Sunday, December 4, 2011

I Heart Macro ~ Tenacious

Today is I Heart Macro over at Studio Waterstone .
It's been a few weeks again since I have gone out and focused on the little things in life and i have really missed it, while tending to all the big things like work and preparing for the holidays and family visits.
Looking out my windows from the warmth of indoors, everything looks dead and barren and wintry.
But upon close inspection this morning I find that nature is tenacious.
The strawberry leaves are coated with color and frosty sprinkles.

Long after the delicate petals of the lillies and iris have gone, the weeds still bloom and sprout life. 

Some of the bushes pose as holiday cards 
The salvia still basks in the morning sunshine, soaking up the dew and warmth for as long as it can 

The winter blooming camellia provides a tender contrast to the evergreen leaves that surround it.
So much beauty to appreciate when we just take the time to notice.
Hop on over to Lori's to see what everyone else is appreciating this morning!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thankful For The Apples Of My Eye, And Pie

This week began with a very special birthday party.  Our granddaughter turned 5 and asked for a flamingo party/ swim party. She LOVES flamingos. My ingenious daughter decided to secure a room at the local YMCA for the party and rented pool time for the party goers. 
Notice our youngest grandson arm in arm with his big sister, monkey boots still on.
He did take them off to swim, briefly, replaced with the monkey swim ring. 
I doubt there is anything in the world better than being a grandparent, and sharing in all these milestones.
(not to mention we just get to show up and help a little and enjoy a lot!)

As I have said before, all of our wishes have come true.
We are very blessed.

This expression says it all, pure joy! And she was so appreciative of everything, no "too much birthday" tantrums as is often seen at these events from some children.
Then we got domestic again.
 What can I say, we are foodies for sure. We all get together and cook and eat and visit.
This time I made apple butter in the crock pot which was a great improvement over doing it on the stove top and having to cook it for hours and hours stirring constantly.

After it cooked down, about 20 hours, I ladled it into jars and processed in a water canning bath.
I had also made an additional 2 batches of pumpkin butter with pumpkins bought last week at the Green Dragon flea market in PA. only this time I decided to process the jars as well in the canning bath.

Thanksgiving is for us like it is for most, a time of family gathering and feasting and giving thanks for all of our blessings.
I personally am thankful everyday for my blessings and don't need one day a year to remind me what's important.
We noticed after we took this picture of Ray and I at our daughter's house, that the cabinet behind us had a picture of our son and daughter above us.

But we posed for a group shot anyway. It was good to have our son with us, last year he was travelling for work and couldn't be home.

Our daughter, SIL and 3 grandchildren hosted Thanksgiving at their house again this year for the second time, a group effort and still a lot of work.
I cooked 2 turkeys, the gravy, oyster dressing, fresh collards, cauliflower, sweet potato biscuits, sweet potato pies, apple pie, & chocolate cheescake. By the time we added what everyone else cooked and brought, we had more food than we could eat in a week! 
Can you say leftovers?
4 generations picture

We never know exactly how much is left for each of us, or what the future holds, so these times together take on more meaning each year as we gather to give thanks for each other and all the good we have in our lives.
Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving filled with family, good food and blessings through the holiday season and beyond!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

2 Weeks Full -Part 2

I said 2 weeks full but in retrospect it's been about a month.
I am 2 weeks into 2 online classes with Susan Tuttle in photomanipulation ( 2&3)
Working in photoshop learning some new techniques and processes.
I have taken Susan's Layers class and Ghostly images in the past and decided to catch these 2 since she was repeating them this month before moving on to new workshops in the new year.
I highly recommend any of her classes if you are into photomanipulation and art photography.

Then, on a whim, at the suggestion of a friend i joined this online class with Sharon Tomlinson since i love doing collage and hate doing faces but love faces. Figured this might be a way out of that dilemma and so far it is proving to be a wonderful class and Ning group. Sharon's classes are ongoing and don't close so this was really nice as i can't do the work just yet.

