Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Old-fashioned Goodness

The end of summer is always a busy time for me...it's when I get most of my canning done!  This year, the only thing I managed to can was my homemade spaghetti sauce.
The story about making sauce starts about three years ago.  I had canned bread-and-butter pickles with my Granny's recipe and tried my hand at canning fresh peaches (which were delicious, by the way!) so I decided it was time to make my own spaghetti sauce.
Having never made anything like this, I knew enough to start with plum tomatoes but that was the extent of my knowledge.  So I went to the local produce stand and bought a basket of plum tomatoes and headed home.
At around 4 pm, I decided to get started...after all, how long could it take?  (Cue suspenseful music)
By 8 pm, the sauce still looked super watery and tasted horrible.  My hubby took one look at the sauce and told me I had another 3-4 hours for it to cook down and to get rid of the excess water.  
I didn't see my bed until after 2 am, but it was some good sauce!
So this weekend, I got started at 8 am (sometimes I do learn from my mistakes!)
After blanching the tomatoes and getting them into a cold stop bath, I had to peel them and run them through the blender. 
Then a trip through the mill to separate the seeds from everything else. 
Next comes the hard part...cooking the tomatoes down so the excess water can evaporate.
You can see the pan in the back is darker.  That's because it was cooking about an hour longer than the other pan.  And yes, those are extremely large soup pans.
These tomatoes cooked from around noon to about 6 pm and reduced almost to half of what I started with. 
Then it was time for the fun part of it all...
I used pint jars for these batches.
Doesn't it look yummy???
Finally a quick stop in  the water bath and then it was just a matter of waiting for the "POP" (If you've ever done any canning, you know the sound I mean...)
And the final tally?  24 pints of delicious spaghetti sauce...free of preservatives and anything unnatural.
Now, if I can just find a recipe for homemade marinara sauce so I can use up the last basket of tomatoes I have...

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sometimes you have to imagine

I have to admit...I am a person who usually takes things literally.  So when our monthly challenge was to use dragons as inspiration in the Facebook group Bead and Jewelry Artisans, I was a bit nervous.
And then people started creating and sharing and I almost decided to just wait this one out and hope the next challenge was more something my style. 
This beautiful dragon was beaded by Patricia Reeves who creates amazingly realistic 3-D works of art.
This stunning necklace with carved jade dragon pendant was created by Jamie Anderson, who sells the most amazing jewelry components in her Etsy shop.
 And this eye-catching piece was created by Linda Marie Owens...she used a hand-painted  dragon eye as the focal and then gave it her own creative flair. 
But then I remembered something someone in the group had posted that talked about not comparing your work to anyone else and even if you were just beginning your jewelry journey to be proud of what you have accomplished so far.
So I went back to what I had wanted to do for this challenge and that was to learn a netting stitch that reminded me of dragons. 
I found a pattern that was actually designed to be fall leaves and use fall colors in sparkly shades, but it reminded me so much of dragon teeth I knew I had to use it.  (I was also told they look like dragon scales...one of the girls in the group said it was too pretty to be dragon teeth!)
I used 8/o matte seed beads in white and lime green.  Usually you think of dark colors or high contrast colors for dragons (like black and red) but I really liked how these colors looked next to each other.
I'm looking forward to October's challenge...especially if it pushes me out of my comfort zone again!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

With either a Roar or a Wimper

I like a good challenge and I always enjoy the opportunity to stretch myself and learn new things.  But sometimes there is a challenge you wish you could ignore but you know that you just can't. 
It's actually not so bad . . . really.  . . I suppose . . . One of the groups I'm part of on Facebook is Bead and Jewelry Artisans and it is such a great group of people who love to support and encourage each other.  They decided to have a monthly challenge for the group where we are given a topic and then we need to be inspired to create a piece of jewelry that reflects that topic.
I have to be honest, the idea sounded great when it was first mentioned.  After all, I had just completed two blog hops this summer where I taught myself new beadweaving/beading techniques and it was a lot of fun.  And this challenge gives me a whole month to work on it, so what could possibly go wrong?
In a word....DRAGONS.

Not that I have anything against dragons, mind you.  My favorite time period to study was medieval and dragons factored greatly into the stories and artwork of the time.
St. George and the Dragon
This is probably one of the most famous historical paintings concerning dragons and knights.  So much to take in and so much symbolism!
And I can't let this post go without mentioning one of my all-time favorite knight paintings...
The Accolade
But dragons as inspiration to create a piece of jewelry?  Have you seen my jewelry?  I design with the ocean in mind...sea glass and little tiny beads that reflect the colors you find in the sea...or with crystals that are used to create something romantic and girly.
Not exactly my usual choice for something to inspire me...so I asked my daughter for her advice.  She loves dragons and has the most incredible imagination and if anyone could help me look beyond my mental block it would be her. 
The first thing she suggested was that maybe I could use the scales as inspiration.  I've been wanting to teach myself a netting stitch (and failing miserably, I might add) and when I showed her a picture of what I was thinking of, she said it really looked like dragon scales.  This would certainly be far out of my comfort zone design-wise.  Good for this challenge!
THEN she mentioned that creating something using red, orange and yellow that resembled the fire that dragons breathe would be amazing.  (This from my beautiful teenage daughter who is not at all into jewelry...no pressure...no pressure...)
Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon
So, at least I have some inspiration to get started with this challenge...and a whole month to work on it. 
Wish me luck!