Friday, November 23, 2012

Pecan Pie Cheesecake

So my Thanksgiving offering of Pecan Pie Cheesecake was pretty much a success. It tasted great, but the pecan pie part caramelized a little too much and got really solid near the edges. I think if I make it again, I will crush the Nilla Wafers a little finer to try to make the crust go a little farther and try to push the crust up the sides of the pan a little better. And probably bake the crust a little less because it got browner than I thought it would. Hopefully, that will all protect the pecan pie layer a little better to keep it from hardening so much. In any case, here are some pictures and the recipe. I found the recipe on Pinterest from this lovely blogger, Heidi's So Called Life. And it looks like she got the original recipe from Bake or Break

Nilla Wafer crust after baking - I will need to be a little more aggressive at crushing the wafers next time... too many chunks...

After pouring the pecan pie filling into the pan

After the surprisingly messy job of mixing the cheesecake filling. Cream cheese does not like to be mixed...

After the oven.
And the final (delicious) product

For the crust:
1 & 3/4 cups vanilla wafer crumbs
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted

For the pecan filling:
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup dark corn syrup
1/3 cup butter, melted
2 eggs
1 & 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the cheesecake:
3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 & 1/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 eggs
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make the crust:

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Combine wafer crumbs and brown sugar. Stir in melted butter. Press into bottom and up sides of a 9″ springform pan. Bake for 6 minutes. Set aside to cool.

To make the pecan filling:

  • Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until thickened, about 8-10 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour into crust and set aside.

To make the cheesecake:

  • Reduce oven to 325°.
  • With a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat cream cheese at medium speed until creamy. Add brown sugar and flour and beat until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each one. Stir in cream and vanilla.
  • Pour over pecan filling. Bake for 1 hour. Turn off oven and leave cheesecake in oven with the door closed for 1 hour.
  • Remove from oven and run a knife along the outside edges to loosen cheesecake from sides of pan. Let cool. Chill for at least 4 hours before serving.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Poor Thanksgiving so easily gets overshadowed by Christmas displays that pop up in October and Black Friday that creeps into Thursday. Watching the Detroit Lions lose and eating turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie while listening to your crazy uncle spout conspiracy theories just doesn't have as much commercial appeal. Still, that lack of commercialization keeps Thanksgiving simple - a time to sit down and appreciate what you have, even if it's that crazy uncle. Enjoy your turkey (or tofurky, I guess) and tomorrow we'll drop into the crass commercialization of Black Friday.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What I've Read Lately

I thought I would share some of the books that I have read lately. I'm on Goodreads, but I generally only give stars to books and rarely write actual reviews. I'm always too impatient to get to the next book to read.

Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell - I read this right before the movie came out and LOVED it! The movie didn't get great reviews, so I skipped it in the theater, but I'm glad I read the book. The book is actually a collection of six nested stories that intertwine. Each story is interrupted by the next, until you get to the sixth, which goes all the way through, then each story concludes (in reverse order). Between all of the stories, the book covers a wide variety of genres: historical fiction, mystery, comedy, sci-fi, dystopia. The vocabulary in the first and second sections gets a little difficult; I had to look up at least a dozen words in the dictionary. And the sixth story is filled with a made up dialect that took me around 15 pages to be able to quickly decipher while I was reading. Even with all of this, each of the stories is intriguing and it is interesting to try to find how they link together and this book ended up being one of my favorites.

Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern - I blew through this while riding on the interstate through the more boring parts of Wyoming. It is the story about two magicians in Victorian times that pit their proteges against each other in a sort of mystical chess game in a magical traveling circus. This book got mixed reviews on Goodreads; many people complained that it didn't have enough plot to be interesting - but I loved it. It gave off the same vibe as Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (which also got the same criticisms of lack of plot, and which I also loved...). The descriptions of the magic circus were vivid and I could easily imagine myself being there.

