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how i got started in jewelry and lapidary

Sitka, AK + Boise, İD

– I’ve been involved in various art related work for most of my life. But also like to switch things up every once in a while. İ was contemplating getting into jewelry for a short while. When an opportunity came up at the right time, i took up a friend’s offer to fly up from New Orleans, LA to Sitka, Alaska and help/learn the art of casting in silver.

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get coffee- cottagecore style in Tucson at ceres

Ceres – Tucson, AZ

the first thing you notice when walking up to the window at ceres, is that it seems to be a place found elsewhere in the world, like France or Italy. Definitely not the Sonoran desert. İt’s housed in a former burrito restaurant, one that had operated and been a family business since 1927 but closed around the late 90s. İ hear the original owners still stop by from time to time.

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what the heck is cottagecore?

dawn sunset love people

Cottagecore – where did that come from?

For most people, cottagecore is something like a deer suddenly rocketing across the interstate during a drowsy late night long haul drive. And from time to time, popping up yet again, until your eventually surrounded by gaggles of 80s era poofy sleeve dress wearing Loretta Lynns and throwback hollie hobbies. What’s going on here?

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best coffee at descent coffee in Phoenix, AZ

Best coffee spot in town

this place is a gem, and i appreciate it on several levels. It serves coffee, and has a dark artistic aesthetic, and is also way into cycling. Beyond that, there is ample parking and is easy to get to, with outdoor seating and plenty of indoor tables too.

click here to read more about descent coffee!…
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amazing vegetables! yu choi sum will rock your ramen!

Yu Choi or yo choy


Yo choy sum, or Yu Choi sum is one of my staple vegetables, similar to Gailaan (Chinese broccoli) but, it’s a tad sweeter + with a light mustardy flavor.

available at almost all Asian markets, it belongs to the brassica family, and is related to other Choi type vegetables. It’s characteristics closely resemble gailaan. A stalk around 6″ a few leaves, and a tiny brassica floret. Yu Choi is usually harvested once one or two flowers pop. So you may see a few little flowers!

Most of the the vegetables that hail from Asia, are the products of centuries of remarkable breeding. Taking up much less space in a garden plot, they typically mature at a much faster rate, giving the farmer opportunity for higher turnover. Thus, producing more tender and often sweeter varieties than Thier distant brassica relatives in Europe. The produce sections of Asian Groceries are usually swimming in all kind of lesser known, but totally valuable veggies. Yu Choi is one of the most popular. And with good reason.

flavor is one, with it’s slightly sweet and lightly mustard undertones. Slide it right into a soup, add a handful to a stir-fry, tasty side dish or prepare it with garlic and serve with noodles.

Being a mustard family member, a good starting recommendation for how to season Yu Choi would be all the alliums you can throw at it. The flavors of garlic and mustards are always a mutually supportive pairing. Other things to consider would be toasted sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds, Korean red pepper flakes, rice vinegar, shoyu sauce and garlic chives. Ałl available at Asian grocery stores. Be aware that Yu Choi cooks fast. Only a minute or two of steaming or boiling, and three minutes in a pan. A little more time than that won’t ruin it, but experiment and be cautious! I’ll be adding recipes soon, in the meantime, if these things sound good and give you some ideas, experiment away!

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Get coffee- black crown, tucson, AZ

90s style coffee house

Open till midnight, it’s not too different than the beatnik-punk era coffee shops of the late 80s early 90s. It’s usually pretty busy, and the crowd rotates between students, bikers, goths, and some relatively regular folks. Everything about the place reaches back in time to when coffee houses were more social, more like a bar. There’s a few students doing homework silently on laptops, but the vibe is anything but 3rd wave.

As you enter, you may notice there are large plate glass windows lining the exterior walls, but it mysteriously remains dimly lit inside. Then, as you proceed to the counter, You pass a spiral staircase that winds up to a loft with couches, coffee tables, and a shelf of board games. there is only one place to stand to order, and in classic fashion, a line forms out towards the door. The espresso machine blocks the view to the barista. There is no chaos. it’s an old school set up with a pastry case by the register, and a drink menu looming behind the cashier. Black crown never felt the need to evolve into the 3rd wave coffee ‘experience’ that feels like you’re ordering coffee from the apple store.

then there are the little soft touches and flourishes. a Bathroom key is connected to a soup ladle, dangling from a nail on a post. Music is period appropriate with the occasional souxie and the banshees or sisters of mercy. Missing however, are the poetry readings and open mic nites that plagued the 90s. That’s ok, we can get by without those. They have a full rack of torani syrups. They have their own names for lattes and mochaesque concoctions.

after noticing all the important details and ordering, you can go up to the loft, sit ground level in wooden booths that line the large plate glass windows, or step out to the front patio.

the coffee is good and strong, the espresso drinks are made well. The atmosphere is inviting and cozy and never an air of snootiness from the baristas. This place is a nice break from what coffee houses have become. You’re actually meant to hang out here, And most importantly the doors are open when you need coffee at 11:30 pm…because you’re trying to stay up all night…to make art. Get directions. Next post: the lost art of staying up all night.

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amazing crystals -Shangaan Amethyst

Shangaan Amethyst pendant by Stelae jewelry

Dark, clear + smoky amethyst from Zimbabwe

Anyone who watched Jim Henson’s fantasy film from 1982 “the dark crystal” knows amethyst ain’t nothing to f*** with. But, i along with the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and the skeksis have continually sought out this engaging variety of quartz.

Shangaan Amethyst crystal
Shangaan amethyst

There is a wild diversity and range of metaphysical associations, as diverse as the many cultures that have revered this gemstone from antiquity. One of the most persistent attributes comes from the ancient Greeks who used it to prevent and cure the hangover. Personally, i like to spend a little time in meditation to get to know how a particular element or mineral vibes, i always feel well and protected by amethyst. The jury is still out on hangovers.

stelae jewelry logo
click on Stelae jewelry logo to go to shop!

two of my favorite varieties Of Amethyst are Shangaan from Zimbabwe and Veracruz amethyst from Veracruz, mexico. I adore both, and they both have unique attributes and properties.

Shangaan Amethysts are a relatively new discovery and have some amazing physical qualities. They tend to contain a swirling mix of darker purple, clear + light smokiness. Also, A common feature I’m told, is that often, you can see what appears to be tiny reddish purple flecks emanating from the center. I’m told that is a result of an interaction with the mineral hematite during formation. Wether or not hematite is involved, the result is a beautiful sparkling specimen full of positive energy. Because of these qualities, the Shangaan variety steps up and demands attention.

i must admit, i want to be surrounded by amethyst. I desire to lay on amethyst mats, sleep in amethyst rooms and Eat off amethyst plates. At the last Denver gem show, i went all out on a collection of Shangaan Amethyst.

these crystals are perfect raw, in thier naturally found state, with the interplay of it’s constituent colors all together. i have only made pendants using them, customizing each unique crystal with a handcrafted sterling silver setting. They deserve to be raw and upfront and center.

Below, I’ve added a gallery of a few pendants featuring Shangaan Amethyst. And be sure to read my full page on Amethysts!

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amazing vegetables! Vegan chicken base

better than bouillon – no chicken base

If you’re a vegan or vegetarian and you’ve never put a spoonful of this secret flavor weapon into a sauce or soup, drop what your doing. Go out, get a jar + immediately add some to your next savory recipe.

if this is your first experience, make an initial sipping broth just to see the potential contained within this powerful jar. Imagine adding it to rice. Saffron rice, Spanish rice, paellas, stir fry rice. Don’t stop there, send it in to back up a curry, a gravy, almost any soup. This stuff is truly amazing and adding it to the simplest of recipes will reap rewards and accolades. Even a tiny bit. Almost anything that contains water at any point during a cooking process. Experiment, and others will tell you how much your skills have improved. Trust me on this!

Better than bouillon vegan no chicken base
So freaking good
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essential camping gear – moonshade canopy

create shade wherever you go!

One of the two game changing additions to my camp set-up besides the cgear sand-free mat.

in previous years, camping around various desert locations, i could spend hours looking for the perfect rare shady spot. Usually, always occupied, mid-day was a time i dreaded. Not anymore, and if i see a shady spot, I’ll still jump on. but, as the sun arcs across the sky, a little supplemental shade to fill in the gap is completely welcome.

the moonshade is for all of us without roof racks or any other anchoring system. We are the bare-roofed ones. The ones left out in the sun. But alas! The innovative folks at moonshade, were paying attention and came up with the perfect solution.

it’s an easy one person set-up, with a variety of super strong anchoring magnets and suction cups to get attachment points in place. Clip the corners of the canopy in place, and then one by one quickly add the cross supports and upright poles. Finally, secure the moonshade canopy down with tent stakes and guy lines. İ like to back up the magnetic anchors with the included heavy duty suction cups, and an extra set of tent stakes along the backside of my van.

Quality and Craftsmanship seems great. İt’s been through some pretty high winds, and as long as i wasn’t lazy about securing it correctly, it’s stayed in place and kept me dry and shady.

set-up and teardown are easy, fast and I’ve never needed any assistance doing so.

About the author: stelae travels the US, camping, cooking and van living, while working as a silversmith and lapidary artist. You can view his creations here