I am my mothers daughter...

I unwrapped this as a Christmas gift this year.

We are both a little nuts. Should I tell her this could be copyright infringement?
Good luck with the earrings ma :)
See the full line of TP jewelry at my online store. If you need some TP jewelry now, go into the bathroom and make your own. They could be great for those times when the public restroom is out of TP... or maybe if you prefer a nice two ply quilted to the single ply public restroom TP that is less generous than even cheap brown paper towels.

Earth plaster is complete!

Yay! It's done in time for Christmas! The party is postponed due to inclement weather though. Which is fine because so have been my UPS shipments from Amazon.

Here is a rather poor photo of the room (I'll work on it). We are also working on a wall in the dining room as well. It really adds to the warmth, and I like it.
Maggie enjoys the new sittable window sills. She doesn't usually allow me to photograph her, so she must really like them. Another thing we want to do to this room is add large saltillo tiles after installing radiant floor heat. That project may take a while. Ultimetly we want new flooring and radiant heat housewide.

In the meantime, it has been snowing outside. We took a snowy 5 mile walk back and forth to the grocery store for something other than canned food. I am looking forward to a salad. Its been 3 weeks since we had been to the store. We got as much as we could carry and when we got home, cleaned the snow off the greenhouse. I was suprized at how much weight it could handle, but didn't want to continue to test it.
They are forecasting more snow, but we hope that it clears well enough by Sunday to have family over for the delayed Christmas party. I'll keep you posted of course.

Merry and Happy everyone!

Pink Lady

The last apple.... final fruit after being snowed in. It's like dessert!

Banana bread with chocolate chips and roasted walnuts

This is a treat! If you have bananas that get over ripe... don't throw them out! Send them to me!!! Or, put them in the freezer for up to 6 months and wait for that day when you want some banana bread. (You can do the same with zucchini if you shred it first).

So, you want to make bread, and have some (at least 3) frozen bananas? Thaw the bananas in a mixing bowl. After they thaw, dump out any banana juice from the bowl (sometimes it makes too much liquid). Peel the bananas and smash them well in the bowl. Decide how many batches you want to make. I usually do a double recipe.

One cup of mashed bananas makes one batch and fits well into two 4 by 9 bread pans or twelve muffin cups if you want to do that instead.

1 1/2 Cup Flour (all purpose is fine)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda (have you switched to aluminum free yet?)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (yeah, I don't measure this part... I know I probably double this)
1 egg (my favorite eggs are from my family's hens, or buy humane labeled if you can find it)
1/4 cup oil (I always use olive oil for baking)
1 cup mashed bananas (previously frozen are sweetest)
3/4 cup sugar (I actually use 1/2 cup, especially if I use frozen bananas)
Juice of one lemon, or about 2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter (real butter works best, not margarine, sorry ma)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional, but you loose that roasty flavor)
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional, but not really cause it's chocolate)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Add the chopped walnuts to an 8 x 8 pan and flatten them to a single layer, place them in the oven until they start to brown (about 15 to 20 minutes). Remove them and put the butter on to coat the nuts well.

In a small mixing bowl (bigger if you do a double batch) combine the mashed bananas, egg, oil, sugar and lemon juice. Set aside.

In a larger mixing bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon (want some nutmeg, add that too).

Make a well in the center of the dry mixture. Add the wet ingredients and blend just until it's combined. Add the toasty nuts and chocolate chips til combined. You should be able to stand a spoon up in the batter easily.

Spoon batter into two buttered bread pans (If you don't have stoneware pans, and you like to bake bread, definitely put them on your list! I don't make them for sale yet, but I will. I made the ones you see in the photo). Or you can make muffins if you like.

Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, testing with a toothpick (or wooden skewer like I do) every 5 minutes. Bread is done when the stick comes out clean (assuming you don't stab a chocolate chip...) In the case of muffins, start testing at about 30 minutes.


The smallest visitors

The smallest visitors footprints leave evidence, only when it snows...

Resident Song Sparrow footprints. He was busy, and left a heart. See the heart? These are the details that I love....