Then, a class I signed up for as soon as it was announced, MONTHS AGO, and couldn't wait to take, is this encaustic class with the oh-so-talented Judy Wise.
It was so jam packed full of info, new videos and intructions 5 days a week for 4 glorious weeks with a yahoo group for Q&A and show and tell.
It was the best! I hated to see it end, i so enjoyed all the videos and Judy's calm voice so full of knowledge and peace, every morning.
Judy will be releasing an ebook and DVD for purchase on the class and i highly recommend this also if you're even the slightest bit interested in painting with encaustics.

Now, I haven't actually been able to do any of the classwork for these workshops yet, probably not until after the new year and things settle down but i am absorbing them and their creative energy like a sponge!

So much so that about 10 days ago, I was getting ready for sleep, TRYING to pray, and an epiphany came to me and my muse was yelling at me so loud that i had to get up, head to my desk, and start writing.
The ideas that came out on paper, drawings, process, ideas, names and titles was unreal!
I looked up supplies and info on the computer and had all the answers before I could head back to bed and quiet the noise in my head!
It was blissful though.
I began this blog about a year and a half ago to find my muse and my direction and my voice again.
It is found.
Loud and Clear.
Only problem is, my muse picked a heck of a time to show up, just when i won't be able to get to work on it until after the holidays!
My life right now is bottlenecking, more than usual, like 10 lanes of traffic trying to merge into 3.
We will be closing the restaurant from Nov 28th, right after Thanksgiving and reopening February 9,2012.
We used to close like this many years ago from right after Thanksgiving until the first week in February while things were slow here, tourism down and try to do renovations and upkeep and get a break before slamming into another season.
I think it will do us a world of good this year as it has been a trying year for sure.
There is just so much that i have to take care of to close and end the year, books, taxes, paperwork etc and I've been out of practice, having not done it this way in so long.
Hence the not being able to be creative just yet.

Then of course I am also in the middle of cleaning closets, reorganizing, trying to take care of things that don't get done while we are in the busy season, hosting company, getting ready for the holidays and finishing up the round robin I am involved in.

So, that's my 2 weeks.
Now to catch up on some blog reading!

Monday, November 14, 2011

2 Weeks Full- Part One

It is so hard to stay inside when all this beautiful fall weather and sunshine is beckoning outdoors.

It's been a full 2 weeks. everytime I say that phrase- 2 weeks, I am reminded of the movie with Tom Hanks, "The Money Pit" in which everytime he asks how long a renovation or step in the renovation will take they flippantly respond "2 weeks"

I have been going over to the Assateague island refuge to practice my nature photography and have been pretty pleased with some of the images.

This Crane has a fish in it's mouth having just plucked him from the water

This Great Blue heron tried to swallow his fish so fast he actually gagged, that's his tongue hanging out. In subsequent shots, he coughed up the fish and then swallowed him back down. Yum.

More to my liking is the pumpkin butter I made with help from the grandkids while they were here after only a half day of school on halloween.
Remember the neck pumpkin I told you about that we bought while on the field trip a few weeks ago? Well, that is what we used and I promised if it turned out well, we would share the recipe

It turned out well enough that when shared with people at our restaurant, their tongues look much like that of the heron and everyone was asking for the recipe. If you like apple butter or pumpkin pie you're sure to like this.

The littlest halloween witch helping me stir the pumpkin butter, is that a spell she's casting?
Pumpkin Butter

