BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


19 Comments

Bead for Life

Holiday shopping madness is upon us, and it would seem as though everyone- Young, old, wealthy, or of humble means- Is out in force, buying up anything that could possibly be wrapped up in paper and topped off with a bow. I’m not one to advocate such excessive consumerism, but if it’s possible to make conscious purchases that aren’t simply wasted on meaningless plastic and glass, I personally would certainly be more inclined to fork of my hard-earned money. Shouldn’t a gift be something of actual value, and not just the numbers on a price tag? If no store has that “perfect gift” and you find yourself at wit’s end, looking to please the person who has everything, I have one little suggestion to throw into the ring.

One of the most thoughtful presents I received in a while was this beautiful bracelet made of paper beads, from a good friend who seems to know me better than I know myself. Thanks to Bead for Life, an organization that allows women from Uganda to sell their lovely handiwork, it’s possible to support those in need and give a lovely piece of jewelry to the loved ones in your life. It’s like donating to a charity, with benefits for all those involved!

Being a compassionate consumer means taking into account the welfare of animals, naturally, but I think that the well being of our fellow man is often swept under the rug in this equation. Think about what’s going into your store-bought gifts this year, and decide: Do you want something mass-produced that’s supporting sweatshops and suffering, or something unique, handmade, and actually bound to send money where it’s needed?


50 Comments

Luck of the Eater

As St. Patrick’s Day approaches, an excitement fills the air. People are preparing their most impressive green outfits, planning meals of “traditional” corned beef and cabbage (bleh), and most importantly, stocking up on the libations. You don’t need much of an excuse to drink around here, but this holiday seems like the perfect reason to get totally smashed, so that seems to be the point of the whole day by the time one reaches college. Of course, I don’t drink and am not even the least bit Irish, so this holiday has typically fallen through the cracks for me. To be perfectly honest, I still don’t know what it’s all about or how one is supposed to celebrate without imbibing great quantities of alcohol, but I’ve decided that I want to pay my respects to the celebration in the only way I know how: By baking!

Setting aside the sugar after having overdosed a bit on marshmallows, it was high time to get something green back into my body. And what could be more appropriate for St. Patrick’s day than green clovers, after all? Smuggling a handful of spinach into the young dough, I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not about to fulfill anyone’s daily requirement, but it did add some lovely flavor and just a hint of natural coloring.

Even if this holiday doesn’t hold much significance for me, just pulling those lovely golden buns out of the oven was cause for celebration. Finally, a simple sort of bread that is cooperative, easy, and incredibly tasty, appropriate for more than just special occasions, too. Even my mom was taken aback by how “buttery” they were! For all those who are yeast-phobic, give this one a try- You might just find that you luck will improve. It’s no coincidence that they embody such a fortuitous symbol!

Four-Leaf Clover Rolls

1 Cup Soymilk
1 Tablespoons Granulated Sugar
1 Package Dry Active Yeast
1/4 Cup Margarine
1 Tablespoon Flax Seeds
2 Tablespoons Water
2 Teaspoons Salt
1/2 Cup Frozen Chopped Spinach, Thawed
4 Cups All-Purpose Flour

1 Tablespoons Margarine, Melted

Briefly heat the soymilk just until it’s lukewarm, around 90 degrees or so. Add in the sugar and yeast and let it sit for about 15 minutes to become frothy and active.

When ready, melt the 1/4 cup of margarine and add it to the liquid mix. Grind up the flax seeds using a spice or coffee grinder, and then process them for just a minute with the water. Incorporate this into the other liquids as well, along with the salt and thawed spinach (make sure you squeeze as much water out as possible!)

Now, transfer this mix into your mixer and begin gradually adding flour in a couple of installments. You may need more or less than called for, so just keep an eye on it and allow it to fully combine everything before changing the amounts. Once it has more or less come together, switch in your dough hook, and allow it to process for about 10 minutes, until it’s a smooth elastic ball. You can also knead it by hand, but be aware that it will take longer to reach the proper texture.

Lightly grease a large bowl and drop the ball of dough in, covering lightly, and allow it to sit in a warm place for about an hour and a half, until doubled in size. After it’s nicely risen, lightly grease a muffin tin in which to house the rolls. Gently punch the dough down, and cut it into four pieces. Each of those pieces should be cut into 12 more pieces, and then you’ll want to roll each of those pieces between your hands to form nice smooth little balls. Fit four balls into each muffin indentation. Cover the whole tray with a clean towel, and let it sit to rise again for one and a half hours.

