A Most Excellent Week-end

Very busy week - I had not a moment to bead until this week-end. Except for a break Saturday night when we drove to Buckhead to the only theater still showing Crazy Heart in Atlanta (it was worth the drive!), I spent the past two windy, chilly days by the fire working up some bracelets.

The first is a right-angle weave inspired by the colors of a hand-painted silk scarf I recently received, navy blue and black with swirls of light blue and cool mauve. The base beads are a mauve fire polished round with a vitrail effect that sends off sparks of color as it turns on your wrist. I accented the base with another fire polished round I picked up on a bead-hunting excursion with my sister the last time I was in Louisville. The accent bead has several shades of blue ranging from medium to navy and flecks of black.

The second bracelet is my initial attempt at tubular herringbone stitch. The design, Wild Ropes, is by Jimmie Boatright. I took her class at Atlanta Bead Market in October, then set the project aside to work on Christmas gifts. The herringbone is done in ropes, which are attached individually to a ladder-stitched base. Very time intensive (I probably have 20 hours of labor in this bracelet), but I’m happy with the end result. It feels very silky on my wrist! I’m going to explore herringbone further with my next project; Smadar Grossman’s Layered Loops band in February’s issue of Bead and Button. Smadar is an extraordinary designer. It’s always inspiring to check out the latest creations on her blog.


Roast Banana-Pumpkin Breakfast Bread

With the prolonged cold spell in Atlanta, I’ve been gravitating to the soup and stew and hearty bread sections of my recipe binder. Dan and I tested an amazing muffin recipe last night from his collection. It’s actually a breakfast bread, but we turned it into six very generously sized bakery style muffins. (Reduce oven time to 30 minutes for muffins.) The recipe is from Dan’s favorite recipe source, 101cookbooks.com. They were fantastic when we shared one warm from the oven last night, and even better this morning!

Roast Banana-Pumpkin Breakfast Bread

3/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup Myer's dark rum
2 ripe bananas, unpeeled
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
Powdered sugar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a small saucepan, combine the raisins and rum. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and let stand for 1 hour. Strain the plumped raisins and set aside; discard any remaining liquid.

Place the bananas on a cookie sheet. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes, or until the skins are black and they have started to seep. Remove from the oven , set aside, and let cool.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a mixing bowl. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed for about 3 minutes. Turn the machine to low and add 1 egg. Mix until completely incorporated and then add the second egg. Mix again until completely incorporated.

Meanwhile, squeeze the flesh of the bananas out of the skins and into a small mixing bowl. Add the coconut milk and vanilla and mash together. Add half of the banana mixture to the electric mixer bowl and blend thoroughly on low speed. Add half of the flour mixture and mix until combined. Add the remaining banana mixture, blend thoroughly, and add the remaining flour mixture; mix just enough to thoroughly blend the ingredients. Fold the pumpkin seeds and reserved raisins into the batter and pour it into a lightly greased 9 by 5-inch loaf pan.

Bake in the oven for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack, slice, and serve warm. Alternately, sprinkle with the powdered sugar and glaze briefly under a preheated broiler.

Makes 1 loaf


Good Greens Winter Soup

Thought I'd share our new favorite soup from the pages of Better Homes and Gardens. I had NO hopes for this the first time I made it. I picked it solely for the name - sure to impress Dan, who is in a "we have to eat healthier this year" state of mind. I'm not usually a fan of kale, but it's wonderful in this. The red wine vinegar is a must, it really makes this soup special. We ALL loved it - the four of us finished it off the first night. It's that good, and just 90 calories a serving! If you happen to live near a Whole Foods and can pair it with a thick slice of toasted Organic Prairie Bread, it's heaven! You'll have it on the table, start to finish in half an hour.

good greans winter soup

2 leeks, trimmed, halved, and sliced
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3 14-oz. cans vegetable broth
1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano
4 cups coarsely shredded kale
2 medium zucchini, halved and sliced
1 5-oz. pkg. baby spinach
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley or basil
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

1. In 5-quart Dutch oven cook leeks, celery, and garlic in oil over medium heat for 10 minutes or until beginning to brown. Stir in broth, undrained tomatoes, kale, zucchini, 1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 5 minutes, stirring once. Reserve a few spinach leaves; stir in remaining spinach, parsley, and vinegar. Top with reserved spinach leaves. Makes 8 side-dish servings.


Vintage Medallion Necklace

I've been away at a meeting the past couple of days, but I did manage to finish my first Vintage Medallion necklace before I left. I love making this necklace design by Tamara Scott because it incorporates my favorite stitches; netting, peyote, and brick stitch. I made it to wear with a black and white dotted skirt, so I chose opaque white fire polished glass beads mixed with jet, hermatite and silver Swarovski's to embellish the netted band. It was a challenge searching through my stash for just the right pieces for the focal. A shell button layered with an 8mm silver disc and a 6mm crystal jet rondelle brought just the right amount of color.

I wore it to dinner and thought it was a nice complement to my skirt, but it proved to be the perfect piece for what another woman was wearing at the event. After learning I had made it, and trying it on, she asked me to make one for her!


Funky Focal

After waiting months for it to appear on the calendar, I finally had the opportunity to take Tamara Scott’s Vintage Medallion class this week at Beadazzles in Sandy Springs. I love Tamara’s designs and she’s an excellent and inspiring teacher. (More about the Vintage Medallion project in a future post.)

