In an effort to break out of my inertia and get back to making beads, I am taking a 7 week class with the amazing Julie Couch.  She is awesome!  The class is teaching us the techniques she uses to make these amazing water color inspired beads...take a look at this awesomeness:

Today we worked on stringers, from "normal" sized to super thin ones, and then we played around a bit.  I am AWFUL at stringer control, so this class will be so great for me.  Here's a look at my first efforts:

I can't wait for next week!

I've been stealing the odd hour here and there in the studio. You can tell by how messy it is :-)

One of my main projects has been making these fun necklaces using Stretch Magic Silkies Necklaces.  I decided a few months ago to change my business model and give all the proceeds of any sales to our high school band, the West Potomac Wolverines.  The teenagers love the necklaces, I get the satisfaction of making sales at their events AND get credit for making a donation when really I am just digging through my voluminous bead stash having fun.  It is a win on so many levels. We are hosting a drumline competition in a couple weeks so I have been adding to my inventory:

I've also had the torch on a little bit.  Need to do more of it for sure!

We've had tons of snow here and the kids have had a week and a half off of school. By Friday it was clear that we all needed to get out of the house, and it actually was a pretty nice day.  We headed downtown to the Renwick Gallery, which had just reopened after a 2 year renovation with a really amazing exhibition called WONDER.  

All my mixed media artist friends MUST GO SEE THIS.  It was so cool!  

This installation was a recreation of the heat bloom from the Japanese typhoon/nuclear plant mess a couple years ago.  The lighting changed frequently making the entire dispose change to completely different colors.

This sculpture was made entirely of old tires (and teenagers).

This sculpture was all clear marbles and depicted the Chesapeake Bay and the rivers that form it.

This sculpture was made using a casting of an actual tree. It was made out of tiny blocks of wood and suspended from the ceiling.

This sculpture was made entirely of stacked cards.  Looks like glaciers, doesn't it?

This rainbow was made with hundreds of threads.  Both my camera and our eyes had a hard time adjusting - the colors were so powerful.

This was my favorite one - all made from twisted twigs.  You could not see any kind of glue or fasteners keeping it together.  They all looked plucked straight out of the woods already formed.

The Renwick is part of the Smithsonian, which means entrance is free.  Parts of the exhibit close in May and parts close in July - so there is still plenty of time to visit.  And the historic gallery is nearly across the street from the White House which provides more great photo ops :-)

My daughter on the outside seems like a jock - it's true, just check out the inventory of bags and shoes and other equipment in her room.  But on the inside she is pretty creative.  One creative outlet we share is making fun cakes together for her birthday.  We've made a giant pink airplane, a giant ice skate. a tie-dyed t-shirt, and a mountain with mountain climbers (the party was at an indoor climbing gym :-)).

This year, as we raced around town stocking up on survive-the-storm supplies, she mentioned it would be cool to make a cake that's rainbow on the inside.  We swung by Michael's and found this great kit, the Checkerboard Cake Kit from Wilton:

While we were there, we saw a super cool cake idea - a chalkboard cake.


Neither of us had used fondant before, but they had black fondant right there in the cake aisle (naturally) so we thought we'd give it a shot.  We found two great videos on line (here and here) that gave us a tad more confidence. For the cakes we used regular boxed white cake, and Wilton Icing Colors to make the batter super colorful. To stick the layers together and for the "crumb coat" I used my grandmother's cream cheese frosting which is fool proof (recipe below).  The fondant went on pretty well, and the "chalk" was not too hard either.  We would definitely try this one again!

World's Best Cream Cheese Frosting (from my Grandma Simpson):
1 box cream cheese (don't buy reduced fat!) (8 oz)
1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
1 box confectioners/powdered sugar (16 oz)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Bring cream cheese and butter to room temperature (either naturally or using a microwave) and whip together with sugar and vanilla.  This is great for frosting cakes but might not be the best for piping decorations.  

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