Introducing my BSBP partner

I was very excited to get my email from Lori Anderson last weekend, letting me know my partner for the Bead Soup Blog Party. I have been paired with Marina Dobrynina, a Russian beader living near Paris. Our reveal date is the third of the three scheduled party dates—August 25—which leaves plenty of time for parcels of beads to make their way across the world.

Marina makes the most gorgeous felted beads and jewellery, each felted bead is a tiny work of art! Like this and this! And here is what she made for the two Bead Soup Blog Parties she has participated in previously.

She also makes very pretty soaps, which I imagine smell absolutely divine! Have a look at her blog Savon Feutré (felted soaps), it showcases both her soaps and her jewellery/beads.

I’ve finished my bead soup for Marina, a little bit of this and a little bit of that. A smidgeon of Aussie flavours, amongst an international cast of beads. I’ll be sending it off on Monday, hope it doesn’t take too long to get to France! Once she has it I will be able to show you what I put together.

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I sold my first piece of jewellery!!!!

A couple of months ago, a friend asked me if I would make a piece of jewellery for her to give as a gift. Nervously I said yes. She had a look through the various photos of things I’ve made since starting this jewellery thing and decided she liked the chain and glass necklace that I made at my very first bead class.

We discussed the kinds of beads she wanted (purple), the kind of chain (silver-plated) and other important things like that. I set about acquiring the beads I didn’t already have in my stash and got to work.

And then life got in the way. Between school and work and kids who get sick, the necklace almost became an unfinished object. But I finished it this weekend, and I sent it off this afternoon. Eeek! I hope she likes it as much in person as she did the picture.

The crystals are Czech fire-polished crystal in light amethyst with a lustre finish. The three rectangular ones (which have a slight twist to them) came in a mixed bag of beads, and matched the other beads perfectly. The necklace has a lovely sparkle to it, which you can kind of see in the picture!

Speaking of pictures, I really need to learn how to take better photos of my creations. At the moment, I use my iPhone camera, which is pretty good. I even have a macro lens I can use for up-very-close-and-personal pictures. And I’ve been playing around with Instagram to edit the pics and give them a bit of, well, atmosphere I guess. I especially like the lo-fi filter, it doesn’t alter the colours too much and it looks kinda cool. But composition-wise, I’m not there yet. Practice makes perfect I guess. I really should learn to use Matt’s digital SLR and some decent editing software. PicMonkey is pretty good I hear.

Anyway, now I’ve crossed that first hurdle and sold my first piece of jewellery, I should start thinking more seriously about how to sell more. Matt would like to get at least a little return from my bead stash! I need to think about the best way to do things—and come up with a name!

It’s the season for winter food

We’ve had a bad run of winter colds in our family so far this winter, and it’s really only just begun. And I haven’t much felt like cooking while in the midst of it all. But today I really felt like cooking, something filling, something nourishing.

It’s also been cold and wet—with the winter solstice has come the wintery weather. While I dream of tropical holidays, the reality is quite different. This kind of weather demands food that sticks to the ribs, food that warms from the inside.

So this is a beef stew, a casserole if you will. What makes it a bit different are the dumplings, soft pillows of cheesy goodness floating on the top of the rich stew. Mmm, delicious!

Beef Stew with Parsley Dumplings

Adapted from Slow Cooking, by The Australian Women’s Weekly

Serves 4-6

1 kg beef chuck steak, cut into 5cm pieces
2 Tbs plain flour
2-3 Tbs olive oil
1/2 Tbs (25g) butter
2 medium onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
300g Dutch carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1 cup red wine
2 Tbs tomato paste
2 c beef stock
4 sprigs of thyme
 
1 c self raising flour
1 Tbs (50g) butter
1  egg, lightly beaten
1/4 c grated parmesan cheese
1/4 c finely chopped flat leaf parsley
50g semi-sun dried tomatoes, drained and chopped finely
1/4 c milk, approximately
 

Preheat oven to 160C.

Heat 2 Tbs oil in a large dutch oven or flameproof casserole dish over medium-high heat. Toss the beef with the flour and shake off the excess. Brown in batches and set aside. If required, add a bit more oil between batches

Heat the butter in the same pot or dish over medium-high heat and saute the onions, garlic and carrots for about 5 minutes until the onion has softened. Add the wine and cook, stirring frequently, until it has reduced to about 1/4 cup. Return the beef to the pot and add the tomato paste, stock and thyme. Bring to the boil. Cover and transfer to the oven. cook for 1 .5 hours.

While the stew is cooking, prepare the dumplings as follows. Rub the butter into the self-raising flour with your fingers until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg, cheese, parsley, tomato and milk and stir until the mixture forms a soft sticky dough.

Remove the dish from the oven and drop tablespoonfuls of dumpling mixture onto the surface, leaving about 1.5-2cm between each dumpling. Cook in the oven for a further 20 minutes, uncovered, until the dumplings are golden brown and cooked through.

More blog hops and challenges

I’ve signed myself up for two more beady blog hops.

The first is Erin Prais-Hintz’s latest blog hop, in celebration of her Simple Truths pendants. I have bought a couple of these pendants in the past, one for a necklace that I made for a friend and a Woodsy Owl for me, which has been sitting in my bead box waiting for inspiration. And I just bought another, which may or may not make its way to me in time for the challenge. Anyway, the challenge is to make something with a Simple Truths pendant and then on 13 July, we’ll reveal what we made.

Here is my Woodsy Owl. I’m going to have a look through my collection of jaspers and other stones, and my Czech glass this weekend to see what might jump out at me.

The second challenge is the big one, the 6th Bead Soup Blog Party, organised by the very talented and inspired Lori Anderson. Lori partners up all of the participants who then send their partner some beads, including a focal, a clasp and some coordinating beads. The idea is to use both the focal and the clasp, separately or together, along with some of the other beads to make one or more pieces. The challenge comes from working with beads picked out by someone else, so perhaps in an unfamiliar style or colour scheme. This year the blog hop is happening on three different dates so that more participants can join in, as it is so popular—in fact this year there are going to be some 400 participants! I’ll find out this weekend who my partner is, can’t wait!!

I have to admit, one of the drivers behind starting this blog was the possibility of joining the Bead Soup Blog Party. And I’m finding that doing blog hops and challenges is a great way to motivate me and to stretch my creative muscles. And I love visiting other blogs to see what other jewellery designers have made, it’s a great inspiration to me and I learn a lot about how different elements can be used creatively.

In the mean time, I’ll leave you with a picture of some turquoise and leather earrings I made some time ago. I’ve been trying to get to my pile of jewellery projects but one after another, my family and I have been dropping like flies with a nasty chest infection. Hopefully I’ll get some things done this weekend that I can show you!

Moroccan meatball magic

The kids have been asking for meatballs. And I have had in the back of my mind for a while a recipe for a meatball tagine in a rich and tomato-y sauce. So I pulled out the recipe books and had a look.

I had two somewhat different recipes, one in the Australian Women’s Weekly Moroccan cook book and the other in Moroccan Modern by Hassan M’souli. Both meatballs in tomato sauce, both with eggs poached in the sauce just before serving. In the end, I went with the AWW recipe, as it was a bit simpler.

But if I did it again, I would make meatballs more like the ones in the Moroccan Modern recipe as the ones I made were a little bit dry. The sauce was nice though, and I love the soft oozy egg poached in the sauce at the end. I served it with a simple rice pilaf, but it would go just as well with couscous or even a loaf of turkish bread or ciabatta to mop up the eggy sauce.

Meatball tagine with eggs

Adapted from Moroccan, by The Australian Women’s Weekly

Serves 4

500g mince beef
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 Tbs coriander, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
2 Tbs olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tins diced tomatoes in their juices
pinch of saffron
4 eggs
fresh coriander leaves for garnish

Combine mince with half of the garlic, coriander, ground cinnamon, ground coriander and half of the ground cumin. Roll tablespoons of the mixture into balls.

Brown the meatballs in 1 Tbs olive oil over medium-high heat. Remove to a plate and set aside while preparing the sauce.

Saute the onions in the remaining olive oil until soft. Add the garlic and saute briefly, then add the tomatoes, saffron and remaining cumin and bring to a simmer. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.

Return meatballs to the saucepan and simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes until cooked through, and sauce thickens slightly. Season to taste.

Break eggs into pan and cover. Simmer until eggs are barely set. Sprinkle with corander leaves and serve.

Notes:

1. You can cook this in a tagine or a deep frypan with a lid.

2. Add 1/4 tsp chili powder to both the meatballs and the sauce if desired.

3. I needed to add about half a cup of water to the sauce as it thickened up a bit more than I wanted it to, before the meatballs were cooked through.