So, here I am.....

The girl that said she'd never blog. The far from computer savvy girl that is always up for a challenge despite a serious lack of time.My blog goals. Do I have blogging goals? Hmmm, I guess I should. So I pledge to be funny, lighthearted, not vent or complain to much and maybe just maybe share a crumb of wit and wisdom on occassion.I will most likely chat about etsy, my addiction and muse. the incredible artsists and friends I have found in a community that oozes with creativity, friendship, support and a home for all things handmade.You will hear me ramble about the insanity of my life including my 3 boys, ages 12, 16 and 53. Yes, that last one I am married to, but trust me, he is just as much boy as man. After 17 years of marriage I find myself raising him along with them. Then again, he would probably say the same of me at times. I will often speak of friends I would go to the ends of the earth for and a family that more often than not defines dysfunction. Then again, I strongly believe a functional family is the stuff legends are made of.I am a lover of music of all kinds and not so much the TV ( except maybe Glee). I have an addiction to handmade glass, especially venetian and lampwork beads as well as unique pottery. I have made a concerted effort to tame my jewelry fetish with my own creations which can be seen at you haven't figured out by now, I can jabber my jaws and my fingers as if someone could care what I have to say.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Consider Yourself Warned

If you read my last post, you are well aware that I have an agenda these days.  Couple my need to share (a lot) with my technological ineptness (not only was there no such thing as STEM in my day, there were barely computers) and you understand the reason I have not created a separate blog just for STEAM.  Ice this cake with lacking the ability to come up with a catchy title, the creative platform this blog can sometimes be and a small but captive audience base and here we are.

So, be prepared for STEAM posts to be interspersed with recipes, artist features, family crap and the occasional rant.  A little reality never hurt anyone, especially when followed by a cocktail or two.

Stay tuned

Are You Riding the STEAM Train?


If you know anything about me, you know I'm passionate.  I get excited.  I talk about things.  I love kids.  I value education.  And, my kids are not athletes.  Well, one can run pretty darned fast without being chased or running away from trouble, so maybe there's a bit of an athlete there.  The interesting part of that is how I am constantly hearing about how his endurance on the track relates to his circular breathing. Again, those of you that know me can only imagine the visual"circular breathing" conjured, but hey, I learned, and who knew all that trombone practice would make Erik a better runner?  Those damned Fine Arts.  They're just honing in on everything.

 Good for them!

So, back to this STEAM train.  I'm sure you've all seen a steam engine or at least know what one is, and if not how it works, at least what it does.  Similarly, if you are raising children, have any interest in education movements, work in the fields of science, technology, math, engineering, or manufacturing, you are also familiar  with STEM.  It's interesting, it's fascinating and a National movement to put our country back in the limelight.  A movement to cultivate learners with an integral knowledge of the inter working of these disciplines.  I and my children are fortunate enough to attend a High School with one of only 2 state-of-the-art STEM labs in Illinois.  They have been afforded the opportunity to begin this learning process in grade school through an outreach program and now, this year, to delve even deeper into these concepts as middle school students with a STEM lab in the grade school through a grant from PLTW (Project Lead the Way).   How fortunate for them that we live in a progressive, forward thinking, quality school district.  Yay! for us.

Now, if I haven't lost you to the distraction of a shiny object, put you to sleep or totally confused you, back to my question.  Are you riding the STEAM train?  STEAM is a movement to take STEM to the next level.  To fill the void in this great new innovative concept.  It adds Art to STEM.  It brings the idea of putting America and its next generation back on top of the world innovatively.  It puts us ahead of the pact in thought, in concept, in creativity.  In other words, it is the train to be on.  Hell, if you're gonna ride the train, get a first class ticket!

Why am I asking you these questions?  Why am I riding this train?  Why is this important?  Why is this the soap box I choose to make my passion?
Because we need to change the way we think.  Collectively.  This world, its leaders, its educators, its CEO's, principals, parents and youth need to change the value we place on the Fine Arts and the priority they are afforded.  We need to value creativity, expression, and beauty and the individuals they create.We need to open our minds fully and give the Arts there due respect.  Is this the age old argument?  Yes.  Can we tell you something you haven't heard before?  Yes.  and the answer is STEAM.
Integrating the Fine Arts into the industrial, mechanical process gives us innovators.  People who can look at things from a different perspective, create what has yet to  be imagined, humanize what we already have and make it useful.  Creativity, passion, expression of the soul can be the key to making a good thing great, solving the unsolvable from a new direction.  Hell, playing a wind instrument can be the difference between a runner and a track star.  Who's to say it can't prevent the labored breathing of a future respiratory patient?  It may take the scientifically trained doctor to experiment with such a concept, but it is likely the musician that sees the possibility because he lives it.

The bottom line is, we can't leave the arts behind.  We can't diminish or sideline them.  We need to embrace them and appreciate not only their beauty but their usefulness and their rightful place among the sciences.  Without engineers, we would not have the preciseness of a Stradivarius or the complexity of the keys that give a clarinet or saxophone its clarity, but what good are they without the artist who can make them useful.

I think of this now, more than ever for several reasons.  The recent loss of Steve Jobs has presented the world with a biography of innovation.  Designs, that because of creativity changed our world, literally.  Innovations that made engineered items relatable, comfortable and intuitive.  There's no formula for intuition, it's felt, it's understood, it's evolved.

I also think of this now, more than ever because my children are becoming adults.  Creative, artistic, passionate young men with a thirst for knowledge, an intelligence for success and a love of the Arts.  Yes, I live this, everyday, and I am blessed to do so.  They have a unique way of looking at the world and as much as they relish the traditions of holiday celebrations, "that's the way its always been done" will never satisfy their questions.  For that, I thank the Arts!

So, jump on that train, catch that plane, hell, crawl on your hands and knees, but get there.  Embrace the arts not just for their beauty, but for their strength, their usefulness, for what they bring to the party.  Grab them from the corner of the room like Swayze did Baby and tell the world, no one puts the Arts in the corner!  I beg of you, get out of the proverbial balcony and out on the stage.  Sing this song, dance this dance and take our youth and their education to the next level.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Quiche and Salad

These to go together like peanut butter & jelly, I swear.  I was never a fan of fruits & nuts in my salad until this one and now, I'm hooked.  A pure winner and time of year.  The quiche is great on it's won, warm or cold, can be half baked and frozen for later use and always a crowd pleaser.  I tend to make 4-6 at a time and freeze them for last minute company,  a dish for an ailing friend, a no fuss holiday breakfast or just a special treat anytime.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The trek to the Amish

My maiden voyage to the land of the crafting Gods.  Yes, I admit, I love Amish fursniture, handcrafted, beaustiful carved wood made with love, sweat and no power tools.  I also love Amish foods, handbaked pies, slow baked roasts and good herbed stuffing.  I just hope they love my handcrafts with even a fraction of the admiration I have for theirs.
The countdown has begun and my nerves are wrecked.  I have yet to choose 3 pieces for the competition tent becasue it's so hard to beieve I have pieces worthy of competing on such a level.  The self doubt has set in.  Will I do well?  Is it worth the time and $$$?  Is this show biting off more than I can chew?  Am I crazy to travel so far, stay so long and take such chances?  Well, only time will tell.
Feel free to ease my worries by visiting this great venue.  They really do have so much to offer.  Aside fromthe regular wagon rides, tourist attractions (theatre productions, restaurants, Amish traditions, etc.), there will be 299 other crafters joining me for 4 days of selling our wares, sharing our passions and a little friendly competition.
The list of vendors may have more than one or two familiar names for you.  And the fair supplies a great map to help you find them, the food, the entertainment, the lovely port a pots and even a hotel when youdecide you're too pooped to make it home, or better yet, there's so much to do and see, you need more time to fit it all in.  I am in Booth O183 (Orange section, near the pork, burgers and onion rings (how can this be a bad thing?)
Summer's in full swing and your weekend is just begging for a nice drive and fun activity.  This should be your destination!  Stop by and say hello.  Mention this blogspot and I'll give you a special 10% off your purchase as a thank you for your support.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Let Them Eat Cake (or at least let Tina)

Again, I find myself blogging a recipe for a friend.  I really need to be more attentive to the blog overall, but at least these excuses get me here, and usually with good "Food Porn" pictures.  The truth is, I'm just terminably short of time and most posts are an excercise in procrastiantion.

That being said, I'm not usually a huge procrastinator, especially when under the gun for a craft show deadline (like this weekend), but some things just beg for attention.  Tina, my friend, is definitely one.  How can you deny a girl in love a little indulgence.  Tina is a rare bread, dealt a tough hand.  She is full of talent and love and pain and her perserverance can be inspiring.  On days like today when I am in horrible pain, stressed with a "to-do" list and unmotivated, I think twice before complaining because I know to whom I pale by comparison.  I am reminded of all I have and all I can do and how I have no right to complain.  Long story long, Miss Tina asked for this yummy recipe, so here it is.
The cake and cupcakes are the same recipe, you just have to watch that cake for doneness because honestly, I don't remember how long I baked it in the transition.  I probably compared a few recipes to their cupcake couterparts and went from there.

Lemon Cupcakes with Raspberry Crème Frosting

• 1 cup butter ,softened
• 2 cups sugar
• 4eggs
• 2 teaspoons lemon zest
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 2 cups sour cream
• 2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice


In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add lemon zest, juicel and vanilla; mix well. Combine dry ingredients; add to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream (batter will be thick). Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups ¾ full of batter. Bake at 375 degrees F for 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Raspberry Buttercream Frosting:

• 1 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
• 5 cups powdered sugar
• 2 tablespoons raspberry extract

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer with a whisk attachment, whip the butter until creamed. Add the powdered sugar and extract. Mmix until the ingredients are evenly incorporated and the frosting is smooth and creamy.

Now, for the cake:

I used 2 - 9 inch round cake pans and sliced each layer to fill with raspberry filling.  Between the 2 cakes is a layer of Lemon Curd.  Unfortunately, I did not photo the final product before it was cut.  What a shame.  I guess that leaves something to look forward to next time around.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Netta Edit

We all need to Netta edit on occasion. What? What's that? You don't know what Netta edit is? Well, sit back, grab a glass of wine and I'll tell you all about it.

*pauses for the cork popping and wine pouring*

There you go, you've Netta edited your day.

For those of you that don't know, Miss Netta is the most vibrant, carefree, easy going, roll with the punches, charm your pants off 3 year old and I had the pleasure of having her edit the past 30 hours of my life.

We laughed, we sang, we ate burgers and fries, and jumped. a lot. If you had twinkle toes (flashing gems on your gym shoes) you would jump a lot too. I mean really, who doesn't have time to  jump if it makes you smile?

Netta doesn't worry about time or making dinner. She just gets where she's going and there's food to eat. The fact that it's brought to her by a train, along the restaurant counter is just an added benefit.
She isn't concerned with paying bills or making beds. She wakes when she's rested and relishes what life lays at her feet.

We all need to be a little more like Netta and do it a little more often.
These are her secrets;
smile, dance and sing every chance you get.
Be kind, friendly and ask questions.
giggle and be silly without caring who knows it, but most of all,
get yourself some twinkle toes. You'll be glad you did

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Stuffing a Pepper

The many stages of a stuffed pepper made to perfection.

The peppers:

The meat:

The stuffed pepper:

The sauce:

Sweet Harmony:

Stay tuned for more food porn.

Banana Bread FTW!

Not that Banana Bread needs help in the win department, but OMG, it can be elevated to starlet in the Food Porn category. Feel free to indulge your own personal fantasies in your venture, I really don't think you can go wrong on this one.
Here are the simple safe sex rules of Banana Bread Porn:

Rule # 1

Start with a good fresh specimen

Rule #2

Dipping is a must. It will take you to that special place.

Rule # 3

You have to have some sizzle!

Rule #4

Don't forget to try various positions, and for Pete's sake, rollover.

Rule #5

Lean back and enjoy the happy ending!

It's an eye opening experience good for the whole family.

(yes, he'll kill me for this one, but maybe he'll learn t o comb his hair or better yet, get it cut once in awhile)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Yes, You Can Make A Difference

If you think your voice doesn't matter, you are worng. Thsi country and this state may be frustrating at times, but don't give up hope. We are still a democracy and speaking up for what you believe and voicing your concerns still matters. If you have been following my posts of the past few days, here's a perfect example. I can't help but wonder if her is referring to my very own email when he mentions hearing from Niles.
It doesn't really matter. What matters is that the people were heard. Someone listened!

Discussion on HB 1886

A bill to force school consolidations across the state was not even called in the Counties & Townships Committee yesterday, after Committee members received a flood of phone calls in opposition from superintendents and school board members across the state. Thank you for your hard work on this issue as we continue to fight this battle.

Both the Chair of the Committee, Rep. Patrick Verschoore (D-Rock Island) and another member, Rep. Richard Morthland (R-Moline) discussed their opposition to HB 1886 on video. You can view Verschoore's video

Verschoore on HB 1886 school consolidation

and Morthland's video

Morthland on HB 1886 school consolidation

Thursday, March 3, 2011

This is More Like It

This is a much more thoughtful and appreciative response to my letter (see post March 1st). I won't go so far as to say it redeems politicians in my eyes, but at least he showed some common decency and manners (an maybe even a brain)
Thank you Mr. Ramey

Ms. Johnson,

Thank you for your note. We need to take the time to scrutinize this bill and make sure the best proposal is the one that comes before the committee. House Bill 1886 will not be called in committee today. I appreciate your views on this legislation and if you have any further information on this bill I would be grateful if you passed it along to me.

Representative Randy Ramey

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Do Politicians Really Wonder Why

people can't stand them?
This is the response I received from one of the eight state representatives I contacted with my letter yesterday.
Not only is it the only response (so, I guess there's brownie points for that), but it is completely irrelevant to my letter and addresses no one of my requests.

No letter head, no greeting, no signature. Not even a note in the email referring to this attachment. That is just lame! You would think a damned page could draft a salutation at least.

The Governor’s budget for next year is a template for budget talks. There
are a number of his proposals that will not be in the final budget that
passes the legislature. I do not believe we will have enough revenue to
support the Governor’s proposed spending level have a balanced budget. I
would anticipate a much lower spending level than the Governor requested.

The House is in the process of determining the amount of revenue we
available for next year. Once that is determined we will begin the
appropriations process. The revenue available will be distributed to the
five Appropriation committees. Each committee will need to pass
legislation, or a series of bills, to the full House that does not exceed
the amount set for each.
This method of drafting a budget will ensure that we will have a balanced
budget. I am confident that these changes in the House budget process will
produce a final product that puts us on a path to eliminating our deficit in
the next four years.
The cuts necessary to balance the budget will include education. Hopefully
the education community will have both short term and long term

This makes me nauseous

A Letter to my State Representatives

I sent this letter to the pertinent people yesterday in hopes I will be heard. It's not often I speak out so boldly, but this really got under my skin.

Dear Representative/Senator

It is with immense concern that I write you. As a parent, a community member, a homeowner and a school board member, I urge you to seriously consider the ramifications of HB1886. I have equal concern over Governor Quinn’s consolidation proposal. Not only are these proposals ill conceived, they are unprecedented. Elementary and secondary education should be our highest priority. To leave such decisions to politicians and committeemen with no formal education training is absurd and dare I say, reckless.
To allow for no input from local districts, educators and citizens perpetuates the “behind closed doors” dirty politics for which our state is famous, as well as send a message to every person in the State of Illinois that those proposing this bill know in their hearts just how wrong it is.
I am a firm believer in standing up for your beliefs and that the right decision is very often not the easy one. If you truly believe your vision is best, you can withstand the ridicule of your opposition because in your heart you know you are doing the right thing. However, acting behind closed doors, stacking the deck with small, inept committees quickly pushing through serious issues shows the complete opposite. By sending this bill to a “committee of counties and townships” versus the education committee, you are doing just this. By avoiding careful consideration of studies such as “Consolidation of Schools and Districts: What the Research Says and What It Means” you are not making good, educated, informed decisions in the best interest of the whole. Instead, you are solving a long term problem with short term thinking and the cost of such short sightedness leaves the state’s budget woes to pale by comparison.

Please, I urge you to consider just a few of the ramifications of these actions.

o Consolidation should be intended to facilitate educational improvement rather than enrollment or geographical location
o Reorganization and consolidation should be initiated by local citizens and determined by a vote of the citizens
o Local citizens, school boards and the school district must have the authority to make decisions affecting the educational well-being of their community members.
o School district organization should reflect the community’s interest and values and not be dictated arbitrarily by the State
o Adjusting school districts by using the census could change school district boundaries every 10 years and vast increases in transportation costs related to these changes.

Equally, HB1886 serves no purpose but to give an arbitrary state run committee the power to force these and other ill conceived plans. I urge you to consider students, children, future leaders, our largest assets and the immense responsibility we have to them in every step of your decision making. “Students” should be the prevailing thought in every consideration, not money, debt or your political ambitions.

Please, do not let these ideas move forward in this way.


Karen Johnson

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Open House March 5th, 2011

It's one of the first signs that spring is in the air and fast approaching. My annual Studio Open House. This is a great opportunity to have "first dibs" on new items and see the fresh new designs I have created over my winter hibernation.

Over the years, this has become a fun, comfortable, laid back event. In truth, maybe just a good excuse to write off the cost of a case of wine, (haha) we do tend to put a good dent in one. Nevertheless, there will be tasty snacks and treats, wine and soft drinks, fresh new jewelry creations as well as old favorites.

Be sure to stop by, and bring a firend or two. Better yet, mention you saw my blog and you'll receive a free gift.

**I know better than to publish TMI on the very public internet. If you are in the area and interested, please contact(convo) me for the nitty gritty.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Happy Birthday My Friend!

I've had an old friend in the back of my mind all week, especially through all the snow. You see, he loved the snow and would have relished in a blizzard of Epic proportions falling on Chicago. As we all grumbled and mumbled about the inconvenience, the closed schools and businesses, the shoveling and the emptying store shelves, my friend Brian would have been relishing in a state of perma-grin. Wonder in his eyes and excitement in his heart as he blazed a trail through the snow.

Yes, I said would have. We lost our friend 18 months ago to the ruthless disease of Cystic Fibrosis at the tender age of 18. You may remember me writing about it then. Well, today is his birthday, and what a day it is. Superbowl Sunday, with his most favorite Green Bay Packers playing in the big game. Two feet of snow on the ground and more fresh stuff falling as I write. What a perfect day he would have thought it to be. Somehow, I know he smiles and roars with that infectious laugh of his as he watches over us today.

So, Brian, my friend, I thank you for continuing to touch my life. I will never look a snow the same way again. I can't promise anything on the Packers, but for the first time in my life, I can smile just a little inside if they win, knowing how happy it would make you.
Happy Birthday!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Virgin Baking (My First Recipe Creation)

Yes, it was my first time. And yes, it was fantastic. I'll admit I was nervous. A little tense and surely overthought it, but it was well worth it. Delicate, sensual, creamy, sweet with just a zing of tartness. What more could a girl ask for her first time out?
Granted, I lost my virginity in the kitchen ages ago. Cooking is always a new and exciting adventure with variety being the spice of life. Don't be asking for a repeat performance from this gal. It's rare you get the same thing twice, even when I try, but baking is a different story. It's an exact science. There's a rule book and the price for not following it can reward you with morning after regrets.

I am here to testify that my first time was legendary. Fireworks, sparklers, rock my world, lick your lips fantastic. So much so, I will definitely be replicating this experience in the near future. Don't beieve me, give this move a try for yourself.

Lemon Cupcakes with Raspberry Crème Frosting

• 1 cup butter ,softened
• 2 cups sugar
• 4eggs
• 2 teaspoons lemon zest
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 2 cups sour cream
• 2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add lemon zest, juicel and vanilla; mix well. Combine dry ingredients; add to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream (batter will be thick). Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups ¾ full of batter. Bake at 375 degrees F for 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Raspberry Buttercream Frosting:
• 1 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
• 5 cups powdered sugar
• 2 tablespoons raspberry extract
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer with a whisk attachment, whip the butter until creamed. Add the powdered sugar and extract. Mmix until the ingredients are evenly incorporated and the frosting is smooth and creamy.