Saturday, 25 November 2017

Gluten Free Christmas Cake For One

Having to go gluten free hasn't helped my waistline at all, because most gluten free products are full of either sugar or fat to help them taste better. So recently, I stocked up on coconut and almond flour and leaned more towards the Paleo diet. So far, 23 pounds and counting! I'm trying to do it more as a lifestyle change than a diet, so I can stick to it forever, have the occasional treat and not be constantly craving.
And speaking of craving...I was picking up some nuts at the Bulk Barn yesterday and chatted for a few minutes with a lady buying candied fruit for baking Christmas cakes. I never like Christmas cakes much before I couldn't have them, but watching her scoop her fruit, that's all I could think of! So, of course, I bought a small container of mixed candied fruit, having no idea what I could do with them. And with no intention of making a whole cake of any kind, because I have no willpower and would eat the whole thing in two days.
Yay Google! I found a recipe for a vanilla mug cake on Luckily, I had everything needed, including stevia for sweetener. My mother would have been proud of me, because usually I substitute something, if not several somethings, when I make a recipe. So I mixed it all together, let it rest for a minute until it thickened a little and then mixed in a scoop of candied fruit. It took all of 1 minute in the microwave. Oh, dear Heaven, it was good! Originally 352 calories, I don't know how many I added with candied fruit, but it was worth every decadent bite.
Here's the ingredients but you should visit for complete instructions. And by the way, I used vanilla.

  • 1 tbsp Coconut oil (measured solid, then melted)
  • 3 tbsp Unsweetened almond milk (or any milk of choice)
  • 1 medium Vanilla bean (seeds scraped) - or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, see notes*
  • 3 tbsp Almond flour
  • 1 tbsp Coconut flour
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Erythritol (or any sweetener of choice)
  • 1/2 tsp Gluten-free baking powder
  • 1 pinch Sea salt
  • 1 large Egg
  • Friday, 10 November 2017

    It Was A Good Idea But...

    Three days it took me to finish this thing and the best I can say is that I learned a lot. I tried engraving with ferric nitrate, after finally getting some from Lacy Tools in Vancouver.
    Two engraving lessons for me: 1) use a better resist than a permanent marker and 2) leave it in overnight to get a good definition.
    I thought copper would be the best background for a gorgeous piece of tiger eye that's been sitting around for a year. Note to self: use silver. I invested in some copper solder but it melts with a silver finish. Put some rusty bolts in the pickle and that gave it a beautiful gold finish which came off when I sanded. Silver is so much easier to work with and even hard silver solder is easier to melt where you want it than the copper paste solder.
    And finally: Quit being in such a hurry and measure better!

    Sunday, 22 October 2017

    Working on Metalsmithing

    I've had a little slice of quartz druzy for over a year (probably over two years!) that I'd haul out and stare at, trying to figure out the best way to mount and showcase it. In my mind, a bezel setting would detract from the lovely flower-like aspect but I didn't know if I had the skill to do anything else.
    It was out being stared at again this week, sitting on a piece of paper on my workbench, and I started to draw settings around it. And thus was born the idea for my most challenging soldering experiment yet.
    The diamond-shaped part of the frame and the inner circle are 16 gauge round wire and were fused together.
    I'm using argentium and like soldering, if you have a good join, you see a flash and the metal fuses easily. You just have to be careful not to move the torch flame back on the wires because you'll move molten metal the wrong direction and leave you with a lump where you don't want it. The crosspieces had to be sanded down in a notch where they met so there wouldn't be one teetering wire sitting on top of another. It was kind of like doing logs for a cabin, with a notch on the top of one wire and a notch on the  bottom of the one crossing.  I used hard solder to attach them to the frame and then hard again to set the circle on top
    of them. In the process, I lost my fear of hard solder. I didn't think my torch was hot enough to melt the solder before it melt the wires. There again, using argentium made a difference and fine silver would have the same properties. You don't need to heat the whole piece to cherry. I just gently heated the whole piece and then concentrated the flame on the join.
    The trickiest part was adding the wires for the prongs. I filed one end into points to fit into the four angles but I'd get three sitting properly and when I'd try to place the fourth, they'd all fall out. Many, many times. I was quite amazed when they all soldered (with easy!) in the correct position. Then I cut them, filed the ends, and filed a little notch near the top of each wire. When they were bent enough that the druzy snapped firmly into place, I gently pushed the prongs over the druzy.
    Because it's argentium, it didn't get firescale during the soldering and only needed two quick baths in my pickle. I had polished it to a beautiful shine and because I can't leave well enough alone, I decided to try out my new liver of sulphur gel to make the druzy really stand out on the pendant. It worked beautifully and I got amazing blues, greens and rusts that were perfect. And then I put a thin coat of Renaissance Wax over it to seal in the colour. Unfortunately, the wax removed all of the good colours and left the pendant looking like it had been left out in the rain for years.  Unfortunately, I had set the druzy before I applied the wax, so now I just have to figure out how to take it back to my original shiny silver, hopefully without having to remove that delicate druzy.

    Sunday, 1 October 2017

    Playing With Copper & Acrylics

    I really have to stop experimenting with stuff and get down to what I really want to do, which is enamelling, metal clay and making bezels. Of course, that is all experimental too, since I have no idea what I'm doing.  Oh well, I'm retired and allowed to play.
    Not sure what lead me to try this, and I'm not even sure what to call it. Maybe it was the box of acrylics I just got for a community school painting class. The lighthouse is a no-brainer; it's 10 minutes down the road and one of my favourite places and favourite inspirations. Maybe it was a photo of an amazing piece someone else did with a two-dimensional look, bears over a landscape or something. It might have been wolves or that might have been another one. And maybe it's because I have a nice piece of balsa wood that I've been eyeing for months and trying to decide what to do with it.
    Anyway, it started with a quick sunset seascape with acrylics on the balsa. And it was VERY quick - I didn't prep the wood and I forgot to use water with the acrylics. Then I traced the outline of the little painting onto a piece of 20 gauge copper. Drew the lighthouse and cut it out with my saw. * It looked okay so I tried to put liver of sulphur on the copper and managed to just turn it into dirty looking copper. Then I had to figure out how to put it together and how to string it. I don't know why I didn't just use the wood as the backing but I decided to use a piece
    of 26 gauge copper, making it a three-layer sandwich.
    Can you tell I don't do a lot of planning? Or measuring, for that matter.
    Actually, the 26 gauge copper folded very nicely over the painting, although it took a fair bit of trimming so the fold wouldn't show in front.
    Riveting was the only option for putting the sandwich together, since trying to solder it would turn the painting into a little piece of charcoal. The way I solder, anyway. I have two hole cutters, one a handheld one which does about an 18 gauge hole and one a workhorse, which does big, bigger and biggest. The workhorse was too big and the handheld was too small to fit my rivets. I felt like Goldilocks.  So I set everything aside for a few days. A few days later, I was in the hardware store for something and being a hardware junkie, I was cruising the shelves and saw the cutest little drills ever. I had no idea if they would fit a Dremel. Which they didn't, by the way, the Dremel chuck is too big for the weensy drill shanks. One of the little drills was exactly the size I needed for my rivets so I wrapped the shank with painters tape and that worked perfectly in the Dremel.  Of course I didn't measure.
    I hate doing anything the same twice, but if I do, here is what I would change:
    I would have a plan.
    I would measure.
    I would make the border of the front copper piece thicker, so less chance of rivets touching top and bottom.
    I would prep the board before painting and use water with my acrylics.
    All the pieces would be cut out at the same time and ready for painting/assembly. And they would actually be rectangular.
    The holes would be cut in advance and then the dimples/eruptions could
    be hammered out.
    Liver of sulphur expires. Even the powdered stuff. I found this out. I would use fresh stuff.
    It's fun having the time to play around and maybe some day I'll actually make something so totally unique and beautiful, people will be begging me for a tutorial. Or maybe I'll just have a room full of things that I don't ever want to repeat.  I don't care, I'm having fun!

    * The jewellers' saw - just a funny anecdote. I use a #2 saw blade on everything and have been using the same blade for a couple of years now, with a fair bit of cutting. I was getting a little vain about my cutting skills. I used it so long that it was losing its edge and the blade was getting dull. So I changed it. And then changed the pieces of the new one. And again. Apparently I'm going to have to hire someone to take the edge off my blades before i use them. The jewellery gods make sure I will never have a swelled head.

