Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Celebrating our Independence

This post is two fold, one to celebrate our country's independence I created a mixpod of some of my favorite songs and two to celebrate my last day of work, so in essence my independence. I know I'm getting a little ahead of myself this week, but take time to listen to your favorite tune this week and let's celebrate together.

In the USA, Independence Day is on the 4th of July, yes there was a movie with this same title and no I am not going to post that movie here even though I did like it. That is the day we commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence. We typically have great celebrations all across America in the form of BBQ's, Family Picnics, Parades, Concerts and of course Fireworks.

For those needing a history lesson, this is from Wikipedia:

During the American Revolution, the legal separation of the American colonies from Great Britain occurred on July 2, 1776, when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence that had been proposed in June by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia. After voting for independence, Congress turned its attention to the Declaration of Independence, a statement explaining this decision, which had been prepared by a Committee of Five, with Thomas Jefferson as its principal author. Congress debated and revised the Declaration, finally approving it on July 4.

This is a time when we as Americans should all be thankful and celebrate the independence that we do have in our country. Be safe this week in all your travels and celebrations.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Make a Hemp Knotted Necklace


I haven't tried to do macrame in such a long time. I remember when my mother used to make the hanging planter holders and all that was popular in the 70's. This style of choker or bracelet has been popular again for quite awhile again with the younger generation, yes, teens, twenty something, so I thought I would post this link here for all to enjoy and remember the old days..ha. and maybe make one for their grand-daughter, daughter or even themself.

Here is the link to Azerael's Squidoo Lens. http://www.squidoo.com/Hemp-Choker

If you make one of these, send me a picture and I'll post it for all to enjoy. I may have to go on the lookout for a simple tutorial design that can be made for men/boys.

Look for new songs tomorrow on my post (yes, I have watched Sleepless in Seattle again) and an update on Wednesday with a new recipe and status on how the diet is going. I did make a few new jewelry items this past week and weekend, but unfortunately was busy Saturday and Sunday and didn't get anything posted, so don't be surprised if you find an extra post here and there this week so I can get it all out of my system.

If you really like how to's, be sure to check out my crafty news blog where I feature lots of tutorials on everything from paper crafts to crochet. http://crafthowtos.blogspot.com.

Until then, have a great Monday!

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Countdown Begins - Part 2

In my previous post I provided a little background on my pending job status. Find that post here if you would like to read what is leading up to this post.

What will I do next is the question? I will be watching my nephew for 3 weeks in July as well as keep up with my numerous blogs, I have three web sites that I sell my jewelry and gem trees on and one web site that is a gallery of my work that really needs to be updated. You can find those links on the left side of the screen. My Gem Tree Sculptures book is soon to be printed, the proof has been received and approved, so I will have all that marketing to do. I have upcoming gem and mineral shows this Summer and Fall that I will be demonstrating and selling at as well as teaching gem tree design. All in all, I will be very busy with getting ready for the shows, designing new jewelry and gem trees and marketing my book that I’m not sure how I would have fit a full time job in there.

I have no clue about marketing, but am trying to learn fast and reading a lot of good blogs on marketing yourself and book. I’ve gotten a quote for postcards and business cards that have the image of the book on one side and places to purchase on the other as well as my contact info. I’ve identified bead and rock shops in the area that might be willing to take the book on consignment. One of those bead shops I’m hoping will consider hosting a few of my classes. I have my list of gem and mineral clubs in the Northwest that I will be sending a postcard to as well as posting it on their newsletter. I’m attending a National show in Montana at the end of July where I hope I will have copies of my book available for sale and can host a book signing. I’ve already gotten approval of the show chairman to teach a couple of classes there. I have my short list of lapidary vendors that are willing to take the book on consignment and sell at the shows they attend and obviously if I am there, I will autograph a few.

Speaking of that National show in Montana, I will also be competing for my "Masters" designation in Gem Tree design and I still have two trees to make for that competition as well as getting my case ready. My trees last year were noted as being "Master" quality, but my showmanship (case and labeling) was not up to "Master" level. I did obtain the "Advanced" status that I was competing for. This year I have to do well in the case structure and labeling. The judging is very picky about these things and I usually put more emphasis on the trees themselves so I have to switch my efforts and get it right this time.

Now aren’t you glad you asked the question?