1 cooking pumpkin, we used the neck pumpkin
Peel the skin using a vegetable peeler, empty seeds ( we spread ours out on paper towels over a few pages of newspapers to dry and try to plant next year)
Cube the pumpkin flesh and put into a pot of water big enough to cook until tender ( about 20-25 minutes)
Drain in a colander
Place the cooked pumpkin in a blender  ( or food processor) and puree.
Empty the blender into a glass measuring cup or bowl and continue pureeing the cooked pumpkin until it is all pureed.
We got 12 cups of puree out of the one pumpkin, each will vary depending on the size.
Once measured, place all the puree into a crock pot large enough to hold it and add the sugar and spices.
The puree to sugar ratio is 2 to1,  2 cups of puree to 1 cup of sugar.
You can use all light brown sugar or half white half brown.
For ours we used 3 cups of white, 3 cups of dark brown to the 12 cups of puree.
You can add individual spices such as cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice to taste but we used the McCormicks Pumpkin Pie Spice and used 2 tsp. for the batch. You can taste it and add more if you like but I liked this amount.
Stir all ingredients together well in the crock pot, turn on low  and prop the lid sideways to allow for the steam to evaporate as it cooks down.
I placed mine on 10 hours low which went through the night and automatically went to warm about the time we got up.
Once it really starts to cook, it will bubble and thicken and i used a wooden spoon to stir it all around about once an hour until going to bed.
Once it is as thick as you would like, the consistency of a butter spread, I ladled it into hot ball jars and secured the lids but DID NOT process in a water bath but placed it in the refrigerator for keeping.
There are conflicting ideas about canning pumpkin butter. There are instructions where you can process in a water bath for 40 minutes and also directions for a pressure canner, but the USDA recently suggested keeping it in a refrigerator instead of canning. Your call. I have purchased canned pumpkin butter at fairs and have lived to tell the tale. I may try that in the future.

Both grandchildren took a jar into their class to share along with some crackers.
It is great on toast or homemade biscuits and is the perfect fall treat!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Halloween Treat

This year for Halloween, we went with the grandkids to Chincoteague Island to trick or treat. The historic downtown merchants association held the event where all the shop owners provided treats for the little ones.
So we parked at the town dock and off went Strawberry Shortcake, Batman and Robin . (Robin's nickname is monkey boy and I bought him a pair of monkey rain boots which he has to wear everywhere I'm told!)

It's hard to see from this angle, but this Witch had a big furry black and purple spider attached to her back which I think kept the kids at bay for a few moments.

The library had pirates galore

The bookstore sported Confederate soldiers

One of the kids gave my husband a real sour candy and the antics that followed kept us all entertained for a few minutes

I wanted the vintage dressform with the gorgeous witch outfit

Even the fire company participated and what little kid doesn't like fire trucks??
The candy was icing on the cake!
It was just enough by the time we walked up and down both sides of the street, the daylight was completely gone and it was time to go home and sort through the loot!
Hope everyone made some fun memories!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

I Heart Macro

It's time once again for I heart macro over at Studio Waterstone

While taking the pics this week for the virtual blog book tour I couldn't help but see algae bloom underwater in this enameled piece.

Fall sweetness- we got raspberries on the bushes that survived this first year,
not enough to make jam but it's a start

When I looked at this shot, I saw a tapestry of sorts over to the right so I copied and cropped it out

Good inspiration, sort of impressionistic for artwork and jewelry dontchathink?

For even more inspiration, head on over to Lori's to see more macro goodness

Friday, October 21, 2011

Torch Fired Enamel Jewelry Blog Book Tour

Welcome to Day 14 of the Torch Fired Enamel Jewelry Virtual Book Tour!

It was back on April 27th of 2010 that I first met Barbara.
I happened across one of the many Etsy treasuries featuring Barbara's beautiful enameled beads and clicked to find out more.
I found her tutorial in her shop and immediately purchased it, printed it and read it through.
From there I found her blog and Painting With Fire Ning group which I joined on April 28th.
On April 29th I came back and bought the bead pulling station.
I remember writing to Barbara full of excitement over this newfound medium and in so doing found that we had a lot of things in common, one of which was our background in clay.

What initially drew me to this process was it's simplicity and the immediacy of results, the colors and textures you could obtain and the sheer beauty of the finished beads.
I was hooked! Or as Barbara likes to say, I have gone to the dark side!

You can read about my first PWF workshop with Barbara in Oct. of 2010 here and the second one this past July 2011 here.

