Monday, October 31, 2011

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Silly Sunday - Quick fig jam recipe

I thought today I'd share a quick jam recipe for you, in case, like us, you have lots of figs around that need using up.

You may be wondering why a jam recipe fits into the category of "Silly Sunday" blog posts... Hmm... Well, this quick easy jam recipe is so simple, it's just silly!  There is nothing to it!!

When I tell my friends I am making jam, chutney, marmalade etc, they all want to come and join in as so many of them seem overwhelmed by the whole canning thing and so have never even tried making preserves. This recipe however, isn't  for canning and storing for months etc - it's a recipe where you use up the jam within a couple of weeks.  So you can store it in any kind of container.

Love figs

It's delicious spread on cheese, as a sauce on fish, as a kind of salsa/sauce for red meat/burgers, and also spooned over ice cream! Oh, and of course, just spread on bread/toast! How versatile is that!

  • 1 lb fresh figs, diced
  • 2 tablespoons sugar or equivalent for a sugar substitute
  • 2 tablespoons water
Place the figs in a small saucepan. Add the sugar and water and heat, stirring, to a boil.
Cook, uncovered, over medium heat until the figs have softened and the mixture is thick - about 10 mins.
Transfer to a small bowl and serve. Voila!
Store covered in a refrigerator for up to two weeks.

**Another option is to add a little ginger to the jam as it cooks. Try cutting up small pieces of crystallized ginger. Yum!

So don't be intimidated! It's silly easy. Give it a go!  And then try other fruits and don't even worry about all the canning!

Let me know if you give it a go. Happy Jamming.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Weekly bird in the hand

Here's this week's grateful list:

  • Meeting new friends and having fun getting to know each other
  • Eating fresh sun-warmed figs from our tree
  • Making fig and ginger chutney
  • My friend Marly whose birthday it was this week
  • Catching up with old friends
  • Soft tissues - I've been sneezing all week so having soft tissues is something I am extremely grateful for!
  • Warm autumn days
  • The changing color of the leaves

Friday, October 28, 2011

Merry Go Round - Selling at Fairs

It's the last Friday of the month, so join us on our merry go round for a quick spin.  The merry go round is where a group of 11 artists/craftwomen link together around the world and tell you a little about their art and craft, through blogging on the same topic.

This month's question for us all to write about is "Do you do fairs/shows?  If so, share some hints and your experience. If not - why not."

When I first started making jewelry, I did a few fairs locally. Mostly, they were at wineries. People came along, drank a bit of wine, bought a bit of jewelry.....They were pretty successful.  However, as my jewelry progressed and my prices went up, I felt it really wasn't the right sort of market for my pieces.  The audience really wanted less expensive items.

Instead of looking for alternative fairs at that time, I chose to focus selling solely online.  I really enjoy the steadiness of it all.  With fairs, you seem to work frantically in the few weeks beforehand, churning out a lot of stock and then have an exhausting couple of days at the fair. Selling online, I make a few pieces each week and sell a few pieces each week and things just keep turning over nicely. It really suits how I like to work.

This summer however, I did set up a stall at the local farmers' market. The village I live in started a new farmers' market so I decided to join in. My color anodized aluminum work was pretty new and the whole process is not familiar in the US, so I wanted to use it as a means to get some feedback on those pieces. It was fun and I did enjoy it....and it was reasonably successful but I still prefer the online selling.

I always go back to how much I find I get to know my customers better online than face to face or selling in a gallery.  My customers email me and tell me their stories and send photos and keep in touch....and I find it so satisfying.

I think the choice is so personal in relation to how you work best....if you don't like the online scene, then fairs are great....but I happen to enjoy online, so have no plans to change that!  What do you think and do?

