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Author Archive: Ali on The Blog

The Ann Arbor Art Fair

Posted by Ali on July 23 at 02:49 pm

peopleEach year on the third Wednesday in July, the Ann Arbor art fair begins. This fair is one of the largest in North America and brings more than 500,000 people through our small town in 4 days. For the past 50 years, Ann Arbor has played host to talented artists from around the globe as well as our own local talent. These artists show a massive body of work, including: beaded, sculpted, and fine jewelry, multi-media to oil paintings, fiber arts, wood, blow glass, photography, clay, furniture, carvings, etc.

I always take a special interest in the jewelry designers. Here are some of the more unique things I noticed this year:

  • A lot of funky sculptural jewelry
  • Mixing metals (e.g. silver & gold)
  • Beach/recycled glass
  • Stones with more inclusions – normally included stones would be considered lower quality, but when used properly, they offer an unmatched “natural” look.
  • Cuff bracelets made from recycled materials (rubber, leather, metal, etc.)
  • Rough stone material wire wrapped or set in sterling
  • Encapsulation doming with interesting materials like vintage maps, pebbles. These would make great focals.

raderboothI also take a special interest in the way these artists display their work. You can always tell when someone is truly creative – it even extends to their booth design!

Like so many of you, I design and string most of my own jewelry. I’m also not very fond of fine jewelry, which makes it difficult for me (and especially Kevin) to buy jewelry made by someone else. I’m always on the lookout for something that I couldn’t make myself, but also has an artist-designed, unique feel. The art fair is one of the only places I’m able to find something. This year, Kevin and I were walking around and I saw a bracelet that I absolutely loved. He said he didn’t like it and I was sad. I found out later, that he said he didn’t like it so he could sneak back out and buy it for me as a surprise. It’s a silver cuff-style bracelet with flashes of 22k gold and a large fossilized turtle shell in the middle. I definitely couldn’t make it myself and it’s unique :) It’s by an artist named Elaine Rader ( I truly love her style.


As a jewelry designer, what kind of jewelry do you buy for yourself? Have you been to many art fairs this summer? What kind of stuff are you seeing?

Thanks everyone!


Favorite Fresh Picks for Summer

Posted by Ali on June 24 at 11:18 pm

Top 9 Fresh Picks (June 1-22):

  1. *Laurel* by Valentine Chick
  2. 精衛 by D D Mystic Chick
  3. A Mermaid’s Necklace by Cuban Queen Crazy Chick
  4. Walk on the Beach by Smoky Rose
  5. The Clouds in the Sky by Elaine aka Belly Chick
  6. Summer Dreams by Fashion Chick aka SC
  7. Droplets by Sandy S
  8. Waiting for a sunny day by Wemai Coffee Chick
  9. Beautiful Summer Evening by Allure of Gems by Julia
  10. Starry Midnight by Southern Chick

What stands out with this set of favorites is how much blue, green and brown are being used.

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Favorite Fresh Pick Facts

Posted by Ali on May 28 at 02:39 pm

The other day I was just sitting around with nothing to do (yeah, right!) and I started wondering about how often different items were used and which items were most popular to use in your Fresh Picks. We have compiled a very interesting set of winners… Check it out!

Favorite Gemstone Category to use in a Fresh Pick

1st: Black Onyx
2nd: Labradorite
3rd: Coral

Most used gemstone bead in a Fresh Pick

White Opal Round 3.5-4mm

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Happy Mother’s Day!

Posted by Ali on May 08 at 10:02 am

At Lima Beads we know how important Mom’s role is. Mom made us who we are today. Mom is always going to give advice (whether or not we want it :) ). Mom unconditionally loves us. Mom makes a really great babysitter. Mom loves to be a Mom.

I though it might be fun to see Mother’s Day through the eyes of our team leaders at Lima Beads.

What is the most special thing you did for your Mom on Mother’s Day?

Ali: My Mom is big into family traditions.  Every year growing up my dad would make reservations for brunch at Gratzi at a table by the window.  She loves it there, but I think she really loved all of us there with her.  I usually start to get some subtle hints being dropped about  2 weeks before m-day like – “I just love longer chunky necklaces” or ” I was looking for something to wear with my new top and realized I didn’t have anything with pink, orange, blue, purple, and gold, hmmmmmmmmmmm”.  I guess subtly is not my Mom’s way…  So I typically make something special for my Mom as a thank you.  She gets the biggest smile on her face so I know she really loves it.

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Favorite April Fresh Picks

Posted by Ali on May 06 at 04:59 pm

We haven’t posted the favorite fresh picks for awhile, so we thought we would do the whole month of April. One thing was clear — there were a lot of fresh picks designed in April!

The top April fresh pickers were:

  • Elaine aka Belly Chick – 229 picks
  • Smoky Rose -  227 picks
  • Luv2bead – 190 picks
  • Movie chick aka susan – 155 picks
  • Mommykat Bubbly Chick – 144 picks
  • A Golke – 111 picks           
  • D D Mystic Chick – 104 picks
  • Cuban Queen Crazy Chick – 81 picks
  • M mccallister mrs chick – 68 picks
  • J Yee smart chick – 61 picks
  • Michelle Downy Chick – 60 picks
  • Allure of Gems by Julia – 55 picks
  • Kitty Chicky Cat – 48 picks
  • Chicky D aka Debra – 46 picks
  • Southern Chick – 42 picks

The most popular (most viewed) picks were:

Happy Birthday Fresh Picks!

