Tuesday, May 10, 2022

05.09.22 I said yes...

This post is very short...because there is a whole lot going on in our lives right now...including, 

just before the new year, our son and his longtime partner became engaged...and we are thrilled!

Earlier this spring, we went to visit them in Washington DC (where they make their home) and had an absolutely wonderful time seeing the venue, helping them with invitations, and just generally making plans.

As we were walking around the beautiful historic park where they will have their ceremony and reception, they popped the question...

Would I make their wedding rings?

It took me by surprise - especially since it's been two years since I sat down at a bench - but after consulting one of my jewelry teachers, who is also a dear friend, I said yes.

We'll be visiting them again soon, and I'll have some tools and thermoplastic with me so that I can take measurements and an impression of my soon to be daughter-in-law's engagement ring to bring back with me.

I'm so honored to have been asked, and excited to be fabricating these very special and important rings.

Progress pictures to come...so stay tuned!

Until next time!

Monday, April 4, 2022

04.04.22 Everybody Needs A Spoonula

My GIR collection and USVI tea towel
Two years ago, when Covid took me away from the jewelry bench, I refocused my creative energy in the kitchen...

this time last year, I went through cabinets and drawers, cleaned out the cheap stuff I'd had since grad school, and found myself in need of replacements...so I went to Wirecutter (if you are unaware of this resource, I highly recommend you subscribe to their newsletters) for their reviews of kitchen utensils.  

The top rated choices included several from a brand I'd never heard of - GIR - which stands for "Get It Right"...so I clicked through and discovered not only did they have a great selection of tools, but they came in BRIGHT COLORS!

I started searching for them and discovered that Nordstrom had the full set in a rainbow of colors on sale - which (of course) I took as a sign that I had to have them!

I don't regret for a minute purchasing all 10 pieces, but there was one - the spoonula - that I found myself reaching for over and over (and often finding it in the dishwasher), so I bought two more of those.

This shouldn't come as surprise to anyone who has read the blog for a while - I love a good tool!

As spring started to roll around things were looking up outside the confines of my four walls.  I was vaccinated, and so were many of my family and friends, which meant we could see each other again.

As it warmed up, I started making in person, outdoor, plans with people I hadn't seen - and whose birthdays I'd missed - for a whole year.  It was at this point it occurred to me - EVERYBODY needs a spoonula!

Honey + Hank towels to send to the Ciao Bellas
So, over the course of 2021 - and now well into 2022 - I have gifted a couple dozen, along with coordinating tea towels for pretty much every occasion you can imagine.

Dallas-based and woman owned Honey + Hank became one of my very favorite sources for towels. Her designs are, as the creator puts it, "designed with a wink ;)". The visual play with the shapes of states and hobbies definitely appeals to my love of puns!

I'd much rather create gifts than receive them (although I am always appreciative), and perhaps the best part about these was soon after I started sending them out...I started getting pictures and messages from folks about how much they loved them!

Obviously, it's not the same as being able to make someone a piece of custom jewelry, but I had so much fun finding just the right tea towel for every person, and then picking a spoonula color to match. 

Turns out, my friends and family think they make pretty good gifts, too - and have reported buying them for other folks, and maybe adding a second one for themselves.
Spoonulas (and other GIR items)
at Berkeley Bowl
I sent our daughter back to California (after her visit here in December) with a few more of my favorite items, including a mini spoonula, plus large and mini spoons.  Not too long after that, she sent me a picture when she was grocery shopping - a whole wall full of bright colored spoonulas! She said she didn't any more utensils, but they made her think of me.

It's warming up here, and we're getting out a little more, but I think I'll continue cooking and baking for most of our meals...so I'm glad to have all my colorful utensils, and I'll keep sharing them with my friends.

Until next time.

Monday, March 7, 2022

03.07.21 Anatevka

The Fiddler, Marc Chagall (1912)
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
In January, I said I was going to post once a month, even if I'm not back in the studio or if I don't have anything jewelry related to write about.

My plan for March had been to put up a fun post about kitchen stuff - but given the turn of world events in the past two weeks - it doesn't seem like the time.  Instead, I want to tell you a little about my not so distant connection to Ukraine.

