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Monday, March 30, 2009

New Work

fordite necklaceFordite, 14k gold, and sterling silver necklace

fordite ringChunky Fordite and recycled sterling silver ring

recycled fordite ringI had to leave the back open because the back sides of these Fordite cabs are almost as pretty as the fronts!

Saturday, March 28, 2009


There is nothing quite so nice as a new pair of shoes that you love.


Introducing Fordite...

I've finally gotten my hands on some of these amazing Fordite cabs and I can't wait to work with them! If you haven't heard of it before, Fordite is made up of reclaimed paint from automotive factories, formed back in the days when cars were still spray painted by hand. After many, many cars had been painted, the layers of paint would be removed from the machinery in the shop, and some creative person had the idea to turn this incredibly beautiful, colorful material into cabochons. Isn't it gorgeous?

Each of these cabs is currently available for custom orders. Shoot me an e-mail if you see something you need!

New Work

Nevada turquoise, Hill tribe silver flower, sterling silver ball chain

Zultanite and recycled 14k white gold ring, size 8

{ to be listed soon in my Etsy shop }

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

In Progress

In case anyone is interested, I'm making some progress (finally) on a 'real' website (more than just a blog) - care to take a peek? There's a lot of new information there that I'm really excited about, including a page listing all of the fair trade stones I have access to (with pictures!), as well as a list of fair trade birthstone options. It's still a bit rough - the big ring on the front page will hopefully be replaced by a slideshow of maybe a dozen different rings, and I know there are a few broken links and plenty of missing pictures, but you can get the general idea. Let me know what you think!

'Toon Time

Dan Piraro (vegan extraordinaire and Bizarro comic strip author) has come out with a little animated video you might enjoy...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Easy Cheesy Vegan

Back when I began my 'Easy Vegan' series (a whole two and a half weeks ago), my friend Rebecca asked for recommendations for the best vegan cheeses. Well, it didn't take much to talk me into organizing a vegan cheese tasting! Last night, eight of us got together from my local vegan group and sampled a variety of cheeses. Sadly, I forgot to bring the camera, so these stock product photos will have to suffice.

Round One - Mozzarella Smack-Down

~ VS. ~

To determine the best mozzarella-style cheese for melting, I made some cute little pizza bites on slices of baguette with sauce, spices, sauteed onions, and of course, cheese. We pitted Follow Your Heart Mozzarella (my personal standby for at-home pizza and sandwich making) against underdog Cheezly Mozzarella. The results of this particular showdown were rather anticlimactic - all of the tasters agreed that they tasted nearly identical, at least in their melted form.

A few quick notes on melting these non-dairy cheeses - If you didn't already read it, be sure to check out my earlier note explaining how to encourage vegan cheeses to melt in the oven. I also just found this promotional video from Follow Your Heart that shows how to use their cheeses for pizzas, mac and cheese, and quesadillas. The chef mentions that the cheese melts at 450 degrees, and I usually cook my pizzas around 425 degrees, so I'm thinking maybe if I just cooked them at a slightly higher temperature, I wouldn't have to go through the water-spritzing routine I usually use.

Back to the Follow Your Heart vs. Cheezly competition - I had some leftover cheese so I decided to follow up today by sampling them both un-melted. I tasted each alone and on crackers. My personal opinion was that I liked the taste and texture of Follow Your Heart better than Cheezly, but that could have been just because it's what I've become accustomed to.

Moving on...

Which Cheddar is Better?

~ VS. ~
We sampled two varieties of cheddar cheese - Teese Cheddar* and Sheese Medium Cheddar. We ate slices of each with crackers, apples, and alone. The general concensus among group members was that the Teese was more Velveeta-ish, and the Sheese was pretty amazing, with a more mature flavor and a nice firm texture. I would definitely buy the Sheese again - it's the first vegan cheddar cheese I've tried that is good enough to snack on straight from the container.

Again, I had some leftovers, and I offered Carlos some of the Teese today, which he thoroughly enjoyed - I think he ended up eating something like four slices. This was a major breakthrough - in the past, he has shunned all of the vegan cheeses I've offered, and I've had to compromise by buying him the soy slices that contain casein. Now that I know he likes Cheddar Teese though, I'm definitely planning to eliminate those nasty processed, casein-laden slices from his diet - hooray! So the loser of the adult taste test (Teese) had some redeeming value from a three-year-old's perspective at least.

* Yes, if you're very observant, you may have noticed that the Teese photo shows the nacho cheese flavor; it's the only decent image I could find online, but the variety we actually sampled was cheddar.

