Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Oy, can't wait for next Monday!

Hello neglected blog, and helloooooo blog readers, if you're still out there!

It's been a bit of a wacky time and I'm trying to keep all my grey matter in my noggin - fairly successfully, thank-you very much. Well, sorta.

On the craft side, it's been fine, although I could be in a more disciplined mode. But business is going alright and I've got a show in Montreal next month, part of the city's Fringe Festival. It's the Fringe Bazaar, organized by our very own Craft Mafia Montréal.

On the taiko (Japanese drumming) front, it's been busy with rehearsals and shows, and our extra-crazy week-end is coming up with hour long shows in the daytime both Saturday and Sunday, and rehearsals on Friday and Saturday evenings until 11pm, with a rather big production to be filmed for television on Sunday evening. Here is the series I'm referring to, which features an episode with our taiko group, Arashi Daiko. I blogged about it awhile ago, here and here.

Seriously, I can't wait for next Monday!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Another Mother's Day...

Mother's Day came and went, the second one without my mom, and I was really ok this time around. Sad, but not guilt-ridden, which is good. We stopped at the cemetary on the way back from Ottawa and saw one of the resident foxes there, looking particularly mangey and thin, digging for worms. Those are times when I wish I had a handy pork chop in my bag. My animal-lover mom would be thrilled to know there are foxes running around the cemetary ☺

I made a photo pendant for my mom's best friend last year, but could somehow not bring myself to make something with it. Seemed like too much of a 'finished product' maybe. I finally got around to completing it a couple months ago but even then, have still been holding onto it, like my usual hoarder of a self.

I sent it to her last week, kind of in time for Mother's Day, and she called me and said she was very happy with it. "I can wear your mom close to my heart." I did my best not to cry.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The week-end

Back to work today, took yesterday off and we took JF's mom out for a Mother's Day Brunch. Had taiko practice last night since we need to work on material for our shows this week-end and next.

We went to Ottawa for the week-end, since I had a craft show on Saturday. That was the saddest turnout I had ever seen for a craft show with actual artisans - it was small, there were only 30 tables showing, but it was a nice variety of stuff, and lovely quality. Their Christmas show apparently does very well, but that's been running for quite a few years now, and this was the first time they decided to try a spring show. Not quite sure what happened. For the number of people who trickled in, I did pretty well, but remember, not a whole lot of people came by. Although it looks pretty realistic, JF is faking here (if I try to fake something like this, I burst out laughing) - no, he didn't actually doze off at the table, but he did go for a little snooze in the car.

Here's most of my jewellery display; still have to work on it, but I'm very happy with the little bulletin board covered in velvet that my pendants are on. Super easy, inexpensive and it has the look I'm looking for - pulled together but not too formal.
So the Ottawa sale was disappointing, but live and learn, right? I met some wonderful artists, learned a bit more about other shows in that area (Ottawa-Hull-Gatineau), and I did get to meet some other Etsy sellers: myjennywren, karinnorstrom, mieldesigns which is always fun!

We also got to see a super taiko show on Sunday, with Ottawa's Otowa Taiko and their guests from Sendai, Japan, Kamo Tsunamura Daiko. Always fun to see our friends from Otowa Taiko perform, and their guests were great! Lots of energy from everyone so we left the concert hall tingly and smiling.

The best part of the week-end was staying with friends, Marc-Yves and Jacinthe, although Jacinthe was actually out of town on business :( We had never met their children, Mathieu and Geneviève who are now almost 6 and 3 years old, and we had so much fun with them.

These kids are so expressive, both verbally and facially, they are a riot! I'm sure they take after their parents, who are funny, down-to-earth people, and ridiculously intelligent to boot.

That was my week-end! Back to work - I have to select some pieces to bring in for a jury panel tomorrow, for a November show. Jewellery sellers are only allotted a small amount of space for the jury's display, so I'll have to make the most of it!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Friday cat blogging... out the door!

Gotta be real quick. Getting ready to leave for Ottawa (2 hour drive), and we have to drop off the baked goods for the cultural centre bazaar first. Here are the pies ready for delivery; I'm afraid they might be a bit sugar and cinnamon heavy, but hey, them's the breaks - I had great helpers (see last post)!

Got all my newly made cards packaged up this morning...

And it's Friday, so that means a little bit of cats... Here's JF when he came home from work yesterday, with his best friend, Ebi LeGros. Don't care what JF says about Ebi loving me too, he really LOOOOOOVES his JF ♥

... AND... I may be lured into that deep dark place they call Facebook. I've resisted for so long and now JF just set up his page last night and was showing me around... sigh. That means I will only get up from the computer to pee...

Off to Ottawa for tomorrow's craft show. Wish me luck!!! Have a great week-end everyone, and I will write upon my (triumphant!) return ☺

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Making and baking

The plan for this week was to get in as much making and baking as possible.

I have a craft show in Ottawa this coming Saturday, and although I have quite a bit of jewellery stock built up, I'd like to have as much on hand as possible. Sold out of sushi pendants, so I made just a small batch yesterday. For some reason I get a little antsy whenever I make these platters and have to get up and walk around every half hour or so.

My card inventory has never gotten back up to what it was prior to the holiday craft shows, so I have to work on more cards today.

There is also the Japanese Canadian Cultural centre bazaar this Saturday, which is their biggest fundraiser of the year; this centre is our second home, and we are there 2, 3 and 4 times a week for taiko practice, taiko classes and other activities. I think this may be the first time in around ten years that JF and I won't be there to help on the day of the bazaar. Guilt. Since my mom passed away almost two years ago now, I decided to take on her role as pie lady - mighty big shoes to fill, but I managed to crank out 6 apple pies last year. My crust is still not as good as hers, and I don't make them often enough to improve!

This year, however, since we're leaving for Ottawa on Friday, which would have been my pie making day, I thought I could try making manju, those little Japanese red bean-filled desserts. And if I ask my friends and fellow taiko players in Arashi Daiko, I knew I'd have the best help around. Well, long story short, the dough for the manju didn't work out - I made the mistake of mixing a quadruple recipe at once and it just didn't take. Invited people over to make the little dessert bundles and the dough just wasn't cooperating. Should've mixed four single recipes. The vein in my temple was getting very 3-dimensional. Below left is what they're supposed to look like, and on the right what they looked like on Monday eve. Who in the world would want to buy these lumpy critters? (click for embarassing detail)

90 minutes into trying everything with that schmucky dough, we nixed that idea, and dashed out to get apples for apple pies. Dragged everyone over to make some stuff to sell at the bazaar, so we had to accomplish something. By then, I was feeling very guilty. Here I am trying not to cry while starting on the pie crusts.

Paring knives and peelers flying, these are my champion apple preppers!

So there are 6 pies in my freezer now, that I will add a few more to today; I'll bake them all on Friday morning and drop them off at the Centre before heading to Ottawa.

All that manju dough sitting in my fridge was nudging me to do something with it though, so last night I thought I'd try something and this is what I came up with, a "new" style of manju with little sakura cut-outs ☺ JF loves them, but then he loves anything I bake!

Still time consuming to make, but at least these don't have to be turned 5 times like the cubes on the grill, I popped these in the oven, and broiled for the last minute to brown.

So I feel a little better that the dough didn't go to waste and we have more of a contribution to the bazaar since we cannot be there to help.

Off to make some cards and do a quality control check on those sushi pendants...

Saturday, May 3, 2008


Here are a couple of happy gnomes a couple blocks away from me, tending to their lawns and minding their own business - whoa... these guys are chained to the trees. Montrealers are generally a decent lot, but I've managed to capture the city's cruel side, a part of the unseen, nasty underbelly that is usually relegated to the downtown core... (photo is clickable)

I pass this yard on every trip to the post office and it cracks me up every Spring when the shackled gnomes are back out. This elderly gentleman takes excellent care of his lawn as you can see by the weedless grass, and he also definitely loves his gnomes. Gnome thieves will have to uproot the trees if they are desperate enough to make off with these fellas.

