January 30, 2013

Lentil & Kidney Bean Stew

This is one of our favorite cold-weather foods. It is total comfort food! What makes this recipe even better? It is cooked in a crock pot! It only takes about 15 minutes to prepare the ingredients. Once the ingredients are in the crock pot, you can turn it on, and forget about it for 6 hours. I typically make this on the weekend and eat it as a meal or as a side throughout the week.

If you love mushrooms (like I do!), the stew can be enhanced by adding additional ingredients after it's finished cooking. One of my favorite things to add is lightly sauteed rosemary mushrooms.

2 tablespoons of Olive Oil
1 large red onion, coarsely chopped
1 pound bag of lentils
2 cans kidney beans (or you can cook dry ones)
4 cups vegetable stock
2 cups water
2 teaspoon dried bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves
sea salt & freshly cracked pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 Serrano chiles sliced, more if you like a lot of heat

Saute onions in a skillet with olive oil until they soften. Meanwhile, add all other ingredients to the crock pot. Add onions. Cook on low heat for 6 hours.

If you love mushrooms like I do, just before the stew is ready heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a pan. Saute mushrooms with 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, fresh cracked pepper and a pinch of sea salt. Saute only long enough for the mushrooms to absorb the oil (about 1 minute 30 seconds). I like them to be softened, but still a little firm.

January 25, 2013

Reimagining Printmaking

I've always been drawn to a creative process that resulted in the production of a three dimensional object. For the longest tmie, ceramics was my favorite process. I loved throwing sections of large, womanly-shaped vases on the wheel and then stacking the sections to create two-three foot objects. Once college and post-college studio spaces became either unavailable or inconvenient, I began searching for new creative processes.

Printmaking was one process that caught my eye. Luke (my husband) is a printmaker so I had a live-in teacher. He mainly works with screen printing but I knew that wasn't for me. I was drawn to relief prints. Not so much the finished product, but rather the carving process. I found it to have many similiarities to the ceramic process. I jumped in, swam around for a while and then jumped out. It really wasn't holding my attention. A year or so later I decided to combine my mild interest in sewing with my mild interest in printmaking and BAM! A full blown interest in the combination of the two! I now pine all day to sew and print in the studio.

My print designs are inspired by my love of all things natural. A side note here: in a world of processed food and processed-everything, I think it is so important to value, treasure and highlight the handmade and natural. My (as close to as I can get) all-natural philosophy motivated me to start my own handmade soap company. The ingredients I use to create the items for my business inspire my printmaking.

I am currently working on this really great ginger lino-cut. It is the most tedious block I have carved. My style is typically contour-line based but this block calls for textures within the lines. I am so excited to see the final print! Just like the flower bouquet print above, this ginger will also find its way onto a towel. A few weeks ago, I made a ginger soap that I think will compliment this print beautifully.
As always, my soaps and towels can be purchased in my Etsy shop: PamsSoapStudio.etsy.com

January 20, 2013

Sunday Antiquing

There is a really great street lined with antique stores a couple towns over. I've had my eye on the south-jersey green mason jars for a while and today I finally purchased one. This one has a glass lid! According to a few online articles, this type of closure is called a bail closure. According to the docents at my work, the color of this jar is caused by the iron found naturally in the sand of south jersey. Glassblowers would have to add manganese to the furnace glass to change the color to clear. I LOVE the natural south jersey green! 

In addition to visiting the antique shops, I tested and listed my shampoo spheres on my Etsy shop!


January 16, 2013

Do You Love Cubbies?

Do you LOVE cubbies? I do. I totally do. I can never have enough storage space. Even if there is nothing to store at the moment....there will be....eventually. That is why I bought these fantastic cubby-shelves at IKEA this past weekend. They are a high gloss gray that look great against the light gray and dusty rose walls of our studio. This purchase was inspired by a book I recently bought titled Where Women Create. It is mostly a picture book of women's creative spaces. What I love about it the most is that all the spaces featured use a combination of old and new pieces (shelves, chairs, decor) to organize materials, tools and items of inspiration. I have no shortage of all three.

My New Favorite Book...for the week.
After spending the previous weekend re-organizing my materials I was able to condense my storage system. So, when I brought in these shelves I realized I have more room than I need. A GREAT problem to have. Re-organizing a creative space can be so inspiring. When I have a clean and organized work space I feel more inclined to create. 

My charcoal gray shelf fits perfectly in the line up! 


Everyone has loved my gift wrapping I use on my soaps, so I've decided to make the service and the tags items in my Etsy shop!

January 6, 2013

Open For Business!

It feels so good! I finally have my Etsy shop up and running! There was a great deal of planning to make the shop just the way I wanted it. I guess that's how it is with any creative project one takes on. I am so happy (and proud) to be making and selling 100% natural, vegan soaps. I always test my soaps first to make sure they meet my standards. In the beginning there were a couple bars that I did not like. Just as with baking and cooking, the soap recipes had to be adjusted. I labored over the percentages and the ingredients to make sure each recipe was perfect. My husband has proclaimed, "We never have to buy soap ever again!". That is true. But just like with art (we are both artists) we find ourselves drawn to the work of others and buy prints, pots, and paintings. Handmade soap is just like art to me; I love what I make but it will not cause the end of soap-shopping!

I may have mentioned this before but the reason I started making soap was that I loved the handmade soap I was buying at farmer's markets and festivals. For those who may not know me that well, if I find something I like I must learn to make/do it myself. A curse, maybe, but this characteristic has kept me busy and life very interesting.

One of the things I love about making soap is that it has inspired a whole bunch of other projects and products that will compliment the soap. The first product that will be available in the Etsy shop (in addition to the soap) are hand crocheted wash cloths. Other items I'm considering for the future are: ceramic soap dishes, block printed tea/hand towels, and bath pillows (to support your head while soaking in the tub).

Visit my shop at pamssoapstudio.etsy.com