Monday, June 29, 2009

Chaos

Over the course of last weekend I managed to a) attend a family reunion, for which I made a huge batch of peso potato salad (WITH homemade pesto!), b) attend a wedding about an hour's drive away from home, c) have Sunday brunch with family and a new family friend, d) finish cleaning out the second bedroom AND e) completley reorganize my upstairs crafting supplies.

And now that I'm sufficiently exhausted (in a very virtuous, accomplished way of course) I am REALLY FREAKING GLAD that Boy and I have a trip to Vegas slated for Friday.

Really.

My dad put up a gallery of photos from the Family Reunion on his site (yes, it's a reunion for my Boy's side of the family, but my parents still go!) Check it out if you're interested in seeing why I so badly want an IR filter for my camera. He got some amazing shots!

On the second bedroom front, for those who saw the henious before pictures on Flickr, here's a serene, organized after:

And as for the upstairs crafting supplies, I managed to successfully move things around so that I was able to stash my fabrics and sewing machines (yep, plural) while making room for all my new metalworking tools. The desk is now mainly a metal shop, but the sewing machines are still there, just outside the frame of this photo . . . ready to be fired up at a moment's notice!

The unfortunate bit about all of this organizing is that I haven't had a chance to, you know, MAKE much of anything over the last week or two. I know that once I do sit down to create, having an organized space is going to be a huge boost . . . but in the process of all the cleaning I've worn myself out to the point where I don't think I'll be making anything worth sharing this week. Those of you who make things (jewelry! sewing! writing! anything!): do you find when you're especially busy or stressed out that your muse flies out the window? Temporarily, of course. But I just can't make anything decent if I force it . . . and trying to create when I'm exhausted totally feels like forcing it!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Kitchen Fun

I've been doing some cabochon stone setting lately, of course. I've had my small victories, but there has also been a sprinkling of FAIL (Did you know riverstone is NOT fireproof?). My instructor told us that after you've set 50 stones, you officially know what you're doing. I'm four stones in and all, except for my scorched riverstone, are wearable; and the riverstone setting looked pretty freaking good before I toasted it. I stocked up on a handful of inexpensive but pretty stones (tree agate, carnelian, onyx, garnet) and I'm working my way through the learning curve.

I've also got a 3 recipe update on my Smitten Kitchen adventure series! Over the last few days I've made:

1) Herbed Summer Squash and Potato Torte. OMG, peeps, this was SO GOOD. Boy and I had seconds. Then thirds. I made it in a sheet pan instead of in round pans, just because thats what I had handy. It would look gorgeous made for a party in a round shape, but for simple dinners at home the sheet pan did the trick. The thyme in this was stellar. Thyme! Who knew? We had it with a romaine, red pepper and snap pea salad. Have I mentioned that I hate salad dressing? I get around it with Boy by adding finely sliced green onions, parsley, salt and pepper to all my salads. Try it sometime! I swear, you won't miss the dressing.

2) Pasta with Potatoes and Rocket. If I had to have a complaint about Smitten Kitchen's recipes it would be that when I make them, we eat dinner kinda late. Sometimes as late as 10 (Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette, I AM LOOKING AT YOU!) But this recipe came together REALLY QUICKLY, which is kind of shocking considering that there were roasted potatoes involved. My Boy knows: If it involves potatoes, we are eating LATE. Not so with this recipe though . . . when they're sliced thin and spread in a single layer, they REALLY DO cook through in about 15 minutes. Hooray!

3) Summer Squash Soup with Herb Pistou. I've been on a squash kick lately (can't you tell?). I swear, up until 6 months ago I was NOT INTO the squash. Now? It is all I can think about. Butternut! Crook Neck! Zucchini! Love it all. When I made this soup, I went a little heavy on the carrots, just because I'd picked up a really adorable bunch at the farmer's market that afternoon. I felt a little silly making the pistou, thinking "Really? How much could mint possibly add to this soup", but seriously? GO MAKE THIS NOW. With the pistou. Because it is insanely good. So good, in fact, that Boy secreted the last of it away for his lunch; and Boy almost NEVER brings his own lunch to work. I can't really blame him, either. I'm totally sitting here daydreaming about mint pistou.

Up next week? A redo of the Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette (making the pastry in advance), 100% homemade pizza (dough and sauce!), Ratatouille's Ratatouille and Tortilla de Patatas with homemade pico di gallo.

Also, you know, some tree agate.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Well, today certainly started off with lots of fun!

I woke up with cramps (as I keep telling you guys, not pregnant). They were especially wicked . . . as in, I PROBABLY SHOULD HAVE KNOWN not to get in the car and drive to work as if all were well. But I'm not known for the soundness of my reasoning prior to 10am, so I popped a few Advil and got on with it.

About 2 blocks away from home, I thought that maybe I should turn around and go back. But at that point I'd already expended the effort to get dressed, go downstairs, get in the car and out the garage. And I figured the Advil would kick in any second.

ALAS, it did not freaking work out that way. The cramps got so bad that I though I might have to pull over and barf. As in the PAIN was so INTENSE it almost made me VOMIT.

Now, I'm pretty damn good with pain. I figure skated as a young adult, and I've landed MORE THAN A FEW double jumps on twisted ankles. I remember one knee injury that I finally broke down and went to the doctor over . . . when I asked her if I could skate on it, she marveled that I'd been WALKING on it. Meaning to illustrate that I'm not just a whiner here . . . this shit was fierce.

Seriously, people, I almost want to compose an EPIC POEM about my drive to work today, it was that much of a trial.

What the heck do you do when you wake up in that condition? Call in late? Skip work entirely? Drug yourself? With WHAT?! Help me. I'll take any and all advice here.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Stampede Continues

I coerced Boy into cleaning out the second bedroom this weekend, but we can talk about that later. Later, as in, when he takes the one box we couldn't fit anywhere to his storage unit. And when we can take pretty little "after" photos to temper the horrid "befores".

Until then, how about a Smitten Kitchen Adventure update? I made two items on Saturday (yes, WHILE CLEANING OUT THE SECOND BEDROOM. Most of the stuff in there was Boy's, to be honest . . . it was really more of a cheerleading project on my end).

One of my favorite items on our wedding registry was this cathedral shaped bundt pan. I was thrilled to get it, but more than a little intimidated to use it. Check out those pointy arches . . . they're practically cake batter magnets! But I had a chat with a good friend who is a pastry chef and she told me, I quote, to just "Pam the fuck out of it", which is exactly what I did and all went well. Or mostly well . . .I used Smitten Kitchen's Orange Chocolate Chunk Cake recipe which was spectacularly orange-y and wonderful, except for the part where I totally overbaked it.

You win some and lose some, I guess.

In the WIN department, I made Smitten Kitchen's Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette. In the early stages, this dinner had EPIC FAIL written all over it. I'd never made pastry before, I wasn't sure I'd cut the butter into the flour quite well enough and my freaking onions gave me grief over caramelizing.

However! The galette came out of the oven gorgeously brown and smelling like something you'd get for dinner at a British pub. Which is to say, smelling entirely of cheese and butter.

Despite the fact that halfway through the recipe I told Boy I was Never! Making! This! Again! I am even now secretly plotting to do just that. I think maybe I could make the dough a day or two ahead . . . say, on a lazy Sunday. Then make the filling and assemble and bake on a weeknight. Does anyone with more pastry experience than I have think this is a feasible idea?

Up tonight is an Herbed Summer Squash and Potato Torte, which has all the makings of a regular addition to the dinner rotation. Cheese! Potatoes! Herbs! YES!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Flying Solo-ish


Last night I finished the ring I'd almost finished the prior night in class. I touched up the bezel, which is still a little wonky . . . and although I do obviously want to learn to make PERFECT bezels, in this instance the wonkiness adds something, I think. I polished the ring using my flex shaft and then oxidized it and re polished by hand.

I think it looks like it belongs on a Viking. Meaning I think it is totally fecking dope.

I also kicked off my Smitten Kitchen inspired week of fun in the kitchen by stopping at Trader Joes and Farm Boy on the way home from work. I picked up a few remaining things I hadn't been able to find at the farmers market: a butternut squash; thyme, rosemary and sage; baking supplies; WINE.

I made Pesto Potato Salad with Green Beans (along with a green salad) for dinner. I modified to use lemon juice instead of vinegar, and I halved the recipe . . . I also used some grated Parmesan in the pesto and skipped the pine nuts because Trader Joes was out. I thought it was pretty damn good . . . and boy was totally enamoured. We're FOR SURE going to be bringing a (FULL! or even a full and a half) batch of this to the family reunion next weekend.

And I, for one, am very much looking forward to my leftovers for lunch!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

But whatever shall I do with Wednesday nights now?


I had my last silversmithing class last night. WOE! Although I won't be retaking it just because of the expense and time commitment, I'm no longer confused as to why so many of the students do. That class was FUN.

Last night I finished up my cabochon ring . . . smoothing out the bezel and polishing it up. I also pulled out a length of bezel wire and a garnet I'd been holding on to and started up another ring, figuring that if I ran into any trouble with the bezel, I'd have our REALLY fantastic instructor, Colleen, there to rescue me. I actually almost finished the new ring (GASP!). It is amazing how quickly things go when you use sheet and bezel wire. It was like BOOM! Done. Or thereabouts. I'm still going to perfect the bezel, polish and blacken it . . . but I wore the thing home, so that counts as almost done in my book!

Grand total of completed, wearable projects in class: Three. The spiderweb pendant, the faceted stone ring and the cabochon ring.

In other news, since I've now got a bit more time on my hands, I've decided to have myself a little fun in the kitchen. I picked out 4 or 5 of Smitten Kitchen's recipes and I'm going to try them ALL out over the course of the next week or so. I stopped at the farmers market today at lunch time for provisions: 6 lbs of yukon gold potatoes, a bag of green beans, a bag of yellow crook-neck squash, 2 bunches of green onions, a cauliflower, a maui onion, 3 baskets of strawberries, 6 lemons = $19. Gah! I love the farmers market!

Up tonight: Pesto Potato Salad with Green Beans, slightly modified by halving (we don't need no 10 servings) and by replacing the vinegar called for with lemon juice (I abhor vinegar. I always replace it and if I can't, I'll straight up skip the recipe.) If this recipe does me proud I'm thinking it might be a good one to take to Boy's (um, MY!) family reunion next weekend. So here's crossing fingers for that!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Aren't I glad THAT is done!


Last night I managed to finish organzing my Downstairs Jewelry Supplies. In an embarassingly short period of time too . . . I think I spent about an hour and a half finishing up. All that woeful dreading was for naught.

Key in finishing things up were the new modular storage boxes I picked up at The Container Store (on sale too!). I used them to FINALLY get my strung beads and coins out of baggies and into storage that keeps them safe, sorted and visable.

Remember that massive bag of "extra supplies"? I went through it and was embarassed to find FIFTY FEET of pewter chain (I thought I was out and needed to buy more), more brass headpins than I will likely need in my lifetime, and at least 300 steel earwires. It seems all I'm really running low on is intersting coinage and mabye a skeleton key or two. Ebay, here I come!

More obnoxiously annotated photos can be found in the flickr set I started for OOTLS.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Oodles of OOTLS


Oh, hai! I'm still on a cleaning binge!

Yesterday I ticked a few more things off my list. I went through my Very Important Papers, which wasn't such a big job after all since I do it every 6 months. That way I'm only tossing year old gas bills instead of gas bills from 1998. However, the fact that in the last 6-months-ish I've taken out a mortgage, gotten married, changed my name on pretty much everything and finally found myself coerced into registering my business with the city of Los Angeles meant that there was a LOT more paper than usual. Which made me nervous, seeing as every six months I manage to ALMOST shred the title to my car and my birth certificate. Successfully averted those disasters on this run through though; all is well.

