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Monday, December 20, 2010

December Beer Review: Winter Seasonals

Magic Hat's Howl Black-as-Night Winter Lager is a new favorite. It's definitely not your ordinary dark beer. Howl is extremely dark with a nice, roasty coffee aroma. When help up to the light, it appears to be a deep red, almost Framboise-colored. The taste is rich and bold with a roasted nutty flavor and a hint of coffee. As expected with most dark brews, Howl has a nice bitter finish that dissipates quickly. It's very well carbonated and much less heavy on the stomach than the average dark beer, making it the most refreshing dark beer I've had the pleasure of drinking. 4.6%ABV.
Rating: A+

O'Fallon's Cherry Chocolate Beer is a delicious dark wheat brew. In a glass, it's a dark, cloudy amber. As the name implies, it smells and tastes just like a chocolate covered cherry. Of course, it's sweet but not too sweet and still manages to taste like a beer. 5.7%ABV.
Rating: A+

Sam Adams' White Ale is the most perplexing beer I've had thus far. The aroma is almost imperceptible with just the slightest hint of citrus. It's a very pale amber and, as with any unfiltered wheat brew, it's hazy. However, unlike the majority of unfiltered wheat beers, this haze doesn't seem to settle at the bottom. White Ale is crisp and refreshing. Ingredients like coriander, hibiscus and Grains of Paradise give in an unrivaled complexity. It has a similar taste and mouthfeel as a hard cider, but with distinct citrus notes. White Ale pairs quite well with very spicy food and can successfully put out the burn of Bonefish Grill's Bang Bang Shrimp. 5.3%ABV.
Rating: A-

Abita's 2010 Christmas Ale is an American style brown ale. It's a dark copper color with a strong aroma of hops. It tastes strongly of hops as well with a hint of caramel and a lingering bitterness. With brews like Purple Haze and Turbodog, I expected something special. This year's Christmas Ale is just average. 5.5% ABV.
Rating: C

Sierra Nevada's Celebration Fresh Hop Ale is an epic fail, even more so than Blue Moon's Harvest Pumpkin Ale. It pours a clear amber and smells strongly of grapefruit, as many IPAs do. The flavor of grapefruit hits first, followed by a strong piny flavor and aftertaste. I imagine that Pine-Sol has a similar taste. After sharing sips with a few friends, we agreed on its severe lack of drinkability and poured it down the sink. I have been unable to give away the five that remain. 6.8%ABV.
Rating: F

Sunday, November 14, 2010

November Beer Review: Pumpkin Brews

This is the first edition of my new feature: the monthly beer review. This month, my birthday falls on Thanksgiving, as it does every few years. I'm more likely to have pumpkin pie than birthday cake, so I thought it most appropriate to rate pumpkin brews for the month of November. While sampling the five ales, I considered several things, including pumpkin flavor, spiciness and overall appeal.

Terrapin's Pumpkinfest was introduced last fall as a limited edition Side Project. It was so delicious, Terrapin decided to release it annually as a seasonal brew. Pumpkinfest knocked my socks off this fall and last with its flavor and aroma. It smells and tastes just like pumpkin pie and is, by far, the spiciest pumpkin ale I've had the pleasure of drinking, with plenty of cinnamon, ginger, allspice and clove. 6.1%ABV. Rating: A+

O'Fallon's Pumpkin Beer is another winner. The pumpkin flavor is strong and pleasing, as is the spiciness. The flavor and aroma of clove, in particular, is quite prominent. And I really enjoy that aspect. I've spotted O'Fallon's Pumpkin Beer on shelves in several stores around town, making it easier to procure (in Mobile) than Terrapin's Pumpkinfest. 5.6%ABV. Rating: A

Williamsburg Alewerks' Pumpkin Ale has its ups and downs. It has a strong pumpkin flavor and pleasing spices. However, it is a good bit sweeter than the other four brews, and that sweetness grows stronger with every sip. I recommend splitting one with a friend. 7.3%ABV.
Rating: B

Shipyard's Pumpkinhead is certainly a tasty beer, but not particularly impressive as a pumpkin brew. If I hadn't seen the name in advance, I'm not sure I could have identified it as a pumpkin beer. Spices are vaguely present. 5.1%ABV.
Rating: C+  

Blue Moon's Harvest Pumpkin Ale is, in my opinion, an epic fail. The pumpkin flavor is imperceptible, and the spice is not impressive. Even considering its flavor outside of this category, it is disappointing. 5.7%ABV.
Rating: F

If there's a pumpkin ale that I missed and you'd recommend, please let me know. Your comments and suggestions are welcome. Don't forget to check back next month for the December edition of my beer review. I'm thinking of sampling winter ales and lagers but am open to ideas!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Funky Furniture

Little Black Dresser
14”W x 46”H x10” D
MDF, Maple Veneer, Aluminum
Judson Beaumont
Straight Line Designs Inc

          Like me, you've probably looked at a plate of food or two and thought to yourself, "This is almost too pretty to eat." Ever seen a piece of furniture so elegant, you'd be hesitant to use it? Check out the Little Black Dresser (right) by Judson Beaumont of Straight Line Designs. It rocks my world with its sexy silhouette and asymmetrical "hemline". The hanger is a fabulous touch, and you already know how much I love wordplay. 
Bad Table
40” W x 18”H x 20” D
Western Maple, Maple Veneer, Aluminium
Judson Beaumont
Straight Line Designs Inc
         On the left is the first and only piece of furniture that has made me laugh. It's not exactly what many people would call "tasteful," but I think it's just great, definitely a conversation piece!

Together We Can
No.: DF1120
24''w x 84''h x 15''d
Vincent Leman
 All of these pieces have one awesome thing in common: personality! Kudos to anyone who can infuse such character into inanimate objects that we ordinarily take for granted. I don't know about you, but I'm inspired. That's one of the reasons I'm super excited to be participating in Mobile's first Funky Furniture Auction to benefit the Mobile Arts Council and the American Advertising Federation - Mobile Bay. I'll be funkifying a donated bookshelf  (left) to be auctioned off at the December Artwalk. Pick your own piece to funkify here

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fresh Furnishings

Treasury is Etsy's ever-changing, member-curated shopping gallery. I've put together my own Treasury, full of fresh furniture and home decor. Click the image to view the actual Treasury on Etsy. 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

I ♥ Beer

Just a few years ago, my experiences with beer were limited to Coors Light, Corona, and the like. I was not impressed. On May 22 of 2009, The Gourmet Beer Bill was passed in Alabama, raising the allowable alcohol by volume (ABV) from 6% to 13.9%. It was then that my eyes were opened to the glorious wonders of beer! These are some of my favorites (not all because I'm sure I left a few out).     

1. Abita Strawberry Harvest.  Abita Brewing Co., Louisiana.  4.2%ABV
2. Bison Organic Chocolate Stout.  Bison Brewing Co., California.  6.1%ABV
3. Guinness Extra Stout.  Guinness Ltd., Ireland.  6%ABV
4. Holy Mackerel Mack in Black.  Gordash Brewing Co., Florida.  8%ABV
5. Left Hand Good Juju.  Left Hand Brewing Co., Colorado.  4%ABV
6. Lindemans Framboise.  Brouwerij Lindemans, Belgium.  4%ABV
7. Negra Modelo.  Grupo Modelo S.A. de C.V., Mexico.  5.4%ABV
8. Newcastle Brown Ale.  Scottish & Newcastle UK Ltd., Scotland.  4.7%ABV
9. O'Fallon Wheach.  O'Fallon Brewery, Missouri.  5.1%ABV
10. Sierra Nevada Kellerweis Hefeweizen.  Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., California. 4.8%ABV
11. Sweaty Betty Blonde.  Boulder Beer/Wilderness Pub, Colorado.  5.9%ABV
12. Sweetwater Blue.  Sweetwater Brewing Co., Georgia.  4.9%ABV
13. Terrapin Midnight Project Depth Charge.  Terrapin Beer Co., Georgia.  7%ABV
14. Terrapin Side Project Pumpkinfest.  Terrapin Beer Co., Georgia.  6.1%ABV
15. Thomas Creek Orange Blossom Pilsner Squared. Thomas Creek Brewery, SC. 11%ABV
16. Wells Banana Bread Beer.  Wells & Young's Ltd., England.  5.2%ABV 

I encourage all of you to leave a comment regarding your favorite beer(s). I'm always interested in trying new brews. Thanks!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Web Tool Faves

CraftCult tracks your item views, item hearts, shop hearts and even determines if you've been featured on the Etsy or Storque main page. I particularly like the "Reset Views" feature, which stores the current view count for your items so that when you reload the page, the differences appear in the "New Views" section. 

The "Heart Chart" tab calculates your total shop hearts per month over a specified period of time and shows them to you in the form of a line chart.

Craftopolis is another useful statistics tool. On the left, it displays the current month's calendar. The purple silhouettes represent unique visitors, the white pages represent the total shop visits, and the hearts represent individual favorites. On the right is a more detailed report of the current calendar day.

Click on the "Tag Report" tab to see how effective your tags are and on what page your item is found in a search for specific tags. The "Treasure Tracks" tab shows you all of the treasuries in which your items have been included and how many times they've been viewed in each respective treasury. 

At a glance, Yaami's Where's the Luv? shows you who has added your shop as a favorite, where they are from, whether or not they have a shop of their own, and their feedback rating.

These next four tools aren't just for Etsy sellers. If you tweet, participate in online forums, have a blog, or run a business: listen up!

Want to know who has been talking about you or your product(s)? Type your name, Etsy username or the name of your business into Social Mention to see where you have been mentioned in blogs, social networks etc. I definitely recommend signing up for their daily email alerts.

Do you have trouble coming up with appropriate tags for your products and posts? With Tagtastic's Tag Finder, you simply enter a tag and receive a list of related tags, along with their average daily clicks, average price, and number of items posted with those tags. Better still is the Shop Stats feature. Enter your shop name and your tags will be analyzed, helping you determine which of your current tags are most effective. Like Google Trends, but better, these two tools will help you determine the relevance of your products in today's market.

If you use Twitter for personal or business reasons, you will love TinyURL! Enter a web address of any length, and receive a significantly shorter link that never expires. 
For example,
The link was transformed from 74 to 26 characters, which is clearly more convenient when limited to 140 characters.  

Let's say you want to include the entire image of a website on your blog or want to share the full image of an Etsy treasury. Thumbalizr is your answer. You choose the quality and size of the file in either .jpg or .png format.  

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Thought Process: Photoshoots

Model: Chasity Gray
© Sharon Whelton
          Build the photo shoot around a muse or find a model to express an idea? In the case of the series of lovely ladies with lollipops, as mentioned in my last post, I will be hunting models to accommodate my artistic vision. Sometimes, a location or person becomes my muse.
          About this time last year, I found myself inspired by space 301, a local gallery where I enjoy volunteering my time. The building was converted from the Mobile Press Register and offers a nice variety of settings, from the library to the tile room, a grungy warehouse where the local newspaper was printed. The tile room, in particular, called my name. I wanted to contrast its dirtiness with sex appeal.
           On Tuesday, I'll begin shooting a series in which the inspiration is drawn from a human muse. Jean's art, style and personality are all her own. For me, she embodies the clichè "out of the box." The series will be entitled just that, "Out of the Box." I plan to photograph Jean trapped inside a box, dressed in boring, ordinary clothing and then again outside of the box in her usual eccentric fashion. I want two Jeans to every photograph; so, some major Photoshop work will be in order. And, of course, I'll be sharing the results with you.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Inspiration: The '80s (Part One)

Rainbow Brite

As far back as I can recall, I've been addicted to color. After all, I grew up in a room with a rainbow mural. In true '80s style, I watched Rainbow Brite, played with My Little Pony and coveted all things Lisa Frank. Much of my art is influenced by these '80s icons. Rainbows, hearts, stars, unicorns, and lollipops are just a few of the '80s themes that inspire me today. 

Lisa Frank stickers

Donuts with Rainbow Sprinkles
© Sharon Whelton

Get out your Trapper Keeper and check out these vintage Lisa Frank stickers (right) with their adorable little munchies, like donuts and lollipops! As a photographer, I always keep an eye out for such tasty-looking treats, like "Donuts with Rainbow Sprinkles" (above) and "Pink and Yellow Unicorn Lollipop" (below).
Pink and Yellow Unicorn Lollipop
© Sharon Whelton

I've been building a lollipop collection in preparation for a photographic series featuring lovely ladies with lollipops to satisfy your sweet tooth. You can be sure that rainbows and stars will make an appearance or two.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Inspiration: Glass (Part One)

Reichenbach Mirrored Balls and Blue Herons, 2006
Temporary Installation
New York Botanical Garden - Bronx, NY

In 2004, I fell in love with glass while attending "Chihuly in the Garden" at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Beautiful glass sculptures were placed throughout the gardens, some of their forms so organic, it was as if they had sprung from the ground. From organic garden installations to whimsical fountains and chandeliers, the work of Dale Chihuly continues to inspire me today. 

Cobalt Fiori 2007
Temporary Installation
Phipps Conservatory - Pittsburgh, PA

Boathouse Aquarium - Seattle, WA

Friday, September 24, 2010


Hi there boys and girls! Let me tell you my plans for this wonderful thing called a "blog." I intend to share with you my ideas, inspirations and opinions. I hope that this blog will also be a resource for other artists and Etsy sellers.