Monday, January 31, 2011

37 Things:Make a Statement Necklace for Myself

You'd think this would be one of the easier things on my list of 37 Things I Want to Do Before I Turn 38, but it has been a challenge. When you are surrounded by piles of raw materials and you can make anything for yourself, where do you start? First thing I decided was that I wanted to make a long, dangly type of necklace. Most of the necklaces I wear are shorter, choker type pieces.

Next, I started making these delicate little flowers from a lovely Almond Roca tin that my friend Barbara gave me. (The tin was empty when I received it, unfortunately.) Some of them I shaped with my new dap and die set. Others I kept flat to create a base.

I have been hoarding these pink glass vintage beads for years and was very happy to combine them with some rough Indian Silver caps.
I wore this to the opera over my new black dress and was pretty happy with the result. Now I have a mind to take it all apart and reassemble it because I am goofy like that. But for now, I like to look at the overwhelming pink-ness of it all. It's very girly.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Night at the Opera

Unfortunately, the Seattle Opera's production of Rossini's Barber of Seville closed yesterday so all the wonderful things I want to tell you about it won't do a bit of good about getting you to go see it. But hopefully this will open you up to the possibility of opera or make you look for a production of Barber in another city.

We went on Friday and I have to say it was one of the most pleasant theatre/performance experiences that I have ever had in my life. Barber of Seville is a great starter opera. It is funny, no, it is hysterical, and easy to follow. It's got a great, simple story of boy meets girl but girl is kept away from him by an evil guardian and the barber, Figaro, is the one that helps try and get them together. There are many subtitles, but not as many as you would think; the singers frequently repeat the same thing several times making it easy to watch the action on stage and follow the dialogue.

We saw the "secondary" cast but I still thought they were pretty darn good. If I had known how much I was going to like it, I probably would have gotten tickets to see the "primary" cast as well. Barber of Seville is a unique opera because there are two versions written: one for a soprano to sing the lead and one for a mezzo soprano to sing. (We saw the mezzo.) The McCaw Hall is lovely and the acoustics are fantastic. No microphones are used and you can hear everything clearly. We had dramatic seats in the first row of the second tier and could see into the orchestra pit and see the whole stage easily as well.

Here is the overture, which you will recognize immediately once it gets going.

I wonder what makes opera seem so elitist and inaccessible to some? Maybe because they frequently sing in another language? I love how it sounds and the subtitles are really easy to follow. The tickets aren't cheap, but this is like seeing a blockbuster musical/symphony/play all at once. I rented the little opera glasses and spent a lot of time examining the sets and the costumes.

Also, it is sometimes hard for me to watch the symphony if I am not familiar with the piece, so we downloaded Barber so we could listen to it and get acquainted with the whole piece before we went. I think that helps a lot because anticipation is what makes music so good: at least for me, anyways.

Here is an old Woody Woodpecker and his version of Figaro's introduction. This is pretty fun.

I am very excited now about seeing more opera. I know many are tragedies and maybe not as fun as The Barber of Seville, but we are planning to see The Magic Flute at the Seattle Opera in May. Each production has different singers and I guess people will fly all over the world to see their favorite singers perform. I have fantasies of going to the MET in New York to see something.

If you haven't seen any opera yet, what is stopping you? Thumbs up!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Slow Boat From China

Maybe nothing in the world pleases me more than when there is a knock on our door and the mailman is there with a bizarrely wrapped package from a distant country that needs signing for. (OK, I am easily pleased.) This sort of occurrence happens more often than you would think; I am in a constant quest for jewelry supplies and findings at good prices from all over the world.

One of the largest bead stores in the world is fairly close to my house--Shipwreck Beads--so why would I need to search elsewhere? First, while Shipwreck does offer discount for quantity, they mostly focus on beads. Second, while Shipwreck is gigantic, most of their stuff is run of the mill average and slightly boring. Don't get me wrong, I still shop there all the time, but I am always looking for new something to augment my run of the mill findings.

And then I realized there are people selling on ETSY that are selling supplies and I hit the proverbial jewelry finding jackpot. So today's delivery was on the slow boat from China and I am so happy it has arrived! I ordered these goodies from Halolo 4 weeks ago. (She warns it can take up to 6 weeks if you don't want to pay extra for shipping.)

I placed a fairly small order this time since I wasn't completely sure of the quality of the goods or the speed of the delivery and I am very happy with my selections. I am not even sure what I am going to do with these filigree disks, but they looked so intriguing, I had to get some.

This ball chain is some of the most delicate I have seen. I have half a mind to just make this bundle into one necklace for myself!

And these roses are my absolute favorites! I wish I had bought more of them, they are just so lovely and precious.

Also purchased were these round tipped head pins, some earring wires, and a smattering of delicate bronze chains.

