Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Entwined Vines- Jewelry and Fine Art by Tammy and Tina

Entwined Vines on offers beautiful and unique handcrafted jewelry.  Tammy and Tina combine their creative skills and work with gemstones, hand torched lampwork glass, pearls and many other mediums. Their techniques are as varied as their mediums, including Viking Knit, wire work and wrapping, and simple designs.  As jewelry designers, they focus more on the artistic side of things, rather than the latest trends.   This provides shoppers is a chance to own a piece of wearable art which they are unlikely to see duplicated.  As artisans they enjoy creating, as women they like the pretty jewelry; the two go hand in hand for a successful business. Their hope is that clients will find their  studio and enjoy their creations for years to come.  Entwined Vines can be found on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and  Below is just a sample of some of the beautiful jewelry available from these talented ladies.  Be sure to check out their shop to see everything they have to offer!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Collection of Mystical Handmade Creations

I just had to share this wonderful collection created by E-Soy-Candles.  It's full of mystical handmade items from sculptures, to jewelry and buttons, to candle holders and art prints!  I'm so happy to have my wizard sculpture included in this awesome collection! :-D

-Michelle of CreativeCritters

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Nothing beats handmade soap!

Julie, of Julie's Treasures on, has been making soap for more than 12 years.  At first she only made it for herself, but for Christmas 2009 she  made soaps and lip balms for presents. The rave reviews from friends and family were enough to make her decide to open a shop and start selling her wonderful soaps.  She also makes sugar scrubs and bath salts, which have been quite popular. Some of her customers have said, "I love it, doesn't dry my skin like regular soap does",  "WOW! This is better than what I pay $25.00 for", and "The perfume oil is wonderful".  Julie says, "Making soap is fun. I try experimenting with color, fragrance, & embedding soap & it is a challenge but turns out pretty."
Below is just a sample of the beautiful soap and other bath and beauty products Julie has available for sale.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fall is the perfect time to plant vegetables and herbs

Right about now is the perfect time to plant Fall crops, including those that will be harvested this fall and winter, as well as though planted in fall for an early Spring harvest.

Although there may not be much time left until the first frost, you can still get a good harvest of certain crops in the next month or two. You'll have to be sure your seedlings get plenty of water, and they may need some extra protection from the sun, but once the plants are established, they'll thrive in the cool Fall weather.
Johnny's Fall Planting Calculator is a handy tool to help you figure out the dates crops need to be planted outside without season extension products. By growing your plants under row covers, your planting dates can be later than the calculator advises.  You can find different weights of row covers, from lightweight to heavy, that offer different levels of frost protection.  Some covers protect down to 20 degrees!
Some plants you can start growing in the Fall include Basil, beets, Broccoli Raab, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, kale, endive, cilantro, onions, spinach, radishes, and Swiss Chard.  I like to plant lettuce in the Spring and again in the Fall.  All of these plants enjoy the cooler Fall temperatures and more regular rainfall.  Planting in the Fall also helps make me feel better about the summer crops that are starting to \fade.  I enjoy replacing those dried up and yellowing cucumber vines, summer squash plants, and other warm weather crops with bright green little seedlings that will fill the garden with color (and food) right up until the first frost, or even longer if you use row covers.  Plus working in the garden is even more pleasant when it's a comfy 60- 65 degrees, versus the 85- 90 degrees of July!  So get out there and get your hands dirty- you'll reap the rewards of your labor in no time!
Happy gardening! =)
-Michelle of CreativeCritters
Find my e-books on Smashwords and Amazon

Sunday, August 21, 2011

My book What To Do With Extra Zucchini is now available!

I am very happy to say that I am now a published author!  My very first electronic book, What To Do With Extra Zucchini, is now available for sale on Smashwords and Amazon.  I've been an avid gardener for many years now, and have grown LOTS of zucchini.  In this book I share tips on how to plant and grow zucchini, tips for growing zucchini in small spaces, and include delicious recipes for everything from appetizers to desserts.  I've also included some fun facts, along with helpful nutritional information, as well as some very creative uses for this prolific vegetable.  I know that right about now gardens are starting to overflow with zucchini, and many people are searching for new and interesting ways to use it.  It's my hope that this book will offer up a few new ideas you may not have thought of before. 
If you want your zucchini to be all that they can be, from artistic design expressions to community zucchini racing and zukapaults, this is the book for you. 
Thanks for reading, and be sure to check back for new books!
-Michelle of CreativeCritters
Find me on Smashwords 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Polymer Clay Smooshers Fall Challenge

Because of the hot weather last month I was unable to sculpt an entry for the Polymer Clay Smoosher's Beach themed Challenge.  I love participating in the Smoosher's Challenges and really regretted being unable to sculpt for about a month.  Polymer clay can get very sticky and difficult to sculpt when it gets too warm, plus I didn't want to add the heat of the oven to the already hot house.  The weather has cooled off a bit in the last week or so, though, so I have been able to get back to sculpting.  I had plenty of ideas for items I could create for the Fall themed Challenge, but eventually settled on a Fall Fairy Maple Leaf wall hanging.  I've had an idea like this for quite some time, and this seemed like the perfect time to sculpt it.

The red, green, and gold Maple leaf measures 9" tall and 11" wide.  I drew a template for the leaf on cardboard, then traced around the leaf on the clay using an exacto knife.  I made the leaf even stronger by using wire for the leaf veins and covering them in clay.  The fairy was sculpted from the same clay as the leaf and is meant to look like part of the leaf.  The really fun part came when I started adding red, green, and gold Pearl Ex powders to the unbaked clay, then covered the entire leaf in Ultra Thick Embossing Enamel.  This is the first time I've used the embossing enamel, although I do frequently use embossing powders in my work.  Because the embossing enamel is crystal clear I was able to add a thick layer, adding to the depth of the piece.  I baked the piece once, and liked the look so much I wanted to add another layer of color.  So I dusted on more Pearl Ex powders, and another layer of embossing enamel, and baked the plaque again.  This is definitely a one of a kind creation!  And I think it's perfect for the Polymer Clay Smoosher's Fall Challenge.  Autumn always seems to bring on a burst of creativity for me, and I have quite a few Fall themed items available in my shop.  Over the next month or so I'll be adding a variety of new items inspired by the upcoming Fall season!                                                                                                  

-Michelle of CreativeCritters

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How To Preserve Tomatoes in the Freezer

In my neck of the woods the tomatoes are producing like mad right now.  I have quite a few tomato plants in the garden, including Roma tomatoes, yellow pear tomatoes, yellow cherry tomatoes, a few types of red cherry tomatoes, and a few larger unknown varieties.  With all the rain and warm temps we've had over the last few months the vines are absolutely loaded with fruit, and I pick a good sized basket full every day now.  I've already used some of the larger tomatoes for chili and a chicken dish, and I munch on the cherry tomatoes like they're candy.  I still end up with more tomatoes than I can use before they go bad though.  I know many people like to can tomatoes, but the thought of adding even more heat to an already hot house isn't very appealing to me.  Several years ago I discovered that you can preserve tomatoes very simply by freezing them.  Just place your washed and dried tomatoes in a single layer on a cookie sheet (I put a towel on my so the tomatoes don't get bruised) and put the sheet in the freezer.  Use the best tomatoes you can for this.  Try to avoid freezing tomatoes with bruises, spots, or other damage- use those fresh and just cut out the bad spots.

Let the tomatoes harden up for several hours until they're frozen solid.  Then you can just store them in a freezer bag and pull out what you need as you need it.  To thaw the tomatoes you can put them under running water.  As the tomatoes thaw the skins slip off, which is very convenient.  This works for any size or type of tomato.  Don't try to put them in the bag before they're frozen because they'll probably get squashed and it will be a mess when you go to thaw them out.  (Trust me, I'm speaking from experience- LOL).  I usually end up with enough preserved tomatoes to get me through the winter and following spring.  And when you freeze them at the peak of ripeness like this that delicious flavor (along with all those healthy nutrients) is preserved beautifully.  I turn my tomatoes into pasta sauce, chili, tacos, and all sorts of delicious things.  They blend beautifully with the garlic, onions, peppers, eggplant, and fresh herbs from my garden.
I just wanted to share this useful little tip for preserving tomatoes- it's saved me a lot of time and tomatoes!
Thanks for stopping by! =)
-Michelle of CreativeCritters

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Leopold the Loom Knit Lion

Today I want to introduce Leopold the Lion, one of many stuffed animals I knit using round looms.  I created my own pattern for this cute lion as I went along, making him a one of a kind creation.  I discovered loom knitting a few years ago and have had a lot of fun making a variety of stuffed creatures with the looms.  Using the round looms makes the knitting go a lot faster, and I find it very relaxing.  I plan on writing an e-book on how to make stuffed animals using round looms, and Leopold the Lion will be one of the projects in that book.  Some of my loom knit critters available at CreativeCritters include this cute unicorn

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Composting Has Many Benefits and is Easy To Do

There are many benefits to composting and just about anyone can do it.  It's a great way to recycle kitchen scraps and yard debris, and keeps a lot of waste out of the landfills.  You might be surprised at what can be safely composted.  Everyday household items including cardboard tubes, newspaper, eggshells, fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, and leaves can be composted.  Compost enriches the garden soil and provides essential nutrients to plants and eliminates the need for adding chemicals.  Compost improves all types of soil, whether you have heavy clay like I do, or coarse sandy soil.  In clay soil compost helps loosen up the soil and in sandy soil it helps the soil retain water better.  Compost can even help prevent some soil borne diseases.  Using compost in your garden reduces the need for additional fertilizers, pesticides, and extra water.  I've been adding compost to my garden, which started out as hard packed clay with virtually no worms or insects, for the last 5 years and have seen an incredible improvement in the texture of the soil and the quality of the plants and vegetables.  I now have a thriving earthworm population, and all sorts of other beneficial insects that call my garden home.  Composting replicates nature's system for feeding plants by turning organic waste into rich hummus.  Below is a basic recipe for making compost.  With fall right around the corner, you'll be finding plenty of ingredients in your yard for compost.
Green plant matter includes: lawn clippings, old vegetable vines, weeds that haven't gone to seed, hedge clippings, vegetable and fruit skins and trimmings. 
Dry plant matter includes: fallen leaves, straw, small twigs, cornstalks, and black and white newspaper.

To make your compost:
1. Combine your ingredients in a compost bin (I use a Compost Tumbler, which works well in the suburbs).  You want your mixture to include both green and dry materials.  To speed up the composting process you can chop or shred the materials and add compost inoculant (available from most organic gardening sites).
2. Moisten the pile with the hose, but don't saturate it.  You want it evenly moist, but not sitting in water.
3. Turn the pile at least once a week.  I usually turn mine every few days to keep everything well mixed.  This allows air to move through the pile so the microbes get enough oxygen to break down the materials quickly.
4. Allow the compost to cook.  You want the pile to get nice and hot (I've had mine up to about 120 degrees) in order to kill any pathogens and weed seeds.  Check the pile regularly, especially during hot weather, and water as necessary to keep it moist.  In about a month you can start checking for finished compost.  When it's ready to be used in the garden it will be dark, moist, and crumbly.  It won't smell rotten, but will actually have a sweet earthy odor.
Happy gardening! :-)
-Michelle of CreativeCritters

Monday, August 1, 2011

My kitties

You know, I just realized that it's been a while since I blogged about my cats.  I believe the last time was when I discovered that Cedric had kidney disease.  The good news is that with subcutaneous fluids just a few times a week he's doing MUCH better.  He's even felt good enough to play with Calcifer, which makes Calcifer a very happy cat!

 Cedric has claimed the orange tennis ball as his, so of course Calcifer wants it.  If Cedric likes something, it must be a good thing!  Cedric's been enjoying his big red catnip toy too.  He looks so funny laying on top of it, I can't help but laugh whenever I see him flattening it out ;-)  I make him even happier by sprinkling it with fresh catnip.
Sometimes he'll even share with Calcifer.  I am so glad these two get along so well.  They never actually fight, although occasionally Cedric has to remind Calcifer that he's the dominant cat in this house.  Usually that only happens when Calcifer's being really obnoxious and pestering the heck out of Cedric.  Then Cedric just takes one front leg, wraps it around the younger cat's neck and shoulders, and in one swift move puts him on the ground.  He doesn't hurt him at all, just reminds him who's the boss ;-)
Since Cedric got sick I've switched from feeding the cats primarily dry cat food to giving them canned food everyday.  I still leave high quality dry food for them to snack on, but their main meal is the canned food (with lots of gravy).  This works well for a few reasons.  First, there's a lot more moisture in canned food, which helps keep both of them hydrated.  Plus the canned food has a much stronger smell, which encourages Cedric to eat more.  Sometimes if he doesn't seem interested I'll dip my finger in the gravy and put just a tiny bit on his nose.  He smells it and licks it off, and usually decides it tastes pretty good and he'd like more.  He's been eating about 1/2 to 3/4 of a can of Friskies a day, plus nibbling on the dry food.  He's lost some weight, but that's not really a bad thing, since he was a bit overweight before.  He looks really good now.  And he seems happy- he's fairly active and his interest in everyday activities has returned.  He watches the birds with Calcifer, bathes, plays, gives headbutts, and loves his cuddles.  Words can't really convey how thankful I am to have my cat back, healthy and happy.  I know the day will come when I have to say goodbye to my furry friend, but that day's not here yet.  And Calcifer is thrilled that his brother is feeling better.  He was very sad when Cedric first got sick ( and a sad kitty is just about the saddest thing in the world!), but now they can hang out together and just enjoy each others company.
 These two are a huge part of my life- they're my furbabies.  I know that all you other animal people out there understand that connection, and the joy that pets bring to our lives.  I hope these pics make you smile too.  I love being able to share these special creatures with you! =)
-Michelle of CreativeCritters