Sunday, January 31, 2010

Simple Joy Sunday

Finding the simple joys each week...

I've been doing more cooking than I used to and am surprisingly not minding it so much. My attitude has always been that I like to eat, but really don't like to cook. Probably since around Christmas, I've been doing a good job of cooking on a semi regular basis and making lots of extras so that we have leftovers. It's so nice seeing a full refrigerator! And the strange thing is that I haven't really minded doing it! Don't tell my mom... I'll never live it down.

One day that I was feeling kind of cranky at work this week, Scott brought in Chinese food (I've been craving it for weeks now!) and a Black and White Cookie (one of my all time favorites) to make me smile. It worked. He's such a sweetie!

I haven't really picked up my pliers much in the last few months, but inspired by the Fantasy Artists of Etsy Street Team's monthly challenge I created a new piece. It felt really good to have my pliers in my hands and be working with metal again. Check out my blog post about my challenge piece!

Taking a walk, getting some fresh air, and holding hands with my sweetie. It was so nice to spend time together. Plus, a walk & fresh air is such a simple thing, but can really make a difference when you're stuck at work.

My psychic friend Ramona that gave me the crystals last week, gave me another prezzie this week. She treated herself to a new deck of tarot cards and likes to give away an old set when she buys new so I was the lucky recipient of deck of Angel Oracle Cards.

Scott & I went to see Avatar this week and let me tell you: it was amazing. I was afraid that the 3D would make me sick (I am extremely sensitive and apt to getting motion sickness), but it was really well done and the CGI was woven so seamlessly into the movie. The visuals were gorgeous, the acting was great, and the message is as pertinent as ever (I only hope that it gets across).

I spent a good amount of time straightening up my work room. It's not perfect, but it feels so much better being able to at least see the top of my desk!

Okay, not only did I make my FAEteam challenge piece this week, but I also spent Saturday working on two new maille pieces and photographing a beaded necklace & earring set! I haven't had a day like that in a long time and it felt really good.

As always, check out more Simple Joy Sundays over at Cool Zebras. What were some of your joys this week?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

New in Shop: Wolf Hunter Chain Maille Necklace

The Fantasy Artists of Etsy Street Team's 2010 monthly challenge is based on each month's name of the Full Moon. There are multiple names that the moon can go by according to different cultures and mythologies. For January, I chose to work with the Native American name: Wolf Moon.

I thought it would be easy to find lupine inspiration, if nothing else surely I could create something involving werewolves. A few weeks of no inspiration and mounting frustration, I approached my teammates with the question of what they do when they have a creative block. At the suggestion of one teammate I waded through a bag of supplies that I forgot I had. It was full of pendants, findings, gemstones, and a couple of Mahogany Obsidian arrowheads. In my wolf research, I read about Wolf's Bane which is an herb and one of the common names for Aconite. Several species of aconite are poisonous and have been used as arrow poisons to hunt ibex and bear as well as in warfare. It is also historically correct that Native Americans used Mahogany Obsidian for arrowheads. So my Wolf Moon chain maille piece is actually inspired by my herbal research (it's all connected).

I did a very simple wire wrap on an arrowhead and suspended it on a length of copper chain maille. This chain maille weave is most commonly known as Full Persian, but as with so many maille weaves goes by a few different names: one of them is Foxtail. I chose to work in copper because of how earthy a metal it is. It was turning out to be quite a substantial piece, so I didn't think just any clasp would do. I wanted to make something that could carry the bulk and toughness of the piece. I also wanted it to feel like the hunter made it himself to carry the prized arrowhead that caught the wolf that tormented his village. I wanted it to feel rustic.

The Wolf Hunter Chain Maille Necklace is available both in my Artfire Studio and Etsy Shop.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Simple Joy Sunday

Last week was fairly busy at work, so I honestly lost track of what, if any, simple joys happened. Let's see if I can do better with this week. Finding the simple joys each week...

I tried making fresh, homemade ginger ale based on this recipe by Aquarian Bath. It's a little sweet for my taste and definitely not as fizzy as store bought, but you can't beat the fresh ginger taste. So yummy!!

My Fantasy Artists of Etsy Street Team forum group decided it would be fun to do a monthly challenge. I'll go more into this in another post, but I was thrilled this week when inspiration finally hit. I had been thinking about it and thinking about it but was coming up blank and feeling completely uninspired. Needless to say, when inspiration finally struck, I was thrilled.

