Simple multistrand: When you don’t want to mess with a good thing

flat multistrand

I picked up a small hank of these simple and earthy mixed seed beads at one of our local bead shops. I loved the texture that the mix of sizes and colors offered, the blend of earth tones with pops of turquoise. But the hank sat around for months because I could figure out what to do. Stitch them? Make a thin simple strung necklace?

Eventually I realized that you don’t mess around with what’s already working: I loved the way these beads looked on the hank because the small strung bundle captured the best features of the mix — the variety of colors and sizes and the texture of them hanging freely together. The hank was just about the right size for a bracelet, so that’s what it became.

Multistrands aren’t quite as simple as they look: You’d think you just need to restring the beads, but you do need to make a few decisions first. What do you want the final length of the bracelet to be? Do you want it loose and dangly or neat and orderly? Should all the strands be exactly the same length, or do you want a bit of variety so they’ll layer and overlap? Should the clasps be unobtrusive or a centerpiece? Do you want the ends to gather or lay somewhat flat?

I went with a slight variation in length in a loose bracelet that was primarily flat with an unobtrusive clasp —basically, I wanted it to look like I’d just wrapped the hank around my wrist. Casual and earthy.

Casual multistrand bracelet

Materials:

  • 1 small hank mixed seed beads
  • 1 multi strand slide clasp (4 strand)
  • size 10 beading needle
  • strong but thin and flexible beading thread, such as Dandyline, silamide or Fireline

Instructions:

  1. Measure your wrist and add 1 1/2 in. (3.1 cm)—this is the length of your bracelet. Double this length and add 6 in. (10 cm) — this is the length of the thread for all your strands. If you are using sharp beads, triple the length of the thread so you can add another pass for security.
  2. Attach a stop bead to your thread and string a few beads. Go through a loop on your clasp and back through the strung beads. Continue stringing until you are 1/4 in. (.5 cm) short of your desired length, and pick up the corresponding loop on the other end of the clasp. Go through a few beads and check the length by clasping the bracelet. Adjust as needed by adding or removing beads.
  3. Continue back through the beads and the opposite clasp loop. If you are working with a shorter thread, tie of the ends using a few half-hitch knots and trim. If you are using the triple-length thread, go all the way back through the beads and the other clasp loop again (so there are two threads on each clasp loop), then secure both ends with half hitch knots and trim.
  4. Repeat steps 2 through 4 working across your clasp one loop at a time, then follow the same steps to add additional rows.

multistrand bracelet sharp fade

Guess who bought a juicer?

…Back in November.

That would be me.

You know I’ve thought about it before (In the CSA days and the garden overflow days) and I finally decided to give it a whirl…oddly at a time when I actually didn’t have an overflow of produce to juice.  So far, I love it.

I’ve tried short juice fasts and I’ve tried adding juice to my regular diet — I personally prefer the short fast approach. If I’m feeling out of sorts or like I’ve over indulged, I’ll just juice for a day or two (usually I also eat little bits of real food too, particularly nuts and seeds), and I feel a lot better. I usually tend to drink a lot more juice than eat food on those days (Juice actually is a lot of calories). I’m usually not hungry, and when I am I start eating again. It’s been great and I’ve felt healthier than I have for a long time. (Hopefully this isn’t TMI, but I’ve found juicing at a certain time of the month really cuts bloating and cramps for me to almost nothing, which alone makes it completely worthwhile for me.)

That said, it’s definitely not for everyone — if you are looking for information on juicers and juicing there are a million out there with a lot more information it than I can give you. Some people definitely experience negative side effects (I haven’t) and it’s not exactly cheap to buy all that produce.

But, given how much I’ve been enjoying it, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite recipes and discuss a complete failure of a recipe. So here we go!

Follow the directions for your juices and make sure you clean all your produce first.

DSC00508

 

Great green juice:

  • 1 cucumber
  • 2 cups packed spinach
  • 1 lime
  • 3 pears

Ginger Carrot:

  • 6 large carrots
  • 1 inch ginger root
  • 3 apples

Beet Berry:

  • 3 medium beets (peeling decreased bitterness)
  • 1 pint berries (mixed or one variety)
  • 1 small orange
  • handful of carrots

Now, this next one doesn’t look super appetizing (mixes the reds and greens, resulting in an unfortunate brown).