As the rolls near the end of their final proofing, preheat your oven to 400 degrees and melt the single tablespoon of margarine. Lightly brush the tops of each roll with the margarine just before popping them into the oven. Bake for about 16 – 20 minutes, until golden brown. Let them sit in the muffin tin for 10 minutes after leaving the oven, and then finish cooling them on a wire rack.

Makes 12 rolls.

Printable Recipe


4 Comments

Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind

Like thousands of jewel-toned grains of sand, an impressive collection of glass, plastic, and stone beads lay at my disposal, practically in front of my nose for half the day, but completely invisible to my mind’s eye. Tucked away in a carefully organized case, towering above my book shelf with its numerous cloudy drawers, you would think that something that size would be extremely visible, a constant reminder of the treasures it holds. In reality, concealing the hundreds upon thousands of baubles prevents them from ever entering my consciousness, causing this otherwise obtrusive grey storage bin to blend into the background along with the long forgotten books and DVDs residing on shelves directly below it.

For this reason, all these available, gorgeous beads keep crying out to be used without being heard, sometimes for months on end. Taking note of the passing of one year since I began posting, I decided to take a brief look back at old posts for nostalgia’s sake. Patterns began to emerge in short time, and I can’t say I was entirely surprised at the number of entries that fall under the greatly neglected “beading” category. Knowing that there was no way to make up for all this lost time, I thought it would be best to atleast make an effort to dabble again in the other wonderful crafts I have experience with. Expecting little from my stash after having turned my back on it for so long, such a great pleasure it was to take in all of the colors, shapes, and sizes all at my disposal. I’m out of practice in this field, to say the least, but motivated by my inspiring materials, I pressed onwards and ended up with a nice, easily formed choker.

Selecting beads based on color alone, the resulting combination wasn’t entirely satisfactory when brought together, creating seemed to be a slightly off-key harmony. Many of the awkward notes came from the size – Using all medium sized seed beads in addition to the token drupes, the whole piece may have worked better with the incorporation of smaller pieces. Still, for the first stab at the craft in who knows how long, it could certainly be worse!

The design was based on one that was found online, but that site seems to be having trouble right now, so I’ll add the link in if it decides to straighten itself out soon. I just found the concept too cute and simple to pass up, the picots reminiscent of little bows adorning a child’s ribbon.

Hopefully I can get back up to speed quickly, allowing me to return to creating the intricate beaded lace that I once found deliriously thrilling to complete. For a little while though, my efforts may have to be focused on new strategies of how to spill the tiny little beads everywhere only two or three times in the course of an hour. Darn my clumsy reach!


7 Comments

Key To My Heart

Poking through thrift stores, scoping out Goodwill or the Salvation Army, no matter where I attempt to pick up second-hand goods, it seems like the odds are always against me. How is it that almost everyone else I know owns the most amazing things that not only used, but more importantly, cheap, while I’m doomed to keep coming up empty? It’s not like I don’t try, either – There are atleast two or three Goodwill stores nearby that I keep hitting, but the best I found was a metal pizza tray for $2. Unfortunately, I bought it to hold magnets and things in my room, but when I got it home, it turned out that it wasn’t even real metal! Honestly people, that’s such a rip off, it should be a crime!

Trying to put that awful piece of useless junk out of my memory, I gave thrifting yet another go when I heard word that there would be a flea market held at one of the high schools in town. Now, I didn’t have high hopes in the least, seeing as the flea markets around here are notorious for boasting the largest amounts of old, broken, or worthless crap ever to be witnessed in just a few square feet. These garbage dumps are held quite often throughout the summer, so figuring that this would be the last I might see for a while, I figured there was no harm in trying.

Wouldn’t you know it, hardly two tables into the cacophony of rowdy voices and dusty relics, I found the most amazing treasure that was clearly meant for me and me alone. I can’t even assert that I found it; Really, I think that it found me. Gazing down upon it in its transparent plastic baggie marked with “$1″ written in black sharpie, I wondered if this was all a joke. Well, I didn’t wait around to find out. Snatching up my new found pendant, I dashed home to begin planning out what it would become a part of.

