Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sharing food for the holidays

With my commitment to giving handmade gifts, this holiday season I decided to give gifts of food. Flavored, roasted nuts are a tasty and healthy treat! The main inspiration for this idea comes from Elana’s Pantry. I also picked up a flyer at Whole Foods Market with a recipe, and got hints from reading the ingredients on some commercially produced roasted nuts.

Our holiday plan is to spend Christmas day with David’s (grown-up) kids, their spouses, and the grandkids. A total of 8 people. I sure have been having fun concocting different flavor combinations so that each person’s jar of nuts will be different. As usual with food experiments David and I are the research team. We also get to (or have to) eat both the successes and the rejects!

These flavored roasted nuts are easy to make, even in my miniature oven! And they’re Gluten-Free, too.

Start with:
2 cups nuts of your choice (cashews, pecans, almonds, walnuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds, etc)

2 tablespoons liquid (Tamari, honey, maple syrup, agave, vanilla extract, or any combination)

Mix until the nuts are all coated.

Mix together spices, if desired, about 2-3 teaspoons. A bit of salt can boost the flavor of sweet mixes. For extra sweet flavor, brown sugar or maple sugar are good.

Sprinkle powder over wet nuts and mix up together until all the nuts are coated with the powder.

Spread a relatively thin layer of coated nuts in a buttered baking pan (I use a pyrex or ceramic pan). Adding extra butter (like about 1/2 tablespoon) to the baking pan adds a nice flavor, too!

Bake at 300ºF for about 15 – 20 minutes. It’s easy to over cook these! They won’t necessarily “look done” until they are over done. I go by smell (if the nuts smell roasted, they are done), or by taste testing. Getting to know your oven/pan characteristics will make this easier.

As for flavor and nut combinations, the sky’s the limit! I’ve still got several ideas that I’m planning to try.

Here’s a list of some that I’ve tried:

Pecans and/or almonds with maple syrup or honey

Cashews with tamari and curry powder

Almonds with tamari and a spice mix of garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, and turmeric

Pecans and/or almonds with tamari and honey and a spice mix of chili powder and cumin

Almonds with honey and cinnamon

Walnuts with maple syrup and maple sugar

A handmade gift comes from the heart

My grandmother used to say “when you make a gift for someone, you give them a gift from your heart”.

In our family, we made a lot of our gifts to each other. Especially for grandparents, of course. That is a tradition that I’ve kept with me throughout my life. I don’t go into mass-gift-production and make things for everyone I know. Usually just a few significant people, different ones each year, receive handmade gifts. These gifts are expressions of how those people had touched my life at the time.

When I became a self-employed artist, most of the products that I started selling were things that I had originally made as a gift for someone. I still very much enjoy having somebody buy my piece to give as a meaningful gift to someone special. That, I believe, is why I have never had any problem letting go of my creations, even after I have put so much of my energy into them. It still feels, for me, like making gifts for special, significant people. Sharing my work with people who care is what makes my “job” worthwhile!

David’s grandkids know that I don’t want any bought gifts. If the kids (now aged 10 – 14) want to make me something, I’ll be thrilled. But not random “stuff” just so I can “have something to open” when the family gets together at Christmas.

One year recently, they all 4 made me frogs (I have a special fondness for frogs….) out of polymer clay. Wow! How perfect! Those frogs still sit watching me as I type on the computer.

Handmade gifts that are bought from the maker have a special significance. I see that so clearly now that I make my living making gifts that other folks give to each other. When I make something, it is an expression that comes from my heart. And then the buyer, having made a careful and thoughtful selection (my work is not inexpensive, after all), gives a gift from their heart to someone who is special to them. It’s wonderful! Now the gift comes from my heart, and from yours, to someone who is meaningful to you!

What could be more expressive of the holiday spirit??

Ok, on to the point of this post!

There are lots of ways to give your loved ones a handmade gift that comes from the heart. I’m not saying that everyone should buy one of my pieces to give as a gift (though I wouldn’t object!). There are so many ways that we can express that true giving and Christmas spirit!

Here’s a list of ideas: is an online marketplace for handmade work of all kinds, in every price range. Here’s my etsy shop:

There are craft shows and art shows at all levels in almost every town. Look around in your area, and you’ll find them.

Schools and churches also usually have holiday sales. Museums and Arts Centers, too. In our area the Arvada Center for the Arts has a sale that goes through this weekend:

Craft shops and art stores, often artists cooperatives, are

places to find handmade work by people from your local area.

Here’s the best one: Make your own gifts!!! You’re not an artist? I don’t believe it! You don’t have time? It’s not necessary to make something for everyone you know!

Just for a few significant people.

Try these ideas (and add some of your own):

If you’re a Woodturner, make ornaments, pens, oil candles, tea lights, vases, art pieces, bottlestoppers, Your skills will improve, and your family will love it! Start a tradition of making a new ornament design every year for everyone in the family!

Create a handmade card. Cutting, glueing, painting, scrapbooking, writing…. Remember, it comes from your heart!

Print out pictures that have meaning, and share them. My mother used to put together a photo collage of us kids for the grandparents every Christmas. David’s daughter puts together a calendar with pictures of the grandkids, and everyone’s birthdays.

Bake cookies, or make a pie, or jam, or whatever your culinary specialty is.

In my next post, I’ll share my gift recipes for this year.

Give a “coupon” redeemable for some kind of service that you provide. As kids, we used to do this a lot. Mowing the lawn, weeding, putting up Christmas decorations, taking someone out to dinner….. use your imagination (and your heart).

Share the love! Family and relationships are life’s true treasures!

Happy holidays to all of my friends and family!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

My Signature Pumpkin Pie Recipe

This Thanksgiving, I didn’t cook a turkey. I never do. Our 2009 holiday celebration meal consisted of sautéed Kale with cranberries and roasted chestnuts (find the recipe at Elana's Pantry), and for the main course: Pumpkin pie!

Pumpkin pie is my one culinary “specialty”. I didn’t learn how to make a traditional pumpkin pie from my mother, I have pursued and developed my own signature style of pumpkin pie making. In my 20s and 30s, I would buy pumpkins in the fall, cook them up, and go into pie production. Sometimes I gave pies away or brought them to holiday pot-lucks, but mostly Ion (my spouse at the time) and I just ate them. We would cut a pie into quarters and each have a quarter-pie for breakfast. After work (yes, I did used to have a “job”) we’d each have another quarter, finishing off the pie. That’s one pie per day. Now you see the need for pie production! I’d mix up filling for 4 pies at a time and buy frozen crusts (making pie crust always seemed like a poor expenditure of my time). I had a full size oven in those days. But I didn’t believe in “kitchen appliances”, so the pumpkin didn’t get pureed, just kind of mashed up. The texture of “real” pumpkin is quite good, and gave the pies a very interesting “signature style”.

My pumpkin pie’s signature style has evolved over the years, as any artist’s work will. Now, I have a stick blender that makes the mixing go much faster, and my pies have a smoother texture. My current kitchen is very tiny, and the oven is a miniature convection oven with barely enough room inside for a pie pan. Fortunately, over the years I have also lost the desire to have a quarter of a pumpkin pie for breakfast, so the oven’s size is not too much of a limitation. I do still usually refuse to spend my time making pie crust. The store-bought ones (organic ingredients, real butter) come in packages of 2, so my recipe makes 2 pies. My sister, Sue, periodically inspires me to try making pie crust. She makes an awesome, great tasting crust! Her secrets? Three things: King Arthur flour, real butter, and room temperature ingredients.

Pumpkin pie is healthy food. Vegetables are good for us, and my pies are heavy on the squash. I always use fresh organically grown pumpkin, acorn, butternut, or any other kind of squash. Any squash will do. I’ve even made good pies with carrots when our garden produced an abundant harvest. Eggs are from local farms where the chickens really do run free and eat bugs. Extra eggs make this pie “low carb”, and a good source of protein. Yogurt is home-made (by me) from fresh, raw, local goat milk. Local honey is supposed to be healthy, in moderation, and I do prefer a less-sweet pie.

There is nothing quite as good as a warm piece of pumpkin pie with melting vanilla ice cream! So much for the “moderation”….. Life is short – eat dessert first!

CD’s Signature Pumpkin Pie

Makes 2 pies

4c pumpkin or other squash
8t spice* (mix below)
6 eggs
1t salt
2c yogurt or 1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk (full fat, low fat, goat, cow, etc)
1 – 1 1/2c honey, agave, maple syrup, barley malt syrup, etc**
1/4c molasses
2 unbaked pie crusts of choice

mix spices with pumpkin, then mix in everything but the milk or yogurt. Add milk or yogurt last. Mixing can be with fork (for lots of pumpkin texture), egg beater, or an electric mixer (for smoothest texture).
Pour into unbaked pie shell and bake at 350ºF for 40 – 50 minutes (until pie is solid when jiggled). In my oven, I need to cover the edges of the crust with foil (not the filling of the pie, just the exposed edges of crust) to keep the crust from burning. Baking time and crust burning tendencies seem to vary widely according to the oven in question. I hear that some folks need to start the baking with the oven at 375º for 15 minutes to brown the crust. I seem to have the opposite problem.

Keep in mind that I am used to baking at 5300’MSL. Lower altitudes might have different results (let me know if you find this to be true….).

*spice mix:

1 part Nutmeg
2 parts Cloves
8 parts Cinnamon
8 parts Ginger (powdered)

**The amount of sweetener is a matter of personal taste. Some like a sweeter pie, some don’t. I like it less sweet, planning to add sweetened whipped cream, yogurt, or ice cream. I currently use 1 cup of honey for the sweetener in this recipe.

Barley malt is less sweet, so more is needed. With maple syrup, it is a good idea to eliminate the molasses so it doesn’t overpower the maple.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Where are those woodturning tools REALLY made?

This might be just hearsay, but it gave me a pause:
I heard a rumor today that, in order to mark turning tools “made in Sheffield”, the tool maker merely has to “add significant value to the materials”.

This means that “M2 HSS” that is imported, for example, from China could be machined, sharpened, and put into a handle (that perhaps was also imported), and then marketed under an English company’s name as being “made in Sheffield”! This is shocking! And discouraging, too. The same situation also probably exists with all kinds of goods, manufactured in many other countries, like the US.

In the case of turning tools, it is the quality of the steel itself, and its proper heat treating, that brings value to the tool being made in Sheffield. Using imported steel and “adding value” to it in Sheffield is not giving us what we think we are getting.

What this means to me is this: it is no longer enough simply to buy a “name brand” (of turning tools or anything else for that matter). Or to look at where something says it is made and believe it. We need to know the people that we buy things from well enough to trust their morals and marketing statements. We need to ask before we buy, especially if a suspiciously low price makes us wonder about the quality of something.

Now, more than ever, personal relationships and personalized service are the most valuable “product” that a company has to offer its customers.

I plan to ask the important questions before I vote with my cash by buying, well, anything, not just turning tools! If the sales person can’t answer my question about a tool and how it was made, I will look for a supplier who can and will.

And in case anyone’s wondering, my Signature Tools are made in Sheffield, from steel that is made and properly heat treated in Sheffield. They are made by a company, Henry Taylor Tools, with a long standing worldwide reputation for quality. There is an actual person attached, Barry Surplice, who I can talk to and expect to receive honest answers to all of my questions.

My tools are supplied in the US by a company, Packard Woodworks, that also has a reputation for quality and excellent service. The owner, Brad Packard, is a real person who will give me honest answers.

This is important to me. It's the PEOPLE who make life, and woodturning, meaningful!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Group Magic – Sharing is the key to learning

Last month (July 2009), I taught a 5-day hands-on Woodturning Workshop at Craft Supplies in Utah. It was an incredible learning experience for all of us!

We started with a group orientation, and stating our individual goals for the class. Sharpening, tool control, and design were all high on the list.

My goal is to share to what I know, and to help each participant to achieve their own goals for the class.

The first day, we did a tool control exercise, using push cuts to create the 3 basic shapes that make vessel forms. We then spent the rest of the day turning vessel forms. No hollowing, just lots of vessel shapes out of nice, easy, fun wood to turn.

Day two started with a spindle exercise, and then on to making finials for our vessels. The idea of these first two days is to loosen up and get into the woodturning groove.

At our daily group critiques, we explore how to look at our work. For me, group critiques are the best part. Something magical happens when we start sharing ideas with each other. Learning how to look at our work and see both success, and room for improvement, is one of the most difficult skills for artists to learn. And it is essential if our work is to keep progressing.

On Wednesday we made my signature “Fabulous Finial Box” as a group. All of that exercise and practice really paid off! The Finial Box is a complicated and demanding project. After some “design opportunities”, and miraculous recoveries, everyone had a completed Finial Box.

For the last two days of class, everyone was encouraged to follow their own inspiration. It was a bit chaotic, but we had some incredible creative energy flowing. There were 4 or 5 different projects going at once: Mushroom boxes, Square Bowls, experiments with brightly colored dyes, more Finials, and Hollow Vessels.

A couple of the participants hollowed a vessel for the first time. Thanks to the Jamieson Captured Hollowing System, the hollowing process was a relaxing and successful experience!

Myself, I was in heaven watching, and helping, everyone explore different projects and techniques. Such marvelous individual, creative expression! I always get such a charge out of teaching a woodturning class!

After 5 intense days of serious Woodturning, I was pleased to see turning and sharpening techniques improve. Everyone picked up new ideas and new ways of looking at, and improving, their work.

We all left inspired. And, most important of all, we have made some new friends in the world of woodturning. Sharing is the key to learning!

To read about one participant’s experience, check out Katherine Kowalski’s blog post from August 3, 2009:

If you missed this class, be sure to catch me next time! Look for my upcoming demonstrations and classes on the “Itinerary” page on my website:

Friday, August 21, 2009

Art is what it’s all about!

Art shows are gold mines of inspiration! The atmosphere is charged with energy, from the artists and the art collectors. At the Loveland (Colorado) Sculpture Invitational (Aug 7 – 9, 2009), I was exhibiting, and expecting to sell, my own artwork. Attending a show like that is a tremendous opportunity to meet other artists and to connect with their energy and passion.

One of the artists that I met made a profound impression on me. Lillian Pitt is a well respected Native American artist from Portland Oregon. I enjoyed visiting her booth and experiencing her work. In her brochure was this quote:

“My ancestors were traders and innovators. They traded goods and exchanged ideas with people from many Native traditions. I honor my ancestors by carrying on this tradition of exchanging goods and ideas through my art.” – Lillian Pitt

I read that and thought “That is really why we are all here at this show!”

Reading Lillian’s statement, I was struck by the realization of exactly what this art show is about! Through the art that the artists had all created and brought to Loveland, we were carrying on a time-honored human cultural tradition of exchanging goods and ideas.

The artists exchange ideas and passion with the art patrons, artists exchange ideas with each other, and we all exchange goods through the sales of our artwork.

This exchange is the essence of human cultural relationship. We grow as individuals, and as a community, when we exchange our ideas and passions with each other. Art is a powerful transmitter of spiritual energy.

The exchange of goods is also an essential part of our spiritual growth. When we exchange goods, the art patron goes home with a tangible piece of the artist’s passion. And the artist gets money to live on, making it possible for them to continue making art. The artist needs financial support to continue, and we all need to continue that sharing of our energy for our culture to thrive.

With this exchange of goods and ideas, the lives of artist and patron are connected, and the energy is free to flow onward. This is how our community grows.

That is why I don’t just stay at home and make art that never leaves my shop. Sharing my work with the people who connect with it and invite my energy into their lives, and share their ideas with me, is what completes the circle.

Buying a special piece of artwork, inviting an artist’s passion into my home, is just as powerful as creating artwork for others. David and I bought a piece at the Loveland show, and every time I see it, I experience the spiritual connections that we all have with each other.

That, to me, is what life is all about!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Cindy Drozda Woodturning Class at Craft Supplies this month!

I will be teaching a 5-day hands-on Woodturning Workshop on creating Lidded Vessels and Containers. The class is held at Craft Supplies in Provo Utah, a modern well-equipped facility. Spaces are still available! Dates are July 27th - 31st, 2009.

Let me coach you to new levels of excellence in Woodturning! We'll learn a lot and have fun!

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

AAW Albuquerque – Fun with friends, Cindy Drozda Signature Turning Tools, and a new DVD!

What a tremendous, inspiring, creative experience! David and I are just beginning to get back on track after the AAW symposium in Albuquerque. David was a major demonstrator – 6 rotations! And only one of them repeated. He worked very hard!

I worked hard, too, demonstrating my new “Cindy Drozda Signature Tools” at the Packard Woodworks booth in the Trade Show. My own line of tools! How cool is that???!! Thanks go out to Brad Packard, of Packard Woodworks, and Barry Surplice of Henry Taylor/Hamlet for excellent tools, and in time for the symposium.

Demonstrating at the Trade Show is really fun! There’s no time pressure, and no performance agenda. It was just like hanging out with my friends and turning all day at the same time! What could be better?! Brad Packard and Company are great to work with. The tools look great and perform even better than anticipated.

These are the tools that I use on my DVDs and in demonstrations, made to my exact specifications. The Drozda Tools are available only from Packard Woodworks (or from me at my demonstrations).

After spending the 3 days of the AAW Albuquerque Symposium,, using my new tools at the Trade Show, I’m very pleased with how they turned out (pun intended of course!). The quality and finishing are excellent, requiring less tuning up than is usually expected from “factory ground” tools. I was also impressed with how seldom I had to sharpen. Excellent quality! I couldn’t be happier! I wish these had been available when I started…. Would have saved me a lot of time at the grinder.

Take a look on my website (click on “Tools”), or Packard Woodworks has a reputation in the turning community for excellent customer service, something that is hard to find in today’s world. I have to say, my own experience shows their reputation to be well-deserved!

There’s nothing quite as much fun as new tools that work well! My thanks go out, also, to the many turners who have shared with me the tools that they use, and allowed me to copy them and modify them for my own use. I’m looking forward to sharing these tools with all of you in the turning community. The more we all share, the more we all grow! Now – out to the shop to make some chips!

David and I also released our new DVD “Left Brain/Right Brain – Developing Signature Artwork” at the Symposium. The demo’s performance has been well received, and the DVD just gives us a chance to share that with more folks out there in the turning and art world. I

Overall, the symposium was an experience not to be missed! See y’all next year!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

American Association of Woodturners - Albuquerque NM

Visit my website

to get to know me and my artwork.

I’m frantically getting ready for the American Association of Woodturners’ symposium in Albuquerque, NM.

David and I leave on Tuesday June 24th, the symposium starts on Friday the 26th through Sundaythe 28th.

One of the things I am getting ready is the DVD of “Left Brain & Right Brain – Developing Signature Artwork”.

I’m also making some new pieces for the Instant Gallery.

You can find me at the symposium in the trade show, demonstrating at the Packard Woodworks booth. We’re hoping to have my new signature tools there for sale.

Hope to see y’all there!

Here is a piece that I made for the American Association of Woodturners exhibition. "Royal Resting Space" Cremation Urn with threaded lid and threaded reliquary for treasures, memories, or prayers.