Maker Spotlight: Sandrine Valentine of Sandrine B. Jewelry

Hi, I'm Sandrine Valentine. I am a child's attorney by trade who found her calling in jewelry design at a jewelry artist show on a trip to Arizona in the summer 2008.  

Upon my return to New York City I studied metalsmithing in a private studio and it blew my mind. I have been making jewelry ever since and have continued to learn throughout the years various techniques.  In the past few years I have been focusing on the lost wax process whereby making wax models later casted into metal.  

I first gifted my jewelry to family and friends.  Over time I sold my jewelry through word of mouth.  And in the past two and a half years I have been selling through my Etsy shop and at various markets around New York City.  

My tag line is "finding inspiration in the land around me."  During my walks in NYC and travels oversea I take photographs, draw, and collect discarded objects that I use for inspiration. My jewelry is handmade in my studio in Brooklyn. I use precious metals and semi precious gemstones.

To learn more about my jewelry, visit SandrineBJewelry on Etsy, or my website.

Maker Spotlight is part of a month long series during Maker/National Craft Month, where NY Handmade Collective artists and Etsy small business shop owners are featured. They share a bit about themselves and their craft, helping to create connection between them, the team, and our reader and customer base. We hope you enjoy learning about and seeing the people behind our multi-faceted handmade collective.

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Maker Spotlight: Rachel Soares of Ye Old Stamping Grounds

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Ola! I’m Rachel, and I’ve been a microbusiness owner for a little over three years. This is Ye Old Stamping Grounds’ origin story.

On a cold January day in 2015, I excitedly ripped open a package. Instead of a surge of satisfaction, I felt deflated as I realized the hand-stamped custom key chain I had ordered for my boyfriend, Josh, wasn't going to work. The font was way more flowery than I wanted, and the key chain tag was so thin, you could see the reverse imprint of the message on the back.

There was no way I could give this as a gift. So I channeled my disappointment, went into research mode, and figured out how to produce what I had originally envisioned. I wanted something with a clean and modern font – something gender neutral. I learned that each letter had to be stamped individually to create the design. How hard could that be, I thought.

I ordered all the supplies, waited for more packages to arrive, and finally set to work. The first time my brass hammer hit the stamp with a satisfying *thunk*, I knew I was hooked. It brought me back to my tap dancing days ... you just find your rhythm and bring in da noise!

Turns out, it’s pretty hard to keep the letters aligned and figure out spacing before you run out of room. But I kept practicing, watched YouTube tutorials, looked for tips online, and eventually felt confident enough to make Josh’s key chain.

After Josh loved his gift, I made more for friends. That's when I started to consider following my father's footsteps to open my own version of a small business. In reviewing e-commerce options, I looked back at my Etsy profile. I realized my very first purchase on Etsy, back in 2008, was a hand-stamped "lucky" penny - another gift for a friend. I took it as a sign, and officially opened my Etsy shop.

As a woman and a feminist, it is empowering to own my microbusiness. I have a creative outlet that I can share with the world, and have an income stream that helps pay the bills. Coming up with new designs is one of my favorite activities, and I treat each key chain as a small metal canvas. I draw inspiration from what I’m passionate about.

I’ve always found the expression ‘love you to the moon and back’ a well-intentioned but a little odd. After all, the moon is the closest object to Earth. My scientific and rational brain thought – why not Pluto? Aim farther away to more meaningfully demonstrate the depth of love. Enter the “I love you to Pluto and back” key chain design, which can be customized to any destination – in the Milky Way or in a galaxy far, far away (yes, please ask me about my fandoms).

I’ve worked as a diversity champion for over 8 years, and that influences my key chains. I can’t help but bring my admiration of feminist writers, like paying tribute to the late, great Maya Angelou through the “still I rise” design. One of her most famous poems, the quote is perfect for overcoming challenges and inspiring perseverance. I also love my feminist twist on the British Special Air Service motto with “She who dares, wins.” Who doesn’t need a reminder to embrace boldness and take some risks every now and then?

My designs help me make connections with people. At a craft market last year, a young girl and her father come up to my booth. My bell hooks “feminism is for everybody” design was on display, and she pointed to it, asking me what feminism meant. Now, I know the word feminism can be fraught with negative connotations, and glancing at her father’s face, he was a bit panicky. But I simply told her what I believe: that to be a feminist, you think that men and women should be equal. She thought about it and nodded her agreement. I like to think that I added a young woman, and maybe her dad, to the cause that day!

