Bits and bobs

I’m working up to another market in mid-June, not sure what it will be like as by June it’s pretty cold and wet in Melbourne, which could drive down the numbers a bit. Still, as long as I can sell a few things, I’ll cover the costs of being there.

I recently took part in a swap through Bead Swap-USA with the talented Lennis Carrier of Windbent. Our swap was to be a finished piece (or pieces) of jewellery with a woodland theme. I think we both laughed when we opened our respective packages and found we had gone down the same woodland path. Lennis made me this necklace:

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I love the mixture of metals—copper, gunmetal, brass and that wonderful rusty iron pendant—and the eclectic mixture of glass beads (see the owl bead?). And there is a coordinating pair of earrings there too.

Here is what I sent Lennis. See what I mean about sharing inspiration?

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The pendant is from Peruzi and I chose a mixture of brown and green beads to go with it. I also made a cute sari silk and copper wrap bracelet for her. It’s long enough to wrap twice around her wrist, and works as a choker necklace too.

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In the next couple of months I have a few challenges and blog hops coming up. First up is at the end of this week, the second round of the History Hop, hosted by Leah Curtis. Then I’ve got Toltec Jewels’ Summer Elements hop in mid-June and  Lisa Lodge’s Seasons Blog Hop in early July. Mid-July will see Lori Anderson‘s Bead Hoarders blog hop, and in late August there is the Summer Colour Surprise blog hop, also hosted by Lisa Lodge. You can see buttons on the sidebar for most of these hops (a few of them haven’t had official sign-ups yet). All of that should keep me on my toes!

Oh my!

Yesterday I got quite a shock. There I was scrolling through Lori’s blog post about the 46 (!) winners from the 7th Bead Soup Blog Party contest. And all of a sudden, my name, and a big picture of the bracelet I made from Jane‘s wire-wrapped piece of batik cloth, popped up as one of Lori’s runners up!

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At this point, I have no idea what the prize is, and to be honest, the thrill of seeing my name and my little bracelet among such exalted company is enough! After all, with some 900 jewellery creations for Lori to choose from, what are the odds it would be one of my pieces!

All I can say is, thank you again Lori for putting together such a wonderful Bead Soup Blog Party, while coping with some pretty painful personal challenges. Thank you Jane for sending me a fabulous bead soup to play with. And thank you again to everyone who has commented on my blog posts about the BSBP, it means a lot to me!

And if you haven’t already, go have a peek at the other winners. There are some absolutely SPECTACULAR creations among them! Congratulations to all!!!

Crunchy beef stew!

I haven’t posted a recipe in ages—not since the Christmas flurry! It’s not that I haven’t been cooking, I just haven’t had much time to cook anything exciting. It’s been more of that subsistence cooking we all fall back on when we’re busy.

Anyway, I was wandering through the supermarket last week looking for inspiration and saw the cover of the latest Australian Good Taste magazine, a gorgeous beef stew with a crunchy-garlic bread topping. Thankfully the weather has been cool of late, pulling me into a slow-cooking, hearty dinner kind of mode.

The basis of this recipe is a simple beef casserole, slowly cooked over 2.5 hours. It would make a great pie filling too. Then, Turkish bread, sliced and soaked in an eggy, cheesy, garlicky mixture topping the beef. And meltingly soft onion jam tucked in between the slices. All cooked until the bread is golden and crunchy. What’s not to like?

Serve it with a green salad, or a side of green beans.

Crunchy Beef Stew

Slow-cooked Beef with Onion Jam and Crunchy Garlic Bread

From Australian Good Taste Magazine, vol. 18 no. 5 (May 2013).

Serves 4-6

For the beef filling:
40 g plain flour
1.5 kg beef chuck steak, trimmed and cut into 5cm chunks
2-3 Tbs olive oil
400g can diced tomatoes
250 ml beef stock
185 ml red wine
3 bay leaves
3 sprigs thyme
300g bacon rashers, coarsely chopped
1 leek, washed and sliced 1cm-thick
 
For the onion jam:
1 Tbs olive oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
2 sprigs thyme
2 Tbs brown sugar
1 Tbs red wine vinegar
 
For the crunchy garlic bread topping:
3 eggs
250 ml milk
25g shredded parmesan cheese
1 Tbs fresh flat leaf parsley, leaves picked
2 garlic cloves, crushed
300g Turkish bread, sliced 2cm thick
12 cherry tomatoes, tossed in olive oil and roasted for 30 minutes or so until soft.
 

To make the filling:

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Toss the beef with the flour and season with a little pepper. Heat 1 Tbs of the oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Brown the beef in 3-4 batches, using more oil if necessary, and transfer to a 3.5L/10 cup capacity casserole dish or dutch oven.

Add the tomatoes, stock, wine, bay leaves, thyme to the dish, cover and bake for 2.5 hrs.

Heat the remaining oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and add the bacon and leek. Stir for 5 minutes, until the leek softens, then add to the beef and stir to combine. Bake for another 30 minutes or so.

To make the onion jam:

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions and thyme and cook for 20 minutes, stirring frequently until the onion starts to caramelise. Add the sugar and vinegar and stir for 3 minutes until the mixture thickens and the liquid evaporates.

To make the crunchy garlic bread topping and assemble:

Use a couple of forks to shred the beef into smaller pieces. Spoon half of the beef filling into 1.75L/7 cup overproof dish or pan. Freeze remaining beef mixture for another use.

Whisk the eggs, milk, parmesan, parsley and garlic in a bowl and season with pepper. Soak each piece of bread in the egg mixture until soggy (about 30 secs) and place on top of the beef, overlapping slightly.

Spoon the onion mixture around and in between the bread slices, and pour over the remaining egg mixture. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the bread is crunchy and golden.

Scatter the tomatoes across the dish and serve.

Notes:

1. For a larger crowd, use all of the beef mixture and double the bread and onion jam. Otherwise, the leftover beef can be used to make another crunchy beef stew or served over rice or mashed potatoes, or even used as a pie filling.

2. Roast the tomatoes at the same time as the assembled dish. Small truss tomatoes can be used instead of individual cherry tomatoes.

Nina Designs Blog Partner Program

If you are looking for my Bead Soup Blog Party post, it’s right here!

Back in January, I saw a post on Facebook from Nina Designs, one of the jewellery component companies I like, asking for jewellery designers interested in joining their blog partnership program. I shot them an email expressing interest and was put on their list of potential partners. Then in late March, I was sent a package of Nina Designs goodies to make some jewellery and blog about it!

I received a number of components in the company’s natural bronze finish. It’s a beautiful colour, a soft and shiny warm gold. Among my goodies were a big horn sheep skull pendant, feather and lotus petal charms, a small branch textured toggle clasp, and ten small circle links, along with a pair of earwires and a bundle of sage green deerhide leather cord.

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As soon as I saw the contents in the package I knew where my inspiration would come from. My family has a long relationship with the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. When I was 3 we moved to Colorado and lived in the shadow of the Rockies near Denver for 18 months, spending many weekends camping and exploring the beautiful mountains. Then in the early 90s, a couple of years after I moved to California from Australia, my parents moved back to Colorado for about 5 years, this time living just up into the mountains. And although they have now moved back to Australia, the relationship continues, as they bought a cabin above a tiny, almost ghost town called Marble, more or less on the other side of the mountains that surround Aspen. I’ve spent many a holiday up in those mountains. It’s a magical place, soaring mountains surround the valleys, groves of aspen blanket the mountainsides, emerald green lakes and flower-strewn green meadows abound, and then up high, the craggy rocks above the treeline.

Now, I don’t think I have ever seen a big horn sheep, they stick to the highest parts of the Rocky Mountains, and according to Dad, are not commonly seen in the part of Colorado I’m familiar with. In fact, at the end of the nineteenth century, they had almost died out, and over the last 100 years or so, have slowly been re-established in Rocky Mountain National Park and other places. They spend most of their time up in the high alpine tundra, and come down to the alpine meadows in Spring and Summer to feed.

Using the colours of the Rocky Mountains as my guide, I dangled the big horn sheep skull pendant from a lampwork bead from Indian Creek Art Glass, Then I made a necklace for it using some of the circle links, a pair of lampwork beads from local artisan Emma Sweet, of Puddle Glass Art, and some rainforest jasper, finishing it off with the sage deerhide leather and the clasp. A few tiny Czech glass lentils adorn the rings. I mixed the natural bronze with a vintage bronze wire, which I think worked well.

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With the remaining 4 bronze links, and the earwires I made some earrings, again dangling the tiny Czech lentils from the circle links. At the bottom I hung the tiny lotus petal charms, which remind me of aspen leaves.

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I still have plenty of the deerhide leather and the two feather charms. I’m seriously considering ordering a few more of those circle links, they are great components (and they come in several different sizes too, as well as in linked sets). Thank you again for the opportunity to be part of the Nina Designs Blog Partnership!

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The materials above were provided as part of the Nina Designs blogging program. The author of this blog has not received any payment from above-mentioned company. The post above represents only personal opinion of the blog author.