Monday, November 23, 2009

metal clay 101

What an amazing and empowering experience it is to attempt something totally new, outside of your realm... and make it happen!
Yesterday I attended my first-ever metal clay class.
Creating a piece of 99.9% pure silver jewelry was an amazing journey, something I have been wanting to try for so long. Now that I've tried it, I want to master it.
There is no way to learn this from a book as far as I'm concerned, and I'm glad and fortunate that a class was scheduled in my area. So many thanks to our instructor, brilliantly creative Art Clay guru Robert Reckers of Salt Creek Pottery in Elmhurst, Illinois, and to Amy Irwin of Imagine on Main in Oswego, Illinois, for making this opportunity a reality.
Above is my finished take-home piece, the Lonesome Road's maiden voyage on the metal clay highway... it won't be the first ride.
This morning, as I adorned myself with my new little silver friend, I remembered the excitement of the others in my class as our creations emerged from firing, scrubbed to a silvery shine by the wire brush, then emerging gleaming from the tumbler. (Okay, the liver of sulfur stunk up the place, but every cloud has a silver lining, pardon the pun.)
I'll just bet that I wasn't the only one proudly sporting a lovely new piece of jewelry today, handcrafted with excitement and wonder; a testament to personal growth and the love of learning.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

lucinda williams in concert at chicago's park west

What an opportunity! On October 14th I saw Lucinda Williams live in concert at the Park West in Chicago. All the elements were there for a great night: one of my favorite performers plus a fantastic, intimate venue... it was a fabulous evening! This show was the second in a three night series covering three different eras of Lucinda's music; "Sweet Old World" (1992), "Car Wheels On A Gravel Road (1998), and "Essence" (2001) were featured in this set, with bits of other albums (and some of Lucinda's own eclectic favorites) mixed in.

Park West is located in the area of Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, and I can say that I had never been to a venue quite like this. Hubby and I were in the front in the "dance" section... mere feet away from the stage. Like five or six feet.

(Sorry that I haven't posted actual photos of the concert... I overhead a cocktail waitress tell someone that Park West was unappreciative of flashes on cameras and I became a bit paranoid. I did take a little film footage, but nothing to get excited about. So, you get a photo of my t-shirt with lyrics from one of my favorite Lucinda Williams songs, "Joy" from "Car Wheels On A Gravel Road.")

The first thing that struck me as she walked onstage in her low-key way, was how petite Lucinda Williams is. Her overall stage presence is at once powerful but subdued and reserved, almost shy and humble. Dressed in slim black pants tucked into some rockin' black leather boots, with a pink and black leopard print bustier peeking out from her short black jacket, she looked as gorgeous as her voice sounded. The venue and show format was ballad-friendly and she seemed pleased to perform songs that aren't typically part of the show set at larger venues. But when she rocked, she rocked! Lucinda is touring with the band Buick 6, and they were powerful, riveting and funky!

Hearing all of my favorite Lucinda Williams music performed was incredible enough, but to hear her perform Jimi Hendrix's "Sweet Angel" accompanied only by her guitar was also amazing. To my husband's "joy" and hilarity, the show ended with what Lucinda called one of her favorite rock songs: ACDC's "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock n' Roll). The hilarity lies in the painful fact that one of my favorite performers was covering a song by a band that is in my top ten most-hated bands of all time, LOL. Irony is such a weird thing sometimes. *shakes head.*

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

october is national adopt a shelter dog month

Just look at that sweet face and pretty smile! This is our own pound puppy Jane, whom we adopted from a rescue group nearly one year ago. I can't imagine this beautiful, loving creature coming so close to being euthanized just because she was found wandering the streets and no one came to claim her. Fortunately I saw her while designing an advertisement for PAWS to the Rescue and something just clicked; you can see another photo of Jane in the "Success Stories" section of the PAWS site, the photo that I first saw of the precious furbaby with the sad eyes about halfway down the page.
Jane has a wonderful home with us now; a nice big yard in which to run around, a cat friend named Chong (okay, NOT - but he's come a long way since the day we brought Jane home and he tried to scratch off her face with tiny fists of feline fury), and lots of doggie treats, grilled beef bones, and love. This girl adores lots of blankets and ... patchouli. Seriously, she wanted to eat a bar of patchouli soap out of my hand and is obsessed with my socks when I first put them on (because they've been in the drawer with that patchouli soap).
This brings me to the real reason for this blog post: October is National Adopt A Shelter Dog Month. Please join the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in getting out the word about this special event - now and all year long. The sagging economy has made the need for pet adoption even more crucial; one of our area veterinarians frequently remarks about the number of abandoned pets that have been left at his office, presumably because the owners can no longer afford to keep the animal. If you're considering a new pet, please visit your local animal shelter, animal control facility, or contact a breed rescue group. You will be rewarded with the love of a lifetime and will make the world a little better for both yourself and animals in need.
For more ways to help animals, check out the information on the Team EFA - Artists Helping Animals Etsy team site (of which Lonesome Road Studio is a member!)

