Join me on the adventure of starting my own business

Some of My Projects

Here are some photos of a few of my sewing projects from the past year. There are (many) more items that I either do not have photos of, or are no longer with me. This is just a sample. Quilts, baby dresses, bags, and more recently, neckties. I also apologize in advance, since most of these photos were just taken quickly with my cell phone, for my own reference. 🙂 Hope you like them!

Have a fantastic day!

 

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It has been blisteringly hot here in the state of North Carolina for the past few weeks. I love summer, but the heat index has been hovering around 105° F recently. With accompanying humidity, it’s beginning to wear even me down. However, the sun is shining, hummingbirds are coming to my feeders regularly, tomatoes are in season (yum!), and we have a swimming pool available to splash in, so I really don’t have many complaints.

I am still sewing, and making quilts, and will post photos of some of my finished sewing projects soon. Hubby took a few photos for me last week, since mine were pretty pathetic! Who knew what a pain it is to photograph a quilt? It’s become an enjoyable hobby for me. I just need to curb my fabric shopping! 😉

Pottery is still on hold. Although I miss it terribly. So I think I’ll reconstitute a bit of clay tonight and do some hand building over the weekend.

Things have been fairly uneventful this summer, which is not always a bad thing. But the “lazy days of summer” can sometimes become too lazy, if you know what I mean. We took a wonderful family vacation to the beach recently, which is my happy place. And now that we are back, I have been using my refreshed perspective to decide what needs to be tweaked in my life. Figuring out what has been slipping through the cracks, so to speak. Which is something I believe everyone needs to take inventory of periodically.

Turns out, there is not much I need, or want to change. However, the first thing that immediately came to mind was that I had basically stopped reading books. What? How did that happen? I love to read! I’ve realized that Internet Creep has slowly taken over my life. And it must be beaten back! Most of what I was reading were articles on websites, or items attached to Facebook posts. Have you experienced this? Instead of picking up a good book at the end of the day, I was checking my news feed. Not good! So the library and I got reacquainted, and I am rediscovering the joys of a good story.

I think Internet Creep has become a big problem in our society. Technology is a wonderful thing, but it’s been absolutely invading every aspect of our lives. We are not really present anymore. Subtle things get missed because we have forgotten how to pay attention. We don’t learn or memorize facts, because we can always Google the answer. Friends text instead of talk to each other. People walk on the street with their heads down, surfing the web. Families are not even interacting at the dinner table anymore… A few weeks back I went to a Gwen Stefani concert. She was awesome! But it amazed me how as soon as she came on stage, everyone’s cell phones came out. Everyone was recording videos and taking selfies, instead of enjoying the experience and actually listening to her. A young couple in the row in front of me spent the entire time taking selfies with their backs to the stage. They never actually watched any of the performance! Why do we seem to need to see everything through a viewfinder now, instead of firsthand with our own eyes?

Just some food for thought.

Happy August, Everyone!

Here We Go Again

So, it’s been AGES since I have been able to throw pots. It makes me sad, but I know it is not forever. It can’t be, because I love it too much. I still dream of clay often, and wake up smiling when I do.

Although the elbow is fine now, we just don’t have the space in our current home for me to pull out my wheel. Also, said apartment is covered in wall-to-wall carpeting. So, I may just have to pony up the funds to pay for local arts council classes and get my clay fix once or twice a week. Of course, this reason gets added to my TOTALLY LOGICAL (ahem) list of why we need to buy a house rather than living in apartments.

My path to a professional pottery career is once again on hold. Makes me wonder if this is the Universe’s way of telling me I’m not meant to do this professionally. Or maybe I am not as dedicated as I thought I was? It’s something to think about. Maybe I have the love, and possibly even the talent, but not the discipline and focus needed to work for myself?

