Sunday, December 29, 2013

Black Bottom Cupcakes

These are a long time favorite of mine.  'Cause chocolate, cream cheese, chocolate (chips) and walnuts.  Hello.

Will be perfect with spiked eggnog for New Year's. photo and recipe

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese,
1 egg
1/3 cup white sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line muffin tins with paper cups or lightly spray with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese, egg, 1/3 cup sugar and 1/8 teaspoon salt until light and fluffy. Stir in the chocolate chips and set aside.  (or, sprinkle chips and walnuts on top of the dollop of cream cheese - see below.)
3. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, 1 cup sugar, cocoa, baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Make a well in the center and add the water, oil, vinegar and vanilla. Stir together until well blended. Fill muffin tins 1/3 full with the batter and top with a dollop of the cream cheese mixture.
4. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Inspiration: Amsterdam

Several years ago, when my brother and sister-in-law and the buddy-nephews were in the Army and stationed in Germany, my mom and I traveled to visit them.  Such a wonderful visit.

And, since all of my grandparents hail from the Netherlands, and Mom's dad grew up in Amsterdam, Mom and I took the train from Idar-Oberstein to Amsterdam.  We spent three days/two nights in the city, went to the Ann Frank house (awe-inspiring) and took a wrong turn into the red-light district (my excellent sense of direction failed me.  No, I was not drawn down that street by the aroma of pot.  Really.)  (Did I mention my mother was with me?)

Amsterdam Flea Market

One of the things that I wanted to experience was an Amsterdam Flea Market.  Since it was early November, I did not expect to find flower bulbs.  But when I saw this, I knew I had to find a way to get her home.

I'm fairly certain she doesn't originate from the Netherlands, but the vendor spoke only enough English to haggle with. Although I didn't do much haggling.  I was too entranced.  

Meanwhile, my mother was shopping for these, which she thought were wonderful autumn themed socks that would be a great Christmas present for my brother Jeff.  (Mom had NO idea what she was buying.  I, however, about fell down laughing when she showed me her purchase.)

These were quite the hit at the family holiday party.
Did I mention that the statue weighs about 10 pounds?  Not light.  Not easy to carry, especially since it couldn't be strapped to the suitcase, given the cobblestone streets of Amsterdam.  We did so much walking (and laughing), that my blisters had blisters.  We slept on a really uncomfortable bed that slanted to the left so that there was more mother-daughter closeness than intended (it's not that the bed was slanted.  The whole hotel was slanted.  And about 10 feet wide.) 

Here she is, on Jaynee's antique table, next to the pottery Jaynee made for me a few years ago.
The statue is now one of my treasures.  A memento of a wonderful trip, a special time with my mom, of an adventure that I often long to embark on again.  She reminds me that dreams do come true. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Peace on Earth
I wish you peace and happiness and love.  Most of all, 
I wish you joy.

Monday, December 23, 2013


Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a subtle color girl.

Here's proof:
Painting by Helena Nelson Reed: Goddess Looking Within
This summer, I painted my bedroom bright orange.  I'd fussed for months, trying to figure out a color.  Turquoise.  Nah.  Purple.  No.  I almost went with white, mostly because I was just looking for something clean and fresh and neutral.

Did you know that orange is the new neutral?  :)

Corner view
Turns out, for all my art, orange really is a neutral.  I paired it with a magenta and turquoise bedspread, which I'd show you, but the cats shredded it in about three weeks.  The material was too thin.  (It's now in the bottom of my closet.  I'm going to try to felt it back together.  Of course.)

The wise interwebs say that orange is the sign of warning.  And of visibility.  It's also the national color of the Netherlands.  (Since my grandparents all hailed from Holland, I like this.  But I didn't know countries had national colors.  But I did know that the US is not color-blind.)  Apparently, Frank Sinatra thought orange was the happiest color.  Hmmm.

The plants have to live inside during the winter.  Meet Monster and Mini (Monster).
I also got rid of my window blinds.  I've never been a fan of curtains, since I like to see the light when I'm awake, in the morning, in the middle of the night.  Of course, the next weekend the naughty neighbors next door put up a motion light on their garage so that now, every time they leave the house at 11 p.m. and 1:30 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m., the light shines in my eyes.

View towards Pleasant Ave.  So pleasant.
One thing I've noticed about my "new" bedroom?  I've left my bed unmade more in the past three months than in the last twenty years.  :)  Apparently, orange also inspires sloth.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

turning of the year

"Shall we liken Christmas to the web in a loom?  
There are many weavers, who work into the pattern the experience of their lives. 
When one generation goes, 
another comes to take up the weft where it has been dropped. 
The pattern changes as the mind changes, 
yet never begins quite anew. 
At first, we are not sure that we discern the pattern, 
but at last we see that, unknown to the weavers themselves, 
something has taken shape before our eyes, 
and that they have made something
very beautiful, 
something which compels our understanding."
-   Earl W. Count, 4,000 Years of Christmas

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Meet Johanna. We're going to be great friends.

Kitchen Aid stock photo
Whoo hoo!  The bestest Yule gift ever!

At Thanksgiving, I saw my sister-in-law Kathy's Kitchen Aid mixer and fell in love.  So, Jaynee, being the wonderful friend/roommate/sister that she is, got me one.  Yay, Jaynee!  (And I know how expensive they are, so I'm not sure how she managed it on her teeny-tiny budget, but I'm so so so grateful that I'll even let her borrow it.)

I'm naming the mixer Johanna, after my Grandma.  As a kid, I spent every Saturday morning with Grandma, baking bread and cinnamon rolls and sometimes, cookies.  These are the best of my childhood memories.

I haven't done much baking in the past 15 years.  My kitchen is too small to roll out dough without re-arranging everything.  Plus, my hands and wrists don't have the strength they used to.  (I blame this on my years as a booth cashier in a Vegas casino, slinging coin bags around.)  So, it hurts to stir heavy dough.

Not anymore.  Johanna and I spent yesterday making Christmas cookies.  It was delicious.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Silly and the Smart

The Silly.

Sparky and Ricky, out in the snow.
The Smart

Sam and Rhea know to stay inside the warm house.  Sparky lasted outside about 10 seconds.
Me, I'm staying inside until the snow melts, in March.  Maybe, June.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Really, Why Not?

Jaynee and I did a big art show the first weekend in December.  Lots of fun, decent sales.  And so so so many women who have themselves convinced that they either aren't worthy of beautiful jewelry or that they aren't special enough to feel beautiful.

I don't get it.

I lost track of the times I heard "Oh, I could never wear anything that pretty," or some variation of this.

I repeat.  I don't get it.

And, this disbelief in a woman's innate wonderousness and majesty scares me. 

Somehow, women have been convinced that beauty only comes in one form and is accessible to only a few.  As a Gender & Women's Studies teacher/scholar, I could share all sorts of reasons WHY this happens (and why it's not true), but as an artist who makes beautiful things with the PURPOSE of enhancing women's beauty, I'm saddened.

It's more than being a certain size.  Or what a woman looks like.  It's about how she feels.  Way too many of the women we spoke with at the show thought it was shameful for them to want to buy something pretty for themselves.  Or said that they had no place to wear a pretty necklace or bracelet.  As if their ordinary lives don't have value, aren't special enough to warrant feeling fabulous.

I don't get it.

And, I do get it.

Because the primary messages that women receive is that their lives don't have value.  (Hello, Congress and your disregard for reproductive rights.)  Women are told that their pleasure comes through the relationships they have with others, rather than their relationship they have with themselves.

I get frustrated, because, really, what are we waiting for?  Permission?  To value ourselves?  To pamper ourselves?  To live lives that make us joyful.  Not just content.  Joyful.

pinterest image

In the spirit of promoting beauty and joy, I'm making these my blog themes for the upcoming year.  Along with Wisdom Wednesdays and beads and felting and whatever else I get into and cats.  ('Cause cats KNOW all about beauty and joy.)  I'm going to work on ways to empower women to feel beautiful and joyful.  To know that they don't have to wait for permission from someone else, but can CHOOSE for themselves.

'Cause, really, if we only live once  (and I'm not convinced we do), why not enjoy every moment?  Celebrate the beauty.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

I Made It!

Yes.  I made it through one of my busiest semesters yet. 

And, now, I have a really long list of fun stuff to do over my three week break.
View from the new kitchen window!  See the gazebo and wrapped picnic table?  That's where Baby, the homeless Tom-cat hides out.  It's taken us six years to be able to sit within two feet of him while he eats.  He loves his turkey lunchmeat.
I'm sure shoveling white stuff will be part of my adventure.  I'm looking at the shoveling as an endless (seemingly) source of exercise. 

So the list, in no particular order:
Clean my bead table!  And my stash drawers.
List stuff on Etsy.
Play with polymer.
(I need to make some buttons for my felted bracelets.)
Make polymer molds.
Make some stamped cards.
Re-work some necklaces for ME to wear.
(I have a few pieces that I love but no one else seems to,
since they haven't sold in a few years.
Now, they're mine mine mine.)
Play with pearls.
(I'm starting a new line of necklaces and bracelets.
With inspirational quotes.
Because I LOVE quotes.)
Find quotes. 
Try to learn to crochet.
Make niece's wedding jewelry.
(More pearls!)

A sample.  Very simple design.  Lovely pearls.
I have some academic stuff I have to do as well - finish my syllabus for my Spring class, do some paperwork for a travel grant, work on Comprehensive Exam reading list (gulp.), and order books.

We were going to paint the kitchen a new coat of lime green...  going to.

Skylar needs some play time, instead.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Boot Envy

As an abundantly calved woman, I suffer from boot envy every winter.

Until I saw these.
Gallery 16 image
Yes.  Please.

So I began to think about how I can take my new love of felting and create my own, one of a kind, fit my fat calves boots.  Wouldn't these be spectacular to stomp through the snow in?

Or, these?
Pinterest image
I could even make do with these.
Flickr image
They don't even have to be purple.  I have a fondness for red, as well.  Or blue.  Or green.  Not yellow, though, 'cause everyone knows that yellow and snow is unwise.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Christmas at Wings

Whoo-hoo!  Let the fun begin!
Crowd shot of Wings show, 2012
This weekend is the big Christmas at Wings art show.  A gazillion booths (300+, I think), two gazillion shoppers.  Hopefully, many many appreciative BrisingBeads Designs fans.

We're in the Annex again this year.  Nice.  It's the go-between spot between the main arena and the smaller arena.  A little port in the storm of people, if you will.  Meaning people can actually spend time browsing before they're crowded out of the way.

Also, convenient to an under-used bathroom.  A+.

Here's us last year, at the show:

That lovely booth banner?  We forgot it when packing up.  This year, we won't.
Today is set-up.  I'll try to add photos later.


Monday, December 2, 2013


So much to do!  So little time!

Since ALL of my jewelry backstock is out for sale at other holiday shows, I've been working furiously to replenish my stock before my biggest holiday season show, held this coming weekend.  Keep in mind, this work gets done when I'm not writing end of semester final papers (Two of them, 20-25 pages), grading, teaching, and still attending classes which require books to be read.  YIKES.

(No.  I am not a masochist.)  (I may/may not be sane.)

These pieces are "in progress."  Meaning - hurry up, Skylar!  You are running out of time!

Love this polymer stamped cabochon.
This also needs to be finished.
So do these...
Yes.  In my insanity, I'm letting go of some of my prized MakuStudios pieces. 

Tired, yet?

I have about a dozen more, lounging on the beadtable.  They know that they won't get completed in time for the show.  They're cool with it.  Me?  I'm delusional.  I still think I can finish them all.

(Cue insane laughter.)