The strange and wonderful life of a self-confessed bead addict (and speech and language therapist)

18 February 2012

Monochrome Madness: The black (and grey-ish) bag!!

Afternoon all – and happy Saturday!

It’s a pretty important one for me – I start a new job on Monday (eeek!); which will take me away from my home with my fiancĂ© in London for four nights a week. Not ideal, but with the job market being the way it is, I couldn’t really refuse the offer. C’est la vie.

I wonder how many others out there are being forced to accept jobs that are a less-than-practical distance from home? I’d love to hear any comments on this if anyone has something to offer.

But anyhow...I digress. I have spent the past couple of weeks beavering away at my latest ‘challenge bag. This time, it’s the turn of the black (and grey-ish) drawer!! Exciting, huh??
So, here’s what I had to work with – a tiny handful of beadies, really. I ended up feeling truly amazed at the amount of inspiration which came from this. Black really is the most versatile colour!

The first beads that caught my eye in this lot were the black-and-gold lampworked ones; big and chunky and mismatched. ‘What on Earth will I do with those?’, I pondered. ‘They don’t really go with anything except themselves!’ Cue this funky bookmark: The perfect way for each bead to show off its own unique beauty!

Lovely! The perfect accessory for all those gothic horror novels I’m partial to. Lovecraft, anyone?

So, what next? I had plenty of those black-and-silver glass shapes that were also pretty mismatched: a few of each shape. After pairing up a few, arranging and re-arranging them on a bead mat a few times, I was reminded of a watch face I’d bought on a whim a few months ago. I’ve never made a watch before, and inspiration had thus far eluded me. But I liked the black and silver lines on these beads, and it went well with the boundaries of the watch face. A few Lucite flowers, Czech fire-polished beads and glass pearls later, and I come up with this beauty:
Not bad for my first-ever dress watch! I was rather pleased; and by this point I had gotten the ‘cluster’ bug! I used to be rather obsessed with making charm bracelets, and I had enjoyed creating the chunky clusters of beads in between the black-and-silver beauties in this watch strap.

So, I abandoned the rest of the beads in the bag for a while and shifted my attention to the rest of the bag of Czech glass pearls. Two evenings later, this matching necklace, earring and ring set had materialised:

There! Now it was out of my system, and I could return my attentions once again back to the remaining contents of the challenge bag. I still had a number of the black-and-silver beads left; now more mismatched than ever. I added some of the black Czech glass moon beads from the bag, the rest of the packet of Czech pearls and a rather beautiful filigree heart charm, and a second pair of earrings and a gorgeous chunky bag charm were born!

I do love a bag charm!!

The rest of the black-and-silver beads now used up, I could now turn to the remaining few beads from the challenge bag: some silvered glass rounds and a solitary mother-of-pearl disc.

What to do, what to do??

After several long seconds of experimenting with the remaining beads in my hand, I concluded that the silvered rounds and m-o-p disc did not ‘go’ together. Something about them just didn’t sit right when they were side by side. I was going to have to make separate pieces with them.

I’ve been rather partial to crochet lately; particularly with wire. I love the entwined, tangled effect you get when you pull relatively stiff wire into little chains with a crochet hook. Some little black drop beads were all that were needed to accentuate the silvered beads in a funky, gothic-style choker. This one is my personal favourite from the challenge.

Now to tackle the solitary mother-of-pearl disc. A quick rummage in the drawer revealed a few more, which I paired up with some larger, white ones and some genuine freshwater pearls. Placed together on the bead mat, they looked...nice.

Hmmmm. ‘Nice’. Not really a word that screams ‘boundless creativity’, is it? The beads needed something else.
Cue my latest hobby: decopatch. The art of making slightly boring-looking things look slightly less boring by siticking things to them: namely bits of patterned paper. So, a few cut-out discs of decopatch paper and some glue later, my white m-o-p discs were decidedly less ‘nice’, and decidedly more creative-looking – on one side, at least (I decided not to completely deface the subtle, natural beauty of the mother-of-pearl by leaving one side blank. That way, you also get two looks in one necklace).
The results of the experiment also represented my first foray into the world of hand-tied organza bows – and I must say, I’m rather pleased with the effort!

So, there we have it. The little handful of black beads which turned out to be more inspirational than I’d ever hoped for! After making this last necklace, I had the decopatch bug again, and have started this rather quirky beads on this one, but it’s (sort of) monochrome, and was inspired by the results of the challenge, so I thought I’d include it here anyway.

All of these items will be added to the Folksy shop over the next few days. If you’d like any of them reserved for you, just drop me a line!

In the meantime, I’m also collecting suggestions for monochrome items for a ‘Folksy Friday’ blog post this coming Friday. If you’re a Folksy seller and you’d like a mention, send me a link to your product, and consider it included!

12 February 2012

The A to Z of me (just a bit of fun)

Oooh, 2 posts in one day! Saw this on another blogger's page and felt inspired to give it a go. So here's some info about me that you never cared to know...

A - Age - 28

B - Bed size - Kingsize, but I think I hog most of it to myself to be honest....

C - Chores you hate - Most of them. But if I had to pick just one...ironing.

D - Dogs - no dog. But I'd love a beagle.

E - Essential start to your day - first thing: it has to be a hot shower. Once I've arrived at work: I can't function without a big mug of milky Earl Grey Tea. At the weekend: poached eggs.

F - Favourite colour - it varies from day to day. Usually some variant on the brown/red/orange/copper spectrum. But I also love green...

G - Gold or Silver - Silver.

H - Height - 5' 3"

I - Instruments you play - none, sadly. I'd love to learn the guitar, but I apparently don't have a musical bone in my body. I got asked to leave my recorder group in primary school. Yes, I was THAT bad...

J - Job title - full time speech and language therapist, champion procrastinator, and part-time jewellery maker.

K - Kids - none. Yet.

L - Live - London.

M - Mother's name - Gail

N - Nickname - Don't have one.

O - Over night hospital stays - Thankfully, none as of yet. Fingers crossed...

P - Pet peeves - Rude people. Baked Beans. Waste. Ignorance.

Q - Quote from a film - "If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball!"

R - Right or left handed - Right.

S - Siblings - A younger brother. Ross.

T - Time you wake up - 6.20; soon to be 5.30 when I start my new job. Eeep!!

U - Underwear - Ummm.....yes. I wear underwear....

V - Vegetable you hate - love most veggies. But brussels sprouts are WRONG!!!

W - What makes you run late - Myself. I'm disorganised. And I faff. A lot.

X - X-rays you've had - None.

Y - Yummy food you make - I love to cook. I'll give pretty much anything a go. Except baked beans and brussels sprouts.

Z - Zoo animal - Giraffe. Though I don't really like seeing animals in a zoo...

Copy the list and add your own answers! It's fun!

Winter Warmers

The so-called ‘big freeze’ is still in full swing in evidenced by the gulls sitting ON the serpentine in Hyde Park – as opposed to in it! They looked rather confused, actually – made me chuckle to myself.

But, my humour was somewhat short-lived, after I very quickly began to discover, while walking through the snow and ice with a client of mine from work, that my shoes were decidedly un-waterproof!!

Yes. Cold, wet feet and soggy socks do not make for a very happy Jen. I arrived back in the office with a rather grumpy disposition, after stripping off both shoes and socks and sitting barefoot and shivering at my desk. Several cups of tea later, my teeth had stopped chattering...though despair descended on me once again when I realised I was going to have to put both soggy socks and frozen shoes on for the journey home.

Cue my wonderfully quick-thinking colleagues. It wasn’t long before my feet were rather cosily wrapped in someone’s spare pair of (dry) socks (thank goodness for the practical-minded: it never would have occurred to me to bring spare socks to work), and a mismatched pair of plastic bags to form a barrier between the dry socks and damp boots. Genius!

I tell you, I have never felt more attractive! Also, my feet made a delightful scrunchy noise with every footstep, much to my amusement and the confusion of the other commuters.

Anyways, the real point of my blogging today was to share with you my recipe for the finest (and potentially cheapest) winter-warming soup I have ever goes:

You need:
· 1 tablespoon of olive or vegetable oil
· 1 onion
· 1 tin of tomatoes
· About a tablespoon of tomato puree
· 2 pints of vegetable stock
· 50 grams of lentils
· 75 grams of baby pasta shapes
· Some herbs and salt and pepper, if that’s your thing oh, and maybe some grated cheese...

Chop the onion and fry it in the oil until transparent. Add the tomatoes, puree, lentils and half the stock. Cook uncovered for about 20 minutes, until the lentils are soft.

Remove from the heat and blend, either in a food processor or using a hand blender. Add the rest of the stock, the pasta shapes and some herbs and seasoning to your taste. Return to the heat and boil gently until the pasta is cooked – about 10-12 mins.

Serve with a little grated cheese on top, and some yummy crusty bread. Mmmmmmm!!!

I know I don’t usually blog about food, but since it’s pretty much the love of my life (after beads), I’ve decided to add it into the mix. Try out the soup and let me know what you think. I should probably add at this stage that the recipe is not of my own design, but heavily based on one from this book, available from Amazon. Don’t be put off by the ‘student’ in the’s a great book!

I’ll be back on Friday with my next Folksy Friday post. The theme will be monochrome – any suggestions for your products will be gratefully accepted. Stick a comment in the box for me...

Oh, and one last thing...check out my fist-ever scarf, knitted by me, for me! I’m rather proud of it..

05 February 2012

Snow Day Musings (New Hobbies)

So! London is covered in snow. So, naturally, everything has come to a standstill. You'd think that, after three consecutive snowy winters (or is it four? I've begun to lose count), Boris and co. would have figured out a way to keep the public transport running on time. I mean. Sometimes even the Tubes are affected - and they are under the ground!! Please....

But, no. My poor fiance was reduced to a quivering block of ice when he climbed into bed in the early hours of this morning, having spent just over three hours trying to get from one side of London to the other. Poor lamb! Well, at least, that was my opinion until he decided it would be fun to use me and my lovely, cosy, pajamaed body as a means to warm up his freezing hands and feet. I wasn't so sympathetic then....

But moving on. Here I am, still in said pajamas at 11am on a Sunday morning, having imposed on myself a snow day. We live in a part of London that just happens to be extremely hilly, so I don't much fancy my chances on the ice outside. (I think I have mentioned before: I am really rather lazy when it comes to the weekend. What a perfect excuse for a pajama day!). The ingredients are in the bread maker, and the components for a hearty, warming soup are out in the kitchen. Lovely!

And, of course, a self-imposed snow day will give me the perfect excuse to indulge in some new hobbies.

Worry not! My obsession with all things beady is as enduring as ever (you were worried. I can tell.) It just happens to have expanded. For one thing, I am learning to knit. This started with a revival of an old childhood skill, finger-knitting. So easy and quick, and you can knock up a half-decent looking skiny scarf in a couple of hours.

I was quite pleased with my first effort! Perfect for when I do need to venture into the (admittedly quite beautiful) landscape outside our flat window. But needles just seemed a bit more...well...grown-up. And I am (in theory) a grown-up. Sort of. So-ooo, just after Christmas, courtesy of a lovely beginners' knitting book gifted by my mum, I went out and spent a small fortune on various knitting paraphernalia.

Hurrah! A new hobby! But it doesn't end there...

Ever heard of decopatch? No? Neither had I, until a good friend recently became rather good (and, I'm sure she won't mind me saying, rather obsessed) with it. The premise is simple: you get the special decopatch paper and, using the special decopatch glue, you stick it to stuff. Yup. That's it. It's basically posh papier-mache.

Simples! (Sorry. I hate those ads too. But, as catchphrases go, it's catchy. I guess that's the point...)

So, recently, I have been sticking bits of coloured paper to pretty much anything that doesn't move fast enough to get away! I even considered decopatching my mum once, after she fell asleep on her couch...

(By the way, the picture on the left: that isn't me. It's just a picture I found to show that decopatch is precisely as simple as I'm describing. You could pretty much train a racoon to to it. Having said that, the things I've been decopatching have been rather more interesting than the weird, shapeless thingy in this picture. I have NO idea what that is! Any suggestions??)

Back to the point. So, I'm knitting and decopatching. And It's cold. Maybe I should have just said that, rather than bombarding you all with reams of pointless babble?'s a frosted glass tealight thingy I made from an old upcycled jar, some frosting spray, some decopatch paper and relief paint; and an emellishment I threw together with some beads and wire. Does it look homely and cool? Or does it just look like an old jar with some bits stuck on? I'll let you decide. I'll be adding this, and more beaded, decopatched and knitted bits and bobs to the Folksy shop over the next few days. Pop along and visit me....
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