As I was trying to figure out what I was going to do for the challenge, I started going through some of my supplies. I found a bag full of findings, pendants, and beads from two years ago that I haven't touched yet. What have I been waiting for? These can be turned into all kinds of gorgeous things!

The FL Herb Society meeting this week was a topic that I didn't think I would have that much interest in, but it did turn out to be interesting and just being there and getting out made me happy. You can read my blog post from the meeting about herbal soup stocks.

A few weeks ago, Scott had some of his buddies over for a gaming night. Turns out that one of them owns (well, owned actually: they just sold) a Spice & Tea shop and noticed me making a cup of rooibos. The next time Scott saw him, he gave him a couple of different teas and some flavored sugar. I thought that was so sweet of him!

Lotus Bowl by De Braun Fine Ceramics

In the past, my friend Ramona gave me a few tools to help deal with an enormous amount of stress including the obsidian egg (dispels negativity and is a stone of protection) and quartz crystal (amplifies the stone that it's being used in conjunction with and is also a healing stone) you see here. This week, Ramona said that she had something for me. She had this crystal ball that told her it was time for it to move on. I actually remember Ramona doing a reading for me and used this ball at one point during it. She said it's smokey quartz, which would make sense to me, but I've never seen it look like this before. It's a pretty translucent black on two sides with a grey/clear/milky band around it that moves like tiger's eye. It really is a gorgeous stone. I've been told that it's good for helping with employment issues, in which case it's perfect for me right now. Ramona is so good to me.

I am so sad that my local Pearl Art Supply is closing! The only good thing about it is that I managed to score some great stuff for 75% off this week. It was pretty well picked over by the time I got to it, but I did manage to pick up some great little tins, prisma color pens, enameled copper wire, melt & pour soap (to hold me over until I figure out how to make soap from scratch), molds for bath bombs, and even one of those large glass jars with a spigot that always makes ice water with lemons floating in it look like a day at the spa.

Had a really nice time with Scott on Friday night. After work, we went to the awesome diner we discovered recently and got some dinner. It's always nice to spend some time together out and about.

As always, check out more Simple Joy Sundays over at Cool Zebras. What were some of your joys this week?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

FL Herb Society Meeting: Herbal Soups & Stews

I didn't get to go to the FL Herb Society Meeting last month with the holiday crazies going on and I almost didn't make it this month either: my boss was trying to schedule a company dinner for after work (after work!) but luckily there were some of us that already had plans. In all honesty, I wasn't sure how interesting the meeting was going to be but I really wanted to go see my fellow herbies anyway!

The meeting was focused on a presentation of herbal soup and stock ideas by Emily Wenzel. Emily (FL Herb Society VP) is a Personal Trainer and Herbal Product creator from Body and Mind Enrichment (BMe). Not only is she a super nice chick and exudes friendliness, but her organic vegetable soup stock was really tasty. She highly encouraged us to be creative and use what we've got.

She prepared an easy stock at the meeting including ginger, carrots, leeks, celery, and garlic. All of these yummy veggies simmered for a few minutes before she added three parts water and one part vermouth. She took her time adding ingredients as she talked to give everything a chance to work it's magic. After a few minutes, she started adding her greens simply by breaking them apart with her fingers instead of chopping with a knife. Some greens that she recommended include collards, bok choy, mustard greens, kale, etc. One of the things that I loved about the way she was preparing things is how organic and earthy she did it. The fact that she used her fingers instead of a knife, she literally massaged her ingredients, she seemed very in tune to her cooking.

She added some rosemary, oregano, and juice from half a lemon. Some root herbs that she encouraged us to include are astragalus and ginger, but they should be removed when you're done cooking (nobody wants to gnaw on a root in their soup!). She also gave us the idea of using a broccoli stalk for flavoring, again removing it. Another option is to cut a piece of fennel very close to the bottom or even a nice long piece of lemongrass: tie them in a loose knot for easy removal. I was sitting toward the back of the room when she was doing her demonstration, but I could smell it even back there and it smelled amazing!

Another basic combination that she suggested was water and sherry with mushrooms, thyme, oregano, and rosemary. That sounds so delicious to me! If you like a thicker soup, she suggested using a small amount (maybe a tablespoon) of sesame oil or coconut oil; or if you have a submersion (or a stick) blender you can also use that to thicken it up.

Soups are good for you (tasty herbal medicine that fuels your soul!). The food is broken down so it's easy to digest and can include so many ingredients in them that are good for you. Here are some ideas:

Astragalus - supports & enhances the immune system
Bay - used to soothe stomach & gas, indigestion, heartburn
Fennel - good for digestion, gas, cramps
Garlic - anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxident
Ginger - calms upset stomach, minimizes colds and allergies, relieves arthritis due to it's anti-inflammatory properties
Lemongrass - good for nervous and digestive problems; anti-spasmodic; relieves headaches; helps acne; insect repellent (fly, flea, mosquito); muscular pain and stress related conditions; anti-depressant; astringent
Marjoram & Oregano - anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory; muscle relaxant; itchy skin. Oregano and wild marjoram include Thymol which helps loosen phlegm in lungs and releives spasms in bronchial passages, preserves food; can even use it in bath water
Rosemary - anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, anti-oxident, brain & hair stimulant, increases circulation, reduces headaches, insect repellant, deoderant, food preserver; can also be used in bath
Sage - Burn to consecrate a ritual space, carry it as protection, use in ritual bath, absorbs negativity and misfortune; anti-oxident, throat, sores & stings, lifts spirits
Thyme - includes Thymol, anti-spasmodic, anti-septic that kills mildew and mold, treats coughs and congestion, mouthwash for sore throats and gums, muscle aches, poor circulation, gas colds, flu

During the hands on portion of the meeting, we each made a little cheesecloth with herbs for a stock to make at home. I included astragalus, bay, oregano, and sage. Here's a trick: keep one end of your string or hemp long so that you can tie it to the side of the pot for easy removal. I usually like to to keep my herbs in the soup so I may add some extra when I use this, but it's definitely a no brainer for herbs that must be removed.

There are refreshments served at every meeting based on the current month's focus herb. Last night the treats were focusing on sage. There was butternut squash soup, one of Emily's veggie herb soups, sage muffins, sage butter, and a salad of watermelon, goat's cheese, and mint. Everything was so delicious and I picked up some of the tea that was served, too.

I even treated myself to some yummy lip balm: I say yummy because it tastes like cinnamon. Its a lovely red color not from artificial dye, but from using alkenet root (it really only gives a hint of color on the lips which is perfect for me for everyday).

I'm glad I went. I had a really nice time.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday Finds - How I Spent My Day

With my wonky work schedule, I already did my time this week so I didn't have to go in today. I tell ya, though, I did more work at home today than I would of had I gone to work.

There was quite a pile of dishes that needed to be dealt with. Unfortunately, they were NOT the kind that could go into the dishwasher so I was doing it the old fashioned way. I would have really loved to let the machine deal with it though because I'm dying to try some handmade dishwasher detergent.

After finally taking down the tree (the holidays really are A LOT of work!!), I spent a good amount of time sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming. This carpet freshener looks like it would smell divine:

Finally, I threw together some dinner before Scott had to go to work. I love my herbs and have a very nice container garden of herbal goodness, but there are some herbs that just do not do well in Florida so I keep a variety of dried herbs on hand as well.

I finished off my day by packaging up an order of stretchy chain maille, straining some herbal concoctions, and having a glass of red wine. It wasn't necessarily a fun day, but it certainly was productive!! Hope you had a good one!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Inspiration: where it comes from, what it influences, where it goes

I recently purchased 52 weeks of blogging your passion by Tara Gentile (editor of Scoutie Girl) and the very first project is to figure out your mission statement. She asks a couple of questions to get you started:

What fuels your passion for craft, art, or design? What’s your inspiration?
How does that passion manifest? What do you create?

I'm inspired by the wonders of nature, strong women accomplishing their dreams, the arts & performing arts... But rarely, do these things inform my creations. Yes, it makes sense that I want to equip warrior women and it makes sense that I want to protect the environment by working with Earth friendly ingredients that are straight from nature and good for people. I almost never think: that Amelia Earhart was one amazing chick, maybe I should make some aviation inspired chain maille. Huh... maybe I should think things like that. That would certainly solve the problem I was just about to discuss.

In the past, I would have moments of inspiration, but felt like it would never manifest itself in a creative way. Inspiration would come, make me all warm and fuzzy, and then go away. The areas that I like to work in make sense based on what inspires me, but shouldn't inspiration also inform what I'm making in these areas?

What inspires you? How do you find it being made manifest in your own work?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I'm Listening.

