Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Best Baklava Ever!

This is Leona Jenanyan. My grandmother on my Pop's side. She made lots and lots of things at home.

Including that beautiful coat that she is wearing. It's hanging in my closet right now. This picture was taken on a trip to San Francisco. Those were the days that people dressed up to go to the city. She was so stylish.

Here is the cookbook she gave me when I was nineteen in hopes that I would become a good cook. It worked. I do love to cook.

 My favorite recipe in the book is for Baklava. Paklava to the Armenian crowd. Grandma J made the best Paklava. Never tough, always light and delicious. I attempt to replicate it, but always fall a little short. Here is the recipe that I follow from the book.

Click on the recipe picture to enlarge, then save it and print it.

Honey is an important additional ingredient and since this is not Grandma's actual recipe and since that's what she did, that's what I do. Here is my process in pictures.

Yep, three cubes.

Melt 'em.

Mix the sugar and nuts while the three cubes are melting.

Strain the melted butter.

Prep the filo. Make friends and hope for a good dough day.

Lay it out.

Don't worry if it tears. You can still use it.

Cover it with a damp cloth and continue to hope for a good dough day.

Find a pan with a low edge. Like a jelly roll pan. 
Start slathering on some of the melted three cubes.

Do not let the ripped dough daunt you.

Add another layer. And more butter.

Until half of the package of dough is used.

Add the nut mixture. All of it in one layer.

Alternate layering and buttering the remainder of the sheets.

Now I'll let you in on an Armenian secret. 
See those nice clean cuts?
Before slicing put the pan in the freezer for 15 minutes and then cut. 
Up and down.

Then diagonally in one direction.

Pour the remainder of the butter over the top.

Bake and let cool. In the meantime, make the syrup. 
Don't forget the honey.

I like to pour warm syrup over cooled Paklava. Some people pour cool syrup over warm Paklava. Depends on your family tradition.

Let cool and it is ready to share with family and friends.

You should try it. Really. It's not that hard. Just in case, buy two packages of dough. Don't forget to thaw it in the fridge before using. There is nothing like fresh Paklava. Drop some off to your neighbor, bring some to the office and you'll still have plenty left over. Enjoy!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Look who's home.

Fresh from her vacation in Waukesha, WI, it's Wire Chandelier Earrings!

 They are happy to be home but had a great time at Wirework Magazine during their photo shoot.

 You thought Martha Stewart was difficult during a shoot? That's nothing compared to these babies. I think they used half of the Wirework budget with their demand for a 5-star hotel and swanky dinners.

Seriously, though. I am really pleased to be included in this special issue of Wirework Magazine. In addition to learning how to do this...

...from my article, you'll see a bunch of great projects from top wire artists. If you'd like your very own copy, check your local bookstore or order one here. And if you are wondering where you can find that cool flower blank in the picture above? Why it's at Beaducation, of course!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Designing with my Bead Soup, Part Two

Playing with my Bead Soup package was such fun that I thought I would share my process with you.

Here is a picture of the lovely beads that I received.

My BSBP partner sent me the perfect package to inspire creativity. The selection included a variety of beads and components including handmade glass headpins, vintage glass, semiprecious, glass pearls, beautiful copper pieces, chain and ribbon.  

I began the process by liberating the beads from their strands. Yep. I cut them up. I think beads need to move about freely. A quick clip and we're in business.

Then introductions. It's a mixer where all the beads get to know each other. My other components wait patiently on the side. This part is only about the beads.

(It's important to note here that I am just focusing on color. I don't clutter the process with what these beads are going to evolve into. If an idea gets sparked, great. But I am not focusing on my finished piece, just color. I just keep the vague idea in my mind that this is going to be a necklace. Eventually.)

First I looked at the color mix. Instead of using generic color names like green, blue and orange, I picked names that evoked images. Isn't it more enticing to say that the colors of this palette are peacock, coral, lime, sky and indigo?

Then I started "the audition". During the audition phase, I just jumped in to see how different beads looked with the existing palette.

I added the red and green beads to start. I liked those colors and thought they might bring out the coral and lime colors in the palette. But looking at them sitting there, I thought they were a bit too big and pulled focus from the original group.

So I split them up and added a few more in different sizes to see how that might play out. First red...

 ... then red with pearls. The pearls pulled to much focus. They are pretty though. Then I tried green.

Nice, but I didn't feel it. I liked elements of both of these palettes, but I thought that the beads were too large and I wanted my BSBP beads to stand out. So I went back to the bead boxes.

I surmised that what I really liked about my original beads is that the overall color read blue to me. So I tossed in some blue beads and accented them with green. 'Cause I like green and that silk ribbon is green. I looked it over. Those blue coral beads in the bottom corner were too big.

So I ditched them and added some vintage glass coral colored round beads to play up the coral accents. They're sitting right there in the center, just above the green strand that is about to be cut up. I liked it. The proportion looked balanced and I liked the mix of colors. It let that dark indigo and peacock pearls from the original palette shine through. I also added some small metal round beads. That's them in the right side of the picture. They look like this close up:

I know! I love them too. Nope, I have no idea where I got them. 
They have lived in my stash for a while.

So there it is. My final palette. It's sitting there patiently on a bead board. Waiting.

A few things that I am going to think about as this pile of beads evolves into a necklace:
  • How many of each bead am I going to use? Do I have the right mix of size and shape?
  • Do I want to push my necklace to read one color with accents or do I really want to mix it up?
  • What moods or emotions does this palette bring into play? Can I use that to focus my design choices?
  • Single strand? Multi strand? What stringing material am I going to use?
  • How the heck am I going to incorporate the chain and ribbon into the design? (I love a challenge!)
I can't wait to see what happens! More to come after the reveal on September 17.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Designing with my Bead Soup, Part One

I love beads. Sometimes I get distracted by metal, but really, it was the beads that got this whole thing started.

So in the middle of all my deadlines and work and general busyness of course I added another thing to my list. The Bead Soup Blog Party.

The BSBP appealed to me on so many levels. I love a swap. (I have acquired some of my favorite things by bartering). It is a chance to commune with other artists on a similar project. Plus, I get to make a necklace that's just for me!

Some of you may know my BSBP partner. She send me the loveliest collection of beads. I literally gave a big "OHHH!" when I opened the box.  

See what I'm sayin'? That Lorelei Eurto can really choose 'em.

I let them simmer overnight. The next morning after a bit of hanging out and deliberating, I chose my final palette. I'll share my palleting process with you in an upcoming post. Playing with color is such FUN!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

My BSBP Partner!

As soon as I opened my Bead Soup Blog party email I must admit, I gave a joyous shout.

I totally lucked out.

I got the super (SUPER) talented Loreli Eurto. Seriously. Have you seen her work? I love her style. I'd like to pair this piece with a pretty dress. Then I'd pack a picnic basket, grab a quilt and have a lazy day under a tree with a good book.

For my bead soup package I perused my favorite beads and palleted this collection:

I hope she likes it and I can't wait to see what she creates. Hop on over to her blog. You'll be inspired.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Testing...1, 2, 3

This weekend I rearranged all of the furniture in my living room. I love to redecorate, but this was serious business. It was not just a question of "Where am I going to put my new end table?" or "Wouldn't that chair look better 6 inches to the left?" Nope. The testers were coming.

 I laid a HUGE tarp to protect the floor and turned the dining table plus a folding table into work tables.

I tucked tools in the corners.

Set up soldering stations.

Mr. Make It played the role of craft services and made a lovely lunch. (Including this amazing recipe. Just amazing. Really.) There was no time to take photos of the food, plus the testers made short work of it. I could have lost a hand in there had I tried to stop them to snap a photo. There was just one lone cookie left.

Ma Make It recorded it all for posterity and played the role of photojournalist working the camera with an expert eye.

Everyone else punched, hammered, cut and soldered.

 Some did it in really cute shoes.

It was a great day. Thanks to the project testers for work well done!