The Countdown Begins - Part 1

Okay, the countdown began on April 15th but now with only 3 days to go it’s down to hours. A little background for those of you new reading this, I was part of a massive layoff at my work in April. I was one of the unlucky ones asked to stay until June 30th. Only those that have been in this situation would understand that statement. To watch as your friends and work associates leave and know that you should be with them is a traumatic experience in and of itself, but to have to stay to help clean up and reorganize is just cruel. Not sure why I was asked to stay as within two weeks I had transitioned all my work to other associates and still had two more months left. I couldn’t just leave unless I took them to court as I would have lost my severance, so my husband and I made the decision that I would stay. They could pay me to blog and tweet. Numerous times I talked to my boss to ask for work or help with other projects and nothing was forthcoming, so I didn’t feel bad cruising the internet all day.

My desk is packed and I’ve been taking a few things home each night. Of course I have no place for all this stuff at home, but feel I need to keep it. Included is books I’ll probably never read again, work momentos, work awards, files of old performance reviews and just other stuff I was not ready to get rid off. It’s an unusual feeling to not have work yet be at work and know that you have a ton of things to do at home.

I’m still a little pissed and angry, but come July 1st the new door will open, I’ll be able to breath and move forward mentally and let the past drop away. I will miss my friends that are left that I see daily, but we have already made plans for lunches throughout the Summer. I know where to find them and will be staying in touch. So, yes I’m sad to be leaving a job of 12 ½ years and excited to start a new chapter in my life. It is time and I am ready.

What will I do next you ask? Come back later and I’ll continue the story.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Featured Artist - Emily Balivet

I have a great appreciation for artists and the medium they work in, but to have such imagination and creativity is sometimes beyond my grasp. This work by Emily Balivet of Mythological Goddess Art is amazing. The colors just come out and grab you as well as the subject matter. It takes you back in time and makes you wonder just what it was like. Emily's shop can be found on 1000 Markets HERE. She offers ACEO's (2.5" x 3.5" prints), 8 x 10 prints and original artwork, so you can find something in your price range.

Emily states: Mainly, I just allow art to happen, as it has a life of it's own. My creations are directed by my muse and often reflect the divine balance of the light and darker aspects of my emotional being. In that way, art has been the ultimate window into my own subconscious. I have been designing and selling my work worldwide for over 15 years. Raised in Alaska, I was born and presently reside in Vermont where my primary artistic focus is on my fantastical and mythological paintings.. Now a mother of two young daughters, I occasionally shift my artistic talents to create clothing, natural wooden toys, and nearly anything possible to make by hand!

Here are a few samples of Emily's work. Please visit her shop and browse her mythothological art.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wickedly Healthy - Strawberry Banana Smoothie

Since my husband and I are eating healthier, I really can't be posting chocolate cookies or cakes, but I can post smoothies and other yummy recipes that we are trying out that tempt our sweet tooth. We have been making a lot of smoothies and one of our favorites is strawberry. We buy the frozen whole strawberries or mix berries sometimes and use those instead of ice cubes. I also add in a little protein powder for an added bonus especially if this is a meal replacement like breakfast or we don't want to cook for dinner. Here is a recipe I found on Allrecipes.com.

INGREDIENTS
1 cup milk
1 banana
3 large strawberries
1 tablespoon vanilla yogurt
1 teaspoon honey

DIRECTIONS
In a blender, combine milk, banana, strawberries, yogurt and honey. Blend until smooth. Pour into glass and serve.

I would use frozen strawberries and only half of a banana and nix the honey. If it needed added sweetness use a sugar substitute like Equal or Splenda.
Do you have a favorite smoothie recipe?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tuesday's Tunes are Sleepless

Tuesday’s Tunes are going to be preempted with a Tuesday Movie. One of my all time favorite movies is Sleepless in Seattle. Yes, I know it is a chick flick, but I don’t care…maybe because I am a chick. My favorite part is the ending but there are memorable parts throughout the movie, such as when Meg goes to Seattle to meet father and son and almost gets run over in the street. Remember this will only be up for one week, so if you want to watch all or parts, be sure to come back.
Enjoy!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Make a Necklace Display

I found this great idea to make your own necklace display. This was timely as I was in the process of looking at replacing the ones I use for shows and this gives me the option to choose what material background to use. Instructions were found on Rena Klingenberg's web site:
http://www.home-jewelry-business-success-tips.com/necklace-display.html and were written by Bea Graansma. Here you go.