Being at a crossed roads in my life, I've been trying to be open to receiving any information that the universe wants to share with me lately. The fact that the rest of my herbalism course showed up on the same day that I set a 2010 goal to be in a better work situation was not lost on me. I have a deck of Goddess Guidance Oracle Cards by Doreeen Virtue and although I don't read tarot or runes, I do like to pull out this deck on occasion and see what the Goddesses have to say to me. Around the same time that I announced my goal and received my herbalism course, I drew these cards.

Sedna is the Inuit Eskimo and Alaskan Goddess of the Sea worshipped by hunters who depended on her goodwill to supply food. One of my fears of moving on from my current job to something that won't necessarily have a steady paycheck is that we won't be able to pay our bills. I felt that Sedna's message to me was to not worry about the future; to know that we will always be provided for and have enough to eat

The little booklet that came with the deck of cards has a description for each Goddess and what Her message may be. There were a few things in the description for Green Tara that really struck me. "...making decisions is the shortest route to triumphant passages" reminded me that once I make up my mind to do something, I tend to be a very determined individual. It also said, "She rescues us by empowering us to save ourselves." Nobody is going to change things for the better but me, so I better get a move on and fix this situation that's making me miserable.

Pele (the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes) is typically seen as a destroyer Goddess, but what people sometimes forget is that with destruction comes creation. She shows us that fire can purify, release us from the old to make way for the new, and ignite our passions. I believe Pele is telling me to go for it, to change careers and start anew.

Athena. I find it very fortuitous that Athena would grace me with Her presence here. Not only my maille shop's namesake, but I also recently came to learn of her relation to Asclepius and that she's also known as a healer (very appropriate to my study of herbalism, I would say). Athena is the goddess of wisdom, so in this case I think she's telling me to trust myself that I'm doing the right thing; to trust my inner wisdom.

I'm studying herbalism: Aeracura's symbol is flowers. The card's title is "Blossoming" and reads "You are just getting started, so have patience with yourself and the process, and do not give up." The words, the context, and the symbols are very reassuring.

I wasn't sure if I should share this spread because it was so personal and felt so right, but I think that I wanted to acknowledge it somehow. To say,

"Thank you, Great Goddesses. Thank you for your wisdom and guidance. I heard you."

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Simple Joy Sunday

Finding the simple joys each week...

With the Bad Comes the Good
This week started out with Scott having to pull a 24 hour day at work, freezing weather, and the both of us starting to feel a little sickly. Since having moved down to FL from NY, I will readily admit that my blood has thinned and I'm feeling the cold more than ever. It is nice to have a change in the weather and be able to wear some nice big, cozy clothes but where the Hell are my gloves?!

I've also been pretty worried about my little green friends. Up until this weekend, I've been covering up my herbs with a sheet nightly. This weekend, we're expecting freezing temperatures so the herbs have come inside. Everything seems to be doing okay except the basil. The basil doesn't seem happy at all.

It's probably just the cold weather that has me feeling tired and run down, but I've been taking daily doses of Fire Cider anyway. That stuff is freaking potent (overwhelming to the taste buds potent), but it also seems to be working! I tried mixing some of it in with low sodium V8: very tasty & good for you, too!

I feel really bad for Scott being sickly, but it also gave me an opportunity to try a new herbal concoction: Triple Strength Throat Spray. He hasn't given me much feedback on it but after a day of using it and getting rest, he's doing better.

I had a refresher training course for my CPR certification this week. I appreciate having the knowledge, but would also appreciate if everyone refrained from going into cardiac arrest. Thanks.

In Other News
On Wednesday, I got to work only to discover that not only did I win a print from The Dreamy Giraffe, but I also sold a piece of armor: my chain maille Bishop's Mantle! I had another inquiry about a custom mantle recently and now this sale, guess it's the season for mantles.

It may of seemed obvious to everyone around me, but I finally realized that my goal for 2010 is improving (or getting out of, depending on how you look at it) my work situation. This gives me something positive to work towards. And no sooner did I blog about it, did the rest of my herbalism course show up in the mail! If there are no coincidences and the universe is trying to tell me something, it seems to be pretty loud and clear at the moment!

As always, check out more Simple Joy Sundays over at Cool Zebras. What were some of your joys this week?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Goals: I've Gotta Get Out of Here!

I've been thinking a lot about my goals (ie: resolutions) from last year and have been procrastinating blogging about it because it hasn't really been clear to me what my goals for this year should be. I'm going to take it step by step and see if we can't get this figured out.

Starting with 2009's review.

On the personal side, I vowed to take better care of myself and, for the most part, I did. I stopped the trips to vendo-land (I have no idea where that horrible habit came from!) but never did start taking yoga classes. I was on a roll working out probably until mid-summer when I hit a plateau. I didn't develop a sitting meditation practice, but did manage to find moments of Zen.

I did work on purging things that I don't need and getting my work room more organized. The purging is an ongoing process and that's fine. My work room is still not what I want it to be, but there was an improvement made when I invested in shelving for the closet. Sadly, I still haven't figured out the sewing machine I got off of freecycle.

I worked very hard at overcoming the huge problem I have with worrying about things that I have no control over. I'm an expert at being prepared for miscellaneous circumstances (due to my background as a stage manager), but the problem comes when I drive myself crazy with worry. This is something that I have to stay conscious of and will continue to be an ongoing process. It's getting better, though.

So far as Athena's Armoury goes... Well, I must admit that I horribly neglected the Armoury quite a bit this past year. After I finished a major project, I decided to give my badly injured wrist a break. Well, that self imposed break ended around the time things were getting really bad at work and my nerves took precedence over anything else. Needless to say, nearly all of my goals for the Armoury fell by the wayside.

This past summer was pretty brutal with work drama (much is still lingering), but I did manage to bounce back a bit. I don't think the situation will be much improved until there are drastic changes made here (doubtful) or I leave. I'm scared as Hell to think of leaving the only career I ever knew, but if I dread it day after day is it justifiable to stay in a career I love for a job I hate?

And that brings us to 2010!
I don't know how this wasn't dreadfully obvious to me before! The one goal, and it's a big one, that I know I have to work on is getting out of my current work situation. I really think that anything else that I may want to work on would figure itself out if I were happy. Let's face it, I haven't been happy since I started this job four years ago. I made an announcement in September that I thought I figured out what I wanted to do: pursue herbalism and eventually open up a tea and herb shop. I've been doing my usual silliness of getting completely overwhelmed with the enormity of it. I need to get back on track and come up with a plan to create small, easily achievable goals each step of the way. I read the book Craft Inc. and it has a lot of helpful advice. I had a coupon, so I picked up the Craft Inc. Business Planner as a tool to help me get started.

And it begins...

Friday, January 8, 2010

Friday Finds - Don't Quit Your Day Job Or Maybe You Should

Work is starting to stress me out a lot again. Yes, again. I keep reminding myself...

...since I know that the economy is still hurting so many. But I can't help thinking...

I am an artist not a desk slave. And I really want to tell the evil boss lady...

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Simple Joy Sunday

Finding the simple joys each week...

I've been having a rough time of it with work again lately. It's getting as bad as it was over the summer. Scott's been such a sweetie and has been so supportive. I came home from work one day to find that he did all of the laundry, the dishes, cleaned the oven, changed out the litter box, even made dinner and food for me to take to work the next day. He had to go to work that night, but his intent was for me to be able to just come home and relax. I was still pretty stressed that night, but it was such a relief to be able to come home and not have to do anything.

Another day, we went to see the new Sherlock Holmes movie (a lot fun, by the way; check it out!) and then grabbed some dinner. Afterward, Scott had to go to work but I stayed home and continued to have an absolutely enjoyable evening. I played Wii Sports (for the first time in ages and got very sore!), made a new tea infusion, read some of my book, took a nice hot bath, and then crashed on the couch with the kitty and watched some Witchblade. It was such a great, recuperative day. And a much needed one at that!

If there's any truth to the tradition that you spend the first day of the new year doing what you want to be doing for the rest of the year, I'm in good shape. I spent New Year's Day with Scott, playing with my herbs, making some chain maille, and doing yoga. Overall, a very good day.

Despite work stress really starting to get to me, or maybe because of it, I managed to shake it off and not let it get to me when I was doing the things I love. That's a huge step from over the summer when it was with me constantly. And for that, I am grateful.

As always, check out more Simple Joy Sundays over at Cool Zebras. What were some of your joys this week?

Friday, January 1, 2010

Friday Finds - A New Year, A New Hope

I love the symbol for infinity. I believe that it means that there are infinite possibilities for my dreams to come true.

I just need to meditate on the possibilities.

Come up with a game plan and go for it.