And last but not least -

Dr. Cow's - No Competition

There really is nothing to compare Dr. Cow's cheeses* to - except perhaps the other flavors in their lineup. As far as I know, nothing else like it exists - Dr. Cow's crafts exquisite raw, vegan cheeses by hand using traditional techniques. I will confess up front that I never was a 'fancy cheese' connoisseur, so I honestly can't compare it to cheeses like brie and the like; however, everyone at our tasting thought that the Dr. Cow's Aged Cashew cheese was totally delicious and amazing. It was a little tangy, and a lot yummy. If you're looking for a fancy-schmancy, spreadable cheese, and you don't mind shelling out some dough, this is an excellent choice.

* Warning - that site makes noise; if you're at work, mute your computer before clicking! :-)

I think that just about wraps things up... if you have a favorite (or least favorite) vegan cheese, please leave a comment!

Friday, March 20, 2009

New Cabs

I discovered a new turquoise supplier out of Nevada, and recently purchased these beautiful new stones. All are currently available for custom order rings or pendants; email me if you're interested!

nevada turquoise cabochon13mm x 20mm

turquoise cabochon15mm x 17.5mm

nevada turquoiuse cab16.5mm x 24.5mm

turquoise cab18mm x 23.5mm

20.5mm x 22.5mm

18mm x 26mm

15.5mm x 18mm

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Easy Vegan - Pizza, Part Two (Amy's Pizza Review)

I guess it kind of goes without saying that frozen pizza is a super-easy meal, and I was thrilled to discover this incredibly delicious vegan version. Granted, they aren't cheap - I think they are around $8 each at the natural foods store (and they aren't huge), but sometimes I've been able to catch them at the local Grocery Outlet for about half that.

Of course, I try to cook homemade, whole-foods meals as often as I possibly can, but there's definitely a time when frozen convenience foods can come in very handy (like now, when illness has been circulating through our entire family).

These pizzas are incredibly tasty all on their own, topped with just roasted, finely-chopped veggies, or if you're in the mood for something richer, try topping them with some vegan cheese.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Scenes from the barnyard...

Spring is in the air... and so is avian testosterone, apparently. About a week ago, Mallow the duck suddenly decided that he could take on Chuck Norris the rooster. This has proved to be problematic, resulting in a bloodied duck who can't seem to figure out that a duck picking a fight with a rooster is like bringing a spoon to a knife fight. So poor Mallow has been in confinement for about a week. Every day we let him out to see if he can behave, but he heads straight for Chuck with a narrow-eyed determination, so we have to put him right back in to keep him safe. Here, you can see him shooting eye-daggers at Chuck as he swaggers by the pen -

Silly duck. Next in line - chicken butts! What is it about chicken butts that holds me so entranced? It's one of life's great mysteries.

And here we have lovely, lovely Tinkerbell soaking up the sunshine on this rare, warm day.

And finally, goofy Blossom...

Hope you are all enjoying your day!

New Work

fair trade citrine ringFair trade citrine (6mm) with recycled sterling silver and 14k gold, size 7.5

recycled rose gold ring8mm hammered rose gold band (recycled) with 2.5mm flush-set moissanite

New Beads

A few new cabs for the bead shop...

melanite garnet cabochonFaceted square cushion cut melanite garnet, 8mm

faceted amethyst cabochonFaceted round pink amethyst, 8mm

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Easy Vegan - Some Great Resources

During an e-mail conversation the other day with the person whose questions inspired this budding 'Easy Vegan' series of posts, this internet pal of mine (a non-vegan) said, "If I had someone in my kitchen for one day, planning a month's worth of food for me - all with simple recipes...I know I could do it. There's a business for someone to start. Helping people become vegans!" Well, coincidentally, look what I just stumbled across today -

Vegan at Heart is a free e-mail coaching program for people who are vegan at heart but not necessarily in practice. It’s for idealists and animal-lovers and treehuggers and health nuts and everybody in-between who wants to incorporate more compassionate, healthy, sustainable habits into their daily lives but who need a little more info, a little moral support, or just a little friendly kick in the pants.

The truth is, there are a gazillion helpful tools and resources on the web that have been designed for the sole purpose of making it easy for people to be vegan; it’s just a matter of plugging in! And that’s why we’re here. We’re not here to preach, and we have very little use for all-or-nothing thinking. Non-vegans have a positive impact on the world every single time they make a healthy vegan choice.

So, there you go! A great resource for all of you aspiring vegans out there!

And, as it so happens, the founder of Vegan at Heart just wrote an incredible blog post over at The GirlyGirl Army listing all of her favorite vegan cheeses for every dish and occasion. I'm still planning a vegan cheese article of my own, but in the meantime, this should tide you over, Rebecca!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Easy Vegan - Pizza!

Becoming vegan (or just trying to incorporate more vegan foods into your diet) doesn't mean giving up pizza! We eat pizza here at our house once every few weeks. Usually I buy pre-made dough and sauce at the grocery store, but for today's 'Easy Vegan' feature, I wanted an even faster and simpler option. Pita bread!

