Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Birthday America

Happy Birthday, America.  May all your citizens understand and value the Declaration of Independence, signed by our founders many years ago on this day and the freedoms that those founders won for us.

May we also understand and value our Constitution and its Bill of Rights--and never give up those Rights for any reason.

May God Bless the troops who have fought for our freedom over these many generations, especially those who are currently deployed.

One more thing--please pray for and help the families of those 19 Arizona firefighters who gave their their lives to protect the lives and property of their neighbors.  Please read the blog of my friend, Bonnie, who lives in Arizona, near the fire, which is still raging:

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Attention Followers: Google Reader Is Retiring!

Many of us "Follow" other Blogger Blogs via the Google Interface.  It's so easy to build up a collection of favorite Blogs by simply clicking on "Join this site" whenever you find a Blog that you like.  Once you begin following other Blogs, you simply open your Dash to see all the new posts from the Blogs that you've signed up to follow.  You can read the first few lines of a Blog post—and a quick click of the mouse will transport you to the full post.

When I heard that Google Reader was retiring, I thought that would affect the Google Interface as well.  I'm so relieved to find that the list of Blogs that I follow will continue to exist and nothing will change there.

If you do rely on Google Reader, the sad news is that Google Reader retires on July 1, 2013.  That's only a few days away.  You can find the announcement here:
The following link has a bunch of alternatives to Google Reader.  I tried out the first one on the list, "The Old Reader," and it worked fine for me, so I didn't bother to look further.  You might like one of the others.
If you're worried that you don't have enough time to transfer your data to one of those alternatives, you can download a copy of your data via Google Takeout:

Monday, May 13, 2013

My Grandmother's Baked Macaroni & Cheese Recipe

Yesterday was Mother's Day and, although I think of my mother frequently, I spent a lot of time yesterday reminiscing about my her.  One of the things I remembered was the last time I spent my birthday with my her.  
At my request she was going to make her baked macaroni and cheese for me.  Her recipe was different from any other I've ever eaten; it actually was passed down to her from my grandmother.  It was one of my favorite meals and I hadn't had it in ages.  My mother had been suffering from Fibromyalgia for many years so when I realized that it would have been too much work for her we went out to dinner instead.
I don't know why I never asked her for the recipe.  I guess it was because I was single at the time and working about 14 hours a day.  Cooking wasn't a priority.  My sister and I found some of her recipes when we cleaned her house out, but not that one.
What was it about my mother's recipe that made it different?  I'm sure the fact that it was childhood comfort food has a lot to do with how much I like it, but there's more.  The macaroni got really crispy on the top.  The cheese part wasn't creamy, but actually had some texture to it.  It definitely wasn't made with a roux.  It had a distinct cheddar flavor, but not too sharp.
A few years ago my husband had knee surgery and spent his recovery watching the Food Network.  I gained 20 pounds that summer trying out all the recipes that he liked.  When he saw Ina Garten make macaroni and cheese he got a craving.  I looked up her recipe online and, although my husband loved it, it wasn't anything like my mother's.  For one thing, Ina's was a lot of work.  It was too creamy.  And the top doesn't crisp up because it's not meant to.
My sister didn't have my mother's recipe either.   She got in touch with my aunt who sent her a recipe that appeared to be the one.  I made it and it was close, but not quite right.   I think it was the addition of the bread crumbs, which kept the top of the macaroni from getting crispy.  My mother never used them.

So, in honor of my mother and grandmother on Mother's Day, I decided to share their recipe.  The only thing I would change would be to leave out the bread crumbs.  If you didn't grow up with the crispy top layer of macaroni, you might not like it and might want to use the bread crumbs.

     ·         1 lb.    Elbow Macaroni
     ·         12 oz. Sharp Cheddar Cheese
     ·         4 oz.   Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese
     ·         1 qt.   Whole Milk
     ·         Butter 
     ·         Plain Bread Crumbs (optional)
 1.     Coat a 3-quart rectangular Pyrex dish with butter, bottom and sides.
 2.     Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
 3.     Cook the macaroni for half of the time on the package instructions.