I am going to hold off on any more supply purchases until I get back from Dubai as I am hoping to find some major steals there. They are so close to India, that silver items are a dime a dozen. I get giddy thinking about it. But now I need to start planning what to do with all these luscious goodies!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Big Hair for the Opera

OK, just got back from the hair salon where I got a quick trim and some big hair for the opera tonight. At this angle you still can't quite see how big it is. I told her to make it as big as possible since my hair quickly goes flat. So in 4 hours or so this should look pretty much perfect. Time to get back out into the studio to finish my statement necklace!

Champagne Cocktail with a Fruity Twist

I love Champagne Cocktails. Love 'em, especially if we are having a nice dinner I think it is a very festive way to start an evening. Champagne cocktails were one of the first cocktails invented and they are very simple: Champagne, bitters, sugar cube, lemon twist.

But I usually make them with Prosecco instead of Champagne. Italian Prosecco is far less expensive and it is a touch sweeter. We went to a sparkling wine tasting for our wine group last month and I came away with 6 bottles of sparkling wine, one being a Rose Cava. Cava is the sparkling wine of Spain. It is not typically Rose, but I like Rose, so I thought it would make a decent cocktail. Boy, did it ever. And since I was tweaking tradition, I went really crazy and used Rhubarb Bitters instead of the go-to Angostura Bitters.

Jennevieve's Cava Sparkle

1 bottle Cava (Rose preferred)
Sugar Cubes
Rhubarb Bitters
Lemon Peel

Start by placing a sugar cube in each glass and add a few splashes of bitters over each cube.

Use a zester to create lemon peel slices.

Curl peel firmly to create a nice twist.

Fill glasses with Cava and add twist. Serve immediately. Serves 4-6 depending on size of pours.
You can really taste the rhubarb and it compliments the Rose nicely and is not overly sweet. It almost tasted like Aperol, one of my favorite apertifs. Bottoms up!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Make a Statement Necklace, Try 2.

I am still not completely satisfied with the last big necklace I made (see post below) so I am having another go at it. I have been wanting to make tinier flowers for pieces to sell on ETSY and at galleries, so this is an excuse to play and get the pattern right.

I recently bought a dome dapping set at Harbor Freight Tools and you can see how I have shaped the flowers. Note: Harbor Freight Tools is a dangerous store for me; I can't go in there without spending $50.

Below I am experimenting with making a base to apply the more sculptural flowers onto.

And here I am just playing with the shape and scale. I have to get cracking tomorrow, however, because I have a hair appointment at 12:45 for a cut and style and we have to leave for Seattle at 4:30 to get there in time for dinner before the Opera.

Phew! Very excited about the opera. And I even bought a cute little black dress to wear. I was looking in my closet the other day and realized I no longer have any sort of LBD. The tragedy! But that is all fixed now.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Necklace for a Night Out

I have been trying to make myself a "statement" necklace for some time. But every time I finish one, I think "meh-that isn't much of a statement!" I made this one yesterday to wear to our wine tasting last night.

The glare in this self portrait is brutal; sorry!

I like the weight and feel of it but it still seems like a daytime, all-the-time sort of necklace for me. I know for others this could feel this is a larger piece, but I need to keep working away on this idea of a statement necklace. I think it is because it is so flat is why I am thinking it is not a big piece.
We are going to the Seattle Opera's Barber of Seville this Friday. Hopefully I will have time to attempt another go at a statement necklace. (and get a cute dress and my haircut!)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sepia Tones and Toffee Bars

I am striving to learn new things on my camera all the time. One of my goals this year is to read the entire manual for my Nikon D40. Last month I learned how to take photos with an infrared remote control. This month I am learning how to convert photos to sepia and black and white on the camera itself before I download them to edit in GIMP. So please forgive the sepia heavy posting; once I started, it was hard to stop!

This Toffee Bar recipe is straight out of Better Homes and Gardens. I LOVE this recipe. It is so easy but whenever I take it to a party, people are always impressed and think I must have slaved over this dish. Ha! The secret ingredient is fat-free sweetened condensed milk. I always try to keep a can of this in the pantry. It comes in handy in many dessert recipes.
These simple bars are made in three stages: the bottom cookie layer, the center caramel layer, and the top is covered with chocolate.

Toffee Bars

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk (fat free ok)
2 Tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips (1/2 standard sized bag)

Cream 1/2 cup butter, sugar, and salt until well blended with an electric mixer.

Stir in flour thoroughly and press into bottom of ungreased 9x13 pan. Bake in 350 oven 12-15 minutes or until edges turn golden.

While cookie layer is baking, combine sweetened condensed milk with 2 Tablespoons butter in heavy sauce pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until bubbly and then cook for 3-4 minutes more. Pay close attention here, it will start to turn into brown caramel if you cook it too long. You want it to be nice and creamy.

