Monday, February 8, 2016

Cooking with the JETs


Well let me just say first about how much I love my electric pressure cooker.  When you are busy taking care of the family and would like to cook fast healthy meals, an electric pressure cooker is a very big help!  It's like a slow cooker and you can use many of your slow cooker recipes, but everything cooks a lot a lot faster! 


1-1.5 pound diced lamb (I usually purchase the lamb shoulder chops because that's what I have available at my super market and dice them up)
2 yellow onions chopped
1 stalk celery chopped (optional)
1 tbsp fresh or dry parsley chopped
1 tbsp fresh cilantro chopped
1 stick cinnamon or 1 tsp ground cinnamon 
5 strands saffron crumbled 
1/4 tsp ground ginger
Salt & ground black pepper
2 boxes (each approximately 32 oz) of chicken broth 
1 can (15 oz) of garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
2 cups red lentils
1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes or diced fresh tomatoes

Some fresh cilantro and sour cream for garnish 

To make the soup: 

Simply get all the ingredients ready and place everything in the pressure cooker pot and mix.  

Close and seal the pressure cooker and put for 18 min.  Yes, for only 18 min! When the marker is at "0", for this particular recipe I usually release the pressure by turning the seal switch.  When all the pressure is out, I safely open the top and my soup is ready with meat very soft and all the ingredients cooked.  I check the salt and adjust it if need to and that's it!

Serve it garnished with some sour cream, cilantro and enjoy! 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

What's on My Bench???

Finding the Flash in Labradorite

Labradorite is one of my very favorite gemstones to work with. Its mysterious colors that appear from such an unassuming neutral background are so beautiful, and surprising. It got its name from the Labrador Peninsula in Canada where it was found by Moravian missionaries in 1770 in the early 19th Century. The local Inuit people knew about it for much longer and believed that Labradorite fell from the frozen fire of the Northern Lights. They believed  this ordinary looking stone could transform into the extraordinary, since it holds the energy and the colors of the Aurora Borealis.

Labradorite is a mineral of the plagioclase feldspar group with a hardness of 6-6.5. The amazing play of color in the stone is known as “labradorescence”. The background color of Labradorite is usually gray to gray-green, brownish-gray, dark blue-gray or black. Since it is made up of aggregate layers that refract light, iridescent flashes in the  blue, green, gold or red range can be seen varying with the angle of light. There are rarer varieties of Labradorite that include Golden Labradorite which is a transparent gold or champagne color, and Spectrolite which can display the whole color spectrum and especially a vivid electric blue. This variety was discovered in Finland in the 1940s.

What’s on my bench today are some labradorite cabochons which need to be set. The challenge in working with labradorite is to find which direction you see the flash of color and set the stone so the color can best be seen. I find that  by “playing with them” and moving the stones around I can see how the light affects them. That will help me determine how to use these cabochons - in hanging settings, or in horizontal settings.

In the first photo the 10mm x 8mm stone appears dark, with no labradorescence. 

In the 2nd photo I’ve reversed the direction from top to bottom, and there’s the flash~ Now it will make a lovely pendant and the color can be enjoyed.

Looking at this group of small 7x5mm cabochons and another 10x8mm cab, some show flash but most do not. So I will move them around to see which direction they best show labradorescence. The pair at the lower right corner shows a match of color and flash on the front.  


In the second photo the same group is rearranged and shows the direction the flash is best viewed. I’ve reversed the direction of the corner pair so you can see they would not show flash if set in this direction.

Sometimes you want the pretty colors to be viewed from the side of the stones, so these photos show how the cabochons look from these directions. 

Some of the stones look more vibrant, viewing them from the side.

These are some larger, faceted and set Labradorite cabochons I bought. There’s not a lot going on when viewing them sideways. But the green and gold one shows some labradorescence.

Here’s the slightly domed side of the cabochons, viewed lengthwise top to bottom: 

And now here’s the other side. 

The green and gold labradorite has possibilities to be used horizontally in a bracelet or vertically as a pendant, and both sides are amazing. I would use the blue labradorite in a pendant since it looks best seen vertically.

And last, here are some earrings I’ve been working on.  By looking through the small cabochons from the group above and using the method of viewing them placed in different directions I was able to match a pair of labradorite 7mm x 5mm cabochons. They both show blue labradorescence, and because the flash is at the top and front of the stones I’ve set them vertically.  

Thursday, February 4, 2016

One of My Favorites

Hi my name is Lora of DivineSpiritCreations and designer of Pyrex Jewelry in addition to other silver and gemstone jewelry. But I wanted to talk to you today about one of my favorite tools - my vintage muffin tins.

That's right muffin tins. I use them in my design process to hold materials as I create - the mini tins are the perfect depth to hold stones and findings and they're all right in front of you.

 I used the larger and decorative vintage tins to hold items that are "in process" since at a certain point I like to assembly line certain things.

 I've even used my muffin tins for travel to shows and for storage.

So easily found at yard sales and thrift shops at a cost-effective price, and when I can find cute vintage ones it just adds to the atmosphere in my studio

I hope maybe this is giving you a different outlook on some unusual items either in your home or when you're out looking at yard sales for items that you might be able to use in your studios. Cheers!


Monday, February 1, 2016

Chilly Night Chili Mac

On a cold winter night, there's nothing quite as satisfying as a supper of hearty comfort food -- chili for spice, pasta for energy and cheese for gratification, all cooked up in a cozy warm kitchen.

Here's a quick and easy recipe that's a great winter favorite at our house.

2-3 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 15.5 oz. can chili beans or red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 4.5 oz. can chopped green chile peppers
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Cup beef stock
Pasta of choice: spaghetti, linguine or fettucini (We like a colorful mix of spinach, tomato and whole wheat linguine.)
Shredded cheese: cheddar and/or jack

Optional Garnishes: 
Sour cream
Chopped scallions
Fresh cilantro, coarsely snipped
Sliced jalapeños

In a large skillet sautée onion and ground beef in olive oil over medium heat until beef is fully cooked (no pink!).

Stir in chili beans, green chiles, cumin and chili powder.

Add stock, reduce heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced by half. 

While chili simmers, cook pasta to al dente, drain and keep warm.

To serve: 
Spoon chili over pasta and top with cheese. Microwave until cheese is melted -- about 30-40 seconds.

Garnish with sour cream, scallions, cilantro and/or jalapeños.

Serve hot, with a side dish of "Blue Chip GuacaMollie" (recipe coming soon).

Serves 4-6, depending on appetites. 

Keep leftovers in refrigerator to reheat later. The chili is even tastier after flavors have merged overnight. 

Saturday, January 30, 2016

What's on My Bench???

This week's episode is from JET member Mollie Ann of RoughMagicCreations. She is going to discuss upcycling.

Back in October I wrote about my plans for reclaiming beads from the vintage necklace pictured on the left, which I had unearthed while prospecting for treasure in a nearby antiques mall.

Well. That project is "in Beta," but while letting those plans incubate, I couldn't resist attacking the necklace on the right, discovered in the same semi-archaeological site.

Strung on its irredeemable strip of leather, this piece alternates nine fat tube beads with stations of heishi, all in a russet, reddish brown palette. To my eye, the beads appear to be Abo, African beads from Ghana, but they may be horn, bone, or something else entirely. Whatever they are, I love their primitive, rustic look - très trendy.

For compatible beads, I had several choices ready to hand: vintage lucite rounds, porcelain and/or Czech glass, or perhaps some African copper trade beads.

Tinkering with this, that and the other, I began to feel a bit like Goldilocks:
these are too shiny; these are too dark; these are too-- well, you see what I mean.

In short, nothing I tried delivered the "Aha!" I was looking for. 

Then, while I was working on a bracelet for my niece, my fickle and flighty Muse returned, whispered "Brass and wood," and -- as is often the case -- surprised me.

My niece loves her bracelet ... 

And I love my necklace almost too much to sell. The operative word is "almost."

For me one of the most rewarding things about designing jewelry is the thrill of that moment when, after all the trial and (mostly) error, things suddenly fall into place and you know you've got it right. 

A note about reusing vintage components: Whether you call it upcycling, repurposing or reclaiming, discovering new ways to use previously loved finds is eco-friendly, earth conscious, and, when your oldies are earthy, natural and boho chic, downright smart in the bargain. Not to mention the fun of it all -- the hunting and gathering, the planning and learning, the creation of a unique new design.

Little wonder recycling is trending!

Thank you Mollie for that glimpse into your creative process. Please return next week for another episode of What's on My Bench, this time from JET member Phylly.