Anatevka is a fictional town in the Russian Pale (which includes what is now Ukraine) where Jews were "allowed" (read restricted) to reside in Czarist Russia.  

The town and its inhabitants lived in the mind of Shalom Aleichem, a Yiddish storyteller. One of the townspeople was Tevye, the milkman.  Shalom Aleichem's stories about Tevye and his community were written in the late 19th century as Jews (including my great grandparents) fled the Czar's pogroms, and in the mid 20th century, they became the basis for the musical, Fiddler on the Roof.

My great grandparents
Emanuel and Cyril ~ 1930
Like Tevye and Golda - my maternal great grandparents, Emanuel and Cyril - had an arranged marriage.  Unlike Tevye and Golda - who questions whether there is any love in the house - there was no doubt in my great grandparent's case.  As my mother told their story, their relationship was filled with tenderness and mutual respect.  

As the Jews of Anatevka did, Emanuel and Cyril fled Ukraine with their young children and made their way to America.  They settled in Little Rock, Arkansas - where my grandfather, the youngest of five - was born.

Because of them, I am a third generation American, something I do not take for granted.  It is highly likely that I have cousins I do not know in Ukraine - provided they survived the pogroms, the Holocaust, and previous Russian occupations - again fighting for their lives.

My grandfather, Julius, 1965
My grandfather had only a high school education, but he had an incredible work ethic, and truly saw America as a land of opportunity.  He and my grandmother ran a series of successful shoe stores and saw to it that my mother, their only child, did go to college.

It is because of them, I live a life of privilege in America today.  Not because I have done anything special or heroic - but because they did.

I am grateful to them, and to everyone who has made my comfortable, upper middle class life possible. I also realize that I have an obligation, WE ALL DO, to help those who are not yet safe, secure and free.

In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King said:   

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. 

This is true at home and abroad - regardless of our ancestry - either we all survive, or none of us do.

Photo Credit: World Central Kitchen Instagram
I am constantly impressed by the work of Chef José Andrés, and have donated directly to his organization World Central Kitchen.  WCK in partnership with chefs throughout eastern Europe are providing thousands of meals every day to Ukrainians.

The New York Times and the Obama Foundation both have lists of vetted organizations providing support for Ukraine.

I urge to do what you can (as no one of us alone can do it all) to promote justice and peace in your home and your community.

Until next time.

Monday, February 7, 2022

02.07.22 Time in a bottle...or a jar

My Giant Microbes Covid, February 2022
Do you remember when and where you were when you first heard about Covid?

I do.  

I was at Chuy's - sitting outside because the weather was nice 

not because being outside was safer

on the last Friday in February of 2020.  My husband and I were having dinner with my niece (an emergency room PA in Seattle) who was in town for a professional training.  We were talking about cases of a weird virus that was showing up in the Pacific northwest...

...we now know that was the beginning of what has become two very long years of dealing with this pandemic.

All the ingredients for morning glory muffins
Time has been very strange during Covid - and I'm marking it in ways that would never have occurred to me before - in particular, the consumption of baking supplies.

I've always cooked, but until the pandemic, I've never been much of a baker...the occassional batch of chocolate chip cookies, brownies from a box, and challah (but I made the dough in a breadmaker).  Like so many other things, that's changed.

There were two baking camps in the beginning - sourdough and banana bread.  I was definitely in the latter group.  

Samin Nosrat's focaccia with salt and rosemary

Like most folks, I started by using up the bananas I had in the freezer. Then I moved to muffins - and began adapting recipes - changing up the fruit, and adjusting the flour mix...flour that I started getting mail order, ten pounds at a time (remember there was a flour shortage!?) and have been ordering ever since.

But, what struck me the most, was the rate at which I was going through spices!  

I looked back over two years of Penzey's orders - I've used 4 cups of cinnamon and over 3 pints of vanilla - and have acquired bottles of numerous other spices, the most exotic of which is probably cardamom seeds.

I'm also going through dozens of eggs, and pounds of pecans - because in addition to a couple dozen muffins every three weeks or so...

Niloufer Ichaporia King's cardamon cake
I'm baking Samin Nosrat's focaccia with wheat flour,  a cake that Food 52 touted as Alice Water's favorite dessert...and next month for my husband's birthday...a German Chocolate cake. 

Turns out baking really is theraputic...

it's hard to be in a bad mood when the kitchen smells like butter, sugar and spice...

or when you turn the cake out of the pan and it looks just like the photo with the recipe.

January was a rough month for me, and I definitely responded to the stress by pulling out the mixing bowls and turning on the oven...which is just fine as long as I balance all the sweets with healthy meals, sourced largely from the farmers market.

Honestly, February hasn't been much better so far...it's still cold, and we've had an ice storm (although not like last year)...but we are headed towards spring, and hopefully to the end of this Covid wave.

Until next time.

Monday, January 10, 2022

01.10.23 Happiness Blooms

Fresh flowers AND tomatoes in January
I don't like winter, never have...

it's cold,
it's dreary,

and January is the month that my Mom died, 20 years ago.

I usually pretty grumpy about now.

But after the warmest December on record...my favorite local grower has flowers, and there are tomatoes at the farmer's market...so here's hoping we don't have another winter like last year.

Anyhow, since I promised in my Thanksgiving post to write about flowers (and it's my goal to return to posting something once a month even though I'm not back in the jewelry studio)...here you go!

The very first Petals Ink bouquet - June 2018
I discovered my favorite local grower - Petals, Ink  - at the Mueller Farmers Market several years ago. My first purchase from them was a small bouquet in a hobnail milk glass vase.  My daughter was moving into her first aparment in California, and wanted a vase to take with her...she really liked this one. 

At the time (in 2018 - the before times), trips to the farmers market were a fun outing, but not part of my regular routine. 

I wasn't doing a lot of cooking - we were too busy enjoying our empty nest - I was at the jewelry studio my husband was riding his bike almost everyday.

In March 2020, all that changed.

With grocery shortages, and curbside options few and far between, the Sunday farmers market became my primary source for meat and fresh produce - and it has definitely been a silver lining in the dark clouds of the past two years.

The bluebonnet bouquet - March, 2020
It wasn't too far into that first pandemic spring that I saw the Petals, Ink booth had returned to the market, and in addition to lots of fresh food, I started picking up flowers every week.  I also started following them on Instagram. In March, just as things were warming up, they posted photos of spring bouquets with bluebonnets, available for delivery...so I ordered one.

It might sound silly, but I realized having flowers in the kitchen (where I was spending way more time since we were eating three meals a day at home) made me happy - really happy - every time I looked at them.  

When they started offering a weekly CSA (community supported agriculture) subscription for flowers...I signed up right away.

Bonus heirloom mums - Nov 2021
Starting in the spring of 2020, I picked up my flowers from their booth every Sunday until the season ended...and in 2021, I signed up again.  Initially, I was going to continue picking them up at the market - but circumstances changed, and they switched to contactless home delivery.

For 32 weeks - from March to November - I would get a text message mid-day on Saturday with a photo of my delivery in front of my house.  It was a highlight of my week, and without question one of the most important acts of self-care I took in 2021.

Then, to my great suprise - while I was in St. Thomas with my high school girlfriends - I got a message from my husband, that the "flower ladies" as he calls them, had left a bonus bouquet (and the sweetest note) at our door.  He put them in a vase, and they were waiting for me when I arrived home from my wonderful trip.  

Around the same time, I had also received a wonderful gift of flowers from a friend - but they weren't fresh - they were Legos!  I resisted the urge to open the box immediately, and instead waited until our daughter came home for a couple of weeks at the end of the year. She and I built them together, and put them in another hobnail vase that came from Petals, Ink.

The Lego bouquet
I'll keep the Lego blooms on my table until March, when my subscription deliveries begin again...except for this week...because I have the anemones.

The past two year have been rough, but they haven't been all bad, and they certainly have taught me some life lessons...not the least of which is do things that bring you joy.  