Kids especially love individual pizzas (who am I kidding - adults do too!), and pita pizzas are so quick to make - just spread some tomato paste on each pita, sprinkle on some spices (I used oregano, basil, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes), and add whatever toppings you like. Some of my favorite toppings include mushrooms, olives, sauteed onions, and spinach. Today I had some leftover roasted veggies to use up, and they made a delicious topping.

Instead of dairy cheese, I use Follow Your Heart brand vegan mozzarella. I'm planning a more in-depth post on vegan cheeses in the near future, but in the meantime, here's what you need to know for melting vegan cheese on pizzas - if your cheese doesn't melt from the heat of the oven alone during baking, take it out, spritz it a few times with water from a spray bottle, then put it under the broiler for just a couple of minutes. Be sure to watch it closely so it doesn't burn!

Monday, March 9, 2009


Every so often, I make something that seems to just fall flat. This ring was one such item. Too plain maybe? Who knows... but I have many of these not-quite-right pieces sitting around waiting for a second chance to shine. A little tweak here, a touch of bling there, and viola! ... a whole new piece rises from the ashes -

recycled gold ringFair trade grape garnet (6mm) and recycled 14k gold ring, size 9.5

gold garnet ring

Now if I can only find the time to do the same for the other dozen or so misfits collecting dust on my bench.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Easy Vegan - Getting Started

Okay, so maybe you're finally convinced that reducing your consumption of animal products is a good idea. Awesome! But now what???

Inspired by Skila's comment on my last post, I'm launching a series called 'Easy Vegan'. Skila writes, "Tell me an easy cookbook or website for vegetarian meals that you like. Here's what I mean by easy - small amount of ingredients, basic stuff here, no hour long prep. I HATE to cook... Get me started. P.S. Without the 'fake meat' would be even better."

Your wish is my command. This will be the first in an ongoing series of posts aimed at inspiring and guiding the veg-curious (but possibly culinarily-challenged) along the path to a more plant-based diet. I'm going to focus on practical, easy ideas and recipes to make the transition as smooth as possible.

First, I'd like to point out that reducing your intake of animal products does not have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. Of course, I am a strong proponent of a vegan diet, and I will always encourage that choice; however, I realize that it may not be realistic for every person at this moment in time. But as one of my vegan idols often says, "Don't do nothing because you can't do everything." In other words, if you don't feel able to make a huge change, make small changes instead. Pledge to reduce your meat consumption by half, or eliminate animal products from your diet during two meals a day - whatever works for you. Any movement in that direction is an improvement, and who knows, once you experience the amazing foods, health benefits, and peace of mind that comes with eating vegetarian some of the time, you might just be inspired to take the full-time plunge.

Moving on... let's talk about familiar foods. Swapping out your old omnivorous standards for healthier vegan options doesn't have to feel totally foreign and unfamiliar. Start with what you already know and like; many of the typical foods enjoyed by most American families can easily be made vegan or vegetarian. Consider the following:
  • Pizza - vegetarian toppings for pizzas are plentiful and delicious, from veggies such as onions, bell peppers, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and olives, to tofu- and seitan-based 'meats', if you like that sort of thing!
  • Burritos - in fact, almost all Mexican foods are easily veganized - think tacos, enchiladas, tostadas, fajitas, layered dip, nachos... heat up some beans, chop up a few veggies, throw on some salsa, and you're done! If you have a bit more time, rice is a nice addition, as well as sauteed or roasted veggies for an extra boost of vitamins and minerals.
  • Pastas - spaghetti is a no-brainer here - either a simple marinara sauce over noodles, with some bread and a salad on the side, or with some mix-ins... veggie 'meat' balls (available in the frozen foods section), chopped veggies (zucchini, mushrooms, bell peppers, spinach...). Asian pasta dishes also lend themselves well to the vegan touch - veggie stir-fries, either with or without tofu or seitan, pad thai, etc.
  • Burgers - whether you opt to make your own or buy one of the myriad varieties now available pre-made, your options here are endless. Go traditional with all the fixings, or try one of my family's favorites, a 'Luigi burger' - top your burger patty with caramelized onions, marinara sauce, and vegan mozzarella.
  • Baked Goods - granted, most baked goods are already free of meat, but you can still do better - swapping out eggs and dairy products for more healthful (and certainly more humane) vegan alternatives is as easy as pie (ha ha). Milk is an easy one - simply replace dairy milk with soy, almond, rice, or hemp milk. Eggs can take a little more experimenting, but you have several options - egg replacer, flax seeds, applesauce, and bananas can all be used successfully in place of eggs. I recommend 'The Joy of Vegan Baking' for simple baked goods recipes and some great basic information on stocking a vegan kitchen and making substitutes for dairy and eggs.
I could go on (and on, and on), but I'd better save some information for future posts.

I'd love for this series to be interactive and collaborative, so please, if you're among the ranks of the currently-omnivorous-but-veg-curious, leave a comment letting me know what information I can share that would be most helpful to you at this stage of your journey. And to my readers who are already enjoying the vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, please chime in with suggestions for books, websites, or specific recipes that you think qualify as 'Easy Vegan'!

I don't want to ramble on too long, so I'll wrap up this first installment with a plug for VegWeb, a website with tons of vegan recipes that are conveniently categorized and searchable. Skila, you might want to check out their 'Quick and Easy' section.

Further Evidence - If You Care About the Environment, Ditch the Meat and Dairy!!!

Written by Becky Striepe
Published on March 2nd, 2009 on

A German study found that cows are major contributors to global warming, and it doesn't matter if they're raised on a conventional or an organic farm.

Foodwatch, an independent German research group, conducts studies on our diets’ impact on the environment. They are not an animal rights group; they’re a consumer rights group, and their findings led them to recommend that “agriculture must finally become part of climate change policy.”

The really shocking part of this Foodwatch study is that in many ways, organic meat is worse because it uses more land and resources. The problem is that no matter how you raise a cow, “they burp and fart to their hearts’ content.” Foodwatch is saying that we need to reduce our milk and meat production by 70% to mitigate the global warming implications.

Take Action in Your Kitchen

Seventy percent! For someone living on the Standard American Diet, that sounds pretty dramatic. So how can we cut back on the meat we eat? Check out these great vegetarian recipes. Veg Web has a huge database of tasty vegan recipes, too! to get you going.

Eating less dairy might seem tougher than reducing meat consumption for a lot of folks. Don’t worry that cutting dairy means you have to give up your favorite treats! Online shops like Atlanta’s Cosmo’s Vegan Shoppe and Portland’s Food Fight Grocery offer tasty dairy alternatives. Follow Your Heart makes a mean vegan “cheese.” You can find tasty cream cheesesour cream alternatives. You don’t even have to give up chocolate! and

It might feel a bit trickier if you have kids, since you want to be careful with how much soy you’re feeding those little ones. Luckily, there are all sorts of soy-free dairy alternatives. Full disclosure here: I’m one of those hippie vegan types. For some reason, avocado really helped quell the cheese cravings when I gave up dairy. For a milk alternative, give almond milk a try! You can even find tasty ice creams that are totally soy free! Jennifer McCann’s site Vegan Lunch Box is full of kid-friendly vegan recipes.

Looking for more information on meat’s environmental impact? The Price of Meat has you covered. Stay tuned over there for their petition on livestock and climate policy.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

New Work

moissanite wedding bandMoissanite, recycled 14k gold, & recycled sterling silver wedding band

hammered silver bandRecycled sterling silver wedding bands

chunky turquoise ringNevada turquoise, recycled 22k gold, & recycled sterling silver ring

turquoise cocktail ring

One More New Stone

Blue Moss Agate Cabochon, 25mm x 17mm
(mined in Oregon, cut by Ed at stonesinmotion)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

More New Work (and a Cry for Help)

Well, I have finally ventured into the brave new world of rose gold. I thought it would be fun to pair this warm, rosy metal with a nice pink tourmaline. It's about a size 9, and will be listed in my shop soon.

rose gold ringFair trade California pink tourmaline with recycled 14k rose gold.

recycled rose gold
fair trade tourmaline
Now on to the 'cry for help' part. This may be a bit rambling and un-interesting to those of you who don't make jewelry, so feel free to skip it if you're in that camp. :-)

Since I am largely self-taught in the techniques of jewelry fabrication, I don't have anyone in my 'real life' to go to when I hit these little technical problems. My first question to you, oh jewelry-making mavens of the internet, has to do with polishing and cleaning a ring (or pendant) with an open back, like the one above. After I set the stone and polished the ring, there was so much polishing compound wedged in the little shelf behind the stone and it was really, really tough to get it all out. The instructions that came with my ultrasonic machine say not to use tourmaline in it, so that was out. I spent a lot of time trying to clean it with a toothbrush, attempting to wedge those little bristles in between the metal and the stone to get it clean. Finally I put it in the tumbler for a while, which seemed to be the most helpful. I'm still not sure if I got it totally clean, but it's at least a lot better than it was. How can I deal with this in the future? Should I be polishing the back of the setting before setting the stone? Or is there some other trick I don't know about?

My next technical question has to do with oxidizing sterling silver. I get great results using liver of sulfur on textured pieces, such as a floral patterned band. But when I try to fully oxidize a smooth surface, the oxidation tends to flake off. Is there anything I can do to prevent this, or does oxidation just not lend itself too well to smooth surfaces?

Thanks in advance for any advice or suggestions. Please don't make me feel all pathetic by not commenting!