Beads, Blog Hops and Challenges

2014 Holiday Ornament Exchange and Blog Hop

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How quickly does the year pass? It seems not that long ago that I took part in Sally Russick‘s 2013 Holiday Ornament Exchange, and all of a sudden it is time to do this year’s blog hop!

Anyway, this time I have been paired up with Elisabeth Auld, a glass beadmaker and jewellery designer living in Virginia, in the US. Our brief was to make each other an ornament using handmade components and art beads. We chatted a bit via email to gauge each other’s style, and happily seemed to be on the same page (eclectic!).

Here is the sweet ornament I received from Elisabeth. Isn’t he a cute snowman?

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He looks great nestled among the branches of my tree too!

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Elisabeth also included a sparkly pair of earrings and a necklace featuring one of her lampwork glass beads as a gift for me. Thank you again!

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Now, for this year’s ornament, I decided to take a mixed media approach. Local scrapbooking company Kaisercraft does a range of different embellishments made of thin balsa wood and some hexagonal shapes caught my eye. I gave them an aged appearance with Distress Ink and then I found some vintage-style Christmas images on Etsy and “decoupaged” them on with Mod-Podge. Holes were punched at the top and the bottom and I wired a pretty lampwork bead (made by Marianne Bradman, Fields of Clover) in Christmassy colours of green and red above and some Czech glass rounds below. The finishing touch was a loop of sari silk in green. Of course, I had to make a couple of them!

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I also included a different kind of handmade ornament, a tree made from cinnamon and star anise, wrapped together with waxed linen (I got the idea from Donna Hay magazine last year). It smelled divine, spicy and mysterious. I was pleased to see it made it across the world intact!

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There were ten other pairs in the ornament swap, you can visit their blogs via the links below! Thank you Sally for such a fun excuse to be creative!

1.  Sally Russick  and Tanya Goodwin
2.  Veralynne Malone  and Sally Russick 
3.  Melissa Trudinger  and Elisabeth Auld
4.  Erin Prais-Hintz  and Lesley Watt 
5.  Jenny Davies-Reazor and Patti Vanderbloemen 
6.  Kim Bender-Hora and Beth and Evie McCord
7.  Becky Pancake and Lynne Bowland 
8.  Therese Frank  and Karen Williams
9.   Melissa Meman  and Linda Hanes 
10.  Sandi Volpe  and Linda Landig 
11. Alicia Marinache  and Susan Kennedy  

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Recipes

The ham and the jam

One of the first recipes I posted on this blog almost two years ago was a spicy plum jam, redolent with cinnamon, cloves and anise. At the time I made it I mentioned that it would probably make a great addition to a glaze for the baked Christmas ham. Well I can report back that indeed it does! In fact, I used it on both last year’s and this year’s hams to great effect.

My starting point for the glaze was a recipe I had in an old copy of Australian Gourmet Traveller magazine. The original recipe was for a Burnt Honey, Orange and Clove Ham, but in the magazine article, a number of alternative glaze ideas were provided including the apricot and cardamom version I chose to base my spicy plum glaze on. It’s a quick and easy glaze to prepare and the cooking of the ham itself is a doddle. I prefer to cook it earlier in the day, or even the day before Christmas as it’s not necessary to have a warm ham for Australia’s summer Christmas, but in any case it only takes an hour.

The resulting ham has a deliciously sweet and spicy glaze, and looks a treat as well, with caramelised edges.

Christmas Ham Collage

Spicy plum glazed ham

Adapted from Australian Gourmet Traveller (December 2006, p 39)

Serves 10+

250ml jar of spicy plum jam
1 tbs lemon juice
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 c water
ham leg (on the bone)
 

Combine the glaze ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes over medium heat. Strain through a sieve and cool.

Preheat oven to 180C. Remove skin from ham and discard. Score fat in a diamond pattern and place ham on a rack in a large roasting tray, half-filled with water .

Brush the glaze generously over the ham and bake in the oven for 1 hour. Baste frequently during the roasting process to get a good rich glaze.

Serve the ham hot or cold.

Notes:

1. Depending on how spicy your jam is, you may want to add more or less cardamom to taste.

2. The amount of glaze will be enough for a full ham leg, although I usually only cook a half leg.

3. The ham will keep refrigerated for quite a few days if you wrap it in a ham bag, tea towels or old pillowcases soaked in cold water and white vinegar. Change the wraps every couple of days. Alternative, freeze chunks of it to bring out as required.

4. If you like, you can stud the scored ham with cloves in the centre of each diamond before baking.

Recipes

Christmas Eve Smoked Chicken and Mango Salad

This year, Christmas Eve in my house was a busy day of running around sandwiched between two family celebrations. Amid what seemed like countless trips to the supermarkets, an emergency dash to my folks’ house to rescue an esky (cooler) full of perishable food left behind by my sister, and of course, wrapping presents, I was relieved that dinner was already sorted.

About 15 years ago, my parents moved back to Australia after a stint living in the US. Along with all their other stuff, they brought a smoker with them, which gets dragged out at least once every year to smoke chickens, fish and sometimes other goods for Christmas feasts. My sister and I both requested a chicken this year and this is what I had in mind for Christmas Eve.

In addition to the chicken, I had a few ripe mangoes left over from a box I received a couple of weeks ago and some lovely fresh greens purchased at the South Melbourne Market on Monday morning. So I dug out a recipe for a smoked chicken salad that I first discovered a few years ago on the taste.com.au website (a great starting point for almost any kind of recipe you could imagine) and adapted it to suit the ingredients I had.

This is a recipe that is open to a lot of variation—you could add whatever greens you prefer (the original uses iceberg lettuce), choose different smoked meats (duck? salmon? trout?) or even swap out the smoked meat for fresh prawns. It looks great served on a platter, or divided among plates or bowls, and would be just as suitable as an entrée salad as a light main course.

As for this version? It made for a perfectly delicious family dinner on Christmas Eve.

Smoked chicken and mango salad

Smoked Chicken and Mango Salad

Adapted from this recipe

Serves 4-6

1 smoked chicken
2 ripe mangoes
mixed greens
1/2 bunch of fresh mint, leaves torn
1 Lebanese cucumber, thinly sliced
1/2 red capsicum/pepper, thinly sliced
 
Dressing:
200ml natural pot set yoghurt
2-3 tbs chopped coriander
2 tbs lime juice
1 tbs sweet chili sauce
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
 

Shred the chicken from the carcass. Cut the cheeks off the mango and slice the flesh thinly. Toss salad ingredients together in a large bowl.

Finely chop coriander and mix with yoghurt, lime juice and sweet chili sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer salad to a platter and drizzle with some of the dressing. Serve the remaining dressing on the side.

Notes:

1. I’m not a huge fan of raw onions, but spring onions (green onions) or thinly sliced red onions would be a great addition to the salad.

2. Use a combination of different greens—I started with a mixture of lettuces, then added baby spinach, rocket/arugula, a little radicchio and snow pea shoots.

3. To make the dressing in a flash, chop the coriander in a mini-food processor, add the other ingredients and whiz until combined.

Beads, Blog Hops and Challenges, Swaps and exchanges

Bead Soup Reveal Delayed

The recent ill health of Lori Anderson, creator of the Bead Soup Blog Party, has led to the second and third reveal dates being postponed for by a week. So yesterday the second reveal group unveiled their creations. My group—the third and final reveal group—will now post our blogs next Saturday 20th April.

I’m quite happy with the delay though, as I only got home from 2 weeks holidays last night and could definitely use the time to refine my photos and my blog post, and maybe even make another piece. So, if you haven’t already, and you have a spare day or three(!), go and have a look at the talent from the first and second reveals.

In the meantime, here are a couple of holiday snaps for you! And I’ll see you back here next week …

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Rottnest Island April 2013