Monday, October 19, 2009

my first "art show"

Last November I was invited to take part in a holiday bazaar at a local, independently-owned coffee shop, selling at an indoor Christmas farmers' market. Up until that point I had only sold my jewelry and artwork online and by consignment at an area boutique/gallery, so the idea of selling in-person was at once exciting... and a little frightening. Looking back on it, my set-up wasn't all that great and I didn't have nearly the stock that I do now. Still, I gave it a shot and was glad that I did. I loved receiving feedback from shoppers, seeing the expressions on their faces when they found the perfect pair of earrings for a gift, and discussing a custom order with another. I even learned a bit about avocados from one buyer!
My next step was to sell at the artist and artisan days the following summer at the same local farmers' market; the price was right and it is a well-known venue in the area. I definitely learned what to do/not to do and I'm working on making the necessary "improvements" like purchasing side walls for my tent and accepting credit card purchases. Likewise, I learned the obvious truth that selling during citywide festivals is a lot more lucrative than on "ordinary" Saturday mornings and I intend to adjust my schedule accordingly next year.
What's next? An actual "art show" - not a market or fair or bazaar. I think that the atmosphere will be different and I'm not quite sure what to expect, which again makes it exciting and frightening, LOL. I'll kind of miss the Italian ice guy, the jelly seller with the incredible pomegranate jelly, and the fragrance of the fresh herbs a few booths away. However, I absolutely look forward to reaching a new group of people, even if they're only lookers (well of course buyers would be better but I'm interested in hearing comments in an "art show atmosphere"). The show is less than a month away (November 14th) and there is much to do, but I'm feeling up to the task and I'm ready to inch a bit further outside of the box.

Friday, October 9, 2009

learning and growing

At long last, I have signed up to do something that I've been wanting to attempt for so long... I will be taking a precious metal clay class in November! I felt that working with precious metal clay was not something to casually research on the internet, or just buy a book and hope to catch on; I really wanted to take a hands-on approach and learn the right way, the first time. So in addition to creating more unique goodies in a different medium, I feel that this will give me even more control over my creativity and my business.
On an unrelated (but sort of related) note... this weekend I will be attempting origami for the first time! As part of a drive to send healing wishes via a 1,000 Cranes project, I will be attempting to create an origami crane of my own (yikes) to send to a woman with brain cancer. What a beautiful, communal way to express wishes of hope and recovery. Check out "The Adventures of BaldyLocks" for more details!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

back to the drawing board

A while back I published a post about the importance of branding and mentioned some resources for accomplishing this daunting task.

Being vaguely unsatisfied with my own branding and wanting to create a more cohesive presence both online and in "the real world," I finally took the plunge and took a hard look at what I was doing. For example, I'm sure that many recognize my avatar from many sites, but in the back of my mind I've always been concerned that the public might think that I create and sell cowboy hats. Or western wear. (Actually the image is my illustration of a Caribbean mermaid called Lasiren.) As much as I liked the red-haired mermaid cowgirl, she really needed to be replaced with a more relevant image. So it's back to the drawing board at Lonesome Road Studio.

The graphic design process in branding is much like getting a tattoo. So many intriguing images and ideas but with the nagging question "Will I want to live with this for the rest of my life?" After much consideration and research, I have decided on a new image, one that best reflects my goals and... what I actually do. In addition to creating a more distinctive and focused image, I wanted it to be unique (of course) and not over-used or trendy. Hopefully I've achieved all of these things and even more hopefully (LOL) I will unveil the new Lonesome Road Studio soon. Keep watching for more news!

Drop me a line at if you'd like to receive a FREE zine/holiday happenings newsletter dishing the latest about Lonesome Road Studio... coming to email inboxes in late October!

Friday, October 2, 2009

sunday dinner redux - love on a plate with a twist 5 - greek-inspired stuffed potatoes

Inspired by traditional Greek flavors, I created these stuffed potatoes just for something new and different.
If you haven't yet tried Greek yogurt - do! Typically made of sheep's milk (but cow's milk varieties exist also) it has a wonderful texture and flavor, and is often slightly higher in protein. The same goes for Kasseri cheese; if you absolutely can't find it in your local stores, then Parmesan will make an acceptable substitute. But do try to find the Kasseri; this is the cheese used in the famous Greek dish saganaki and is also a sheep's milk-based product. It has a pungent aroma and is absolutely delicious.

For two LARGE russet potatoes, bake at 450 degrees fahrenheit (232 celsius) for about an hour or until sides can be squeezed. Twenty minutes before the potatoes are done baking, place one large clove of unpeeled garlic in a small baking dish (like a custard cup or even a small foil pan). Add a small amount of water, cover tightly, and place in the oven to bake along with the potatoes. At the end of the potatoes' baking time, also remove the baked garlic clove from the oven and set aside to cool.

In the meantime, scoop out the insides of the potatoes into a bowl; mash them a bit and squeeze out the soft baked garlic clove from its peel; discard the peel. Mash the garlic in with the potato and add:

1 tablespoon butter

3 teaspoons plain Greek yogurt

3 teaspoons crumbled Feta cheese

4 teaspoons grated Kasseri cheese

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano (or fresh oregano, even better!)

salt and pepper to taste (taste carefully first - the Feta and Kasseri cheeses are salty)

Combine all ingredients and spoon back into the baked potato shells. Top with more grated Kasseri cheese, place back in oven for 15 minutes or so until cheese topping is melted. You may also broil for a moment to brown the cheese topping even more.

These potatoes are delicious with roast lamb or chicken, and also make a hearty vegetarian main dish.

Serves 2.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

welcome october!

The moon is full, the autumn nights grow longer,

In the north forests startled crows cry out.

Still high overhead, the star river stretches,

The Dipper's handle set to southwest.

The cold cricket grieves deep in the chambers,

Of the notes of sweet birds, none remain.

Then one evening gusts of autumn come,

One who sleeps alone thinks fondly on thick quilts

Past loves are a thousand miles farther each day,

Blocked from my drifting and my sinking.

Man's life is not as the grass and trees,

Still the season's changes can stir the heart.


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

old town farmers' market at scarecrow festival 2009

The 23rd Annual Scarecrow Festival was held in Ottawa, IL on Saturday, September 26th, and Lonesome Road Studio was takin' it to the streets at the Artist and Artisan Days during the local farmers' market! The weather was great (after a prediction of storms earlier in the week), the crowds were thronging (is that a word?) and it was generally an awesome fall day!

I introduced my newest addition to my show display, my as-of-yet-unnamed mannequin, with an illustrated face by yours truly and beautiful "Desert Flowers" handspun yarn hair by GregoryRoad. One little girl ran up, pointed and screamed "Hannah Montana!!" Not sure I see the resemblance, but oh well, LOL.

In addition to my terrific customers (and a visit from a repeat customer, my first since doing shows, yay!) I had a great time with other vendors. For the most part, this is a community of artisans who are willing to share information and support each other, and this camaraderie is a valued experience.

Although my canopy has been packed away for the season, Lonesome Road Studio will still be around in full force for the holidays. If you happen to be in the Ottawa, Illinois area on Saturday, December 13th, stop by the Holiday Bazaar and Christmas Farmers Market at Jeremiah Joe's Coffee and meet me in person! And, drop me a line at if you'd like to receive a FREE zine/holiday happenings newsletter dishing the latest about Lonesome Road Studio... coming to email inboxes in late October!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

sessions at east 21st - artisan talk with hendricks' hearth

(Above, Hendricks' Hearth cold process bath soaps. Top to bottom: Vanilla & Sandalwood, Tropical Fruit Punch, Earth Blend. At right: Exotic Blend.)

Looking for exceptional spa-quality, natural and organic bath and body products at a great price, combined with top-notch customer service and attention to detail? Look no further than Hendricks' Hearth, owned and operated by Lauren Hendricks. Hendricks' Hearth offers a complete line of fabulous bath and body creations that will delight your senses and keep the world a little greener ... and naturally beautiful. In addition to her luxurious soaps, Lauren's bountiful shop features lotions, creams, butters, sugar scrubs, hair and lip care products, fragrances, bath salts and teas, vegan deodorants and even a variety of unique garden seeds.

I was very honored to interview Lauren for this feature; her talents and interests are numerous, and philanthropic in spirit. Hendricks' Hearth is a member of the Etsy North Georgia Street Team, EFA Artists Helping Animals, and AOE Altruism On Etsy. Lauren also discusses some of her own beloved charitable works in this interview.

So, settle in for a bit and get to know Lauren Hendricks, the amazing artisan behind Hendricks' Hearth!

1. What inspired you to begin creating your organic bath and body products?

Thank you for asking, Angie. I have very fair, sensitive skin and used to go through ten brands of soap before I could find one that I could actually use without suffering ill effects. My husband had to be even more careful than I did and it seemed like we were always battling skin sensitivities. Back then I did not understand the value (or lack thereof) in the ingredients on the label or that I was using skin care products that actually stripped my skin with the use of harsh synthetic detergents and other questionable ingredients. I decided one day that with the right dedication, research, and ingredients that I could make a bar that was much better for our skin than the store-bought variety, and so it began.

2. You have fabulous bath and body shops on both Etsy and Artfire, AND you have currently returned to school to pursue a nursing career. How in the world do you manage to fit everything into one day?

Thank you so much for the kind words! I actually have no idea how I manage my time these days, but somehow it works out. I had wanted to become a registered nurse for a long time (I love helping people and am very interested in the medical field), but I was working at a corporate office that was turning out to be quite a worthwhile position towards an advancing career and before I knew it four years had passed. However, as a result of the economic downturn, the company decided to close the office this year. I could view it in two ways- as a burden or as an opportunity. I chose the latter and enrolled back in school to become a nurse. I am still working full time right now at my office job until the final shutdown at the end of the year, so I am going to classes in the evenings after work until spring, when I will officially be a full-time student again. In my limited free time now, I spend time with my husband, grow and maintain the organic garden and animals, I cook and bake quite a bit, and dabble in fiber arts. Oh, and I craft artisan soap and bath and body items, fill orders, and run my little Etsy shop of course! :o)

3. You are on several Etsy teams, including one which we share in common, EFA Artists Helping Animals. As part of your efforts on behalf of sustainability, tell me a bit more about your connection with Heifer International.

I truly believe that we (as a species), need to do what we can now to provide a sustainable agriculture and a survivable ecosystem for future generations. I love animals of course, but Heifer International is more than that- it offers those without the means to care for themselves and their families a new life through training, accountability and self-reliance, sharing with their community, and the gift of life in the form of donated livestock. Heifer International is geared towards long-term solutions and really does change people’s lives- all through sustainable development with animals. I support them because I believe in their cornerstones and want to do my own small part to make the world a better place, for people and for animals.

4. Hendricks' Hearth is also working to raise money for a Flock of Chicks to help provide nourishing, life-sustaining eggs to those less fortunate. Please tell me about this project.

I am glad to! Quite simply, when someone makes a purchase from Hendricks’ Hearth, 10% of the sale is set aside to donate to Heifer International. Instead of making a general cash donation, I prefer to donate “the gift of life,” wherein a selected family will receive livestock that is chosen for a very specific reason. In this case, they will receive 10-50 chicks to raise for protein-filled eggs to feed their family and to sell their excess at the market to bring in much needed income. One hen can lay over one-hundred and fifty eggs a year, so it can add up to quite a bit in a relatively short amount of time. The family will be provided with the training to raise the animals properly, the equipment to get started, and will be required to donate offspring to another family in their community as well. I am proud to announce that Hendricks’ Hearth recently reached the goal for the purchase of a Flock of Chicks too, so that is great! I have created a donation page through Heifer International so that progress can be tracked by those interested: next goal for Hendricks’ Hearth will be to raise new money to provide the gift of Honeybees, which will help families earn extra income through the sales of pollen, beeswax, and of course honey. Bees are also critical for pollination in many areas affected negatively by chemical spraying and industrialized farming practices.

5. Gardening also seems to be one of your passions (I was just looking at the Organic Heirloom Black Beauty Eggplant Seeds currently for sale in your shop). What grows in your organic garden this year, and do you sometimes use the harvest in your bath and body products?

I really do enjoy gardening immensely. Despite questionable weather such as a late frost at the start of the growing season, I am happy with this year’s crop so far, and it exceeds last year’s, too. So far, I have harvested blueberries, strawberries, radishes, carrots, tomatoes, squash, lettuce, garden beans, eggplants, snow peas, sunflowers, onions, watermelons, and others. My herbs have done very well this year, too- from sweet basil to lavender to rosemary. Unfortunately I did not have any success this year with corn, but the flower beds are lovely and I am looking forward to planting cool weather crops.I love to dry fresh organic garden herbs for my bath and body items and lavender is my personal favorite despite its small yield. It has an absolutely lovely aroma, truly. Even after I work on the lavender beds, I love how the fragrance of the fresh buds and leaves lingers on my fingertips for hours. I currently grow French, Spanish, and English varieties in two different garden beds. If I had the land, I would grow much more of it, too.

6. Do you have a favorite "Hendricks' Hearth Organic Garden" recipe to share?

Sure, a lovely summer and autumn recipe is homemade garden pesto. I use 1 bunch of fresh chopped basil leaves (and you can substitute some fresh parsley and/or fresh spinach for part of the basil if preferred), 2-6 minced garlic cloves to taste, ½ cup chopped fresh oregano, ½ cup toasted pine nuts, ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, ¾ cup olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Blend together until smooth and serve warm over noodles, on bread, sandwiches, omelets, etc. For a vegan-friendly option, substitute 1/3 cup of nutritional yeast for the Parmesan cheese. A lovely, versatile recipe that is absolutely delicious!

7. Which of your many products is your favorite to create?

I absolutely love crafting cold-process soap. I enjoy planning what fragrance I am going to use and what I would like the finished batch to look like, measuring the individual raw ingredients, and even hand-cutting the fresh bars before the cure. I find the whole experience very relaxing and rewarding, even though I’ll be the first to admit that not every batch turns out just as I imagined it, but that is part of the fun sometimes.

8. (*groan*) If you were stranded on a desert island, which three of your fragrances would you want to take along? (You know that I would say "the Exotic Blend!")

Wow, that is a tough one! I love sampling fragrances and trying out new blended combinations, so this would be a very difficult decision. First, I would need a refreshing, clean fragrance so I think one of my choices would be Water Blend, which is a combination of Spearmint, Eucalyptus, Peppermint, and Ginger essential oils. I would have to take a vanilla, so I would probably go with Madagascar Vaniglia, which is a knock-your-socks-off aroma of Madagascar vanilla orchids and vanilla beans. My third choice would probably be Manuka Lavender, which is one of my new favorites- exotic New Zealand raw honey blended with fresh lavender buds and a hint of bergamot. It is just incredible. I know you said three, but I really would need Apple, Cranberry, & Ginger Cider, Pumpkin Pie, White Tea, Oatmeal Ginger Cookie, and the list goes on! Are you sure that I can’t bring four? :o)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

fiber in the park festival 2009

Today I had the honor of meeting another Etsy shop owner - Knitspin of Naperville, Illinois! Today the third annual Fiber in the Park Festival was held at Shabbona Park in Earlville, Illinois; it's a wonderful event and its popularity grows more each and every year, attracting vendors and shoppers from all over the midwest. Here we are, Knitspin and Lonesome Road Studio:

At the top, from bottom to top, here are some of the treasures that I found...
  • Beautiful merino yarns; the green was purchased from Knitspin.
  • Wonderful Tagua Nut buttons... "vegetable ivory" from the Amazon rainforest. The purchase of these buttons supports the employment of 35,000 native people, helping to maintain the trees and ultimately stabilize the rainforest. (Chong the Cat needed to inspect these.)
  • Simple and richly colored recycled-sweater coasters by ReSweater; beautiful for the spare bedroom!
  • And of course, I managed to find beads! These are "Soul of Somanya" beads, created in Ghana... "creating art, transforming lives."
  • Adorable Shepherd's Pride Apple Spice goats milk soap from Vickie's Raspberry Hollow of Burlington, Iowa.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

sunday dinner redux - love on a plate with a twist 4 - happy rosh hashanah!

Celebrate the Jewish New Year, as Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown on Friday, September 18 and ends at nightfall on Sunday September 20.

As you look forward to the brand new year with the sweet tastes of fruit and honey, enjoy this easy and delicious sweet glaze on chicken or even salmon. Combine equal amounts of honey, red pepper jelly, and Dijon mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste. You may even add a bit of cayenne pepper; surprisingly, the red pepper jelly doesn't add a lot of heat to this glaze, just great flavor. As you can imagine, this recipe can be personalized with all sorts of special touches; use honey mustard instead of Dijon, experiment with different types of honey (darker honeys are wonderful in this recipe).

If baking, the glaze can be added to the meat immediately and creates some tasty pan juices. If grilling, add the glaze at the last moment and keep a close watch on the meat so it does not burn.

Shana tova!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

cancer is a word, not a sentence

I really want to believe John Diamond's words.
Cancer claimed my parents, both at only age 66 ... numerous relatives...
a classmate who was also too young...
beloved friends... and cherished pets.
I'm not even counting the many lost to cancer who
were all of the above to others,
whose paths never crossed mine,
but whose life experience had a ripple effect on their loved ones
in the same ways that my losses affected my life.
I want to believe that cancer is just a word, not a sentence,
and I do believe that it will become reality.

There have been miracles here and there.

But I want to see miracles happen all the time.

Frankly, I'd like to see the terms "cancer survivor" and "miracle" not even remotely connected.
"Cancer survivor" should be just another fact of life.

Like having a cold and getting over it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

that silvery time again

What is it about the sunlight in September?

All of a sudden you notice it; the sunlight has changed to a silvery gleam and everything on which it shines takes on that crisp, cool shimmer: grass, leaves, even the air it seems. There is a sparkle in September that bridges the time between golden summer and snowy winter, even as trees are putting on a show of fiery reds, oranges, yellows and toasty browns.

Is it the southward movement of the sun at this time of year that creates this effect, and prompts deciduous trees to shed their leaves? Or is it because I just really love autumn and see things differently myself at this time of year?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

sunday dinner redux - love on a plate with a twist 3 - pickled!

At left... my awesome kosher dill pickles and bread & butter slices!
What to do with all those cucumbers? Well, there's really only one thing you can do: make pickles (or try to pass them off on friends and family who have an overabundance of cucumbers as well).
My favorites are the kosher dills; hubby likes the sweet bread & butter variety. Fortunately I make both... and they totally rock!
I'm sharing the kosher dill recipe because it's my personal favorite... don't rely on those "easy" pre-made seasonings; it's just as easy to gather some simple ingredients and make your own from "scratch." Check it out:

Per quart of pickles:

1/2 lb. small pickling cucumbers (or trim larger cucumbers to a comparable size)
2 tablespoons dill seeds
1 clove of garlic, peeled and halved
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, if you like
2-1/4 cups water
3/4 cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon pickling salt

Pickle Crisp, use as directed on package

Carefully clean and trim cucumbers; be especially sure to trim blossom ends. Pack loosely into prepared, hot canning jars leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Add dill seed, garlic (and pepper if you like).

Prepare the brine with the water, vinegar and salt and bring to boiling.

Slowly and carefully pour hot brine over cucumbers in jars, leaving a 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe the jar rims and adjust new lids. Process in boiling water bath for 15 minutes (start timing when water returns to boil). Pickles are fabulous in about a week!

Polymer Clay - Why Didn't I Try It Sooner?

I've only recently discovered that I love creating pieces with polymer clay. I don't know why I thought that it was so difficult or tricky. I spent a lot of time talking myself out of trying it. Well, what a waste of time that was! I really believe that you can create virtually anything with polymer clay; it's certainly perfect for jewelry-making due to its versatility and light weight (nice for keychains as well).
I'm also enjoying the fact that I can use my enormous collection of rubber stamps on polymer clay. I used to be an avid rubberstamper and still would enjoy doing it if I had the time. Fortunately, I've discovered that most clear and crisp rubber stamp designs make great images on polymer clay, so my wood-handled treasures have been resuscitated from their dark drawers!
I'm also amazed that artwork can be transferred to the clay much like Silly Putty (just remember to print out the artwork in mirror image). In the future I'd like to experiment with using my own artwork for this technique.
As a polymer clay newbie who has many more things to learn and and try, I don't have a lot of sage wisdom of the ages for other polymer clay artists. Except one: always use the right product to finish the job. I use a lot of acrylic paint, mica powders, etc. on my pieces so I always seal them. Do not use just any sealer; often the surface will remain tacky, or the finish can chip, peel or yellow. I always use Studio by Sculpey glazes in gloss or satin finishes; they are made specifically for polymer clay and you can't go wrong with them.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

gettin' out the branding iron

As part of my ongoing efforts to streamline my business strategies and to find what works most effectively, I've decided to jump headfirst into "branding" Lonesome Road Studio. For, as I read on, "If you don't brand yourself, you can rest assured that others are branding you."

As I research the topic, I do find that I've already taken some of the many but fairly simple steps to branding myself, such as purchasing my own .com domain name, participating in social networking (not just tweeting haphazardly, but really trying to participate in a helpful, interactive way) and blogging. But I do find that I have a long path ahead of me, and the path can be daunting and a bit overwhelming if not navigated in an orderly fashion. Fortunately, I discovered this helpful Personal Branding Worksheet of steps to be taken in the process of branding yourself.

Not only is branding a type of "tooting your own horn," it's also about discovering the music you enjoy and play best on that horn. I'm positive that I'm going to enjoy following this worksheet each step of the way; I'm certain that I will learn new things about myself and I know that this can only help in my aspirations to become the best business owner that I can be.

It is my hope that others will reap the benefits of this course as well.

Friday, September 4, 2009

reflections on labor day

It's Labor Day weekend in the USA... cookouts, family fun, summer's last fling; and the promise of fall is in the air. For me, fall brings "busy-ness" but as this change of season approaches, I am reminded also of "business" and how I yearn to make my own changes.
Now more than ever I dream of spending all of my time making my own small business the best it can be, but still have to work a part-time day job. It's just a paycheck really; I didn't even have benefits when I worked full-time. Then there is the guilt trip that the economic downturn has placed on me as well; who would be insane enough to leave a job in these bad times? Still, it's hard not to wonder if I could be doing so much more for my own business if I had that other 24 hours a week to spend nurturing it. I guess the "good part" is that there are many others who feel the same way, and we can all support each other.
On a positive note: I recently took another step to making my own business grow; I purchased my .com domain name for two years. It was surprisingly inexpensive at GoDaddy, and with an online discount, even more affordable. In addition, shortly after I created the account someone from GoDaddy called me to discuss my account, what I hoped to accomplish with it, etc. Frankly, at this point I just wanted to purchase the domain name and figure out how to create a redirect to a landing page (my Etsy shop, for now). Well, the kind people at GoDaddy did it for me over the phone and I am so thankful because I certainly didn't know how to do it, LOL.
So, even though I still feel that I'm stagnating in my "old career," my "new career" is taking off, even if it's just semi-sporadic baby steps.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

sunday dinner redux - love on a plate with a twist 2 - labor day edition

Chet Atkins' Coleslaw
Planning on grilling this weekend for the big "end-of-summer" Labor Day cookout? What could be a more perfect side dish than cool, crisp coleslaw?
This is reportedly the coleslaw recipe of the guitar great Chet Atkins, published in the awesome "Dinah Shore Cookbook" (yes.. Dinah Shore) which I scored in my favorite resale/consignment shop. It is one of my all-time favorites; a vinegar-and-oil-based recipe with just the right touch of sweetness. The original recipe does not include onion, but I do like a bit of onion added to the slaw. I also use real apple cider vinegar in place of the recipe's original white vinegar; it's probably just me but I equate white vinegar with pickle-making and house-cleaning. Heh.

For best results, let this blend for about an hour before serving with your masterpiece of the grill.

7 to 8 cups shredded cabbage (or a 14 oz. bag of pre-packaged coleslaw mix)
1/2 cup shredded carrots (if not using the coleslaw mix
1 tablespoon finely minced onion (more if you like)

For the Dressing:
Scant 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I've used light olive oil with good results as well)
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon sugar (I added the extra teaspoon of sugar because the apple cider vinegar is quite piquant!)
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard (like Coleman's)
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce, more or less to your taste (I like Tabasco's green sauce made with jalapenos)
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Thoroughly whisk together the dressing ingredients (the dry mustard will want to clump a bit; just keep whisking it until dissolved). Add dressing to the cabbage, carrots and onions; refrigerate for around an hour before serving.

Serves 4 to 6, depending on how much you like coleslaw!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

belt buckle swank-o-rama!

Just bought five of these six buckles today (except the silver flower, purchased at an earlier time); each buckle was only $6.00 at my favorite consignment/resale shop! Unfortunately I don't have any info about them regarding metals, stones, etc., but I really dig 'em.

Hey, and they're actually practical; every mermaid needs a little help keeping her tail stay up.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

“Each day comes bearing its own gifts. Untie the ribbons.”

The title of this post is one of my favorite quotes, by Ruth Ann Schabacker.
Here at the Lonesome Road, I'm just relaxing after wrapping an order for shipment. In the past few months, I've really gotten into the "experience" aspect of my business. My primary aim is to create my art, jewelry and gifts with only the highest standards. But there's always that "something extra" that I really enjoy doing for my buyers. Even the smallest unexpected delights make everything just a bit more fun, more enchanting, more special; like a surprise birthday party with extra frosting roses on the cake. Some unexpected tender loving care makes our days more joyful, and everyone is worthy of extra joy. Receiving means giving back as well...

Monday, August 31, 2009

baby did a bad bad thing

Well, not that bad.
It's just that I can't always bring myself to spend large sums of money on things like art show displays, etc. I always hope that I will walk into a junk shop or garage sale and *poof*! The mannequin of my dreams will be there, and for only five bucks!
The truth is that you do have to shell out substantial dinero for these things every so often. Which is what I did yesterday. Big online shopping trip. I'm sure it will be worth it though; I've grown so weary of the cheapo black velvet necklace stands I was using (the kind with the easel that doesn't even correctly connect in the back, and they blow over if somebody so much as walks by). I finally decided that, as I told my husband, the time has come for me to go big or go home.
The splurge was also part of a general "re-tooling." I've been working more on branding and have been kind of bored with the status quo as well. I participated in a local festival market recently and during a slow time I took the opportunity to check out other booths. It occurred to me that I kept seeing the same ubiquitous displays, and much like a stroll through the mall, there wasn't much that really drew me in to most of the booths. I would like shopping the Lonesome Road to be an "experience," unforgettable, like the shopper is being irresistibly drawn into another world. Oh, and if someone actually purchased something, that would be cool too, LOL.
So now that I've made a short story long, I'm looking forward to receiving my purchases and using them to make the Lonesome Road more memorable and fun.
In case you're wondering, I bought five new necklace stands in natural tones, a groovy "blue jeans" mannequin style display, and a "chestnut suede" display set in brown, my new black.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

THE guide to ultra living!

The Guide to Ultra-Living
by Matt Maranian

"Got the tastes of Barbarella with a budget considerably more earthbound?"
So begins the first chapter of this mutha of all decorating idea books.
I purchased this book a few years ago, while living at my last apartment. Okay, I'm very adventurous when it comes to decorating; I'm not afraid of bold colors and things that make others go "hmmmm." The living room of my last apartment was decorated in bright reds, Halloween/Day of the Dead decor (which is now firmly ensconced in my current workspace/computer room), plus some Feng Shui touches.
"Pad" was truly the inspiration to let my freak flag fly when it came to decorating my personal space, and there's a chance that it could inspire you too. Who can't resist an "Opium Den Flame Pit" or a "Barbarella TV Cabinet?" (Can you tell that I adore the movie "Barbarella?")
Within the pages of "Pad" you will find instructions for an upcycled surfboard coffee table, the ever-popular "Porno Chic Love Lamp," and a handy "Cousin It Tissue Cozy."
No book about the joys of domesticity would be complete without an "After Dark" section; this one has a whole section of classic cocktails but more importantly, hangover cures and garish garnishes including the "Flaming Fruit Flip" and the "Crystal Craze GummiSaver Kabob." Rounding out the section is a collection of "Freaked-Out Punch Mixes" including "Nuclear Pond Scum." Want to impress your friends? You must attempt the "Pyromaniac Centerpieces With the Magic of Sterno." No party is complete without tunes; "Pad" has a whole set of recommendations plus pages of party themes like "The Short Attention Span Video Festival," "Living Room Weenie Roast," and "The No-Talent Show."
Consult the sage pages of "Pad" if you're bored with off-white walls, your dusty rose floral sectional and wine from a box. There's a whole world of rad decorating and fun out there and "Pad" is a great place to start learning.


Saturday, August 29, 2009

a little more about "sunday dinner redux"...

Sunday Dinner Redux is my attempt to bring sanity into my own schedule, LOL, and to share some recipes and thoughts about food and cooking in general.
There was a time when I experimented with all kinds of ingredients, techniques, and new recipes but sadly the time factor has crept in, impacting my natural creativity in the kitchen. Well, I'm about to change all that (I hope) and get back to my old adventurous self when it comes to new dishes, meal plans etc., at least one day a week *sigh*.
Our often inconvenient schedule in the Lonesome Road household includes hubby's karate three weeknights a week; his twelve-hour workshifts, and me "trying to get something done" so the flexibility of time just isn't there most days. Saturday and Sunday are really the only two days of the week where our work and after-work schedules don't affect our mealtimes. Now, I'm not really one for all the nuclear-family-sitting-around-the-table-listening-to-each-other-slurp-and-chew-scene; I'm more of a grazer myself and I like to eat when I'm hungry not when a clock or person tells me that "it's time." But I do believe that in the midst of our hurried lifestyles, among the rush and on-the-go habits we've adopted, it's nice to slow down occasionally and treat cooking and nourishment as a nurturing process, a process that can be enjoyable in itself, not just something to hurry through to get out of the way.

So, in the future I will continue to post about my fun in the kitchen and what I have learned; I enjoy all types of food and have lots of things to share. I also hope that you will share your ideas with me!

Friday, August 28, 2009

sunday dinner redux - love on a plate with a twist I

Pork a la Criolla

This is a fabulously flavorful Puerto Rican-seasoned roast pork flavored with the most basic of ingredients. The beautiful part is that you don't really have to remember to marinate the pork overnight; simply rubbing the pork with the ingredients and popping it in the oven or on the grill will also yield delicious results!
The seasoning is well-suited to all types of pork; center-cut roasts, tenderloins, pork chops, and if you're tired of barbecue, even ribs.
Try this on beef and chicken as well; if marinating, chicken will take much less time.

Did I mention roast potatoes with this seasoning? Try it!

2 to 3 lbs. lean pork (roast, tenderloin, chops)
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, crushed (more or less if you like)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1-1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 tablespoon salt

Either marinate the pork in a plastic zipper bag overnight in the refrigerator, or simply rub seasoning on meat; either will yield a delicious result. Roast or grill as desired, until pork reaches an internal temperature of 165 to 170 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you're feeling extravagant... a golden saffron rice with peas is wonderful with this; on a budget... mashed potatoes and salad and/or a favorite green veggie would be the perfect accompaniment.
Oh, and of course... your favorite libation. Pork a la Criolla is full of assertive flavors; something light would be ideal.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Oh baby, baby it's a wild world....

It would not be such a bad thing to be remembered as a child; full of wonder, hope, possibilities and a bright future... don't you think?
As we mature it's easy to lose that childlike quality due to the circumstances that life throws in our paths. As the Cat Stevens lyrics point out, there's a lot of bad and beware... you've seen a lot of what the world can do and it can break your heart in two.
But the world can do a lot of good as well...
I have been on a most interesting journey during the last seven years. Initially 2002 was not the most inspiring year in my life; the death of my mother from colon cancer (three years earlier my father died of lung cancer), followed by a major relationship break-up that facilitated the need for an immediate move and legal protection, and a couple of months later I "suffered" the subsequent loss of my job (due to the closing of the family-owned newspaper where I had worked for six years). Through it all I had the support of my closest cousin and her family (I'm an only child) and co-workers and friends.
Throughout, and because of, my many personal losses in that four-month timespan in 2002 I conjured up a steely strength and independence that I always knew that I had; the time was ripe and I didn't really have a choice, heh - I'm not a quitter and not really a whiner (even though I bitch a lot). I rented my own stylin' digs and started a new job where I eventually met the love of my life who became my husband. Once again I moved, from an urban area to a place that was much like where I grew up - rural farm country, this time on a gravel road (hence the name "Lonesome Road Studio," don't worry though, I'm not really lonesome, LOL). Green Acres became the place for me; I am Lisa Douglas (but I can actually make pancakes.).
Fast forward to 2008: Artistic juices stirring + increasing ennui with traditional employment = exploring other avenues of creative expression. I simultaneously signed up to sell my work online and network with local art groups. Probably one of the top ten best things I've ever done.
Another fast forward, to 2009: Ready for another change (What a surprise. I'm a Gemini, mutable air sign. And in Chinese astrology I'm a double Fire Horse. Not excuses, just observations.).
I have created the Lonesome Road Studio blog to not only take a walk on the wild side with friends old and new, but to explore things I've put on the back burner for one reason or another. And I'm inviting all willing participants to share in the journey. This blog is not about reminiscing about the good old days, or "finding myself." I know who I am and I want to see how much more I can be. This blog will truly be a long strange trip of things that catch my eye and will be shared with all who dare to put on their walkin' boots and walk the wild side with Lonesome Road Studio.
In addition, I plan to shine a bright spotlight on things that I adore (including artistic and culinary endeavors, two of my favorite pasttimes). You might re-connect with old friends and meet new ones; I hope you will be inspired to channel your inner creative self and learn with me or offer your own sage advice through constructive commentary. Lonesome Road Studio is now open, and open to anything. Get ready for the ride!


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