To find out what the other members of the merry go round think,  click on the links below:

Samantha at Vintage is for lovers -
Jen at Painted Fish Studio -
Bethany at Dirksen Dabbles -
Laura at Blue Terracotta -
Monika at Red2White -
Mitsy at ArtMind -
Kim at Vilt a la Kim -
Sara at Crafts of Texture -
Mariana at Florcita -
Agathe at Le Bar du Vent -
Ruth at Birdland Creations -

Or else you can click on the blog hop below.  If you are a merry go round participant, please add your link if it's not already included. You can then copy the code and put it on your blog post too.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Radiant earrings

I made some stained glass window style earrings yesterday with anodised aluminum and love the bright colors.

All those primary colors, and with the black accent.

I think they will be lovely for festive parties over the next few months...can be worn with black and add real brightness and radiance.

And yes. I did a pendant to go with them too - shaped as a gothic arch.

The aluminum means that they are all lightweight too, so don't drag down your neck or ears!  Not a good party look :-D

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

43/52 Bird a week challenge - Sweet Nature

I've been seeing open rings, or double headed rings for a while recently. They've caught my eye, but I'm not even sure what their proper name is...  Anyhow, I thought it would be fun to try and make one.

The idea is that the ring band doesn't close and on each end, you add a certain detail.  These details then sit between the fingers and the ring still sits securely on the finger.

For my ring, there obviously had to be a bird for my bird a week challenge.... and then I thought of a sweet little flower. I think birds and flowers are probably the sweetest things of nature, and thus I called it "Sweet Nature". It would make a perfect gift for someone with a sweet nature.

The joy of a double headed/open ring is that the size is somewhat adjustable.

Do you know what these styles of rings are called?  Are they only double headed when it is two "heads" you put on the ends ie like snake heads or something like that?  What name do you think accurately reflects it?  Hmmm..... and while we are all thinking on that...  take a look at what other birds have been created this week by following the links below:

Sunday, October 23, 2011

October at Birdland Vineyards - Harvest Time!

By guest blogger John

It's harvest time - finally!!

The grapes were ripening nicely to start the month but then we had heavy rain on October 3rd. This was followed with breezy sunshine so the grapes dried out quite well and we breathed a sigh of relief. It had been a tricky year with late spring sunshine and now we needed to see the sugar levels increase.

There was another blow on October 10th with a day of rain followed by damp humid weather for a few days which is not good as these are perfect conditions for bunch rot to develop. Bunch rot causes the grapes to lose their elasticity and fall from the bunch leaving a sticky mess. It's not dangerous to us and in fact the French infect some white grapes with it when they produce sauternes as it creates a very sweet wine. It's not, however, good for Merlot!

Everything looked OK for about 10 days and then I noticed that we had bunch rot in some clusters, and we knew this spreads very fast. The guy from the winery arrived to inspect the vineyard on Friday Oct. 21st and said lets harvest as soon as possible. Our vineyard manager said he could do it the next day on Sat., so with only a few hours notice and no chance to enlist the help of friends and family (apart from Dennis who helped all morning) to pull leaves from the bins, Ruth and I spent all day yesterday bending over the bins pulling out leaves and damaged fruit, while trying not to fall off the moving tractor.

In the end, after about 8 hours of work, the pickers had finished and we took 42 half ton bins to the winery to be crushed.

It was a satisfying but exhausting day and we still have aches and pains today.

So that's the end of any real activity in the vineyard for some time. The leaves will turn yellow and red and then drop off but no more work until pruning next spring.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Weekly bird in the hand

Phew! This week's bird in the hand is easy! I may be missing a few other things this week that I have been grateful for, but the thing I am most grateful for this week is that harvest is done!  We picked all the grapes today - around 20 tons of Merlot grapes.  We'll find out the final weight tomorrow.

It was tiring, sticky, and a long exhausting day, but very satisfying!

Off the little grapes go on their journey to delicious wine! 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Citroen 2CV

For those American's reading this, you might now know what a 2CV Citroen don't sell in the US.  But everyone else will know that it is a cute and legendary car!  Quite quirky in styling, the 2CV is a french made car, designed for low cost, simplicity of use and reliability.  It has a canvas sunroof and you would often see them painted in lots of jolly colors!

Manufacturer of 2CV's sadly stopped in 1990, after 42 years.  Look at the great colors on this one!

One of my customers in France, who has quite a collection of Birdland creations, just bought herself a 2CV and is delighted with her purchase!  So she asked me to make her a necklace of a 2 CV. 

She sent me a couple of photos of her new car and so I tried sculpting it.  Hmm.. It was tricky to make in the small size of a necklace!  But I tried and you see the results here.  Tiny little details that you may not get on the photos are that the number plate says "2CV" on it, and just above it is the tiny Citroen logo badge! 

Yes, the necklace does look quirky and a little odd, but then, so is the 2 CV!!!  I hope she likes it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

42/52 Bird a week challenge - Cold hands, warm heart

Gosh - fancy being at week 42 of the year! That means only 10 weeks until the end of the year! 10 more birdies to make........

This week's birdie was made today!  I normally try and start them earlier in the week and finish them on the Wednesday but not this week! So I was busy this morning sculpting, drying, firing, polishing and adding resin.

Today's little guy is entitled "Cold hands, warm heart".

I'm sure you've heard the saying.....however scientists now say that it isn't true!  Yes, the Telegraph Paper in the UK wrote about how scientists have dispelled the little myth!

They found that people holding a warm cup of coffee were more generous and charitable than individuals holding a cup of iced coffee!

Oh well! Even if the myth doesn't hold up, I still think it makes a nice penguin necklace!  I wonder if scientists have tried the coffee study on penguins?

And what about people with Raynaud's disease too, whose hands go white in the cold as circulation decreases?  My hubby has Raynaud's disease - and we are just getting into the bad season for it with temperatures getting colder - but he has a warm heart!

Cold on the snowflakes

Hope your heart is warmed today.

Take a look at the links below to see what other birds have been created this week as part of our year long challenge to make a different bird each week.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Silly Sunday - Cheese

We were out for dinner last night and we all seemed to eat a fair amount of cheese.  I love cheese but try it eat it only last night was a bit of a blow out.  I thought for my silly Sunday post, I'd therefore feature cheese!

Here's the first one:  Cheese and cracker soap!

Available on Etsy

They not only look like cheese and crackers, they smell like them too!  But no - they are soap, so don't taste like them! Does that mean that after using the soap you smell of saltine crackers???

Next, cheese handbags.  I wonder how long it would last if you were a little peckish....or maybe you would get a little trail of mice following you????

Fulvio Bonavia
And to go with the purses, how about these two dresses made from melted cheese:

What cheesy things have you seen this weekend?  I think I've had enough cheese for a while....

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Weekly bird in the hand

Here's this week's good stuff - the things I am grateful for:

  • A passerby who wished me "have a great afternoon".
  • Spending time with good friends who are up visiting us for the weekend.
  • Taking a class and learning something new.
  • Going to my friend's art show.
  • Warm weather (helping the grapes along) and still enjoying eating dinners outside.
  • Cooking quince and enjoying all their flavors.
  • This time of year. I just love it.
  • Picking fruit off the vine or tree and eating it, warmed by the sun.
  • The conversation between myself and my hair stylist.  It's such a different relationship from all others and  I always look forward to our chats.
  • Seeing frogs jumping.
  • Planning our trip back to the UK in 3 weeks time.
  • Sharing green smoothies with friends!
One thing I am sad about this week however is that our friends from England who were due to arrive yesterday and share the grape harvest with us, had to cancel their trip due to ill health.  Here's hoping J gets better soon and that they can come another time instead.

Hope you've had a week full of things to be grateful for too.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Willow birdhouse - Part II

So here is my finished woven birdhouse:

I was really pleased with it.  The weaving seems secure and it all holds itself together well.  Our instructor gave us the option of decorating the houses with lichen and seeds and nuts and other things, but in my usual minimalist style, I left it as it is, with willow for the base and the roof woven in leaves.

My friends' houses came out great too. Here is Elisa with her large house, where the roof is made from eucalyptus bark and the house is decorated with twigs with lichen:

And here is Monique's house with her flower style roof made from leaves. Isn't it fabulous:

This final photo shows Monique with Cheri on the right - our instructor. 

It was wonderful day and I do think I'll be trying willow weaving again sometime....especially as I have a weeping willow tree in my garden.

Have you tried anything new recently?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Willow birdhouse class - Part I

This week I took a class in Sebastopol to make a twined (woven) willow birdhouse. Another new technique to learn!

I had purchased this class at a silent auction to benefit Bouverie, a local environmental and wildlife non profit that I used to be on the board of.  The class was for three of us, so off I went with two French friends to Cheri's home.

Elisa concentrating hard

What a great day we all had! Cheri had been collecting willow and bark and leaves etc and had soaked them all the previous day in a big bathtub she has outside.


We began by selecting 8 long willow sticks and holding them in a cross.  Another willow stick was then twined around these to make the base of the birdhouse.  The stick was twisted and woven and when it got short, we had to figure out how to add another.

It was awkward at first - holding everything and getting the twist correct, but then you get into a rhythm and it goes fine for a while, until you stop and forget where you are! 

The next challenge was shaping from the base up to the sides. There is no real technique for this - you just have to think about it and gradually bend the willows upwards.

Then there needs to be a little door for the birdies to come in and out of, so that meant changing direction of the weaving.

We had a wonderful lunch half way through our class - which was much needed, as we were all concentrating hard!

The rain just poured down all day, so it was lovely to be busy inside.  I'll show you the finished houses tomorrow......

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

41/52 Bird a week - Soar

This week's bird is one I started at the end of September. For September's Merry Go Round blog post, I wrote a tutorial on how to make a sculpture with plaster wrap, but I didn't finish off the sculpture.  Yes, you may have guessed that it was a bird, and so I finished him off today for this week's birdie "Soar".  

I had planned on painting him in acrylic paints, but in the end, I decided to use tissue paper instead. 

Doesn't he look like he is just effortlessly.....!

You can read the plaster wrap tutorial here.  Plaster wrap is similar to the material they used to use to put a plaster on your arm or leg when you broke a bone! It's a great and quick material to use and you can then finish your sculpture in whatever way to choose.

I hope you soar this week!

If you want to see the other birdies created this week as part of the challenge, check the links below:

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Della Fattoria Ranch dinners

We went to a lovely al fresco dinner on Saturday night at the Della Fattoria Ranch. Della Fattoria are local bakers and in the summer and fall, they occasionally hold dinners at their ranch.  This was our first time there and it was a delightful event. 

The setting was beautiful, the appearance of the food was gorgeous and it was all so tasty.  It was a great way to spend a fall evening with friends. This time of year is just my favorite.  Hope you are enjoying it too.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving Canadians

Wishing a Happy Thanksgiving to my family and friends in Canada today!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Silly Sunday - Apples bite back

There I was enjoying my harvest, and dehydrating my fruit....and now I look at it all a little differently as the apples bite back!!!:

Photos from
Watch out for those apples!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Weekly bird in the hand

Here is this week's bird in the hand - all about food:

  • Harvest time.  It seems my week has been full of fruit from our garden - apples, pears, green table grapes and now the figs are just ripening!  What a perfect time of the year. And the main grape harvest is yet to come!
  • My aga.  The aga is our stove in the kitchen, but we don't use it in the summer when the weather is too warm.  This Monday I turned it back on and it's like a friend has returned to stay!  Yummy...lots of baked sweet potatoes, roasted vegetables, tasty comfort food...and a place to warm yourself when you come in from the cold.
My colorful Aga cooker
  • My dehydrator. It's been working flat out this week!  I have an excalibur dehydrator - a wonderful machine, and it's been busy dehydrating apples, grapes to make sultanas (golden raisins), and blended grapes to make fruit leathers.  The last of the sultanas and grape leathers are finishing as I type this...then it's back to more apples.   We are eating the pears fresh as they are so heavenly and juicy, but if we can't keep up with them, we may have to start dehydrating them too!
Dried yummy apples from our trees
Hope you've had a fruitful week too!

Our own sultanas in the making!