Recently I saw something trying to encourage November 24th as “Shop Local Day.” Sure, great. Shop local. After Black Friday when you’ve already bought all your made-in-China junk from the big box-stores and given in to your consumerism obsession.
In case it’s not entirely clear, I disagree! Why not avoid all big box-stores this ultra-shopping-season and instead support only local? Get gifts from artists, make gifts yourself, purchase gift cards for local eateries and cafes, gift experiences instead of just shiny new junk.
I just spent the past two and a half days glazing homemade ceramic bowls and mugs that will become gifts and/or I’m planning on selling at a Christmas craft sale. So, I invite you to do the same, and make this a much better gift-giving season than ever before.
And, if you need some gift ideas…
– Stitch and Bloom is a non-profit social enterprise that seeks to uplift struggling Chinese families by training and employing rural women to produce high quality handicrafts from their own homes (some good friends of ours in Hong Kong help with this project).
– Whole Bean Mugs is a husband/wife team that creates beautiful functional mugs and original watercolour paintings (I own an entire set of dishes from them that I love).
– Check out Cory Hammond for hand painted crafts to decorate your home.
– Nick Palazzo for stylized comic-style prints & original paintings and drawings of classic and new characters in a creepy & awesome style (Eric got me an original paintings of his for my birthday!)
– Zerflin, another husband/wife team, for some spectacularly beautiful, clean cut, and vibrant graphic design and web design work (maybe I’m biased because it’s my brother & sister-in-law, but they are super talented).
– Ashley Hackett (in Western NY) for some sweet portraiture photography at extremely reasonable prices.
– Our friends over at Pop Prints for awesome digital poster prints & t-shirts (if you’ve ever caught a glimpse of Eric’s amazing Ron Swanson shirt, these are the people you want to talk to).
– Michael Gauthier for some delightfully creepy and dark paintings and drawings.
– 8 Bit Acrylic for some awesomely nostalgic paintings on canvas of your favorite video game characters in 8-bit. (We have a couple, and they’re awesome. And incredibly reasonably priced.)
– Arryn Vogan does the most amazingly gorgeous crystalline glazing on her ceramics, some of the most beautiful and in-depth glazing I’ve ever seen.
– Rachel Preville creates beautiful abstract paintings, gorgeous watercolours, and absolutely amazing handmade books. (I own one of her books that I use as a travel journal for Pocket Vinyl, and a simple watercolour scene that is still one of my favorite paintings.)
– Melody Martin, very talented, takes commissions for realistic portraits in oils.
– Not sure if he does commissions, but check out my old high school friend Sam Burley for some knock-your-socks-off landscapes. (I can’t believe I actually know someone so talented).
– Jocelyn Mathews Photography is not only great by photography standards, but she has an awesome artistic eye as well.
– Journey Osburn does portraiture commissions as well, but with some awesomely creative twists in design, colours, and paint application. You need to at least check out her portfolio.
– Broc Evan Photography, another talented photographer, in the Lancaster, PA area.
-The husband/wife couple at Pop Art Pug will start selling adorable children’s themed illustrations on December 3rd to help them raise money for the adoption of an Ethiopian child. Such an awesome idea, beautiful drawings, and a spectacular cause.
And of course, keep an eye out in your area for Christmas craft and art sales, check out small shops in your town, and try new things. Start your shopping season off on a good foot this year. Cheers.
P.S. If you have an art of craft you’d like to advertise, leave your link in the comments with a description of your wares!
Firstly, big thank yous to everyone who participated in my ceramic bowl giveaway! I just unloaded the kiln this morning from the bisque firing and will be doing glazing today. There was a record high for comments on the blog, so it’s great to see that people are enjoying my writing (and art)!
To select the winner of the bowl giveaway, I assigned every comment a number and then counted out enough matchsticks for the number of comments. I broke off the end of one matchstick, jumbled them all up, and held them so the bottoms couldn’t be seen. Then as I pulled each matchstick out, I counted off. The short matchstick was the winner.
