Unforeseen delays

Today is the reveal date for the Sci-Fi Blog Hop, a challenge set by Pam Rachelle, from the blog The Crazy Creative Corner. Sadly, however, I’m not ready for it. With school starting for two of my three kids today, after 6 weeks of summer holidays, my ability to get any jewellery made has been limited. Come back in a few days, however, and I might just have something for you!

In the mean time, please visit some of the other blogs to see what stories of science fiction and fantasy inspired jewellery designs!

Pam (the Crazier Sister) ~ Hostess http://crazycreativecorner.blogspot.com/
Melissa Trudinger ~ https://beadrecipes.wordpress.com/ — come back in a few days to see what I have made

One year on … and the year ahead!

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So, a couple of days ago marked the first anniversary of my blog. As of today I have made 64 posts (including this one) and have 66 followers (so I’ve kind of added a follower every post if you like!). I’ve published more than 20 posts with recipes and nearly 40 about beads and jewellery, with one that included both of my passions and a few posts that I have not categorised (note to self …).

When I started this blog, I didn’t really know what to expect from it, didn’t know if I would be able to find my voice. I am a writer by trade, but I write about science and business, not about beads and food! But over the course of the past year I feel like a little storyteller inside me has come to life.

One of the things I have really enjoyed about blogging has been the way that it has shown me the way to the beading community, through blog hops, bead swaps, forums and Facebook friendships. I’ve taken part in more than half a dozen blog hops and challenges, each time pushing myself to try something new.

Some of my favourite posts have included the first blog hop I entered—Tracy Statler’s Wrapped, Stacked and Layered Challenge—and Erin Prais-Hintz’s Challenges of Literature, Travel and Colour, not to mention the biggest one of all, the Bead Soup Blog Party!

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Clockwise from top left: Wrapped, Stacked and Layered challenge; Challenge of Literature; Bead Soup Blog Party; Challenge of Travel.

It has also helped me to push myself into a new challenge for 2013 … actively selling my creations. I hope to set up a stand at a local craft market in a few months, and I’m in the process of setting myself up to sell online, probably via Facebook initially, and eventually through one of the online sites like Etsy or Madeit. I’ll blog more about this soon.

As my blog name implies, the other half of this blog is about food and cooking, and this is more for me, to help me record and share recipes I love. I’m thinking that in a few years I’ll collect all of the recipes from my blog and collate them into a book for my kids. Among my favourite recipe posts are the jams and the lemons, the delicious lamb and silverbeet parcels and all of the Christmas recipes!

CLosckwise from top left: preserved lemons, candy cane marshmallows, lamb and silverbeet parcels, plum jam two ways

CLosckwise from top left: preserved lemons; candy cane marshmallows; lamb and silverbeet parcels; plum jam two ways.

Well, that’s the year past, so what have I got planned in the coming year? Aside from the plans to sell my jewellery, I have a number of challenges and hops coming up in the near future. This coming weekend is sign-up time for Bead Soup Blog Party 7, and I’ll definitely be putting my name down for that. I’m taking part in Lisa Lodge‘s Sand and Sea Blog Hop in March.  I hope to do all four of Erin Prais-Hintz ‘s quarterly challenges (if last year is anything to go on, the first one for the year is likely to be announced in February) and at least a few of the Art Bead Scene monthly challenges too.

I’m also planning to learn some new jewellery-making techniques. I’ve been playing with clay (both ceramic and polymer) and I would like to do more wire-work. Sadly, there are only so many hours in the week when you have 3 kids, including a very busy pre-schooler and a part-time job, so I have no doubt things will happen far slower than I plan.

On the recipe side of the blog, I have a few recipes floating around that I would like to play with and, if they work, I’ll share them.

And in general, I plan to work on my photographic skills. For Christmas my husband gave me a fabulous new tool to help me out—a clever device that functions as both a light tent and a camera stand from a company called Modahaus. It has already changed the way I take photos and I intend to keep refining my skills. Stay tuned for more about that too. Look out too for a blog mini-makeover, I’m updating very soon!

I’m looking forward to 2013. It should be a fun year and I hope you will join me!

Secret Bluebird

Here is a little blue bird, swinging on a branch, perhaps singing his little heart out.

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It’s a necklace I made late last year for a gift exchange I took part in via Bead Swap-USA. I was assigned a person to be a “Secret Sister” to, sending her gifts to over a period of three months leading up to Christmas. My recipient, who lives in California, likes birds.

The glass bird comes from Bellissimo Jewels, a local lampworker, and I picked it up at the Bead Expo in November (along with a bunch of orphan beads and some fun enamelled filigree, which will no doubt surface in a design one of these days). I wrapped it onto a brass branch from Vintaj, and added a few Czech glass beads in shades ranging from a rustic earth to turquoise blue.

