Trendy DIY: The Agate Necklace

Here’s a little-known fact about me: I love rocks. I’m not talking about diamonds. I’m talking rocks, minerals, stones…well, and gemstones, too. One of my most prized possessions is a wooden board I made when I was 3. After a trip to the river, I glued a hodgepodge of river rocks to it. One of these is my “gut” rock that resembles what my 3-year-old mind assumed chicken guts looked like. It ranks right up there with my wedding ring in importance! This fascination probably explains my love of all the currently-trendy mineral and stone jewelry.

I’ve been looking for the perfect agate or geode statement necklace. The problem is that while I love the look of these natural stones, I don’t like the fussiness that some designers incorporate. These are stand-alone materials. Why muck it up with charms and feathers? Of course when I do find one I love, it’s more than I can (or want to spend). The whole DIY movement of late has really been good for me, which is how I arrived at this uber-simple project. I’ve been working hard to hone my jewelry-making skills, but on a scale of easy to difficult, this is beyond easy.

I really liked this agate style from Vanessa Mooney but between the $150 price tag and the ‘out of stock’ status, it really wasn’t a good option.

Vanessa Mooney Shelby Necklace

Once I really started looking at what I liked about this style, it dawned on me that it would be simple to assemble. Asymmetrical agate placement, bold chain…easy peasy. One trip to J0-Ann and $10.80 later, it was all but finished. Seriously…this is an assembly project. It’s practically made for you right out of the craft store.

Agates and geodes are readily available at Jo-Ann and Michael’s. This strand of natural purple agates from Jo-Ann was $12.99 for six (and are an additional 30% off this week). Because they are natural, no two strands are alike. I went through the blue, purple and natural colors and found the strand that offered the best shape and color for my taste. If you look closely, the strand is connected with heavy-weight jump rings. They are so sturdy (and fit the drilled stones so perfectly) that I used those in the assembly of the necklace.

Purple agates from Jo-Ann

From there, it was as simple as choosing a chain. I liked the idea of something substantial for this but go as dainty as you’d like. My chain was $3.99 (and 25% off this week). I also picked up a bar toggle clasp (about $2) and some assorted silver jump rings (about $1.50).

Using two needle-nose pliers, I separated the jump rings on the agate I liked most and removed it from the chain of stones. Just by eyeballing it while draping the chain around my neck, I chose the length of the necklace and the placement of the agate. This was not precise by any means. Using both pliers again, I opened up links in the chain to attach the agate. This particular chain is so heavy that it was tough opening the links. I had enough chain to spare so I didn’t do it carefully and just allowed myself to ruin the link as I pried it open. The jump rings on the agate were already open, so I just affixed the stone to the chain this way. See below…

Once the agate was attached, I went back to the mirror to eyeball where I wanted the clasp. Again, I didn’t do any measuring. Once I determined how I wanted the agate to hang and how long I wanted the necklace to be, I wrestled the links again to remove extras. From there, it was as easy as affixing a jump ring to each end link and adding each piece of the toggle bar clasp.

From start to finish, this took 30 minutes. Most of the work went into separating the chain links. The richness of the stone doesn’t seem to display well in pictures (or maybe it’s my less-than-stellar photography equipment). I’m quite happy with the project and had tons of compliments from complete strangers when I wore it out.

If you’re inspired to create your own agate jewelry after this, please share a photo! And if you have questions, let me know.

Advertisements

Life is like a box of chocolates

Our series of last hurrahs in the St. Louis area included a trip to Hermann, MO, on Thursday, just an hour or so outside St. Charles county. It’s part of Missouri’s wine country, and the wine is actually quite good as a whole. I know for a fact that it stinks living in this tiny town but for a day, it’s wonderfully quaint. Anytime we go, chocolates from Ricky’s Chocolate Box are required. My favorite is the Toffee Turtle. I’m pretty disciplined when it comes to sweets but these are like crack. Seriously…crumbs are inhaled just like the toffee and caramel. I thought it was worth sharing. Seriously, anything that entices me to eat 1000 calories (I’m assuming) in a sitting warrants a share. If you ever crave decadence, look up this place. They seem to specialize in turtles of every size, shape and flavor, but I kid you not when I say everything is fantastic. Well, everything except the bug-shaped chocolate with the pistachio filling, which looks exactly like a squished bug when you take a bite. Yeah, I can’t get past this one.