Red leaf juice:

  • 1 bunch chard, beet greens, or other red veined leafy green
  • 1 cup berries
  • 2 apples

Getting back to jewelry

Its been a long time since I posted about jewelry making. It’s not that I haven’t been making anything…I haven’t done much this year, but I’ve done a few things, and a lot of thinking.

Over the next few months, I want to take some time to talk about jewelry design. We’ll do some how-to and tips and general knowledge sharing too, but I think one thing that a lot of jewelry makers struggle with is transitioning from learning how to make jewelry to how to design jewelry.

Frankly, a lot of brilliant jewelry designs are based on serendipity—a designer just playing around with combinations and stitches arrangements until everything falls into place. And I think that a lot of jewelry makers, especially when they are first getting started, are so proud of finishing something that was their own idea that they stop there and don’t think about what next steps could be. That was one part of working for a jewelry making magazine that I really liked: We were always tasked with finding the best way to do something or explain it. The first try is rarely right, but once you know the principles and basics those pieces click into place much more quickly.

2014 Garden: Ta-da!

So, if you are wondering where I’ve been…well the answer is Chicago, Michigan, Colorado and Chicago again. Partially vacation, but also for a specific big event that happened for a certain blogger (hints: Not me, blogs on this blog, name sounds like the event). But I’ve also been in the backyard. A lot. Basically, every minute I haven’t been traveling.

And here’s how things are looking now:

Original garden box, with tomato and pepper seedlings, herbs, lettuce and violas. Tomato and pepper pots along the garage. And a happy dog in a her favorite sunny spot

Original garden box, with tomato and pepper seedlings, herbs, lettuce and violas. Tomato and pepper pots along the garage. And a happy dog in a her favorite sunny spot.

 

New garden beds, with mulch surrounding them, and a row of vining melons and squashes along the side.

New garden beds, with mulch surrounding them, and a row of vining melons and squashes along the side. You can see where we’re already having squirrel problems in the front.

And, as a bonus, I tackled the front of the house too, filling the numerous flower boxes and pulling out weeds. We had so many weeds and vines (including poison ivy and belladonna, which is poisonous) I had to call a service to come do a pick up. And beg my landlord to take the cost off my rent.

porch flowers

So, now that the vast amounts of physical labor are done (seriously: building the boxes, making all the trips to get dirt, mulch and plants in my little car, lining everything with paper and filling with dirt and mulch, planting, weeding, weeding and more weeding — It took for ever. Probably about 60 hours between my time and the upstairs tenant’s), I’ll hopefully be back to blogging with less emphasis on gardening, and more of what this blog was supposed to be about — Homemade food and crafts!

Garden Lesson 2: It’s like National Geographic out there

Last spring, in early June, we got new neighbors.

Our new neighbors

Our new neighbors

A bunny decided to have her babies in our herb garden, right under the parsley. It wasn’t really an ideal site for a bunny family: The herbs and lettuce hadn’t really grown in yet, so the nest seemed very exposed to us. Not to mention the fact that Bronwen-the-dog is out there all the time. And my neighbors’ cat, who is a known threat to wildlife (we’ll just refer to the proof as the Chipmunk Massacre of 2011 and leave it at that).

We called the Humane Society and they told us just to leave it, unless there was immediate danger. Young bunnies need their mom, she wouldn’t forget them and nature would take its course.

So we left them. And about four weeks later, they’d gone from being slimy little gray things to pretty cute fluffy babies.

Cute sleepy baby bunnies.

Cute sleepy baby bunnies.

I don’t think Bron ever realized they were there. Or if she did, she didn’t care. I kept a close eye on her those three weeks (which was a bit of a pain, actually), but she never touched them. At one point, we think the count went down from six bunnies to five, but it’s hard to count when they were always in a snuggly pile.  And, despite the fact that they were living in the garden, they didn’t eat anything, which was pretty nice. All-in-all, the upstairs neighbors and I were really enjoying watching them grow.

