Monthly Archives: January 2011

Caramelized Brie–the Easy Way

As promised, an impressive hor d’oeuvre for the next time you have 1:) to go to a party 2:)bring some kind of  really tasty appetizer that everyone will devour and assume you spent hours making it.  I was born running late and I am always under a time crunch, so this is my go to never-fail recipe. 

Don’t be afraid of melting sugar on the stove top. Just pay attention and WATCH the pan and you will be fine. Yes. Its hot, but so is that pasta water, and we all make spaghetti don’t we? In this recipe, I love the sugary crunch of the caramel and the pecans contrasted with the creaminess of the brie. If you make this just before you serve it the cheese will warm and get just  a little gooey and it will be even better. Its yummy  even hours later, trust me and my fat hips on this one.

Carmelized brie ingredient list:

ingredients for caramelized brie

1small circular container (often how you find it at your grocery store) or wedge of brie cheese

1/3 to 1/2 cup of pecans, depending on how in love with pecans you are

about 1/3 cup of white sugar

1 baguette, baked in the oven and crisped up nicely

Other stuff:

You will need a wooden spoon, a rubber spatula that is heat proof, and a skillet that has a nice thick bottom but doesn’t weigh as much as the Titantic. You have to pick it up and pour hot melted sugar so skillet selection is fairly important. A hot pad if you don’t have an insulated skillet handle or hands as tough as mine, good luck with that…30 years of making art using hot stuff has some small rewards.  Last but not least, a pretty heatproof plate to put your brie on. My ceramic dinner ware works fine but occaisonally I like to step it and use a prettier plate.

Top the brie with your pecans and scatter them around the plate, put the plate close to the stove where you can reach it quickly.

Unwrap the brie and put it on your plate, put the nuts on the brie and around it–whole ones look pretty but are a bit more problematic to eat buried in the candied caramel sugar, your call. Put the plate where its handy to the stove and out of the way for the moment.

Take your pre-measured sugar and pour it in the bottom of the skillet. You want your sugar to cover the pan bottom as much as possible and not be too thick or too thin. Too thick takes forever to melt and can get lumpy, too thin can melt too fast and scorch. Turn the heat to medium high. Gas stoves are fabulous and the process goes quickly. Electric stoves can seem to take forever, but be patient and keep a close eye on your skillet. Do not stir it as it is heating up.

By the way, you’ll figure out the exact right amount after you make it with your own pan the very first time.  It’s only sugar and if it scorches the first time because you haven’t quite figured out the right amount of sugar, or figured out the heat on your stove, you can wash the pan out and start over. It’s not rocket science so relax and take your time.

So, the pan is on the stove on medium to medium high heat, a wooden spoon is in your hand with a death grip, and the sugar is  heating. It’s still white and looks like nothing is happening and it feels like its been hours when its only about 3 minutes. Don’t stir the sugar when it is still all white and granular. You will make nasty lumps caused by the difference in the sugar crystals. The melted sugar underneath and the not melted on top parts don’t get along real well. If you do inadvertently make lumps you can carefully use your wooden spoon and try to mix them in and melt them, be careful and keep an eye on the color because the sugar will go cooked really fast at this point.

sugar on the heat and heating, feels like forever before you see it melt but it only takes a few minutes

When you see melted patches that look almost clear keep a close eye out because your sugar is now going fast. If it is melting and getting a little tan, go ahead and move it around gently with the spoon. It will all melt suddenly and you should be stirring at that point.

sugar melting and getting clear patches, almost time to stir!

when the sugar starts to melt, stir, stir, stir. Caramel color? Get if off the heat ti avoid scorching

Watch the color and turn off the heat when it gets caramel colored. It can burn very fast so be ready to get it off the stove and onto the brie.

Turn off the heat. Pick up the skillet and pour the hot sugar CAREFULLY on top of the prepared brie, use the spatula to scrape out of all the golden goodness. Move the skillet across the brie to make sure you spread the sugar out as much as possible. Since you have to pick up a skillet and basically pour boiling hot sugar out of it, it is important to choose a pan you can handle. This one is ugly as homemade sin and older than dirt but its the perfect size for the job.

The good news is that your incredibly sticky pan will be easy to clean–water dissolves the glued on sugar quickly.

Pull your warm bread out and slice it, then just stand back and let the munching begin. I love an Alsatian white wine with this, maybe a spicy Gewurtraminer or a  sparkling Prosecco from Italy. Whatever I have stashed that is fruity and cold and crispy and not too sweet is great. Serve the brie plate with sliced apples  and grapes on the side and you have a complete sexy first course.

Bon appetit!

The perfect appetizer, caramelized brie and a hot, crispy baguette

I wanna be as far from Rotten Baby as I can go.

The Boys Visit the Dogter, a Story in Pictures

We went to the dogter today. I like riding inna car. Da rotten baby doesn’t know much about cars yet. He taked my seat away on my dog mama’s lap but I got dis squishy seat where rotten baby can’t reach me.

I am all cozy in my dog seat where rotten baby can't reach

You just jealous cause I'm so cute! I'd driving da car with dog mama.

I wait patiently for the dogter to call us

Other doggies are here too! I'm bein' good and I watch dem

Listen to my heart, feel my tummy gurgle, give me pets cause I so good

Dis dog nurse wants to take my temperature, from da other end!

our wunnerful dogter is Dogter Saloom. She is very nice and if we get shots, we gets cookies to distract us, but I'm so wiggly I distracting her!

We waiting patiently for fat Uncle Moosh to get icky medicenes in his ears

eww. Rotten baby getting shots!

getta inna bag, we escaping!

Nice dogter ladies love me more than fat old Moosh cause I so cute and he stinky!

Dogter peepul, hurry up with my medicene. I wanna be as far from Rotten Baby as I can go.

We all done now, I'm tired. Give us cookies and takes us home pleaze.

TBI: Billings ICU Saturday Night

 It’s ten o’clock Saturday night, and I just got back from the ICU. At seven, they toss everyone out for shift change and then let us all back in at eight-thirty–no visiting hours are set for family members; a blessing for certain. I finally met Terry’s night shift nurse, Dave, who is a great guy. I am so impressed with the ICU staff at this hospital. They must have cut these guys from some very special cloth. I have no idea how these nurses find the grace and the guts to be with one critical care patient after another, especially when  many of their patients come to die in the intensive care unit.

Sunset on the farm, we caught this sunset leaving Terry's sister's house in Custer City, OK

Terry’s sister Sharon flew in from Custer City, Oklahoma to see for herself how Terry is doing. I have convinced the rest of the family to stay put, although some of them were saddled up and ready to ride. I don’t have the energy to pat heads, comfort people, answer questions or participate in emotional hand wringing right now. I am as focused as a tightrope walker over a shark pool, and having family shaking my rope would make me very cranky. Sharon is the family rock and I got to know her better when we visited the Oklahoma branch of the family last summer.

Terry and Sharon's husband Dale, chewing the fat near Aunt Harriet's old place in Oklahoma

I don’t want to ever, ever live there, it’s hot and flat, but it was such fun to visit and I am grateful to Sharon for being here and reporting back to everyone else in the clan.

Terry is inching forward in tiny increments. He is still not out of the woods and he is not fully conscious. He has been upgraded from critical to serious but stable condition. I have learned in cases of severe blunt trauma to the head it can take a long time for people to come to full consciousness and sometimes they don’t make it all the way back. I had to process that information today and it was pretty hard.

 I guess I had on rose colored glasses and I didn’t understand the big picture. I asked repeatedly to speak to the neurosurgeon. I think having an insignificant wife demand to speak to the diva irritated him because he was hostile and rude when he finally made thirty seconds in his day for me.

Windmills are all over the midwest and the far west. I shot this one in Oklahoma, somehow its perfect because TBI is like having windmills in your head

He didn’t pull any punches and he dumped his opinion on me like an ice water bath. I managed to give myself the satisfaction of not crying until he was gone. It was the first time I have cried since the accident. It was the first time I really understood that Terry might not ever recover. He may not ever even be fully conscious again. I am still coming to grips with the fact that our lives have changed forever and I won’t know for a long time what the future holds. I am determined to take it one day and one blessing at a time.

Today I saw Terry move his feet on command. Dr. Spike (the one I really like) said, “Move your foot”. He tapped the foot and Terry wiggled his toes. Then he said, “Can you move the other foot?”  And Terry did. He asked him to move his hands, and he was able to open and close one of them but the other one is pretty well broken and not very moveable. Terry opened his eyes on command too, I could see it was exhausting for him, but he did it.

Going out to get coffee,  I always see the waiting room  outside the ICU full of a rotating cast of twenty and thirty sobbing members of a patient’s family, and I wonder how anyone can even focus on what needs to get done in the maelstrom of emotion they are generating. They seem to feed off each other’s fear and anxiety. Then that family is gone and another takes it place. I guess I’m selfish, it seems to me if they all fly out here to say good-bye then good-bye is what they’ll get and I am not going to that place.

This afternoon when Sharon was with me, Terry opened his eyes and turned his head to track my voice,  he looked at me for just a moment before he closed his eyes again. He does grab my hand and hold it; he knows I’m there when he swims into consciousness. The poor guy is caught in a slow motion marathon.

Terry had a head CT scan today and it came back normal, thank you God, no more bleeding in his skull.  His fever is down to almost normal and the crud in his right lung is moving out. He coughs and it is silent because there is a tube in this throat. The tube gets filled with the phlegm and awful stuff from his lung, he struggles and gasps for air, and I have to sprint to find a nurse to come in and go through the process of forcing a plunger into the tube and pulling it about two feet back which suctions the nasty stuff out so he can breathe until the next coughing fit. 

 This is the second day of pneumonia and this process is agony to watch.  I have spent the day watching him like a hawk and knowing where all the nurses are so I can find one fast. Hopefully, the stuff he aspirated after surgery will be gone enough for them to take out that breathing tube tomorrow because I can tell he really hates it and it panics him. The big concern is can he support his own airway at this point? Doctor Spike thought today that he could but we’ll know more in the morning. (His name is Dr Peringer but his nickname is Spike–he is a wonderful doc and I am grateful we have him).

I cannot begin to tell express what it feels like knowing there are people all over this country in prayer circles, churches, and just everywhere praying for Terry. The blessings from those prayers feel like a big rock someone tossed in the water a long way away.

Water Heart

I can feel the ripples spreading out around us and holding Terry up. Tonight I went over to the hotel and brought my Ipod and speakers back to the ICU again. I’m going to play some of his favorite music for him and drown out the sounds of the ICU. He was awake for almost 40 seconds this evening, a new record and I am hoping for better tomorrow.

Bring on the Earring Bling-Its Almost Spring!

 I have been so busy the past two weeks in the studio I haven’t even wanted to crawl out of the rabbit hole to go junk-hunting, and  that’s saying something. I like what the Brits called the whole junk shopping thing, jumble sales.

My lovely old metal case full of trinkets and rescues, ready to get to work!

My worktable ready for V-Day!

There is something so delightful about calling it a jumble sale versus a yard sale or garage sale. From my previous forays out  into the junking world, I have a lovely stash of descontructed “things” in the way of old jewelry and odd bits that spoke to me when I found them.

 I work hard to keep everything organized because there is nothing more frustrating than knowing you have something and not knowing where it is! Believe me, it happens, so I label, label, label EVERYTHING.

Label, label, label to make life easier!

I work to find things to incorporate with newer materials that are either: reclaimed and repurposed, reusable-as in metal, organic  as in glass versus modern plastic–except when I find lucite or bakelite, both heavenly and rare these days. I do love vintage plastic, its fun to spruce it up to go out in the world again.

 There are times when I bring polyclay into the mix to0, because a beautiful bauble can weigh too much to wear around your neck when its really a heavy lump of turquoise or jade. If I can do a beautiful faux bauble it works on three fronts: cost, weight and creating something exciting and original.

Now that I’ve hashed out the philosophical side of making my jewelry pieces, bring on cupid! I adore Valentine’s day, I always have. There is something so girly about the holiday that it just makes me happy. Really, chocolate, flowers and jewelry, what’s not to like? Of course, the guys may have a slightly different view being the ones who have to go out and round up the right stuff for the gal in their lives.

I talked to Jo Gallaugher, owner of Matter Gallery in Olympia about V-day. Matter showcases my work and its such a fun place to visit and shop! (Shameless plug)  for more information on the gallery and the wonderful artistes who show there. Who knew artists could make all this amazing art stuff out of Other Stuff? I did, which is pretty obvious, but I want everyone to know what sustainable art looks like.

I  wanted to know what people are asking for in jewelry, specifically earrrings and specifically the guys for Valentine’s Day. The answer: Earrings that are fun, affordable, and not too long and dangly. Some dangle yes, too much dangle, nope.  With that in mind, I set out this week to create earrings that are affordable, not too dangly, and really fun.  These are all available at Matter which sells through the mail too. (yay–and they are putting in an online gallery that will be really fun) or by contacting me at for more information and prices. So for my funky valentine’s I present the following. (click on a picture to make it bigger)

Almost Pearls, repurposed fiber optic pearls paired with lavender Czech crystals

Arms of Love, silver milagros, lucite flowers and glass hearts

Lucky in Love: stack the dice! With red glass hearts

Lock up your heart: vintage tiny brass padlocks and red glass hearts

Key to your heart: glass hearts, chain and tiny pewter padlocks and keys

I love shoes! adorable vintage brass shoe charms and red glass heartsHearts and Pearls: sterling silver Mexican hearts with coin pearls make a pretty pair

Green With Envy: Paillettes of Vintage lucite, simple and pretty

Coralicious: lucite triangles with turquoise for a pop of spring color

Butterflies: brass vintaj butterflies with a shiny little accent, cute with blue jeans I'm thinking

Blue Fish: Sterling Thai silver fish with African trade beads in cobalt

You're a star baby! Even ears can smile with these little red-orange smiling stars and pearls

Princess Pink: pink stone drops with czech crystal and silver accents.

TBI: Billings ICU, September 15th

Billings ICU, September 15th, three days after the accident. 

Montana countryside

Today they took the pressure valve out of Terry’s head because his ICP, intercranial pressure—or is that intracranial pressure has gone down and is now stable? Hell, I don’t know which way it’s spelled and I don’t care at this point. I’m just glad we are past the danger of brain swelling.

 This morning the doctors dropped the heavy, heavy  sedatives completely, the ones that keep him unconscious. Instead they gave him an epidural line to control the pain from all of those broken ribs pain better. This lets them lower the drug level overall so I am hoping he comes out of the woods and wakes up soon. He is still not responding to voices but he has good motor functions, he responds to tickling his feet and poking with pointy things.  Yes, they really do scratch with a straight pin, just like in the movies so we know his feet and arms are working. He has had the left chest tube removed but not the one on the right. He now has pneumonia on the right side which was expected because of the injury, as in he probably poked holes in his lung with his broken ribs.

 He flexes his feet and hands when he is in pain. He cannot cough with a tube in his throat, it’s horrible to watch him try. I spent the day talking to him, I feel like a candle in the window lighting his way home. It could be a day, two days, two weeks or more before he recovers consciousness and we can see how much brain damage he suffered. This is the hard part, waiting and hoping so hard I feel like I’ll implode. I got a little set of portable speakers at Radio Shack and I’m leaving the iPod playing tonight when I leave, everything REM and Don Henley ever recorded. It will be playing on his pillow all night long, music to wake up to.

 The good part is he is in such astonishing physical shape that his body has recovered amazingly in such a short time. His head is shaved (yuck!) and with the cervical collar he has a strange resemblance to Darth Vader with his helmet off. Sorry, black humor is saving me about now—I am so hoping he comes out of it the drug coma soon and we can figure out what comes next. What’s worse knowing or not knowing how much damage he sustained? I can only hope and pray at this point. I feel like a tiger with one cub and I’ll eat anyone who messes with him.

And after that bloodthirsty sidebar, let me switch gears  to say how much I appreciate the love, thoughts and care of the fire fighters and the people at the city of Lacey. I put Faye on a plane home tonight, and Terry’s oldest sister is here now. It’s good to be part of the fire fighter family, and Don Bowman is officially my rock.

Forest fire damage, why the deer were on the highway at night

 September 16th, morning, email to my son Corey who is riding out to Billings on his bike.

I’m guardedly optimistic. He has opened his eyes twice this morning and the doc said he had moved his hands and feet on command before I got here. I can see Terry is really struggling to make it back and make sense of all this. I’m not sure what’s going on in his head, he’s moving around a lot and you can tell he’s not comfortable. Stay safe–and don’t ride out from there unless you know the weather has broken! 

September 16th, evening, journal entry. 

I’m back from the hospital, at the  creepy motel and just about worn out. I’m both elated and exhausted. Terry is doing better, but its slow going, inches forward and sometimes a few back. I understand this is common with head injuries and we just have to play it as it lays. Today he was able to move his toes and his hand at the doctor’s command and he actually opened his eyes a few times. Once, when I was talking to him, he opened his eyes and turned his head, tracking on my voice for a few seconds before he faded again.

I’m sure as he regains consciousness he is panicked and confused. The tube down his throat is irritating him and gagging him. When he coughs it’s silent and horrible to watch, he is racked from one end to the other, but still his lung is clearing with every fit of coughing. The nurses said he won’t remember any of  this later, God’s blessings in that, but it is so hard to watch for me. I have to run for the nurse on duty when his breathing tube gets completely clogged and he can’t breathe. She comes in and pulls this long valve out of the tube and it sucks the it clear. It makes me choke and gag even to think of it.

He is moving his legs and curling his toes and stretching. His hands are restrained so in his reduced state of consciousness he can’t rip anything loose in his struggles. He has side to side movement, just not a whole lot. I think our lives have been changed forever, I see God’s hand in healing him so speedily this far. There have been a few miracles here, not the least of which are the reactions of the firefighters. I want him to wake up so I can tell him he’s still part of the brotherhood and not forgotten, sometimes retired fire dogs can feel pretty lost. Don Bowman is my hero and my rock. He calls me every day and tells me what he has learned about what happened and what is going on and gives me so much encouragement.

One of the pictures in Terry's camera which survived the crash. He knows I love old buildings and there were a lot of cool shots.

Things are slow and scary for me, but we move forward still. The CAT scan of Terry’s head today came back just great, no more leakage or further damage. So now he has to fight his way back.  My metaphor: It’s like being beaten within an inch of your life and then tossed in a deep black, warm ocean with a straw to breathe through and the straw gets clogged occasionally. You have to follow the bubbles to the surface and finding and following them is so exhausting you sink back down into the black when you get there, but each time you sink less and sooner or later you’ll be on the surface and wide awake again, just bobbing around in the blue and taking it all in.

The Wonderful Shrink Me Cake

The White Rabbit announces a new cake for the tea party!

I love finding recipes that are not fattening and still taste great, hence this “shrink me” cake, with a nod to Alice in Wonderland and the tea party. I love to eat and I love to cook and if I can find something that lets me do both without expanding my waistline even better!

I was idly watching the telly and drinking my morning coffee last week when Hungry Girl showed up with some sensational tips on removing calories and fat from food. I sat up and took notice. I knew I had to try to put my own spin on this impossible sounding cake. My personal problem with removing calories and fat from treats is that the process usually involves removing taste as well so I had some serious doubts. To the kitchen White Rabbit!

The claim is that you can take any cake mix and dump in a single can of diet soda in place of milk/eggs/oil and come up with a cake that cuts calories in half. Note: I also left out the extra water as the “recipe” was unclear about leaving out that part. The first cake I tried was chocolate with diet pepsi. It turned out great, much to my surprise so it was time for the next level. I had the cake part down, what about the frosting and yummy-on-top part?

I baked a yellow cake mix with a can of diet cherry 7 up. Turned out nicely again and tasted great. That’s the good part. The bad part is that the top of these cakes look like the surface of a dry river bed that’s been baked by the sun.

All baked up

 A little more appetizing, but you get the idea–cracks/fissures in the mud, er…cake.  This means when you slice the cake and dish it up, you will need to be really careful when you slide that nice sharp spatula under the piece and lift it out. It does crumble easily so be careful if you want to eat more than a fistful of really big crumbles.

Cake Cracks Mean Take Care in Cutting

It also has a small artificial sweetener aftertaste; thankfully, not bitter like a Starbucks skinny caramel macchiato. In a fit of behaving myself last week I tried one and it was nasty-metallic-bitter. I think I’d rather drink paint but it did make me wonder about chemistry and cakes.

I can live with the aftertaste, especially when I added 1/3 cup of lite Cherry pie filling and two fat tablespoons of extra creamy Cool Whip to the top of my piece of cake. Now this is a tasty treat.

You could do this with any combo: Chocolate cake with fresh sliced strawberries. White cake with blueberries, carrot cake with sliced bananas. The possiblities are endless. If you avoid frosting you eliminate unnecessary fat pills from your diet. If you can’t stand cool whip, splurge and add real whipped cream–just factor in the calories. Better yet, get a spray can of aerosol whipped cream at the store. Better flavor than Cool Whip and still low in calories. I just happened to have a tub of Cool Whip in the freezer, and what I have on hand is what gets used when I have a baking bee in my bonnet.

Let’s do the math: My yellow cake mix said on the side of the box that the dry mix had 190 calories in a serving. They calculate 12 servings to a 13X9″ pan, which is still a nice sized chunk. If you add a can of diet pop you are not adding a single calorie to the dry mix calculations. If you make that cake according to the instructions on the box adding oil/eggs/milk your piece of cake just went up to 270 calories! And get this: the dry mix calculations with your can of pop have 4.5 grams of fat. The regular cake baked? 14 grams of fat per serving. Holy Fat Cow Batman!

Toss on two tablespoons of extra creamy cool whip and add just 25 calories and 2 grams of fat. 1/3 cup of lite cherry pie filling has 60 calories–and no fat. If you use regular cherry pie filling you are looking at only 85 calories. I think the difference is in the amount of sugar, which works me because the lite stuff tastes great. If you use home whipped cream you are looking at 100 calories in two tablespoons. The LIGHT (as in less calories) cream in a spray can has about 15 calories in a tablespoon. That’s a tablespoon kids, not a heaping, enormous overstuffed tablespoon for measuring and dining purposes. 

Shrink Me Cake with lite cherry filling and non-dairy topping: 255 calories and 6.5 grams of fat

Regular Expand Me Cake with cherry filling and real whipped cream: 455 calories and 20 grams of fat.

Make the tea party better with a Shrink Me Cake!

I like finding things that I can enjoy cooking and even better, share. Nice to know cake can still be in my future and its soooo easy to make. Bonus! (By the way, thanks for the tip Hungry Girl)

Leader of the Pack

No, No, No Napping according to the Baby's rules...

We now have three dogs. Okay, if you stacked up all three they wouldn’t make up one German Shepherd or even half a Rottweiler in gross weight, but I now have my own “pack”, as the Dog Whisperer would put it. I do love that guy, I catch his shows once in a while and I always learn something from them. Something like the fact that I am now the alpha “dog” and expected to lead the choir.

My choir consists of one grouchy old lady dog, Nellie the Rat Terrier, who thinks tennis shoes, mail men and cardboard boxes should be her personal attack and destroy mission in life. She has mellowed considerably with her  increasing years and waistline,  but I still don’t trust the blockhead with packages left on the porch by well-meaning delivery people. The mail man knows her up close and way too personal. He lives just four houses down from us but out of pure spite  and previous encounters he takes our packages all the way to the post office. I’m ready to bite him myself but that’s a whole other story.

Top: old lady naps, middle left, armed neutrality, bottom, fatty in the baby bed

 Nellie has a throw and fetch complex. She’ll fetch until she passes out and she carries balls everywhere. She leaves old dead tennis balls  all over the yard like hairy old neon puffballs with dog slobber embedded in them. The newest dog likes balls too, and wrests them from Nellie at every chance. Misha weighs just four pounds at the age of three months and he is either incredibly bright or fatally dumb in taking balls from the mailman eater. Nellie knows better than to snap at the baby dog at this point, but we have had one snap and raised hackles resulting in a stern chat with the Alpha dog (me) and a few time outs.

Misha is a baby Shih Tzu. He is in people years about two years old and boy, is he ever in the terrible twos! He looks like a demented midget panda bear with furry white legs and fluffy black hair everywhere else. He’s so fluffy you can’t tell how slim he actually is. He looks really odd when I stuff him in a sweater. Piano legs and toothpick body. Yes, I do stick the dogs in coats and sweaters. I’m too big for Barbies but I can still  get away with Hawaiian shirts on dogs. This horrifies my son Torin who refuses to be seen with me if I am accompanied by a nattily dressed dog.

Misha is teething on me, all of his toys, the other dogs, chewy pig ears, the stairs in the studio–the cat–once, and wicker if he can find it. We still have a bottle of bitter lime spray from Uncle Mushka’s baby days so I am hopeful we can save the furniture and the cat with early intervention. Mish is a delight and overflowing with manic puppy energy. The older dogs are not digging it at all…JUMP up in their faces, JUMP, bite their ears, JUMP bite their legs and run in circles around them. We are loving the puppy months but still, the mellow months ahead look very attractive from here. He got his name Misha to go with Mushka, a Russian Shih Tzu, go figure. Misha is the name bears  wear in Russian fairy tales so it fits his tiny panda person nicely.

Who wouldn't love that face?

Mushka is Misha’s uncle and he came to live with us when Terry was brain injured a few years back. Our dear friend Tone got Mushka’s sister and we went with her to visit the breeder. That was it. Tor and I got Moosh to bring back a little joy in our lives in November of 2006. Tor named him after a Russian space dog and we only found out later the first Mushka burned up on re-entry. Oops. He’s always been a serious little dog. Actually, I have come to the conclusion that he’s as dumb as a stick but he has a great personality and a good heart.

Mushka, basking in front of the fireplace, avoiding the puppy

He also has dreadful allergies and gets bathed every two days. He has learned to love the hair dryer and put up with baths. All three dogs love the hair dryer, they come running and vie for who gets “heated” up first.

So we have Nellie, Mish and Moosh. Nellie and Moosh are staid and restrained. Their idea of a good time is sleep 22 hours, nap one hour and the eat the other one. Mish coming to live with us was like downing a power pole with live wires in the living room. Potty training, arguments, raising a baby. I’d forgotten what its like!

The dog cyclone going strong, Play!

I like to watch the elders watching the infant tear around the house and you can see they want to get in and play so bad they can taste it. Tonight when I got down on the floor with them they could no longer resist. Everybody played! Three dogs,  each one with  a toy or three and sometimes they would tug o’ war on two ends of the same toy. By the end of the evening there were toys everywhere. It looked like an explosion in a stuffed animal factory. Moosh unbent sufficiently to run around in circles and jump in the air until he was dizzy and panting. Nellie and Mish chased thrown toys endlessly and my hands are full of puppy nibbles from the young Doctor Teeth who is still learning about not chewing on humans.

So Cesar, Dog Whisperer guy, I’m spending my evenings on the floor surrounded by my pack and they are actually beginning to play nice together. We aren’t there yet but we’ll get there.

And then there’s the bad pun…Mishka, Mushka, Mouseketeer. How could I resist? I mean, really?

Feliz de San Valentin! Fun & Affordable Valentine’s Day Mexican Folk-Style Jewelry

Detail of El Dia de los Valentins, Numero Uno

I have had so much fun this week! Before Christmas I found a fabuloso old post card in Seattle at my favorite Mexican folk art shop in the Pike Street Market. I love Milagros, which is the store’s name and also the name of the cool silver/pewter/tin charms that I love and collect at every opportunity. The store inspires me and makes me covet half of what is in it. I’m always happy to come home with something small and fun that gets the creative juices flowing.

The card is actually scenes celebrating Dia de  los Muertos, Day of the Dead, which is celebrated to show respect to ancestors round about halloween. My postcard shows six bony couples having fun and I thought it would make a great crossover for Valentine’s day. I adore black/white/red together too, which made this just about perfect. I scanned the card at a really high resolution, saved it as a jpeg (photo image) then resized and cropped every image before printing it on high quality WHITE paper. With papers, there is white, pretty white and blinding WHITE. I like the blinding white for printing photos to put under glass because the contrast adds a lot.

Milagros in my studio, my stash of silver and gold

I printed all the images, cut them out with my trusty scalpel and ruler and then put them carefully in glass sandwiches. I have so much glass around of all sizes and thicknesses that I could probably put the history of the world under glass in one way or another. All this glass is a side effect from framing my own stuff and being given junk frames by friends. I can’t stand to throw out the glass, which explains the 2 foot thick stack of glass under my work table.

If you intend to cut glass, invest in a really good glass cutter, actual cutting oil and running pliers. They make your life so much easier and you waste so much less glass, After cutting I always carefully sand the edges by hand or with my glass grinder as I don’t want to cut off a finger making art, I don’t even want to cut myself so sanding really works for me. I will do a demo on cutting glass within the next few days but for now–on to the wearable Valentines! I foiled and leaded and soldered my folk art sandwiches after I cut out a little red heart and popped it into each side of each piece. I like oval rings on the top for strength and because they just look cooler. Then add a fun bead and chain, chain, chain, chain of ….oops, wrong reference.

Each piece is unique because the top bead is different and the chain is different. I had fun going for silver, vintage brass, and even a brass bath tub chain. A lot of them have double chains for the added effect the chain weight gives visually.  And the best part? They are soooo affordable!

Mexican Valentine's two sided, each necklace is unique!

Yours for $21 plus $5 shipping. Unique, six only, you get to choose which one you like until they are all gone…. I will be taking the pieces to Matter Gallery, but if you see one you love, let me know and its YOURS!

Also as promised, a shot of the bone dishes I keep on my work table, pretty, great shape and they keep me organized to some extent. Click on the photo to see it up close and personal.

Work table with bone dishes and Valentine's day in full swing

I’ve also been constructing a ton of adorable Valentine/love inspired earrings and will shoot those tomorrow. This is the work table in full construction mode, everything at my fingertips, love it.

I found an awesome wire tree to hang the earrings on this week. Next project is to seat the tree in a pot of plaster for stability and turn it old vintage white, pictures to follow. Hint: This is something you can do with those old black wire trinkets that were so hot a few years ago. Like I mentioned, a super productive week, a new necklace in the works in vintage brass, red hearts and pearls. It’s on the form now. It’s called “Eva” (pronounced Ava)for my beautiful soprano singing muse Eva G., who will be going off to Julliard, USC, UCLA or some equally prestigious performing arts school next year for college. I’m waiting for a few days of sunshine to photograph her in my mask collection soon, that will lots of fun, something to look forward to when winter gets me down. I do so love beautiful singing divas in my pictures…come on Spring!

When I got distracted this week–Squirrel!–as in the movie, “Up”, I got out my polyclay and started playing. I want some new major beads and the best way to get what I want is to make it myself. I needed it for the hearts on  the Mexican valentine’s anyway, great excuse, eh? I wound up making some copper green clay and popping it into my glorious new running rabbit chocolate mold. Here’s the result, after being altered and fastened to a piece of old tin with rivets and hung on chain.

Running Rabbit, from a chocolate mold in polyclay, copper and tin

After posting this I’m  back  to the studio with lots of music and dogs and cats and dancing-yay! This week: the 1930’s which includes Fats Waller, Gershwin, Louis Armstrong, Fred Astaire and Cole Porter–with that group who wouldn’t dance! Earrings to come!

Lessons in the studio to learn all this stuff yourself! Starting February 9th at 3:00 in the afternoon. Affordable fun, your chance to try something new before you invest heavily in supplies and tools. Take a craft for a test drive and make beautiful things. Contact me at for information or questions or to purchase a Mexican Valentine.

From the ICU in Billings, September 14, 2006

This is the letter I wrote home on my laptop from Billings, Montana the day after I arrived there. The beginning of a long journey home.

The first letter from Billings, 9/14/2006

 As I write this, Terry is in critical but stable condition in the ICU in the Billings Clinic Hospital in Billings, Montana. I cannot say enough about the staff here. The nurses, the care staff, and the doctors are amazing and kind and talented and wonderful. I don’t think Terry could get better care anywhere in the country. This is a Trauma Level 2 facility and I am feeling very blessed about now that this is where he ended up. 

We got here at 2:30 in the morning and drove right to the hospital. I have had about two hours sleep and I am getting rummy. I know I’ll be here for at least two weeks so I drove because it was as fast as flying by the time I factored in trip to the airport time, check in time and the flight schedule into this small town on the edge of nowhere. I am exhausted, worried but relieved, and still up in the air not exactly knowing what comes next. 

 The back story–which I just got today from his riding partner, Don: The guys had been on their annual road trip for a week and were headed home the 13th. They stopped in Livingston, Montana the evening of the 12th to get a room and because of all the forest fires there were no rooms for over 100 miles around–all the way to Billings. They talked to a nice hotel clerk who called ahead and got them a room in Billings. It was dark when they headed out to that guaranteed reservation. The speed limit is 75 and they were doing about 70 mph. Both had on helmets and full leathers, pants, jackets, gloves and glasses. 

They have both ridden for over 35 years and this was a completely freaky accident. The deer have come down out of the hills because of all the forest fires in Montana and I  have found out they are causing accidents all over this area. On our drive in Faye and I counted SEVEN deer on the roadsides and TWO were on the highway in our lane. We didn’t hit them but could understand how this could have happened to Terry.

A very large 4 point buck stepped off the center median into the fast lane in front of Terry about 8 p.m. Don said it came out of nowhere and Terry didn’t even have time to brake but hit it at full speed. When his bike dropped, we think his luggage, which was a T bag strapped on the back of his Harley, fell in front of Don. Don hit it and then his bike went down too. He slid down the road about 200 feet on his shoulder and incurred some bad road rash right through his leathers. He was able to get to his feet and started back to look for Terry. Both were wearing black and Don’s concern was that Terry would be hit by oncoming traffic on interstate 90. This is where the angels stepped in. 

The guy they had just passed pulling a huge new boat stopped instantly and pulled the boat and his car across all lanes of traffic stopping it completely. Several cars also stopped and the people in them ran to Terry. One person had a flashlight and had found him before Don did. Don is a paramedic and he got to Terry,  stabilized his head and turned him on his side and cleared his airway so he was not without oxygen at any time. He cut Terry’s helmet off and by then–less that ten minutes after the accident two full wagons of paramedics rolled up, along with an off duty medic who had heard the call that two bikes were down– AND in the line behind the boat there was a nurse from the trauma center in Livingston who had just gotten off duty. The state police closed the east bound lanes when the 911 call came in so the medics came in the wrong way down the closed freeway. They had Terry in the van and an iv started in less than ten more minutes. 

He was taken to Livingston, not a large town at all, where it turns out the guy in charge of the ER was a trauma specialist. He and his head nurse had just relocated from a big L.A. trauma center to Livingston. They knew exactly what they were doing and had scanned him, stabilized  and  on a life flight helicopter to Billings in under 45 minutes. Because of all of these people being in the right place at the right time he is in much better shape than I ever expected, in a coma, but he has a chance. Angels, every one of them.

Basically he hit the deer and killed it with his head, which means he has blunt force trauma to his head and chest including breaking almost all of his ribs on both sides, collapsing both lungs, breaking his wrist and incurring a hematoma to the  left side of his skull. He has breaks to three vertebrae in his neck but it turns out this is minor because it is just the little flanges on the sides. He has good motor response at this time. Surgery was performed as soon as they got him off the helicopter and into an OR ,the hematoma was drained and the bleeding was stopped. 

In brain injury the biggest danger is swelling of the brain from 48-72 hours from the injury. Terry has a pressure gauge in his head which measures for that and so far all looks pretty good. Of course they had to shave his head…which I have not yet seen because he is plastered up in a big blue-green cast/turban for lack of a better word. His eyes are black and blue and swollen shut. He is intubated, which means he has a tube down his throat. He is breathing on his own with an assist from the ventilator due to the broken ribs. He fractured the orbit on his right eye and has some nasty road rash on his face. He broke his nose and his right wrist. The prognosis is guardedly good and he looks better today than he did last night. 

He is heavily sedated at this time and cannot respond to me because they want him out cold so his body won’t be stressed with pain and just the mental trauma of the event. He would also be in incredible pain due to his injuries and so he is heavily medicated for that. The doctor thinks the chest tubes and the ventilator will be removed in two days or so. If all goes well, in a week or so he may be able to see family and he will be coming out of sedation. I will be here for at least two weeks.  I don’t know what comes next. Its all a waiting game at this point. The only thing we need is prayers and a few more angels.

Happy Rabbit finished New Jewelry for the New Year

I seem to be on a kick lately, my new jewelry work all has an ethnic tinge/flair/edge? I just finished two pieces I absolutely love that I’ve been planning since before the holidays. When I create new work part of the process is the collection of the bits and pieces that will go into what I see in my head. In this case two  of my china bone dishes sat on the work bench in the studio for almost two months, one heaped with copper things and amethysts and the other with silver birds, clear beads and clear crystals.   

Sidebar: Old china bone dishes are great. I love them and I promise I’ll stick in a picture of the work table tomorrow with the lazy susan and the dishes. I find them at second hand stores and drag them home to stash beads, findings and bits. Far prettier than plastic or cardboard and they completely fit into my reuse/repurpose esthethic.   

I was happy last week when I got Christmas packed away and the last of the glitter vacuumed up and the decks cleared for Rhiannon and Gwenlaise. Amazing how long it takes to restart the engines after the holiday but I’m on track and in the studio full speed ahead.  

All my work has a back story to it, I think about it long and hard before I ever pick my tools. I find inspiration everywhere, and in this case it was the Celtic world. Does ancient Wales count as Celtic? Let’s assume it does…

Detail of the cascade on “Gwenlaise”, copper, amethyst and pearls.

Love the ribbon tie! Sparkly like clear water, bling with panache!


The first piece I finished was Rhiannon of the Birds. I posted a page last week with the story of Rhiannon, a Welsh goddess, and a couple of shots of the piece. I think its one of the most feminine pieces I’ve made and I love, love, love it. The colors are neutral. 

The silky ribbon it ties with is black and everything else is either silver, pearls, or clear.  I am reposting a couple of better pictures with some of the details. It is now resident at Matter Gallery in Olympia at $120.00 .

Closeup showing birds, crystals and pearls.

The second piece is called Gwenlaise, and its one that I’ve been planning for a long time. I love Scott Cossu’s music and his gorgeous jazz/new age tracks have been a big part of the soundtrack of my life. Gwenlaise is the name of my favorite piece of Scott’s music. It’s lyrical and haunting and I actually wore out the original cassette of the album it was released with. Gwenlaise  is my thank you to Scott for something that inspires me and takes me somewhere else in time and space.  I didn’t realize for a long time he actually lived in Olympia and I have been lucky enough to meet him several times and say thanks for the joy his music brings me. (a rather strange little video, but the music is still lovely if you are curious to hear the song). The song, Gwenlaise,  makes me think of moors and heather and misty days in Ireland and Scotland. I used natural amethyst crystals to catch the shades of

Gwenlaise, moors, mist and belle dames of Ireland

purple heather, and I chose copper to set off the stones and as homage to the beauty of old Celtic jewelry and patterns. The necklace is constructed as a lariat so it can slide up or down and be worn as a choker with a cascade of amethyst and copper or as a longer necklace. I love the fact that I can just thread the copper and pearl chains into the brushed copper loop. Easy on and off–another one of my “things”, it’s priced at $120. is the webpage for matter. Wonderful artists, fun things. Next out of the studio for me. Mexican Valentine’s necklaces.  Glass, red hearts, old images, So fun! and so inexpensive….stay tuned….