Monday, March 29, 2010

Carrot Cake Recipe and Pysanky Egg Decorating

This weekends Ukrainian egg decorating workshop inspired a baking frenzy at our home. It began with getting the carrot cake ready for the workshop. The recipe comes from Jon's childhood neighbor Jeannie Hulten. My mother in law shared it with me and ever since it's been a favorite for birthday celebrations. The first alteration I've made to the recipe is to add ground walnuts into the batter. I chop them in our coffee grinder which imparts a mild coffee flavor. I also add a pinch of nutmeg and cloves to enhance the cinnamon.

Carrot Cake Recipe

Mix the following together:
3 cups of grated carrot
4 unbeated eggs
2 cups of sugar
1 1/2 cups of oil

Combine the following dry ingredients together then add to the wet ingredients above:
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp of salt
2 tsp of cinnamon
optional I add 1/4 tsp of nutmeg and cloves
2 cups of flour

Stir in 1/2 cup of ground walnuts

Oil and flour two round cake pans or a 9" x 14" brownie pan
Bake at 350 degrees for 40 mins, add 10-15 minutes for the brownie pan.

Combine 8 oz of cream cheese with a 1/4 pound of margarine, add powdered sugar until the frosting has a nice thick but easily spreadable consistancy. Frost the cooled cake and then scatter chopped walnuts on top. Double the frosting recipe for the double layer cake so that you have enough frosting to spread between the layers.

The Ukrainian Egg Decorating Workshop at Art Mind and Soul was a huge success. A wonderful creative group of women took part in the class.  It was a delightful quiet afternoon with the smell of beeswax filling the air. I was thrilled with the rich colors of the dyes, and how quickly everyone grasped the process.

Deb Merrill working on her beautiful chick egg. She came with lovely eggs that her chickens had laid and a wealth of experience of batik and fabric dying.
Joy's lovely red and white eggs with Erin Vazdauskas in the background using iconic Easter imagery.
Patty Sullivan made a pair of delightful eggs in two different colorways. Beth Carr, the owner of the Studios, joined us and decorated an enormous goose egg that challenged our small dye containers. Patricia Boissevain was holding a jewelry class in the adjoining studio, it was a treat to take breaks and see what they were creating.

My husband Jon saved the day by blowing out the eggs out in the morning, what a horrendous task! The resulting eggs inspired exquisite German pancakes. Topped with butter and maple syrup the were a delicious breakfast treat, this recipe comes from an old issue of Yankee Magazine.

In the midst of mixing up the dyes he started the dough for these beautiful loaves of Challah bread that greeted me when I returned home. The smell of fresh bread trumped the beeswax but only by a small margin.
This Saturday I'm bring the dyes and tools along with another cake up to Sweetland Retreat in Manchester, Maine to teach workshop again to a whole new group. Please let me know if you're interested in joining us.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Blooming Bracelet - Free tutorial

 I've been intending to make my mum a bracelet since before Christmas. She is the biggest fan of my jewelry creations, and wears my designs more often than I do. I'm always crafting on a deadline for work and seldom get to take time out to make gifts. Work and band commitments took away two of our children for the day leaving us with just a little girl at home.  She adores her dad and was thrilled to have him to herself while I focused on bead work.

The plans for this gift started when I potted rooted cuttings from my Cape Angel plant. My favorite houseplant, it blooms sweet purple flowers all year round and despite the shade from our Hemlock woods. The color of the blooms is the same as the polished stone beads, a color that also works well with my mums wardrobe. I poured through the rest of my bead stash this morning to find the leaf, flower, and freshwater pearls to accompany the stones. I used the limited color palette as a device to tie together the different bead styles and shapes. Despite it's intriguing appearance this bracelet uses very simple beginner beading techniques.

I'm grateful for a day of personal crafting: a quiet afternoon of bead stringing for someone very special. Here's hoping this spring offers you moments of solace and creativity.

Finished size: 7'1/2"
9" section of 19 strand .015 copper colored Stringing wire - Beadalon
Antique gold lobster clasp - Blue Moon Beads
5 12mm antique gold jump rings - Blue Moon Beads
2 antique gold crimp beads - Blue Moon Beads
1 antique gold head pin - Blue Moon Beads
18 Semi precious stone beads 'Enchanted Planet' - Blue Moon Beads
12 4mm violet blue freshwater pearls
5 glass flower beads - purple
5 glass leaf beads 'Color Coordinates' - Blue Moon Beads
1 16mm glass flower bead
Round nose pliers
Chain nose pliers
Flush cutters
Clear tape
*please note all supplies were provided by the manufacturers

1. Fold tape over the end of your bead strand and begin stringing the first part of the sequence, three stone beads.
2. String the second part of the sequence: freshwater pearl, leaf bead, freshwater pearl.
3. Use your chain nose pliers to open a jump ring laterally and then slide a glass flower bead onto the ring. Carefully close the ring and string it onto the wire to complete the sequence.
4. Repeat the bead sequence in steps 1-3 four times, ending with three additional stone beads.
5. Check the length around your wrist, if necessary string a fresh water pearl to either end. To make the flower dangle first string the glass flower onto a head pin. Use round nose pliers to shape the end of the pin into a loop, wrap the wire end around the base of the loop and trim away the excess wire.
 6. String the flower dangle onto one end of the bracelet, follow it with a crimp bead and one part of the clasp. String the wire back through the crimp bead and then use chain nose pliers to squeeze the crimp flat, trim the wire end with flush cutters. String the second crimp bead and other part of the clasp onto the other side of the bracelet. String the wire back through the crimp, be sure to remove any slack from the wire before squeezing the crimp flat and trimming the end.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Spring Tease?

I was supposed to spend the weekend working on a new book proposal but the unseasonably warm temperatures and bright sunshine made it impossible to stay inside. 50 degrees might seem a regular winter day in other parts of the country but to Mainers that much warmth in March is a dream. We're usually mired in feet of snow, that slowly melts and gives way to enormous puddles and an endless mud season. 
To celebrate we visited to two different beaches over the weekend, Popham in Midcoast Maine close to our home and York beach an hour away in Southern Maine along the border of New Hampshire.
We were thrilled that Elliot came along for the trip, these days he sometimes chooses to skip 'family' adventures. He took the photos in this post except for the one of him demonstrating his mad juggling skills with beach rocks. 
There's nothing like a dog running the length of the beach and into the surf, Maizy was in doggy heaven.
After a romp and wet feet at York beach we stopped at Jon's favorite dining establishment Bob's Clamhut in Kittery. We feasted on fried seafood on a picnic bench in the sunshine. 
I did squeeze in an important stop into the Portsmouth Fabric Company, to pick up fabrics for the sample book projects. They carry a wonderful selection of high end printed cottons, embellishments and trims in a historic downtown storefront. Jon and I longed to meander through the streets of Portsmouth but after a visit to G.Willikers toy store Celia was ready to leave. Hopefully one day Jon and I will return and take time to enjoy a great restaurant and some window shopping. For now I'm thankful the early taste of spring, and a bag full of fabric that should help me settle down to work.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ukranian Easter Eggs and Family Stuffed Sock Bunny Workshops

 I took a late afternoon walk around our neighborhood yesterday with my daughter Celia and our wheaten terrier Maizy. It was so pleasant to have the sun shining on us in the late afternoon. The streams were rushing with the water from the weekend storms, providing  plenty of mud and puddles for the girl and dog to explore. There was an abundance of downed sticks and branches on the ground to poke into the mud and instigate a game of tug of war with the pup. Nature had created the perfect playground for my companions. I relished their happiness and started to believe that spring is slowly creeping it's way to Maine. 

I'll be giving my first Pysanky egg decorating class at Art Mind and Soul studios on March 28, 2-4pm. I was captivated by this technique as a child in Canada, a very kind neighbor spent an entire afternoon teaching me the craft. Although my designs are not authentic, the process is true to it's origins. If you become a committed follower of Ukrainian eggs there's an entire alphabet of authentic symbols to memorize and master. I love how easily this craft can be  modernized to suit your own creative style, in many ways its' similar to batik. A small stylus is used to heat beeswax over a candle flame enabling you to draw the wax directly onto an egg. The egg is repeatedly dipped in dye and more wax is applied after each immersion. The dramatic finish happens when the egg is heated over the flame and the built up wax is wiped away to reveal the colors and designs.

It might be because Easter falls close to my birthday but I've always loved this season of renewal! To celebrate I'm offering another spring workshop for parents and their children to enjoy together on Saturday March 27, 1-3 pm also at Art Mind and Soul Studios.We'll be cutting up socks, stuffing and stitching them together to make adorable stuffed bunnies.

Mark your calendars, and send me an e-mail I'd love to have you join in the creative fun!
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