No matter what life looks like going forward - I know that I will continue to spend time in my kitchen; cooking with fresh ingredients from the farmers market, and keeping flowers on my table.  I only hope that I'll be sharing that space with family and friends again, sooner rather than later.

Until next time.

Monday, December 20, 2021

12.27.21 So good! So good! So good!*

In late February of this year, as we were all beginning to schedule our Covid vaccines - and held out hope that the pandemic would soon be over - a group of us who have been friends since childhood began planning a trip to mark our 40th high school graduation. 

At the time, we couldn't imagine that not only would Covid still be raging, but that we'd be facing a new variant. As the year wore on we planned, and hesitated, but fortune smiled on us and we were able to be together.

A little over 48 hours after returning home from Thanksgiving, I was traveling again.  Arriving at Austin-Bergstrom Airport at 4 am (the first time I'd been in an airport in nearly two years) to spend five days with a group of women who had not all be together at the same time since we were 18 years old.

arriving at Cyril E. King airport in Charlotte-Amalie

Masked, vaccinated, tested and approved by the authorities in the US Virgin Islands, we took off to spend five epic days together in Saint Thomas.

Three of us, who had gone to college as well as high school together, first caught up in Atlanta, and a few hours later we were all in paradise.  The decades between our last visit and this one seemed to vanish. 

Our choice of St. Thomas wasn't random - one of the members of our girl tribe, along with her husband, owns Ciao Bella Charters - and lives on the island half the year. 

A glorious day on Ciao Bella!
She helped us arrange condo rentals, set us up with a great taxi driver, made dinner reservations and planned our itinerary...all we had to do was enjoy! 

Our day on the boat was spectacular - I had never been to the Caribbean before - but everything you hear about it is true! The weather and scenery are beautiful, and the water really is blue!  We snorkled at Honeymoon Beach, ate lunch in Maho and soaked up sun like folks who have been locked inside for two years.

We ate amazing fresh fish for dinner every night, and made a day trip to St. John where we took advantage of incredible duty free shopping...this is where jewelry finally comes back to the blog...

At the St. John Ferry landing
We took the ferry from St. Thomas to St. John, and as always, I was looking for two things - artisan jewelry, and a tea towel - I found both. 

A couple of blocks away from the ferry landing we found Bamboo Studio, a local jewelry company with both a beautiful store, and a studio with large glass windows where you can watch their artisans working at their benches.  Immediately, I knew this was where I would find my jewelry souvenir.

The "Ciao Bellas"

Before we entered the store, my friends asked what was going on in the workshop.  I pointed out the silver wire hanging on the walls, the casting equipment, the benches covered with hand tools and flex shafts hanging nearby.  It was so fun to share my knowledge, and encourage them to choose pieces that were made on St. John by skilled craftspeople.

Most of my friends chose hook bracelets, which are symbolic in the Virgin Islands...but I'm not a bracelet person...and I found two pendant charms that I love, and my crew agreed are "so me".
The smaller pendant has "waves" surrounding a blue diamond, symbolizing the hurricanes Irma and Maria - that struck the Virgin Islands in 2017 - and from which they have largely recovered. The larger pendant says "KEEP LEFT", because although they are US territories, cars drive on the left side of the road (as in England).

Double entendre pendants
from Bamboo Studio
Looking at the two pendants together - it struck me - not only do they represent the Virgin Islands, but my political leanings as well.  I'm always pushing people to keep left and work for a blue wave!

Some people say "you can't go home again" - and I certainly don't want to go back to high school - but I am so glad to be reunited with this incredible group of women.  There are no words sufficient to describe the love and admiration I have for them.  Five days together was a salve to my soul after two very difficult years.

I came home rested and renewed - ready to deal with whatever life has to throw at me - because I know I'll be seeing my friends again sooner rather than later...

...and of course, my new tea towel is my kitchen.

The blog is indeed back - although I'm still not sure what the frequency will be - it feels good to be writing again, and I'm hopeful that 2022 will be a safer, healthier and more productive year for all of us.

Until next time.

*from the chorus of Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline". It became the theme of our weekend, and we sang it a lot!

Monday, December 13, 2021

12.13.21 Thankful

The view from our rental house on the Galveston Seawall
On March 13, 2020 - 21 months ago today - the world changed forever when Covid-19 first impacted my life.  News about an unknown, very contagious virus had been circulating for a couple of weeks.  

The previous week, the City of Austin had canceled South by Southwest, and on Friday the 13th my husband received a message from his employer not to come to work on Monday; that his company would be working remotely "until it was safe to return to the office".

He's still working from home.

There was no way for any of us to anticipate what the next two years would look like.  It turns out life during a pandemic is exhausting, frightening and isolating.  

Even for those of us who are fortunate enough to have homes, jobs and families to sustain us, the last two years have been hard.

I haven't written a blog post in more than 6 months, because frankly I ran out of both the energy to write and things to say.

With vaccines, and now boosters, the world is starting to open up - a bit - again.  I'm still not back in the jewelry studio - I don't know when that will happen, especially now that we have Omicron - but I am feeling renewed enough to sit down at my computer and blog.

Sunflowers and chrysanthemums at the beach house 
That feeling - wanting to write and reach out - has been sparked by reconnecting with family and friends, and doing it outside the four walls of my house.

Three weeks ago we were able to spend Thanksgiving with our adult children and my in laws.  

The following week, I had a fabulous long weekend with a group of women I've know for more than 40 years.

This past weekend, I caught up with friends from graduate school who I hadn't seen in person in two years.

Next time, I'll write about the girls' trip...which will actually have jewelry references in it!  This time, you get Thanksgiving.

For decades, my mother in law has gone all out for Thanksgiving, starting her planning weeks in advance and cooking for days before everyone descended on her.

Her home, while lovely, isn't big enough to accomodate all of us overnight, so in the before times, I would book hotel rooms nearby.  None of us felt comfortable with that arrangement this year, so instead we rented a historic house in Galveston, where we could all stay in one place.

To ensure things went smoothly, my husband and I arrived on Sunday - a couple of days ahead of everyone else - to get set up.  

Things that used to be simple - like grocery shopping - have become more complicated. Covid has changed the way I do these things - to minimize my contact with people I don't know - in large part because Texas' lack of leadership has refused to allow local governments to put safety protocols in place.

Fortunately, I was able to schedule a curbside pick up ahead of time, just like I do at home.  Because I wouldn't be in my own kitchen, and didn't want to spend all my time cooking (and we certainly weren't going to ask that of my mother in law), we ordered our holiday meal to go from Goode Co. BBQ in Houston.

Melamine beach plates and Goode Co. Thanksgiving dinner
On Monday I made my grocery run, and I was able to find a local florist to get flowers for the table - something I have come to love during the last two years at home.  A locally based friend recommended the Galveston Flower Co. The staff helped me arrange a beautiful bouquet that we enjoyed all week.

Side note - I've been getting flowers delivered weekly through a floral CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), and it has been one of the bright spots in a dark time.  The flowers, and the folks behind them at Petals, Ink, are definitely worthy of a blog post...I promise I'll write one in the coming year.

The rest of our crew - kids and in laws - arrived on Tuesday, and frankly we could have simply had turkey sandwiches and it would have been a great trip!  However, we didn't have to settle for sandwiches - we had quite the spread - smoked turkey, green bean casserole, mashed sweet potatoes, potatoes au gratin, rolls and of course, pie.

It's not a trip to Galveston without Gaido's
We stuffed ourselves silly all week.  In addition to the traditional Thanksgiving meal, we squeezed in Tex-Mex and fresh seafood at Gaido's, eating outdoors when we weren't at our rental house.

It all went by far too fast, and we are once again scattered across the country - my kids on both coasts and us in the middle in Texas.  But the week left me thankful for the time together, and hopeful that we will be able to find ways to return to seeing each other - in person - regularly.  

If that means booster vaccines and testing before and after travel, sign me up.

I hope you have been able to find things to give you strength and carry you through this challenging year.  I'm glad to be writing again, and grateful to everyone who reads my posts.

Until next time.