Such a strong yet simple focal point, how could I help but being whole-heartedly inspired? I tried to match the sharp silver of the metal for the main color of the necklace, but added little accents of multicolored beads, mimicking the depth and brightness brought by the “key” in the pendant.

Although I hadn’t beaded anything in a good deal of time now, this piece practically made itself. I only provided the hands with which to make it – The heart shaped lock really spoke to me and told me what it was meant to become in the new life it was about to enter. It was all pre-destined; I simply aided to create the inevitable final product.

I adore how this necklace came out to such a degree that I don’t think that any amount of money would persuade me to part with it. I rarely wear any sort of jewelry other than the earrings that I never remove, but this is one piece that may actually stand a chance at making it into my normal wardrobe. Believe me, this means a lot more than any sort of words I could use to describe how attached I’ve become with it.


5 Comments

Lace in Bead-Form

Lace is definitely my thing. Whether it’s knit, crocheted, beaded, what have you, I really love making it. Something about its intricate patterns, the delicate lines and open spaces… I just find it so rewarding to create, and the finished project is almost guaranteed to be an instant beauty. In this case it was a beaded choker on The AntiCraft that caught my eye a few months back, beckoning me towards my needle and thread.

It had been such a long time since I’ve attempted any complex beading pattern, I was at first a bit imtimidated by the seemingly demanding instructions. Taking a deep breath and preparing my thread, I took comfort in the fact that if I screwed up royally, it would never have to see the light of day via my blog. And of course, the first tier into it I got a huge knot and the nice little ending leading towards the clasp completely died. I had no choice but to cut out the snag and just tie in the second side of the clasp, so the two ends aren’t exactly symmetrical. Just do me a favor and don’t look too close, okay?

Once I got further into the pattern, the thread wasn’t nearly so long and wild, just waiting for the opportunity to tangle. After the whole clasp fiasco that nearly ended it the whole project in tears and spilled beads, there was not a single issue with completing my choker.

It’s a really lovely pattern, and trust me, much easier than you might think!


2 Comments

Back to Basics

Hundreds upon thousands of glittering glass beads call to me from their tiny little plastic recipticals perched atop my book case. How my hands itch to grab crazily and pull random colors, stringing them up into fantastic designs. And yet…

It’s been quite some time since I’ve done a serious beading project now. While I’d love to just take the plunge and attempt some intricate lacy pattern, I think it may just end in a whole mess of tangled threads and all of the hundreds of thousand seed beads on the floor. Hoping to preempt this hiroshima in bead-form, I carefully picked through my collection and picked out some of the cheapest, bulkiest plastic numbers I’ve got.


A very simple one-shot deal: A medium chain with large spherical pink and white beads threaded through eyepins, topped off with black seed beads, all crimped and cut short at the end. Not my usual racket, but a very enjoyable venture. I guess I had been taking my crafting a bit too seriously, so it was very refreshing to ease back into beadwork and do something more bulky and fun.


1 Comment

Time For a New Watch

Some might say I can be almost comically neurotic when it comes to timing, and unfortunately I can't entirely disagree. It wouldn't kill me to show up somewhere slightly late, but I would much prefer arriving 10 minutes early, just in case. That's why my dilemma of not having a watch was really screwing with my head, you understand. I'm generally on a very tight schedule, so if I don't know what time it is when I'm out of the house, I start to get a bit anxious, although usually for no good reason.

For the past couple of months, I've sort of been "in-between" watches, ever since my adorable Hello Kitty watch broke and I was unable to find a replacement. I had been borrowing one of my mom's old clunky things as a temporary time piece, but it seemed like there would never be a chance to find one I actually liked. And then there was the thought of getting out my crafty side and somehow making one…


And when the temporary watch slipped off my wrist and into a pot of parafin wax the other night… That cemented it: I could put it off no longer. What was blocking my good intentions from manifesting themselves in the first place? My reluctance to actually do something about an issue that was so important to me was bordering on appauling. The very next day I hauled my ass down to ACMoore's and bought myself a plain watch face and some beads, and the end result is what you see above.

It may be extremely simple and perhaps plain, but I'm honestly really happy with it. I see it as being elegant but still neutral, so I don't need to worry about it whether I can wear it to school versus a formal occasion.

I find it deeply satisfy to finally resolve this whole thing, and to have beaded the band myself, despite its simplicity. Screw that mass-produced crap that is never quite what you're looking for – Do it yourself, and do it right!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,680 other followers