Magic Bites, by Illona Andrews - This is more along the lines of junk food reading, but I just found this series, and I really enjoy it. It follows along the lines of almost all of the other paranormal fantasy series out there (plucky sarcastic heroine, vampires (but here with a gruesome twist), sexy were-creature love interest), but the writing is very well done, the story lines and characters are interesting (and the heroine is not an obvious Mary Sue *cough, cough* Anita Blake *cough, cough* Harry Dresden *ahem*...) and the alternate universe that the writer has created is fascinating (writers, actually... Illona Andrews is the pen name for a wife and husband team). I'm working my way through the whole series. The other series by this author, starting with On the Edge, is more of a romance series, and while it is still pretty well written (and I think I'll go ahead and read all of them), it has a few too many anti-feminist romance novel stereotypes for me to enjoy it as much as I wanted to.

The Twelve, by Justin Cronin - This was slightly disappointing. I loved the first book in this trilogy, The Passage. It turned the popular vampire novels upside down and had scary, fast zombie vampires in a post-apocalyptic scenario (instead of sparkly romantic vampires...). The Twelve has vampires, and action, and gore, but it was disappointingly slow at times. I think it is suffering from middle book syndrome and I hope the last book in the trilogy picks up. I would still say I enjoyed it, but The Passage was just a whole lot better.

The Aubrey-Maturin novels (starting with Master and Commander), by Patrick O'Brien - I have been working my way through this series for the past year and a half. There are 20 (and one half unfinished) novels in this series set during the Napoleonic War focusing on the friendship between Captain Jack Aubrey of the Royal Navy and Dr. Stephen Maturin, ship's surgeon, naturalist and secret agent. This series is seriously the best bromance (god, I can't believe I just used that word...) since Holmes and Watson. I haven't read a whole lot of Jane Austen, which was written and set in the same general time period, but those that have, say that Patrick O'Brien has the period dialog down perfectly. And that dialog is often hilarious, in an understated way. I'm on book 18 and I'm going to be sad when I finish all of them. I will probably turn back around and start again from the beginning. 

In the kitchen...

I'll admit straight out that I'm an indifferent cook. I get easily annoyed by the day-in/day-out, normal, stand over the stove, daily dinner cooking. I have a list of a dozen or so things I don't mind making for dinner and I usually leave the more sophisticated cooking to my talented hubby.

I do however sometimes get into phases where I get obsessed with baking. All of a sudden I will get it into my head that I need to bake a loaf of bread, or a couple dozen cookies, or a cake, or whatever caught my eye (or my food craving...). It doesn't happen very often (better for my waistline, because the targets of my obsession are rarely lo-cal).

So luckily, my latest phase coincided with Thanksgiving this year. We are going over to the neighbors' house for dinner, and I figured if we are going to eat all their turkey and stuffing, we should bring them some dessert. So today, I am trying my hand at baking my very first cheesecake - but not a simple cheesecake, a Pecan Pie Cheesecake. Because, seriously?! Pecan pie AND cheesecake?

I just pulled the cheesecake out of the oven and it smells divine and looks pretty decent for a first try. But I'm not going to be able to taste it until tomorrow! Because even I'm not tacky enough to take a cake to a dinner party with a slice already cut out of it. So if it is a success tomorrow, I'll post the recipe and some pictures. Here's what it looks like right out of the oven. Not too shabby...

A slightly early Happy Thanksgiving to all! Hopefully I will be posting a little more regularly from now on. My life is slightly more interesting and shareable during the holidays.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

It must be fall!

(I'm back from my trip, I didn't get lost in the wilds of Wyoming... just got super busy with a short notice craft fair)

It must be fall because we just picked our first two apples (ever! We planted it last summer) off of our Honeycrisp apple tree. And they were little red orbs of heaven!

P.S. - Here was my table at the craft fair. Not a gigantic success, but I had fun...

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Busy, busy, busy...

I haven't been getting a whole lot done in the jewelry department (or this blog, for that matter...) because I have been planning and getting ready for an extended cross-country road trip with family. From Seattle to Michigan, with stops at Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, Deadwood, and some random campgrounds in Minnesota, then I go back to the Chicago area to visit a friend, then fly home. I'll be leaving my dear husband on his own for two weeks, and I'm pretty sure he doesn't actually know how to work the clothes washer... so I have been working on making sure he has enough clean underwear to last.
I will probably post a whole bunch of pictures during vacation, because I'm obsessed with technology and photography, so I apologize in advance for the upcoming virtual vacation slideshow.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Historical Inspiration - Roman "S" Earrings

I like to find inspiration for my jewelry creations from historical jewelry. I look at collections from major museums and find beautiful jewelry from Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, Ancient Egypt, and Medieval Europe that would be perfect for people to wear today. Here where I found inspiration to make my green glass beaded "S" shaped earrings, below). (Available for sale here in my Etsy shop.)

