Tuesday, March 31, 2009

One Little Bead, Two Little Beads....

After counting ALL of my jewelry making supplies, one-by-one, I came to the conclusion... *gulp*.... that I might just have a few too many beads in my studio. (Did I REALLY just say that? Out loud?!? For God's sake, don't tell Marble Man!)

To get things moving, I've opened a second shop at Etsy just for destashing my supplies. Stop on over if you're in the mood to shop. Here's a little taste of what you'll find there...




I'll be adding stock to this shop on a regular basis, so you might want to bookmark it and check back often. :)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

What's Cooking Sunday: Peach Salsa

Since starting this blog feature, I've mostly shared my favorite main dishes. We often have interesting sides with our meals, and this is a favorite. It's super easy and fast, and goes very well with meats. Heck, it's good all by itself!

Peach salsa
prep time: 5 minutes
serves 4

2 (15 oz) cans peaches in juice, drained and chopped
2 green onions with tops, thinly slices
2 tsp fresh cilantro, chopped
2 T lime juice
1/4 tsp Asian Five Spice Powder
2 tsp garlic chile paste
1/8 tsp white pepper

In medium bowl, combine the peaches, onion, cilantro and lime juice. Mix in the spice powder, chile paste, and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

** Just a note: 2 full tsp of the garlic chile paste is enough to blow the roof off. While I like a nice fiery dish, this recipe had Marble Man on his knees and crying for his Momma. So, you might want to start with a little less and see how you like it - you can always add more.


In the summertime this is great with fresh peaches instead of canned.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

How To Brighten My Day:

Yesterday was a damp, dark, cold and gloomy day. A good day to stay inside and watch tv with Pooch. So there I was, watching Csi Vegas with The Hound draped over my lap, when the doorbell chimed: "One Ringy-Dingy, Two Ringy-Dingies". Huh!? That means the kitchen door. Only friends use that door, and no one gave me a heads-up that they were dropping by. I went to see what was what... and found this:

The UPS guy did his usual ring-the-bell-and-run routine as he delivered this gargantuan box. A glance at the label told me it was from my Mom. I'd forgotten she told me to expect a package on Weds.

I cut the tape and opened the box, and Wowowow.... inside I found this:

"Easter Morning" by Karen Bannister '08

A combined anniversary and birthday gift from her to me. I'd seen this painting during my October visit with her and declared it "my new favorite" of all her works. How lovely to own it now! This photo doesn't really do it justice as the plexiglass reflected back some light. The background is more a soft buttery yellow and the flowers are a bit more "punched up". It's the perfect answer to a dreary day, so soft and full of light.

You'd hardly know by looking at this gorgeous piece that Mom had never painted a watercolor until 1998. It was after my father's sudden and unexpected death, and she was feeling so lost. A friend who is a painter suggested Mom join her in a lesson, and that's all it took. She was hooked. Newly obsessed, she neglected her gardens (her past obsession), going so far as to hire a gardening service to do that for her so she'd have more time to paint.

She transformed her dining room into a studio, and bought a small drop-leaf table to pull out when she has guests in for a meal. Everyone who knows her even a little understands that she dismantles her studio set-up only for massively special occasions. She's got at least 3-4 paintings going on at a time, switching between them as she waits for layers to dry.

She's had several one-woman shows in her local area, as well as works in group shows, including the Garden State Watercolor Society. I think she's found herself at last.

Thanks, Mom. I love it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Angels in Our Midst

Last month, as I watched our local evening news one night, a story came on which peaked my interest. The reporter talked about a church here in Chapel Hill that offers a food program once a month through the Angel Food Ministries, a nation-wide institution. Open to anyone, it's an opportunity to shop for food at a considerable savings. (With Marble Man's grant funding up in the air, I'm doing everything I can to squeeze every dollar 'til it cries.)

Each month, the AFM website publishes a preset "menu" of items available in each style of box. We decided to try the "regular box" and we sent in our money. We traveled to the church on the prescribed day to pick up our order, empty laundry basket in hand. And let me tell you there was a LOT of food that landed in that basket!