    Wednesday, 30 August 2017

    I don't Know What To Call This One

    It's getting cooler at night and my old house stays pretty cool in the heat of the day so I've been inspired to do some making that requires heat.
    The number of times I've ordered round copper blanks lately is annoying because they haven't been in stock at several different companies. My disc cutter doesn't cut them big enough for what I need at the moment and I keep putting off my enamelling lessons because I was too lazy to saw some.  The alternative yesterday was housework so sawing it would be.  I  want to enamel and don't know why I put it off, because I love sawing metal and I'm not bad at it.
    As I was sawing happily and mindlessly, putting a couple of cut blanks in my enamelling drawer I noticed some copper washer rings and my brain shifted out of neutral. I decided to saw out the bust of a Pegasus and, after some deliberation, decided to put it on one of the washer rings. Used my copper solder for the first time. Pickled and burnished. It was pretty but blah. No contrast. So I used some African Gold wax on the ring. That made the head look blah. Have a tiny bottle of silver glitter stuff that's supposed to be mixed with adhesive, resin or polymer clay, so I mixed it with some Diamond Glaze and painted it on. For some reason the Diamond Glaze took all the glitter out of the silver and it ended up looking an ugly matte grey. So I waited for it to partially set and then scraped and sanded it off. Decided to try Liver Of Sulphur. Got out my old bottle and tried to mix some of it with hot water. One lesson of many today - L.O.S. doesn't last 10 or more years, even in a plastic bottle and double freezer-bagged. It's powder! It's supposed to last forever! Anyway, after repeated dunkings it turned the copper a little bronze but not much.
    Thought it might do so I took the pendant back to my desk and tried to sand the high points. It just made it streaky looking so I sanded it all off the horse, left it on the ring. Next thought was to just put some crystalline wax on the whole thing and leave it. Put too thick a coat on, went to visit a friend for an hour and when i came back, the whole pendant was streaked with an ugly sticky finish. Cleaned all of that off and put a fine film over the whole thing, strung it and put it away.
    And then I wonder why I can only get one piece done in a day.

    Sunday, 13 August 2017

    Banged Bangle

    Almost perfected!  I made myself a bangle today. Kind of silly because I rarely wear jewelry and I'll wear it today and probably forget about wearing it most other days. I felt guilty because I should have been out mowing the lawn so I had to do something productive in order to justify being inside instead of doing my chores.  Now that it's finished, I can have a guilt-free nap.

    This bangle was pretty simple to make and started with an 8" piece of copper tubing. I have man-sized wrists and hands, thus the length; anybody else would probably only need 6"

    All you have to do is hammer all your frustrations onto the piece of tubing so that you've got a piece of flat, doubled copper. I was too lazy to sand by hand, so I used the sanding attachment on my Dremel and it made it nice and shiny. Mark the holes for your rivets and Voila! It should have been annealed before bending into a bracelet shape but again, too lazy to do the cleaning up afterwards. Besides, what's the use of having man hands if you aren't strong?

    The change I would make in the next one is to put any decorative rivets closer to the middle because they leave a bit of a shoulder where they are, 1/2" out from the central decoration. A quarter inch would have probably been perfect.

    Tuesday, 1 August 2017

    I Like Craftsy

    Prince Edward Island is where I've called home for the past 13 years and I love it here. Beautiful beaches around every corner, hot summers, normal Canadian winters and complete strangers who actually smile at you in the supermarket.

    These pictures aren't the beaches, they're from my favourite place to take visitors, Sea Cow Head.

    A lighthouse, gorgeous view of the Confederation Bridge and red cliffs, water...who could ask for more. Just make sure you have mosquito spray!

    The only things missing in my world are classes to help me advance my jewellery-making education. Enamelling, metalsmithing, metal clay work...all things that I want to learn and I would like to learn them without spending a fortune on metals that will end up being discarded.  Since I haven't been able to access real live teachers, online is my only option and I have found Craftsy to be about as close to a real teacher as you can get. The only thing missing is the camaraderie of fellow students. Their prices are terrific, especially if you take advantage of their frequent sales and the teachers are wonderful. Over the past few years, I've bought quite a few of the jewellery making classes and love to be able to watch them over and over.

    The latest Craftsy class I bought was Settings For Every Shape, by Robert Dancik. It reminded me of several methods I had forgotten about and showed me the proper way of doing them. And it addicted me to making metal boxes.

    I get a lot of sea glass and get bored with just wire wrapping it, so I try a lot of different settings, some good, some not-so-good. I'll leave it to you to decide.

    This is derived from the Tab Setting lesson. Argentium silver, it has a cut-out in the back to let the light shine through the sea glass, and my inspiration was seaweed cradling the glass.

    These were two of my boxes and like them or not, they're a lot of fun to make. Sea glass, shells, pearls, anything goes. I had originally filled the boxes with concrete and preferred the rustic look but I wasn't using the proper concrete and it all flaked out. So plan B was to try resin. I was too lazy to mix up a batch of 2 part resin so I just used Diamond Glaze.