Thursday, October 29, 2015

Have a Very Harry Christmas!

I've been keeping some of my newest projects a secret for a few weeks now.  At first it was because I didn't have all the pieces assembled yet, and later it was because I didn't want to get groans from the "It's too early for Christmas!" crowd.  But now that crafting is my full time job, I find that I'm crafting earlier and earlier for the holidays, both to fill my shop, and for my gifts for friends and family.

Harry Potter's Wand with deep red velvet ribbon.
It all started a few months ago, when I ordered some wand pendants to use in my jewelry crafting.  I had grand ideas about placing them on charm holders along with other beads and charms to represent each of those characters.  Then the "pendants" arrived, and I realized that I hadn't checked the size descriptions carefully enough.  Each wand was 4" long!  Far too big to be worn around the neck.  They sat around on my desk for a few days until I had a brain wave.  Christmas ornaments!

Hermione Granger's Wand with iridescent red & violet ribbon.
I added beautiful velvet and satin ribbons to correspond to each character's personality and am thrilled with how they came out.  Since I knew someone would ask, I've listed each one separately, as well as bundled together as a set if you're like me, and must have all four.  Seriously, someday I'm going to have a completely Harry Potter themed Christmas tree, separate from my regular tree.  Maybe it will live in my craft room to keep me cheerful during the stress of the holidays....

Dumbledore's Wand, otherwise known as the Elder Wand, with purple satin ribbon.
Voldemorte's Wand with emerald green velvet ribbon.
After finishing the wand ornaments, I started work on another set.  Horcruxes!  So far I have Ravenclaw's Diadem and Hufflepuff's Cup finished and listed in the shop.  I'm currently working on adding the other 5 Horcruxes, which will probably show up one at a time over the next few weeks.

Ravenclaw's Diadem, on royal blue glittered velvet ribbon.

Hufflepuff's Cup, on dark grey glittered velvet ribbon.
I actually posted these over on Craftster on Tuesday, before I got a chance to sit down and write a blog post.  In the mean time, they were made a Featured Project there!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Autumn Canning Adventures

I promised that this blog would include all my crafty endeavors, and yet I seem to have mostly posted just my jewelry projects lately.  Though I've been making lots of jewelry in preparation for the holidays, I took 2 days off last week to spend some time canning with my good friend Amber.  I love Amber for a lot of reasons, but our relationship is probably best summed up by the following card.

And while most of our time together involves a few drinks and hours of snarky conversation, we also always manage to get a whole lot of work done at the same time.  This past visit was no exception.  We made five canning recipes; 2 which were old favorites and 3 that were new to us.  I will admit right now that I didn't take any fancy staged photos of ingredients or the cooking process.  After all, I am not a food blogger, but rather a craft blogger.  I will however provide sources or links to all the recipes.

The first project was  a batch of Red Wine Jelly from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.  I really can't say enough good things about this book, and the recipes in it.  It contains 400 recipes, all of which sound delicious, and all of which have been tested repeatedly, so you know they work every time.  (One of the reasons that I love this particular recipe is that it calls for exactly one bottle of wine, while many others call for 1/2 cup from a second bottle.)  I used my current favorite wine, Apothic Dark, which has blackberry, blueberry, coffee and dark chocolate notes in it.  Remember that the flavor will become more concentrated and cerntainly much sweeter with the addition of sugar.  I've also done this with a Norton wine from local winery, Reid's Livery from Alvaton, KY, which might be my favorite jelly ever due to the strong and complex flavors of the wine.  

Our next recipe was Dilly Beans, from the blog Food In Jars.  These were requested by Amber's brothers.  We made them 2 years ago, and apparently the boys have been asking for more ever since then.  They are a great way to use up lots of green beans from your garden, and produce a bright and intense dill and garlic pickle.  Amber brought some of the beautiful green Heritage Collection Jars, and the bright green beans look extra pretty in them.

While we were working on the Dilly Beans, we set the basil to steep for a batch of Basil Jelly, from the blog Sweet Domesticity.  If you check out the recipe you will see that mine did not come out the bright green color that Maria's did.  As noted in the comments section of her post, it seems that the variety of basil you use, as well as how you prepare it, can vary the color.  As the recipe has a strong lemon flavor to it, I love the golden honey color of my finished jelly.  We procured our basil from Kroger, as my tiny patio garden didn't produce enough basil for this recipe.  Hopefully I'll have a bigger garden to pick from next summer. 