Tomorrow, we’ll be celebrating the one year birthday of “Design your own Fresh Picks” — can you believe that? We’re having so much fun with it and we hope you are too! There will be a special birthday treat for everyone, if you solve the birthday puzzle :)

Garden of Fresh Picks

Posted by Ali on March 25 at 04:58 pm

I was reading The Garden to Payton yesterday and for some reason I started thinking about Fresh Picks and how they are used.

The Garden by Shel Silverstein

(from Where the Sidewalk Ends pg 61)

Ol’ man Simon, planted a diamond,
Grew hisself a garden the likes of none.
Sprouts all growin’, comin’ up glowin’,
Fruit of jewels all shinin’ in the sun.
Colors of the rainbow,
See the sun and rain grow
Sapphires and rubies on ivory vines,
Grapes of jade, just
Ready for the squeezin’ into green jade wine.
Pure gold corn there,
Blowin’ in the warm air,
Ol’ crow nibblin’ on the amnythyst seeds.
In between the diamonds, ol’ man Simon
Crawls about pullin’ out platinum weeds.
Pink pearl berries,
All you can carry,
Put ‘em in a bushel and
Haul ‘em into town.
Up in the tree there’s
Opal nuts and gold pears–
Hurry quick, grab a stick
And shake some down.
Take a silver tater,
Emerald tomater,
Fresh plump coral melons
Hangin’ in reach.
Ol’ man Simon,
Diggin’ in his diamonds,
Stops and rests and dreams about

This past week, a lot of the picks have palettes centered around a color theme with a splash of this or that.  Great job, I can’t wait to see how people use them (hint: check out my “Getting Some INK” Blog post)

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Getting some Ink

Posted by Ali on March 19 at 02:39 pm

How to submit your designs to magazines

If you are anything like me, you have browsed the beading magazines. My personal favorites are Stringing and BeadStyle. I am more drawn to these 2 mags because the featured designs usually have a nice fashion focus and aren’t too technical. Both Stringing and BeadStyle have projects geared toward the beginning beader as well as longtime beaders interested in stringing and wire wrapping. The projects in either of these mags shouldn’t take more than a few hours for someone to complete. Most of them are from people like you and me that submit their designs in the hopes of being published and inspiring other beaders. Occasionally, the editors and staff at these magazines end up creating pieces to be published because they need something in particular that they weren’t able to find in the submissions. Plus, isn’t it nice to see the editors and staff can design too?

At Lima Beads we get constant requests from people asking how to get their names and designs out there. Hopefully the information we provide today will be helpful.

I spoke with Danielle Fox (editor of Stringing, Beads 2008, & Bead Star magazines), Erin Dolan (editorial assistant at Bead Style Magazine), and Cynthia Thornton (Green Girl Studios & well known jewelry design contributor to magazines). Pooling the knowledge from these 3 was very helpful. I have read the submission guidelines for the magazines in the past and have felt a bit hesitant about sending in my pieces. Do they keep my design forever, will I be rejected, do I get paid, how do I know what they want?
These are all questions I have asked myself and I’m pretty sure you have wondered as well. I am hoping to put all those questions and hesitations to bed.

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Water, Sunsets, Stars, the Woods and Raspberries

Posted by Ali on March 16 at 11:57 am

These are the latest “most popular” Fresh Picks.

Water, Sunsets, Stars, the Woods and Raspberries… Am I missing anything?

Top 10 Favorite Fresh Picks:

  1. Flamingo Green by seashellsally
  2. Bali by Gabrielle L
  3. My Daughter the Mermaid by Cuban Queen
  4. antique green by kcdesigns
  5. Raspberry Delight by Luv2Bead
  6. Fallen by CAS
  7. Camping in the Woods by Ambo
  8. Seaside Starlight by chloe the congo
  9. Perky in Pink by A Golke
  10. Haze Over Sea Waters… by Allure of Gems by Julia
Flamingo Green by seashellsally

Flamingo Green by seashellsally

Flamingo Green – The picture you uploaded is amazing. The peridot tumbled nuggets and the pistachio pearls caught my eye right away and the 2 rhodochrosite beads you chose are just the right amount of flamingo.  I think you really captured the moment in the photo. Maybe a good project/fresh pick inspiration for everyone would be to follow suit and take a favorite moment captured in film and recreate it with beads. HMMMMM I feel a contest coming on.

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Ann Arbor Fairy Doors

Posted by Ali on March 05 at 12:17 pm
At The Ark

At The Ark

At Lima Beads we love being in downtown Ann Arbor, MI. We love the quirks and artsiness — the things that make us different.  Apparently, so do our neighbors, the friendly neighborhood fairies. No I’m not crazy, the stress of Lima Beads hasn’t done me in, but rather brought back a bit of that childhood creativity and the ability to see…beyond :)

Ann Arbor hasn’t lost its imagination, having welcomed with open eyes and storefronts our resident fairies – The Urban Fairies.