Snow, photos

So, I turned on the cold... 3 times...

A bit of a break from the regularly scheduled programming... (I added photos so you wouldn't get bored.)

So, I woke up this morning and turned on the cold water..... and I turned on the cold water again...
Turned on the hot water.... turned on the cold water again... nothing is coming out of the cold!

Um... so at this point I was having the "uh oh thoughts" and let James know that maybe there was a slight malfunction. We knew we were keeping the rats warm, and I guess I just assumed that the pipes would be cozy as well. Not so.
I checked my e-mail to see if I would need to ship anything that was not already packed up and made a note in my account that there will be no special shipping due to plumbing. Sorry all, but if you waited this long here is the lesson for next year. I guess I am mean that way anyway, but we will blame the weather.We are in the middle of a project anyway, and capable of doing what we need to do to repair plumbing. The hard part is doing so with "stock on hand", seeing as how driving in the ice and snow is not an option for us hill dwellers.
Step one was turning on all the cold water outlets in the house to see what was frozen, and what was not. Luckily, it was just the bathroom cold water pipe. I grabbed the hairdryer that I never use (because I dry my hair with the forced air heating, is that odd) and put it under the sink where the valve is. It was rather insane to think it would make enough difference, and it didn't.
Step two involved destruction, which we are perfectly capable of. "Get the hammer, I'm makin a hole in the house!" Trust me people, a hole in the house is nothing compared to broken pipes and water in freezing temperatures. We actually made 2 holes and I stuck the hairdryer in there and we warmed the pipe, but there was still no water.

At this point I started feeling a little rushed... I try to avoid "freaking out" and generally do a good job. Stress gives me a stomach ache.
I had to put a note out to the mailman to pick up some packages that I bundled in record speed. Eat, we had not eaten yet. Find a way to pay some bills online that are due on Christmas Day (Merry Christmas to you too Visa, thanks) because mailing them on Monday would cost me, I am sure. Keep the cats out of the hole, and keep the rats from coming in... I hear them, but I don't know where they are... (we have a plan, not to worry). Answer the door a couple times for gifties of mail and neighborly goodies.It's not a lot of activity for some, but I feel really disorganized, and I hate that. You see, I am the one the family calls "Martha". I'm in no way, shape or form Martha. It seems that whomever in each family is even remotely domestic and knows how to bake and make things is that families "Martha". I haven't even done my Christmas cards or neighborly goodies myself yet! I don't even have stamps!!!! I can mail a package to Australia no problem, but I cannot seem to get a nice stamp to mail a simple Christmas card. Cards which are quickly becoming New Year cards.

Alas, I have gone astray. We put on our grungies (which I am still wearing, ug) and prepared for a plumbing intervention. This involves getting up close and personal with the underside of the house. It's not fun, not that I know from experience, but James really doesn't like it.
The plan was to take the torch down there (wood house, hot fire, no biggie) and warm the pipe. Heck, the ice problem would be solved if the house caught fire.
What was discovered is a totally exposed copper pipe running down the exterior wall right next to a ventilation opening. Who builds these things! (I say this all the time, can we do a little quality construction please...) So, James put some insulation between the vent hole and the pipe and crawled back out from under the house. The water started slowly dripping... and 5 minutes later it was free flowing and threatening to overflow the sink.

We didn't have to burn down the house today. Good news!

First coat of American Clay Plaster

This is the before photo. Except for the furniture, this is what the room looked like when we moved in.

This is what it looked like a week ago, with some decorations up...

This is so far what we have done this week. We are not done and the plaster on the walls is not dry yet. It will look different when it is dry. Then we add another coat including mica. Um, and Maggie says hello, I would like to be in the photo, but only if I am blurry.

Stay tuned!

Can I sit up there yet?

No Rockaboy, it's not ready yet. Poor kitty already want's to use the windowsill. How sweet :) (Learn more about this kitty by clicking his nickname, he loves to talk about himself!)

The frames are done and the walls are primed with sanded primer for the American Clay Plaster. The cedar windowsills have been stained a dark rich brown and set into the deep window frame. They really look wonderful, and I will have color photos as soon as I can take a respectable one. :)

Everyone likes

A week till Christmas, lets rennovate!

No biggie right? The thing is, the Christmas party is at our house this year. I'll keep you updated at the progress. This was the first step. I used the ladder to put the lights on the tree while I could.

So step one was taping up the wall and ceiling.

Also, the windows are great and arched and I love that, but the poorly crafted details really detract from the beauty of them, so we are gonna "punch it up" with some custom framing.

See, that's better! The mud is on, drying and soon we do the first coat of primer for the plaster. We have used stucco extensively in the landscape designs, but have not had the opportunity to do interior clay plaster. This will be quite the event. I think I can do it.... I can do stucco, I can work clay... never put it on walls though.

What's a window without a big thick deep windowsill. And I really like to see the silhouette of a kitty in a window. So this is for the cats, and I'm sure they will love to watch the outside from here. The new rough sawn sills will be 6.5 inches deep. We are staining them a dark brown. The wood is blown down (organic, free range?) cedar from my uncles property. He custom cuts it for us and it's beautiful! So that's what is completed for now. The hardest part is remaining patient while we wait for things to dry during certain steps in the process. It's on it's way though! Stay tuned!

Etsy gifties! See anyone you know?

Oooh, it's like a puzzle! Leave a comment if you think you see anyone you know :)

Oooh, nice pictures.... how do you do that?

Well, I'll tell ya.

(Send me your before and afters, and I will do an update with your shop link when I get a few, I would love to see them!)

First I must say this is just what I have learned for myself over the last year or so. I have not taken classes and don't know if there is a right or wrong way. So, if you disagree, that's cool and I am open to comments if you wish to leave them.

You don't need a brand new top of the line camera unless you are planning on really doing elaborate highly detailed work. My camera is a five year old Olympus Digital with 4 megapixels, and it works fine for what I need to do. Tricyrtis Hirta "Miyazaki" (ToadLily) taken from our garden.

First step, know your camera and its settings.
(I know, boring huh?) If you don't know what you are doing with the camera, most of your shots will be wasted, as well as your time. Get your manual that came with your camera. Don't know where your camera manual is? Google it, the information is bound to be somewhere.

Learn how to navigate the
controls on the camera and mess around with the settings to see what they do. There are some important settings that I use every day, and some that I rarely even bother with. An important one is the MACRO setting. Using the camera in this mode will allow you to place the camera very closely to the subject so that you can get more detail.

Keep in mind that
every little detail will show... even those you cannot see. I try to avoid taking photos of my hand in this setting. Dust, fuzz, lint, everything that is in your photo... will show up. For this reason, I keep a little lint roller around, and a polishing cloth. Even fingerprints on gemstones and beads will show up. But hey, this is what we want right? Details! It's the details that draw me to individual beads, and I love to be able to see them.

Another important setting is
WHITE BALANCE. This setting tells the camera what kind of lighting you are dealing with. Cameras have an auto mode, but look around for your light settings and see what it offers in terms of customizing the settings based on what you are lighting with. If I take a photo on the auto setting, and I am using my daylight bulb, the photos turn out really yellow. If I adjust that to the "lightbulb" setting, they turn out much truer to color, which is what we are going for.

Mine has settings for daylight, indoor light, florescent lighting, overcast and the Auto setting. I use the indoor, and daylight settings most often. Occasionally if I am taking "food" photos I use the florescent one because of our kitchen lighting. (It's hard to make food photos look good!)

This is probably the most important one of all to make sure you get the "top of the stack" photo that you are looking for. It definitely sets my photos apart from each other when I use "natural" lighting as opposed to my desk lamp. Natural lighting can be difficult to attain however.

TURN OFF the flash. Don't give your products red eye.

Here are a few examples of lighting:

First is a photo with regular room lighting, camera set on auto. This photo is fuzzy because the camera didn't have enough light for such a close up shot, it is also yellow toned because the camera was set on auto. I make sure and set for my lighting because sometimes it seems the camera needs to know.

This photo was taken using direct sunlight as a light source (with the camera set on sunlight setting). It gives the camera plenty of light but I dislike the harsh shadows and glare that show up. I think they detract from the item itself.