MiscellaneaEtcetera Glass Beaded Roman-inspired "S" Shaped Earrings
Ancient Roman - from the British Museum - Sealstone Gold Earrings

Ancient Roman - from the British Museum - Gold Ear Ring

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Travel Tuesday - Mount Rainier National Park

Travel is one of my great loves. I plan dream vacations in my spare time (down to details like finding out bus routes and taxi company prices... but that is probably a touch of OCD along with a love of travel...) Unfortunately, sometimes life gets in the way of being able to jet off to exotic locations, but I have still been lucky enough to visit some amazing locations. I thought I would start sharing some of my past (and current, whenever I get to go visit someplace) destinations and pictures here.

I think it is fitting for my favorite place here in Washington to be featured in my first Travel Tuesday post - Mount Rainier National Park. The national park was established in 1899 as the fifth national park in the country. The park surrounds Mount Rainier, one of the tallest mountains in the lower 48 states.

Mount Rainier, from the road to Paradise

Mount Rainier NP has three major visitor's centers (and tons of wide open backcountry spaces for those who want to get away from people) 
  • Longmire, open all year at a lower elevation. Longmire has the National Park Inn, the only lodging open year round, as well as a general store, restaurant, museums, and gift shop. There are some good low elevation hiking trails that start at Longmire.
Logging exhibit at Longmire
  • Paradise, the most visited area of the park (and very well named!). Paradise is at around 5,000 feet in elevation and has amazing wildflower fields in the summer and up to 55 feet of snow in the winter.  There are tons of trails in the Paradise area, from paved, easy walkways to strenuous, mostly uphill treks. Paradise is also where the majority of mountain climbers start their trek up the mountain. You will often see full equipped climbers trudging uphill alongside the flip-flop clad tourists.Paradise has a brand new visitor center with a gift shop, museum, and food court and also has the historic Paradise Inn, open in the summer, with lodging and a restaurant.
Paradise wildflower fields in summer

  • Sunrise is on the east side of the mountain, and as it's name suggests, is a great place to see the sun rise on the mountain. Sunrise is at a higher elevation and at the end of a very twisty road, so it is only open in the summer time after the park service can plow the roads. No lodging at Sunrise, but there is a nice gift shop and food court as well as great hiking opportunities.
Mount Rainier from the Burrough's Mountain trail in the Sunrise area

We make a trip to Mount Rainier at least once a year, and every time we go there is something different. Winter visits to Paradise are a snow-lover's dream, but weather conditions are highly variable and often the weather is too dangerous to visit any elevations higher than Longmire.

Paradise in January - That's me, and somewhere behind me was Mount Rainier. About 15 minutes after this picture, park rangers suggested that we should go back to the visitor's center because the weather conditions were too dangerous.
When the weather does cooperate, Paradise in winter has miles of snowshoeing trails, opportunities for back country skiing, and a tube sliding hill near the parking lot.

That's more like it! Paradise in January.
Summer is the most crowded season at Mount Rainier, and for good reason! During the short summer temperatures climb, the snowpack melts, and wild flowers bloom like crazy.

Mount Rainier in August, peak wild flower time.
Of course, like winter, summer can also be unpredictable, depending on how the weather has been going... We have visited Mount Rainier in late July and early August a few years in a row, and one year we get beautiful wildflowers, but the next we get 5 feet of slushy snow still on the ground. Every year is different.

Paradise in July - high snow levels in the winter delayed the melt for over a month. We were hiking on over 5 feet of snow here.
Fall colors in the park can often be quite beautiful as well, as long as you time it right (after the wild flowers and before the snow flies).

Fall color at Paradise
Mount Rainier NP is less than a two hour drive from Seattle. The National Park website is a great place to find information about things to see and current conditions in the park. Mount Rainier is a sight everybody should see at least once!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

And this is why I don't bead on the couch...

