30 January 2008

Cotton Candy Anyone?

Remember gigantic fluffy balls of cotton candy bought at the fall fair? Sugar coloured soft pink and blue, spun onto a slender cone. You would dive face first into this soft, delectable mess, and in no time at all your senses would be buzzing, face and hands would be sticky, and hovering not far behind was a swarm of wasps waiting to pounce on the whiffs of sugar that floated away in the breeze.

Well, here is a less sticky version. One that will not attract those pesky wasps.

I needle felted some softly hued balls of merino wool, and turned them into these earrings. Simply styled and so lightweight. More to follow soon, so keep an eye on my IGotFleeced etsy shop for more.

29 January 2008

We All Scream.....

....for ice-cream!

Its been an ice-cream type of week here, although it is the dead of winter.
I made a batch of home-made ice-cream over the weekend. It was so yummy. Lovely, creamy vanilla. Yum yum!

And then today, I listed this super-cute treat on etsy.

It is made of 100% merino wool roving. Dark brown for the chocolatey coating, and little bits of pink along the bottom, and inside the bite mark on the top right corner. The tip of a wooden skewer acts as the stick. I again, turned this into a little lapel, bag or hat accessory.

Hhhhmmm.... looking at the photo, I may need to do a little bit of a better trim on some of those stray fluffs of wool. Nothing like seeing food with a hair on it.

28 January 2008

Not All About the Food After All.

So I took my mind off my belly and stepped away from the kitchen. And the result - I was able to channel my creative juices into jewelry designs. I have a couple of new favourites, both of which are now listed in my etsy shop:

Made with antiqued metal and guacamole and malachite coloured marbled Czech donuts.

Made with raw brass, irregularly shaped triangle connectors, and just a small cluster of matte black, faceted Czech fire-polished crystal beads.

I also listed these earrings, and happily they sold quite quickly.

These have antiqued copper kidney ear wires and simple ovals of fire jade, again with the guacamole colour, marbled Czech fire-polished crystal.


I'm not typically a fan of heart motifs. Hoping however, to capitalize on Valentine's jewelry sales, I thought it wise to put my own feelings aside and come up with some sort of design I could live with. And, surprisingly I managed.

I dashed into my local bead store the other to take advantage of a sale they had on some of my favorite beads and while browsing the findings section, I came across these simple antiqued copper heart links. Paired with simple red donut beads, I think these are appropriate for Valentine's Day, without being over the top girly. Best of all, I think that the design is simple enough that it can be worn the other 364 days of the year.

26 January 2008

Light and Airy? Success!

If I had ever intended for this blog to about my jewelry shops, I was clearly delusional. It seems lately that everything revolves around food.

And this post will be no different.

Lately, Saturdays seem to be devoted to stretching my culinary skills. Today I wanted to really challenge myself. The moody, unpredictable souffle was calling my name. I researched some simple cheese souffle recipes, and picked up my ingredients during my weekly trip to the St Lawrence Market here in Toronto. Sharp cheddar and mildly nutty Swiss Cantenaar cheese. Eggs freshly laid no more than 2 days ago.
I followed the first half of the recipe, which involved making a pretty basic cheese sauce. The second part was a test of will. I had 2 egg whites that needed whipping to stiff peaks. I considered pulling out the Kitchen-Aid, but it seemed a little excessive, and given the small quantity of liquid, it seemed unlikely that the whisk would immerse all the way to the bottom of the shallow pool. I have, hidden somewhere an old fashioned hand-mixer. It seemed like too much effort to find all the pieces, and my cheese was waiting to congeal. Instead I used the as-old-as-time-method: bowl and whisk. It took great effort and caused much bicep pain, but after an eternity passed, I had my egg whites standing tall with stiff peaks.

I added this to the cheese mixture, poured into my souffle cups, placed them gingerly in the oven, and tiptoed away. Twenty minutes later, dinner was on the table. Well, after a few quick photos for posterity's sake. I probably should have just rushed them to the table, because after the impromptu photo shoot, one souffle was slowly starting to deflate. No matter, by that time, I was ready to eat it.

Prior to baking:

After baking, and before slowly sinking back into itself:

Now... one quick word so that it doesn't seem like all I do is eat, and that this blog still has some relevance in regard to my crafting.
I hit a milestone on etsy the other day. 50 sales! Whoo! Not a huge milestone, but one that I am nonetheless quite proud. I had seemed to stall in sales after Christmas, and I thought that I was going to end January with 0 sales. As it turns out, on Monday I am sending four pair of earrings to France, one to the US, and one cross the city. And I will clearly need to be adding some earrings to my shop again soon. So stand by, plenty more to come.

23 January 2008

50 Books.

I made a pact with myself at New Year's that I would give myself more time to read this year. I promised myself at least a half hour per day. Sometimes I make it, sometimes not.

From the time I was able to sound out words on my own, I have been churning through books at an alarming rate. The past year however, I found myself tight on time, and books were left collecting dust on the shelf. The scary thing is that I did not stop buying books, and now I am faced with a bookshelf that is sagging under the weight of 1000's of pages of literature.

Now I hate to make reading seem like a chore. I don't want to take the sheer enjoyment out of it. But, I do like a challenge. So I decided to challenge myself to read 50 books by the end of the year.

So far, I have two down; forty-eight to go.

I'm going to keep my running tally on here:

1) Eat, Pray, Love - Elizabeth Gilbert
2) A Spot of Bother - Mark Haddon
3) The Memory Keeper's Daughter - Kim Edwards
4) A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City; A Diary - Anonymous
5) Fire in the Blood - Irene Némirovsky
6) The Almost Moon - Alice Sebold
7) A Short History of Tractors in the Ukraine - Marina Lewycka
8) The Omnivore's Dilemma - Michael Pollan
9) The Wreckage - Michael Crummey
10) April In Paris - Michael Wallner
11) The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
12) Little Women - Louisa May alcott
13) The Zookeeper's Wife - Diane Ackerman
14) Remembering the Bones - Frances Itani
15) Three Day Road - Joseph Boyden
16) Afterwards - Rachel Seiffert
17) Blindness - Jose Saramago

22 January 2008

Roving and Felting

This is my newest felted piece. I listed it in my etsy shop (http://IGotFleeced.etsy.com) yesterday. I had made a little mini version some time ago, but it was a little too tiny to be of much use. This version is more substantial and in my opinion would act as a welcome addition to a coat lapel, bringing a little wish of spring to a gloomy grey January day.

I do wish that I had known that I would have my brief and unexpected lesson in felting. When we were in Belgium a few months ago I happened upon an artist's shop in Ghent, with a front window laden with bundles of beautifully coloured roving.

Ahh, to have this at my disposal at this very moment.

20 January 2008

Finding Inspiration

The other night Darcy and I decided to watch the movie "The Holiday". If you aren't familiar, it is a romantic comedy. A not very romatic, or comedic, romantic comedy. It was about 90 minutes that I will never get back.

When not marveling at Cameron Diaz's ability to sprint in stilettos, I spent most of the movie examining the jewelry that she and Kate Winslet were wearing. At one point in the movie I was looking at a necklace that Kate was wearing and was thinking in my head, "Do I like this necklace? Not really. I guess its ok. No. It isn't. I really don't like it. But what if...."

I bolted off the couch, grabbed this copper chain that I bought the other day, and examined it quickly. I had originally imagined it as a bracelet, but hhhmmmmm, a lariot. This decorative copper toggle would be a great addition. Let's see, this would look AMAZING with some Carnelian drops. But I don't have any of those. Green always looks amazing with copper. I didn't have time to rummage through all my beads so I made a quick sketch and went back to the movie (the remainder of the 90 minutes I will never be able to recover.)

I finally did get time to rummage through the bead stash and found these amazing green stones that I had left over from a previous project. Here is the final result. I like it. It is a little heavier than a lot of my other pieces. A bit of a departure.

At least the movie was good for something.

16 January 2008


A few weeks ago I stated that one of my New Year's goals was to spend less of our time and money in the grocery stores and instead use some of my time to prepare more of our own staple foods. In an ongoing quest to move away from mass-produced items, I decided a good place to start was with fresh home-made bread. After all what could possibly smell better than fresh baking bread, and what better reward for hard work than a fresh warm slice of buttered bread.