When creating my designs, I try to remember that a key chain is something people see and use every day. I firmly believe that it should be quirky and fun, reflecting your personal style and taste. Make your keys (and you) happy with a playful key chain from Ye Old Stamping Grounds.  Available 24/7 online:

SHOP: Etsy yeoldstampinggrounds.etsy.com.

VISUAL: Instagram @yeoldstampinggrounds and Pinterest @yeoldstamping

READ: Facebook @yeoldstamping

Maker Spotlight is part of a month long series during Maker/National Craft Month, where NY Handmade Collective artists and Etsy small business shop owners are featured. They share a bit about themselves and their craft, helping to create connection between them, the team, and our reader and customer base. We hope you enjoy learning about and seeing the people behind our multi-faceted handmade collective.

Maker Spotlight: Khôi Nguyên Trương of Atelier 7570

Hello! My name is Khôi and I’m the proud owner of Atelier 7570. I set up my Etsy shop in June 2017 to sell my handmade pottery.

I throw, trim, embellish, and glaze every single item so you’re guaranteed a truly unique and charming pot made by me, with love. Nature and simplicity inspire me so I often incorporate those elements into my craft.

For me, Making + Clay = Happiness! I'm grateful for such a creative outlet and excited to be sharing Atelier 7570 pots with you.

Maker Spotlight is part of a month long series during Maker/National Craft Month, where NY Handmade Collective artists and Etsy small business shop owners are featured. They share a bit about themselves and their craft, helping to create connection between them, the team, and our reader and customer base. We hope you enjoy learning about and seeing the people behind our multi-faceted handmade collective.

 

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Women Who Inspire: Team Members Reflect on the Women who have Inspired their Art

March is National Women's History month and today is International Women's Day! 

"International Women's Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. International Women's Day (IWD) has occurred for well over a century, with the first March 8 IWD gathering supported by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. Prior to this the Socialist Party of America, United Kingdom's Suffragists and Suffragettes, and further groups campaigned for women equality. Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. IWD is not country, group or organisation specific." (https://www.internationalwomensday.com/)

The first time I heard of this "holiday" was on a visit to Italy back in 2001. It was a big deal over there and I had not heard anything about it in the US. Since that trip, I've become more aware of the day and the overall global growth of celebrating women. I find it inspiring and in joining the world in celebration today, want to share stories of female inspiration from NY Handmade Collective team members.

The NY Handmade Collective member base is almost exclusively women artists and business owners trying to change their economic path, do positive work for the health of our planet and our bodies, and make really amazing handmade art and goods for consumers predominantly in NYC, but beyond our borders. I should note that our team does have men - creative men, that own Etsy shops and make gorgeous art, and help run our team - who are deeply appreciated.

The stories below brought tears to my eyes, but even more, I was humbled. To share deeply personal stories about women is to share stories that shape us individually - not all stories are light and fun, but almost all of them leave you feeling connected and awed. I hope you enjoy these stories, as well as feel inspired. When you buy handmade, there is often a strong woman of the past celebrating not just your purchase, but the continuation of their lives, skills, and expertise from our hands to yours.


Remembering Dorothy Finkle Kaufman, 1905-1987 - By Jan Finnell, OverTheTop

  "A woman who inspired me was my aunt, Dorothy Finkle Kaufman. Dorothy was unusual in her family of 8 siblings, as she contracted polio at the age of five in 1910 in Trenton, New Jersey. Her very devout Jewish father even brought her to the nuns at a local convent for prayers in the hopes of healing her. He parents were immigrants from Russia and Lithuania and her father owned a general store. Money was tight and he lost it during the Depression.    Dot was a vibrant and capable member of her family who was not content to stay at home and be cared for; she was a graduate of Rider College and went to work as a secretary, wearing special shoes, leg braces and using canes to walk. She helped other disabled people find employment while working for the State of New Jersey and in her forties, married her boss, Benjamin Kaufman, a highly decorated veteran of World War I and winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor and Croix de Guerre.    Despite her disability, she traveled worldwide with Ben both politically and socially, unlike her able-bodied brothers and sisters. She and Ben, who were married for over 30 years until his death in 1981, became parents to her parents, served as the foundation of her family, and built a home that accommodated their physical limitations. She was my father’s closest sister and confidante, and my surrogate mother. it was a pleasure to be a part of her world, as she had exquisite, sophisticated taste and was a lovely and gracious woman with a twinkle in her eye and lavished love and attention on me as if I were her own daughter (she had no children).    We had a special connection and I admired her for her fully realized life, despite a truly terrible health event. I like to think that my hours spent playing with her jewelry box, examining the decor in her home, its textures and colors and absorbing her many interests prepared me for my career as a designer, first in theatre, where I designed costumes for over 30 years, and now as a metalsmith, where the design journey continues. She died in 1987, but in the 30 years since she has been by my side, cheering me on, inspiring me to keep going and creating, no matter what.