  •   Drain, then stir in a little butter to keep from sticking together.
  •   Pour macaroni into Pyrex dish.
 4.     In a separate bowl, grate cheese, add milk, and stir well.

  •   Pour over the macaroni and stir.
 5.     Place small chunks of butter on top of macaroni.
 6.     Sprinkle bread crumbs on top  (not how my mother cooked it)
 7.     Bake for 30-60 minutes, or until the crust is browned.

I hope you like this as much as I do!

NOTES on June 10:  
I temporarily took this off my blog about a week after Mother's Day because I made it and I wasn't happy with it.  It seemed as though the cheese disappeared!!  I think that that there were two big problems with what I did. 

The first problem was following the instructions as written and only cooking the macaroni half-way.  The second problem was that I put the rest of the ingredients over the macaroni in advance.  Then I covered the dish and put it into the fridge for a couple of hours.  

I think that the macaroni absorbed all of the milk into it and prevented the cheese from blending with the milk.  

I researched a bunch of other recipes.  Some of them tell you to cook the macaroni halfway, but many of them tell you to cook the macaroni completely.  It makes me think that it doesn't matter.

So, next time I make this recipe, I'll fully cook the macaroni.  And I'll put the dish in the oven immediately after putting the rest of the ingredients over the macaroni.

One more thing.  I don't remember my mother grating the cheese.  I think she just crumbled it.  I'm all for less work, so I'm crumbling next time.  Also, I didn't think that the cheese flavor was all that strong, so I might use 16 oz of Extra Sharp Cheddar next time.
If you prefer a creamy version, check out Ina Garten's recipe.  My husband loved it:   

Saturday, April 27, 2013

TADA!! 7th Annual Bead Soup Blog Party, 3rd Reveal

Well, here they are.  

I received an amazing Bead Soup from Kimberly Idalski.  Check out what she sent me here.
I don't know what she did to them, but those beads knew exactly what they wanted to be! They told me what to do with them and even when I had other ideas, they pulled me right back in line.  So here I am, on time (hooray!) for my big day, my very first Bead Soup Blog Party, and the 3rd Reveal.
I knew immediately that the polymer clay focal bead was going to have to be in a separate piece from the clasp because the clasp is a focal bead itself.  I didn't want it hiding behind my neck.  This necklace is my first piece:
The focal bead needed to hang from something strong, so chain it was.  This focal was made by Kimberly herself as faux, Grass Green Pyrite from polymer clay with three-dimensional "embroidered" flowers, a dragonfly, and Tanzanite crystals.  It is even more beautiful in person.  
The rest of the beads fell into place around the focal and this necklace is what they became.  Notice the lovely, genuine, Grass Green Pyrite tear drops and the genuine, round, Amethyst beads.  There are multiple clusters of three Tanzanite bicone crystals as well as some pink- crackle pearl drops.  I love all the textures. 
Next, I thought I would make an asymmetrical necklace with the clasp on one side as the focal point.  But the beads didn't want to be made into another necklace.  They decided to be a bracelet so that the necklace would have a companion.  You can see why I didn't want to hide this lovely clasp.
Isn't that rose clasp special?  And look at the two polymer clay beads (again faux Grass Green Pyrite) with the three-dimensional "embroidered" flowers.  A genuine Amethyst bead, clusters of Tanzanite crystals, and pink-crackle pearl drops repeat the design from the necklace.  This bracelet was a little tricky to make because the clasp is magnetic and it kept grabbing the chain.  I thought it might not hang properly on my wrist, but it does and I love it!  I think this is about to become my favorite bracelet.  
Next I needed earrings to go with the necklace and bracelet.  This time, the beads wanted to make something simple, but elegant, with just a tiny bit of sparkle.  And I wanted to show off the beautiful amethyst beads.
Kimberly sent me a ton of those dainty bead caps and I love them.  I have a whole bunch more for future projects, too!
I have lots of beads left from the soup that Kimberly sent to me, so I'll be using them to make more earrings.  If it's up to me, the next pair will be flashy . . . but the beads might have a different idea!
Kimberly let me know today that she is having a serious health issue and that her Reveal will be a couple of days late.  Please keep Kimberly in your prayers so that she gets her health back quickly.
Don't forget to visit Kimberly's blog at  She has some incredible and unique clay creations there.
Also, please keep Lori Anderson in your prayers.  As most of you know, Lori is having some pretty serious health challenges.  Thank you for all the work you did on this 7th Annual Bead Soup Blog Hop, Lori.  You are one special person!