I probably could have picked a simpler project to start. Luckily though, my first couple attempts have been mostly successful. Not to say that there haven't been a few hiccups. For instance, I couldn't understand why my first 1/4 teaspoon of yeast wouldn't dissolve. After further invesitagation, I discovered I had actually added little tiny grains of quinoa to my water instead of yeast. Once I tossed the quinoa-not-yeast-water down the sink, things started looking up.

Happily, we ended up with two loaves of fresh white bread that day. And as hoped the smell was heavenly, and warm bread with melty butter was all we had for dinner that evening.

A week later I decided to redeem myself from a previous pizza dough making disaster. I mixed together my whole wheat dough ingredients but remained sceptical. I anticipated a monumental failure so decided to cover my butt and threw together a white dough recipe as well. To my surprise both worked and we actually had a choice of pizza crusts for dinner. It was a little crisper than pizzeria dough but that may have been due more the fact that I got so engrossed in Playstation that the pizza was in the oven longer than necessary. OOooooops.

That was an ambitious day. I also made rosemary-olive foccacia. I loved this. The way the dough puffed up out of the bowl was so exhilarating. And again, the end result was very tasty, though the loaf itself was a little unusual looking. Next time I will also be more liberal with the rosemary and the salt sprinkled on top.

Tomorrow I am going to try a whole wheat bread. This one scares me. I shouldn't just assume that I am going to fail miserably, but if I do, I can chalk it up to a learning experience.

The whole wheat bread turned out great! I even decided to try a few substitions in the recipe. I subbed some of the whole-wheat flour for spelt, and also add some wheat germ, ground flax, poppy- and sesame-seeds. It was so yummy! I think I may be getting the hang of this.

13 January 2008


My sister shop on etsy:
I opened it a few days ago, and have been slowly adding in little felty bits. So far I have only a few pins, but have loads of doodly-sketches of other items to try. We'll have to see if I am actually successful at poking the roving into the desired shape.

10 January 2008

New Year, New Resolutions

Typically I don't like to make resolutions, as I really do believe that resolve will only last for a couple weeks and then once the shine of the New Year is gone, so are the lofty goals.

I do however, like to use the New Year as a chance to reflect on the past year, take stock of where I currently am in life, and determine the direction I would like to steer my life this year.

So to start, 2007 was a year of big change for me. I started my ETSY shop, found homes for my jewelry in a few B&M stores, and quit my day-job. I didn't make millions through these changes, but I didn't expect that. I did find an increased sense of inner calm, and reduced the stress level in my live.

This year, I plan to continue building String Me Along into a profitable business. As well I plan to explore further the craft of needle felting. I also have plans to take hand-made to another level in my life. I did very well over Christmas at giving only handmade gifts, but how can I adapt this further into my own life? Well, there is more handmade food. I love to cook, so much of what we eat I cook. But I want to spend more time making our staple items... bread, pasta, etc. For some reason, many of these items have scared me in the past. Time to get over it. I would love to be able to grow our own food, but being in an urban apartment has its limitations on this front.

So looking forward I guess what I really want to do is look back. My goal is to return to a pre-Walmart era lifestyle. I'm not so concerned with convenience. I want a return to food that tastes like food, items that are not going to be recalled in 5 months, or that have been designed to fall apart within a year. I enjoy knowing where my items come from and getting to know the faces behind its creation. Be it the carrots I buy at the market, or crocheted hat that I bought for my niece's birthday.

And well, just for good measure, I also resolve to go to the gym more often, and read more.

Read this book:

4 January 2008

4 Year Olds Bringing Tears to My Eye

I have both a 4-year old niece and nephew. My niece is petite and blond and loves being a princess. My nephew is burly and bossy and exuberant. Sugar and spice versus snakes and snails and puppy dog tails.

I spent the day with my nephew (and most of my family) on Christmas Eve. I think I can safely say that I may be the favorite Auntie. My nephew and I spent most of the day playing together. At one point he pulled out a little notepad and wrote in crayon, a message. I think the message was written in binary code. The kid may be a genius, or he has not yet been taught the whole alphabet in JK. But anyway, I asked him to read it to me. He leaned in very close to my face and looked up at me with his wide blue eyes and whispered: "It says 'I love you'". Oh... melt.

The next day, I had to content myself with just a phone call to my sister and her family as they moved to PEI last October. After much cajoling my niece finally agreed to come to the phone and she greeted me with this wonderful statement: "I'm eating an egg sandwich, and the cat just threw up". HA!!