"A woman who inspired me was my aunt, Dorothy Finkle Kaufman. Dorothy was unusual in her family of 8 siblings, as she contracted polio at the age of five in 1910 in Trenton, New Jersey. Her very devout Jewish father even brought her to the nuns at a local convent for prayers in the hopes of healing her. He parents were immigrants from Russia and Lithuania and her father owned a general store. Money was tight and he lost it during the Depression.

Dot was a vibrant and capable member of her family who was not content to stay at home and be cared for; she was a graduate of Rider College and went to work as a secretary, wearing special shoes, leg braces and using canes to walk. She helped other disabled people find employment while working for the State of New Jersey and in her forties, married her boss, Benjamin Kaufman, a highly decorated veteran of World War I and winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor and Croix de Guerre.

Despite her disability, she traveled worldwide with Ben both politically and socially, unlike her able-bodied brothers and sisters. She and Ben, who were married for over 30 years until his death in 1981, became parents to her parents, served as the foundation of her family, and built a home that accommodated their physical limitations. She was my father’s closest sister and confidante, and my surrogate mother. it was a pleasure to be a part of her world, as she had exquisite, sophisticated taste and was a lovely and gracious woman with a twinkle in her eye and lavished love and attention on me as if I were her own daughter (she had no children).

We had a special connection and I admired her for her fully realized life, despite a truly terrible health event. I like to think that my hours spent playing with her jewelry box, examining the decor in her home, its textures and colors and absorbing her many interests prepared me for my career as a designer, first in theatre, where I designed costumes for over 30 years, and now as a metalsmith, where the design journey continues. She died in 1987, but in the 30 years since she has been by my side, cheering me on, inspiring me to keep going and creating, no matter what.


Jewelry Inspired by My Grandmother and Mother - by Deirdre Bialo-Padin, Bialo Padin Designs

      My grandmother, Esther Meyerson Bialo, was a single parent. Born in the 1890’s, in addition to being a public school teacher in NYC, she was a theatrical costume designer. As a kid, I poured over her collection of books on the history of fashion, and spent many hours draping and pinning fabric she had collected from all over the world on a mannequin in her apartment.       My mother, Margarita Teresa Padin, as an underage teenager ran away from home and joined the army in WWII using someone else’s identity, and spent the war working as a truck dispatcher. She took courses in celestial navigation because she wanted to be in the Merchant Marines. After the war she obtained a degree in mechanical engineering. She collected tools and made repairs around the house. Because we had no money, and because I think she needed a creative outlet, she made all of our clothing when we were kids. Always practical, she used Velcro for fastening our clothing (to my mortification as a kid; as an adult I have to respect her engineer’s approach to problem solving), long before its use became popular.       Both of these women also loved and collected jewelry, and under their influence I did as well for years before I began making jewelry. I absorbed their aesthetics and their appreciation for color and texture, and I think their influence is reflected in my jewelry. My current display incorporates some of the fabric they collected. My mother’s sewing machine is in my studio, and I still use some of her tools. My memories of them keep me company when I’m in my studio.

 

My grandmother, Esther Meyerson Bialo, was a single parent. Born in the 1890’s, in addition to being a public school teacher in NYC, she was a theatrical costume designer. As a kid, I poured over her collection of books on the history of fashion, and spent many hours draping and pinning fabric she had collected from all over the world on a mannequin in her apartment.

My mother, Margarita Teresa Padin, as an underage teenager ran away from home and joined the army in WWII using someone else’s identity, and spent the war working as a truck dispatcher. She took courses in celestial navigation because she wanted to be in the Merchant Marines. After the war she obtained a degree in mechanical engineering. She collected tools and made repairs around the house. Because we had no money, and because I think she needed a creative outlet, she made all of our clothing when we were kids. Always practical, she used Velcro for fastening our clothing (to my mortification as a kid; as an adult I have to respect her engineer’s approach to problem solving), long before its use became popular.

Both of these women also loved and collected jewelry, and under their influence I did as well for years before I began making jewelry. I absorbed their aesthetics and their appreciation for color and texture, and I think their influence is reflected in my jewelry. My current display incorporates some of the fabric they collected. My mother’s sewing machine is in my studio, and I still use some of her tools. My memories of them keep me company when I’m in my studio.