While waiting for the class to begin, I looked around this fabulous store with enticing bead strands lining the walls and display cases offering thousands of loose beads. On top of one of those cases sat a simple Dixie cup holding a lone bead. A funky focal that was not my style at all, but somehow it called out to me. I returned to my seat as the class started, but kept thinking about that bead. As the store filled up with customers, I decided to move the Dixie cup closer to my beading tray. I remembered another beading class months ago at another bead store. Every time I looked up from that class, my eye rested on a strand of beads pinned to the wall right in my line of vision. Great colors ranging from dark reds to soft ambers. I purchased them on my way out with no idea what might be done with them. They would look great with this chunky focal bead, I knew.

I moved the Dixie cup to the cash register along with my medallion materials, where several customers exclaimed over it and asked me if there were more. When Alice, Beadazzles’ owner, confirmed it was the last one, two offered to buy it from me. I’m glad I brought it home. It’s like nothing else I own, and I had fun with it! A seed bead necklace can take days, weeks, and in my case, even months to complete. Sometimes a girl needs a little immediate gratification!


Back to School

Dani headed back to Georgia Tech yesterday, and Chase will leave for Berry tomorrow. I will miss them! This has been a bittersweet Winter Break, because it will be their last. We all thought about that when we celebrated their birthday the week before Christmas. For 22 years, we have celebrated the day together, but where they will be next year at this time is anyone’s guess. Hopefully, Dani will be engineering something somewhere and Chase will be teaching art. Given the state of the economy and dismal job market for new college graduates, that would be a very good thing indeed.

During the break, Dani helped me set up my blog, from designing the logo to introducing me to all those little brackets, slashes and quotation marks that are HTML. Color pickers, editors, it’s all fascinating. I’d love to take a class in web design. But that will have to wait until I find a good digital photography class to sit in on. All the photos on the blog so far are courtesy of Chase, fresh from a photography class at Berry and breaking in the new Nikon D3000 he got for Christmas.
He gave me a quick course in lighting, depth of field, color temperatures and reflective properties, and Dani has loaned me her point-and-shoot digital which I plan to keep on auto focus.

But for now, they’re on their last semesters and I’m on my own!


It Snowed!

Snow is a rare treat in Atlanta. In the 12 years we've lived here, we've only seen the white stuff three times, so had to go out and snap some quick photos. It won't last long!


Beads with a Story

For Christmas this year, I had great fun making earrings and bracelets for some family gifts. But for my daughter’s November birthday, I found a handmade treasure from another source. I was looking for new color ideas for my own designs in a local boutique when the owner showed me some bracelets from a new company she recently discovered.

These Share Bracelets by Praols are handcrafted by stay at home moms and low income single mothers, helping them earn an income without paying child care expenses. Enclosed with the bracelets is a gift card asking the recipient to keep one bracelet for herself and pass the remainder on to others.

The best part of the gift? Receiving Heather’s e-mail telling me who she passed her bracelets on to. Peace went to a friend who was having problems at work, and Dream went to a young widow studying for the GED (she passed!). She had lunch with an old friend who was having trouble with her kids, so she gave her Hope. A friend’s mother who recently lost her own best friend was given Faith.
Women inspiring women! What a great idea!


My Beading Backstory

My first exposure to beads was last April, when Dan’s wonderfully creative sister, Kathy, invited her sisters and sisters-in-law to help celebrate her birthday with a week’s vacation in Florida. After dinner on our second night, she brought out a curiously large plastic container, and opened it on the dining room table. I didn’t have a word for it then, but it was, I now know, her bead stash. She generously shared the entire contents with everyone, encouraging us to dig in and create.

To say that I was out of my element is an understatement. At the time, I owned a handful of necklaces, two bracelets and one pair of French earwires my sister had given me ten years ago that I held onto in case I ever discovered how to convert them to clips. Jewelry was just not on my radar screen.

While pliers were passed from hand to hand and wrapped loops were being formed around the table, I found myself drawn to the beads themselves. I loved the textures and the colors – the feel of those beads in my hands. I spent the first few nights organizing Kathy’s stash by size and color while everyone else assembled small piles of wearable treasures. By the end of our vacation, I did manage to string together a small strand of tiger eye chips, Picasso beads and 3mm rounds.

Within a week of returning home, I headed to my local bead store to add some additional strands to the bracelet I started in Florida. Although I enjoyed my first attempt at stringing beads, I really fell in love with seed beads, those tiny, round glass beads in thousands of colors and finishes, and a passion for off-loom weaving was born.

I started with a simple peyote piece and am working through Carol Cypher’s amazing volume, Mastering Beadwork. Right angle weave, netting, herringbone, dutch spiral...I have yet to meet a stitch I don’t love. My latest project was Melanie Doerman’s Reversible Bracelet, an embellished variation of RAW.

As we start a new year, I encourage you to learn something brand new. Something you've always been interested in or something totally out of your comfort zone. You never know, maybe a new passion is on the horizon.


Getting Started...

Recently introduced to beading, I have been inspired by visits to the blogs of a myriad of truly talented artists. They have intrigued, challenged and motivated me to give this art a try.

After picking up Tara Frey’s beautiful book, Blogging for Bliss, I decided to take a just do it approach and jump right in to blogging as well. I don’t have a clear idea of how this will evolve, but I will strive to make it a place to share my creative adventures, (successes and failures) and best thoughts, interspersed with the ups and downs of everyday life.

I hope this will be a spot where friends and family near and far will catch up with us and where new friends will be made...and hopefully where you will find something to inspire you as well.