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I made a pair of earrings too.

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Other gifts I sent included some notecards with hand-embellished birds, a couple of books (one a SF/fantasy novel by an Australian writer and the other a book of inspiring necklace designs), some tiny hummingbird and kittycat charms and a small packet of Japanese fabric. I hope Sue enjoys them all!

I also had a secret sister of my own, who sent me presents all the way from Tennessee, including some lovely lampwork beads, a stash of beads and bobs to replenish my cheap and cheerful supplies after last year’s school craft market, and a couple of handmade pieces. She is a talented seedbeader …

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… and she also makes interesting and beautiful polymer clay pieces. This is tiny, by the way, a couple of centimetres high.

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Thanks again, Lindsay!

Christmas gifts for the family

Since I started making jewellery a couple of years ago, I have made jewellery for various family members as part of their Christmas gifts. This year, I made bracelets for my Mum and my Mother in law, as well as my sister and my sister in law.

The two bracelets for Mum and my MIL Sue were very much in the style of the bracelets I have been making recently, combining Czech and other glass beads with brass or copper findings to make a simple colourful bracelet. I really love the two-tone smooth nugget beads I used in these bracelets—I got them from a local bead shop that sadly is going out of business (so I bought as many as I could get!)—apparently they are West German glass. Mum’s uses green and orange tones, while the one for Sue was made using soft lavenders and plums.

Mum and Sue collage

The bracelets I made for my sister and sister in law I strung onto waxed linen rather than beading wire for a more organic look. My sister’s contains little chips of amber and some copper beads, while the one for my SIL has bright pops of red highlighting the earthy green Czech beads.

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For my husband and my brother in law, I made cufflinks, using vintage-style scrapbook paper. My brother in law is half South African and half Australian, so I used images of old maps to make his pair, while my husband’s pair has a musical theme. It’s the first time I’ve played with resin since I took a class a little over a year ago, so I was a bit nervous, but it seems that it worked well.

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I ran out of time to make my daughters some jewellery, so that will be our school holiday project!

Oh, and I must show you these! My mum is a potter and in the last year or so she has been dabbling in bead and pendant making. For Christmas I received several little baggies of beads from her, and they are so sweet! I also have a bag of tiny porcelain owl beads from Mum that I want to play with this summer, perhaps adding a sheen of gilders paste to perk them up!

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Thanks Mum! I can see some lovely collaborations in our future!

The last four days of Handmade Christmas days 9-12

And now for the (almost) final reveal of gifts from the 12 Days of Christmas Handmade Gift exchange.

On day 9, I didn’t open a gift as it was my turn to give. But I thought I’d post some pictures of the gifts I made for everyone else. I started out with some vintage chandelier crystals that I found on Etsy. For some of them I used various combinations of glass beads and memory wire to make some beaded rings to dangle the crystals.

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For the others I used some large crystals that I got ages ago from Etsy’s Dreamgirl Beads—they have a spectacular AB coating that just sparkles!

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I finished all of the ornaments off with some pretty ribbon with a shimmery, sparkly edge, that I got from Abby and Ellie, a fabulous ribbon shop, also on Etsy. I’m really pleased with how they turned out and I’m definitely going to find some more chandelier crystals to make decorations next year.

As a little extra, I also included in each gift a snowflake pendant/ornament made by my Mum, who is a potter. I’m encouraging Mum to get into the bead-making business, for purely selfish reasons of course!!! Here are a couple of snowflakes …

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Day 10’s present arrived a little late courtesy of the postal system. Not to worry though, my gifts from Rita at Toltec Jewels were intact and numerous! First of all was a pair of snowman-themed pot holders.

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The handmade gift was a beautiful beaded snowflake ornament, in pale shimmery colours. I had to take the photo against the red of the pot holders to get it to show up properly, it almost disappeared on a white background!

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And finally a taste of Mexico, with a Lux Perpetua candle, a sombrero ornament and a miniature serape.

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Rita, thank you for your generous gifts!

On day 11, I opened a gift from Suzanne Reynolds, a mixed media artist. Suzanne made us all fabric covered notebooks (and the notebooks are replaceable), with hand-printed and batiked fabrics and scraps of sari silk ribbon.

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I’ll be keeping this notebook in my handbag Suzanne, thank you!

Finally, I opened day 12’s present—a day late as it was delivered on Monday. Gina Hockett sent me a copper bangle, wire-wrapped with deep earthy red stones—red jasper perhaps—spaced around it.

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It’s a beautiful bangle, thank you Gina!

It has been so much fun to take part in Lorelei’s 12 Days of Christmas Handmade Gift Exchange. I’ve received some lovely gifts from some fantastic artists. Thanks again Lorelei for the opportunity to play! And thank you so much for all of the wonderful gifts I have received, you are all talented people indeed!

Christmas treats for everyone

Well, Christmas has come and gone, the leftovers are have been eaten (or stored in the freezer), the tree has been undecorated, and the wrapping paper is in the recycling bin. But I did promise to share my recipe for the best chocolate truffle slice ever, and I’m going to start off with a recipe for a super quick and easy sweet treat.

This treat is something I found on Pinterest and made for my younger daughter to take on her last day of school as a birthday treat (her birthday is in late December) to give her class mates instead of cupcakes. You could even pop these onto the side of a mug of hot chocolate to pep up a warm treat!

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There’s no real recipe for this one, simply poke a candy cane into each marshmallow, dip the bottom of the marshmallow into a bowl of melted chocolate, and roll in crushed up candy canes (it’s quite therapeutic banging away at a zip-lock bag of candy canes with a rolling pin!). The chocolate sets quite quickly and they can be piled up in a bowl, or if the marshmallow is big enough (mine weren’t) stood up on their bases.

Now, back to that chocolate raspberry truffle slice. It’s amazing. I kid you not. The only thing that stops me from gobbling the whole lot down in one sitting is that it is so incredibly rich, that I physically can’t eat more than a couple of pieces at a time.  And it’s easy too. The hardest part is sieving out the seeds from the raspberry mixture.

Now, you will need to seek out fresh raspberries for this one, as the frozen variety tend to be a little too juicy. Sadly, that means it’s not going to be particularly suitable for the Northern Hemisphere at Christmas, but I urge you to think about making it when raspberries are at their peak! Use a good quality dark chocolate too, it’s definitely worth it.

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Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Slice

Adapted from a recipe first published in Australian Gourmet Traveller, December 2006.

Makes approximately 60 squares

300g fresh raspberries
200ml pouring cream
50ml Framboise
600g dark chocolate
Dutch process cocoa (optional)

Combine 200g raspberries with the cream and Framboise in a small saucepan, and bring to the boil over medium-high heat. Process in a food processor and then pass through a fine sieve to remove the seeds.

Clean and dry the food processor and add chocolate, broken into chunks. Process until the chocolate is finely chopped.

Transfer the sieved mixture to a clean saucepan and bring back to the boil. With the motor running, pour the raspberry-cream mixture into the food processor and process until smooth.

Pour about half of the chocolate mixture into a baking paper-lined 20cm X 30 cm tray. Scatter the remaining raspberries evenly across the tray and pour over the rest of the chocolate mixture. Use a spatula to make sure the top is smooth and the depth is relatively even.

Refrigerate overnight, then use a warm knife to cut the truffles into squares and if desired dust with cocoa. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Notes:

1. I find that if I want to double this recipe I really need to do two batches, as that much liquid won’t fit into my food processor.

2. Sieving the raspberry-cream mixture is difficult. If your sieve has very small holes, it can help to sieve it through a coarser sieve first. And a spoon is useful to gently push the liquid through the sieve too.

3. The original recipe called for dark chocolate with 57% cocoa solids. I can’t always get this percentage, so sometimes I mix two different dark chocolates, say a 50% and a 70% to get a good flavour.

4. If the raspberries are large, they can be gently broken apart (NOT crushed) before scattering over the chocolate mixture.

5. In theory this will last in the fridge for up to a month if stored in an airtight container. I challenge you to keep it for that long!

Twelve days of Christmas days 5-8

I’ve been away for a few days with my family, enjoying the sunny — and stinking hot! — weather! I did remember to take my 12 Days of Christmas Handmade Gift Swap gifts down to the beach with me though, and had a lovely time opening them each day!

On day 5 I received a lovely pair of earrings from Therese Frank. They are beaded beads, and according to Therese, they are a pattern from Monomint called Gidget.

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They are quite stunning, not to mention sparkly! Thank you Therese!

I opened my gift from Amy Freeland on day 6 to discover this sweet purse charm.

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I love the colours of the beads, and they’ll work well with my favourite purse too! Thank you Amy!

Day 7’s gift, from Andrew Thornton, apparently met with some mishaps in the kiln, and will be sent sometime in the near future. I’m looking forward to getting gift number 7 and promise I’ll post a picture here when it arrives!

On day 8, Erin Prais-Hintz sent me a beautiful set of napkin rings in rich jewel-toned pinks, which can also double as placeholders. It’s a project she designed for Halstead/Michaels, which I may have to download so that I can make some more in coordinating colours!

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I love them, Erin, they are gorgeous and I think I need to organise a dinner party so I have a good excuse to use them! Thank you so much!

I’m still waiting for the post office to deliver the last couple of gifts—hopefully they will arrive tomorrow, now that the crazy Christmas-New Year fortnight is past. I will blog about them as soon as I can.