Two Powerful Women: My Mom + My Wife - by Raquel Busa,  Maquina37

   My name is Raquel. I just joined the team this February. My Etsy shop is  www.maquina37.etsy.com  and I specialize in making cloth doll caricatures of people. I also make quilts and greeting cards. A doll that is custom made to look like someone sends the message “I love you, just the way you are.” I would love to share the story of two women who have inspired me.        My mom was 26 when she came to the United States from the Dominican Republic. She had six children and was a widow. She also started working in factories (sewing) to make enough money to bring her children over one by one. She met my father, was remarried and had me. All seven children grew up together. But unfortunately, my mother was widowed a second time when I was ten. Despite all the sorrow she has faced, she keeps going, and she is always happy and graceful. She recently retired at 69 years old. She is now taking English classes, traveling and enjoying life.       The other woman who inspires me is my wife. My wife is a retired police officer. She joined the police department in the late 80's. She faced a lot of discrimination for being a woman and for being a lesbian. Despite the hardships she faced, she lived openly and had a successful career. I feel in love with her strength and courage. I asked her to marry me in 2014. We were married in August of that year. And in 2016, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. That same year, I ran the New York City Marathon and dedicated the race to her. At the finish line, a read this little speech I had prepared, "....Whenever I doubted myself, you were my confidence. And, you were always honest and nurturing. Over the last few months, you were struggling with your own race. And still, even when you weren't feeling good, you always managed to put us first. You were always selfless. You taught me that 'life is tough my darling, but so are you.' You were my strength...I dedicate my run to you. All 26.2 miles for my wife." I gave her a necklace with the pendant of the marathon with the inscription "for my wife" on the back. She beat cancer.       Oh my gosh, I rattled on for a long time. The point is, my mom's work ethic inspired me to create a business of my own. And, my wife's story encourages me to embrace who I am and do the things that truly make me happy. The first doll I ever made that looked like someone was of her.

My name is Raquel. I just joined the team this February. My Etsy shop is www.maquina37.etsy.com and I specialize in making cloth doll caricatures of people. I also make quilts and greeting cards. A doll that is custom made to look like someone sends the message “I love you, just the way you are.” I would love to share the story of two women who have inspired me. 

My mom was 26 when she came to the United States from the Dominican Republic. She had six children and was a widow. She also started working in factories (sewing) to make enough money to bring her children over one by one. She met my father, was remarried and had me. All seven children grew up together. But unfortunately, my mother was widowed a second time when I was ten. Despite all the sorrow she has faced, she keeps going, and she is always happy and graceful. She recently retired at 69 years old. She is now taking English classes, traveling and enjoying life.

The other woman who inspires me is my wife. My wife is a retired police officer. She joined the police department in the late 80's. She faced a lot of discrimination for being a woman and for being a lesbian. Despite the hardships she faced, she lived openly and had a successful career. I feel in love with her strength and courage. I asked her to marry me in 2014. We were married in August of that year. And in 2016, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. That same year, I ran the New York City Marathon and dedicated the race to her. At the finish line, a read this little speech I had prepared, "....Whenever I doubted myself, you were my confidence. And, you were always honest and nurturing. Over the last few months, you were struggling with your own race. And still, even when you weren't feeling good, you always managed to put us first. You were always selfless. You taught me that 'life is tough my darling, but so are you.' You were my strength...I dedicate my run to you. All 26.2 miles for my wife." I gave her a necklace with the pendant of the marathon with the inscription "for my wife" on the back. She beat cancer.

Oh my gosh, I rattled on for a long time. The point is, my mom's work ethic inspired me to create a business of my own. And, my wife's story encourages me to embrace who I am and do the things that truly make me happy. The first doll I ever made that looked like someone was of her.


Inspired by Nature and the Public Women Figures Who Fought for our Parks and Land - by Maha Saedaway, Sundrench

   I am inspired by nature and every women who has worked to preserve and conserve nature, land, and parks such as  Eleanor Roosevelt , a Former First Lady of the United States of American, and also  Susan B. Anthony , a reformer, educator, and advocate of women's and human rights. Both women lived in NY State.        The preservation of nature is directly related to that of women's right and human rights. It's shown in patterns, color and the textures of the different seasons.       ETSY is a global market place that gives artists the right to engage and believe in humanity. It's also a place where a lot of women own small businesses.       HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY!

I am inspired by nature and every women who has worked to preserve and conserve nature, land, and parks such as Eleanor Roosevelt, a Former First Lady of the United States of American, and also Susan B. Anthony, a reformer, educator, and advocate of women's and human rights. Both women lived in NY State. 

The preservation of nature is directly related to that of women's right and human rights. It's shown in patterns, color and the textures of the different seasons.

ETSY is a global market place that gives artists the right to engage and believe in humanity. It's also a place where a lot of women own small businesses.

HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY!


Creative Genes Run in the Family - by Phyllis C. Stevens, BlueRoseCards

  I owe my inspiration to my mother and grandmothers, the latter of whom came to this country from Russia.  My grandmothers knew very little English and would speak to my mother and father in Yiddish, bits of which I picked up over the years.  Both grandmothers were very creative; and I remember how we'd put holiday stencils up on the windows, wrap and decorate Christmas gifts, etc., which were very innovative in their own right.      However, the most creative and imaginative was my mother; and I'm sure I inherited her craft genes. We didn't have extra money for toys and dolls' clothes; so even though she worked full-time, on weekends she'd fabricate all my dolls' outfits which she'd sew by hand and make wonderful paper doll families for me to play with.  I wish I had saved them. 

I owe my inspiration to my mother and grandmothers, the latter of whom came to this country from Russia.  My grandmothers knew very little English and would speak to my mother and father in Yiddish, bits of which I picked up over the years.  Both grandmothers were very creative; and I remember how we'd put holiday stencils up on the windows, wrap and decorate Christmas gifts, etc., which were very innovative in their own right.  

However, the most creative and imaginative was my mother; and I'm sure I inherited her craft genes. We didn't have extra money for toys and dolls' clothes; so even though she worked full-time, on weekends she'd fabricate all my dolls' outfits which she'd sew by hand and make wonderful paper doll families for me to play with.  I wish I had saved them. 

Give thanks to the women in your life. Celebrate their success, failures, and inspiration. Happy International Women's Day!

 
 

S2 Stationery & Design is owned by Sara Stroman, a NY Handmade Collective team member since 2010, and current Marketing Director. She believes in the power of written word in all sincere communication and designs cards and stationery to inspire people to put down their phones and pick up a pen and share honest emotion. Her work is inspired by her international travels, nature, and the words of people both famous and not, doing good, bad, and great things.

Eggs

Over the last 40 years I've been a vegetarian of every sort, lacto-ovo, and vegan, often varying day by day, week by week, or month by month. Summer tends to be a vegan season for me. 

Right now I'm eating an egg a couple of times a week. This desire for eggs on a more regular basis started when I met a friend at the Rustic Table on 42nd street. On the menu is a potato Cauliflower mash with a sunnyside up egg on top, with arugula, sliced almond, and a drizzle of tahini. Could not resit it!! (Though it sounds easy, I have never been able to recreate this dish.)

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In my quest to recreate this recipe, some of my experiments did work out well. Yet, through this, I found my go to breakfast for company - a delicious frittata. I generally lightly steam the vegetables first before assembling. The bottom layer is either potato or cauliflower thinly sliced. Then whatever veggies I have tossed on topped.

My most recent was butternut squash & broccoli. Then eggs lightly whipped poured on top and a little cheese -vegan or other- sprinkled on top. I cook it on top of the stove until I see bubbles then put it under the broiler to finish. Quicker then baking and also keeps in moisture.

 Butternut Squash Frittata

Butternut Squash Frittata

Recently, my cousin's husband passed along this recipe for the perfect soft boiled egg:  Put two inches of water in a sauce pan with a lid. Bring water to boil, place eggs in a strainer or vegetable steamer above the water, put on the lid tightly. Steam for six-and-a-half minutes. Run under cold water and Voila!

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From those in the know, let me share their secret for perfectly fluffy scrambled eggs: whisk them until you see a light yellow color.  Some that I spoke to, add milk, or creme fraiche (I use plain yogurt) during the whipping, while others add after. Cook them very slowly - five or so minutes - going as far as to moving the pan on and off the burner. They should be soft and sort of lumpy. Add seasoning to taste, once they are off the stove.

 Good with avocado toast, what isn't?

Good with avocado toast, what isn't?

This final recipe is my new favorite for quiet Sunday mornings. Julia Turshen's Olive Oil-Fried Eggs with Yogurt & Lemon. In a small bowl, combine yogurt and a big squeeze of juice from the lemon half and whisk together. Scrape the mixture onto a plate and spread and swoop it so the yogurt covers most of the plate.

Warm olive oil in a heavy pan. Crack eggs into the pan and season with salt & pepper. Sprinkle a few drops of water (less than a teaspoon) into the skillet being sure to hit the pan not the eggs. Quickly cover the pan. Let the eggs cook until the whites are cooked through but the yolks are still a bit wobbly, just a minute or two, I did two.

Transfer the eggs to the prepared plate, setting them on top of the yogurt, then pour the remaining olive oil from the pan over the top. Squeeze whatever juice remains in the lemon half and scatter over the herbs. EAT- so good!

 Make toast to sop up the yolk..yummmmm! (if you like runny eggs)

Make toast to sop up the yolk..yummmmm! (if you like runny eggs)

All photos © Susan Rae Tannenbaum

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NY Handmade Collective Travels: Costa Rica

When I travel, one of my top draws to any destination is the opportunity to see wildlife and nature.  Given that, I can't believe it's taken me so long to visit Costa Rica!  Costa Rica accounts for only 0.03 percent of the earth's surface, but contains almost 6 percent of the world's biodiversity.  I was excited to see sloths and other furry creatures, but I never expected to see and learn about the incredible variety of frogs and birds populating the incredible country.  I was there for less than two weeks, and visited a few different locations throughout the country, but there's so much left to explore!

 I spent the first few days horseback riding, through small towns and countryside in Guanacaste, on a native Criollo paint horse.  This is the lovely Leyenda!

I spent the first few days horseback riding, through small towns and countryside in Guanacaste, on a native Criollo paint horse.  This is the lovely Leyenda!

 Sometimes the most entertaining animals are right nearby!

Sometimes the most entertaining animals are right nearby!

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 We moved on to Monteverde from there. The bed and breakfast we stayed in had a little forest in the back, with a very popular hummingbird feeder- there were this many birds at a time pretty much always!

We moved on to Monteverde from there. The bed and breakfast we stayed in had a little forest in the back, with a very popular hummingbird feeder- there were this many birds at a time pretty much always!

 We saw three different kinds of venomous snakes in Costa Rica, on various walks through forests.  This was the first, and he was small but deadly.

We saw three different kinds of venomous snakes in Costa Rica, on various walks through forests.  This was the first, and he was small but deadly.

 fer-de-lance, the most deadly

fer-de-lance, the most deadly

 This little agouti was a very avid snacker.  We also saw kinkajous, coatis, and peccaries (a rare sight!).  It was incredibly helpful to have a knowledgeable guide on our nature walks, to tell us about the animals and help spot them. 

This little agouti was a very avid snacker.  We also saw kinkajous, coatis, and peccaries (a rare sight!).  It was incredibly helpful to have a knowledgeable guide on our nature walks, to tell us about the animals and help spot them. 

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 Another amazing advantage of guides is that they typically have scopes that they carry with them, so in addition to spotting lots of animals, we were able to view them in incredible detail, and take photographs using the scopes (called 'digiscoping') which was really fun!  This bird is pretty numerous in CR, and his colors were so vibrant.

Another amazing advantage of guides is that they typically have scopes that they carry with them, so in addition to spotting lots of animals, we were able to view them in incredible detail, and take photographs using the scopes (called 'digiscoping') which was really fun!  This bird is pretty numerous in CR, and his colors were so vibrant.

 emerald toucanet

emerald toucanet

 We visited a butterfly and frog park in Monteverde to learn more about some of the creatures we'd seen and were hoping to see.  The camouflage on this butterfly is pretty effective, and the insides of his wings are iridescent blue!

We visited a butterfly and frog park in Monteverde to learn more about some of the creatures we'd seen and were hoping to see.  The camouflage on this butterfly is pretty effective, and the insides of his wings are iridescent blue!

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 We so so many awesome frogs, including this one which is emblematic of the country, the red-eyed tree frog.

We so so many awesome frogs, including this one which is emblematic of the country, the red-eyed tree frog.

 When the lines between nature and bathrooms blur...

When the lines between nature and bathrooms blur...

 Look at that color and shape!

Look at that color and shape!

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 Not all of the frogs we saw were full-grown... there were thousands of tadpoles in various stages of development in this pond!

Not all of the frogs we saw were full-grown... there were thousands of tadpoles in various stages of development in this pond!

 We then went to Manuel Antonio, a famous nature reserve park with a wonderful diversity of wildlife.  With yet another amazing guide, we spotted lots of new friends!

We then went to Manuel Antonio, a famous nature reserve park with a wonderful diversity of wildlife.  With yet another amazing guide, we spotted lots of new friends!

 These crabs hang out on land; I had no idea!  The ocean is almost a 20 minute walk from here.

These crabs hang out on land; I had no idea!  The ocean is almost a 20 minute walk from here.

 sleepy bats

sleepy bats

 Commonly referred to as the Jesus lizard, because he can walk on water!

Commonly referred to as the Jesus lizard, because he can walk on water!

 And finally, at long last, we saw a sloth!!  Sloths are not only adorable, but super fascinating.  There are both two and three toed sloths in Costa Rica; one is diurnal and one is nocturnal.

And finally, at long last, we saw a sloth!!  Sloths are not only adorable, but super fascinating.  There are both two and three toed sloths in Costa Rica; one is diurnal and one is nocturnal.

 There are three different types of monkeys and we saw all of them.  Here's a cheeky capuchin who had stolen a loaf of bread from some tourists and was eating it slice by slice.

There are three different types of monkeys and we saw all of them.  Here's a cheeky capuchin who had stolen a loaf of bread from some tourists and was eating it slice by slice.

 One of the most incredible things we saw was this bodysurfing iguana.  We spent almost an hour watching him catch waves and wading back to shore...

One of the most incredible things we saw was this bodysurfing iguana.  We spent almost an hour watching him catch waves and wading back to shore...

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 These were just a few of the menagerie I saw in Costa Rica, and I stayed along only part of the Pacific coast. I got so much inspiration for future watercolor paintings.  I can't wait to go back to discover even more!

These were just a few of the menagerie I saw in Costa Rica, and I stayed along only part of the Pacific coast. I got so much inspiration for future watercolor paintings.  I can't wait to go back to discover even more!

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                                                             Wandering Laur Fine Art

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Trying Keep it Natural for Your Pets

I have a very cute and fun cat with a problem. She only is nice to me, this started about a year ago and I would have never known if one of the cat feeding group ( yes I'm very lucky to have this group in my building) hadn't told me Sugar was acting differently. Shortly after that on her yearly visit to the vet she bit the assistant, broke her skin and HAS A RECORD! They have to report this type of thing.

 I forgot to mention Sugar is a polydactyl girl. You can see her thumb if you look closely.

I forgot to mention Sugar is a polydactyl girl. You can see her thumb if you look closely.

After the neighbor and vet incident I started to look into some calming remedies for when she was going to experience anyone aside from me even though I mentioned to her biting or hissing at the hand that feeds you isn't a good idea. First I tried Rescue Remedy a flower essence combination. It apparently worked until my neighbor tried to pet her. The vet suggested Comfort Zone feliway, a pheromone spray for stress reduction. Again a sort of solution as long as no one got into her space . A homeopath suggested Straphysagria which works if given a day or two before if I know in advance. Apparently herbs work but not as quickly as homeopathy or flower essences (be sure to get non alchohol varieties of anything) and they don't taste good. Chinese medicine and acupuncture are also recommended but not along with homeopathy as they are too similar. Unfortunately I still have to give her drugs before going to the vet.

 Hey I'm just a normal kitty!

Hey I'm just a normal kitty!

Yesterday in the laundry room I found a copy of Dr, Pritcairn's Natural Health for Dogs & Cats and now have many more things to try. Sugar's diet has for the last 7 years been perfect according to them. She's been eating a raw food diet though I have no idea what she ate before or how old she is.

It seems she may need to play more. During the rest of the years she goes outside on a lead on my terrace. Then she chases bugs etc. Thankfully there are no bugs inside but it's been hard engaging her with the variety of things we do have here..Strings, balls, feathers all are fun for a short period. Suggestions welcome.

For now waiting for Spring to arrive and hoping that this behavior goes as quickly as it came.

 

 I just want to be out here playing with bugs and watching birds fly by.

I just want to be out here playing with bugs and watching birds fly by.

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Nostalgic Winter Painting

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Inspired by the nostalgia of the traditional winter scenes by Currier and Ives, this painting was completed in one afternoon by mixing only a few paint colors. A wood plaque can be primed with gesso, or a small canvas, or other surface can be used. While these instructions give specific color combinations, feel free to improvise your color mixing and create your own winter landscape. Enjoy!

 The dark gray suggests a forest in the distance.

The dark gray suggests a forest in the distance.