It was a joy to follow along with her on the road to creating her book and I am thrilled and honored that she invited me to participate in this book tour to celebrate it's release.
Thank you Barbara for your confidence.
Now let's fire it up!

When I first received my copy of the book, knowing that i would be reviewing it for this post, I sat and read it from the beginning as if the process was new to me to see how well it could be followed along for someone who was totally new to the medium.
Barbara has done an excellent job at really starting at the beginning from explaining the process, setting up your studio, sections on tools, tips, techniques ( including etching copper sheet) and basic jewelry skills, terms and basic troubleshooting.  The first page I dog-earred was the one with the drill bits demystified which translates drill bit sizes to wire gauge sizes and mm and inches. Priceless!

There are so many projects in here to get your creative juices flowing but the one that I knew immediately I had to try was the  No Solder Bezel - Of Space and Time.

I followed Barbara's directions for making the domed copper cabochon blank and bezel and ended up with 5 sets to play with in one sitting.
The above shot shows all 5 sets, firescale and all.

I ended up enameling 4 sets, each trying something different.
The top piece has an enameled cab set in a bezel enameled in clear to showcase the copper.
The middle one has an enameled cab set in just a heat patinaed copper bezel.
The bottom one has an etched and antiqued cab set in a bezel enameled with transparent copper.
All of the cabs are enameled in place using the method described in the book.
The 4th piece is also an etched and antiqued domed cab set in an enameled bezel using several layers of opaque and transparent enamels which I used for my completed piece.
There were so many ways I could have gone with this one piece, more organic with leather and silks and other natural elements but in the end I chose to work with copper wire, beads, components and chain along with blue crazy lace agates, carved turquoise beads (which i have been hoarding for just such an occasion) and lampwork rounds by Julsbeads.
While I was working with these bezels so many ideas for filling them came to mind that i know I will be playing with these for some time to come!

Barbara will be doing a no solder bezels workshop at Art and Soul Virginia Beach in March 2012 and you can always check her website for all other upcoming workshops.

Now for the Giveaway!
Barbara is going to be giving away these enameled porcelain beads, yes ceramic beads, (a new way to play with torch fired enamels)  How cool or should I say hot is that?

Here's how to enter-  
1. Leave a comment on this post and become a follower = 1 chance
2. Tweeting, facebook or blogging about the giveaway and leaving a comment at the original Virtual Book Tour Post= 1 additional chance
3. While you're at Barbara's Blog, become a follower or saying that you already are a follower in your comment = 1 additional chance

You can earn up to 3 chances per giveaway. A winner will be selected by 10 p.m. eastern time and announced the following day.
You can check at Barbara's blog or here at mine for the name of the winner.

But wait- there's more!
To thank you for following along, we will have a BONUS PRIZE at the end of the book tour! All of the entries will be included in the drawing for a kit containing all the elements of "Floral Cascade," one of the projects in the book. You'll receive everything you need to make the necklace, including the chain, jump rings, clasp, enamel beads, and head pins!

For a chance to win the Grand Prize - a Torch-Firing Kit (or $110 shopping experience at - please leave a review at by November 24. Remember, leave an honest review... the book must stand on its own.
P.S. Unfortunately, we have to restrict the giveaways to U.S. residents. Winners should contact Barbara with their name and address through her author website: so that you can receive your prizes!

There are still 3 more days to travel along on this book tour, don't miss any of these great stops!

October 6, Mary Jane Dodd,

October 7, Gaea Cannaday,

October 10, Andrew Thornton,

October 12, Diane Cook,

October 13, Lori Anderson,

October 15, Jen Judd Velasquez,

October 17, Melissa Meman,

October 18, Lisa Crone,

October 20, Cindy Wimmer,

October 21, Laura Twiford, *you are here*

October 22, Erin Prais-Hintz,

October 24, Jennifer Cameron,

October 25, Sharilyn Miller,

Thank you for visiting!


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