I should know better! I just got a new desk, specifically for making jewelry. But it's down in the lower level of the house and I wanted to hang out with everybody else in the living room, so I brought a little tray with seed beads, thread and a needle upstairs to work on. 15 minutes later... everybody down on their hands and knees, tearing the couch apart looking for the lost needle. My husband even got his giant shop magnet-on-a-stick out to try to find it. No luck... hopefully I won't be stepping (or sitting!) on it later...

Anybody know of a good way to bead on the couch? I would love some suggestions.

Friday, August 10, 2012

In which I endeavor not to set the house on fire...

I got a lampwork glass bead-making kit as a gift a few years ago at Christmas but until now, haven't had enough room in the garage to be able to set up and try it out. We finally shoved everything to one side of the garage just this month, giving me non-flammable spot to attach a torch to a table.

Along with the kit, I also got an instructional book, which has pictures of gorgeous lampworked beads on the cover - aspirational, more than instructional... Working with molten hot glass is harder than they make it look in the pictures. My attempts at decorative dots were more like blobs, and I managed to create a perfectly round bead only by accident. But still, nothing exploded, nothing got set on fire, and I managed to make a dozen reasonably attractive beads. As with everything, getting good at this will take practice but it's another great hobby to add to the long list of crafty things I like to do!

Here are some pictures of the beadmaking process.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Good one, NASA!

I just can't get enough of NASA's new Mars rover, Curiosity. I follow it on Twitter (@MarsCuriosity - probably the funniest robot you can follow on Twitter...) and get excited every time NASA posts a new photo on Facebook. Just the idea that we managed to land an SUV size robot on a completely different planet, more than 100 million miles away - and it's beaming back pictures (from a different planet!) - it totally blows my mind. 

NASA is now getting the first full resolution images from Curiosity. Here's a photo of the surrounding landscape...

Photo from NASA MSL Mission website

And here's a picture of my latest vacation to Death Valley...

Hmm... I can hear the rustling of conspiracy theorists putting on their tinfoil hats... 

NASA has a sense of humor though, and even mentioned the resemblance at their press conference. Chief Scientist John Grotzinger even said, "You would really be forgiven for thinking that NASA was trying to pull a fast one on you, and we actually put a rover out in the Mojave Desert and took a picture."

Sure NASA, everybody knows you can just re-use the sound-stage from the "moon landing" anyway...

Here's the article on the Mojave/Mars resemblance. And here is NASA's awesome website for the MSL Curiosity.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Historical Inspiration - Bridal Knot Jewelry

I find many inspirations for my creations from historical jewelry. Here is a little bit of the story behind my collection of Tie The Knot jewelry.

Miscellanea Etcetera Tie the Knot Collection - Bracelet available here, Earrings here, and Necklace here

The knot a a symbol for marriage has been around for a very long time. There are many examples of ancient Greek jewelry with examples of square knots (reef knots if you are a sailor), also historically known as Hercules knots.

Hercules knots (most likely named for the strength of the knot) were originally used by the ancient Greeks in medical applications; tying bandages with this knot was thought to aid in healing. But Hercules knots also became popular as a wedding symbol. Belts worn by brides were tied in this knot (a strong knot, hard to untie - representing the chastity of the bride-to-be), to be untied by the groom after the wedding - and eventually the knot itself became a symbol of marriage and fertility that has persisted through history to present day in the common expression referring to marriage as "tying the knot."

Symbolic knots can be found in jewelry from ancient Greece and ancient Rome as well as in medieval jewelry. Here are a few examples that can be found in museum collections:

Ancient Greek - From the British Museum - Gold Diadem with Herakles Knot

Ancient Greek - from the Metropolitan Museum of Art - Gold armband with Herakles knot

Ancient Roman - From the British Museum - Necklace of gold links in the form of Hercules' knot

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

And now a backyard interlude...

We have scores of these guys dive-bombing each other (and sometimes us!) all around the house - both the orange Rufous variety and the green Anna's. I can't get enough of watching hummingbirds!

I can't really leave this little guy out, either. He looks like he is dancing!

And the most graceful of backyard birds...

No? Well, they do make me breakfast*...

*some assembly required

Monday, July 30, 2012

Books, books, and more books!

I love books. Love them! If I had a million dollars, the room next to my perfectly laid out jewelry studio would be a huge library with a fireplace and rolling ladders and hidden doorways in the shelves.
One of these, please! Do you see the hidden door?!!
(Bibliothek St. Florian, photo from Wikimedia Commons)
But as much as I love the look and feel and smell of paper books, I have slowly been drawn to the 'dark side' of e-books. They have their drawbacks - dangerous/expensive to read in the tub, can't write notes in the margins, the possibility that the format of your whole library will become obsolete in 5 years when new formats have been created (they would be like e-book 8-tracks... how sad!). But they are undeniably convenient! Instead of devoting a whole suitcase to reading material on a long vacation, you can fit it all in one e-reader that fits in your purse (and if you have a tablet, you can even take Angry Birds breaks if the book gets boring.) They are also decidedly superior if you have a hidden trashy romance novel obsession that you don't want to share with the world.

So while I have my misgivings about actually buying and owning e-books (see the obsolete factor above...), I have found that e-books from the library are the absolute best solution. They appeal to my lazy side (don't have to drive to the library to pick them up or return them) and the selection through my library is quite good.  Since getting an iPad as a gift last Christmas, I have read way more books than before and a wider variety of genres as well.

So here are a handful of the great e-books that I've found from my library this year (just a handful - if you look at my Goodreads shelves, you can see that this is just a drop in the bucket. When I'm not playing with beads and wire or sleeping, I have my nose in a book (...or in my iPad? See, idioms haven't caught up with e-book technology yet, either!) -

Horns, by Joe Hill - I imagine he is tired of the inevitable comparisons to his dad (Joe Hill is the pen name for Joe King, Stephen King's son), but his writing style is so similar to Stephen King's that his books are great for times when you have already read and re-read all of King's books and are waiting for a new one to come out (*raises hand*). Horns tells the story of Ig, who, after being falsely accused of the murder of his girlfriend, wakes up one morning to find that he has grown devil horns and has the power to make people confess to and act on their most darkest desires. I liked this one - if you enjoy dark fantasy and Stephen King's books, you should like Horns. Joe Hill's first novel Heart Shaped Box is also quite good as well.

Angelmaker and Gone Away World, by Nick Harkaway - I actually read Gone Away World last year, but I liked it a little better than Angelmaker, so I felt like I should mention it. Both are excellent books. I would like to describe their genres, but I honestly can't! They both have a sci-fi/fantasy base. Gone Away World is a little post apocalypse, with ninjas and mimes and a huge twist at the end. I love this book - can't recommend it enough. Angelmaker was a little harder for me to get into but I still enjoyed it. It has a smattering of steampunk, a little bit of crime fiction, some spy intrigue and lots of British humor.

Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President, by Candice Millard - This was an excellent nonfiction book. I should hang my head in shame as a history major, but I didn't actually know that much about President James Garfield before I read this. I knew he had been assassinated, but that was about it. This is not only a great biography of Garfield before his reluctant nomination and election as president, but also touches on Alexander Graham Bell's invention of the metal detector (to try to find the bullet in Garfield's body), the first air conditioner installed in the White House (to cool Garfield's sick room in D.C.'s sweltering summer heat), the deranged mind of the man who shot Garfield, and the deplorable medical conditions of the late 1800s. I highly recommend this - even people who don't care for nonfiction or history should find this interesting.

Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage, by Alfred Lansing - Another great nonfiction book. This is quite a bit older, as it was published in the 1950s, but it is a great story and well written. It chronicles the experiences of Ernest Shackleton's failed trans-Antarctic expedition in 1914. His ship was caught in pack ice, was crushed, and sank off the coast of Antarctica and he and his whole crew were stranded on the ice for over a year. They eventually made it to an island, where half of the crew made camp while Shackleton and five others sailed in a 20-something foot open boat over 800 miles through the most violent seas on earth, then hiked across the uncharted interior of South Georgia island to reach a whaling depot. Shackleton then turned around and sailed back in a larger whaling boat to rescue the rest of his crew. The most amazing part of this was that the whole crew survived! Dog lovers may find some parts a bit distressing (the dog teams became dinner, sorry...) but this is such a great tale - fast paced, and very exciting.

This is just a smattering of the books that I have read lately - check out my Goodreads profile to see what else is on my shelves (or in my iPad...)! And support your local libraries!

Sunday, July 29, 2012


No real reason for this... and actually from earlier this summer. I just managed to find the memory card these pictures were on. From out latest jaunt into the big city to do the tourist thing with an out of town guest - harbor cruise, Pike Place Market, the Needle... the works! It was actually the first time I had been up in the Space Needle at night, though. I think I'm just posting them for those rainy winter (spring, fall... hell, summer...) days when I need to remind myself why I like Seattle.
These are actually from my phone. Not too bad.

From the harbor cruise. Mount Rainier was even hazily visible off to the south.

Space Needle at dusk. (I almost said twilight and tried to make a joke, but I restrained myself. You're welcome.)
Can you see Mount Rainier?
And a bonus - right outside our front door earlier this spring.
I'll be back to cling to these images in February...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Necklace Length Guide

Opera? Matinee? Princess? Rope? Collar? Choker?! No, this isn't a random list of words taken from Fifty Shades of Grey, these are terms for necklace lengths. Here's a guide to show you the lengths of most necklaces available:
  • Collar length necklaces are 12-13 inches long and hug the middle of your neck. They are often multi-stranded and are best for formal occasions. People who don't like the feeling of something snug around their neck should avoid collars. 
  • Choker length necklaces are 14-16 inches long and fit close to the base of your neck. They can be found in single or multi-strand styles.
  • Princess length necklaces are 17-19 inches long and are the most popular length of necklace. Many necklaces you see for sale will fall within the princess style lengths. Princess length necklaces go great with many necklines, just make sure the collar of your top is higher (so the necklace sits above your shirt) or lower (so the necklace does not catch in your collar) than the length of you necklace.
  • Matinee length necklaces are 20-24 inches. They are perfect for low necklines, or to wear above your top.
  • Opera length necklaces are 28-34 inches long and are great for elegant outfits. Anything from ball gowns to t-shirts look classier with an opera length necklace.
  • Rope necklaces are 45 inches long or longer and are the longest style of necklace available. They can be worn as one long strand, wrapped numerous times around your neck, or knotted. Think 1920s flappers and long strands of pearls.
    • A lariat necklace is similar to a rope necklace in length, but is a straight, unconnected strand with no clasp, often with tassels on each end, and can be knotted or looped together.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Finally a space of my own!

So for the past 6 years, due to lack of space, all of my jewelry creation have been confined to either the dining room table or the couch. And while I kind of like lounging on the couch, it has a few drawbacks to jewelry crafting (losing beads in the couch cushions, losing beading needles in the couch cushions, sitting on lost beading needles days later...). And being on the dining room table meant that I had to pack up all of my beads and wire whenever we wanted to have guests over for dinner. So instead of rescinding all dinner invitations and becoming a hermit, I decided that I needed to figure out a way to create a permanent home for my jewelry studio.

Being cheap thrifty, I didn't want to pay a lot of money for a desk or table that I was going to possibly destroy with gouges and scratches from wire. But since, alas, I don't have a dedicated crafting room (on my list of things I want when I win the lotto...) also I wanted some sort of desk or table that could close to cover my mess when company might be around. Off to Craigslist I went. Living in the Seattle area means pretty good pickings for inexpensive decent quality furniture being offered for good bargains by people who just want it out of their house. Luckily after a few tries, I stumbled over a good candidate.

Sure, it's a little blue...
At only $25 this was kind of a must buy, even though it had some issues. I sort of liked the blue/green/teal paint with the contrasting wood, but it clashed horribly with the moss green and brown color scheme in the room I was going to put it in and on top of that, the roll top itself was pretty much non-functional and barely being held together with duct tape in some sort of haphazard fix-it job. But $25! So half a day's work with two coats of brown paint and a cloth ribbon backing for the roll top and voila! A new home for my jewelry work!
I kept the slightly contrasting wood color for the desktop and roll top

Now just to find a more comfortable chair and possibly another table or shelf to go along the wall to the side of the desk to put my laptop on. Back to Craigslist and I'll keep my paintbrush ready!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

How to determine your ring size

Will this fit you? Find out here...
I have just started making wire wrapped rings and I have realized that ring sizing is rather complicated! Large jewelry stores have ring sizing tools (usually looks like a large keyring full of little brass or plastic rings that you try on until you find your size - kind of like Cinderella's glass slipper... only backwards... and not glass...) but buying a ring online if you aren't sure of your size? Dangerous! So as a reference, here is how to find out your ring size at home with just a scrap of paper.