The third photo uses the same sunlight (and setting) behind a white sheer curtain. It cuts the glare and harsh shadows and I think it shows the item best. Another option I would use would to place a white paper behind the subject to catch the light and reflect it... but that is a little more detailed than I want to go into...
This was taken with my "daylight" bulb (camera set to indoor lighting). I think it flattens the subject and really does not express the true color of the subject. It is however the most reliable and controllable way for me to light my photos.

04/05/09 UPDATE: Most recently I splurged on an OttLite bulb and it really helps provide a nice clean white light that other bulbs I have used do not. If you are going to splurge on something, it might as well be something that helps the business grow, right? :)
Editing is something that may be controversial for many when it comes to items for sale. Keep in mind though, most digital cameras edit details while you are taking the photo anyway. I try to represent my items as accurately as possible. I do some minimal editing on a few of the photos if I feel the representation could be more accurate. Ultimately, the goal is to take shots well enough that I don't have to do anything to them.

This is how the last photo would look after editing.

04/04/09 Unedited OttLite photo (my new favorite). I made a new pair of earrings so you could get an idea of the difference. Sometimes I choose to filter the light a bit because of all the reflection. How? Tape a sheet of white velum over the bulb, far enough so ya don't burn the house down.
It is a great idea to practice with your depth of field when taking product shots. We have all seen those great close ups that fade off... they make me want to know what the rest of the product is... they make me want to click! That is what we are going for here.

When in the macro setting, use the little cross hairs that indicate the center of the photo to focus your camera on a particular spot of a larger object. Get up close and personal with the subject, decide what you want in focus, hold very still, and click. HOLD VERY STILL! Get a tripod if you have to. Use the table, desk, or wall to brace yourself from movement. This is very important when taking detailed shots.

Some cameras will allow you to focus by partially depressing the button. I do this to find where I like the focus to be, then I take the shot.

The first photo (of a fork) focuses near, on the tines (and I like it the best). The further away you focus, the more light the camera needs, the following shots were taken with the same lighting, and no adjustments.

This next photo focuses on the neck of the fork, while the rest is out of focus.

The next one focuses on the handle... this will show the most of your background.

I take this opportunity in my photos to try to get a cohesive look when they are all viewed at once. It gives me a way to "set the mood" if you will. I chose a gray velvet mat for my items because it shows up both black and white and colors well. I have minimal other "props" because many times it only detracts from the subject that you want people to focus on.

Also keep in mind that having a unique background can make your products more recognizable. This is an important part of branding. The hard part for me is I change my mind quite often about how I want my photo backgrounds to look...

Try to include one shot of you holding, or wearing the item. It really helps if you are trying to sell it. Add measurements, but remember that there is no replacement for seeing something as it is worn, or held.

I also add my shop name to the photos when they are for sale. That way, if someone just sees the photos, they can find my items. I recommend that it be subtle so as not to dissuade possible space in treasuries or the front page of Etsy or other selling sites.


I hope that these things I have learned will come in handy for you. Have fun taking your photos!

Holiday special!!!!!

Here is the special offering for the holidays! It runs for the rest of 2008!!!

Simply spend $15 or more (not including shipping) in my LiciaBeads shop on Etsy, and choose your free pair of the freshwater pearl and sterling earrings. Leave your choice in the notes to seller box upon checkout, and they will be included with your order. (Limited to stock on hand, so order soon.) Choices are blue, violet, teal, woodland, and wine.

Not valid with any other offer and valid only while supplies last. Not valid for previous purchases. Offer expires when the clock strikes 12AM and 2009 begins.

Thank you for following my blog!

Our turn!

It's finally our turn to work at home! After spending the spring, summer and most of fall working for clients, we finally get to feel productive at home. We are building ourselves a fence on our newly discovered property line. Which, surprise, is not where everyone thought it was. Note the old fence on the right, the new fence on the left, and the driveway leaning over the line...
In any case, it's a great first step, even if it means working with numb fingers in the winter. And we have a stump (actually 2) to remove...