Ya gotta love them!!

3 January 2008

When I Grow Up I Want to be Belgian!

Now, don't get me wrong, I love being Canadian. But there is a little teeensy, tiny little bit of me that longs to be Belgian?

Darcy and I went to Belgium this past autumn. Belgium was his idea really, wooed as he was by the Belgian reputation for beer. I was wary, thinking like most people, "What the heck is in Belgium?". I thought back to my university art history days and sure enough there is a truly impressive number of Flemish masters, plus Flemish architecture is at the same time charming in its style and stunning in its design. And after seeing it in person, I would have to say that the craftmanship is perhaps second to none.

But these are not the things that make me long to be Belgian. What really won me over was their ability to maintain a simple, good-living lifestyle, while at the same time racing toward their future. These may be the most efficient people in the world. They blend environmentally sound practices with modern advances, and mix commerce with good old-fashioned, small scale production and old-world craftsmanship.

We stayed in the North part of Belgian where the major urban centres are all located. Being 20 minutes from Ghent and 15 minutes from Bruges, we were still smack-dab in the middle of a rural lifestyle. Everywhere we looked people made the most of their small parcels of land. Within walking distance of our rented cottage, every manner of farm animal was to be found, (including deer for venison), as well as fruit trees, kitchen vegetable gardens, or larger scale crops. There seemed to be no wasted space at all. Even right up to the edges of the city, the land was given over to farm land. Here, the land leading up to the edge of the city is razed and covered over with overcrowded subdivisions and sprawling malls.

Another thing that I loved about the country is the strong desire to retain tradition and preserve its heritage within the city centre. There were not many times when we found a view disrupted by a towering parking structure or other urban atrocity. Instead, we discovered that we were able to follow a road into the centre of town, drive down a short ramp and the road and parking garage disappeared underneath the city. Convenient, but more importantly, it really does allow for the possibility of pedestrianized cities.

Once in the cities, you can look around and imagine how the cities must have looked 100 hundred years ago. In fact, if you stop and dwell, you can almost imagine how the city unfolded itself over the millenia. And a perfect example of the commitment to not only retain, but to rebuild their home-land is Ypres. When we drove into the town we were awed by the medieval style buildings and beautiful town square. It was not until later that we realised that it was actually all built within the last century. Actually, I should say, rebuilt. As we all know Ypres was the scene of one of the bloodiest battles in World War 1, and again much of Belgium suffered through World War 2. But with the ink on the armistice barely dried, the townspeople started rebuilding. And parts that had been salvaged or saved and hiiden during the war, were re-used. Such care and attention to detail went into rebuilding that the town is almost identical to pre-war photos. Again, I wonder why this interest in preservation is so lacking here? Juxtapose photos of Toronto-then with Toronto-now, and you would not believe that it is the same place. Our quest for the modern leaves our past in rubble piles. And it is truly a shame.

And finally, the true reason that I want to be Belgian. Juliette's Cookie Corner in a winding little street in the centre of Bruges. Walking by this little corner shop, our noses perked up at the wonderfully subtle scent of hot butter and sugar, mixed with just the right blend of spices. Never ones to say no to freshly baked cookies we popped in and treated ourselves to a selection. Speculoos, sables, gingersnaps, etc. Oh it was heaven. In fact, just the scent of the cookies was so transcendental that I kept the little paper bag they were packed in for the duration of the trip so that I could keep crushing it up against my nose while breathing deeply.

Its not just the cookies. Or the chocolates. Or candies. Or waffles. Or the pot of cheese with endive buried deep within it. Or the frites. Although all of these left my pants a little tight by the end of trip, it was the pride, care and attention to detail that seemed to go into everything. As I mentioned earlier in the ramble, it is the small scale production and old world quality of, well, everything it seemed. Where here artisinal quality is a reason to charge double, there it is expected as the norm.

I really do hope deep in my heart that if I can never be Belgian, then at least a little bit of that Belgian attitude will find its way to the rest of the world.

Imagine, we ordered a cup of tea and coffee, and were presented with this tray of various sugars, cakes, jelly candies, and marshmallows, shaped I believe like the Virgin Mary.