And of course, you should visit the other 3rd Reveal Blogs:
Agi Kiss
Amanda Tibbetts
Ana Cravidao
Andra Marasteanu
Angela Perkins
Anja Schultz
Ann Sherwood
Anna Nordeman
Annita Wilson
Arlene Dean
Astrid Boyce
Barb Fernald
Betty James
Bonnie Coursolle
Brandy Thomason
Brenda Sigafoos
Carmen Lau
Carol Wilson
Caroline Dewison
Catharine Temaluru
Catherine Turrell
Cherrie Warzocha
Christa Murphy
Christina Hickman
Christine Hansen
Cindy Cima
Colleen Vinthagen
Dagmar Liebisch
Danielle Kelley
Dee Elgie
Denise Milward
Diah Anggreni
Diane Valasek
Dita Basu
Donetta Farrington
Doris Stumpf
Elizabeth Bunn
Elizabeth Drake
Elizabeth Jones
Elizabeth Stolarczyk
Ema Kilroy
Erin Kenny
Francesca Watson
Gen Smith
Ginger Davis
Heather Otto
Jackie Locantore
Jane Pranata Lim
Jennifer Davis
Jennifer Tough
Jenny Vidberg
Jessica KlaarenHttp://
Joanna Matuszczyk
Judith Johnston
June Butt
Karen Mitchell
Kari Asbury
Karin von
Karla Morgan
Kathrin Lembke
Kathy Stemke
Katja Benevol Gabrijelcic
Katy Heider
Kay Thomerson
Keren Panthaki
Kimberly Idalski
Kirsi Loponen
Klaudia Tóth
Kristina Hahn
Laney Mead
Lara Lutrick
Lena Adams
Linda Kropp
Linda Newnham
Lisa Boucher
Lora Bright
Lorelle McIntyre
Lori Finney
Lucie Bouvier
Malin de Koning
Marina Dobrynina
Marina Kosovic
Marion Simmons
Marita Suominen
Marjolein Trewavas
Mary K McGraw
Maybeline Tay
Menka Gupta
Merja Sundström
Merja Syrjämäki
Michelle Buettner
Michelle Wigginton
Miranda Ackerely

Mowse Doyle
Mrs M
Natalie Davidson
Natalie Moten
Nikki Banham-Hall
Noemi Baena
Norma Turvey
Pam DeBoer
Patti Pruhs
Penny Houghton
Regina Santerre
Regina Wood
Rosanagh Watson

Rose Johnson
Rossana De Gaspari
Sam Waghorn
Sandi James
Sandra McGriff
Sandra Wollberg
Sandra Young
Shai Williams
Sierra Barrett
Silke Gröber
Siobhán Keogh
Stefanie Teufel
Sue Hamel
Sue Rennie
Susan McClelland
Susanna Lehto
Susie Hibdon
Suzann Sladcik
Tara Plote
Terri G.
Terry Carter
Terry Matuszyk
Theresa Frank
Tina Bosh

Facebook Participants

Audrey Allen
Cindy Wimmer Muse
Cynthia O'Toole
Deb Floros
Debbie Jensen
Erin Honeycutt
Kaushambi Shah
Lisa Lloyd Harrison
Mary Jane Tanner
Valerie Tilghman

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Bead Soup 3rd Reveal Postponed

My place in the Bead Soup Blog Party is the 3rd Reveal, originally scheduled for Saturday, April 13.  Lori has been having some health issues, so the 3rd Reveal will now happen on Saturday, April 27 instead.