Add 2 teaspoons of vanilla and mix well and then pour over your baked layer that has just come out of the oven. Pop back into the oven and cook for 10-12 minutes more. You want it to turn golden brown, not black, so watch carefully; it cooks fast!

Remove bars from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips all over.

Wait a couple minutes and then smooth out chocolate with the back of the spoon. (You could also melt 2 squares of unsweetened chocolate with more butter and then add sugar and vanilla and then spread it on, but that is pretty labor intensive compared to this quick and easy chocolate chip trick! )
After spreading out chocolate, cut into bars immediately while the dish is still hot. Otherwise you will end up with a toffee brick! Even better the next day with your morning coffee.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Countdown Has Begun!

We are leaving in about 3 weeks for Dubai and I am starting to get really excited planning our trip. Why Dubai? My sister and her family live there. My mom goes almost every year. This is my third visit and my husband's first.

I didn't want to get too excited about our upcoming trip to Dubai until my renewed passport came in the mail. I twiddled my thumbs for 5 weeks before it finally arrived. Next, I had to get the latest guide book. While I got to know the landscape pretty well before, it has changed drastically in the last 5 years since I was there: The tallest building in the world was built, about 2 or 3 giant malls sprung up, a light rail system was built, and an indoor ski slope opened all since I last visited. Crazy, huh? I am sure there are plenty of other things I don't even know about!

I have a very specific list of things I want to do this time.

1. Visit the Burj Al Arab hotel. It was one of the first iconic architectural buildings built in Dubai over 15 years ago. This is fairly close to my sister's house. There is a restaurant on the ground level that has a giant aquarium in it. I am hoping we can go there for dinner or formal tea. (Lots of the hotels offer awesome formal afternoon teas.) The hotel itself boasts suites costing $15,000-$28,000 (!!!) per night. Those little things that look like ears at the top are helicopter landing pads.

The waterways you see in front are part of a crazy hotel--okay, side note here, all the hotels in Dubai and the UAE are pretty crazy. The closest thing I can think of to compare it to is Las Vegas. But Las Vegas on steroids and covered in gold leaf. A hotel in Abu Dhabi spent over a million dollars just on the Christmas tree in their lobby last year!

2. Desert Safari

I did this the first time I went to Dubai, but it is super fun and I think Trevor will like it. You start the adventure by going out in 4x4's out into the desert. A little like a roller coaster. Then you end up at this encampment looking place where you ride a camel and smoke a hookah and eat a gigantic middle eastern feast and watch belly dancing. Pretty touristy, but then again, everything in Dubai is touristy.

3. Visit the observation deck in the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. It is over 180 stories high but the observation deck is somewhere around the 120th level. Not sure Trevor will be on board for this, but my nephew and sister want to go.
It is hard to understand how tall it is when you just see it by itself. Examine the diagram below for better insight on the craziness that Dubai brings to everything it does.

4. Shopping and people watching

Shopping is the national sport of the United Arab Emirates, particularly in Dubai. Almost as fun as shopping is city at a cafe in a mall and watching the people go by. You see all types of people in Dubai, it is a very international city. But you also see a lot of people in traditional dress (sometimes albeit with a stylish, over the top traditional dress) too.
But you can also spend hours in the fabric souks and the in the smaller, older shopping districts haggling over prices and going dizzy with all the beautiful fabrics, beads, jewelry, and knick knacks that you want to buy. Trevor might not be into this so much either. I think he can go to a movie with my nephew or curl up with a book on the beach.

Also on the agenda:

Henna. I like to get positively covered with henna when I am there. Not sure if that helps me in customs, however.

Custom Tailoring. I really want to have a suit made for Trevor. The first time I was there I had a sari made and several skirts. I want to get some more skirts made this time too.

Spice Souk. Love hitting up the spice souk to obtain cheap and exotic spices.

Eating. Some of the best eating in the world. All ranges of cuisines in all price ranges. An epicurean's delight.

Abu Dhabi. This is the neighboring Emirate that boasts the capitol of the United Arab Emirates. A large financial center, CNN called it the richest city in the world. That alone makes me want to visit.

I will definitely be taking a lot of photos when I am there and I will try to find time to blog too.

This is probably the most exciting thing (and definitely the most expensive!) on my List of 37 Things I Want to do Before I Turn 38.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Cast Iron Skillet Nirvana

About 14 months ago, I was the lucky winner of a Pioneer Woman giveaway. It was a generous Thanksgiving bundle and I received a Wusthof knife (I use this daily), a turkey roasting pan (have not used once), and a cast iron skillet from Lodge.

When I got the pan, I seasoned it and started using it right away and one day I put it up out of the way on top of the refrigerator and then promptly forgot about it and didn't use it for a year. Then, last month, I remembered my dear skillet and took it down and gave it a thorough scrubbing and seasoned it yet again.