Even though I have not been throwing, I am still keeping the creative juices flowing, so to speak. Let me just tell you, in case you were wondering, it really is possible to learn nearly anything on YouTube. Last Spring I taught myself to sew, using the “Watch YouTube and Replicate on My Sewing Machine in Real Life While Swearing” method, and am now enjoying it quite a bit. Our dining room has been covered with my sewing machine, fabric, thread, and all sorts of associated paraphernalia. I began with tote bags, moved on to purses and baby dresses, and within the past couple of months progressed to quilts.

I seem to have a particular talent for finding hobbies that are NOT inexpensive. However as my skills have improved (and swearing has decreased dramatically), I’ve sold several of my projects among friends and coworkers, which allows me to keep feeding my growing fabric store habit (SO MANY PRETTY COLORS!). Also, my husband has been extremely tolerant of the constant clutter. Mainly because I made the goal to finish every project I start, and have (so far, mostly) stuck to it.

I am still an optimist, and I have a nearly pathological need to be creative. Which means that in addition to pottery photos, you may start seeing photos of finished sewing projects popping up here. And as always, comments and constructive criticism are always welcome.

Furthermore, since I now FINISH things I start (ahem), I WILL be posting more often! 🙂

Have a fantastic day!

 

Long Time Gone

Happy Fall! It has been a loooonnnnnggggg time since I have posted. I hope you missed me – at least a little! 😉

Quite a bit has happened since my last post, back in early December. Some good, some bad, some just dang annoying. I am trying to learn to let go and roll with the things that are beyond my control. There are days I am mostly successful. Other days I feel stuck in the bottom of a pit of despair.

The Good(s) –

1) I have a job that I absolutely love. WOOT, WOOT! I work with a fantastic group of people, at a company where I finally feel like I fit in. Yay! No more temping! Besides having a solid future, this company seems to have a sound moral and ethical base, gives back to the community, believes in work/life balance, and supports the growth of its employees. I enjoy going to work every day, and it has been a long time since I have been able to say that.

2) I got to take my first paid summer vacation in several years! First time in Myrtle Beach; we were not disappointed. It was a week of great sunny weather, beautiful beaches, and fun with the family. We all enjoyed ourselves, and will definitely be going back in the future.

3) We moved earlier this month. Since I have not been able to convince my husband that a house is preferable, we are in another apartment. But the building is newer (meaning less repair issues), the apartment is lovely, in a town we really like, and our neighbors seem great. It is a very pet-friendly neighborhood, and we are close to both the walking path and the gym. Furthermore, we have a lovely, large, covered  porch, which is suitable for throwing pots on in decent weather.

The Bad (With Silver Lining) –

I have NOT been able to throw any pots since my last post. Yes, for nearly a year. AAARRRGGGHHH! My poor unused wheel has been sitting in a corner giving me dirty looks since December.

I apparently gave myself a case of tennis elbow from so much throwing over the Summer and Fall, and have been letting things alone so it could heal. By Spring, I thought I may finally be to a point that I could start throwing again. But, BAM! Literally a day or two after entertaining that notion, shooting pain and swelling even worse than ever. To the point that I could not lift my arm at all without crying. Difficult to get dressed, nearly impossible to sleep. It even hurt to write.

In my sleep-deprived crankiness, I had a moment of lucidity, and decided to go see an acupuncturist. It was a truly wonderful experience! The decrease in pain after my first visit was tangible, and by the third visit (over the course of a week), I was back to normal, with only a little lingering soreness.

The Annoying (Also With Silver Lining) –

My computer also died in December. SIGH!

Yes, it was a refurbished one, but I had only owned it for (almost exactly) a year. The consensus of my techie friends (far more knowledgeable than I) was that it was the power supply. It would be an inexpensive fix. So, to Amazon I went, and bought the appropriate unit. Hubby very generously and exactingly installed it for me. Excitement mounted. I pressed the power button, and… NOTHING! BOO!

So with some patience (which is not my strong suit), some saving, and my husband’s unexpected work bonus, I was able to buy my first laptop in March. I know, I know, I am behind the times… Now I am loving my shiny, brand new bit of technology, and no longer need to surf the web and read email or blog posts on my cell phone.

In The End –

As you can see, everything worked out well in the end, in just about every circumstance. So now life is back on an even keel. I am waaayyyyy behind in my timeline of goals, but mostly healthy, happy, employed, and hooked to the technological lifeline that is the Internet. I am also getting my DIY/decorating fix doing our new abode. With a husband who is cheerfully installing curtain rods, and agreeable to (or at least tolerant of) discussions regarding new furniture, color schemes, and area rugs.

Life is good.

Yes, the arm is still sore, but mostly better. I am tempted to give my wheel some much needed attention in these next couple of weeks. But I now know to never throw pots for 6 hours or more at a stretch. Not. Ever. Again.

If anyone knows good exercises to prevent future tennis elbow flare-ups, please share!

May Health, Happiness, and Contentment be Yours!

Optimism and Baby Steps

Sometimes it’s the small steps getting done that can make you feel really accomplished. It feels wonderful when I bring my pots to the studio for bisque firing. Dropping off pots is a small step in toward the end product, however:

1) I got all my greenware across town without breakage!

2) My shelves got emptied, which gives me room to make more, and even better thrown pots.

3) Taking the greenware across town gives me a reason to get out of the house and spend the rest of the day with my husband.

Last week my pots were relinquished to the care of the kiln gods. Today I will go by the studio and thoroughly rinse all my bisqued pieces. I find that the glazes turn out better when I include this step. Then tomorrow, the clean, dry pieces will be glazed, and given back into the care of the kiln gods. 🙂 This prospect makes me one very happy girl!

So tell me, what little things make you feel happy and accomplished?

In honor of Thanksgiving, I have decided to post a few of my favorite dessert recipes.

I don’t enjoy the baking process as much as I enjoy the results, so I am all about making it as easy as possible. For instance, when making pies, I usually use refrigerated dough or cookie crusts. (However, if you like to make pie crust, this one looks interesting: http://www.americastestkitchen.com/recipes/3919-foolproof-pie-dough ) Dozens of recipes over the years have been discarded because they either did not live up to expectations taste-wise, or I could not tweak the process to simplify it. These recipes have all made the cut. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

Pumpkin Pie

There are a few sneaky secret ingredients in this that make it the best pumpkin pie I have ever had. If you are not normally a fan of pumpkin pie, give this one a try anyway. You might just be pleasantly surprised!

1 15 oz can of plain pumpkin puree

½ cup apple butter

3 large eggs, separated

½ cup packed light brown sugar

¼ cup heavy cream

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp fresh grated ginger

½ tsp allspice

pinch of salt

1 9 inch pie crust (either traditional pastry or graham cracker work well)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake the pie crust for 15 minutes. Do NOT prick the pastry. (Pre-bake even if you are using graham cracker crust.)

Using an electric beater, beat egg whites into stiff peaks. Set aside. In another bowl, beat together pumpkin, egg yolks, apple butter, sugar, cream, and spices. Fold egg whites into pumpkin mixture until fully incorporated. Spoon filling into the pie crust and bake for approximately 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. If the crust starts to get too dark during baking, cover the edges of the pie with aluminum foil.

Let the pie cool thoroughly before refrigerating. Fresh ginger really makes a difference here, but if you need to use ground ginger, decrease the amount to ½ teaspoon. Also, if anyone in your family is lactose intolerant, the cream can be eliminated without making a really big difference.

Oatmeal Cookies with Dark Chocolate and Cranberries

Loaded with goodies, and fantastically yummy!

1 ½ cups packed light brown sugar

1 cup salted butter, softened

1 tsp vanilla

1 egg

2 cups quick-cooking oats

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

12 oz dark chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli 70%)

1 cup craisins

Non-stick cooking spray, or parchment paper

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, vanilla and egg until well incorporated. Then beat in the flour, baking powder, and oatmeal. The cookie dough mixture will be very thick. Lastly, stir in the chocolate chips and craisins by hand.

Drop the dough by rounded heaping teaspoonfuls, about 1 inch apart, onto a cookie sheet that has either been sprayed, or is lined with parchment. Bake for 10-12 minutes. The edges of the cookies will start to turn golden brown when they are done. Let them cool a bit before trying to remove them from the cookie sheet. They will be very soft when they first come out of the oven.

Depending on how large you make them, this recipe yields approximately 3 dozen cookies. Feel free to substitute other dried fruits in place of the cranberries. I’m thinking blueberries or chopped up apricots may be very nice!

Lemon Chess Pie

Super simple to make, delicious to eat!

For those of you not familiar with it, Chess Pie is an old specialty of the Southern United States. It is a custard pie, with a touch of cornmeal, and can be found in many different flavors ranging from plain custard, to lemon, lime, orange, coconut, vanilla, and chocolate. Nobody is sure where the name comes from. Some have said it comes from “chest” – the pantry/cabinet/breadbox it would have been stored in before the invention of refrigerators. Others say that the name comes from misunderstanding the southern drawl – when someone asked what it was, the response was “It’s just (jes) pie”. 🙂

3 large eggs, separated

1 cup buttermilk

3 Tb lemon juice

1 cup granulated (white) sugar

1 tsp grated lemon zest

¼ cup minus 1 Tb all-purpose flour

1 Tb cornmeal

pinch of salt

1 9 inch pie crust

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake the pie crust for 15 minutes. Do NOT prick the pastry.

Using an electric beater, beat egg whites into stiff peaks. Set aside. In another bowl, beat together the remaining ingredients. Fold the egg whites thoroughly into the lemon mixture, and pour into the pie crust. Bake for approximately 35-45 minutes. The top of the pie should be starting to turn golden brown. Let cool thoroughly. Supposedly, this pie can be stored covered on a countertop for 3-4 days without a problem. However, I prefer to refrigerate it.

I have tried this recipe using both traditional pastry pie crust and shortbread cookie crust. Both work well. However, we personally prefer the pastry for this. If you decide to use the cookie crust, pre-bake it for 15 minutes before filling.

This pie can be served warm, but the custard will obviously be a bit softer if you do. Also, it is just as yummy if you substitute lime instead of lemon. And, if you or your family have problems with corn, the cornmeal may be omitted. But then it’s not truly a Chess Pie, just custard pie. 😉

Vegan Apple Coffee Cake

Wonderfully moist, and much lighter than traditional coffee cake!

This cake is vegan, but nobody would honestly know unless you told them. I’ve had non-vegetarian friends sneak back to get second and even third pieces! For a “regular” version, I have the differences noted in parentheses where applicable. It looks like a lot to do, but this recipe comes together pretty quickly once the apples are peeled.

Cake:

3 cups cake flour

2 large apples, peeled and coarsely grated

1 cup granulated (white) sugar

2/3 cup almond milk (2/3 cup milk)

1 cup canola or other vegetable oil

1/2 cup applesauce (2 eggs)

5 tsp baking powder (only 4 tsp baking powder)

1 Tb vanilla

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

Non-stick cooking spray

You can finely chop the apples instead of grating if you want, but I actually grate mine using my food processor, and it is super quick! Also, all-purpose flour may be substituted for cake flour in a pinch, but will make the cake a bit more dense.

Streusel Topping:

1/2 cup flour – all purpose works fine for this

1 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup chopped almonds – I buy them already chopped.

1 tsp cinnamon

1/3 cup canola oil or coconut oil (1/3 cup softened butter)

Caramel:

Caramel is optional. To make a vegan caramel sauce you would need to cook down:

1 cup full fat coconut milk

1/4 cup water

1 cup sugar

a pinch of salt

vanilla to taste (about 1 tsp)

Or, you could just use store-bought caramel sauce for “regular” cake.

 Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix together all the dry ingredients for the cake in a large bowl, then add in the wet ingredients and the apples. Beat with an electric mixer for about 2-3 minutes. The batter might start out looking a little dry, but don’t add any extra liquid! Just keep mixing. The batter will be quite thick. Spread this into a 9×13″ pan that has been greased or sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

 In a separate bowl, mix together the streusel ingredients. You will need to get in there with your hands to mix it. It should look like crumbles, like pea-sized or slightly smaller – not humongous lumps. Sprinkle this mixture over the top of the cake batter. Be generous, and cover the whole thing.

Bake for approximately 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Drizzle caramel over the top of the cake while it’s cooling.

Flour-less Chocolate Torte

Rich, creamy, and tremendously satisfying. A little slice goes a long way!

6 large eggs

18 oz chocolate chips (either dark or semi-sweet)

¾ cup granulated (white) sugar

1 cup unsalted butter

½ cup water

pinch of salt

pinch of cinnamon

Non-stick cooking spray

Cocoa powder or confectioners sugar for dusting

Set a pan of water on your lower oven rack, and preheat the oven to 300°F. The water stays in the oven during the entire baking process.

The following steps can be done using the microwave:

* Completely melt the chocolate. Stir until smooth and set aside.

* Melt the butter and set aside.

* Combine water, sugar and salt. Heat until boiling. Stir to make sure sugar is dissolved. Set aside.

Next, it is important to make sure each item below is fully incorporated before moving on to the next step:

* Using an electric beater, beat the butter and cinnamon into the chocolate.

* Beat in the water/sugar mixture.

* Beat in the eggs – one at a time- until fully incorporated.

Pour batter into a 9 inch cake pan that has been generously coated with non-stick cooking spray. Bake on the upper rack of the oven for approximately 45 minutes. When the cake is done, the sides will be pulling away from the pan slightly, but the center will still look wet.

Let the cake cool, then refrigerate overnight. To get the cake out of the pan after refrigerating, dip the pan in hot water for approximately 20-30 seconds.

Dust the top of the cake with cocoa powder or confectioners’ sugar before serving. This cake is best when served only slightly cool or close to room temperature.

Inching Closer to the Goal

Happy November, Everyone!

I know it’s been awhile since I have posted, and it’s well past the projected deadline for getting my pieces done, but that’s okay. I can honestly say that although there have been delays, they have been mostly positive.

The rain and associated humidity eventually cleared up here in North Carolina, so my greenware is finally dry. YAY! I will be transporting everything to the local studio for firing on Friday or Saturday. I have about 35 pieces ready to go, so I am not going to estimate how long it will take me to finish glazing. One of the many things I have learned over the past few months is that my estimations are almost never correct. Too much optimism in the calculations just yet, and not enough realism. Sigh!

I also started a new day job in the beginning of October, so that put a crimp in my productivity. Creativity temporarily came to a screeching halt! No more late nights throwing for me! But now that I have gotten used to working 9 to 5 again, I will be scheduling pockets of time to get good and muddy! Another YAY! It seems strange to have to schedule something I once considered a hobby; that’s one characteristic separating the professional from the amateur, I guess. And a passionate professional is what I aim to be. Someday, pottery WILL be my day job.

Having a non-artistic day job is a bit unpleasant, no matter how much I like the job and my co-workers (and I do!). Most evenings it feels like my poor, neglected pottery wheel is standing in the corner throwing me dirty looks. I feel guilty when I go to bed at night not having to wash clay off my hands first. But in reality, the second paycheck sure is nice. Finances were way tighter than we liked with me staying at home, and it was sort of depressing. Now the bills are being paid on time, and I can set aside a little bit for firing costs. Bills paid, and quicker pottery completion equals a double bonus in my book!

The past several months have been a huge learning experience for me. I’ve gained perspective; learned which of my goals are realistic as they are, and what others need to be reworked. I’ve come to terms with what I am physically capable of completing, and in what time frame. And I am re-learning to prioritize, so my personal life does not fall apart as my professional one grows. Tunnel vision is an unfortunate weakness of mine, and life cannot proceed smoothly if the pots are beautiful, but the clothes are unwashed and cupboard bare. Not that it’s gone that far, but you catch my drift. Balance… I am striving for balance in equal measure with progress.

Wishing you a happy, healthy, balanced, and blessed Thanksgiving! 😉