Then, for the evening portion of my organizing festivities, I started on my Downstairs Jewelry Supplies. Being mildly delusional about the state they are in, I thought this would be a one evening job. However after having sat on the sofa for FOUR FREAKING HOURS sorting teeny little beads I found myself, at midnight, being only about halfway done with the project. And also with my legs totally asleep under me. WOE.


I wrapped it up and called it a night. This afternoon I ran over to The Container Store and picked up a few more storage options . . . my thinking with this re-org is that it doesn't matter how many storage boxes I have, they will all be easy to sort through if they are categorized by type of item. All gemstones go in the gemstone boxes. All pearls in the pearl boxes. All brass findings in the brass findings boxes. So far, I have THREE pearl boxes, but lets try not to dwell on that fact.

My coins, which heretofore I had stored in baggies, will get their own storage case now. As will my strung beads, which again, I had been storing in baggies.

All will be well, damnit. Eventually.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Excavation

Have you met my blogfriend Moose? Via this post, she put together a multi-player, month-long home organization effort which I joined, in the general spirit of bloggy goodwill and out of a desire to have things to blog about.

Over the weekeend I tackled my closet. I did a MASSIVE closet cleanout and overhaul about a year ago when Boy and I moved in together, but since then I haven't done much maintenance at all. The closet had gotten a little unwieldy. And by "unwieldy" I mean that I think it was ready to eat me alive.

Over about 4 hours on Saturday and another 2 or so on Sunday, I took everything out and put it (almost) all back in nicely. I had considered my dresser to be a separate job which I wasn't planning to tackle this weekend, but I realized that some things in the dresser I'd rather have in the closet and vice versa, so I wound up doing both after all. Bonus!

I took a few select items to Crossroads Trading Co. and managed to sell 7 things for a grand total of $46.03. Of the remaining items, there are:

- Some things I'm going to give to my mom (since (hi mom!) she's close to the same size as I am and winds up with a lot of my barely used clothes)

- A suit, worn only once but which never fit me quite right. I am going to send it toDress For Success.

- A few items that I'm going to take back into my closet and have a re-think on, including a killer brown pvc biker jacket that I love but have never actually worn and a black blazer that I think I might wear with the sleeves rolled up.

- A few things that Crossroads told me they'd buy if I brought them back in the fall or winter, which I'll box up and save until then.

- A slew of uncomfortable but cute shoes and well worn casual clothes which I'm going to give to Goodwill

- A stack of tee shirts with really cute prints that don't fit me properly. I put them with my sewing things and will make into tote bags (<- Overly ambitious? Maybe. But I did it once before with a pirate ship print tee, which is now my favorite pool tote.)

Overall, a good mix of money-making, charity, upcycling and being a good daughter. I think so, right? If you are interested in seeing after photos of the closet, annotated in a highly detailed and probably slightly annoying, fashion, check them out on Flickr.

Up next on the organizational front: Upstairs craft supplies, downstairs craft supplies. Then on to the dreaded 2nd bedroom.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Magpie

I buy a lot of shit. However, I want infinitely more shit than I buy. So all in all, I'm a fairly responsible shopper. Or, so I claim.

For example, my recent purchases include:

1) The shirt from Martin + Osa that Whoorl was lusting after for ages and finally got, but in red. Excellent sale price of $31 and change, basically 1/2 off. I have at least 4 events in the immediate future that I plan to wear it to.

2) 1,000 thread count sheets (I know! 1,000!) for our bed which Boy and I got for a grand total of $75 after a sale and Overstock.com rewards certificate. Bonus perk: having 2 sets of sheets settles the war we've been having wherein I want to wash our sheets weekly and Boy thinks every other week is more reasonable. Now we can just rotate them, so we wash every other week but still have clean sheets weekly. And thus, we stay peacefully married.

3) These pants from The Gap in both colors but for $15 per pair, not $35. Because they are fantastically lightweight which will be great for our sweltering LA summers. And becuase they have an interior drawstring and a sewn on button, so I'm thinking I can remove the button and use the drawstring and a belly band and PRESTO! Early maternity pants (NOT PREGNANT, just planning.)

As you can see, there is much going on in the JUSTIFICATION OF PURCHASES department. I rarely buy things that I can't justify on at least a couple of fronts. And I rarely buy things the first time I see them . . . I am much more comfortable a) waiting for a better price and/or b) waiting a week or so to see if I still want said item.

That all having been said, don't think I'm not actively considering buying at least a thousand things right now AT THIS VERY MOMENT. High on the list right now are:

1) PERFUMES. I am a perfume NUT. Currently, I'm considering buying TokyoMilk Parfumarie Curiosite in Dead Sexy because OMG look at that gorgeous bottle and OMG vanilla and wood . . . how yummy does that sound?! I ADORE woody fragrances. Also: L'Occitane's Rose Nuit du Mai because I love a good rose AND a good roll on. Or Pacifica's Lotus Garden Solid Perfume because how awesome would that be for summer travel?

2) This Infrared Filter for my camera. Our awesome wedding photographer, Jane Newman, took a few shots for us in infrared and they've easily become everyone's favorites. She has a spare camera dedicated to infrared, but a filter would be a good, low cost way to play with that type of photography.

3) Clothes for summer trips! I've got Vegas in 3 weeks and Disneyland in 2 months. I'm all set in the swimwear department, and I have some great new (Gap!) pants for vacationing, but I need fun little tank tops! Stat! Preferably something I could wear with a little jacket in the office as well. I keep running through Forever 21 on the weekends waiting for something to inspire me, but so far, nuttin'.

What have been your favorite recent purchases? What are you lusting after?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

My Precious


It isn't quite done yet, but I made enough headway on my cabochon ring last night that I am wearing it nonetheless!

The ring took me about 2 1/2 classes to make. I was working on components of it while I finished up my prong set ring, so I'm not entirely sure of the timing but 7 1/2 hours seems like a fair estimate. I had to cut bars from my ingot to make the stone surround and the stone's back plate. Solder and shape those and solder them together. Drill a hole for a cutout behind the stone. Design, create components for, shape and attach the ring, then set the stone by filing, pressing and using power tools. Still on the agenda: the ring needs to be filed, sanded and polished and the setting is secure, but it could be a touch tighter.

In "the real world", as opposed to in the jewelry lab where I have oodles of expensive machinery at my disposal, I'll be able to make rings like this one by using pre-formed bezel wire and silver plate. The techniques will be the same, except I'll be buying my metals in components that won't require me to have thousands of dollars worth of machinery on hand. Full disclosure though, MACHINERY WILL STILL BE INVOLVED. When I set cabochon stones at home I won't be using a rolling mill or machine polisher . . . but I will still be using my flex shaft rotary tool for drilling, oodles of different hand tools including a hand burnisher, my torch and a polishing attachment for my flex shaft.

Oh, hai! I am a nerd.

I just love the stone in this ring. It is a Labradorite, one of my favorites. I bought it online from Fire Mountain Gems and, although their quality is always stellar, this particular stone blew me away. It is GORGEOUS. Tons of iridescent blue, green and even RED flash. I caught a little in the photos, but in person it is breathtaking.

Have you ever been to Disneyland? And have you ever ridden Star Tours? You know the scene where you're flying through the comets and they're all sparkling and glowy and pretty? That's what this stone looks like.

What was that about nerds, again?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Did I not mention Paris?

You know what I just realized? On this, the 3 month anniversary of our wedding? (When do you stop counting in months, by the way?) I realized that I never actually finished telling you guys all about the trip! You might think I finished, seeing as I have 40 blog posts on the subject so far. But no! I'm not quite done yet!!!

I believe I left you in Scotland.

Boy and I took the train into London, our trip being long and uneventful. We arrived and checked into The Cumberland Hotel. I was freaking-out-excited over staying at The Cumberland. On my very first trip to London, almost two decades ago, my parents and I stayed down the street from the Cumberland at the much more modest Bryanston Court Hotel (Even if you aren't a regular link clicker, click that one. It is especially embarrassing. Check out my ENORMOUS FEET (?!). Although I would dearly love to have that jacket back.)

I have memories of The Cumberland being palace-like and fancy, with DOORMEN. Although the hotel has undergone an extensive remodel recently and looks nothing like the hotel in my memory, it does still have doormen.

We spent our first night in London walking, walking, walking. Boy can read maps, which as far as I'm concerned is some kind of voodoo. Welcome and useful voodoo though. We wanted to eat dinner at Wagamama and we knew of two on the banks of the Thames near Westminster . . . so we set out on foot, finding ourselves eventually in Leicester Square at a Wagamama we hadn't known existed, but served our purposes nonetheless.

After dinner we walked some more, getting a few beautiful shots of London at night and finishing up with drinks at Blackfriars pub near St. Paul's.

We woke up early. Really, really early. Like, 4:30am. In order to get to St. Pancras Int'l for our train to PARIS. I think in the whole process of planning this trip (and chattering incessantly about it in my blog) I never really mentioned the fact that we were going to wind up in Paris. So, FYI, there was PARIS involved!!! While we were off honeymooning in Scotland, Boy's family and my parents were doing their own things about the UK. They were all planning to fly home a day after we were, so their last day, our second to last day, we decided to spend together on a last-hurrah daytrip.

We took the chunnel train (which is, seriously, SO not a big deal. You don't even realize you're underwater unless you're watching and waiting for it to happen.) and arrived at Gare du Nord with the entire day ahead of us. Boy wanted to visit the Musée d'Orsay, which we did and which was fantastic. We ate lunch there in a beautiful little cafe behind the museum's famous clock.

After visiting the museum, we waked through the Tullerie Gardens to the Champs-Élysées, where we indulged in a little shopping and gorged ourselves on Nutella filled pastries. We had time to run through the Trocadero to see the Eiffel Tower before catching our train back to London.

Since our day in Paris happened to be St. Patrick's day, exhaustion notwithstanding Boy and I thought we'd be remiss if we didn't end the night in a pub with a pint of Guinness. We went into Covent Garden and did exactly that, picking the pub that appeared to have the fewest number of patrons in furry shamrock shaped hats. We sat in the back of the pub with our Guinness and plotted the best way to go about sorting our wedding phots, because by this point we realized we were going to have an AVALANCE of jpgs on our hands.

Our last day in London passed relatively quietly. More walking . . . a stop in the National Portrait Gallery . . . cheese and onion pasties in Covent Garden for lunch . . . some light shopping. It was the perfect, low key way to end the trip of a lifetime.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Wedding Party

So, remember when I promised you pictures of the party Boy's family had for us? I have pictures now!

Boy's dad's side of the family is HUGE. As in, there are 80 or so people at family reunions. And that isn't even getting into extended family . . . that's just Boy's dad, his siblings, their kids and their kids.

True story: my father in law made up a FLOWCHART for my parents before this party. And my parents spent much of the party REFERRING TO THEIR FLOWCHART.

Clearly, they didn't all come to Wales for our wedding. And one of Boy's cousins is getting married in July in a very small ceremony that the whole family won't be able to go to either. So, to celebrate both of those weddings, we had one big beach party over Memorial Day weekend.

There was BBQ (of the vegetarian and non-vegetarian persuasion):



There was a sword:



For cutting the cake, of course (What else would you use a sword for?):



And a good deal of beach-hanging-out:



FUN!