I should also note that the photos from Maria's blog looked to me like 4 oz jars, but the recipe states that it makes 5 half-pints (8 oz. jars).  Since I was a bit confused, I posted a question about it in the comments section, and Maria got right back to me to let me with an answer!  The jars in her photos were actually wide mouth 8 oz jars, that just happen to look like the 4 oz variety when there is no other frame of reference in the photos.  Thanks for your help Maria!  

The jelly is fantastic.  Bright from the lemon and a beautiful herby basil flavor that I adored.  Our batch came out just shy of 5 half-pints, so I kept the open jar for myself, and have enjoyed it on toast, as well as on some glazed salmon I made on Monday.  I was able to use up some of the leftover garlic, onions, and green beans in the Vegetable Risotto as well.  I will definitely be making this jelly again next year.

After lunch Amber and I did a batch of Pear & Ginger Jam, from the blog Savvy Eats.  According to the post, this recipe was adapted from the book Canning for a New Generation, so I've included a link to the book on Amazon as well.  This recipe made a thick and chunky jam, that was sweet from the pears, but has a nice kick of heat from the ginger.

Our final recipe during this crazy day of canning was for Sweet Onion & Maple Conserve.  The recipe comes from a single issue magazine I bought last summer called Better Homes and Gardens Canning+Preserving+Freezing+Drying.  Since it would be very hard to find I've linked to the recipe for it that I shared in the Harry Potter Craftalong over on Craftster.  This stuff is utterly fantastic, and I want to put it on everything.  The onions and maple syrup are very sweet, but are tempered by the butter and fresh thyme, which came from my herb garden.  The recipe states that it will make 5 4oz. jars, but our batch would have filled 6.  We filled and processed 5 jars, one of which apparently wasn't closed well enough and came open during canning, spewing onions all over my canner.  When we realized that we still had more of the golden goodness, we filled an extra jar to be used right away.  That jar is already gone.  How you ask?  Burgers, with aged sharp cheddar, bacon, and this conserve on toasted sourdough.  I regret nothing.

After all that canning, I somehow still was up for making one last batch of jam on Monday.  Since I had some leftover liquid pectin, and raspberries were on sale over the weekend, and my New England heart believes cranberries are a year round food, I did a batch of Cran Raspberry Preserves.  The recipe is also from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.  This jam tastes like Thanksgiving in a jar.  The tart cranberries are softened by apples, honey, and the bright sweetness of raspberries.  I love traditional raspberry jam, but I don't like too many seeds.  (I'm complicated.)  I loved the consistency of these preserves.  Spreadable, with some chunks, bright red, and just the right amount of seeds.  Just for fun I used the red lids and bands from Ball that I found in Kroger.  They also had purple in store, and blue and green are available online, either from Ball or Amazon.

For now, I'm taking a bit of a break from canning to get back to crafting for my shop, and hopefully writing some more here, but I'm sure I'll be making a few more recipes for holiday gifts.  My mom has already asked for some of the Cranberry Mustard that I made for the last two years, and since clementines always start appearing in stores at this time of year, I'm contemplating Mandarin Oranges in Ginger Syrup.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Are You a Good Witch or a Bad Witch?

I'm afraid I've gotten a bit behind on my blogging.  My only excuse is that I've been crafting so many extra Harry Potter and Outlander bracelets to put away for the holiday rush. But I have managed to get around to a few new designs.  This first one is probably my favorite new design in a while.  It was inspired by my partner edelC in the Back to Hogwarts Swap on Craftster.  Hers was the prototype, but this is version 2.0

While witches and ghosts and ghouls in orange and black abound at Halloween, I wanted something a little sweeter, that could be worn all year long, so the beads are a mix of deep teal, purple velvet, jet black and crystal clear.  Most of the beads have an AB finish to lend the design some extra shimmer.

The charms include cauldrons, swirling stars, spell books, broomsticks, cats, magic wands, hearts, witch hats, and a fantastic witch on a broom from TierraCast charms.  I like how sleek and clean the lines of the charms are on this one, giving it a slightly modern feel.

I have some new wine charms to share soon, full of autumn and Halloween goodness.  Meanwhile, I can't wait for Halloween itself.  This is the first time we'll be home during Trick or Treating for the last several years, and I'm really hoping we get a good turnout of kids coming our way.  

How about you guys?  Are you all ready for Halloween?  Any fantastic costumes in the making?