The Eye of the Storm: A Short Update

Hello, all! Just popping in real quick.
I had a TON of fun at the Pinterest party / Craft Social this weekend. Made some new friends, ate some good food, learned a new craft, and taught my first group tutorial! It took WAY longer than I expected it to, though, omg. I learned a lot about that as well. I really enjoyed doing it though! I was happy to find that I had virtually no nerves about it so it was just totally enjoyable.

Now that the craziness of the party is over, I’m free to look at the looming deadline.
But wait, you ask, I thought you were going to the Faire yesterday. Well, we WERE. And then we changed our minds. We decided to go full-on vacation. We bought a tent and we’re going to camp out Friday and Saturday nights near the Faire, and attend both days! Which of course means two costumes! I only needed to add a few pieces to the queue. :) I’m definitely going to make it, no problems. I’ll have an update about the costumes soon.

Hey, it’s almost August! And that means a LISTING DAY! I’ve been sooo incredibly busy that I haven’t been able to make a *whole* lot of new items, but I do have a chainmaille bracelet ready to go, and I’ve got a gorgeous pair of wire-wrapped ombre earrings on the way as well. I still need to take photos, so I’m not entirely sure that I’ll have the new listings up on the first, but my goal is to have them up by Friday.
Speaking of Listing Days, I’d like to let you know in advance that September’s listings are going to be super fun – HALLOWEEN! I’ve got an ambitious list of things to make for it and I hope you like them all. If you’ve got a request or suggestion – I’d love to hear them!

Another little tidbit of Etsy news: amid all this costuming frenzy, I’ve learned a few new techniques and I’m hoping to bring those new things to the shop. So keep your eyes peeled!

Okay, I’m out of here. I’ve gotta start cutting and basting a double-layered skirt!

Wire-wrapping Pearls

Why hello there, all. Tomorrow afternoon, I’m acting as, well I suppose as a hostess, of  a special event for our FRG (military family organization). Our leader had the brilliant idea of a “Pinterest Party” and I must say I love it. We’re doing 3 crafty tutorials, and bringing yummy appetizers, and there’ll be decorations of course – like a real life Pinterest! I’m super excited and honored to share my wire-wrapping technique with the other women in the company.

I’m also excited and honored to share it with you! I’m posting this here as a reference for the FRG, and as a full tutorial for everybody else. If you’d like to know more about my appetizer, please check out my Dornish Peppers post from yesterday.

But let’s get on with this. What is it that we’re making today?

These are my Smoky Charcoal Wire-Wrapped Double Glass Pearl earrings, currently for sale on my Etsy shop. You can, if you wish, purchase this pair, or commission a pair in any of the colors I can acquire. (Of course, I’d love it if you did either one.)

But today, I’m going to take you inside my studio and show you how to make them!

You will need:

- four glass pearls. These are 12 mm or just less than half an inch.
– about 36 inches of wire, cut into 4 pieces of about 9 inches. I like 26 gauge for this size of pearl.
– two earwires
– at least one pair of needlenose pliers, preferably two, and at least one that can snip the wire

Take one pearl and one piece of wire. Bend one end of the wire, at a right angle, about an inch or so in. I use the tip of my index finger and usually get about 3/4 of an inch.

Slide the pearl on to the wire, with one end butting up to the angle you just made.

Now, working with the long piece of wire, use your thumbs to carefully bend the wire, fitting it as close as you can to the curve of the pearl.

Make a loop-de-loop at about the widest part of the pearl, being careful to keep the wire tight and close to the pearl.
This is what your loop might look like.

Now the part of the wire that you’re working with is near the short angled end. Stand that short bit up and bend the long end around it, as close as possible to the hole, so that the wire is about 2/3 of the way around the pearl. Bend the short part back down to hold the pearl in place.

Use the longer part of the wire to make another loop-de-loop down the side of the pearl, meeting up with hole on the other side.

Now for the tricky part. Be very careful here.
You may need to ease the angle on the short end of the wire, to allow the pearl to slide down just a hair.
Very carefully, feed the long end of the wire UNDER the piece of wire coming out of the hole and leading into the first loop you made.

Pull it tightly, making sure that all the wire is still smooth against the pearl without distorting the loops. Bend the long end of the wire around so there are now three angles of about 120 degrees (evenly spaced, that’s all).  This will be the bottom of the wrapped pearl.

Make one final loop-de-loop up the side, ending up back where the short end extends from the hole.

Wrap the working end of the wire partway around the short end, and use the snippy pliers to trim off as much excess as you can. Then take the clipped end and wrap it tightly around the extending part of the wire, using pliers to pull it tightly.

You are done with this pearl for now. Repeat this process with the other three pearls and come back when you’re done.
All ready to go on? Okay, good. Choose two pearls that you want to put together.

Pick up one pearl and a pair of pliers. Bend the extending wire into half of a loop, but don’t close it yet!

Pick up the other pearl, and look at the bottom of it, where the wire makes three angles. Find a good spot where you can wiggle the wire in underneath, and connect the two pearls together. Now close the loop carefully and wrap the remaining bit of wire around, just like before.

Lather, rinse, and repeat: bend the short extending wire into part of a loop, and feed it through the bottom loop on the earwire.
Close the loop, just as before.

Voila! You have a gorgeous earring! Repeat the connecting process again, and you’ll have a matched pair!

Of course this is not the only way to do wire-wrapping, just my current favorite. Do you know of a cool wire-wrapping pattern? Have you been intimidated to try it? I think you should get some beads and wire and try it!

Dornish Peppers

I first made this recipe for my Game of Thrones premiere party back in April. I am now addicted to them and I need an Anonymous meeting for them. So I’m going to get you all addicted to them and then we can have meetings and eat them together. ;)

The original recipe for this came from Inn at the Crossroads, a blog that specializes in Westerosi cuisine. I love them and their mission (they have a cookbook out now!), but I have made some modifications to their original.
I also want to mention that, as a work in progress, I have actually made some more adjustments to this process since the date that I took these pictures. I’ll make note of the changes as I go. I would normally have waited to share this until I was more settled on the recipe, but I’m sharing this recipe at a tutorial event on Saturday and I wanted to have it available if anybody wants to know the recipe.

These are the ingredients you’ll need:

- Peppers. Bell peppers of any color are nice, and I’m a big fan of the “mini bells” that I’ve found at the market this season. Spicy peppers like jalapenos are also good for this!

- Goldfish crackers. Other cheesy crackers will work as well.
– Onions. I used two small ones this time, but one large will do as well. Adjust to your preference.
– Cheese. Cheddar was my choice this day. I also have used Monterey Jack, Pepper Jack, and Mozzarella. Any of these are nice.
– A block of cream cheese. I never said these were light on fat.
– Spices of your choosing. I always put cumin in. Garlic and red pepper flakes are nice, as are chile powder and just about anything you’d like to add.

There are essentially three parts to this recipe: the filling, the topping, and the peppers themselves. First, let’s prep the peppers so they’re ready when we are. Use a paring knife to remove the stem end of each pepper, and then cut it in half so it can lay flat. Remove all the seeds.  If you’re using spicy peppers and don’t want them to be too hot, make sure you get all of the white membrane inside as well.
If you’re using smaller peppers like jalapenos or mini bells, you can simply cut off the top and scoop out the seeds, leaving the peppers intact. This is my current favorite way to do them, but I also really love the big bells.

Next, let’s create the filling. Chop up your onion(s) into a small dice. Here’s one of the biggest changes I’ve made – put these onions in a skillet with a splash of oil and cook them first. They’ll get soft and transparent, and a little brown around the edges. You can add spices directly to the onions if you like (garlic and red peppers are good here). I feel that the added flavor, not to mention softness, of the cooked onions is way better here. You may skip this step if you choose, as I did on this preparation.