And then I started cooking steak in it. Now I don't think I am going to stop using the thing.

Flat Iron Cast Iron Steak with Mushrooms

1- 1 lb+ flat iron steak
salt and pepper (or steak seasoning or other rub if preferred)
canola oil
12 oz. Cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/4 cup sherry

optional toppings: blue cheese, Gorgonzola, freshly grated Parmesan, Chimichurri sauce

Start by making little crosswise cuts across the grain of the steak. Generously rub with salt and pepper or any other steak rub or seasoning you prefer. I have tried this with a heavy thyme rub, a plain pepper rub, and a cumin/chile powder rub. All have been delicious.

Heat your cast iron skillet to medium high. Heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil before adding your steak. (This might smoke a bit so kitchen fan on!) Add steak and cook for 4-5 minutes before turning over for another 4-5 minutes. (If you are cooking an especially thick flat iron, you can even go 10-12 minutes total and it will still be medium rare in the center.) Remove from pan to plate and cover with foil.
Add a touch more oil to pan along with your mushrooms. Cook, stirring often until mushrooms are releasing their water, about 5 minutes. Add sherry and bring to a boil and then cook until it is nearly cooked away.

Cut steak into thin strips on the diagonal and side with mushrooms. Top with cheese if desired. Here I served the steak with a chimichurri sauce (recipe follows). Serves 4.
Chimichurri Sauce: In a food processor, combine 1 bunch cilantro with 5 cloves of garlic and 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar. Add 1/4 cup olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. This can be as strong or mild as you like. It will give you fierce garlic breath!

Monday, January 10, 2011


It is hard to believe it is already heading into mid-January! I am furiously making little TweetHeart ornaments for Etsy, Tasty in Seattle, and Matter! in Olympia.

It's been cold and even snowed a bit this morning and it is hard to get my studio warm when it is less than 40 degrees outside so I am not getting at much work done as I had hoped. I guess I need to bring my stuff into the house and just make a mess in the living room with it all.

I was very excited to finally receive a package of eyelets that I had ordered today. Now I have about 1500, so I won't be running out of them anytime soon!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Lovely Dust and the Golden Mean

I was taking down some holidays lights down at Madera Architectural Elements yesterday, up on an 8 foot ladder with my head in the rafters, when I discovered this lovely spider web covered with dust. Doesn't that spiral in the center look exactly like the Golden Mean?
The occupant was obviously long gone with it being in such a dusty state. I grabbed this quick photo of it before touching the branch the lights were on and once I did touch the branch the web disintegrated instantly before my eyes and became dust in my nostrils.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Starting off the New Year with Soup

I love me some carrot soup. I always seem to keep the ingredients on hand so it is an easy, I-am-feeling-too-lazy-to-cook-anything-hard sort of dish. Only when I made it this last weekend for New Year's Day, I went crazy and made bread sticks from scratch and spinach and steak with mushrooms too. The steak I cooked in my newly clean and seasoned cast iron skillet. That recipe is coming tomorrow. But first, the carrot soup!

Jennevieve's Four Spice Carrot Soup

Serves 4 as first course

3 Tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped medium dice
1 teaspoon harissa
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon chile powder
1 lb carrots, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
1/2 lb sunchokes (can substitute potatoes)
a few sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
4 cups chicken broth

Note on sunchokes: These little root nubs are also known as Jerusalem Artichokes and look like potatoes once they are peeled and chopped but they are actually the root of a type of sunflower and impart a subtle artichoke-like flavor to dishes. As far as I can tell, either you will love them or hate them; I have yet to meet someone who thinks they are so-so. They are more and more frequently found in Farmer's Markets and fancy grocery stores. Try them at least once.

Start by sauteing your onions and spices in butter. Of course you can easily substitute spices or add less, but I found this perfect combination that gives this soup some zip and pizazz. Cook over medium heat until onions are soft, about 10 minutes.

Add carrots, sunchokes, thyme, and bay leaf. Salt if desired. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.

Add broth and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer until carrots and sunchokes are tender, about 30 minutes.

Remove thyme and bay and blend soup with an immersion blender. Alternately, you can use a potato masher or food processor but an immersion blender is best. You can add cilantro just before blending or garnish with a few sprigs of cilantro.

Serve with homemade bread sticks if you have 'em.

And make sure you have a good 2000 piece puzzle to work on while you eat the soup. This is our tradition every New Year's. This year we are putting together Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night and it is quite the challenge. He use the same colors and brush stroke style through out the painting and so every piece looks like it could go just about anywhere!

My friend Kimberly commented that she loves seeing how messy my kitchen is in my photos. Here you go, Kimberly, this is just for you!

Steak with mushrooms coming tomorrow!