I don't mind the delayafter all, there's no reason that the deadline needs to be etched in stoneand I hope that Lori is feeling better very soon.  Anyway, it gives me more time to finish my creations and to view more of the 1st and 2nd Reveal blogs.

In school, I was the kid who waited until two days before my term paper was due to write it.  I'd do the research in plenty of time, but when it came to putting it all together I had a hard time getting organized.  I was a kid; I didn't know why.  Once I got rolling, I usually did a pretty good job.

These days, when my favorite customer says, "Please design a necklace and earrings for my niece's graduation present.  She likes purple," I ask for the deadline.  

I'm always done well in advance of the deadline, but my husband says I wait too long to start.  He's Felix Unger to my Oscar Madison.  I try to explain to him that jewelry designs itself in my head and it's hard to speed up the process, but he doesn't get it.

It recently hit me that if I start putting the components together too soon, I won't have an opportunity to come up with a better idea. Now maybe there isn't a better idea, but I need to give things time to ferment in my head, just in case.  

Last week I decided that I would make two different pieces of jewelry from my soup, one for the focal bead and one for the clasp.  You'll see why when post the photos.  I've completed a necklace with the focal bead.  I'm still not sure what I'm going to do with the clasp.  Yes, I've narrowed it down to a couple of possibilities and I'll decide on the final design in the next day or two.

After all, I have 9 more days before I have to post the photos!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

My Bead Soup

I was so excited over the package of Bead Soup I received from my BSBP partner, Kimberly, I almost forgot that I'm supposed to post a photo of the Bead Soup that I sent to her.

A while ago I posted a photo of the Bead Soup collection that I created for Kimberly.  I disguised it because Kimberly hadn't received it in the mail yet and I didn't want to ruin the surprise.  This is recommended in the Bead Soup Blog Party rules.
This is what the Bead Soup looked like when I disguised it.
Now that Kimberly has received her Bead Soup, I can post of photo of what it really looks like.
These beads are much prettier when they're in focus and you can see their colors.  I decided to keep the beads the same color, except for the silver and black, which are really neutral.  That way if Kimberly wanted to add an accent color, she could decide for herself what color to use.  Personally, I would probably choose a soft tone of purple.
First I saw the string of glass beads that are shaped like a flat disk and I thought they were emerald green.  I really liked them and thought that, since emerald green is the Pantone 2013 Color of the Year, it would be fun to build my soup around that color.  The next beads I found were the odd-shaped shells you see in the front of the photo and they looked really pretty with the glass beads.  I knew that Kimberly likes silver, so I picked out some silver-plated, round, spacer beads.  My intention was to make a polymer clay focal bead, but a dichroic glass, lampworked, diamond-shaped pendant jumped out at me.  I loved how it looked with the other beads.  The beads were all the same basic color, but there were multiple textures, lots of "movement," and a variety of sheens that I thought were very complementary. 

When I got home I saw that the beads I had chosen were not emerald after all, but a beautiful aqua.  I was relieved to see that the color of the glass and shell beads still worked together.  In my stash I found two sizes of aqua crystal rondelles and some black crystal rondelles to add a bit of contrast.  Next I looked through my clasps and found a lovely, silver, magnetized clasp in the shape of dual shells with crystals embedded in it.  I thought that it was especially appropriate because it was shell-shaped.

I still wanted to send Kimberly something that I had made myself, so I decided to make some beaded-beads.  Time was tight, so I used the Peyote stitch on some aqua seed beads that I had been hoarding and made some tube-shaped beads.   In spite of their simplicity, the beaded tubes add another texture and shape to the soup.      

I can't wait to see what Kimberly will make with these beads.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Bead Soup Is Even Better Than I Expected!

Oh, my goodness!  I received my Bead Soup and it's wonderful!