When I arrived with my empty basket, I joined the line to sign in. As I waited patiently, a lovely man named Phil walked over to me and declared, "he would keep me company, since I was all alone".

He turned out to be a useful Line Buddy, as the basket got mighty heavy.

His final act of kindness was to carry the basket to the car for me.


The church was filled with volunteers who handed the food out, item by item, as I walked down the line.

At the end of the line, a team of folks emptied the basket out again to check that I'd gotten all that I'd ordered.

It was fast, friendly, and convenient. And the savings were huge. I bought the $30 box. I estimate that if I'd bought the equivalent amount of groceries at the supermarket, I'd have spent about $75.

(Pooch thinking, "mmm, sandwich cookies would hit the spot!")
There were some things in the box I wouldn't have normally bought, like the white shoestring potatoes, and the 80/20% ground beef. But I figure that I'll oven bake the fries, and rinse the beef after sauteing in order to get most of the fat out, and it'll work out OK. And there are LOTS of box plans to choose from! So, next month, I might try the seafood box, which has 2 pounds of shrimp and 2 pounds of whiting for $35. There is also a Senior plan with fully cooked meals - just heat and eat.

According to the initial news story, the church started this program to help out needy families, but with the state of the economy, they opened it up to the community at large. I can tell you I will be participating until they change that rule again. So, why don't you check it out and see if anyone in your area is offering this service?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

What's Cooking Sunday: Turkey-Stuffed Cabbage

Because of St Patrick’s Day last week, cabbage heads were 39 cents at the grocery store. I’m no dummy – that’s a lot of cabbage for not much lettuce! I love stuffed cabbage rolls, but don’t think to make them very often. We had them this week and oh, boy, they were goooooood.

Turkey-Stuffed Cabbage Rolls with Tangy Red Sauce

Serves 6
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

12 large cabbage leaves

1 pound lean ground turkey
¾ C cooked rice
½ C finely chopped onion
½ C finely chopped carrots
1 egg, beaten
1 T lemon juice
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1 T Dijon mustard
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
½ C milk


1 8-oz can tomato sauce
1 14 ½ oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
3 T sugar
2 T vinegar
½ C water
2 T cornstarch mixed with ¼ C cold water

Drop cabbage leaves into boiling water, cover and cook 3 minutes. Drain well. For filling, combine ground turkey, rice, onion, carrots, egg, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt, pepper, and milk. Mix well and divide into 12 portions. Place one portion in each cabbage leaf and roll up around filling. Place in a baking dish. For sauce, combine tomato sauce, tomatoes, sugar, vinegar, and ½ C and pour over cabbage rolls in baking dish. Cover and bake for 40-45 minutes.

Remove rolls from pan and transfer the juices to a saucepan. Place over medium heat. Stir cornstarch and water mixture into the saucepan. Bring to a boil, and stir until thickened. Pour over rolls and serve.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Through the Magnifying Glass...

In May, I'm coming up on the birthday marked by the arrival of my first issue of this. I'm acutely aware of the changes in my eyesight, and it's NOT for the better (especially after this happened). Several people speculated about the condition of my eyes after reading my recent beading posts. I thought I'd show you way I work when I do the intricate seed bead weaving.

When I work with those teeny weensy little beads, I wear my work station glasses with the high powered reading prescription

and I use the magnifier I bought at a flea market in Raleigh, NC... the best $8.00 I ever spent!

I'd rather have one of those fancy magnifiers with a light attached, but they're way more expensive than the flea market model I found last year. So, I'll make due with another light over my shoulder.

Whenever I'm in the studio, I pay attention to posture. With a chronically painful lower back, it's easy to get caught up in the work and start slouching. I can pay for that for days afterward with discomfort in every position. So, I sit straight up, feet on the floor, and take frequent breaks to stretch.

Lastly, I hook myself up to my all-important ipod. "What's on it", you ask? Click on the player in the right sidebar to get a small sample list. If Apple ever comes out with a version that's permanently implanted in the brain, I'm gonna be first in line for beta testing! I can't work without good music for company.

Yours in beads,

Sunday, March 15, 2009

What's Cooking Sunday: Kale and White Bean Soup

Even though the grape hyacinth, daffodils, and camellias are in full-out flower here, the temperatures tanked this week into the low 40's and it's been raining for days. Spring is trying hard, but Winter's still got us in her nasty grip. This is a perfect weekend for my favorite lo-cal, flavorful and filling soup:

Kale and White Bean Soup

1 pound kale, washed, stems and hard center veins removed
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 ribs celery, sliced
2 T olive oil
4 C water
2 C chicken or vegetable stock
2 14.5 oz cans cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
salt and pepper to taste
grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
tobasco sauce (optional)

Cut the kale into 1 inch strips. In large saucepan, heat the olive oil over med-high heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery; cook until the onions are softened (about 5 min). Add 1 can of the beans and lightly mash them with a fork. Add the water and stock, and bring to a boil. Stir in the kale and remaining can of beans. Salt and pepper to taste, partially cover and simmer until the kale is tender, about 20 minutes. Ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan. Adding a few drops of tobasco sauce gives the soup a nice zing on a cold day.

You can have fun with this recipe. For example, after we ravaged the Christmas ham, I added the bone to a batch of this soup I was cooking up.

I usually double the batch and freeze it in individual servings. The soup freezes exceptionally well.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Ridin' That Creative Wave

I seem to be on a roll. After months of sitting around WISHING I could get some work done, I'm focused and actually finishing pieces I've been planning in my head. The latest: another of my color shifting seed bead lariat necklaces. Starting from one end in a deep root beer brown, subtle shading across the length to a shimmering light tan. The main rope was made with the spiral rope beadweaving method, finished with branched fringe and tons of glass accent beads.

What's next, I wonder?

Monday, March 09, 2009

New Necklaces Listed in Etsy Shop

It's college basketball season; I can enjoy MAYBE one game per season. Since Marble Man is watching all of the UNC games, I'm retreating to the studio. This works for me, as I've been lacking serious work time for the past year.

My hard work paid off this past week, with four new necklaces to list in my Etsy Shop. I used the same design in all, but changed up the bead combinations to make four very different, fresh pieces. And I used up a bunch of beads that have been hanging around in inventory for a very long time. You know the great thing about using up beads? I get to buy new ones, of course!

You had a preview of two necklaces in a previous post, but here are all four, listed at $85.00 each plus shipping (you can click the larger pictures to see the actual listings at Etsy):

Freshwater pearls and Czech fire-polished crystals with a vermeil toggle clasp

Czech glass black cathedral beads, topaz yellow Czech fire-polished crystals, and cafe au lait Swarovski glass pearls with a vermeil toggle clasp

Czech glass turquoise blue cathedral beads, mint green Swarovski crystal bicones, and Czech fire-polished amethyst purple crystals with a sterling silver box clasp inset with amethyst cabachon

Czech fire-polished crystals in deep garnet red and tangerine orange and olivine Swarovski crystal bicones with a vermeil toggle clasp

The basketball season lasts the entire month of March, so I can look forward to much more productivity in the near future!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

What's Cooking Sunday: Light Chicken Parmesan

How often have you ordered Chicken Parmesan in a restaurant only to find the chicken is rubbery and stringy, and the breading is soggy and drenched with sauce? Yuck. Here’s a version that guarantees the breading will be crispy and light, and the chicken will be moist and tender. And it will wind up being so light in calories that your return trip for seconds will be guilt-free!

There are two major changes from traditional preparation to this version:
1) The breaded chicken is baked in the oven instead of fried, and
2) this recipe calls for using panko crumbs instead of traditional bread crumbs. You can see the difference between the two in this photo:

The panko has much larger crumbs, making for a nice crunchy crust. Panko is widely available now in supermarkets, as well as Asian markets. If you can’t find it, you can use traditional bread crumbs, but the texture of the breading will have a more delicate texture.

Light Chicken Parmesan

serves 6

1½ C panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 T olive oil
1 oz Parmesan cheese (about ½ C), plus extra for serving
½ C all purpose flour
1 ½ tsp garlic powder
salt and ground black pepper
3 large egg whites
1 T water
cooking spray
3 large chicken breasts, 8 oz ea, trimmed of fat & cut in half horizontally into cutlets
2 C pasta sauce, warmed
3 oz shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, about ¾ C
1 T minced fresh basil

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 475 degrees.

Combine the panko and oil in a 12” skillet and toast over medium heat, stirring often until golden – about 10 minutes. Spread the breadcrumbs in a shallow baking dish and cool slightly. When cool, stir in the Parmesan cheese.

In a second shallow dish, combine the flour, garlic, 1 T salt and ½ tsp pepper. In a 3rd dish, whisk the egg whites and water together.

Put a wire rack in a shallow baking pan and spray the rack with cooking spray.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Lightly dredge the chicken in the flour, spank off the excess, then dip into the egg white, and finally coat with the panko crumbs. Lay the chicken on the wire rack. Spray the tops of the breaded chicken with cooking spray. Bake until the chicken feels firm when pressed with a finger, about 15 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven. Spoon 2 T of spaghetti sauce onto the center of each cutlet and top the sauce with 2 T of the mozzarella cheese. Return the pan to the oven and cook until the cheese has melted, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the basil and serve, passing extra sauce and Parmesan cheese separately.
You'll find you can apply this panko breading technique to other recipes as well. Last weekend I breaded tilapia with it, adding in some more savory spices to the dredging flour, and it was GREAT!

Friday, March 06, 2009

New Pieces

After the peyote stitch necklace was finished (Whew!), I spent some quality time this week in the studio working on simpler necklaces. Beautiful, but definitely simpler. I'm very happy with the way they turned out:

Black cathedral beads, fire-polished crystals, and Swarovski glass pearls finished with a vermeil toggle clasp.

Freshwater pearls, Czech fire-polished crystals, and a vermeil toggle clasp

These will be available through my Etsy shop by Monday morning. Until then, you can find me here:

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Oh, That Painful Artistic Process!

Early in February, I posted this story about learning new beading techniques to solve a problem. I was extremely happy with my early results, and vowed to learn more to finish the piece in the spectacular manner these components deserved. This past Sunday, I finished this necklace at the end of a painfully slow learning curve.

The components I needed to pull together were: An encase crystal rivoli pendant and two peyote-stitched beaded bead tubes. How to finish them? My early thought was to learn the tubular right-angle weave stitch and thread the pieces onto that.

I finished that tube and was deeply disappointed with the final result. I didn't like the colors I chose and the completed tube seemed lumpy and twisted. Not at all what I had hoped for.

OK, moving on... Maybe the African Helix stitch? I've seen finished pieces in Carolyn Wilcox Wells' book, and they are really lovely. I tried hard to learn this stitch from her book's basic instructions section, only to look at my result and say "What the Hell?" I was obviously missing something. So, I scoured You Tube and found a wonderful instructional video to follow. Wow. This is a fun, beautiful stitch... as long as it stays on the knitting needle I used to stabilize it during stitching.

I took the tube off the needle, and watched the beautiful metallic accent line collapse into the center of the tube. Crap! All that work, for THIS?!?

I contacted the person who gave the video tutorial, and she told me she didn't like this stitch much. She'd had requests for instructions so she learned it for the video, then stopped using it. *sigh* I cut my miserable attempt apart, rescued the beads, and decided to go with the tubular peyote stitch after all.

Apparently, I needed to go through all that aggravation to wind up with a piece of which I can be proud:

So many hours went into it that I have no hope of putting a reasonable price on it. ("YAY", another necklace for ME.) Now I know what I'm doing so I can make another one in a fraction of the time it took for this first effort. "Learn by doing" feels an awful lot like reinventing the wheel.