Make a Necklace Display
a cheap and easy way to create a great looking necklace bust
© by Bea Graansma; all rights reserved
I made this necklace display that can be used for showing your work at jewelry shows and parties. It's also a great prop for photographing your jewelry. This necklace bust is very inexpensive, and takes less than an hour to make:

Trace the pattern shown in Figure 2 onto a piece of cardboard and cut it out. The pattern here is 25 cm high x 28 cm wide, but feel free to make your necklace bust taller or shorter than shown here. Figure 2: Pattern for necklace display.The small square drawn near the middle of the patternrepresents 1 square centimeter.

Glue fabric to the front of your display. Imitation leather, velour, or satin can make your display look really elegant. If you choose imitation leather, you have to use a very strong glue, otherwise it doesn't hold at the folds. In Figure 3, you can see the bare cardboard on the back of mine.
Punch a hole in each of the two the bottom corners, as indicated on the pattern.
Run a knitting needle or the back of your scissors over the lines at the top and each side of your necklace display, so they will be easy to fold. (See the lines in Figure 2.)
Carefully fold back the sides and top along these fold lines.
Thread a piece of string or elastic through the two holes and tie the string ends together, as shown in Figure 3, to hold the sides back and make your necklace display stand upright.
Adorn your fabulous new necklace bust with a piece of jewelry!

I'm not sure this display would be sturdy enough for frequent use at shows and fairs; I originally intended it to be used for photographing necklaces. But it's cheap, and therefore easy to replace when it shows wear and tear.

Have fun with your great new necklace display!

Bea has a tutorial available with updated and more detailed instructions and a printable pattern if you would like to purchase, here is the link to that tutorial on her ETSY shop. http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=21379676.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Trying New Techniques

I'm always learning new ways to do things or maybe just easier ways, but this year has been all about trying new things. I've started doing more altered art jewelry (not for sale at this time, but soon). You might call it my hobby vs. business. Sometimes we all just need some type of break.

So I started with the art collages between glass and then soldering around them to create a pendant. These are fun and challenging all at the same time. Working with the solder was a new thing for me and I still don't have that soldering gun mastered, but I'll keep working on it. In the meantime, family and friends can get soldered pendants dirt cheap (my cost or free) while I'm perfecting my skills.

Next I ventured into art on bamboo tiles. Okay, similar to the art between glass, but much different as you use glue and glaze stuff. It's messy, but I'm getting the hang of it. Last week, I found some glass tiles that you glue your image on the back so that it shows through magnified. I have to say this was fun and pretty easy. I'll provide links at the end of this post if you are interested in joining in the fun and want to know where to find all these great items.

Since I'll be watching my nephew for a few weeks before he spends part of the summer with his mother, I'm on the look out for kid friendly activities. Now he is 11 and not really into coloring and fingerpainting, so I'll have to look a little bit harder. What do 11 year olds do during the Summer besides ride their bike and go swimming?

I did order some scrabble tiles and thought for an art project he could glue images to the back of them and then add some magnets. He could take them back when visiting his mom to give as gifts. If some turn out good, I may even add a pendant bail. So we will see and I'm sure you will hear all about our adventures.

Here are some pic's of what I've been playing with. Some of the images are my watercolor paintings.

Just dry bamboo tiles that I haven't added the wire for making into a pendant.
Here are the links:
For Memory Slides and bamboo tiles - http://www.rubbernation.com/servlet/StoreFront
The soldering tape, solder iron and lead free solder I found at - http://www.bigmsg.com/ any stained glass dealer would have this.
The Glass Tile kit came from Annie Howes - http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5262601
The digital images from Piddix - http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=46139
For the bamboo slides I used 3 dimensional glue (scrapbook aisle) and mod podge that I purchased at Michael's.
Remember to always keep learning and keep it fresh. Love what you do or don't do it.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Wings of a Fairy - Part 2


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Here are the photos I promised yesterday of the new jewelry fantasy category "Wings of a Fairy". I may come up with a better name, but that is the one I'm sticking with for now. I haven't posted any of these items for sale yet, but will soon as these are prototypes of the designs. I'm still trying to perfect the bangle bracelet...bottom right corner as I don't have the clasp just right yet. The rings are all good to go as well as the pendants. Most of the designs will feature the glass leaves in a variety of colors as well as crystals and pearls. As I mentioned before, I will try to keep the cost of this line down. The rings will retail for $10 as well as the pendants. The necklace will be $20 and the bracelet will be $20. Pretty easy pricing and probably a good price point for most anyone or for those needing a little gift.