You will need:

  • Acrylic or oil paints in white and primary colors; red, yellow and blue
  • 1 or 2 small brushes
  • painting surface (3 inch wood plaque is shown) 

Instructions:

  1. Plan out a simple composition which will include a red barn, a horizon line with suggested tree line in the distance, and a few larger trees in the foreground. Don't be too concerned about fine details.
  2. Working from light to dark, paint in all the white areas, including the snow-covered rooftop. Use small amounts of red, blue, and yellow to create gray, Use this gray to paint a series of vertical lines for the tree line in the distance.   Add white to create different shades of gray.
  3. Mix a purple using red and blue. Add white in desired amount to paint a lavender texture in the sky.
  4. Use a dark gray (mix more if needed) to paint a curved path. Show perspective by widening the path near the bottom of the composition. Blend in some gray to shadow the snow, adding small amounts of blue and lavender for dimension.
  5. Paint the red barn, darkening the window, door and shadows with dark purple/blue.
  6. Using the tip of your brush, gently paint tall tree trunks in the foreground, adding branches with thin shorter lines.
  7. Finally, create a runny mixture of white paint to spatter on snowfall as a finishing touch, if you wish.
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Post by: Nicoletta Siccone / ETSY Shop: ArtologieDesigns / Website: www.art-ologie.com

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Nicoletta is a lifelong artist and art educator, with an M.A. in Art Education and Administration. She travels the world seeking cultural inspiration for her art, and has worked in fibers, acrylics, oils, and sculpture. She currently teaches elementary art education, adult oil painting and sumi-eclasses in New Jersey.  She is also known for her unique jewelry, inspired by the reinvention of the mundane zipper, featured throughout the NY/NJ area as Artologie Zipper Jewelry.

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Recipe: Yule Log

My California Yule Log

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Tis the season to be merry, and in my house that means baking a yule log for dessert.  Last year we were at Grandma's house in California to help her celebrate the gathering of the clan on Christmas Eve.  Imagine forty five mostly adult relatives gathering in 1200 square feet of space and then imagine the amount of food needed for the feasting!  My contribution was this large Yule Log. 

Yule logs were an early northern european tradition, where a special log was chosen and brought in from the forest to burn on the hearth to celebrate the Solstice.  The French eventually turned it into a chocolate roll cake called the "Bûche de Noël." Because my children have egg and nut allergies, I don't bake with either and decided to make the decorations of birds and mushrooms out of shortbread instead of the traditional meringue.  Unfortunately, shortbread is not clay and the birds slumped into lumpy teardrop shapes.  In honor of California's forests, I turned them into banana slugs!  All they required was a yellow sugar glaze, splashed with melted, watered chocolate for their markings, and added some sliced lemon peels for their antennae.

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T & J's Vegan Chocolate Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup grapeseed oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • Preheat oven to 350˚
  • Lightly grease 9x9" or 9x5" pan

Stir together all the dry ingredients together, then add all the liquid ingredients and mix until smooth.  Pour into pan and bake for 45 minutes.  Test often and don't overbake! Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Now this is a pretty small recipe and I usually double it.  For the huge log above, I think I did two and a half batches, and lined a large sided cookie tray with baking parchment and spread out a layer like a 3/4" thick and baked for far less time.  Check with a toothpick and take out as soon as your test comes out moist and barely clean, or you will have a dry cake.  Before the cake is completely cool, roll it up with the parchment still attached and let it cool completely in that shape.

Now you can frost the cake in traditional buttercream, but I prefer ganache.

Chocolate Ganache

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 8 oz. semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely ground in food processor

I think I may have quadrupled this recipe for my giant log.  Heat cream in metal mixing bowl or pot on the stove, watch carefully so it doesn't boil over.  When simmering, add chocolate and lower the heat.  Stir until fully melted in.  There will be tiny pin dots of chocolate but no lumps.  Cover with wax paper and chill for 5-6 hours.  Carefully beat ganache until stiff but not granular (too much air, lumpy with holes)  Frost immediately.  Makes about 3 cups.

Unroll the cake, and frost the inner layer.  Now roll the cake up and remove the parchment as you do so.  cut off one of the ends to make the cut branch or knob of the log.  Using two large spatulas I move the cake to it's serving dish, which may be lined with pieces of cut wax paper that can be removed easily after the cake is frosted.  Attach the knob with frosting, then frost the outside of the cake.  For the log ends I make a quick little buttercream with a little chocolate added.  Remove the was paper or clean up the edges of the plate with a wetted paper towel.

For the mushrooms any shortbread recipe will do, and I make the caps and stems separately, then attach them with melted chocolate.  When finished, I dusted the mushrooms with cocoa powder, and placed them on the cake along with an artificial holly sprig.  Lightly dust the log with powdered sugar for snow, and it's done!  

Because ganache is much nicer soft than hard, keep the cake refrigerated but bring it out a few hours before serving. 

Happy Holidays!

Jody

 www.astudiobythesea.etsy.com

www.astudiobythesea.etsy.com

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No Farm Fresh Veggies Try Hydroponic Varieties

Since hydroponics are not grown in soil the sty fresh in the frig with a little water for a week or more

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