30 April 2007

Damn, good trick!

I'm not sure what came over me this past weekend, but I was overcome by the need to bake. I needed the security of a good solid recipe, guiding me step-by-step through a hit or miss process. I craved the stickiness of batter, the cozy heat of the oven, and the mouth watering smells of a homemade creation.

I pulled out a Weight Watchers cookbook, which usually sits neglected on my shelf. I don't follow the program, but figured that it can't hurt to have healthy recipes on hand for those times when I want to have my cake and eat it too, in the truest literal sense. I flipped through the book and finally settled on banana bread.

I pulled out my ingredients and measured out the first two: Butter and sugar. The following instruction read "With a wooden spoon, beat the butter and sugar until creamy." I pulled out my wooden spoon and got started. Any other time I have creamed butter and sugar as the first step to some wonderful creation, I have used some sort of electric mixer. As I hacked away at the butter and sugar, I could feel the muscles in my arm start to ache. I switched the spoon from my right hand to left hand. Left hand to right. The sugar was slowly beginning to melt and yield into the butter. Minutes more went by and my arms began to hurt a little more with each passing second. Eventually, with my arm burning after what seemed like hours of stirring, the butter and sugar were at a point where I deemed it to be creamy enough.

Suddenly, it occurred to me. Damn, Weight Watchers, with all the wooden spoon hacking, stirring, and whipping, they had actually tricked me into exercising! Sly one, Weight Watchers.

Lucky me though, surely all that exercise earned me another slice of banana bread!

26 April 2007

Sheep Have Nothing to Fear from Me!

It is an impossibility for me to walk past a yarn store with out ducking into it, stroking skeins or squashing balls (Keep your mind out of the gutter!) The texture, the soft silkiness, the colours. Hand-painted yarns where the colours blend and ooze from one colour into the next are my absolute favorite. Yarn to me is at the same time, both comfortingly cozy, and subtly sensuous. If I feel blue, I wander over to the yarn store and soak up the strands of eye candy on display. It takes all my effort to walk out of these shops empty-handed.

The problem: I can not knit! Or crochet. Or any other art or craft that uses wool.

I decided to remedy this problem. A friend and I signed up for the "Down and Dirty Knitting for Beginners" class at The Naked Sheep, in the Beach (Beaches?). It was meant to be a simple enough class: learn the knit stitch, move on to purl and finally, learn to bind off, and cast on. Two full hours for four simple concepts. Easy, right? Um... no! I got held back!! While everyone else was learning the fundamentals behind purling, I was left still struggling with knitting. By the time our two hour class ended (after three and a half hours), I did manage to figure out the binding off and the casting on. Purl remains a mystery of the universe!

I may not be ready yet to play with silk yarns, or invest in the beautiful ebony needles from Lantern Moon, but I have two simple needles now, with a deeply hued indigo yarn firmly cast on, ready for me to plunge in and start knitting.

The good news is I didn't lose an eye during the experience. The bad news is: I neither cured my yarn addiction, nor do I think I will develop enough skill that I will be able to justify buying skein after skein of yarn. Which is a shame, since while at the store I discovered the pure beauty and luxury of bamboo yarn.

For those who are proficient at knitting, I hope you are aware of these two fabulous companies: Be Sweet (yarns) and Lantern Moon (needles). Both companies have been developed to provide employment income and education to women in developing countries. Beautiful products, and a fantastic mission.


21 April 2007

So, what about me?

I thought I should start my blog off with a bang. But, I'm not going to do that. I figure the natural place to start would be to explain a bit about who I am and how I got to be this way.

My name is Carol. I grew up in "the sticks" about an hour east of Toronto, Canada and currently live in Toronto. I moved here over 10 years ago for university, and apart from a two year stint in the UK and Ireland (oh ho... what an adventure, and maybe in time I will share), I have lived here every since. My cramped living space is shared with my husband of 3 years.

I have a boring old office job that I go to Monday to Friday. Not much point expanding on that. I try to fill the rest of my time creating when and what I can. Specifically, I love beading jewelry, but more about that in a minute. I also love spending hours with my cameras. I still have a trusty Canon T-60, which is the idiot-proof, totally manual SLR on which I first learned. I recently added a digital camera, a Canon Powershot A-620 (named L'il Digi), and though I originally resisted making the technological leap out of loyalty to "Ol' Snappy", I am now officially hooked! Recently, I have also completed 2 sewing courses, and am now the proud owner of a handmade skirt and a handmade purse. I am particularly proud of the purse despite some of the wonky stitching on the lining. Before taking these classes I had a huge fear of sewing, caused by unrelenting teasing from my family over a grade 5 sewing project, a stuffed snowman Christmas tree ornament, named Snowy. I was ten, people, give it up! There are a myriad of other artisan pursuits which intrigue me, and which I am itching to try my hand at. If only I had more time and unending financial resources. Hopefully, the lottery gods are listening!

(Notice a weird trend - I tend to nickname a lot of inanimate objects!)

As for what my blog will be about, well, it will be like Seinfeld. Nothing, really. I have no theme in mind, just my own rants (personalised license plates -- WHY??); raves (Arton Beads on Queen West!); musings on the important things in life (When, for the love of God, will Paris Hilton just go away?), and; the ongoing exorcism of the voices in my head. Oh... and I am sure that I will give little plugs now and then to the wee business that I am trying to establish, String Me Along. Hence the title of the blog.

String Me Along is my jewelry business. As I mentioned above, I try to fill my free time with creative pursuits and I LOVE Arton Beads on Queen West. I can't get enough of all the shiny baubles. So rather than curb my appetite for beads and baubles, I support my habit by taking these beads and baubles and creating hand-beaded jewelry. I started this habit in University. It fell by the wayside and I thought I was cured, until 3 years ago I decided to make my own wedding jewelry. Suddenly, the demon was back and with a vengenance. It didn't help that Arton Beads had doubled in size and there were so many more shiny things available. My husband finally sat me down and told me I should start making jewelry in earnest since it was clear that I loved it so much. So I did. I started selling again at craft shows, and recently, my hard work and creativity have started to pay off. I recently sold a sizable jewelry order to the CN Tower Gift Shop. I dropped the order off Easter weekend and I am still having trouble believing that my good fortune is real. I will be selling at a number of craft shows again through the year, as well as various other venues. I will post a list of where I will be and when, and if you live in the area you can come take a look at my work. I'd also love to meet readers who happen upon me on blogger, unless you tend toward stalking, then I ask that you maybe stay away!

I have also recently started on online shop on ETSY. If you don't know already, ETSY is the coolest place on earth! It is an online shopping site filled with creative and talented crafters and artists from around the world. I am hooked. The problem is that any time I make a sale through ETSY, once the money is deposited in my payapl account I feel the need to celebrate by spreading the love and buying from some other artist. Its a vicious cycle! But I have found some amazing buys on this site, and I guarantee that you will too. You can start here, with my shop.


From there, browse around the rest of the site. But I do caution you: It is highly addicitve!

That pretty much sums up the intro. Thanks for scrolling through all of the preamble.