Hope you're all having a good week-end ☺

Friday, May 2, 2008

You know it's Friday Cat Blogging...

I'm happy to say that Chibi has found her way back to my workspace windowsill.

Before Ebi's arrival last October, Chibi would sit with me at the window of my little workshop and when we were out, we'd always see her in the window when we would return. When Ebi first joined us, the two cats were constantly in territory claim mode. One of the major battles ended when Ebi the brute sprayed the windowsill and the perch I had made for Chibi. She wouldn't go near it again. I cleaned that whole area over and over, trying to lure Chibi back. Washed the towel that was on her perch, but I guess it still carried lingering Ebi fumes. She would promptly hop down every time I put her up on the windowsill.

A couple weeks ago when I washed the windows I also replaced the old perch with a new one, and got a fresh towel to cover it, and lo and behold! Looks like she's back to stay ☺

I have mentioned before that Ebi likes to think he's small and can fit anywhere, balancing on narrow ledges and squeezing into little boxes, or stretching out his wooly cat bed. Here he is on the back of the sofa for the first time, which is a futon and not very thick; he was kind of teetering on this edge the other day and was not amused when I was taking his photo. You can already see his bum starting to slide down a little.

Back to work, with Chibi by my side!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

My favourite tools

I've been wanting to do this for a long time, after first seeing a favourite tools post on Cicada Daydream's blog. So here it is - finally! I spend a lot of time in my workspace and it is thanks to these tools that make my work a little easier, that I can be really productive.

Jewellery making:
Awhile back I wrote about my new Lindstrom pliers that I use when making jewellery. Still loving them, although my favourites are now the fine tipped round-nose and the OHM bent-nose pliers. The grip on these is great.

My indispensable tools when working with paper are definitely my Dahle rotary paper cutter, Olfa craft knife and my trusty bone folder.

1- This rotary cutter is one of the best investments I've made - this isn't the exact model I have but it makes life so much easier when you have large sheets of paper to cut, and large amounts of it! I've been using it steadily for almost three years now and the original blade is still going strong.
2- The little Olfa craft knife is great for cutting smaller pieces and for cutting out shapes from larger pieces of paper; I use these in my craft classes so I've got lots of them!
3- Oh how I love my bone folder! Great for folding cardstock (although I tell craft class students to use the underside of a spoon, or a butter knife handle), but I use it constantly for burnishing paper that is being glued to cards, or applied to clay for pendants (gets any air bubbles out). Also wonderful for making crisp origami folds.

Polymer clay:
My gotta-haves for polymer clay are definitely my pasta roller and an assortment of tools for handling small pieces of clay.

1- My Marcato pasta roller never makes noodles. It's permanently clamped to the edge of my clay work table and conditions all my clay, and rolls it into even sheets for pendants and sushi platters. Although the motorized ones are more pricey, a good quality manual one is around $35 to $50 (my husband says the cranking of the roller sounds like a medieval torture device); if you work with polymer clay on a regular basis, this is your wisest investment.
2- I've got a bunch of small detail tools that I like to use, some from the dollar store like this needle poker thingy, that's great for poking holes or making little indentations in uncured clay.

If you thought the other two tools look remarkably like dental hygienist's tools, it's because they are! And yes, they are sterlized! They're great for placing and positioning tiny pieces of clay, and for scraping off imperfections from cured clay; these tools' edges have blades that clean tartar off your teeth, and since the hygienists change them the minute the blades are less than perfect, they end up sending tons of these tools back for recycling. So I'm sure most dentists will just give them to you for free. I've got a whole set of them - love them!

Not pictured are my assorment of surgical blades for cutting into clay, which I use all the time. I try to mark the top, unsharp side of the blade to avoid cuts, although I forget sometimes!

There you have it - my most indispensable tools of the trade(s)...