Sunday, July 21, 2013

Stripes and flowers mini cake

I made this mini cake for a birthday. Since it's a six inch cake there wasn't much to decorate so I needed to keep the design simple.

That shouldn't be confused with quick, however.  There are just about a hundred little gumpaste flowers on the top of the cake.  While those were drying, I colored some fondant to cut into strips and attach to the side of the cake.

Then it was just a matter of adding frosting to the top to hold the flowers in place - it's a great, low pressure design since the flowers on top cover all of the stripe edges.  It's no big deal if the strips are different lengths or widths.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Artists Synchroblog: July

The Artists Synchroblog is a group of bloggers who post every other month on the same topic, sharing our experience or perspective. On alternate months we undertake a Pinterest Project where we each take inspiration from a Pinterest picture, create something (art, a meal, a DIY project, etc) and then post about it.  You can read more about the Artists Synchroblog here.

The July topic for the Artists Synchroblog is "Morning Bird/Night Owl".  I'm definitely a morning person. I love to get up and get a ton of things done around the house or at the jewelry bench before anyone else is even awake if I can.  I used to think this was because I liked to check things off of my to-do list....and that's true enough.  But if I'm being honest, it goes a little bit deeper (and uglier) than that.  I love to think that I've finished a million things and nobody else is even awake.  As in, I'm SO FAR ahead of everyone else and it's only 6:30 am!

This drive to get up and get going is much worse on the weekends than during the work week.  On weekends there is more flexibility in my schedule and I can stay at the jewelry bench for hours if I want to, and I love having that time to be creative while everything else is so still. If I have a lot churning through my head it's not uncommon for me to get up at 3 or 3:30 on the weekends...I just wake up and want to get started.

The downside to being such an extreme morning person is that I'm pretty much not fit for anything in the evenings beyond light cleaning and zoning out in front of the television or the computer.  I get nothing productive done past 8pm...sometimes I don't even remember parts of conversations.  

This weekend, I spent Saturday early morning in the kitchen and Sunday early morning at the jewelry bench. I focused on fold forming with copper and adding a heat patina to the pieces. Here are some of the things that came out of my early morning bench session this weekend:

Lots of earrings.  I'm really partial to the leaves; the color on them is my favorite.

Don't forget to visit the other bloggers involved in the Artists Synchroblog:

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Peanut butter chocolate brownies

These are the best brownies ever.

Brownies with mini peanut butter cups added in, topped with peanut butter ganache.

It's really simple to put together: make the brownies, make the ganache (I used this peanut butter ganache recipe).  Wait for both to cool a bit after they are made and then pour the ganache over the brownies.

I pretty much never make a single batch of anything.  So I poured about half of the mixture into the 8x8 pan and then made the other half in mason jars to be frozen for later.  That's right, I like to stock my freezer with jarcakes containing various desserts. It seems to make people happy.

I made these brownies from scratch but I've also done this with a box mix and they are fantastic either way.

Chocolate Brownies (adapted from
1 cup of salted butter
1 ounce semi sweet chocolate chips
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
Mini peanut butter cups

Melt the chocolate and butter over low heat.  Remove from heat and stir in the sugar, then beat the eggs in one at a time.  Add the vanilla and then the flour.  Pour into a greased pan - I used an 8x8.  Add mini peanut butter cups to the mixture after it's already in the pan and don't worry about them being incorporated into the batter...they will settle as they bake.

Bake at 325 degrees and start checking them about 45 to 50 minutes (I bake them slow and low because they are thick; if you use a bigger pan you can bake at 350 and start checking them at about 25 minutes). They are done when a toothpick inserted about an inch from the edge comes out clean.  This gives nice dense edge pieces and really moist-falling-apart center pieces.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Sizing a ring with a gemstone setting

It's hard for me to justify keeping a lot of rings in stock because even if someone loves a ring on sight, it has to fit or the magic is broken. The customer walks away ringless. There are always custom order possibilities but that can lead to more supply orders and I'm still left with that original ring in my inventory.  Looking at me.

I've started making my rings on the smaller side because they are generally easier to size up than down.  Most of the time I can stretch out a band without a stone setting by using hammers. No cutting, no repeat trip through the soldering process.  I don't have one of those ring sizing stretcher things because every time I look at one I gasp at the price.

But recently I needed to add a little bit of room to a ring with a rainbow topaz setting (remember?  Rainbow topaz??) and it can be a problem to stretch the band without loosening the setting.

Enter this amazing little contraption: a "Stone Set Ring Enlarger with Roller Set" (I think they could have come up with a better name, but I guess they were going for descriptive).  It works like a mini rolling mill turned on its side and comes with interchangeable rollers to fit different sized shanks.  I was a little bit nervous because I wasn't sure the rollers would work with the really wide shank on the ring I needed to size but it wasn't a problem - I just used it without any of those inserts.  I got it from Rio Grande for $49. 

(No, this isn't some sort of sponsored advertisement...Rio Grande only knows me as a number.)
I love it.  It worked perfectly and in a couple of minutes I had sized the ring up about a half size. I had to add a little bit of texture back into the shank because the roller flattened that part out but it was quick work.  Then I checked the setting and did a little bit of burnishing just to be extra sure everything was still in place...I can't even say that was really necessary. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Short lampworking session

Today Ben and I spent some time working on lampwork beads. I didn't have any clear direction about what to work on so I asked Ben to pick out some colors while I cleaned the glass rods.  He chose a filigree rod - a thin pink rod inside a clear one - and I helped him make his own bead to get started.  

I'm still thinking about what I want to work on and made a couple of testers, but his bead turned out great...a clear bead with what look like ribbons of pink twisting through it.