20120429-181659.jpg

20120429-181729.jpg

Toffee Turtles

20120429-181746.jpg

Zoey...in heaven

Bye, Bye Miss American (Strawberry) Pie

Because I clearly became a foodie over the weekend, I wanted to share one more recipe with you today. The fact that some good friends and family threatened me with bodily harm if I didn’t also goaded me into firing up the old computer after work today. My mom makes the best strawberry pie ever. Yeah, don’t go there trying to argue with me on this point. You won’t win…trust me. Mine is never as pretty but it’s almost as delicious, so when the locally-grown or near locally-grown strawberries begin springing up each springtime, a Garnet Glace Strawberry Pie is the first thing that comes out of my kitchen. I did remember to take some photos along the way but you aren’t going to find a good finished shot because Eddie dug into it before I could dollop whipped topping on. Now it’s just a bit of a half-eaten mess.

Garnet Glace Strawberry Pie
1-9 inch pastry shell, baked and cooled
1 quart fresh strawberries, washed and stemmed
1 c. water, divided
1 c. sugar
3 Tbls. cornstarch
3 oz. cream cheese
1/2 c. powdered sugar
Cool Whip or other whipped topping

Prepare a glaze by simmering 1 cup of cut-up berries in 2/3 c. of water for 3 minutes.

Blend granulated sugar, cornstarch and 1/3 c. of water. Add to the boiling mixture. Stirring constantly, bring the mixture back to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Cool completely.

Mix the cream cheese and powdered sugar, then spread into the bottom of the baked and cooled pastry shell.

Arrange the remaining berries, points up, inside the pastry shell. Reserve a few berries as garnish, if you wish.

Cover the berries with the cooled glaze and refrigerate a minimum of 2 hours.

Dollop whipped topping (or spread it over the top), add the garnish and serve.

Note: Overcooked glaze will be harder to spread (see the image below) but who cares? And dry berries keep the pie from weeping.

A Great (but Not Authentic) Sangria Recipe

When life hands you a new Sangria pitcher, make Sangria. Or at least that’s my motto. As you may have read in my earlier post, I bought the coolest pitcher today. It would’ve been an absolute sacrilege to let it go unused on its first day home with me. Far be it from me to misuse such a lovely vessel. So I’m drinking a passably good Sangria as I type (hiccup…just kidding). Given how easy it is, I figured it was my duty to share so here it goes…

Sangria

1 bottle of Merlot (cheap works)
1 c. sugar (I use Splenda and use quite a bit less)
1 c. orange liqueur
1/2 c.-1 c. brandy (I use 3/4 c.)
1 lemon
1 lime
1 peach
3 c. lemon-lime soda (7-up, Sprite or Sierra Mist…I’ve tried ’em all and they’re all good)

In a pitcher (I recommend mine from Mississippi Mud Pottery — no affiliation), stir the Merlot and sugar. Add the orange liqueur, brandy and fruit. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Before serving add the lemon-lime soda.

Depending upon how sweet you like your Sangria, you may prefer to omit the sugar or Splenda. The soda adds quite a bit of sweetness. Oh, and the last step is to sit back and enjoy. It’s probably best not to try and blog or work after a glass given the booziness of it, or maybe that’s exactly what you need to do. I’ll let you be the judge.

Pitcher Style 3485

Last St. Louis Hurrahs: Art Fair at Queeny Park

With our St. Louis days dwindling, we’re trying to get out and experience things we’ve been too busy for over the past five years. Today it was the Greater St. Louis Art Association‘s Art Fair at Queeny Park in Des Peres. I’m always shocked by how pretty St. Louis-area parks are, which makes me really sad that I didn’t indulge in them the whole time we’ve been here. To be honest, I had planned to take several pictures and review the fair. As soon as Zoey realized the fair wasn’t the rides and games type of event, the tantrums started and the pictures and etc. just didn’t happen. That being said, I did visit what I think may be the coolest pottery vendor I’ve ever seen.

Mississippi Mud Pottery (love the name) is based out of Alton, IL, just across the river. I like the idea of pottery but I rarely see pieces that really speak to me. I’m also rarely crazy about the earth tones so often used. I like the unexpected and a lot of pottery I’ve seen in the area is pretty but a little too ho-hum for my tastes (or wickedly expensive and I’m cheap). This stuff blew me away. I only bought two pieces but I could’ve gone crazy! The colors were so beautiful in eggplant purple and cranberry…really rich hues. The designs were outrageously cool. The pitcher below screamed Sangria to me and it was $55 (and it does have Sangria in it now). The pie plate/quiche plate was only $36 and would make the world’s best deep dish pie (if I could ever successfully make a pie).

Here’s the only downer: It seems like few, if any, of the pieces I saw today are actually on their site or in the photos section of their Facebook page, which is a shame. Maybe they’ll add them because the styles I saw today were knockouts. I think it was one of the artists, Chad, who was manning the booth. He told me that they can ship pieces. The site isn’t ready for ecommerce but a call or email is all it takes to make a purchase. With Mother’s Day around the corner, this might be a really cool gift idea (hint, hint).

Pitcher Style 3485

Large Pie/Quiche Dish Style 3342