The second category of jewelry I mentioned will be a healing, power, energy, chakra line....haven't come up with a name for it yet, but have already created a few pieces for it including rings and pendants. It will be less fuss and more minimalistic. The pendants could be worn by either a man or woman (my step son agrees and indicates he would wear them). Most of the items will be made of copper, brass and a few in sterling. Some will feature gemstones and some will be plain wire sculptures. Here are a few of the pendants.
So you can see I have been busy this week making an designing new items. A few of the Fairy line and Power Energy line will be put out at one of the local shops for consignment this week to see how the public likes them and their price point. Please let me a comment if you would like to offer suggestions or other ideas. Thanks and have a great weekend.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Jewelry Line Updates - Wings of a Fairy

I've honestly been in a rut and have been trying to get my mind focused on creative energy to build my jewelry business. I have been inspired to create a couple of new categories within my jewelry line. I've worked on the first one more than the second at least concept wise, so here goes.


New line of jewelry items called "Wings of a Fairy". This will be a more inexpense option for those wanting fanciful jewelry to wear on special occassions or just for play. I'm also going to include some fanciful gem trees in this line. I'm sure that it will appeal to a younger audience teens to 30 year olds vs. old me, although my mother loved one of the rings I made and actually took my prototype booklet that will be shipped with each piece sold. Umm, so I may be wrong, but we will see. Here is what the first part of the booklet will look like. I'm still debating on the cover image, but this is one of the options.

Wings of a Fairy

The Fairy Wings line of jewelry and gem trees was inspired by the magical qualities found in all of us. We seek to have an air of mystery and can be a little mischievous. We are strong and independent in nature and love in abundance. Enter the realm of fairies when wearing your jewelry or by placing your fairy tree in your home and know that you now may be able to control the elements of the universe if not your destiny.

Fairies are mythological beings bestowed with magical powers. Usually, they have the appearance of humans. Their real characteristics can change depending upon the tales told about them.

Although in modern culture they are known as small creatures, they were depicted as tall, radiant and angelic beings.


According to their origin in folklore, they were elemental beings of the earth, air, fire and water. Each one of them has a particular power in nature.


The booklet goes on to detail out the different types of fairies and where to buy. If you are wondering what this jewelry looks like....stay tuned for tomorrow folks as we will have pictures and I will describe my other new jewelry line.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Featured Artist - Freckled Hound


I love this idea of Vinyl Wall Decals. The Freckled Hound on the 1000 Markets site has so many great items in their shop it would be hard to pick and then you would have to find a wall for it.


ABOUT VINYL WALL ART DECALS
Vinyl wall art is the hottest new trend in home decorating. Much easier than stencils and paint, and look better too!
Apply to any smooth, clean, flat surface; walls, mirrors, doors, etc.
Application instructions included; real easy .. basically just peel-n-stick.
Easily removable, but not repositionable, when you are ready to change your decor. Some paint touch-up may be required.
Decals are professionally die-cut using high-grade vinyl.


My personal favorite is the I Dream in Chocolate. Travel on over to the Freckled Hound and find your favorite as these are just a few of what they have to offer.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wicked Wednesday - Cheesecake


Yes, I know that my husband and I are dieting, but this is the day for wicked recipes isn't it? Okay, this one is sugar-free so all you Adkins dieters, this is for you. I have made this one several times and a pumpkin one that is quite good and satisfies that need for a treat.

Suger Free Cheesecake

Crust
1 cup almonds
1 cup peanuts
2 packets splenda
3 tablespoons butter, melted
Filling
16 ounces cream cheese
10 packets splenda
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons grated fresh lemon rind
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
Blueberries or Strawberries (to garnish) (optional)


Directions
Heat oven to 350ยบF.
For crust, place nuts in bowl of a food processor; pulse until ground but not pastelike.
Add sugar substitute and butter; pulse to combine.
Transfer to a 9" springform pan.
With your fingers, gently press nut mixture to form a crust on bottom of pan.
Bake 10 minutes; remove from oven and cool.
Place cream cheese and sugar substitute in food processor; process until smooth.
Add eggs, one at a time, blending well after each addition.
Add vanilla extract, lemon rind and salt; pulse to combine.
Add sour cream and process to combine.
Pour filling into prepared crust.
Bake 40 minutes.
Turn off oven; let cheesecake cool for one hour without opening door.
Chill overnight.
Garnish with blueberries or strawberries before serving.
Atkins tips.
To cut chilled cheesecake into neat slices, use a long piece of dental floss.
Then wrap each piece individually and freeze.
It tastes delicious right out of the freezer or bring to room temperature for a few minutes before serving.
Bon appetit!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Popular Music

Sometimes I feel so lost when listing to today's music on the radio and then I run across songs that are remakes from when I was a teenager and I feel right at home. I searched Mixpod for what was popular today in music downloads and these are a few that popped up. I actually like some of them. I guess I'm not too far out of it after all. Enjoy. Scroll through the list and find your fav.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Crafty Monday - Glass Tile Tutorial

I've been wanting to make some of these glass tile pendants for awhile and have several great images to use, so I ordered some glass and found this tutorial that I would share. When I get mine completed, I'll share those with you....maybe on Saturday.



I had found another tutorial to making these pendants only using scrabble tiles and here is the link to that blog if you would like the reference. http://crafthowtos.blogspot.com/2009/05/how-to-make-scrabble-tile-pendantcharm.html

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Inspirational Message

Today is supposed to be my inspirational message to the masses, but I find myself uninspired at the moment, so I'll discuss a few changes that my husband and I will be making in order to get our health in line.
For a couple of years now, his doctor and mine have told us that we need to lose weight, watch for high blood pressure and high cholesterol. I find that in a couple of weeks I will have more time to plan our meals and ensure that we are on track. His preference is the Adkins type of high protein diet and mine is a more balanced (Zone plan) type approach, so it will be interesting combining the two for a lifetime healthy alternative. I don't mind Adkins so much, but most people don't eat enough veggies and overload on the high fat proteins, so the meals that I plan will be high in vegetables with a salad at every meal and leaner cuts of meat.

So yesterday was day 1 and we made it through and today day 2. Today we didn't do as well as we should have since we didn't eat the recommended snacks and by the time dinner was ready we were starving....we won't do that again.

Day 1 Menu
Breakfast
Adkins drink mix
Coffee (I can't give this up)

Lunch
Salad with Tuna, Cottage Cheese
1/2 cup Mandarin orange slices

Dinner
Salmon Burger

Snack
Protein Smoothie w/Strawberries

Day 2 Menu (not the best food day)
Breakfast
2 Eggs
1 slice toast
Coffee w/milk

Lunch - (none, that was the bad part)

Dinner
4 oz. Steak trimmed of fat
1/4 baked potato
1/2 cup green beans
Mixed Salad

Snack
Cottage w/pineapple chunks

We will see how it goes this week, and I'll report back next Sunday.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Jewelry Item of the Week


I didn't know whether I was coming or going this week as I was just trying to recover after last weekends show. I did make a pair of earrings for a challenge on 1000 Markets and a jewelry tree for earrings. The earrings are already for sale HERE, but the tree is not listed yet. I will get listed on my ETSY site once I get a little bit more organized with my completed gem trees and kits and have received all the copies of my book Gem Tree Sculptures. The book is for sale on the publishers web site HERE if you want to take a look at it. It will be for sale on Amazon in about 30 days.

The earrings challenge was from the Jewelry Artists Market on 1000 Markets and for June the theme was to create something based on your favorite song. Well, I have so many favorite songs as you can see from the music mixes that I create, but I chose Pachabels Canon which is a Baroque favorite. I found some Swarovski Baroque crystals and made some charm earrings. All the crystal dangles come off to add one or more at a time.



The jewelry tree was an ETSY alchemy request for a larger black jewelry tree. The only ones I had already made were green and orange and they are listed on my 1000 Markets site HERE, so that didn't work for her. Just waiting to hear back to see if this is what she wanted, if not then it will go up for sale.










Friday, June 12, 2009

Twitter me too, Tweets


I didn't realize how addictive Twitter could be....kind of like Facebook on steriods. Amazing people with all kinds of opinions.

I have found that those twitterers that only tweet about their products are kind of boring and I just unfollow after awhile. So, take note twitterers, do not self-promote all the time. I don't mind a few times a day, but if this is all you are doing....quit, I want to read your opinions and thoughts on current events or what interests you. Promote other artists or organizations that you support. Those I like.

I'm not on the get 2,000 followers in 10 days plan, but just gaining a steady 10-20 per day is fine with me. This allows me time to get to know the people I'm following a bit more. Usually I follow anybody who follows me unless they are marketing a product or themselves, use profanity or just don't have a clue.
I don't really have a favorite twitterer yet, but I do have several that I like to read and I do check out their links to other items or articles frequently. I'm still trying to learn the lingo, so if you are on twitter and want to follow me, I have a link and if you want to tweet this, go right ahead.

If you are new to Twitter and need some pointers...don't listen to me. Check out Susana Sheehan's blog Strands of Thought where she does go through a 10 day plan to get followers on Twitter.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Featured Artist - TileSmile


Finding this week's featured artist wasn't hard...I looked and she was there. These great tiles made by Rachel at TileSmile are 3" x 3" and would make perfect gifts and they are inexpensive. She and the dog are not for sale, just the tiles. Here is what Rachael writes about her work and her life.

I'm a studio potter living in central Texas. I balance my abundant home life with work in my Weatherford Art Studio designing tile, wheel thrown and handbuilt pottery, and paintings of all the things I love. I have a bachelors degree in Fine Art from the University of Texas at Arlington and teach beginning wheel work part time. My design ideas develop slowly over the seasons and seem to spring from an abundant lifetime of experiences. The ones I most enjoy seeing come to fruition are joyously serendipitous. They are memories. They tell stories. They have meaning. And they ALL come from God.

The general focus of my work at the present time seems to be in the richness of words and all the joy they can convey to others. The tiles I make are like little messengers that I send out into the world to do their work.

My husband and I are living our dream. We bought a little piece of paradise in Weatherford Texas, and are currently working on an old house. The art studio was built first, and is now a productive work space. We are learning how to grow vegetables and hatch chickens, about coyotes and roadrunners and wild turkeys. About peaches and blackberries, persimmons, pears, and wild grapes. Lately, we've been learning about snakes in the henhouse.......yikes!.........but most of all, we are working hard and falling into bed each night happy and exhausted. This is what is reflected in my work.

Happiness and Peace of Spirit.Abundance.Grace.Check out my website for more information. www.ShadybRanch.net and for what I'm doing now?

www.twitter.com/tilesmile YIPPEE!
Check out all of the tiles in TileSmile and I'm sure one of them will put a smile on your face.
Happy Thursday! Dana

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Wicked Wednesday - The Art of the Burger


I found this article on the ultimate burgers on Epicurious.com and thought I would share it as it is grilling season. We all know that greasy burgers are not good for us, but can we make it better? Is it the toppings that make the burger or is it the quality of the meat?

The ultimate hamburger. It's an elusive creation: the perfectly charred crust; the juicy interior with the ideal amount of fat; the full, beefy flavor. To help you get it just right, we consulted two guys who really know burgers: Steven Raichlen, host of Barbecue University on PBS, and Chris Schlesinger, coauthor of The Thrill of the Grill and How To Cook Meat. Read on for their secrets to producing perfect patties.

What cut of meat should I use?
The foundation of a hamburger is, of course, the meat. Different cuts have different amounts of fat and flavor:

Regular ground beef, a generic category that can be any cut or a combination of several, may by law have as much as 30 percent fat. This isn't necessarily a good thing, though—the high percentage of fat can make the burgers greasy.
Ground chuck has about 20 percent fat.
Ground sirloin has about 15 percent fat.
Ground round has about 11 percent fat, making it a favorite of dieters, but producing less-juicy burgers.

Both Schlesinger and Raichlen recommend staying in the middle of the spectrum. "I like equal parts chuck and sirloin—the former for flavor, the latter for finesse," says Raichlen. If you're buying preground beef, remember that fat can be trimmed or added during the grinding process—always check the percentage on the label: 15 to 20 percent fat is ideal.
If you can, though, go for freshly ground meat. When beef is ground at processing plants, bacteria on the outside can end up mixed in, which means that the middle of the hamburger should be cooked through in order to kill any microbes. But when a fresh, whole cut of meat is ground to order by a butcher on a clean machine, there's less chance of contamination.

Should I add any seasonings?
Schlesinger and Raichlen are split on mix-ins. Schlesinger insists his burgers be plain, but Raichlen is open to variations. "Especially if you're going to cook the burgers medium or medium-well," he says, "it can help to add some fat to keep the meat moist." He favors "a pat of butter enfolded in the center" for plain burgers, or grated cheese mixed with the ground beef—his version of a cheeseburger.

Any tips on forming the patties?
"Cold meat and cold, wet hands," says Raichlen. "Chill your hands under cold running water, then work as gently and quickly as possible so as not to bruise or heat the meat." Handling the meat delicately prevents the burgers from getting too dense and firm, and keeping it cold prevents the fat from melting, which would also make the burgers tougher. Both Schlesinger and Raichlen favor thick patties—at least one inch thick—so they can develop a seared crust on the outside while still staying pink on the inside. An additional step that's helpful, but not necessary, is to let the patties rest in the fridge for an hour after forming. This helps them stay together better on the grill.

To salt or not to salt?
"Absolutely," says Schlesinger. Salt is essential to bring out the flavor of the burger, plus it crusts deliciously when cooked over the fire. But if added too far ahead of cooking, it will draw out the juices, drying out the meat. Sprinkle salt and freshly ground pepper very heavily over both sides of the burgers just before you put them on the grill.

What's the best way to cook burgers?
Start with a clean, oiled, hot grill. "First sear them over high heat to develop a crust, then move them to a cooler part of the grill to cook," says Schlesinger. "And be sure not to press down on them while cooking—this will only squeeze out the juices and dry them out." Neither he nor Raichlen recommends barbecue or steak sauces, which just cover up the flavor of a perfect burger.

How do I know when they're done?
Raichlen favors the poke test: "Medium-rare is softly yielding, medium is semifirm, well-done is firm." Schlesinger takes a visual approach, judging by the juices: "When they start to come out of the top of the burger, it's medium. When the juices that have oozed out of the top get cooked (stop looking red and become a bit more clear), it's medium-well." A combination of the two techniques would work well.

Now that we know how to cook our burgers, we need to top them with all kinds of goodies. My favorite is cheese and bacon of course with maybe a little BBQ sauce or A1. What are your favorite toppings or are you a purist?

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Tuesday Tunes - Gemstone Wonders


I love this mix for this week. I created it for another blog that I help write for the Puyallup Valley Gem and Mineral club. All the songs have a gemstone in the name. It was interesting finding some of the songs and remembering them. I've included some pics that I took this weekend at our annual show. It was a lot of hard work, but it is now completed for the year...funny thing is I volunteered to help at another show in October....I must like punishment.
By the way my gem trees are pictured in the bottom row with a photocopy of my new book cover. More on that on my gem tree blog.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Crafty Monday - Gold Link Necklace


For our crafty Monday I thought I would find a jewelry tutorial. I will probably keep to that theme from now on since I have the other Crafty News blog where all the other tutorials will be. This necklace and instructions can be found on the Fire Mountain Gems site along with a slew of other projects. They have great ideas and all the materials can be purchased from them....go figure.

I thought this gold necklace with the simple drops was perfect for almost any outfit. You could even change it up by using gemstones vs. glass beads. I love it and may have to put my order in for some of those fancy links so that I can make a necklace for myself.
Enjoy!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

New Jewelry Banner


Okay, it has been a crazy week with work and the gem and mineral show this weekend and I finally have a new banner for my jewelry shops on Etsy, 1000 Markets and ArtFire. I have been struggling to make something myself that I could and finally broke down and hired Swieky Siggies Graphic Design to make me something. I'm excited, I fell in love with all her banners, avatars, etc. The banners are up and running on ArtFire and my 1000 Markets sites now and Etsy will be sometime this week. Who knows, I may even have her design me some new business cards. If you want to check out her site on ArtFire here it is. http://www.artfire.com/modules.php?name=Shop&seller_id=16010&op=new&body=1

Here is a sample of some of her banners.

Enjoy and visit my shop soon.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Friday Special - Gem Show

Okay, since I am the editor of the Puyallup Valley Gem & Mineral Club newsletter I have to give a plug every once in a while and today starts the annual club show at noon in Puyallup, WA. We will have lots of vendors selling everything from beads, minerals, rocks and fossils to finished rocks related pieces and jewelry. One of the highlights is upstairs visiting with all the demonstrators. They will be showing visitors how to make various lapidary goods including faceted stones, gem trees (my personal fav), cabachons, precious metal clay, and beading. There will be display cases (yes I will have one with my gem trees) a silent auction and raffle tickets available for great prizes.

If you want to see me, I'll be locked in the kitchen...okay not locked, but tied down...that didn't sound much better, working in the kitchen all weekend and hoping for a break any chance I get to look at all the goodies.

Here is a link to the flyer. I've also included pics from previous shows.

Vendor H&I Lapidary







Our member Jerry showing the kids how to polish Opal.
One of our Junior members showing how to make gem trees.
Come on out and visit us this weekend.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Featured Artist - Jan Finnell

I'm fascinated with the art of altering items and images into something different than what they were originally intended. I’ve made a few pieces of jewelry using the technique of creating a collage of sorts between glass in a pendant, but haven’t tried all the other various ways and objects to alter.

There would be almost an unlimited number of items you could alter. Some of the items that I have found recently besides my little pendants are keys, watches or timepieces, photos, altoids tins or any other candy tin, boxes, cigar boxes, shadow boxes, eggs (usually referred to as egg artistry), bottle caps, photos/paint + images on canvas and books.

One of these art forms is called Steampunk, yes they have their own art name. They use watch parts, brass and anything else metal, Victorian and eclectic, but all items seem to have a common theme of gears or watch parts. I’m fascinated by all the different items that can be found and some of them so simple. Jan Finnell is one such artist that makes it all look somewhat poetic and most wearable…okay, not too sure about the bottlecap necklace, but everything else I would wear. Her items don't seem to be quite as masculine as other steampunk artists...maybe that's why I like her jewelry items. Visit her over at her 1000 Markets site to see her collection of items for sale or check out her blog.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Wicked Wednesday - Cherry Blossom Dessert


I remember making this when I was much younger as it was an easy dessert recipe and loved it then and still do. Try some variations with different pie fillings.

3/4 c. oatmeal
1 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 c. brown sugar (firmly packed)
1/2 c. butter (softened)
1 lg. can cherry pie filling

Mix first six ingredients until coarse. Press 1/2 this mixture into the bottom of an 8x11 glass baking dish. Spoon pie filling evenly over this layer then top by sprinkling the remaining mixture evenly. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. I always check after 30 and if sufficiently golden brown on top I take it out.

Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Tuesday Tunes - Crazy

Yes, it is going to be a crazy week this week with our gem and mineral club annual show that I'll be volunteering at for 4 days. So to be appropriate, I have selected crazy songs, and no not songs that are crazy, but have the word crazy in the name. I especially like the Patsy Cline "Crazy" the best, but you choose yours and have a crazy week.

If you are interested in attending the show and live in Western Washington, here is the link to the flyer. Come say Hi, as I'll be in the kitchen the entire weekend.
http://www.puyallupgemclub.org/new_pvgmc/PDFs/2009%20Show%20Flyer.pdf

Monday, June 01, 2009

Crafty Monday - Reuse old Jewelry

The Better Homes and Gardens site has some great ideas for reusing some of that old jewelry you have lying around you aren't wearing or using items found at a flea market. I especially like the beaded napkin rings and the wall art using vintage colorful pins.

Using vintage pins and buttons to create wall art and simple frames.
Beads wrapped around a metal napkin ring for a one of a kind look.

I love these filigree frames that vintage earrings and brooches have been used as embellishments.

Colorful large pins used in a shadowbox frame to create art work...I'm sure I have some similar large pins laying around and wouldn't these look great in a bedroom above your dresser.

A necklace that has been taken apart has transformed a plain cake plate into something special. Find simple instructions on the BHG web site.
If you are in the mood for something different in the way of crafting, check out my crafty blog for the newest post on making a paper fan.

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