously forested land in the Amazon was cleared to pasture cattle.
  • Two-thirds (64 percent) of anthropogenic ammonia emissions, which contribute significantly to acid rain and acidification of ecosystems, come from cattle.
  • The livestock sector accounts for over 8 percent of global human water use, while 64 percent of the world’s population will live in water-stressed areas by 2025.
  • The world’s largest source of water pollution is believed to be the livestock sector.
  • In the United States, livestock are responsible for a third of the loads of nitrogen and phosphorus into freshwater resources.
  • Livestock account for about 20 percent of the total terrestrial animal biomass, and the 30 percent of the earth’s land surface that they now pre-empt was once habitat for wildlife, in an era of unprecedented threats to biodiversity.
  • These problems will only get worse as meat production is expected to double by 2050.
I don't know about you, but to me these are shocking and disturbing facts (and I was even aware of most of it already!) - I was especially upset by the last point - how disheartening... I hope as a society we can get past this strange meat addiction that is harming not only the planet, but our own health and (obviously) animals.

And on another note, I need some last-minute charity ideas for September; the group I was hoping to donate to has not responded to any of my emails so I'm going to pick something else. Perhaps in light of today's posting topic, I will donate to an environmental charity. Anyone have any favorites?

Monday, August 27, 2007

I am immersed in vegan deliciousness

Life has been all about yummy vegan food for the past couple of days. I have been cooking up a storm with my two new cookbooks and I thought I should post now rather than wait until the end of the week because if I wait there will be way too much vegan food to tell you about.

Yesterday I made corn chowder from Vegan with a Vengeance and the sweet, summery taste of the fresh corn was really good. I had it for dinner with broccoli (by the way, Carlos LOVES broccoli - today he even ate it before his watermelon, which is unpreceded behavior!) and some fresh-baked bread. I'm kind of picky about soup - even though I enjoyed this one, and will happily finish the leftovers, I'm not sure if I'd make it again. Soup has to be really special for me to add it to my repetoire.

Today I made Cannellini Bean Yam Hummus from Vive le Vegan and holy cow, that was some awesome hummus - absolutely incredible - I can't say enough good things about it. YUM. I had it tonight on a sandwich with more homemade bread, tempeh 'bacon' (somewhat following a VWAV recipe but modified to fit the ingredients I had on hand), avocado, sprouts, and tomato. It was one of the best sandwiches I've ever had, thanks to that yummy hummus.

Also today I made the VWAV lemon poppyseed muffins. So far that's the only thing I managed to photograph. They are really good and not overly sweet like the lemon poppyseed muffins I remember eating in my pre-vegan days. (I would imagine, if you like them sweeter, they would probably be good with some extra sugar too, but I like them just fine as is.)

Tomorrow I'm going to make strawberry shortcake on homemade scones with some kind of whipped cream-esque topping made with macadamia nuts! (Also from VWAV.) I will be sure to photograph that - it should be pretty.

I also received my latest order from Vegan Essentials today. I ordered some of my favorite lip balm, as well as some sweet treats... my first tub of Ricemellow (not sure what I'll use it for but I was curious), a container of Sweet & Sara Marshmallows (I tried one today, they are SO good - I'm going to see if I can find some vegan graham crackers and make s'mores in the front yard with Matt one of these nights after Carlos is asleep), and a few Sjaaks vegan peanut butter cups. I tried *one* of those today too (such self-restraint!) (and so many parentheses!) and it was quite good. The peanut filling wasn't as sweet as a traditional peanut butter cup, which was actually nice - it was like a peanut butter cup for grownups. Ha.

Okay, enough food talk. I haven't made much jewelry these past couple of days since Matt has been working and I am on my own with Carlos, plus I've been cooking and doing dishes like a madwoman. But I did manage to make this sweet little rainbow moonstone ring.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Assorted Miscellaneous and Not-Very-Interesting Things

I don't really have anything too exciting to post today, jewelry-wise, but I do have some food-related thoughs (what else is new).

We had a delicious summertime dinner the other night - soba noodles, tempeh, and veggies in peanut sauce, served over lettuce. The soba noodles were cooked and rinsed under cold water; the tempeh was browned and sprinkled with a little soy sauce, and we used whatever veggies we had in the fridge - carrots, broccoli, and awesome green beans from my step-dad's garden. I just threw the chopped veggies in with the noodles as they cooked and it turned out perfect. The recipe for the peanut sauce came from a cookbook so I maybe shouldn't print it, but it should be pretty easy to find a good peanut sauce (also called gado-gado) online.

For those of you (poor souls) that aren't familiar with soba noodles, I highly recommend that you go out and buy some. They are made from something really healthy, buckwheat flour, I think, and I know that doesn't sound all that exciting, but they are really good. When I'm feeling particularly lazy, I eat them with just a bit of soy margarine and salt. Yum.

Next thought... I used to buy vegan cookbooks all the time, but it got so that I had so many, most were never being used. So I gave a bunch away and for the last couple of years, I haven't bought any new ones, but I recently caved and bought Vive le Vegan and Vegan with a Vengeance (I've heard so much good stuff about this one, I can't believe I waited so long to buy it) - they both look awesome and I can't wait to try some exciting new recipes this week. Hopefully everything will turn out amazing and I will have lots of mediocre food photos to share later this week (the food won't be mediocre, just the photographs - I think my jewelry pics turn out way better than my food pics - maybe it's the ugly old Mervyns-clearance-sale plates that I'm too cheap to replace...)

Final thought... I purposely don't post a lot about Carlos here, other than pictures now and then, because to be honest, I'm not usually too interested in hearing about other people's children and their latest achievements, problems, etc. (I feel like a jerk but it's true, unless it's someone I know pretty well), and I really don't want this to be considered a mommy-blog. No offense to the mommy bloggers out there, it's just not my cup of tea. Anyhoo, it occurred to me recently that some of my out-of-town family and friends would probably appreciate at least an occasional scrap of information or anecdote about the little guy so I'm going to throw you all a bone. Plus, he's been so cute and interesting lately (not to mention challenging... oh yeah, he's a toddler!), it's fun to share.

So... on that note, here's what's new with Carlitos.
  • He's starting to count. Sometimes he gets the numbers in order and sometimes not, but it's always cute.

  • He's learning colors. Again, he doesn't always get them right, but more often than not he does. He likes to play with his stubby little toddler crayons; he doesn't really color with them, just plays with them and says the colors.

  • His ball obsession has lessened, and he is now really into cars, especially hot rods like his Papa's, and tractors. Matt took him for a ride on the tractor the other day and ever since he's been saying "tractor ride" practically nonstop. He also likes to sit in our cars (or on the tractor) and 'drive', meaning play with the steering wheel and all the buttons and levers. This means that we often get into our cars and find things adjusted very strangely.

  • He likes to run and jump, and he likes even more to say "running" while he's running, and "jumping" while jumping.

  • He's going to turn two in less than two months! I can't believe it. I need to start figuring out what we're going to do for his birthday - anyone have any ideas? And when he turns two, he's going to start preschool! Very minimal hours - just three hours a day, two days a week. I hope he likes it.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Dead Cow in my Mailbox and Burning Armpits

First, I thought you should know that the Tom's of Maine brand lavender deodorant has scalded my armpits. Really and truly. They are red and splotchy and hurt like hell. Now for the saddest part - after this happened today, I remembered that I have bought this product before and had the exact same result! D'oh.

Secondly, since you were all so kind as to join in on my shoe buying adventure a while ago, I thought you might like an update...

The Converse shoes I ordered for Carlos are adorable - I haven't tried them on him yet because he's asleep but they look like they might be a little too big, which is fine because he will grow into them.

The Simple shoes, which were listed on as vegetarian, are made of SUEDE. Real suede, not synthetic. There is a little animal hide icon on the label and everything. I am totally disgusted and obviously did not even try them on - they are going straight back. Blech. (So yes, girl least likely to, you were correct when you commented in my original post!)

I love the Merrells but they are a tiny bit too small so I'm exchanging them for a half size bigger. I hope those fit - they only come in regular width as far as I can tell and I think my feet might actually be a little wide, who knew?

Now these little beauties, which I have been calling the sexy grandma shoes in my head because they remind me of something my grandma would have worn, are hot. Unfortunately, they too were a little too small, so I've reordered them as well. Now I just have to figure out what to wear with them!

And with that, I officially resolve to not spend money on shoes for a very, very long time.
Is it just me, or does Carlos seem less than enthused about the life path I've chosen for him???

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Lots of Little Tidbits

Whew! I just spent a couple of hours getting caught up on listing things in both my bead shop and my jewelry shop on Etsy... it feels good to get some serious work done, and my shops are now showing a more full array of my actual inventory. So go take a look!

I also came up with a fun idea today - I'm going to start a monthly giveaway of a $25 gift certificate, good in either of my shops, which you will register to win right here on my blog. Finally - a reward for putting up with all my blabbering! I haven't quite figured out all the details but most likely I will post near the beginning of the month and you'll just leave a comment or something to enter... check back near the beginning of September to possibly win a prize, and I promise I'll have it all set up by then.

Here is a new wire wrapped ring I made the other day... when I received these turquoise cabochons I was a little disappointed because I was expecting them to have more of the dark matrix I tend to like best in turquoise, but then I started thinking about how nice this smooth, light finish would look in contrast to the oxidized wires of this ring design, and as it turns out I think it turned out pretty darn nice!

I also made this pair of spinel hoop earrings just for ME. I don't do that too often but I needed to do some practice work on this design and, well, you know how much I love these beads, so I figured I should have something made out of them to keep for myself.

The spinel rondelles are clustered almost the whole way around the hoop, just leaving enough room for your earlobe, so the look when worn is an endless loop of chaotic gemstones, tiny sterling beads, and sterling silver wire.

The first time I played around with a design similar to these was with these junior bridesmaids' earrings, and I liked the effect. Ever since then I have been imagining an even gemmier interpretation, which is what led me to these. I used pre-made sterling silver hoops but I am not totally happy with that aspect - they don't seem to keep their shape as well as I'd like, and with all those clustered gemstones, it's a little hard to fasten the hoops closed. I think I will play around with making my own heavier gauge, hammered hoops to use as a base next time.

And finally, I have a couple of new types of beads in stock. Both are new to me - hemimorphite and Brazil chrysocolla - have you ever heard of them before?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Chocolate and Jewelry, What Could be Better?

I am happy to report that after many years of veganism, I have finally found a brownie recipe that is as good as the non-vegan version.* Matt and I are in heaven. Here's the recipe.

(* I feel like that sentence implied that non-vegan versions of most things taste better than vegan versions, which is not the case, but over the years, a few things have been difficult to recapture in vegan form - cheese is one and brownies are another...)

Also, last night I managed to carve out a couple of hours to make jewelry while Matt and I watched a movie, and here's what I came up with.

I have had these spinel beads for a week or so and have been dying to work with them. I made some earrings and a ring. Spinel has always been out of my price range in the past but I lucked out and found a deal recently. Isn't it gorgeous?

I've also been wanting to work with these delicate little citrine cushion briolettes. I don't normally use gold, simply because I don't really feel able to invest in all the supplies it would take to have a fully stocked gold supply section (jump rings, clasps, earwires, all the different gauges of wire, an assortment of chain, etc. etc. etc.), but I recently bought just a small amount of chain, wire, and a few clasps for a custom bridal order and I had some left over. I thought the gold would look pretty with the citrine, what do you think? It's simple, but very delicate and feminine.

And finally, here's a very basic but fun ring, similar to the gemstone rings I've been making, but with Swarovski pearls instead.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

I know, I have a problem.

I bought more beads yesterday. I was able to get another strand of ametrine marquis briolettes and two strands of iolite pear briolettes, both of which sold out within 24 hours the last time I listed them. I also got these yummy Peruvian blue opal nuggets and delicate little garnet briolettes, plus some awesome smooth sunstone rondelles, which I will not even post pictures of since I only bought one strand and they are all mine!

As much as I love playing with beads, I've been feeling a little frustrated lately by my lack of time for actually creating things. Filling orders (both for jewelry and beads), plus keeping track of Carlos, has been taking up all my time and I really miss just being able to sit for hours at a time and make some incredible, intricate, crazy piece of art. I hope that doesn't sound whiny - I'm grateful to be making sales - I just miss making stuff... {sigh}

Thursday, August 16, 2007

New Beads (Again) !!!

More beads!!!
Andalusite briolettes

Citrine briolettes

Hessonite garnet rondelles

Labradorite 'rice' briolettes

Prehnite briolettes

Now I need to spend some time listing them all in my shop! I haven't even listed everything from my last shopping excursion...

Some Custom Pieces

Here are a few custom rings I've completed in the last few days.

Vasonite & Sterling Silver

Labradorite & Sterling Silver

Peruvian Opal & Sterling Silver

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

More Gemstone Rings

As promised, I'm back on topic today. Here is the new ring design I debuted yesterday, in three new gemstone options - iolite, prehnite, and labradorite. Yum!

I really like how these have turned out. They are simple and modern, with nice splashes of color. I've already decided to keep a labradorite one for myself.

I've also been working on some custom orders, which I will photograph and post tomorrow in case you are interested!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Gadgety Goodness

I must be in a serious shopping mood today. Usually gadgets and gizmos don't excite me too much; I try to keep things simple and only buy what I need, but this particular product does seem very useful to me, and since I know you all love cupcakes too, I'm thinking you might also be interested.
It's a cupcake courier - it carries up to 36 cupcakes to parties, picnics, or wherever. I know whenever I make cupcakes I am always at a loss as to how to transport them. None of my serving platters or plastic containers works well and they always end up getting smooshed or having their frosting smeared.

I might just have to splurge and buy one, if I can make cupboard space for it. Okay, time to get back to jewelry making, really!!!

Today's Diversion

Oh, this is so far off from what I usually post about, it's not even funny... but I need shopping help! Thanks to the Vegan Fashion Blog, I have discovered, and since I recently bought a nice new pair of running shoes, which I have vowed to only wear for running, I really want some casual shoes for Fall that will go with jeans. The problem is, I've found too many options! Please help me decide...

(By the way, this website has a cool feature where you can tell it to show only vegetarian shoes, although I could only find that option in the Womens section, not the Kids, and I did find something listed as vegetarian with suede in the description... still, a nice feature!)

Above - Merrell Women's Primo Hemp, $69.99 (hemp - yay!)

Above - Simple Women's Sugar Jute, $49.99 (best price and I love the color)

Above - Earth Logan, $84.99... pretty pricey but I do love them.

Of course, while I was supposedly looking for casual shoes for me, I also found these fabulous metallic dressy shoes that remind me so much of my Nana (grandma), who was quite fashion conscious and a very spiffy dresser. I want them too!

Above - LifeStride Women's Jan #2, $42.99 - but then I'd have to buy an outfit to wear them with. :-)

And Carlos needs some new shoes too - I want to go with velcro for ease of use, but these Chuck Taylors are irresistable! He has a pair of high-tops like these that are pretty hard to get on and off, but I think these low-tops would probably be quite a bit easier.

Converse Kids' All Star Ox Toddler, $21.99

Ruby Ring & More Bali Beads

I got a lot of positive feedback on this iolite ring when I first posted about it, and while I was happy with the look of it, I was worried that the wire wasn't securely wrapped enough.

After some playing around, I came up with this alternate design, which I like even more, and which is a lot more secure.

This version is rubies with sterling silver, and I'm planning to make labradorite, iolite, and prehnite versions as well... and I might even try it with spinel. I'll post more pictures after they are done. For now, the ruby version is for sale in my jewelry shop, with more to come in a few days after I get caught up on a slew of custom orders...

It's funny how some things grow on you over time and some don't - when I made the first version of this ring (in prehnite, one of my favorite stones), it just wasn't wowing me, and I wasn't ready to offer it for sale, so I gave it to my mom. Well, she wore it all weekend while we were out of town together and somehow, seeing it on someone's finger day in and day out made me really like it more - isn't that odd?

I also got a few new styles of Bali beads in, which I'll be listing in my bead shop soon - here's a sneak peek: