Monday, March 29, 2010

Scribbled earrings and an update

A long time ago, I got a scribe to add some design elements to my metal work. Then, like so many other tools and materials, I set it aside and sort of forgot about it for a while. I always find these set-asides and use them eventually, but I am starting to think about keeping a notebook detailing what supplies I order with a column that says THIS IS WHAT YOU WERE PLANNING TO DO WHEN YOU ORDERED IT...the ideas come and go, and it can be pretty frustrating to suddenly remember a project I planned on doing an entire year ago. I guess I should be happy I remembered it at all, but it gives me a weird sense of urgency to get started right away so I don't forget it yet again.

These earrings fall into that category of forgotten projects.

I used a disc cutter with 24 gauge sterling silver sheet for the shapes and used the scribe inside a stencil like this one. I like the scribbling effect of the lines crossing over each other and not filling the circle entirely. I oxidized them to pick up the detail in the scribbling, then sanded them to a matte finish and added the ear wires. I like them!

...And just to provide a follow up: I made this copper cuff a while ago, but sanded down the ends a bit more since I initially posted pictures on this blog. Here is the updated picture:

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Thin mint cupcakes

I despise Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies. There, I said it. People look at me like I have made some politically incorrect announcement when I declare my hatred for them; apparently I am the only one who feels this way. It isn't as though I haven't tried. I have probably eaten hundreds of them over the years, trying to see if I like them NOW. I don't.

So when we got our GS cookie shipment from my niece, I stacked them in piles (yes, we had enough boxes to make piles) of Thin Mints and Not Thin Mints. Good and Bad. Why do I order them if I hate them? Everyone else in the house loves them. Even so, every time I see them, I am generally disgusted. So I started thinking about how I could get rid of them as quickly as possible. I put a couple of boxes in the basement freezer. The bulk of what was left went into this recipe for Thin Mint cupcakes.

I decided to take these to work, so I made a double batch of the batter. I used my soda replacement recipe for the cupcakes, then added the cookies:

Thin Mint Cupcakes
Two boxes of Devil's Food cake mix
24 ounces of Diet Rite soda
Two sleeves of Thin Mints, crushed.
Mix all of the ingredients well and bake as directed on the cake mix box.

The cream cheese frosting has just a bit of peppermint extract in place of the vanilla extract to carry that mint flavor through the whole cupcake. I tinted the frosting green and put a sign out in front of the cupcakes to warn people that they were a non-mint person, I would feel like someone slapped me if I took a bite of what I thought was a chocolate cupcake and found out mint was involved.

Mint Cream Cheese Frosting
1 stick of butter
6 oz cream cheese
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of peppermint extract
4.5 cups powdered sugar
Mix the butter, cream cheese, and extracts together, then add the powdered sugar a little bit at a time until well blended.

I was able to burn another sleeve of the cookies by breaking them up and adding pieces to the top of the cupcakes. They were very well received at work and I was able to unload almost all 36 by the end of the day, so I think they were good to people who like that flavor....I tried a little bit of the cake and it tasted horrible to me. Just like a Thin Mint.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Amethyst pendant

This was new for me. Setting a stone in sterling silver isn't, but I was borderline terrified to work with a more expensive stone (ok, it isn't like it was tons of money, but more than what I usually pay). I hadn't ever set a faceted stone--only cabachons, so I had to do some research before I got started.

My little (much taller) sister had her first child in February. Her birthday is this month, and I decided I wanted to do a pendant for her with the baby's birthstone. (I'm sure this will MORE than make up for that whole going through childbirth thing!)

About a week before the amethyst arrived, I received the most recent Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine with an article that had some good pictures and explanations of a project setting a faceted stone, so I referred back to that often while I planned and worked on this pendant.

I really wanted a solid, durable setting that almost looked like a tube setting--just not "dainty". I didn't know that the cutlet (pointed tip) of a faceted stone should not touch the backplate (it makes sense, but I would have never even thought about it), so I soldered 12 gauge sterling wire to give the amethyst a seat inside of the bezel. That seemed to do the trick, so hopefully it will hold up the way I intended.

Here are the materials, mid-project:

I spent way too much time trying to figure out what to do for the bail, but finally decided on some sterling sheet and added it to the top. Then I sanded (and sanded, and sanded) and polished the setting. It's an 8mm stone, so the entire pendant isn't very big. Getting into all of those little places to clean up the setting can be tedious, but it's important. After the hand polishing, I popped it in the tumbler for 24 hours. I like using the tumbler for the final polish for a couple of reasons--it helps to do that final clean up, but it also work hardens the metal that gets softened via heating during soldering, and it helps me to be sure that all of the soldering points really "took". Once in a while, I will find the bail separated from the pendant when I remove the piece from the tumbler...not a huge problem, just a quick solder job, but I'm always grateful to find it there and not have it fall apart when someone is wearing it!

I am truly excited about the way this turned out and I hope my sister loves it as much as I do. I have a few more of the faceted stones--another amethyst and some lemon quartz--and have been thinking about what to do with them.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Rainbow cupcakes

I saw these on another blog a long time ago and fell in love--is there really anything better than a cupcake with a surprise inside? Especially when it is super simple to make? Since St. Patrick's Day is next week, we thought it was time to give these a shot.

To begin, I used the recipe I got from fellow weight watcher members for cake: a boxed white cake mix (wait for the gasp from Sara) and substituted all of the oil, eggs, etc, with 12 ounces of diet lemon lime soda (another gasp). I didn't do this for calories or fat reduction so family really prefers the soda mix to the traditional method because it makes the cake so moist.

I separated the batter into several bowls and colored it, then spooned it into the cupcake liners, one color at a time. The important thing here is not to stir the colors in...just lay them on top of each other. (Note for future use: I wish I had considered the layers a bit more carefully and put them in true rainbow, ROY-green-BIV or something? I think I would have liked the end result even more that way.)

Then I baked and frosted them as usual (vanilla buttercream tinted a lemon yellow color). Pretty cool for very little effort!

...and a side note: I generally use a 1M tip in a piping bag to decorate my cupcakes because it looks nice and takes no time to do. I had read recently that some people prefer the 2D tip because it looks like a rose on top of the cupcake. I gave that a try this time around. It does kind of look rose-y, and looks good from the top, but it's kind of....flat from the side. I prefer the 1M.

Here is the 2D outcome:

I have been working on a jewelry project that I hope to post soon, but it is a gift and will have to wait until it's completely done (almost, I swear!) and sent off. It is completely different for me, so I have been a bit nervous about it and I keep checking project books and magazines to make sure I am not screwing it up. So far, I am really happy with it. I need to do the final sand and polish and hope to send it out in the mail on Monday.