And to everyone else: Stick around. This won’t be the last giveaway I do! Thanks again!
Spending 2 months in Schefferville means you’ve got to get really creative with your food. It is difficult getting most groceries; food goes bad quickly (or is already bad when you buy it), it’s expensive, and the selection is about half of what you think of when you think “limited”. Soon after arriving here I decided I was going to learn how to make bagels. Why not? I’d heard of one other person I know making their own bagels. Maybe I could do it. Turns out I can! And it’s pretty easy too.
These bagels come out very much like your typical Montreal bagels, which are more tough than the soft American Dunkin’ Donuts bagels. But still good. Plus, I think if you knead them less and cook them slightly less, they’re softer. The third batch I did came out softer than the others, so it takes a bit of practice. I’ll give you the basic recipe first, then at the bottom I’ll tell you how I also made cinnamon raisin bagels & pretzel bagels (which became a huge new favorite for both Eric & I).
Stuff you need:
– 4 cups of flour
– 1 tablespoon of sugar
– 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt
– 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
– 2 teaspoons of instant yeast
– 1-1/2 cups of warm water
– Mix everything together all at once, the dough should be stiff.
– Dump the dough onto a surface and knead it by hand until it appears uniformed and smooth (this can also be done in a mixer if you like. I’ve used both at different times and the finished consistency is about the same).
– Cut the dough into equal sized pieces. Anywhere from 8 to 12, depending on how big you like your bagels.
– Allow the dough to rest for about 20 minutes (20 minutes in this recipe is the magic number).
-Once rested, roll each dough ball into a chubby snake, until it’s long enough to circle around your palm, across your knuckles, and meet back at your palm again. Roll & pinch the ends together to make your bagel shape.
– While resting, preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
– Also, get a big pot of water boiling, with enough water to allow your bagels to float. I’ve heard that un-boiled bagels are simply rolls with a hole.
– You’ll also want to prep two cooking trays with a little oil to keep the bagels from sticking.
– Finally, get a cooling rack and set it over a bowl or even in your (clean) kitchen sink.
– With the water boiling, carefully slip enough bagels into your pot so that they all have their own space to float (don’t crowd them). I typically ease them in by setting them on a slotted spoon and dipping that into the water.
– After one minute, flip the bagels and let them boil for another minute (2 minutes total).
– After boiling, carefully scoop them out with your slotted spoon and set them to drip-dry on your cooling rack. They don’t need to be totally dry. I usually leave them on the cooling rack until I’m ready to replace them with new bagels from the pot.
– If you’re sprinkling a topping on your bagels (sesame seeds, poppy seeds, etc), sprinkle them while they’re on the cooling rack, then flip them onto your cooking tray and sprinkle the other side.
-Flatten dough out with your hands (don’t bother with a rolling pin) and sprinkle cinnamon sugar over the flattened surface.
-Add a sprinkling of raisins, then roll the whole thing up like cinnamon buns.
-Flatten it again, repeat. Continue doing this until your dough seems marbled enough, then separate into pieces for bagels and continue as normal.
To make super delicious and amazing pretzel bagels (seriously, Eric and I both ate like 3 the first day I made these!):
– Everything is the same until you get to the boiling.
– When preparing the water for boiling measure out for every 2 cups of water, one tablespoon of baking soda. And a little salt. That’s the secret to the most amazing flavor of bagels you’ll ever try.
– If you want, after setting them on the cooking tray you can cut slits into the tops, just be careful not to cut them too deep.
– Sprinkle with salt.
– Bake, but don’t flip these ones.
– Watch them carefully. Once they’re golden, they’re done.
Finally, how about some awesome delicious ideas of what to do with your fresh new bagels? We tried homemade bean burgers with melted cheese and sautéed onions, garlic, & mushrooms, bagel egg-wiches, and cream cheese sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. All good.
After that sobering post, something happy!
I just saw that as of today, this blog has been viewed for the 10,000th time!! In honour of this great event I would love to do another giveaway! (after all, it’s thanks to you guys that I’ve gotten any attention at all because of this blog).
For this giveaway I’d like to give something special. Just tonight my mom helped me load less than half of my ceramic pieces into her little kiln for the bisque firing. So, I think I would love to give away a handcrafted ceramic bowl. They’re regular sized soup bowls, and I don’t even know how I’ll be glazing them yet.
So, if you would like to be entered into the drawing to win one, simply comment on this post. In 24 hours (around 10:30 EST on Thursday) I’ll randomly pick a winner!
(Because of glazing times and shipping times, you’ll probably get it in a month, but before Christmas!)
Yesterday was a crappy day, and I was really depressed for most of it. A few small things factored into that: I broke two ceramic tea bowls I was working on, the book I’m reading turned out to be heavy and quite on the boring side so I couldn’t stay focused and only ended up running on the treadmill for 12 minutes yesterday, my little math student didn’t take her medication so in an hour she was focused for only about 3 minutes, and the bridesmaid dress I ordered is out of stock.
But really, the big main thing that set my entire day in a very sour and depressed mood is the constant swarms of negativity that I can’t seem to hide from that are all over the internet right now, and all to do with our recent presidential election. Maybe it’s because I’ve been more involved in this election than any other in the past; maybe it’s because social media plays such a larger part in people’s lives now; probably both. But I have to say, I had a much stronger faith in humanity until recently (at least in the United States).
So, just about half the country voted for the guy who’s not President right now, I understand that that means a lot of people are disappointed, sad, maybe a little angry. But I never would have predicted the amount of hatefulness being spewed all over message boards, blog posts, news articles, Twitter, Facebook… It is literally everywhere.
Sure, I understand people are hiding behind their laptop screens and they don’t have to tell someone to their face the hateful things they’re writing to them, but the way social media is, things are pretty much never anonymous. I saw an article yesterday that reported racist hate speech regarding the election in the forms of tweets by high school students. The administration at these high schools were notified and the students were dealt with. (The article went on to say that this was in violation of these kids’ First Amendment rights. So, hate-speech is considered free speech?)
Then, I was on a public business’ Facebook page that was honouring Veteran’s Day. The comments escalated within minutes to some of the most racist, vile, and hateful things I feel like I have ever read. People who knew nothing about one another were practically gripping at each other’s throats. And the craziest thing is, not only can you more than easily track these people (they’re posting on Facebook), but most of the nastiest things were said by people who had profile pictures depicting kindly grandmothers snuggling with their grandkids or happy moms & kids sitting in pumpkin patches.
Maybe that’s what makes it scarier. If the people saying these things stayed in the high schoolers on Twitter group, fine. Kids can be really dumb. But so much of this hatefulness is coming from people I would think to trust and respect if I saw them on a street. And that’s another things: It seems like many, if not most, of the Christians I know are Republicans. And the Republican Party for this election had a very strong Christian support group. If someone’s going to claim they believe in Jesus’ teachings, then I’m going to hold that person to a much higher standard; a standard of kindness, love, and peace.
So…. Maybe it sounds cliché, but can’t we all just get along with each other? Can people just quit with the hate-speech, the racism, the Doomsday predictions, the anger, …the I-worked-hard-for-my-money-why-should-the-government-take-it-away-and-give-it-to-lazy-people attitude. (That one blows my mind, Jesus constantly told us, under no exceptions, to give to the poor. People on welfare are the poor. He didn’t say, only give to the poor who you think deserve it.)
There was that one guy before the election who said rape could be viewed as something God intended, or (to put it more nicely) that God could bring good things out of something horrendous. So. If you believe that, don’t you think maybe God intended for the President that we have now? By that account, our President was appointed by God. And Jesus said we ought to respect the authorities appointed over us. I mean, right? Come on, do you believe this stuff or not? So instead of trying to put a halt on everything he tries to do to help the country, or tear him down every chance you get, or disrespect him, can we just learn to get involved and actually work with him?
Well, I guess that’s all I have to say. I tried to say something like this in a much shorter version on that Facebook post for Veterans, and I got attacked for it. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen again. I just want people to be kind to each other. And if you won’t, well, I’m going to keep trying. But you make it harder with your meanness.