Kimberly Idalski is my partner and she's an experienced Bead Soup participant.  She certainly showed this rookie the right way to do this!  Not only did she send me a Bead Soup that contained EVERYTHING I would need to create a necklace and more, she also sent me a stunning hand-made pendant and a decorated box as extra "gifts." 
Let me start with the box.  It's a round, tin box, about 3 inches in diameter, with a lid that screws on and off.  Kim created the embellishment to the cover entirely out of polymer clay, with some crystals to give it bling.

Isn't this wonderful?  Look at the amazing colors and details in the butterfly wings, and see how the colors blend in the dragonfly wings, almost like stained glass.  The flowers are a clay "embroidery" technique.  
As if the box itself wasn't enough, inside of it was the most gorgeous, teardrop-shaped pendant.  Doesn't this look good enough to eat?  I think it looks like a beautiful, decorated Easter egg.  In fact, I already know exactly what I'm going to wear it with to church on Easter!  I'm going to stitch a "chain" for it out of silver seed beads.  And I haven't even gotten to the Bead Soup ingredients yet!
You might have guessed just by looking at the color-scheme of my blog that pink is my favorite color and I just LOVE  the way it looks with teal and emerald greens.  By the way, emerald green is THE color of the year for 2013, according to Pantone.   I'm a decorative painter and I love strokework, which involves painting lots of scrolls.  The stems and leaves on this pendant remind me of beautiful strokework.  These are so delicate and graceful! 
OK, now for the Bead Soup.  My brain is already racing as I think of ideas for using everything Kimberly has sent.  First is the focal bead.  Kimberly started with an oval-shaped bezel that is two inches from side to side and one inch from top to bottom.  It's a terrific shape and so large that it needs two loops for hanging.
More clay "embroidery" and a dragonfly, along with crystals on a base of clay in a faux  Grass Turquoise Pyrite, which she copied from the real stones.
Look at this incredible clasp.  It's a rose and closes with a magnet.  It is an unusual design that screams to be used in a special way.  And Kimberly has thought of everything.  There's a tag, two beautiful twisted jump rings, and some oval jump rings, as well.
Look at this!  A whole bag of Tanzanite Swarovski bicones!  The large teardrops are genuine  Grass Turquoise Pyrite.  There are some genuine Amethyst beads, along with some pearls, and round clay beads.

These are all faux Grass Turquoise Pyrite beads and the larger ones have those  "embroidered" flowers with crystals in their centers.

Finally the faux Grass Turquoise Pyrite was swirled into a couple of lentil beads.  Here's another example of Kimberly thinking of everything.  She included a bag of delicate bead caps, which I LOVE, and a bag of balled headpins in a variety of lengths.
Kimberly and I are in the Third Reveal on April 13, which means that we have a little over a month to combine our Bead Soup ingredients into a fabulous piece of jewelry.  I only hope I can do justice to her creations!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Frosted Tree Branches

These days photography is mostly a means of documenting my jewelry designs, but there was a time when film was my medium of choice.
When I was twelve years old my friend, Ann, had a neighbor who worked for Polaroid.  My memory is a little vague, but I think she was testing a new color film for her job.  I do remember dressing in my favorite fuchsia dress to be her model.  After that I wanted a camera of my own in the worst way.  The next Christmas morning I found a camera under the tree and I was thrilled!  It looked like a 35-mm, but was a point-and-shoot.  Made completely of plastic, it was not manufactured by any known camera company, but it was mine!  It came with a couple of rolls of black and white film.
I loaded a roll of film and went outside to see what I could photograph.  We lived a few miles north of Boston and it had snowed on Christmas Eve, the kind of wet snow that sticks to the tree branches like frosting.  Behind the houses across from mine was a wooded area that looked like a winter wonderland on that Christmas morning.  I shot almost the entire roll of film on those beautiful, snow-covered trees.  
I still can't resist snow-covered trees.  This photo was taken during a snowstorm on April 28, 2010.     
Back then I didn't know anything about composition, the rule of thirds, depth of field, or that a red item hanging from one of those tree branches could make all the difference.  
Same late-April snowstorm.  We had put out the hummingbird feeders about a week earlier.  Those poor hummingbirds were really taken by surprise with this storm!
These azaleas were in full-bloom when we were hit with the storm.  Fortunately, the flowers survived. 
Money was far from plentiful when I was a child, so when my parents had the film developed they were horrified to see that I had wasted all that film on trees.  They didn't get it.  They thought I would take pictures of people that we could put into a photo album. I lost my enthusiasm for photography after that, although I did take an occasional picture of our dog dressed up in the jumper, tights, and bonnet that belonged to my sister's Patty Playpal doll.  That poor dog.  I'm sure she would have been happier if I had continued to photograph trees.  I think the camera was eventually stepped on and broken.
It wasn't until the day I graduated from college that I invested in a 35-mm Minolta and began taking pictures again.  This time I read photography books, joined a camera club, and eventually set up my own darkroom.  I even shot two weddings!  Kodachrome was my color film of choice, although I still loved taking black and white photos.  After a few years my job became more demanding and began taking up so much of my time that my picture-taking ended.
A couple of years ago I bought a wonderful 35-mm Fujifilm digital camera.  I love that I can take pictures of trees now and not worry about wasting film.   I love that I can fix mistakes and crop out unnoticed distractions in my photos from my computer.  I really should  learn how to use all the settings on the camera and stop depending on the Auto setting.  Is it too late to make a New Year's Resolution?
I love the textures of  the wood, the peeling paint, the sugary snow, and the frost.    I also like the vertical and horizontal lines of the wood.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Color Me Exited!

Waiting for my Bead Soup to show up is a delicious kind of excitement.  It's a little bit like Christmas.  You just KNOW that you're going to get something good!
The other day Lori Anderson posted a "gentle reminder" on her official Bead Soup blog.  
She wants us to keep in mind that what we receive in our Bead Soups might be totally different from anything we're used to working with.  She doesn't want anyone to be disappointed, but instead, use this as an opportunity to try something new.  She says, "Embrace the challenge."
I think that's what makes this whole thing so exciting!
Many years ago I read Color Me Beautiful, by Carole Jackson, and learned that I am a "Summer."  According to the original concept, there are four basic color types, named after the four seasons.  With ash-blonde hairnow more silver than blonde—blue eyes, and a pale complexion that leans toward pink, I fit nicely into the "Summer" category.  According to Jackson, it means that I should wear silver rather than gold and stick with cool colors.  It was easy to figure out.  The color was cool if it had more blue tones in it and warm if it had more yellow tones in it.  Blue is cool like the ocean.  Yellow is warm like the sun.  
No wonder I didn't enjoy wearing that rusty-burgundy-colored dress!  It looked so pretty on the hanger, but when I'd put it on, the dress and I both looked drab.  From then on, I stuck with my Summer color palette.  I was happy to know that pink, which is my favorite color, is in my palette.
The problem is that I have a tendency toward picking only cool colors when I choose my components for making jewelry.  One thing that I have figured out is that I can wear copper metal.  I used to avoid it because, as a decorative painter, I saw that copper paints were all warm colors.  In reality, copper metal has a pink undertone.
My goal is to be more daring in the colors that I use.  
I recently made a pair of earrings at a customer's request using copper wire and zircon-green crystals.  That green is definitely a warm color, with plenty of yellow in it.  I had passed over those crystals so many times when designing other jewelry.  To my surprise, I really liked those earrings!
No, I will never wear a shirt the color of those crystals because it would look terrible on me.  But, if I use turquoise or pink crystals and add the zircon-green crystals as accents, I could wear those earrings with clothing colors that do look good on me!

So, I'm ready for my Bead Soup.  No matter what's in it!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Bead Soup Mailed

I mailed my Bead Soup to Kimberly last Friday.  According to the USPS tracking system, it arrived in Grand Rapids today.  It still has a little under 200 miles to go.  Because this is Presidents' Day, the Post Office is not open to the public and  there won't be any mail deliveriesbut the trucks still roll.  I hope Kimberly receives her package tomorrow!

Kimberly is a very talented designer, whose tutorials have been published in polymer clay magazines a number of times.  Here are the links to her blog and other sites: