Thursday, December 30, 2010

Therapy Thursday

I could sure use an upper, how about you? This kid will crack you up. I love when it's obvious his nose is itching. And who cares about the words to the song anyway.

Happy Thursday!!!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Hump Day Recipe ~ Focaccia Bread

I hadn't made this in a long time, and all of the sudden I remembered this recipe and decided to make it last week. The recipe is called Italian Focaccia - Onion Bread, and it is from The Frugal Gourmet by Jeff Smith (remember him?). I changed it a tiny bit after I made it the first time. Notice there aren't any onions on mine.

Focaccia Bread
2 packages dry yeast, dissolved in 1 cup lukewarm water
3 cups unbleached flour
olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
6 green onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
OR what I use - thinly sliced tomatoes, oregano chopped garlic
Fresh-cracked pepper

Place the water and yeast in a mixing bowl. Add half the flour, 1/4 cup olive oil, sugar and salt, and mix with electric mixer until smooth. Add the remaining flour, and blend in by hand. Place the dough on floured board and knead for 5 minutes. Place the dough on a Formica countertop or on plastic wrap, and cover with a large metal blow. Allow to rice about 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.

When it is doubled, punch the dough down and knead it for 1-2 minutes. Roll out to fit a greased 9 by 13" shallow pan (I used a round cake pan) and place in pan.Let rise until not quite doubled in bulk, then punch hoses all over it using a fork. Brush the top of the dough with some olive oil, and then the tomato paste. Mix together the yellow onion, green onions and garlic and sprinkle on top OR place thinly sliced tomatoes on top, maybe a little garlic and some oregano. Preheat oven and bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes or until lightly browned.

The Frugal Gourmet says this bread is great on a buffet, or slice it in half and use for Italian sandwiches. I've never done this, but it sounds good! A little salami, a few green olives, red wine on the side . . . mmmm.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tuesday Training

There's not a whole lot to report this week. I kind of took it easy with the holidays and everything. I did get some running in, though. And the one day I logged 3 miles I made sure I had water with me at the treadmill (and I drank it!), and then I took the water bottle with me and kept drinking all day. I didn't have any dehydration issues.

My kids are still home for winter break, so it's been tricky to fit in my running. I will definitely run today, and by next week I hope to have some 4-mile days under my belt. If I'm feeling good, I'll make the big investment and get fitted for running shoes. The ones I've been wearing are over a year old and they have had it.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Murrini Monday - Results

Remember this afternoon, when I challenged myself to use all 18 chips of murrini in my little dish? (If you don't remember, just scroll down to my last post.) Well, I did it! I used all the murrini. I made 9 beads and I had a blast!

I lost a couple pieces of murrini in the flame (due to shocking and cracking). It's always a huge bummer when that happens, so it's good to have back-up murrini of the same kind on your work station. Lucky for me I had some spares nearby and was able to replace the broken pieces.

So here are my results. See if you recognize the murrini from my little dish.

This blue hippo has identical flower murrini on both sides.

Herbie the Love Pug.

Here's that blue and green murrini with the pink center.

This is the backside of a dog bead. I think I could have used the murrini better - it would have stood out more on a darker color.

This is one of my favorite kinds of murrini. It looks so simple and innocent before it hits the flame, but when it does - watch out! It does some cool stuff. I love how it spread out on the wiener dog - now it's a red hot!

Here is the sun murrini I waited for forever to try. Why did I wait so long? I love it! I did break the first sun murrini in the flame, but I quickly got a substitute.

I LOVE how this bead turned out! This is the Kronos murrini by Mallory at rosebud101. I didn't know what it was going to do, so I put it on black and encased it. Isn't it cool?

And last but not least are my two cracked beads. The snail was so cool - but you can see the crack up on top. I used pajama blue, then added the Triton murrini by rosebud101. I left them sticking out a bit, then encased the bead. At this point I decided to turn it into a snail, and I love the effect of the murrini popping up like that. I will definitely try this again.

The pink turtle is my other casualty. I encased veiled rubino, then added this awesome Girlie Girl murrini from loriandkim. I was really excited about this bead and very bummed when I saw the crack. Encased beads are a challenge for me because my set-up can make it tricky for these beads to cool properly. That's just something I have to remember when I'm making this kind of bead. The snail and turtle will likely go into my daughters' wonky bead collection.

This was a really fun bead-making day. I highly recommend it. :)

Murrini Monday

I don't have any finished murrini beads to show off today, so instead I'm showing a small stash of my murrini. I picked out a bunch of murrini that I'd really like to use, and I'm challenging myself to use it all by the end of the day. I know, it will be rough, but I think I'm up for it.

There are 18 pieces of murrini and one dog hair in my dish. I really want some red in my shop, so I picked out a few nice red pieces, including a heart (Valentine's Day is coming up, you know). I also chose a yellow sun, which is a design I have had for a long time and just haven't tried yet. I'm thinking maybe a "day owl" - you know, as opposed to a night owl. Much of the murrini is from lori and kim, and six glorious pieces are from rosebud101. The ones from rosebud101 are called Triton and Kronos, and I know I've used one of them before but can't remember which. I'm thinking turtles for these - can't wait to see what they do! And the dog hair, maybe I'll just make a collage with that. I think I can find some more laying around here somewhere.

Just another view of the murrini. Oooh - look at that blue and green one with the pink in the middle. What should I do with that?

And in case you aren't a stalker of lori and kim, allow me to fill you in on the announcement on their site: January 1st is going to be a biggie! We will not only have four new murrini blends but we will also be launching a brand new product line! Stay tuned! Say what??? New murrini AND a new product line??? What are you trying to do to me, Lori and Kim? Can I support another glass addiction? As Lori and Kim say . . . stay tuned! And stay tuned for the results of my murrini challenge - hopefully I'll have pictures later today or tomorrow.

Happy Murrini Monday!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

To those who celebrate Christmas ~ Merry Christmas to you!

To everyone ~ I've just put a bunch (ok, 27) of beads on SALE. I'd love to clear out a lot of the critters who have been waiting around patiently for their turn for a ride in the bubble-mailer. So I've marked them down 40%! This is the biggest markdown I've ever done, and I hope the little critters aren't insulted. :) I'd just love for them to find homes.

The beads in my shop that are on sale are in my Holiday SALE section, and they are already marked down. Obviously some are Christmas beads, but there are a lot more non-holiday beads and lots of doggies.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Have a Happy!

Whatever you celebrate this time of year, I hope it's happy! Enjoy the time you have with family and friends.

These aren't all our kids - two are friends who stayed one evening for the magic of the Hanukkah candle lighting.

As you can see, my beads celebrate another holiday.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tuesday Training

Since I made the grand pronouncement last week that I wanted to run a half-marathon, I've made some slow and steady progress. But there's been one setback, and it's kind of a big one. First, the good: I've managed to log at least 3 miles every time I've run on the treadmill. I did take a needed rest day, and I did walk one day. So I haven't gone full force, which is good for me. I tend to charge ahead and burn out. That being said, I did my usual 3 miles Saturday morning and I felt great. It took me about 35 minutes, which is about normal for me. I didn't run very hard. I'm still trying to just run without stopping. But by Saturday night I knew I was dehydrated. I started getting terrible chills. Now this is something I'm very familiar with, and I was planning to write about the pros and cons of training for a half-marathon and putting this dehydration issue at the top of the "cons". I've struggled with this forever. When I was a kid I didn't know what it was, just that I was getting the chills a lot. I assume my parents thought I was sick. I'd freeze during the night, then wake up drenched in sweat. As an adult, I started putting 2 and 2 together and realized that I usually experience this after I worked out. I never feel sick or chilled during my workout, it's only at night when I'm winding down for bed. My doctor seemed kind of nonchalant when he told me I was "just dehydrated," but this happens to me a lot, and it is not pleasant. I know I need to drink more water, but sometimes I just don't feel thirsty and I forget. But come evening when it's too late, I curse myself out for not drinking. I do believe I dehydrate faster than most people. I have no idea why, but it has ruined many a night for me. I really need to get this under control, or running 13 miles will be out of the question. It's very frustrating. So if anyone has any advice for me or has experienced anything similar, I'd love to hear about it.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Murrini Monday ~ It's Striking

I use a hothead torch. I guess it's like a beginner torch. I don't know any different, so I can't compare, but from what I've heard, you can get better heat and control from other torches. And apparently you can have success with striking glass colors with other torches as well. Striking glass is glass that changes color in the flame. I have a few basic striking rods, and I've been able to get some colors out of them. Nothing major, but good enough for what I wanted.

So Lori and Kim, my murrini dealers, have been making murrini from striking glass. Each time they list it I look at in and drool at the results, but I think about it too long and it sells out quickly. But last week when I put in my murrini order, there it was again, a beautiful batch of these gorgeous (or should I say striking) murrini flowers. I dropped them into my cart (along with Midnight Masquerade and Razzmatazz) and figured I'd worry about how to use them later. Well my package arrived yesterday, and all of the murrini is just gorgeous! But I'm most anxious to try the striking blend, because maybe I'll get results like this:

This image has been pilfered from the Lori and Kim store.

I have some custom orders to finish up before I can play with my new murrini, but I would flip if I could make pretty beads like the ones above.

Lampworkers - have you tried striking murrini on a hothead? Any tips for me?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

On a Roll - a Blog Roll

I just wanted to point out that I've added a Blog Roll to the lower right-hand corner of my blog. These are blogs I follow and read, and the authors are all lampworkers and artists I greatly admire. I just added this feature to my blog, and I'm sure I'll be adding more blogs to it in the future, but for now, enjoy the ones that are there. They are great reads and even better glassy eye candy.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Peppermint Season

This time of year, my whole family becomes peppermint freaks. I don't know what it is about the cold and the snow that makes us crave peppermint, but we do. I am partial to the Peppermint Mocha creamer for my coffee (which is now offered year-round, but it tastes better in the winter), and my kiddos love the Candy Cane Jo-Jo's from Trader Joe's. They are like peppermint flavored Oreos. I usually buy a few boxes to get us through the winter, but this year my Trader Joe's was all out! That was devastating. I didn't know if my family could survive a crushing blow like that. And then I found Peppermint Oreos and saved the day.

The grocery store isn't the only place to find that cool mint flavor. Check out what's making my mouth water in my fellow Fire Divas' shops:

Holly is serving up some perfect peppermint candy earrings in her ArtFire shop. I think I can taste them. Mmmmmm.

Peppermint Nips are a tasty treat in Theresa's ArtFire shop. The peppermint murrini are the perfect touch!

Peppermint gets sophisticated over in Lara's Etsy shop. Her gorgeous Red and White Stripes Christmas Set is ready for stringing.

I bet your breath feels a little fresher about now.

For more goodies from the Fire Divas, visit our BLOG.

I'm going to go have my peppermint mocha now. :)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Family Favorites

Are you baking for the holidays? I am. We have certain family favorites that would be terribly missed if I didn't make them at this time of year. Who really wants peanut brittle in July anyway? So today I'm sharing two of my family's top-rated sweets recipes ~ shortbread logs (nice name) and peanut brittle. One is a cookie, one a candy. Both are delicious.

Both of these recipes require a a little extra time and a equipment. For the peanut brittle, you will need a candy thermometer. For the shortbread logs, a cookie gun or press is necessary. You can get both of these at stores like Bed Bath & Beyond or Wal-Mart. Or maybe you have a baking neighbor who would lend you hers/his.

Let's start with peanut brittle. I make a lot of this, and it's obvious by the way my cookbook pages are stuck together on the peanut brittle page. This recipe comes from my Noteworthy cookbook.

Peanut Brittle:

1/2 c. cold water
2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups raw peanuts or other nuts
2 teaspoons baking soda

Lightly spray a cookie sheet (the recipe doesn't give a size, but a large one is good if you want your brittle fairly thin so the peanuts stick out).

In a heavy pan, combine water, sugar, syrup and butter. Stirring constantly, cook over low heat until candy thermometer measures 250 degrees. Add nuts (after you add them, the temp will likely go down. This is ok.). Continue stirring until the thermometer reads 300 degrees. Immediately stir in soda. Stir quickly, blending well.

Pour mixture onto baking pan. Spread candy as evenly as possible. Let harden. Salt brittle lightly. When completely cool, break into pieces.

This is what it will look like as its heating up, before the nuts are added.

Here the nuts are already in the pot, and the baking soda has just been added. The mixture will foam up and start turning a caramel color. Be sure to use a large enough pot. I didn't for this batch and it overflowed onto my stove. :(

Here is the brittle cooling in a pan.

Now for the cookies. There are very few ingredients in these and no eggs. They are really buttery and delicious, and the presentation is very impressive. They're very easy to make, too, for cookies that look kind of fancy. This my mom's recipe. Thanks, Mom!

Shortbread Logs

Mix 1/2 c. powdered sugar with 1 cup butter. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla, then 2 cups flour. Mix until smooth. Use a cookie gun to form logs on a lightly sprayed cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for about 13 minutes (watch them so they don't turn brown). Let them cool completely. They are kind of fragile at this point. Melt some semi sweet chocolate chips (you can do this on low in the microwave), then dip a cookie in the chocolate, and then in sprinkles or crushed nuts. Put in the fridge to cool.

This recipe does not make a lot, so I double it. I got my sprinkles in the dollar section at Target. It's become harder to find the finely crushed nuts, but my kids like the sprinkles better anyway.

This is the disc from the cookie gun that makes the log shape.

People will think you went to a bakery for these. But you didn't - you made them yourself!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Half Marathon? What Am I - Half-Crazy?

I've always enjoyed running for exercise and as a way to relieve stress. I'm not very fast, but I have decent stamina. After my son was born (about 14 years ago) I did my first 10K. I ran terribly, but I finished. Since then I've run a few more 10Ks, sometimes improving on my time, sometimes not. Just a few years ago my alma mater, Indiana University, announced it would host its first half-marathon. At the time I was in somewhat decent shape, but I had been having knee issues and was only running occasionally. The race was also scheduled for an early Fall weekend, which didn't exactly work for me having three school-aged kids. Each year I think about running in that half-marathon, and then either my knee keeps me from it or just my laziness and overall nervousness of trying something like that. But now some things have shifted in my favor. Just last week I received a Cortizone shot in my knee and it feels so much better I can't believe it. What was I waiting for? So the IU half-marathon crept back into my thoughts. The next one is scheduled for April, 2011, which just happens to be when my kids are on Spring Break. The timing would work. My knee is feeling good. We replaced our old broken treadmill . . .

I'm not a competitive person - this isn't something I'm thinking about doing because I want to win. In fact, a runner friend of mine asked me to run the Chicago Marathon with her a few years back, and I said no way. I trained with her and did some long runs, but the thought of running 26 miles just seemed (and still seems) crazy. I don't need to say I ran a marathon. I don't even need to say I ran a half-marathon. I just think it would be pretty flippin' cool to run through my old beloved campus - just about 20 years after I left. I imagine my iPod would be filled with John Mellencamp (Cherry Bomb) as I'd puff past McNutt, my old dorm. I'd remember my crazy roomie and her big hair and wild partying that kept me up most nights. I'd jog on by Ernie Pyle Hall, where I found my niche in Journalism and wrote for and edited the Indiana Daily Student. It would be like a step (well, lots of steps) back in time.

My son is 14 and he is a runner. A pretty fast runner. I mentioned the half-marathon to him and he didn't hesitate - he said he's in. What a neat way to introduce him to my old campus. The last time he was there he was 2, and he spent most of the time napping. He's now at an age when he could appreciate the beauty and charm of IU and Bloomington. It would be a very cool mother-son bonding experience for us to run the half-marathon together - except that he'd leave me in his dust. So we'd have to do our bonding during the 5-hour drive there and when I show him around my old haunts.

I haven't registered for the race - yet. I'm going to do some preliminary training and see how I feel. I want to do it right. I will follow a plan for a beginner's first (and possibly last) half-marathon. I will rest on the days it says to rest (always a tough one for me to follow) and log the miles on the days I need to do them. I'll try to share my training here (oooh, now that's exciting!) - probably on Tuesdays. But I'd love to hear from anyone who has done a half-marathon - any advice?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Murrini Monday

This owl looks like me after I've been playing with murrini. I think the murrini (by loriandkim ) put him in a trance.

This sweet turtle has been around for a while, and he's marked way down in my ArtFire shop. I LOVE how the murrini covers the entire top of his shell. I topped it with clear after I applied the murrini, giving it a magnified look. Murrini by loriandkim.

This turtle is sporting some super fun murrini called Crazy Quilt from rosebud101.

Here's the other side - more Crazy Quilt murrini. Each piece is different, and it really looks like it could be part of a quilt pattern.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Fridays are on Fire ~ Scrolling with the Divas

One lampworking skill that I would LOVE to master is scrolling on a bead. Scrolling is basically writing on a bead with glass, usually with a thinner rod of glass called a stringer. Stringer control takes lots of practice, but once you master it, you can make really fun designs on your beads. My Fire Diva friends have it down pat! So let's go scrolling with the Fire Divas:

Seriously, writing the Om symbol on a bead is just too cool. My friend Ema from emakaye made this Enameled Om Focal - amazing stringer control!

The scrolling gets sparkly over at Lutrick, where Lara has added swirls of goldstone to this gorgeous Christmas tree bead.

Scrolls can be melted in or left raised on the bead, like the metallic scrolls on this ivory cabochon by Lea at LAJewelryDesigns.

More raised swirly scrolls can be found on this Lace Sparkle set at susanlambert. I love how the raised scrolls add texture to the beads.

Scrolling can also be part of the bead design. Holly scrolled the flower stems on the backside of this funky Sugar Skull Bead. Want to see the front of the bead? Head to HollysFollyGlass on ArtFire.

Could the silver scrolling on this acorn bead at AshlynDesign be any more perfect? I'm so jealous of Lori's mad scrolling skills - stunning!

One more from Ema ~ this one is part of her new series of Balance beads she had fun creating, and you can read more about them at Ema K.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Random Shots

Random shots from around my house (but mostly in the bathroom).

A funny and useful gift for our kids' bathroom. It's a dog butt floss dispenser from Fanimals. My kids are already flossing more!

In the same bathroom (which is also our hall/guest bathroom), is one of my first and favorite purchases on Etsy - by CrazyBliss (lots of adorable dog prints and cards there, too!). Are you sensing a theme in this bathroom? Hmmmm.

Our youngest pulled her second front tooth out last week while waiting for me to pick her up from school. She got in the car with a mouth full of blood, so she did a lot of rinsing right when we got home. That's why this shot is from the bathroom.

We tried to arrange the Hanukkah candles in ROYGBIV order, but we were missing indigo. Next year I'll look for indigo Hanukkah candles. If you celebrate Hanukkah, I hope it was happy!

Bead gifts that have all been given out.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hump Day Recipe ~ Pineapple-Mango Chutney

I got this recipe years ago when I used to go to cooking demos at a local gourmet grocery store. The store would bring in area chefs to make recipes from their restaurants. It was a great night out for me and my mom because we got to try foods from some really wonderful Chicago-area restaurants, and I remember the demos were only about $8 each. Plus, they paired the food with wine or beer (but I was pregnant most of the time, so my mom made out well with that).

This recipe is one that I make a lot. It's from a chef from Shrimp Walk, in Highwood, IL. It's very easy (a key part of my favorite recipes), and yet it is sophisticated and so flavorful. You might not imagine some of the ingredients going so well together, but it definitely works!

Pineapple-Mango Chutney

2 cups diced fresh pineapple (I've used Trader Joe's frozen pineapple - just as good!)
1 cup diced fresh mango (again, frozen mango is a good substitute & easier to dice)
1/2 cup raisins (I've subbed cranberries - tasty and pretty!)
1/2 cup diced red onion
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar
2 T. lime juice
1/2 t. chopped garlic
1/2 t. cinnamon
pinch of cayenne, turmeric, ground clove, ground ginger (these might not be spices you have on hand, and you only need a pinch. See if a neighbor can spare a pinch if you don't want to invest in a full container of turmeric. But don't skip them! They all add lots to the dish).

Combine all ingredients in large skillet and cook covered 15 minutes. Serve hot or cold.

Easy, right? I serve this with salmon, but the chef recommended snapper. I imagine it would taste good with chicken, too. Or over ice cream.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Murrini Monday

I skipped Murrini Monday last week because I wanted my giveaway to stay visible. Now that it's over, let's get to the murrini!

This little mushroom fairy house was not complete until I added a murrini window. The snail is either trying to figure out how to move in, or she realized that murrini window looks familiar.

See that middle murrini on the snail's shell? That's the same kind I used for the window on the mushroom. I love how different it can look on different beads. For the mushroom, I didn't melt the murrini all the way in, but for the snail I did.

Who's looking at you with murrini eyes?

The snowflake murrinis are falling, but Chilly Willy is staying warm in his XL winter hat.

All of the murrini in today's edition of Murrini Monday is from Lori and Kim. I used murrini from their Runts blend, Raggedy Ann blend and the Snowflake blend. Ahhhhh, murrini. :)