To find your ring size:

1. Cut a half inch wide and 4 to five inch long strip of paper.

2. Wrap the paper strip around the base of your finger and mark the point on the paper where the end of the paper strip overlaps.

3. With a ruler, measure the length from the outside end to the mark on the paper to the nearest 1/16" of an inch or millimeter, rounding up if necessary.

5. Find the closest circumference measurement on the size chart in inches or millimeters and look to the far left column to determine your ring size.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

My high tech photography studio - or not... Create your own DIY photography lightbox

Here's a secret - I'm a little bit... (how should I put this...)... thrifty. That's a nice way to word it. Unless it's electronics or pretty shiny things to make jewelry out of, I try to save my pennies as much as possible. So when it comes to photographing my jewelry for my shop, I had to get creative.

Photographing jewelry is a little tricky. It can't be too sunny or all you get from your photo is flashes and shine. But taking pictures indoors with either incandescent or fluorescent light bulbs gives you funny colored light and lots of shadows. Professional photographers use high powered spot lights and light reflectors to get even light and artistic shadows.

I'm not a professional photographer... and I'm cheap thrifty. Even portable tabletop lightboxes cost upwards of $50 and then you have to buy the right lighting. I would rather spend that money on beads, so I cobbled together my own DIY lightbox.

My high tech photography studio.
Supplies for my homemade DIY lightbox: cardboard box (we just moved, so we had a bunch of these still floating around. If I made another one, I would use a slightly less beat up box.), white tissue paper, white scrapbook paper (12x12 fit the bottom and back of my small box almost perfectly).

Cost: practically free! After people move, most of them are eager to get the boxes out of their garages so if you know the right people, the box is free (or less than $2 at Home Depot or Lowe's). You can get white tissue paper for a dollar, or if you are me, you have it lying around from Christmas wrapping.

The instructions for the box are simple. Turn the box on its side, cut a rectangular hole out of the left side, right side, and top with a box cutter, leaving around a 1 inch border around each side. I left the flaps alone so I could use them direct light at the front of the box. Then just tape the white tissue paper over each hole. It doesn't have to be overly neat. Then use the white (or any colored paper) as a backdrop. And done!

Now that the monsoon season here in Seattle seems to be lessening, I take my box outside on my south facing deck on sunny days. I just angle the box so that the item inside gets indirect light with fewer shadows and no additional light sources are needed.

On rainy days, I set up on my dining room table and just drag a whole bunch of lamps over to shine on the sides and top of the box. It is a little harder to get good color with the indoor method but with a little tweaking in photo software, the results aren't too bad.

You don't even need a high tech camera to get decent photos with this lightbox. I have a DSLR because I like to take photos of other things, but point-and-shoot cameras have great macro/close-up features and most have white balance settings as well. I have even gotten decent pictures from steadying my iPhone on the table in front of the box.

So there it is - my high tech DIY cardboard box photography lightbox. There are probably other ways to take good pictures of small objects, but this seems to be the easiest, cheapest way for me to get good photographs of my jewelry.

This is before I cropped and tweaked the white balance in my photo editing software. Not too bad!
(The bracelet in the photo above is available for sale in my Etsy shop: Braided Copper Bangle Bracelet
Or my storefront: Miscellanea Etcetera on Etsy)

Saturday, May 12, 2012


Welcome to Miscellanea Etcetera's page for handmade jewelry and crafts. My name is Andrea, and I created Miscellanea Etcetera to share my hobby (obsession) with the world. I got into creating hand crafted jewelry 6 years ago when a friend in art school took a jewelry course and shared her projects with me. I got hooked on wire wrapping and eventually branched out to chainmaille and beadweaving among other things. I like to try new techniques and I dream of having a big studio where I can pound on metal and play with shiny gemstones and beads to my heart's content. But until then, I'm happy with my dining table "design studio" and hope to share my work in my little online shop.
Check out my Etsy shop: