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dehydrated vegetables and herbal salt

An interesting day at Hellviktangen’s farmers market this weekend. A lot less people came, likely due to the rain, but the ones who were there were very keen on hearing details about the products that I had available. One  item that brought about great interest was my seasoned salt. Such a simple ingredient to have on hand and it can be used on so many ways.

Throughout the growing season, while everything is fresh and abundant, I do my best to preserve what I can. One of the methods I use is dehydration. My pantry is full of mason jars with a huge variety of dried goodness in them.

pantry staples

left to right: kale, leek, celeriac, onion, red onion, carrot, celery, zucchini squash

My trusty mandoline which has been well used for over a decade makes quick work of the task, and once thinly sliced, I place everything in the dehydrator and let it go to work over night. I dehydrate at no more than 40C (104F) in order to maintain the optimum nutritional value. While I do not adhere to the Raw Diet, I choose to use this process for dehydration regardless (one need only be patient). The same holds true for drying other items like Calendula (see my post on salves). Once thoroughly dry, I store it all in clean jars in the pantry.


note, this dehydrator uses BPA free plastic for shelving. If you are concerned about chemicals leaching into your food, do some research before you buy 😉

Now, what to do with all of your dehydrated vegetables? So many things, and you need to do it before your children eat them all! Mine raid the pantry often 😉 One way that I like to use them in to make a seasoned salt. I use my food processor to grind them up. Note: some say that you may damage your processor in doing so and recommend a proper grinder, but going in small batches has never been a problem for me.


Once ground into a powder, I add dried herbs and salt.  I happen to purchase 25kg bags of organic sea salt, as I use it for brining, fermenting and pickling. You can use whatever salt you prefer.

seasoned salt

Once it is ready, package it as you like or leave it in a salt pot by the stove to have on hand to toss into soups, rub on meat, sprinkle on pizza or anywhere else you need a punch of flavour.


Calendula salves and ‘tub tea’

Calendula.. ahh.. such an amazing plant!
This week for the farmers market at Hellviktangen, I am putting together more of my salves and ‘tub teas’. Throughout the summer I collected calendula from Ekebo, our collective farm. The more you pick, the more buds appear, it is amazing what mother nature can do. Once home, I laid them out on trays to set in the dehydrator. I prefer to keep the temperature down and wait longer than to rush the process and risk overheating the flowers.

Once they are bone dry, I remove the petal from their stems and store them in a clean airtight jar to be used in a myriad of ways. In order to make an infused oil from them, fill a clean jar halfway with petals and then top up with the carrier oil of your choice. Many use olive or coconut oil, but I prefer almond oil for skin products. Vitamin E can also be added to help prevent your oil from going rancid. Let the oil sit in a warm spot for 6-8 weeks, shaking often to help the infusion process. While reading up on the subject, I read that one could do the same with fresh flowers, I was doubtful, but decided to do a test to see what would happen. The concern being that botulism spores or other nasties could grow and produce an oil that is unsafe and even dangerous for use. So I took some fresh flower heads and left them in oil. It took a few days of pushing the flowers below the surface (I ended up weighing them down) but there was no question that what was happening in that bottle was something I would not want to use on my skin! There is an picture below, and you can see that there is a slimey area just above the flowers that would be interesting to have tested in a lab! So if you are doing this at home, make sure you use perfectly dry petals.
Note: some people try to shortcut the process by heating oil on the stove and simmering the petal.. I personally would not recommend this as heat can destroy the natural properties of calendula and reduce the shelf life of your oil.

So, what to do with your dry petals? So many uses, one of my favourite is ‘Tub Tea’ I have heat sealable tea bags that I fill with a variety of ingredients. I am definitely a tub person and it is nice to have something to toss in the tub that is natural and good for your skin. These teabags slowly release their goodness without making a mess of your tub. Do not put them under the spray of the water as they are somewhat fragile, just let them swish around). I make them in lavender as well (very relaxing), but the calendula mixed with oatmeal and powdered goat milk are lovely! There is no rule of thumb as to quantities, it is all a matter of preference.

The infused oil is what I use to make my favourite salve, the healing properties are endless. I will not go into it here, but google it and you will be amazed! To make a salve from your calendula oil is very simple. All you need to do is to gently warm the oil in a double boiler (or even a glass jar in a pot of water) add beeswax with some Vitamin E and pour into containers and leave to cool. Easy peasy! But a note of caution: When using beeswax, be sure to use the best possible quality you can, cosmetic grade at the bare minimum, organic food grade is best. Beeswax can retain toxins, and just because it looks clean and smells good, does not mean you should use it on your body. Craft quality beeswax is great for making candles and other purposes, but not for this!

and there you go.. you very own spa products 😉 Enjoy!

Granbakken at the Local Farmers Market

This weekend Hellviktangen Kulturhus is hosting a mini farmers market. It was a very last minute invite for those who grow and/or create things with local produce, and while looking in my pantry after a season of ‘making’ I thought why not!
Every year throughout the late summer and autumn, I put together a good sized batch of homemade goodness, most of which is given out to friends, family and neighbours. This year, I have more than enough!


Why ‘Granbakken’?
Granbakken (which translates to Spruce Hill) is the name our our property. Our home is an old timber summer house from 1921, and whenever I label something from my kitchen, it has had the Granbakken name on it. I find it very appealing to keep the history of our home alive. So I have been in the studio designing, printing and plotting labels for jams, jellies, salves, tub tea and more! I love being able to combine studio life with kitchen creations 🙂

Granbakken Goodness

My children have also been asking when we will be using the fruit press and crusher, and as our usual fall tradition is yet to have  happened, I told them we could bring it with us to the market, and they can sell fresh pressed organic apple juice and keep a share of the profits. They are thrilled! So today I am off to pick up crates of apples. Whatever does not get sold, will be pressed and turned into hard apple cider, which in turn will feed my apple cider vinegar cask, keeping my vinegar mother going throughout the year. I have bottled up some of our raw apple cider vinegar to sell on Sunday, and if anyone is interested in starting their own Apple Cider Vinegar vat, they can use this as a starter, or can simply enjoy it as is!
note to self: write blog post on making vinegar 😉

If you are in the neighbourhood, do stop by and say hello!


Black garlic

Patience is not a virtue I possess. Ask anyone who knows me and they will attest that my curiosity almost always gets the better of me. So when my latest culinary experiment’s success hinged on my letting time do it’s thing, I was not sure I could pull it off.

Garlic is something that we use in abundance in our kitchen, and I am always interested in trying new cultivars and means of preparation. It was in researching fermented garlic (next on my to do list) that I stumbled across black garlic, and I knew I had to find a way to make it myself. Black garlic (falsely referred to as fermented – as it does not involve any microbial action) is garlic that has been heated over the duration of many weeks at a constant temperature and humidity. The sugars in the garlic are slowly caramelised and develop a deep umami flavour that is quite simply fantastic! The texture of the cloves soften and the flavour mellows to something reminiscent of balsamic vinegar and truffles.

Last night while a good friend was over for dinner, we decided that after 40 days it was time to see what we had… and wow! We were thrilled! We removed a few heads from the package (approximately 2 dozen heads of garlic in this batch) and wrapped the rest up to maintain the original humidity level as much as possible). The first thing that hit us was the smell.. it was divine, deep and mellow, reminiscent of what can simply be referred to as soul food, the likes of which only come in the form of slow food. The colour and texture of the cloves had changed to a deep caramel colour and soft consistency, not quite as black as I would like, hence my putting the rest of the batch back in hibernation for another few weeks. We sliced a few cloves, and ate them all on their own, decadent finger food to say the least. The rest will keep caramelizing with the goal being a black and gelatinous spreadable texture. I can hardly wait!

Black garlic is hailed as being a healthy source of antioxidants, with many purporting various health benefits etc… I am no expert, and have to admit that this project was solely based on wanting to add a new ingredient to my pantry that would expand our culinary palette, but my gutt tells me that this has got to be good for you!

Tonight I plan on pairing it with goats cheese and maybe a drop of honey and sea salt on a pastry crust… ahh.. the possibilities are endless.

I will be putting together my next batch this week, and will document the entire process. This time it will include a variety of garlic – something tells me that this will quickly become a continuous cycle of batches… Stay tuned.

Bees are buzzing!

Always keen on trying out new pursuits in life, it was just a matter of time until apiculture was on the agenda. Many who know me are surprised, given my distaste (for lack of a better word) of bugs, but these little girls (and their drones) are just lovely! With hopes of harvesting honey, all the while helping the environment, the adventure begins! So along with my cohorts at Ekebo we have set up our hives and are learning all about what we can do for the bees, as well as what they can do for us.

yes, that would be me with the gopro always taking pics!

yes, that would be me with the gopro always taking pics!

Enlightening is the word I would use to describe apiculture. There is simply so much to learn about how bees do what they do. A little overwhelming at first when you are reading about it, but once you have your own bee colony to follow and learn with, you simply go day by day. The bee gang at Ekebo consists of new beginners, a few who have taken beekeeping courses, and some who have some solid experience to help us all out. I can not imagine a better way to dive in.
After recently acquiring our beehives and their inhabitants, last week we had the chance to introduce ourselves for the first time. The bees had been on site for over a week and seemed to have settled in after the move, so now it was time to open the hives. It was a hot sunny day, and after prepping honey supers for the hives (wiring, crimping and adding wax foundation) we donned our suits. With my GoPro around my neck to document the occasion, we lit our smokers and took off the lid. One of my biggest concerns (considering the plan to be able to do this with the children) was that we had docile, friendly bees. Different races of bees can be more hostile than others – ours are Krainer/Carniolan bees. With a few puffs of smoke to calm them and have them move lower into the hive, we pried up each and every frame looking to understand the state of the hive. An unbelievable society to peer into, they did not seem to mind being looked at, as they just kept on working the entire time. Little bee butts sticking out of the comb, bright orange nectar, glistening honey, fat little larvae being nursed and a smell that was intoxicating! Busy bees at work, we looked and found all of the signs of a well functioning hive, and best of all they were friendly. A little tidying to keep pathways clear, and with the advice of the more experienced beekeepers, we found the queen, spotted a few drones and closed the hive up to let them do their work in privacy. I am already looking forward to next weeks inspection! This time with the children. We can hardly wait for the honey, some already earmarked to friends and of course we are planning on brewing mead. The beeswax, well you just know I have plans for that as well!

For a first hand view of the hive in action, take a look at this video I took trying to find the queen 🙂
… and below you can see images of the process of prepping the supers.

it is the process not the product

One thing always holds true, I love to learn. My husband is forever in awe as to how I am never bored. Curiosity, it is a gift, one that I hope to never take for granted. For the last while, my curiosity has had me spending a little less time in the studio, and more time in the kitchen and beyond. Creativity can be expressed in many facets in life, and these last years have been a delicious adventure. I have long thought of starting a new blog, as this one has focused mainly on my studio work, but the truth is that being a ‘maker’ does not have to be confined to my art. Many who know me have heard me say time and time again, that it is the process and not the product that is important for me. Diving in head first and learning everything I can about a subject is something that I love, and in the end, it is the knowledge and experience that I cherish more than the final product… and boy have I been busy… so here it comes, ready or not.. more musings of a maker!
Stay tuned 😉

New tool in the studio

Over the holidays, the studio welcomed its newest tool, a plotter (cutter). There are many on the market, each having their own pros and cons, but after having done some research, I found the one for me.

I have always had a love for words.. quotes and sayings… and being a font addict with a reasonable handle on graphic design and a love for Adobe Illustrator, the possibilities with this machine are endless! It cuts so much more than vinyl… cardstock, fabric, stencils for glass etching and fabric stenciling, heat transfer for clothing.. and I have even sourced reflective heat transfer for clothing. That may sound crazy to most of the world, but living in Norway, the dark season makes wearing reflects mandatory. My son has decided he wants to start a business selling his own reflects designs.. and he is only 8! Time to make space in the studio.

Yesterday I made my first wall piece from vinyl. Well beyond the standard size of the plotter (the wording is just over a meter high), I piece-worked it to get it just the way I wanted. Part of the fun was coming up with the words.. I have seen lots of ‘family rules’ out there, but this one, after discussing what to write with the family, is just perfect.

the wall in our entryway (just across from the studio door)
pieceworking.. 4 segments (reminder to self.. registration marks next time!)
my studio helper.. nice quality time talking about the ‘rules’ and what they mean

leather handles on felt bags

A while back, I blogged about the raw wool felted laptop bag (see post) that I created for myself, and I thought I would show how the handles were made.

Store bought handles of all shapes, sizes and colours are available in most craft stores (or online), but in my opinion, nothing beats a good quality, handmade, adjustable thick leather strap with solid brass fittings.

Laptop bag – raw fleece, with 3 inside pockets and cowhide straps – this mannequin is a little size 8.. on me (178cm 5’10 tall) the bag sits higher.

I love the combination of warm leather, solid brass and wool

I have not used a pattern for doing this.. I simply gauge the size based on the bag and what feels comfortable. The only factor to consider is the width of your buckle. I cut five pieces of leather, one for the strap, and two shorter pieces that are doubled over and secured to the felt itself using chicago screws (leather bond optional), and two narrower pieces that are looped to keep the strap from flailing about.

undone.. this shows the part that is secured to the bag. It is doubled over so that the wool felt is sandwiched between two layers of leather. This is very solid, and can easily bear the weight of a laptop and more.

The side pieces are very simple.. an oval hole in the middle for the buckle to pivot, and in this case two holes matched up on each side.  Punch matched holes in your felt bag to line up with the holes you have punched in your leather, from there, the assembly is self explanatory. If you feel that the leather is took thick to bend smoothly where the buckle is, use the shaver to thin the area.. it helps!) You may sometimes feel like you need three hands to assemble it all, while screwing together the chicago screws, but it can be done!

the basic tools: a mallet & punches

the inside of the ‘sandwich’ held secure by chicago screws

The leather used on this project is a 6-7 ounce natural cowhide. You can buy precut leather straps in various widths, or use a strap cutter (see image below) and make it just the way you want. I treat my leather  (pre-assembly) with neatsfoot oil, it keeps the leather soft, and gives it that warmth of colour that only gets better with age and wear.

top: leather cowhide rolled up, from left: leather strap ,loop, neatsfoot oil, leather strap cutter, hole punches (round and oval), chicago screws, end cutter, leather shaver and mallet

Once you have both sides assembled, you simply need to take the long strap, punch the number of holes you want on each side (for adjustability) and put it on!

The life of a Maker… studio time

I managed to get in some studio time of late to finish off some orders, and get a few pieces photographed. Years ago I read that an artist should take photos of everything they make regardless of whether it is going to be a personal gift or go up for sale (or already sold for that matter). Time to start getting into the habit.

Jewelry photography is a tedious task, requiring very bright lights with a light tent to control reflections and shadows. I keep thinking I need to set up a photo spot in the studio, such that it is not such an effort setting everything up each time.

My children spend quite a bit of time with me in the studio.. asking questions, playing on the floor.. digging through all the tools and supplies while dreaming of what they want to make next (they now even have their own cupboard of supplies).

A typical studio shot.. on the right, the tripod and light tent (on top of the centrifuge), with laptop at hand. Workbench, with power tools underneath and packages in need of labeling to get to the post office. My daughter, forever curious going through my stash of jewelry... Silk shibori scarves hanging all over in need of pressing and packaging. In the background (next room) boxes and boxes of wool and silk, and ribbons hanging down from their spools over the window.

It has been a productive time, and with studio visits scheduled later this week with neighborhood children, there will be lots of laughter and fun in these rooms… but for now, a few images from last night.

words that touched me deeply

for mother and child

because sometimes we need a reminder

A handmade holiday

With the holidays fast approaching, it is time for my annual ‘buy handmade’ appeal. 🙂 (click here and take a moment to read my post from 2009)

Every year, by the time mid-November rolls around our mailboxes fill to the brim with holiday catalogs from near and far. The vast majority of the stuff (for lack of a better word) is made in some far off place where people are underpaid and their work is under appreciated.

This year, as every year, I will spend my time making.  I had originally signed up for Epla’s 1st ‘in the flesh’ christmas market, which will surely be a grand success; but due to priorities and a heavy schedule… going into production mode was simply out of the question, so I have had to free up my spot — given the waiting list to get in, I am sure it made someone very happy!

Speaking of Epla, they turned 2 this week, and their success is admirable! I started with them when they first opened their doors, and have felt a sense of belonging from the get-go. They posted their Christmas gift list this morning and I was pleasantly surprised to have 2 of the 9 spots allotted for their ‘exclusive gift-picks‘. I truly hope they have a great market, and hope that I may even have a chance to pass by. For those of you who do not know of Epla, it is Norway’s marketplace for artisans to sell their work. They now, also have a fashion (vintage) and collectables section. If you are Norwegian and looking for that special gift, take a look, I am sure you will find what you are looking for, and in doing so, you will support an artist living in Norway, likely working from their home in their spare time, doing what they love most.

Support your local artist/maker.. it is a win/win situation. Handmade gifts, even if you did not make them yourself, are simply the best! Gifts with heart and soul, that show that you did take the time to find something special.

… and for my local (read: really local) readers, do make sure to visit Nesodden’s  They have a lovely selection of work from some very talented local makers. I wish them all the best!

In the meantime, projects are in the works in our house, and as my children (and many of their friends) spend time making with me, you may start to see a new series of posts.. about the life of a Maker.

FeltUnited 2011 exhibit is online :)

Another year of FeltUnited comes to a close, bringing together a three year theme covering the colour wheel.

What started as a simple idea three years ago as a way of bringing artists together in a joint exhibit, has come together into an event with a following that we could not have dreamed of; over 66000 hits on the website, and well over 1250 artists in close to 40 countries. Given those numbers, one of the big topics covered while Elis Vermeulen and I met in London earlier this week was the future of FeltUnited. Things need to change.. for the betterment of all 🙂 Stay tuned for more information after the new year. Until then, we will be taking time to enjoy our families and rest up before the holidays are upon us.

In the meantime, make yourself a warm cup of something good and peruse the exhibits 🙂

felted laptop bag – using raw fleece

Forever inspired by my dear friend Elis Vermeulen of Holland to work with raw fleece (see my previous post on working with Texel with Elis), I decided to make myself a laptop bag a while back using my favorite medium.

I have yet to add the straps (really need some studio time this week), but will be using some good quality leather with a buckle to make it adjustable.

cover flap made with lincoln long wool, norwegian C1 and Drenths Heath

using 3 resists, there is a small pocket for my phone and 2 large pockets one for my laptop and another large enough for A4 folders and more

happy mac

carefull planning re: shrinkage and you get a perfect fit!

The base is made using norwegian C1  (I planned for a shrinkage of 30%). It is the perfect wool for sturdy bags. It produces a nice firm felt that hardly pills and wears well.  Now to pull out a hide of leather and some brass findings.

Oh! by the way, if you are interested in learning more about how to work with raw fleece, Elis will be teaching a bag class at the Creative Felt Gathering in Michigan this september. See her website for more details, or contact her to arrange a workshop in your area.

FiberArts Spring 2011 issue review of FeltUnited

FeltUnited in FiberArts magazine

FeltUnited in the spring 2011 issue of FiberArts magazine. (available internationally in newstands now)

What started out almost two and a half years ago as a simple thought on bringing together felt artists from around the globe, has grown to be so much more than Elis and I could have imagined. The FeltUnited website tipped the 50,000 hits mark recently and our facebook group is nearing 1000 fans. Who would have imagined?

FiberArts Spring 2011 issue review of FeltUnited

FiberArts Spring 2011 issue review of FeltUnited page 1

FiberArts Spring 2011 issue review of FeltUnited page 2

Kiln fired enamel

Enamel – a fantastic way to bring some colour into what can often become a world of black and white when working with silver.

vitreous kiln fired enamel jewelry

This week, I have been testing a set of colours from Thompson Enamels – transparent/lead free for use on silver/copper/gold. Enamel is powdered glass which, when heated melts, flows and hardens to a smooth, durable vitreous coating on metal. Enameling can also be done on glass or porcelain, but requires enamels with a different COE (Coefficient Of Expansion) – expansion rates must be suited to the base surface material.

Prior to using enamels, they need to be washed to remove the “fines” – (extra fine particles which can cause your enamel to be cloudy).
This can either be done:
wet: by rinsing in water multiple times until the water runs clear
or dry: by using a series of sifting pans to separate the particle sizes (60, 80, 100 mesh etc.)

sifted enamel on silver – ready for the kiln

Regardless of which technique you plan on using to apply the enamel, the silver must be properly prepared, polished and cleaned to remove all traces of dirt and oils that would prohibit the fusing of the glass on the silver.

Dry sifting technique: To apply the powdered enamel, a mesh sifter is used to evenly distribute it across the surface. Depending on the piece, a holding medium can be used such as ‘Klyr-fire’ to help ‘glue’ the enamel  until firing. (Make sure the klyr-fire has dried prior to placing in the kiln).

Enamel can be fired with either a torch or a kiln. Torch firing, due to the fluctuations in temperature can cause uneven results and allow for the oxidation of the particles producing discoloration of the enamel. These effects are sometimes desirable for artists, but for my preference, kiln firing is the only way to go.

Paragon Xpress 14A kiln with bead/enameling door

Firing in a kiln produces an even heat (around 800 degrees celcius for enameling)  which engulfs the entire piece, which is unattainable when torch firing.

When I purchased my kiln, I knew that eventually enamel would find its way in to my repertoire of skills, so I selected a kiln with a bead/enamel door on the front which would allow me to have access to my work without opening the main door letting the heat escape. You would be amazed at how fast you can  drop down 100 degrees.

When using a kiln, certain safety precautions must be taken. Always have a non-flammable surface in front of your kiln door. Should you accidentally drop a piece of red hot metal it would be nice not to set fire to your studio. I use a Solderite pad which can withstand over 900 degrees. Use kiln gloves religiously.. (go ahead.. ask me why! – I am the queen of burns – you should see my left hand at the moment. Kitchen accident NOT studio accident).  And never look into your heated kiln without proper eye protection (you can burn your retina and cause permanent eye damage). The photos in this post were taken while I was wearing my green workglasses.

the setup

When enamelling, I cover my kiln floor with a fibreglass cloth to prevent any molten glass from sticking to the surface. a raised mesh metal stand  is used to support the pieces, and a kiln fork is used to place it in the kiln via the beaddoor.

peeking through the beaddoor

Due to the variance in temperatures and firing times for the different colours, testing is important. What may take 2 minutes for one colour, could take 4 for the next. The best way to know is to watch for the signs.

Enamel goes through a variety of phases as it goes from powder to smooth glass; first comes the sugar stage, then the orange peel stage. As it passes this stage, one must watch to make sure that it does not overfire. This can cause separation and discolouration of the enamel.

Once done, remove from kiln. You will notice that as it cools, the colour will change. Do not quench your piece in water or the glass will shatter.

Then, you are done!

making samples.. and this set is for me!

NOTE: when buying enamel jewelry: The term ‘cold enamel’ does not refer to true glass enamel. It is a term that has surfaced in recent years in an effort to upscale what is essentially dyed resin – a mix, pour and set plastic.