Thursday, September 26, 2013

Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin Bread
I have experimented with a lot of pumpkin bread recipes in my day; this one is my favorite. In my humble opinion, it is just as tasty as the pumpkin bread sold by that mega-chain coffee house, and it costs just a fraction to make!

PUMPKIN BREAD

  • Dry Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves

  • Wet Ingredients:
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

  • Topping:
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9X5 inch pan with cooking spray. Combine dry ingredients and wet ingredients in separate bowls, then pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until smooth. Do not over mix. Pour into prepared loaf pan and sprinkle pumpkin over the top. Bake for 50 - 60 minutes or until tests done. Cool in pan for approximately 10 minutes before turning out onto cooling rack. Slice when completely cool.  
You might want to make a double batch; this has a tendency to disappear quickly!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Beads and Life

With the encouragement of Jacob Sokol, I have created my own version of the "When Life Works List." And it's a fact that my life works better when I bead something every day. Whether I'm teaching children, preparing for a piano recital that's months away, or writing a novel that may or may not ever be published, the gratification for my effort lies weeks, months, even years ahead. But at the end of a beading session, I have something tangible for to show for my time. That's really helpful on a day when I feel like I'm getting nowhere fast.

Anyway, I thought you might enjoy seeing what I have made over the past week or so.
"Piano Keys" seed bead bracelet.
Animal print agates combined with red coral and seed beads.
Fire opal Swarovski captured crystal bracelet and matching earrings. 
"Party Time" seed bead earrings in Autumn Leaves.
Extra long rainbow agate necklace.
Long enough to wrap for a layered look! 
Traditional Christmas tree earrings.  
Snowball earrings made from handcrafted lampwork beads.
I even made a bracelet for my new and improved happiness jar (click HERE to find out more about my original happiness jar!)
So much happiness!
Most of my jewelry ends up for sale in my Etsy store (click HERE). I hope you will keep me in mind as you begin your holiday shopping. I do custom orders too; just ask!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Girl with a Pearl Earring

Peek-A-Boo!
Undoubtedly, you have seen a facsimile of this famous painting by Johannes Vermeer. Perhaps you have even read the book by Tracy Chevalier, or seen the movie starring Scarlett Johansson. But nothing compares to seeing the original up close and personal. And I had the privilege of doing just that yesterday morning at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta

This is just one of 35 paintings on loan from the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague. Other works include The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius and four works by Rembrandt van Rijn. From the website of the DeYoung Fine Arts Museums in San Francisco, which hosted the collection in January:

"Highlighting the spectacular artistic achievements of the Dutch Golden Age, these works reflect the culture of artistic, economic, and technological innovation that allowed the Netherlands to prosper in the 17th century. But at the center of this exhibition is one of the world’s most famous paintings, Vermeer’s masterpiece, Girl with a Pearl Earring. This work, sometimes called 'the Dutch Mona Lisa,' is one of only 36 known paintings by the artist and rarely travels outside the Netherlands. Many of the details of his technique can only be appreciated through close examination of the painting surface, such as the few tiny brushstrokes that indicate the reflection on the pearl, and the broader, more expressive painting of her ultramarine and yellow turban."

I have seen the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, but I found Girl with a Pearl Earring to be even more astonishing. She is positively luminous, haunting and compelling at the same time. I couldn't stop staring at her, admiring her beauty, wondering what she was thinking. And it was all I could do to say goodbye to her. "What if I never see her again?" I thought, tears in my eyes. 

But I have determined that I will see her again - if not in Atlanta before she leaves on September 29th, then at her home in Amsterdam another time.

Art changes people and people change the world.
~ Anonymous

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

TIME FLIES by Claire Cook


Inside the dust jacket:

In this heartwarming novel from the bestselling author of Must Love Dogs and Wallflower in Bloom, a recently separated woman faces her highway driving phobia and takes a road trip with her best friend to their high school reunion. Years ago, Melanie followed her husband, Kurt, from the New England beach town where their two young sons were thriving to the suburbs of Atlanta. She’s carved out a life as a successful metal sculptor, but when Kurt leaves her for another woman, having the tools to cut up their marriage bed is small consolation. She’s old enough to know that high school reunions are often a big disappointment, but when her best friend makes her buy a ticket and an old flame gets in touch to see whether she’ll be going, she fantasizes that returning to her past might help her find her future…until her driving phobia resurfaces and threatens to hold her back from the adventure of a lifetime.

I had the privilege of meeting Claire Cook in June. Of course I had seen the movie Must Love Dogs, but I am ashamed to admit I had not read the book the film was based on nor any of the author's other works. I have since remedied that situation, devouring my (autographed) copy of Time Flies.

The premise resonated very strongly with me. A divorced woman "of a certain age," I could relate to so many of the situations Melanie wrestled with during the course of the book: dealing with the ex, maintaining a relationship with her grown children, the hope of rekindling an old flame, the awkwardness of new love, the desire to be many pounds lighter (and at least as many years younger) overnight. Luckily, Melanie is blessed with B.J., the kind of best friend we all wish we had: one who pushes us out of our comfort zones, calls us on our doody, and knows how to have a good time. So when it's time to leave for their high school reunion, B.J. doesn't take no for an answer. Oh, how I wanted to be on that road trip with them, gobbling French fries and drinking Tab at every rest stop!

This book totally lived up to its promise: "an epic trip filled with fun, heartbreak, and friendship that explores what it takes to conquer your worst fears...so you can start living your future." Five enthusiastic stars! Highly recommended!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Ten Things I Learned Last Week

Last week was a tough one. The reason why isn't my story to tell. But I experienced several "aha" moments as I stumbled my way through the challenges. Here goes.
  1. Every time you say good-bye to people you love, treat them like it might be the last time you see them. Because you never know when it might be.
  2. On a bad day, having a lot to do can be a real blessing.
  3. On a bad day, sometimes the best thing to do is eat junk food and watch television.
  4. Wish hard. Work harder.
  5. Thinking about writing and actually writing are two different things.
  6. Baroque music can be very sexy.
  7. I will never get too old to go to a rock concert. And buy a souvenir t-shirt.
  8. I really, really want to speak French fluently.
  9. I will never again allow myself to be steamrollered in a relationship.
  10. I may not have much money in the bank, but I am rich in all the ways that matter.
Have you learned any lessons recently that you might like to share?