Then one night, at about 2 am, tragedy struck our happy little bunny family. I was woken up by a horrible repetitive keening noise and heard my upstairs neighbors (who were still up for some reason), run downstairs and into the backyard. And my neighbor (who was 8 months pregnant at the time) started shouting at the neighbor behind us to keep his cat out of our yard and then started crying. It turns out that the horrible noise that had woken me up was Momma Bunny screaming because that dang cat had raided the nest. (Now, I’m just going to note that I like cats in general, and I get that there’s a natural instinct at play, but I liked the bunnies and I hate that specific cat. I also hate that the cat is allowed by its owner to come into our yard and kill things. It’s really gross, and also, not safe for the cat.)

Now, my very pregnant neighbor was probably more upset by this than she normally would have been, due to hormones. She was extremely distraught. But it was really sad to come outside in my pjs and see that the nest was completely empty. We weren’t sure if they’d run for it, or if the cat had somehow carried them all away. We all had flashlights, and I scanned the grass and spotted one. We decided that this situation was an immediate threat, so we picked up the baby and put it in a shoe box. Then we spent the next two hours, in the middle of the night, out in the backyard with flashlights, looking for the other four bunnies. (Again, upset neighbor a huge factor here. I’m not sure I would have searched for survivors so long if she hadn’t been there.) Eventually, we found three.

Bunnie rescue box

Bunny rescue box

We also found a possum (which is a freaky thing to catch in your flashlight beam), saw a raccoon cross the alley and had a close (but not too close) encounter with a baby skunk. Apparently our yard is a wildlife hangout.

The neighbors took the bunnies to the Humane Society the next morning, where they were deemed really healthy and actually very big for their age and ready to be separated from their mom. They told them to put them back in the nest, and that their mom would either come back for them or they’d make their own way. The fact that they’d scattered when attacked showed they already knew their best defense mechanism.

When I came home from work that day, I could see them hanging out in the yard.

Home again

Home again

And that was the last time I saw them. I went out for the evening, and my upstairs neighbor looked out her window at dusk and saw that the momma had come back. She told me they were playing around, jumping in and out of the raised bed and chasing each other, and then they all ran off into the sunset.

As fun as it was to watch the babies grow, it was also a little bit stressful. I had to watch my dog every second she was in the yard (which is fenced, so she normally doesn’t need super attentive watching like that). I wondered whether all those herbs I’d just bought and planted would survive. And I worried that I’d come out and find a dead bunny on the walkway (which would be both sad and gross). So this year, I’m looking into ways I can prevent animals from calling the garden home. I’ve considered fences and possibly those scary owl things. Or maybe a bird mobile?

Now, if only I could figure out a way to keep that cat out of the yard.

Planning my 2014 Garden

This week is our Spring Garbage Pickup in my neighborhood (we have weekly pickup, of course, but this is the big week for yard waste and large items that don’t fit in the bins), so I’ve been busy cleaning out the alley (which was disgusting), raking up the leaves, acorns and twigs that littered the yard, and trying to eliminate the weeds that have already taken over last year’s garden patch.

My giant garden and all it's weeds

Last year’s garden, overrun with squash and weeds

This year's blank slate

This year’s blank slate

I’ve decided to add some raised beds this year to help keep the weeds at bay and keep my veggies from overrunning each other (last year the squash gave all the other veggies too much competition for sunlight). I’m also doing a bit of rearranging, now that I have a better understanding of the sunlight in each part of the yard.

The sunniest patch of the yard is actually the strip right alongside the garage and where the existing 4 x 8 foot raised bed sits. Last year, I filled this box with herbs and lettuce, but as lettuce can do with a little less sun, I’ve decided to promote the most sun-loving veggies to this part of the yard. My tomatoes did pretty well in a shadier part of the yard last year, but they were much slower than everyone else’s, so they are getting a little promotion. My cucumbers and peppers did pretty poorly, so we’re going to try out a sunnier spot for them too.

I’ve decided to try out a square-foot gardening approach this year, so here’s the plan for the first box:

Mint

Cucumber

Cucumber

Cucumber

Thyme

Basil

Tomato

(Cherry seedlings)

Tomato
(Heirloom seedlings)

Basil

Basil

Basil

Oregano

Hot pepper

Pepper seeds

Hot pepper

Chive

Then along the sunnier side of last year’s vegetable patch, I’m putting in three 4 x 6 ft boxes (the size was determined by the length of board that can fit in my tiny car).

Pole Beans

Arugula

Kale

Broccoli

Kale

Arugula

Parsley

Beets

Parsley

 

Peas

Spinach

Potato

Sweet potato

Parsnip

Chard

Lavender

Carrots

Sage

 

Cilantro

Brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts

Dill

Fairy Eggplant

Eggplant

Onion

Red onion

Celery

Lettuce

Celery

 

Then, on the other side of veggie patch, I’m going to plan the vining vegetables and fruits — melon, zucchini, acorn squash, pumpkin and butternut. Last year the squash thrived on this side of the yard, while it wasn’t quite enough sun for the other vegetables. Plus, this way, the vines can go crazy without the risk of suffocating the eggplant or celery like last year.

I’m also planning to use some freestanding pots along the side of the garage, for additional tomato plants and possibly peppers. And rosemary — I regret not planting last year’s rosemary in a pot I could bring inside.

How do you decide what to plant where? Any plants that need maximum sun that I missed?

Mint

Cucumber

Cucumber

Cucumber

Thyme

Basil

Tomato

(Cherry seedlings)

Tomato
(Heirloom seedlings)

Basil

Basil

Basil

Oregano

Hot pepper

Pepper seeds

Hot pepper

Chive

30 Days of Spring Cleaning

I’ve noticed a lot of blogs doing monthly challenges and I’ve decided to give myself one, similar to the monthly cleaning challenge at IHeart Organizing. Why? First, because it’s spring cleaning time and my house definitely needs a good scrub-down, especially after being shut up tight all winter. And having the icky slushy salty stains of winter weather being tracked in. Second, because I am a total clutter bug. I live amongst piles. My mother thinks I’m going to end up on Hoarders or die under a pile of books or something along those tragic lines. So I really need to clear out some of this junk. Since there are 30 days in April, I’ve come up with a list of 30, but I doubt I’ll do a thing a day (and not just because it’s April 2nd already!). Here’s my list:

  1. Dining room – Clean off the table and clear out the hutch/drawers/cupboards
  2. Living room – Clean out all the drawers, shelves, baskets and other cubbies
  3. Front Hall closet – Do I wear all these coats? What’s in that box on the top shelf? This is prime storage space — I should be using it better
  4. Bookshelves – Organize and donate
  5. Desk Drawers – Figure out which papers I actually still need on file and which I can shred. Do I need those pay stubs from 2003?
  6. Office closet – What actually belongs in here? This is where all the random stuff ended up when I moved
  7. Office desk top organizers – How do I set this space up so that I actually use it?
  8. Linen closet – Organize, get rid of expired stuff, etc.
  9. Bedroom closet – Switch over to spring summer clothes and get rid of stuff I no longer wear
  10. Bedroom dresser – Same as the closet, but with more foldy-type clothes
  11. Shoe closet, aka the back closet — Reorganize this so I can reach my spring shoes more easily. Take a good look at winter shoes and have the ones that didn’t survive the season repaired or replaced
  12. Pantry – Pull everything out and give it a thorough scrub down. Toss expired food.
  13. Dish shelves – Give everything a wipe down
  14. Cooking utensils and cook wear — Clean out all drawers and cupboards. Donate stuff I never use.
  15. Fridge – Scrub it out and check all the dates on condiments
  16. Junk Drawer – What is even in here?
  17. Shampoo all the carpets – Living room, dining room, hall, back hall, bed and office
  18. Craft supplies – Organize them so that I can pull out and finish one project at a time
  19. Kitchen stove/oven – Clean the oven
  20. Laundry room – Vacuum. Hope the spiders don’t get me.
  21. Email – Go through and delete as many old emails as I can. Especially ads
  22. Old computer – Finish migrating old files to the cloud or to my new computer (before old computer finally croaks)
  23. Photos – Organize my photos in folders so I can find them
  24. Car – Detail it, inside and out!
  25. Dog – Give her a bath and get her a pedicure
  26. Storage unit – Inspect for water damage and other possible issues. Get rid of anything that’s not needed.
  27. Garden – Rack through and pull all last year’s dead plants in preparation for spring
  28. Alley – Get out there and pull out the dead poisonous weeds before they come back to life!
  29. Back yard – Find all the presents that Bronwen left back there that have been covered by snow till now
  30. Front porch – Sweep it clean and clear any dead plants out of flower boxes

Do you have a spring cleaning list? How do you tackle it? Anything big that you think I missed?

Garden Lesson 1: You might occasionally win a battle, but you’ll never win the war on weeds. Especially if your garden is organic.

Since I can sense spring coming, just around the corner (even though it’s freezing today), I thought I’d finally share some of the lessons I learned from last year’s garden.

Our garden was a rather large (14 x 27 feet) reclaimed portion of the yard that had previously been a giant weed patch. I think before it was a weed patch it might have had some trees and shrubs that were cut down because they had been interfering with power lines, but it was definitely not a lawn or garden. The three years I lived in the building prior to our garden effort, it was just a big patch of weeds. My landlord had told me that if we (we being me and the new upstairs neighbors) cleaned out that part of the yard, he would have two raised garden beds put in. We cleaned out the weeds using a tiller and a ridiculous amount of muscle and time, but no boxes were installed. I’m still a little miffed about that. So we ended up putting in a few rows of plants directly into the ground, and used a mix of weed block fabric and mulch to try to ward off the return of the weeds.

It did not go well.

My giant garden and all it's weeds

My giant garden and all it’s weeds. You can see in this picture that I was also battling out of control squash vines.

We had the perfect recipe for a never-ending weed battle: Weeds had already claimed that portion of the yard as their home, and they were not going to give it up with out a fight. And, tilling the ground meant that even more weeds had the opportunity to take root.

Our biggest problem was lamb’s ear. It was everywhere. It never stopped coming in, but it was very, very easy to rip it out as it grew. My daily routine became: Come home from work, let the dog out, rip out weeds for a half hour. Not kidding when I say every day. Why didn’t I use weed killer? Well, for one thing, the weeds were literally side by side with my vegetables, and I really did not want to kill the vegetables. For another, I was trying to be mostly organic (I didn’t buy specifically organic plants, so they might have been GMO, but I didn’t use any weed killers or bug killers). With a dog frequently in the garden and a pregnant neighbor upstairs, I didn’t want to risk using chemicals that might be harmful. This year, we’ll have a dog and a soon-to-be-walking baby in the yard, so we’ll be skipping chemicals again.

We also had a severe problem with invasive, hard-to-kill and poisonous weeds. Mullion weed, for example, is insanely hard to rip out. You can cut it back a million times, spend hours trying to dig out the deep, tuberous roots, etc., and that sucker is still going to come back. Same with belladonna, aka deadly nightshade. If you don’t rip out every last bit of vine, it’s coming back. Needless to say, while the mullion is a pain, the nightshade is actually hazard, especially since the baby will be mobile the summer. She’s really cute, so I suspect my neighbors don’t want her eating poison foliage or berries.

Mullion - a hard to kill weed

Mullion – a hard to kill weed

So what am I going to do? The first order of business is to finally get the raised beds in. We had one last year (previously installed by my landlord in a different part of the yard), and there were almost no weeds in it. My plan for the garden part of the yard is to do a thorough raking and remove all the debris from last year’s efforts as soon as the snow is finally gone. Then I’m going to put down a fairly solid layer of newspaper (I’ve been saving my junk mail for this purpose), and a thick layer of wood chips. This was pretty good for controlling weeds in some portions of the garden last year. I’m hoping that and fresh dirt in the raised beds, will keep the worst of the weeds and proliferation of lambs ear down.

Our almost weed-free raised bed.

Our almost weed-free raised bed.

I’m also going to try to attack the areas where I know there’s nightshade and mullion early this year and stop the problem before it starts. Part of the issue last year was that I didn’t know what I was dealing with. Now I do, so hopefully I can get a jump on it.

If you’re an experienced gardener, I’d love to know how you keep weeds in check — especially in new gardens where they might have already established themselves. Any tips?

Quick painterly art from photos

This time change has really thrown me out of sorts. It’s never happened before but I am SO TIRED this week. You’d never guess that I just came back from a refreshing vacation.

The beautiful beach at Luquillo

The beautiful beach at Luquillo

But I do have a very quick update for you, because I found a fun new app that is letting me turn my somewhat mediocre vacation pics into pretty little watercolor prints! It’s called Waterlogue and it’s very fun.

I have no connection with Waterlogue at all — they don’t know I exist. But they helped me find a cute way to do something fun with two of my Paris photos that I’m really excited about, so I wanted to share.

beachwatermark

The app works a lot like Instagram — you can select photos from your existing files in addition to taking new ones. And you have a couple different painterly effects you can apply. One thing I really like is that you can save the pictures without sharing — sometimes I want to add an Instagram filter to a pic without actually sending it out into the world, and I haven’t found a way to do that yet. With Waterlogue, you can! And you can save your pictures to various sizes/image qualities, which is useful if you actually want to print them.

I have two photos that I took in Paris of storefronts, and I was really hoping they would be high enough quality to print, frame and hang. While the photos are nice and sharp they either felt a little emotionally flat or had some details that distracted from the overall feeling. Changing them to “watercolors” really helped.

Here’s the first one, a charming little cheese shop around the corner from my hotel.

DSC00425

It’s okay. Not a great photo — just a snapshot of a storefront. But in watercolor:

watermarkedFromagerie

The colors pop. Different lines have a little more weight, which I think might improve the composition a little. There’s just a little more romance.

Here’s another one, the flower shop across the street:

DSC00424

Again, it’s okay. It doesn’t really capture how charming the shop was in person. But after a little alteration:

floralieswatermarked

A little more charm!

I had a lot of fun playing around with vacation photos in this app, and I was excited that it helped transform a few shots that I felt didn’t capture the feeling of the scene into something that was much closer. Something I’d actually consider throwing in a frame and putting up on the wall. (And if you’ve been reading, you know how picky I am about what goes on the wall!)

Quick Update: Resolutions

Since it’s been over a month since I set out my resolutions, I thought I’d give an update on my progress.

1. Save more. A lot more.

This one is probably my biggest fail. I mean, I’ve definitely saved some money…but I also decided that I should go to Puerto Rico to escape this horrible cold, so it’s definitely not as much as I could. My house and emergency funds continued to grow at the rate I set to save, but my vacation savings fund is back down to zilch. Do I regret it? No. I mean, have you been outside in Southeastern Wisconsin? It’s miserable! I need a vacation!

IMG_1138

2. Invest more time in the hobbies I’ve neglected.

I’ve done pretty well with this one! I’ve been running fairly regularly (probably an average of 2.5 times per week). I’m back up to 6 miles, and today I ran 3 miles in 27 minutes, which is a fantastic pace for me. I’ve also taken up knitting again, and I’ve been fairly decent about updating a blog. So, for the first two months of the year, I’m going to count this as a resolution kept!

IMG_1115

3. Set out to just do a few things at a time, and do them well.

I think resolutions 2 and 3 oppose each other a little, but I’m doing my best. Like I said, I’ve improved my running. I have actually managed to make an omelette (yay!) and I’m working down that food list. And I’ve done some pre-planning for the garden that will hopefully make it better this year.

IMG_1131

4. Give more time to other people.

I think this is another one where I’ve done fairly well. I’ve been running almost weekly with one friend, reached out to a few people I’d been out of touch with and have had dinner with a few friends on different occasions outside planned “group” events. Right now, the “person” I think I need to work on paying more attention to is the dog. Poor Bronnie doesn’t like it when I go out with people this much!

"Please play with me!"

“Please play with me!”

So, that’s my short little update on New Year’s Resolutions. If you have them, I hope you’re making progress as well!