Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Craft Show

Well, I've signed up to be a vendor at a local craft show. My very first! I love going to these things, wandering around, seeing what everyone is making and getting ideas for my own new projects. There was one recently in town, at which a couple of my friends had booths. One of them told me I should be a vendor, so here I am! It's a festival at a nearby town, and it's not until October. Which means, I'm going to be a busy bee, making ornaments like crazy to stock up for this thing. Actually, it's probably good for me, because it will give me focus, something to work towards. Otherwise, I have a tendency to flit from project to project like a bee from flower to flower. I currently have seven paintings I can also take, and a couple of drawings. My mind is abuzz with ideas about booth layout and presentation, like a bee...you get the idea. I don't even have a canopy. Or a folding table. Or any sort of packaging. Or anything to use for a display. Good thing I have a whole month to prepare! On a separate note, it is now September 1st, which means I can officially decorate for fall till my happy heart's content!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

making ornaments

Well, it's that time of year again. The time of year when I break out the jeans, even though it's still too hot, just because I want it to be fall. I love everything about autumn; the cooler weather, the colors, the savory food, the mystery and spookiness. Last year, shortly after this time, I was so enamored of fall that I began making ornaments mimicking all the beautiful, jewel bright leaves that were plastered against the ground. Now, I'm at it again, and I thought I'd share the process. I use Sculpey clay, primarily because it's so readily available. I roll it out thin, cut out some leaves with my X-acto knife, bake them in the oven, paint them, and then gloss them. Usually I watch something on Dan's computer while I'm at it, because it's just too quiet otherwise. And my computer blows up like a jet engine every time I try to do anything more complicated than play solitaire. Here are some pictures!

my messy tray of stuff

fresh out of the oven


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Elderberry Jelly

Well, I went home to visit my parents at their lovely farmhouse in the country. They have a pervasive growth of elderberries beside their barn, which has been mowed over several times in my memory yet still persists. Occasionally, the berries would flourish and we would enlist my dear grandmother to make some jelly, but this year, we tried it on our own. And it was, at first, an extravagant failure! We followed the recipe to a T, and after the canning process we discovered, to our dismay, the jelly was the consistency of maple syrup. We had written out fancy little labels for the jars and everything. We studied the richly colored, beautiful syrup, tapping our chins as we tried to think of a solution. Finally, we decided to open all 32 jars, dump the syrup into a pan, add some more pectin, and give it another go. Success! The jelly turned out beautifully, and we didn't have to write out 32 new labels! The recipe we used is as follows, including our belated addition of more pectin:

7 1/2 cups of elderberry juice
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 pkgs pectin (we used Sur-Jel)
9 cups sugar

If, like us, you are working with freshly picked elderberries (and let's face it, who buys elderberries?) they need to be cooked, crushed, and strained to separate the juice from the seeds and skins. Then, heat the juices and pectin until boiling. Add the sugar and continually stir until boiling again. When it is at a full, rolling boil time it for two minutes. Remove from heat, fill clean jars, cap them, and boil in a hot water bath for five minutes. As they cool they will seal. Oh, and we boiled the tops also to sanitize and soften them before we capped the jelly. The jelly has a rich flavor that, in my humble opinion, surpasses grape jelly, which my grandma also made yearly as I was growing up. I feel like I resurrected a dying art! I feel independent and capable, knowing that if our world had an apocalyptic disaster, I would still be able to produce a sumptuous sweet treat that would last the winter...or rather, would be able to if I knew how to procure pectin independently. And also sugar...but in any case, I have no doubt that if that sort of thing happened, Mom's elderberry bramble would endure.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

My first batch!

I have now completed my first batch of soap. It was an arduous experience, in which I felt like a witch presiding over some insidious brew and a chemist, complete with goggles and gloves. I followed some basic advice for making milk soaps, that is to stir the lye into milk which is frozen until slushy and resting in an ice bath. This helps to keep the temperature from rising enough to scald the milk, or curdle it, or some such catastrophe. My sources were mixed on exactly what would be the dreaded outcome. Does coconut milk even curdle? Hmmmm....

I had to stir it for an hour and twenty minutes. No joke, and my hair kept getting fuzzier and curlier the longer I stirred, my face redder, my arms and shoulders sorer. I understand getting a stick blender makes it significantly faster, but I am currently trying to limit my initial start up costs, as per a stern dictate from my husband. Eventually, my soap mixture reached trace, which is when it's thick enough for a dribble trailed over the surface to remain visible. It was a lovely pumpkin pie color, which left me thinking I should have added some cloves or something to make it smell spicy. However, I was soon to find out that as it set in the mold it changed colors to a creamy ivory color, with little brown flecks. I think it's rather pretty. I let it set in the mold for two days, and this morning cut it up into smaller bars, some four ounce and some two ounce, to distribute amongst my testers (namely, my family). It was very odd, having the superficial look and feel of regular soap but the texture of homemade fudge. Now it has to cure for several weeks, and I'm quite impatient to try it. However I will wait, as I don't want to burn my skin off with caustic, premature soap. Here are some pictures!

pumpkin pie colored

faded to a creamy color

all sliced and ready to cure