Now you can shred your cheese, if it’s not pre-shredded. There was, at one point, a measurement involved with this, but I just eye it now. When the mountain looks big enough, I’m done. Haha.  You’ll also want your cream cheese softened. If you cooked your onions, all you need to do is put the cream cheese in a bowl and put the onions on top and they’ll soften it right up. If you’re going with raw onions, try popping it in the microwave for a few seconds (withOUT the metal wrapper).

Put your onions and cheeses in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Looking at this photo with a bit more practice, I can say that there are a few too many onions in here and perhaps not enough cheese. You can adjust the ratio to your liking of course. You can also add any spices you’d like at this point. I generally don’t, though, since the onions are already spiced and I’m about to spice the topping.

Pop some cheesy crackers into the bowl of your food processor and crunch them up. You can also just beat them in a plastic bag but that takes too long for me. You can make the topping as crunchy or as fine as you’d like. I prefer it somewhere between the two, with some larger chunks but also a lot of fine-crumb sized pieces. While the crackers are spinning, add the spices. The spice that must flow here, for me, is cumin. Not too much; you don’t want to overwhelm it. Red pepper flakes will add a nice kick, and garlic is never remiss. Paprika and chile powder are also nice, and I bet nutmeg would make a good appearance as well.

Now that you’ve got all the parts, it’s time to assemble! Simply scoop the filling into the peppers. If you’re doing it popper-style with whole peppers, you may want to use a chopstick to press it down into the tip of the pepper.
Then, add the topping. Just sprinkle it on and press it down into the cheesy filling a bit. Or, you can pick up the peppers (the smaller ones) and just dip them in. The original recipe called for an egg wash and some rolling, but I didn’t like that very much.

Pop those babies into the oven! I think I do them at 350F for, oh about 15 minutes? I’ll be honest – I don’t time it. 350 is the default for my oven so I go with that, but then I just kinda keep an eye on them until they get all melty and soft. You can poke and prod them if you’re concerned about pepper texture.
However long it takes them in the oven, when they come out they are full of molten cheese and absolutely delicious. I wasn’t kidding when I said I was addicted. These make a great appetizer, of course, but I’ve also served them as a main course with a side of rice! And don’t worry about making too many. On the rare occasion that they’re not all eaten immediately, just put them in the fridge. Warm them up a bit in the microwave the next day and they are Even Better! (If that’s even possible, that is.)

Have you ever made a “geek recipe”? What was it, and how did it turn out?

Target Summer Beauty Bag

I’m a delinquent. Haha. I received this wayyy back in the beginning of June and am just now getting around to posting it. I’ve been entering lots of sample giveaways lately so if you readers are interested I can try to blog them more.

Apparently this is a regular thing they do over at the Target Style facebook page. My bestie got a spring bag, and we both got a summer bag! I definitely recommend that you “like” them and keep your eyes peeled if you want to score one!

This is the bag that came with it. It’s just my style. I switched it out almost immediately to carry in my purse. It’s a little padded to protect the contents, and a good size – not too big and not too small.

Let me start with my *favorite* part of the bag – a pair of Tresemme Split Remedy samples (shampoo and conditioner). I *really* loved the shampoo – it was nice and thick and foamy and luxurious, just like the kind they use at the salon. I can’t attest to whether it healed my split ends, but I did LOVE this stuff. I already bought a full-size!

Here’s the other shampoo/conditioner – Garnier Fructis Color Shield. I’ve tried and liked Garnier in the past, but I haven’t actually tried this sample yet – I’m waiting until next month when I dye my hair. :)

I’ve had this stuff in my shower for weeks but I feel like I’m still unfamiliar with it. This Aveeno Smart Balance scrub smells nice but … I guess it just doesn’t stand out? I can’t really think of anything else to say about it.

On the other hand, this Neutrogena sunscreen, I have a lot to say about it! I kept it in my crafting box for a week for outdoor crafting excursions. It was smooth and easy to apply and very effective. No burns here! I actually used all of it and threw the bottle out and now I can’t recall the full name of it! (Stupid too-bright photo…)

The last product I got was this sample of Revlon ColorBurt lip gloss. This specific color wasn’t exactly my style (it was a bit too pink for me), but I liked the texture, smell, and even taste of it (it wasn’t waxy like some others). There was about 2 applications in here.

And the best part? COUPONS. Excellent coupons, including this one for 3$ off a Revlon product. They don’t expire until the end of August, and they’re all pretty high value. There were a lot in there, one for each of the products in the bag and several others as well. And best of ALL – Target’s coupon policy lets you pair up one Target coupon and one manufacturer’s coupon on any item you buy. There is one in here for 3$ off 2 Cover Girl products, which I am pairing next time I go shopping with a 2$ off 2 Cover Girl products coupon from the manufacturer (obtained from the P&G BrandSaver) to score a whopping 5$ off.

I’m not being compensated in any way for this post. I’m just sharing my thoughts. Hope you enjoyed them!

Do you like free samples? Do you use coupons? Let’s talk about freebies!

July Birchbox

I didn’t forget about this! I got another of the last-day-of-shipping boxes, and I am pretty satisfied this month. Let’s get right into it!

The standout item this month is probably these awesome headphones. They came at a good time, since my hubby just lost his. Neither of us has tried these yet, but I have every reason to think they’ll be great. If you’re looking for new ones, these are only 10$!

Next up, blinc mascara. I liked the cool outer tube because I can re-use it, but I must register my dislike of extra and unnecessary packaging. In any case, I really liked the product. I have very sparse eyelashes, very short and very light – in other words, barely there. I have had a hard time finding a mascara that didn’t clump and didn’t goop up while still being effective. This stuff worked really well! The black shade is currently sold out on the shop, so I’m not the only one who liked it!

Another scent! I like getting a perfume in each box. It’s nice. This month’s selection – Hello by Harvey Prince –  was right up my alley. Bright and citrusy, very light and not overpowering at all. Long lasting as well – I’ve been wearing it on one wrist for about 2 hours and can still smell it.

Skin products are another of my favorites. Jouer Luminizing Moisture Tint was the skinstuff this month, and I like it. It’s very subtle. I have a blotchiness to my skin so if I’m bothering to put something on, it’s going to be more than this (I like BB creams), but this might be nice for adding a bit of color on top! It was light and not cakey at all, and I can feel a difference in where I put it versus where I didn’t. It comes in multiple shades to suit different skin tones.

Now for a hair product – Alterna Bamboo UV+ color protection fade-proof fluide. It’s designed to help protect color-treated hair, but can also be used to moisturize and strengthen dry or brittle hair. My hair isn’t colored at the moment, but I am saving it for next month when I am coloring it for the Faire, so maybe I’ll remember to get back to you on that. I put a bit of it on my skin to test the texture and I can tell you it’s light and smooth – not oily at all.

Last but not least, a tin of Minteas in Reboot Cocoa Mate flavor. These are little leaf-shaped mints, made with Fair Trade organic white tea (yay!), yerba mate tea, and cocoa (sure wish that the cocoa was FT). They had an interesting taste. There is a mintiness to them, but it’s mild. The cocoa and tea combined to make an interesting flavor, like hot chocolate made with a tea base. (Might try that sometime.) Overall, I liked them! They come in 3 other varieties and I am interested in trying them.

If you like what you see here, consider signing up for your own Birchbox! It comes once a month, packed with great things. I’ve been receiving them for a few months now; you can check out my reviews right here on my blog.

I’ve been crazybusy for the last few weeks, and I’m sorry I haven’t been posting. I have several posts up that I just HAVE to post this week (they’re on a deadline) so hang tight!

Have you tried any new products lately? What’s your favorite beauty product?

A Hasty Photoshoot

As you may know, I’ve been busy with a lot of projects the past few weeks. So busy that I had to halt all of my online activity to make time for them. The biggest of these projects is a personal project – costumes for the upcoming Renaissance Faire! We’ve always loved these and have even done costumes before. We decided to really go all out this year though, with full new costumes for all three of us. I’ve been working my tail off, making all three costumes by hand!

Before I share these photos, I have some caveats: 1) it was late at night, 2) it was swelteringly hot, 3) we both felt ridiculous, 4) these photos were taken with a Blackberry. So, not the best camera or photo conditions, and not the best time or mood for taking flattering photos. In other words, we both look less than our best.

This is the bottom layer of my costume. It’s a simple square-necked muslin shift. I actually really like this pattern and the shape of the dress. Might make some similar things for actual everyday wear. This is the typical undergarment that every woman from the 15th century (or thereabouts) would wear. It wasn’t really intended to be seen, but mine will be. The neckline is a bit too wide for me, but that’s okay in this instance. I am thinking of adding some embroidery along the neckline. Blackwork would be a nice nod to Catherine of Aragon, but I’m thinking I’ll do a white-on-white border design. I am wearing some yoga pants underneath because I didn’t feel like taking them off. I have a somewhat tighter pair that I’m planning to actually wear to the faire, for comfort.

And here is the top layer! The corset is the only thing not made by me (well, except the parts of hubby’s costume that he’s made himself). We bought it a few years ago at, you guessed it, a Ren Fest. (Our favorite one, in fact.) It dictated the color of my costume; otherwise I would not have chosen a red skirt. (Red dye was too expensive for ordinary people back in the day, and also I don’t care for how I look in red.) (My corset actually is reversible but the other side is a very dark blue that looks black and that didn’t really work for me either.) If I look a bit uncomfortable, it’s because the bottom of my corset is laced too tightly, and the top is not laced tightly enough. Hey, we were not going for perfection for these photos.
The skirt is a wraparound skirt and it overlaps on the left side there by my hand. I’m planning to conceal a pouch or two in there. I don’t really have a “character” exactly, but as I’ve worked, I’ve imagined my clothing as belonging to a sort of secretly-badass innkeeper, with a knife under her skirts and taking no shit from nobody. Yeah, basically a medieval River Song because that’s how I roll. Oh and for shoes, I bought some nice grey flats from Target. They rock.

Remaining items to be made: a pouch or two, for carrying things. Possibly a wrist bracer. Decorative items like necklace and earrings. Hairpiece. I’m also thinking of making a fabric vest-like thing to wear as a substitute for the corset if I get tired later in the day.

Now for the boy! This is part one, and it’ll actually probably be a part of most of his future costumes. Yay for multitasking. I am absolutely in love with the shirt. I spent days and days on it, and I am SUPER proud of it. The blue details turned out better than I imagined. There are silver buttons at the cuffs and top of the placket, but you can’t see them here. The pants are also handmade although in the end we probably could’ve gotten some karate pants and been fine, haha.

Armor! This sword-arm construction is actually two pieces – a shoulder piece and a wrist/forearm piece. They are both made of faux leather and are custom-fit to his arm (his upper arm is several inches shorter than the pattern, for some reason). It’s backed with a feltlike stuff and is pretty dang comfortable. I’m wearing it right now actually because I got curious as to whether it’d fit me. Both pieces can be worn separately and can go on the left arm as well (but you’d need a squire to help fasten the shoulder piece since the buckles would be in the back). The wrist part took only a few hours total, but the shoulder took longer than I expected. I really enjoyed making these and I’m hoping to actually make some to put up in my Etsy shop. If you’re interested, let me know!
There is also a chainmail shirt in the works that’ll go on just under these pieces (so the buckles are on top). I started it and taught him how, and Jonathan’s been working on it steadily in his spare time for weeks. We bought all the rings from Etsy for convenience and improvised the shape, and it looks great. I’ll share a photo when it’s done.

Here are the finishing touches. The sword, well, it’s not really part of the costume. It’s a Sting (we are nothing if not nerdy) that he decided to use as a photo prop. We are hoping to purchase a proper longsword this year!
The shield has an interesting story. It began life as a metal-mesh tabletop fruit basket at Pier One. At some point, lacking a surface to set it on, we hung it on the wall and noticed that it resembled old shield displays. After months of that thought rattling around, we finally decided to try weaving some suede lacing through it. This idea yielded the final result you see here. I love the serpentine pattern of the metal and the black leather. The top section is marine vinyl with a leathery look. We ran out of suede lacing, and that stuff is expensive. I really like the finished product, with the scalloped edge. The silver accents on the top are fleurs-de-lis, originating from our heraldic arms.
There is an open-sided tunic that is about half-done, sitting on our bookshelves. It’s the same deep blue as the accents on the shirt, and I have embroidered a water bouget (another piece from our heraldry) to applique onto it. However, I improvised the shape of the tunic and I am very unhappy with how it has turned out. I’m hoping to salvage it, since the fabric was NOT cheap…

Still to do for him: not much actually. There may be a hat forthcoming, and of course the tunic if I can manage it.

Did I say three costumes? Oh yes I did. There’s also an adorable pink satin dress for our daughter, which she’ll wear over some pink pants with her (purchased the same year as the corset) fairy wings. No pictures of her since, as I mentioned, it was late. I still need to make a hairpiece for her, and possibly a necklace or some other sparkly jewelry.

I’m pretty proud of these things, and I hope you like them too. I also hope you haven’t given up on my blog. I’m still here! I’m just sooo busy. With only accessories left to make, though, I might have a bit more time to spend here! Don’t go too far!

Do you like Renaissance Faires or festivals? Do you like costumes? Let’s talk about nerdy fun!

Birthday!

I’m still busy as hell and haven’t had any time to do ANY thing online, but I just had to pop in today to share this.

It’s my Missy! And she’s FOUR today! Where did the time go. This photo is from last week, lol. Yesterday we “officially” celebrated her birthday by taking her to Carousel Center in Syracuse. She rode the carousel two times and we took her to her very first movie in a theater. We saw the new Ice Age and really liked it. I’m a big fan of Peter Dinklage, so I really loved Captain Gutt. Granny was hilarious. We saw some great trailers, including one for The Hobbit (dear god is it December yet).

She insisted on Baa-Bo Head cupcakes (that’s what she calls Hello Kitty, don’t ask), and I am munching on one as I type this. :) I’ll share a picture of them when I can.

I have a lot of great posts that I want to make and share with you. In the next week or two (before the 28th at least), I have two posts that I WILL share because I need them to be up by that date. Haha. One is a recipe and one is a jewelry tutorial.

Most of my busy-ness has been a mad rush of making costumes for our trip to the Renaissance Faire. Not sure why we waited until so close to it to decide to do costumes. Lol. We are going to that on the 29th, so that’s my deadline. I’m gonna make it. All the clothes except hubby’s pants are done, and the pants are pretty close to done. I’ve got a big list of accessories to make but they’re moving along nicely. The best part of those so far is definitely the faux leather shoulder scale armor – it looks amazing. I’m definitely going to make more and put them in my Etsy shop.

I’m trying not to be stressed about my SEO writing gig. I’m not succeeding. I’m enjoying it, it’s just that I have SO MUCH to do this month.

Hope you’re all having a good day. Help me celebrate my Missy’s birthday by using the code SHELLS to receive 15% off in my Etsy shop! This offer will end tonight, so don’t wait!

Things I Have Made Lately

- Medieval-style men’s shirt from oatmeal-colored cotton gauze with contrast dark blue suiting fabric at cuffs and placket and silvery buttons
– 16th century women’s shift from muslin
– red wrap skirt, floor length
– custom-made canopy for wagon with organdy ribbon ties
– a chainmaille bracelet
– “fairy ring” made from brass ring and an assortment of ribbons

Currently in Progress
– black men’s pants
– pink “princess dress” from satiny fabric, backed with cotton

In the Hopper
– scalemail shoulder armor
– matching bracer (s)
– an assortment of bags and pouches
– various other accessory items

 

oh god so busy

(I sew by hand, remember. That’s a crucial point here.)

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