These last two things aren’t directly from me, but they illustrate pretty perfectly what I want:
Wisdom and perspective from Mike Schutz:
“1960, 1964, 1992, 1996, 2012. Those are the five elections in my lifetime after which some Christians proclaimed that the country had lost its Christian moorings. Of course, that was also the claim after the election of 1800 when a guy named Jefferson was elected. Folks, that is poor social commentary, and it’s even worse theology. The poor spiritual state of America is not due to a failure of secular govt leadership, it is due to a failure of the church to fully be the church , to live out the gospel, and instead attempt to be a political power. If we as the church decide to get back to living out the great commission, the great commandment, and taking care of the least of these, we will see revival- no matter what happens in Washington.”
By now I think a lot of you have heard about the Pocket Vinyl “mini play” full-album 7″ we’re putting out. In case you haven’t, Eric has written and recorded 11 songs, each around 1 minute long, so that we can put out a full album but fit the entire thing into the space of a 7″ vinyl record. He’s already finished recording all the songs with a friend of ours, and the mixing and mastering is happening now (or is just finished). A week or two ago I drew up the center labels for the 7″. We decided “a cat with a pipe” would be a fun image for the label, so I drew up an A side and B side, stylizing from some sketches I did of our ex-kitty Harvey (he lives contently with our good friend Bill now), and using the styles of both my and Eric’s personal pipes. Here are the labels, Photoshopped to how they’ll most likely look on the vinyl:
Oh, and to get you even more excited about this 7″, the label we’re releasing it through (The Telegraph Recording Company, our local New London label) is helping us get coloured vinyl!! We chose a mixture of transparent and opaque orange and blue. I’m so excited to see how it turns out!
And, there may or may not be a little extra something along with a limited number of the 7″s. Maybe.
Release date is set for sometime in January. More to come.
I’m been a bit distant lately, and honestly, that’s due in a big part to the fact that time seems to stand still here in Schefferville. I think I’ve at least gotten past laying-around-on-the-floor-and-being-bored-all-the-time and have begun to figure out ways to be productive. And it’s about time too! We’ve only been here for about a month and we have a month still to go!
So, things I’ve been filling my time with and accomplishing:
I tutor a little 3rd grade girl in math twice a week. Math! Ha! Of all subjects. During our last session she asked me what my least favorite class was when I was her age… I couldn’t lie to her. But we finished up the session playing a card game that taught place value, so I think she’s starting to enjoy it.
My parents have been gone for most of this past month. My dad got back on Thursday and my mom gets back tomorrow, and I’ve become in charge of my mom’s Shetland Sheepdog, Peggy.
Is she not one of the most gorgeous and elegant little beasts you’ve ever seen? Her biggest flaw? She’s the most skittish thing I’ve ever encountered! I think she must have been neglected at her previous home, because it took her two full days to begin to warm up to me, and she still runs in complete terror at the sight or even sound of either Eric or my dad. Fortunately though she trusts me well enough by now to let her guard down, and when she prances after a rubber ball or bounds up to see me it’s one of the cutest things ever.
Though, as an example of her skittishness, this morning Eric was noisily loading firewood into the basement and she was so petrified she jumped onto the treadmill in front of me and ran along for about 20 seconds! I’m sure knocking into my knees and tumbling off into her food bowl helped calm her nerves…
Speaking of the treadmill, I’ve been running practically every day! Usually I hate running, but I’ve discovered I can actually read on the treadmill and that keeps me from getting too bored. Which makes me think that maybe when we return south again I should get some audio books to listen to and try running outside. (We can’t run outside here. There is way too much snow.)
I’ve actually been able to finally complete two books already! First C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce (which I originally started as a sophomore in college), and today I finished up Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods (I started that as a 10th or 11th grader… in high school!! Goodness). Both good. Tomorrow I’ll start on Colin M. Turnbull’s The Mountain People, a book I was actually suppose to read in a college anthropology course, but never did. But I respected my professor’s recommendation, so I held on to the book… Anyways, I’m getting two major things done at once that I’ve been wanting to do for a while. And the reading actually makes me excited to run, because I’m interested in finding out what happens next!
Other stuff I’ve been working on is lots more ceramics!
Besides the 20 bowls I made and posted about earlier, I recently finished 21 good-sized handled mugs and just yesterday finished putting together these 5 teapots. It’s so fun to be building art with my hands, making pretty things that are also completely functional. I’d love to make sets of little tea bowls to go with each teapot. I feel so incredibly fortunate to have my mom’s basement ceramic studio to be working in while I’m here. Now’s the scary part of hoping the pieces dry evenly and don’t crack in the process. Then will be the scary part of firing and hoping they don’t crack during the bisquing process. This is an incredibly nerve-wracking process. Not really. Actually it’s really fun.
On Eric’s Birthday and our 2 year engagement anniversary we visited one of the clue spots from the engagement scavenger hunt (yeah, Eric created this elaborate rhyming scavenger hunt all over Schefferville to lead me to where he proposed. It was the best engagement ever!!). This was also where, over 2 years ago, we’d created a very elaborate Pocket Vinyl music video by stop-motion painting all over the walls of some abandoned trailers. Check out our video here.
Speaking of Pocket Vinyl, Eric has been busy lately booking our next tour. We’ll be starting in January, soon after the holidays, and going until about mid-February, heading south towards Florida (though it’s not looking like we’ll be getting far into Florida itself). After that there’ll be a bit of a break to hang out with good friends, then another big tour for March & April, possibly towards Austin, Texas… Then just some small mini tours around New England before our awesome friends Leah & Phil’s wedding! (I’m very excited about this wedding. It’s going to be 1930s themed! I just ordered my bridesmaid dress yesterday.)
I guess that’s about all to report for now. I’ve been doing a few artsy things and cooking things, but those’ll get their own posts soon. Also, it’s full-on winter here now. To send you off I’ll leave you with this photo I took out the kitchen window yesterday. Eric was chopping wood in this weather.
If you read the blog or follow our Pocket Vinyl Facebook page regularly, you probably know that sometimes when we’re in Connecticut Eric plays piano for our friend Daphne Lee Martin‘s band Raise the Rent. They have a new album coming out (the release date is currently set for January 2013) titled Moxie, and Daphne asked me a while ago if I could do up a design and burn a screen as they get ready for the release. She sent me a link to the current working cover for Moxie, and you’ll see that I wanted to follow the masquerade theme of the cover art. Here is the pencil sketch, and then finished inked design that I drew up:
Then, about a week ago, The Telegraph (our local New London record shop & recording label owned and operated by Daphne & her husband Rich) posted a photo of some hand screened posters using my design and screen:
In late summer my Aunt Chris came up to Connecticut for a visit. I had been years since she’s visited; she lives down in Florida and has trouble getting away from the requirements of work & family down there, so it was great to get to visit with her and her little grandson Timmy, who came along for the trip. While she was visiting she asked if I’d be willing to do a replica of a favorite print of her’s, in exchange for some art supplies. She let me pick out some much needed paint brushes and some awesome clay and lamp work beads, as well as a stretched canvas for her painting. Before she left she gave me the small faded print that she wanted replicated.
The original artist, Juan Ferrandiz, was a commercial folk artist from Spain who died in 1997. Most of his work was similar to this print, using childish features and focusing much around Christmas themes. He not only did paintings like the one above, but also carved and painted wooden figurines and did illustrations for children’s books.
This commission was much different than most art that I do for people, and it took a great deal of patience (and frustration) to work on getting a similar likeness to what my aunt wanted. Plus, it’d been years since I’d worked in oils on a pre-treated canvas, and it took me a while to get the hang of how the paint reacted to the surface. And I had to deal with the drying times along with layering on this foreign surface, and it was a battle to make sure it would be dry enough to ship by the time we left for Canada. (I almost didn’t make it.) Here’s some in-process shots: