week in review

a couple of one of a kind purses i made for a new store!  they went to the super adorably girly store jupon pressé in quebec city.  purses are made from leather and patent leather with a long messenger length strap.  they also got a good selection of jewelry.  can't wait to visit them in person soon!  roadtrip anyone?  hmmm, what else did i do this week?   oh tear up half the house to re-wire the main floor completely, take out all the ducts, replace the baseboard heaters, install programmable thermostats, level out the floors.  no big deal.  

i didn't really expect to be taking out the ductwork so soon, but the house has dual heating,  electric baseboards and an oil tank and furnace and i've only ever used the electric heating, i'm kind of scared to death of furnaces and oil tanks.  i was going to take out the furnace and oil tank eventually, but  taking all the ducts out now made it made the re-wiring a bit easier.  so that's a pile of ducts from the basement.  the big furnace is getting hauled out tomorrow by a metal salvager.  the oil tank will be taken out at a later date.  

taking out the the nasty old wall & floor registers so full of nasty dust... and tearing out all the 100 year old baseboards.  ideally i would have liked to have kept all the original baseboards, but they just weren't worth restoring. they were covered with so many different layers of paint, and kind of banged up.  (that's glue-on fake parquet linoleum tiles on real pine flooring, who does that?)  

some of the dusty treats under the baseboards.  this was the better wall.  as in, there was actually a wall behind the baseboard.  there was only ONE or two walls like this.  

poof, trying to be helpful.  this cat insisted on walking through all the dustiest bits of the house.  i had to wash her feet.  

the "after" along the living room wall, taking out old outlets, and after taking out the baseboards.  this was the "low maintenance" wall.  

most of the walls looked like this behind the baseboards.  not even any plaster.  gahhhhhh.  disaster.  

i ripped the inner moulding off of the doorways, to give the openings an extra couple of inches.  i don't think i'm ever going to put doors in.  you can see all of the previous paint colors.  bright green, pink, etc... gross.  we also put down plywood in the living room and front entry, so now the floor is level with the kitchen floors.  i was a little bit sad to cover up the original pine floors in the living room.  but the kitchen floor was 3/4" higher (plywood over linoleum, no pine underneath), the hallway was also pine, but with no varnish, and un-salvageable.  so it made more sense to cover the whole thing up.      

so we will be living with plywood floors until i can afford real floors.  bamboo probably.  but the floors aren't going in until after i redo the kitchen.  so it might be a while.  my neighbours told me that they lived with their plywood floors for two years, so that made me feel a lot better about the constant half-done demolished state of my house.  the neighbours have the most beautiful house ever and they renovated for five years, i'm two years in, so i guess i'm right on schedule! they're so nice, they also offered us their rental property two doors down to sleep in if it gets too dusty at home.  

oh and this was a treat, we got a nice box of the wednesday comics collected edition.  it looks amazing!  and it's HUGE!  check out this great review on npr!  they totally spotlight the flash story my bf co-wrote with his friend karl.  brag brag brag.  i think they officially come out this week.  on wednesday of course.  this week is full of plastering, sanding, priming and painting.  it would be nice to be able to hang out in the living room and kitchen again.  sigh.  

oh right, i just remembered, something else i did this week: a massive overhaul on my website, and added an on-line store.  check out the changes.  elaine-ho.com  


dead rabbit thursday

this little rabbit has met an unfortunate end.  if you look closely, you can see it was no accident.  there's a bullet hole in the side of his head.  cast in solid sterling silver, oxidized to bring out the details, and then polished to a high shine.  fully detailed front and back.  necklace measures 18" around and closes with a heart shaped clasp.  available in my etsy shop.  


fish friday

this necklace is cast from a half of a fish jaw i found on a beach a few years ago. from some really scary fish with super sharp teeth. i was so freaked out by this jaw when i first saw it i couldn't even touch it. i have a love hate relationship with dead stuff. it was really dirty and still had some meaty bits attached to it. i made someone else pick it up and clean it off for me, because i just had to have it. and turn it into a necklace.

fish jaw is cast in solid sterling silver, and then oxidized a deep black. sharp fish teeth polished to a high shine.

measures about 20" around, hangs down 4", and the actual jaw part is 3.5" across. put together with four different styles of oxidized sterling silver chain, and it closes with a heart shaped clasp. hand rubbed to bring out some shine on the chains. this piece will evolve as you wear it. it'll become shinier and show more of the silver color.

please use common sense when wearing this necklace. the teeth are quite sharp. don't wear it with the teeth facing in. no roller coasters. be careful when hugging. especially babies. or wearing delicate clothing. no contact sports.


new earrings friday

it's friday, and i've just listed some new earrings.  triangle pyramid studs.  stud earrings.  therefor, new earrings friday.  this won't be happening every friday, maybe just today.  they measure 7/8" long and 1/4" across at the wides point.  cast in solid sterling silver, finished by hand and then polished to a mirror shine.  available in my etsy shop

i love mail! and hightower botanicals!

presents! presents!  in the mail.  i did a trade with amazing brooklyn jeweller julee hightower!  she has a fantastic etsy shop called hightower botanicals.  i got the rock crystal necklace, it's like a giant crystal ice cube, (i'm obsessed with squares with rounded corners) and the large cilantro leaf!  so pretty... i love them, they're perfectly made, especially the handmade toggle clasps.  i can't wait to wear these all summer!  

i'm also blown away at the speed of the us postal service.  these took a mere TWO days to get from new york to montreal!  TWO DAYS.  it takes at least three times longer and  for me to send something to new york from montreal.  damn you canada post, i just can't quit you and your slow & expensive service.  (shaking fist)

anyway, i'm loving my new necklaces.  heart heart heart.  


porch kitten update

the porch kitten aka. fraulein ponyo von mitten is doing well.  she's not as sociable as the persian & himalayan cats, but that's probably because they've been inbred to sit on your lap and do nothing all day.    brenden is tired of me constantly asking him: "when are cats full grown?" or "when do kittens stop growing?"  or "do yo think she's going to stay this size?"  she'll be a year old in july and  i've been secretly hoping that her diet of bugs, leaves and dirt for the first 5 months of her life has stunted her growth and keeps her a smallcat.  but she's already getting a gut, and weighs more than the other two cats so i doubt that's going to happen.   did you know cats live up to 20 years?  that's a lot of years before i can get a new cat.  sigh.  anyway, here'a a photo of ponyo sniffing a giant lump of fake fur.  

dear ponyo, it's not your mother.  she abandoned you and your fleas under our porch.  


new! plaited necklaces

i'm super excited about these new necklaces!  LEATHER!!!!  i love leather!  they take forever to make because they're pretty labour intensive, and each one has to cut by hand and has to be plaited absolutely perfectly.  

hand plaited leather necklace made with super soft and shiny glazed black leather. the inner circumference measures about 25" so you can just slip it over your head. each necklace is treated, then molded and shaped to drape perfectly around your neck and sit flat on your chest.  

i've just listed these three styles in my etsy shop.

blackchains:  this plaited necklace is dripping with looped and knotted black metal chain.

greypearls: this plaited necklace is dotted with pretty iridescent grey freshwater pearls, that have been securely stitched on by hand.

goldstuds: this plaited necklace has three hanging loops of antique gold chain, and nine gold pyramid studs.

tarts n'crafts this saturday! ottawa!

so i'll be selling my things at tarts n' crafts at ladyfest ottawa this saturday!  i'm driving up with yana of supayana and marc of broundoor friday morning.  we're going to hit up some thrift stores on the way, and we've rented a house for the night!!  why bother with a weird hotel with dirty pool water when you can rent a complete stranger's house off of airbnb.com for the same price.  so fun!  

yay ottawa!  


paint your own pottery round two

michelle painting a little partridge/bird/hen, thing, even the staff was confused about what it was... one of them even claimed that she had never seen that thing in the store before.

judy with her back and brown garden gnome.  she's adding some black on black textured dots on the hat.  

angie and her super pretty cake stand!  with intricate painted designs and dots in seafoam, yellow and white!

yana's planter!  i lost count of the time she said: "i can't stop! i can't stop" while reaching for another shooter of paint.  it looks amazing and it's for her mom!  

angie's mom lois is painting a cat dish, in the shape of a cat, and in the back of the photo is amanda and her horse bowl!  or should i say pony bowl?  

jill and her hot dog container.  she plans on filling it with condoms and giving it to her mom.  check out the sesame seeds and ketchup and mustard!! 

i had originally planned on painting this huge transformer with a ray-gun.  but it was chipped and the last one.  so i switched to the cat figurine with christmas hat.  and gave it a nice pink nose and some bleeding eyes.  

can't wait to see how everything turns out!!  one week of waiting is a long time.  


ladurée can go suck it because i'm making my own macaroons.

coconut with lemon buttercream filling

never really got around to going to ladurée when i was in paris for the first time last october... never eaten a macaroon until last wednesday.  they're pretty good!  it's like a sugar and fat sandwich.  ok.  they're literally fat and sugar.  and extremely labor intensive... probably why they're pretty pricey, and they come in really tiny boxes. my first batch ended up in the garbage, i used real raspberries to flavour them, and they ended up too runny, the second batch was matcha green tea, those turned out ok, with a nice foot!!!  i was so proud... the third batch was mocha (a mix of cocao and coffee) and the final batch will be coconut...  (they're standing right now before they get baked)... not sure what kind of filling i'll be using, but i'm sure it'll involve lots of butter and heavy cream.  

i did a lot of research before embarking on this macaroon adventure.  here's  the recipe i used... which is a mash up of three different recipes... thank you martha stewart and epicurious and some other random websites that i don't remember.  a good macaroon has a the round smooth shell on top, and then the perfect chewy little bubbly "foot" that grips onto your fatty filling.  

fresh out of  the oven look at that "foot"!

these are not to be mistaken with those ugly lumps of coconut drenched in chocolate.  these are those pretty pastel french macaroons.  that taste as good as they look... unless you're making them yourself.  here we go!  this recipe makes around 30 macaroons.  

macaroon batter ingredients:
1 cup      confectioners or icing sugar
3/4 cup   almond flour (or finely ground blanched almonds if you can't find almond flour)
1/4 cup   egg whites room temperature (i used the ones in the carton because i didn't want to waste the yolks, and i had no plans on making any custard.)  age them to thicken them, leave out overnight, or microwave for about 15 seconds.  
1 pinch   cream of tartar or salt (this helps the egg whites get foamy)
1/4 cup   fine sugar (i used organic cane sugar, no problems)

1.  combine confectioners sugar and almond flour in a food processor, until combined.  sift mixture, to get rid of any chunks and clumps.  (martha suggests doing it twice, but eff that.  i did it once, and it worked out) 

here's where you can make the different flavours:
chocolate: substitute 3 tablespoons of almond flour for cocoa (i added a bit of instant coffee too!) 
coconut: substitute 2 tablespoons of almond flour for shredded coconut (i added a few drops of red food colouring to these, i hate food colouring but pastel pink macaroons are just so so pretty)
match green tea: substitute 2 tablespoons of almond flour for match green tea powder 
vanilla bean: add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean
anyway, you get the point, the possibilities are endless!!!

2.  preheat oven to 350F degrees.   

3.  whip egg whites on medium speed until foamy, add pinch of cream of tartar or salt, and then whip at high speed until they form soft peaks.  this may sound kind of weird, but don't do this if there's going to be a storm.  your eggs won't get stiff and your macaroons won't work.  for real.  

4.  reduce speed to low, and add 1/4 cup fine sugar and whip at high speed until you get stiff peaks.  this takes about 8 minutes.  

5.  sift flour mixture over the egg whites, and fold mixture until it's smooth and shiny.  the batter should be pretty thick and sticky.  

6.  transfer batter to a pastry bag, with a round tip, or use a spoon and make little 3/4" circles about 1" apart on parchment lined baking sheets.  don't use wax paper like i did the first round, those fu*kers really stick.  parchment paper works like a dream.  when you're piping the batter, start from one outside edge of the circle to the opposite side.  don't start at the middle and make a peak.  you want them to be as smooth and seamless as possible.  (for one batch i just spooned the batter, it worked out ok, and by ok, i mean ALL different sizes.)

7.  martha likes to tap the cookie sheets on the counter to release the air bubbles from the macaroons, but i prefer slamming the sheets onto a wooden table.  very important step.  you don't want big air bubbles.  

8.  top them with coconut or other powdery things.  or leave them alone.  they're still pretty sans garnish.  let the macaroons sit at room temperature until a smooth "skin" or light crust forms.  about 20-30 minutes.  one of the recipes suggest 1-2 hours.  wtf, do i just sit around all day?  anyway use your judgement.

9.  lower the oven temperature to 325F degrees, put the baking sheets in the oven, one baking sheet at a time.   make sure to check them in a few minutes, and rotate the baking sheet halfway through for even baking.  bake for about 10 minutes.  or take them when they're crisp and firm on top.  reheat the oven to 350 between batches for 5 minutes and then reduce back to 325.  it's really fun to watch them rise and get that perfect little bubbly "foot"... these are super easy to burn, so keep a close eye on them.  

10.  let macaroons cool on sheet for a few minutes, and then transfer them to a cooling rack.  here's a hot tip from martha.  if they stick, spay the warm baking sheet with some water, then the macaroons will lift right off.  

11.  pair your macaroons off with their identical mate, and smash about 1/2 teaspoon of filling (see recipes below) between them.  you're all done!  ok let's never do that again.  

these are mocha with chocolate buttercream filling they turned out really chunky, i think it's because i didn't let the batter sit for long enough after piping them.  

filling recipes:

chocolate ganache:
3oz oz         bittersweet chocolate finely chopped
1/3 cup        heavy cream/whipping cream 35% fat and up
1 tbsp          softened unsalted butter
1/16 tsp       vanilla extract (the real stuff of course!)

1.  melt chocolate with cream in double boiler (i usually just do it in a pot at a super low temperature, i can't be bothered with the double boiling)
2.  stir until smooth.  
3.  remove from heat, add butter and vanilla extract.  
4.  let stand at room temperature until cooled and slightly thickened.  

italian buttercream:
2            egg whites (60ml)
1/3 cup  granulated sugar
1/2 cup  unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into thin slices

1.  whisk egg whites and sugar together, then transfer to super low heat, and then continue whisking for 3-5 minutes until the sugar has dissolved.  (once again, a double boiler was suggested, but why make extra work & dishes for yourself sheesh.)  you're not cooking the egg, just melting the sugar.    

2.  remove from heat, and using an electric mixer, ship warm egg mixture on high speed until stiff and shiny. (3-5 minutes) this took me twice as long, because there was a rainstorm.  

3.  add butter, one slice at a time, continue to mix until butter is thoroughly incorporated.  make sure not overwhip, otherwise the mixture will curdle and separate.  

4.  add flavouring.  (lemon zest, cocoa, coffee, matcha, vanilla bean seeds, bacon bits,  etc... ) 

5.  refrigerate for about an hour or until it's firm.  

raspberry jam:  
the easiest filling.  
open jar.  
but eat these macaroons right right quick, otherwise they'll get soggy.  

last tip.  let the macaroons sit with the filling for a few hours or overnight before serving (aka eating them all by yourself) it lets the flavours settle... oh and don't make 100 of them on your first try like i did.  you'll end up hating them.  

matcha with vanilla bean buttercream 

1. i'd like to thank my friend alexander, he hooked me up with huge batch fresh vanilla beans...yay! internet beans! and the internet for telling me how to use them.  

2. additional thanks go to my $80 vintage oven, my right arm, as well as my $10 electric mixer for not crapping out on me.

3.  if i have to smell another egg white, i'm going to throw up.  and thank you to all the broken macaroons for the diabetes.