At Sweetwaters

At Sweetwaters

Throughout Ann Arbor’s downtown, children and adults alike can spot miniature doors. These doors are built into the front of buildings, the sides of bookshelves, and even business entry doors. Even Google, upon moving into downtown Ann Arbor last year, installed a fairy door at their office.  A local “non-certified fairyologist”, Jonathan B. Wright and his children first “discovered” a fairy door in their west side home in 1993.  Since the fairies (and local children) liked it so much, the word spread and fairies began taking up residence at local shops and businesses all over downtown.

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An Earthy Palette

Posted by Ali on March 02 at 02:09 pm

Top 10 most visited Fresh Picks:

Illuminated Forest by Cuban Queen

Illuminated Forest – Bright zesty green paired with golden hues, so vibrant and sparkly, shimmering and springy. I like your selection of tiger eye for the gold gemstone, not usually a stone I would pick for a piece of jewelry, but I think you made me have a change of heart.  The gold pieces that you added to this pick are great showstoppers. I can see something made of this combination worn at The Oscars. Love it!

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Favorite Fresh Picks – Feb. 11, 2009

Posted by Ali on February 11 at 03:45 pm

Lots of green this time! Check out the top 10 most visited Fresh Picks from the past 2 weeks below. We’ve added the number of comments for each Fresh Pick to the list. Click on them to check out the conversation! Also, don’t forget to vote for your favorite.

These are the most visited Fresh Picks from the past 2 weeks:

Sea Spray by kcdesigns

Sea Spray by kcdesigns

Sea Spray by kcdesigns – I love how you chose to mix up the pattern, transparency, and shape/size of stones rather than the color. Our green fluorite and variscite are 2 of my favs for spring.  They remind me of a vacation at the beach, which is probably why everyone is so drawn to this pick.  The Vintaj pieces that you chose are the perfect complement for this combination.  I think if I were to make a necklace or bracelet with this fresh pick I would need to add some biwa pearls for “spray”.

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Spring Trends – To Follow or Not

Posted by Ali on February 04 at 07:51 pm

I like fashion and funky patterns and bright colors. I love John Galliano and Betsy Johnson. I like making something unexpected out of something expected. I love surprises in designs that you don’t notice right away but when you do, it’s special. I enjoy reading blogs and articles related to the fashion industry.  These things definitely affect my designs, but do I follow what I see and read or do I take my own path?

Let’s talk about what’s hot for Spring 2009:

  • chunky drop earrings
  • structured necklaces close to the neckline – almost like chokers, but not. Some call these bib necklaces.
  • colored stones – mixing colors, going bold and bright with your selections.
  • yellow gold – Not something I’ve ever used a lot of, but I think I’m going to order some gold findings and see what happens.
  • oversized necklaces
  • geometric shapes
  • multi everything – multi layered, multi textured, multi strand
  • clusters of pendants or charms or filigree – this is very open to interpretation (this is my favorite, I made a necklace in October knotting different pieces to chain)
  • Renaissance style carvings – cameos, intaglios.  Sounds like it’s time to go antiquing, yeah!
Mimosa Tree

Mimosa Tree

Pantone has named Mimosa as the color for 2009.  It is a fun energizing shade of yellow – this color could make anyone happy.

They have also named the colors for Spring 2009.  They remind me a mix of crocuses, hyacinths, grass, daisies and hope – for the cold to be gone.

As beaders, we have to balance an awareness of color and style trends with our own creativity. If we follow the trends too closely, we risk not being unique. If we ignore them completely, we risk reduced sales of our jewelry to fashion conscious buyers :)

Pantone Spring Trend Colors

Pantone Spring Trend Colors

I’ve always tried to use fashion trends as loose guidelines and put them in the back of my mind. I let them help me make design decisions, but I don’t allow them to define my direction.

We’d love to hear what you have to say about Spring 2009:

  • What will your inspiration be?
  • Which spring colors will you be loving?
  • Will you focus on necklaces, bracelets, earrings….? We’ve noticed a lot of people making more earrings.
  • What do you think of the direction of fashion right now? Too many 80s flashbacks to handle?
  • Have you started on spring designs? Show us photos!

Spring Isn’t Here Yet

Posted by Ali on January 28 at 03:36 pm

Until this morning, I actually had myself fooled into believing that “spring was almost here” – then I woke up. The weather forecaster said last night that only people close to the Ohio border needed to worry about heavy snow. We’re not really that close, so I felt relieved. When we woke up to fresh snow on the ground and more falling heavily from the sky, I just laughed. What else can you do? Luckily I can look to the Fresh Picks created by you all for some solace. By looking over the top picks I can really see some beautiful spring colors. They remind me of the end of March – soft flowers poking up, blades of grass showing through as the snow thaws and of course…mud. :)

Here are the top 10 most viewed Fresh Picks for the past 2 weeks:

Warm Breezes by A Golke

Warm Breezes by A Golke

Warm Breezes by A Golke
I’m lying in a hammock on my deck in the summer and I just close my eyes as a warm summer breeze brushes past. Ahhhhhhhh. Very smart choices in this pick. I feel like you were selecting beads that would all work together in a necklace rather than just selecting beads that look cool together. The combination of champagne & gold freshwater pearls, brown rhodochrosite, amber, hessonite, lemon quartz & rutilated quartz faceted nuggets, silver moonstone, smoky quartz and serpentine with banding is fantastic. These colors & patterns work so well together without being obvious. I love the Vintaj pieces you selected — they really add that breezy feel. Great job A Golke!

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Lima Cares

Posted by Ali on January 20 at 01:48 pm

I have always wanted to “save”. In elementary school, my favorite T-shirts were “Save the Rainforest” and “Save the Whales”. Even as a child I knew that the world wasn’t fair and I had to stand for something. I wrote a lot of letters to elected officials, but whether or not they took a 10 year old seriously, I’m not sure :) Lima Beads has given us a unique opportunity to help.

Lima Beads customers have been helping us support charities since 2004. When you place an order at Lima Beads, you’ll notice the option to choose a charity at the bottom of your shopping cart. Lima Beads will donate a portion of the profit from your order to the charity you select. This does not add any cost to your order — we just like to let our customers decide where our charitable donations should go. You are the reason we’re here and the reason we’re in a position to help others. Thank You!

The list of charities has been the same since 2004 and we feel that it’s time to change them. Below, we’ve chosen 11 local and regional charities. With this new list of charities, we hope to support some causes close to home — places where we can combine financial assistance with our time to truly make a difference. We’ve also chosen some large national causes in which we believe very strongly.

There are 11 charities listed below. With your help, we’ll narrow this list to 5. These 5 charities will be the 2009 Lima Beads Giving Back charities that will appear on the shopping cart. Starting this year, we plan to select 5 new charities each January. Please vote for your 3 favorites in the poll below.


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First Fresh Pick Favorites of 2009

Posted by Ali on January 14 at 05:32 pm

I hope everyone enjoyed time with family and friends this past holiday season. Unfortunately, it had to end and we find ourselves in the middle of January already. Luckily we have Fresh Picks to save us. I need to apologize to everyone for not staying on top of the Favorite Fresh Picks posts. I am very excited to see how much everyone is using the fresh pick comments. Now all we need are more images of our customers’ work to get uploaded in the Fresh Pick comments – we love seeing the creativity!

These are the most visited Fresh Picks from the past 2 weeks:

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New Year’s Resolutions

Posted by Ali on January 03 at 01:18 pm

The beginning of 2009 already feels different than the beginning of years past. I feel more hopeful and more curious about the future than ever before. This is sure to be a year full of surprises.

For the Lima team, new year’s resolutions never seem to hold. Frankly, they’re kind of a joke. We’re determined to make this year different. We’ve decided to come up with realistic resolutions for ourselves.. things that we actually have a chance of maintaining.


ali-thumbNormally, my new year’s resolution is something like: “go out to eat less and use that YMCA membership more often” — but, every year these things fail. This year, I’m going to try doing those things as part of my normal life and not necessarily a resolution and see if they last longer. My actual resolution this year is going to be focusing on my family and my creative aspirations, so I hope to:

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Vote for Your Favorite Cookie Recipe!

Posted by Ali on December 16 at 02:11 pm

On Thursday, we asked everyone to submit their favorite cookie recipe. We received 16 awesome recipes — they are all listed below. You can read the full recipes right below the survey to decide which ones are your favorite.

Now it’s time to vote for the recipes you think sound the best. Choose your 3 favorites below. We’ll tally all the votes on Friday and Riki (the baking genius of the Lima team) will bake the top 5 recipes. She’s going to bring them in on Monday (12/22) and the entire Lima team is going to do a taste test.

We’ll announce the winners on Monday afternoon!

Thanks to everyone that submitted a recipe, these all look so delicious. I’m sure we’ll be making them all at some point :)

Yummy Crunchy Cookies!

  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup dessicated coconut
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 250 grams butter
  • 2 cups rolled oats

oven temp. 180 C. for 30 minutes

Mix flour, sugar, coconut and baking powder.

Melt butter and mix honey through.

Spoon butter mixture through flour mixture.

Have a tray with baking paper ready

Mix in rolled oats

Make small balls of mixture and put on baking paper and put in oven.


They are gooey when warm but satisfyingly crunchy when cooled! 

Now be warned!I have to bake them when the husband is out and then hide them. I have to defend them with my life! Generally before I have time to share them with friends they have vanished.

Oh and keep checking them in oven as one of my ovens needs the 30 minutes but the other only needs 25 minutes…

Ginger’s Chocolate Almond Butter Balls

This recipe is from Pillsbury’s Best Butter Cookie Cookbook, Volume II (20cents) circa 1950’s

  • Melt 4 squares Bakers semi sweet chocolate
  • Cream 3/4 cup butter and
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • Melted chocolate
  • Add 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Stir in 1/2 cup blanched almonds, chopped

Shape into 1 inch balls.

Roll in sugar


These cookies do not spread. Can place close together.

Bake at 350 for 12 to 15 minutes

Makes 3 ½ dozen cookies

Thumbprint Cookies

recipe from Betty Crocker

  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • Raspberry jelly

1. Heat oven to 350ºF.

2. Mix brown sugar, shortening, butter, vanilla and egg yolk in medium bowl. Stir in flour and salt until dough holds together.

3. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Beat egg white slightly. Dip each ball into egg white. Roll in nuts. Place about 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Press thumb deeply in center of each.

4. Bake about 10 minutes or until light brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes. Fill thumbprints with jelly. 

My mom makes these for me every year for Christmas. All my friends and family know that under no circumstances will I share, lol.


Recipe from House on the Hill website(with my slight modifications)

  • 3/4 cup softened butter, preferably unsalted
  • 2 cups brown sugar (spooned, not packed)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup ground almonds
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon each of salt, cloves, ginger, cardamon, and nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa
  • grated rind of one orange
  • 3 cups flour
  • 4-6 tablespoons milk
  • shaved or sliced almonds for undersides and milk for tops

Cream butter and brown sugar together; add egg, almonds, then salt and flavor ingredients, and finally work in flour. Add 4-6 tablespoons milk to make a stiff dough. Refrigerate 30-60 minutes. Roll, print and cut out as in general directions, or if you have Speculaas molds – prepare by spraying with non-stick spray or oiling and wiping off excess (done once for the whole batch).

Flour molds (for every use), knocking out excess. Press dough into mold, then cut excess dough off flush with back of mold with a wire or knife. Unmold carefully onto greased or parchment-lined baking sheet which is sprinkled with the shaved almonds. Brush with milk. No drying is needed before baking.

Bake at 350 degress for 10-12 minutes. Yield 30-90 cookies depending on size.

I made these for the first time last weekend and they were amazing. I took them to an event and everyone was thrilled with them! I’ve attached a photo that I took after they were done. It was really fun using the mold…challenging, but fun.

Turkey Balls

“A buzz in every bite”

  • 1 C powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbs. unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/4 C Wild Turkey
  • 2 Tbs. light corn syrup
  • 2 1/2 C crushed vanilla wafers
  • 1 C chopped pecans

Mix in a large bowl and roll in 1″ balls. Roll the balls in more powdered sugar and voila! No baking!

Ann Giza Knapp’s Kolachys

  • 1 8-oz package Philadelphia Cream Cheese
  • 1/2 lb Butter
  • 2 cups Flour
  • 3 Egg Yolks
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • Jam (Strawberry, Raspberry, Blueberry or Apricot work well)

Combine the cream cheese and butter with the egg yolks. Mix in the flour to form a dough. You can cut them together with a biscuit cutter or pulse in a food processor. Chill overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness and cut into squares. Alternatively, you can make 1-inch diameter balls and flatten them. Place on cookie tray. Make an indentation in each cookie. Place a dollop of jam in the indentation.

Bake for 35 minutes or until cookie is light golden (about the color of amber).

The recipe for these cookies came from Poland with my maternal grandmother. In fact the original says to cut the flour into the butter/cream cheese. However, I modernized it to use a food processor. 

They are a family favorite. In fact, my brother says that it’s not Christmas until my package of Kolachys arrives in the mail.

Elf Keepers

(Santa’s elves work tirelessly for just one of these yummy bars!)

  • 1 (14 oz.) package caramels
  • 2/3 cup evaporated milk, divided
  • 1 (18 oz.) caramel cake mix (Duncan Hines is best)
  • ¾ cup butter, melted
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¾ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 ½ cups walnut halves or pieces

Cook caramels and 1/3 cup evaporated milk over low heat until caramels melt, stirring often. Remove from heat and set aside.

Combine remaining 1/3 of evaporated milk, cake mix, melted butter, vanilla and cinnamon. Stir just until blended. Spread half of dough into lightly greased 9” square pan. (Remaining dough will stiffen as it sits.) Bake at 350 degrees for 10 min. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 5 min.

Pour caramel mixture over brownie layer in pan. Sprinkle with walnuts.

Divide remaining half of dough into 6 portions. Shape each portion into a 4” circle. Place circles over walnuts in pan, overlapping slightly. (Dough will spread during baking.) 

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Cover and chill thoroughly before cutting. Makes 15 brownies.

Exquisite Chocolate Mint Sticks

  • 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
  • ½ cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ tsp peppermint extract
  • ½ cup flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8” or 9” square pan. In double boiler, combine chocolate and butter. Heat over hot but not boiling water until melted and smooth, stirring occasionally. In a medium bowl, beat together eggs, sugar, melted chocolate mixture and peppermint extract. Add flour and salt, beating until blended. Stir in walnuts. Spread in greased pan. Bake 25 – 30 minutes or until set. Do not overbake. Cool in pan. Prepare Mint Frosting (recipe follows). Spread top of cooled brownies with frosting. Refrigerate until frosting is firm. Prepare Chocolate Glaze (recipe follows). Drizzle over frosting – tilt pan until glaze covers surface. Refrigerate 10 minutes, then cut into 2”x 1” sticks. Store in refrigerator. Makes about 32 cookies.

Mint Frosting

  • 3 Tbsp. butter, room temp.
  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • 1 ½ to 2 Tbsp. milk or cream
  • 1 ¼ tsp peppermint extract
  • 2 – 3 drops green food coloring

In medium bowl, beat together butter, powdered sugar, milk and extract until smooth and fluffy. stir in food coloring.

Chocolate Glaze

  • 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 Tbsp. butter

In top of a double boiler, combine chocolate and butter. Heat until melted and smooth, stirring occasionally.

Cream Cheese Dainties

  • 350* Yield 4 dozen
  • 1/2 cup margarine
  • 1 3OZ cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla flavoring
  • 1 tsp almond flavoring
  • 1 cup self rising flour
  • 1 1/2 cup crushed rice
  • cereal (rice crispies)
  • Red & green candied
  • cherries

Cream margarine, cheese

cheese & sugar well. Add flavorings, mix well.

Add flour, small amount at5 a time.

Chill 1-2 hours.

Shape into 1 inch diameter balls, roll in

crushed cereal. Place on

ungreased cookie sheet.

Press a cherry down into center of cookie.

Bake at 350* for 12-15 minutes.

Cool completely.

These are favorites with my family during Christmas holidays. My grandson likes to help, especially rolling the dough into balls & ’smashing’ the cherries into the ball!!

No-Bake Fudgy Cookies (formerly Thompson Cookies)

  • 2 Cups sugar
  • 1/4 lb margarine (do not substitute with butter spreads)
  • 1/3 Cup cocoa
  • 1/2 Cup milk
  • 1/2 Cup peanut butter
  • 4 cups wheaties or other breakfast cereal OR
  • 3 cups, if oats (not instant oatmeal)
  • 1 tsp vanilla

To prepare the setting pan, place wax paper on top of open newspaper to the size of approximately 20” long. A different option is to place the wax paper on a couple of cookie sheets, but when the newspaper is used, there is nothing to clean.

Put first four ingredients in a 3 qt. sauce pan. While stirring constantly, on medium low heat, mix the ingredients and melt the margarine. Raise the heat to medium high and bring to boil. Lower the heat to medium; Boil for 1 to 4 minutes, without stirring, until it reaches pre-softball stage, described as follows: When 1 tsp of mix is placed in a cup of cold water, then lifted with your fingers, the mix will form a heavy strand but not yet a soft ball.

Remove from heat and add the peanut butter and vanilla. After mixed, add the cereal. (I always use oats.) Mix thoroughly. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto wax paper in the shape of cookies. Allow to set. Store in air tight container.

These scrumptious cookies have a long history in our family. I changed the name because the original name, Thompson, was not descriptive of the creamy, fudgy texture of these cookies. It all began when we were rambunctious, loud teenagers and Nancy Thompson’s mother would make these cookies to quiet us down. It worked because we would quietly nibble them while watching The Monkees or Get Smart. Could not talk with those luscious cookies in our mouths. 

Cut to 50 thousand or so years later… Today as an adult with adult children of my own, over the years and for many events, I had often made them. Sadly, four years ago, our 19 year old son passed on to a better world and I have not baked anything or celebrated any holiday since that time. This year something changed. I started feeling more fortunate and thankful for the family and love that I do have and felt like baking again. What did I make? You guessed it. Both my husband and adult son are most happy that I chose these cookies… I cannot keep them in the house very long, but I found they last longer if I hide some for myself or if I doubled the recipe, another day longer could pass before hearing, “Can we have Thompson cookies for dinner tonight?” We all love them! These are truly a special comfort food.

But, why are they disappearing so fast?

Ginger Snaps (from the Ginger people)

My husband says that these are addictive. The pieces of candied ginger add an extra spicy hot taste. I like the heat of the ginger so I use more than the original recipe.

  • 3/4 butter
  • 1 c Sugar
  • 1/4 c dark molasses (can increase to 1/2c)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 c flour
  • 1/2 tea ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 tea ground ginger (you can use 1/2 tea if you prefer)
  • 1 tea ground cinnamon
  • 2 tea baking soda
  • 1/2 tea salt
  • 3 1/2 oz crystallized ginger chips (minced)

Cream butter and sugar; add egg continue mixing; mix dry ingredients together and add to wet; mix well together and then add ginger chips.

Refrigerate dough for 1 hour then put rounded teaspoons of dough on pan and bake.

(If you have a Splat mat it will prevent the bottoms from burning.)

Bake @ 375 8-10 minutes makes 3 dozen These are best after cooling and getting crunchier. Dough also freezes well.

Monster Cookies

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. vanilla
  • 3/4 tablespoon light Karo syrup
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 1 stick margarine
  • 12 oz. crunchy peanut butter
  • 4 and 1/2 cups quick oats
  • 4 oz. chocolate chips
  • 4 oz. plain m & m’s

Mix first 7 ingredients together then add peanut butter,oats,choc. chips and m&m’s.

Bake @ 350,bake til gooey about 8 to 10 mins.

I baked these cookies for my husband’s football team he coaches and they lasted about 4 seconds. Enjoy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Lemon Almond Shortbread

These are my favorite cookies. They are good with cold milk, hot coffee or even red wine. Also, because the cookie logs can be frozen, you can keep one in the freezer for cookie emergencies!

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (1/4 lb) unsalted butter
  • 3/8 cup granulated sugar

1. Grind almonds, lemon peel and 1/4 cup flour (I use a blender) until nuts are finely ground.

2. Beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add nut mixture, then stir in remaining flour, cornstarch and salt.

3. Form into two 1 to 1 1/2 inch diameter logs, wrap in waxed paper or clingwrap and refrigerate until firm enough to slice, about 2 hours. (You can also freeze at this point. If well-wrapped, the frozen logs will keep about a year.)

4. Preheat oven to 350 F. Cut chilled or frozen log into 1/3 inch slices, place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake approximately 20 minutes.

Gluten-free version:

Replace the flour with 3/4 cup rice flour plus 4 tablespoons potato flour.

Pistachio-Rosewater Cookies

From the book Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero

Total Time 35 minutes

Yield 32 cookies


Pretty as a picture, these delectable disks are studded with jadelike pistachio nuts and are delicately scented with rosewater. Lime juice and zest add a little citrus kick. A perfect end to your Persian feast, or even just some Middle Eastern takeout.


  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 3 Tbsp. rice or soy milk
  • 1 Tbsp. rosewater
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp. finely grated lime zest
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground cardamom
  • ½ cup shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two cookie sheets with vegan shortening or margarine.

2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, rice or soy milk, rosewater, vanilla, lime juice, and zest. Add the cornstarch and whisk until dissolved. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and cardamom. Mix well.

3. Roll the dough into balls about 2 teaspoons in size (a bit smaller than a walnut) and dip the tops into the chopped pistachios. Press down with two fingers; the dough will flatten a bit and the pistachios will collect on the bottom.

4. Place the cookies, nut side up, about 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. You should be able to fit 16 on a standard baking sheet. Bake for 13 minutes; they will be soft but will firm up as they cool.

5. Remove from the oven and let cool on the cookie sheets for about 5 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely before serving.


You can replace the pistachios with almonds. The easiest way to chop them is by pulsing them in a food processor several times.

This content is from the book Veganomicon by Isa Chandra

Chewy and Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies.

How do I do this you ask? Butter and lots of it.  

I used to be crazy for Martha Stewart when I was in college, once I graduated and entered the real world I realized that there wasn’t enough time in the day to be as perfect as Martha.

This recipe however is delicious and relatively easy, but make sure the eat these cookies within a few days, they will start to lose their chewiness.

This recipe will make approx. 30 4″ cookies

I prefer to use organic free range ingredients wherever/whenever possible and I typically use sea salt rather than standard table salt. It’s up to you whether you feel comfortable crossing Martha Stewart 

Also depending on the time of year a few dashes of All Spice makes the cookies extra special.

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (I recommend Godiva chips)

Preheat Oven to 375°

Combine flour, salt & baking soda in bowl and set aside.

Beat butter in a electric mixer until smooth. Add sugars and beat until well mixed and fluffy.

Beat in the eggs and vanilla until well mixed, but don’t over do it. Add in the flour mixture from earlier until well mixed.

Now you can add the chips – mmm! (you might want to buy an extra bag of chips because if you’re anything like me I get a handful and the cookies get a handful)

Place golf ball size lumps of dough on a non stick cookie sheet about 3 or more inches apart. Once the cookies start to bake they really spread out.

Bake for 8 minutes, rotate your cookie sheet after 4 minutes.

Your cookies should come out golden brown and super thin with a chewy center and crunchy edge.

Oreo Truffles or Carolina Snowballs

  • 1 pkg. Oreo cookies, finely ground (you can use double stuff, regular, or peanut butter)
  • 1 – 8 oz. pkg. softened cream cheese
  • 1 pkg. White or Milk Chocolate baking Chips

Microwave the Cream Cheese for 15-20 seconds until soft. Blend crushed Oreos and Cream Cheese together well with fork. Place in fridge for one hour.

Roll into bite sized balls then dip into melted chocolate and cool on wax paper.

If you’d like, decorate with colored sugar or drizzle with left over chocolate.

The center of these truffles looks almost exactly like mud, hence the name: Carolina Snowballs.

Let The Decorating Begin

Posted by Ali on December 07 at 07:30 pm

For those of you celebrating Christmas this year – we’re getting down to crunch time.

The Christmas season has officially begun at our house. Boxes of decorations have been brought up from the basement and my dining table is full of ornaments just waiting to be hung on the tree.  I organize my ornaments much like my beads, by style — old world ornaments, hand blown glass ornaments, icicles, balls, colors, wood, glitter, handmade, etc…

Kevin and I got our Christmas tree yesterday. We went to this little place out in the country and picked out the biggest tree we could find that would actually fit into our house. It’s only about 7 feet tall because we had to leave room for my big sparkly silver star at the top. We always bring it in and let it sit for one night so the branches can fall down to their natural positions.  Tonight, we’ll put all of the lights on and then hang the ornaments. The intoxicating smell of pine has already made its way through our house and I LOVE IT! How do you feel about this – real tree or artificial tree? If I didn’t love the smell so much, I might get an artificial tree, the needles are a mess!

As I unpack my boxes I have come to the conclusion that I might have too many decorations and not enough surfaces or places to hang everything. I am going to have to get creative. I blame this on after-Christmas clearance sales. I’m pretty indiscriminate when it comes to where I will shop so long as the merchandise is cool and the prices are cooler.  I’ve gotten rolls of Martha Stewart wrapping paper for .50 per roll at Kmart, candles and mercury glass from Pottery Barn for 75% off, beautiful blown glass ornaments from the Weed Lady (a local florist) . . . I could go on and on.  Deals will be great this year I’m sure, but where do I stop? Everyone is going to keep coming up with new great holiday sparkle to tempt me and if it’s a super good price, I absolutely have to buy it – right?

This is definitely my favorite time of year.  The textures, sparkle, scents of pine and spices, and awesome contrast of colors are just some of the things that I like about this season. It’s a magical time of year for kids and adults alike, but sometimes it also seems to be the most stressful time of year. I find myself worrying about having the house ready to entertain guests, what gifts to buy, making it to all of the holiday parties, and these days – even the economy. I need to get creative with our gift giving to save some money this year. When it comes to my female friends and family, I usually give the gift of jewelry — they love it and I get to do something I enjoy. Although I usually end up rushing to put all of the pieces together in the 2 days before Christmas, I still find it relaxing! Is anyone else a procrastinator with holiday jewelry?

Here’s hoping we can all remain calm this year…

Good luck!


PS – Let’s see some photos of your decorations!

Nostalgic Winter Fresh Picks

Posted by Ali on November 25 at 05:26 pm

The Fresh Picks this past week could have been inspired by travel magazines, holiday cooking, memories of vacations, or winter. These are great ways to trigger your creative energy. While shopping downtown this week, I was inspired by a rose bush covered in snow – with the pink roses still in bloom! It was too odd not to notice, yet people walked past this bush all day long without stopping . . . to smell the roses.

This time of year we all seem to be in such a rush to do everything – drive, shop, cook, eat, create – try to take a moment in the midst of all your rushing around to notice obscure moments around you. You’ll be surprised by what might influence your next design.

This week’s Top 10


Cardinals Nest

Cardinal's Nest

Cardinal’s Nest by Cuban Queen - I love Cardinals. We have one in the tree out side our kitchen window all winter, but he just never seems to sit still long enough for me to take a picture of him :-) This pick does a great job of creating this image for us. The coral chosen is the perfect red. I like how one may not immediately think of combining the coral with mica quartz, bronzite, Chinese ocean jasper, and turritella agate, just to name a few. I really like the use of the copper wire wrapped triangle, it adds that “Je ne sais quoi”. If I were going to make a piece with this pick, I might add a few CZ salsa or poppy faceted fans, I can’t resist a touch of sparkle.

Mint Chocolate Cocoa

Mint Chocolate Cocoa

Mint Chocolate Chip by Lisa S - This is a delicious combination. As it so happens I am drinking a Mint Cocoa from one of my favorite grocery stores, Trader Joe’s, with Dakota (my dog) in a deep sleep at me feet. The brown stones chosen seem to swirl around each other while minty greens are tossed in for the finishing flavor. This pick would definitely make a statement if designed into a necklace… there are some pretty big and bold shapes. The silver green dancing button does a fantastic job of softening this design.

Icicles and Peppermints

Icicles and Peppermints

Icicles and Peppermint by Snickers - I took one look at this pick and said to myself… “I have to make something out of this!” I love how its holiday and winter and sparkle and snow all wrapped up without being kitschy. Excellent choices in pearls, the colors – fire pink, gold, pepper red, silver peacock and pearly whites, and the biwa sticks really make this piece pop. The Australian chrysoprase adds a breath of refreshing green while the crystal clear CZ and the Stampt pewter poinsettia filigree are the icing. I feel like getting my tree or going to Chicago to see all the beautiful lights and decorations. Just wonderful!

Favorite Fresh Pick Variety

Posted by Ali on November 13 at 01:58 pm

We’ve got lots of different inspiration here this week! Chocolate (always awesome), fall in the Southwest, aloe, snow and rain (not sure how I feel about these two), starry skies, marine life, flowers, and one of the most popular songs of all time.  For those of us in the northern parts of the country – winter is coming and there’s nothing we can do to stop it, so we might as well make picks and design lots of pretty things.

This week’s Top 10:

  1. Chocolate on a Blue Day by CAS
  2. SouthWest Fall Garden by Haute Rawx
  3. Aloe by Tab
  4. Snow Bunnies by Jyll P
  5. November Rain by Cuban Queen
  6. Snow Falling on Cedars by Beadaholchick
  7. Night of a 1000 Stars by Lima
  8. Dolphins And Sharks by Perlemamma
  9. tulips and daffodils by Julie v
  10. Amazing Grace by Sandy S

This entry continues: Read the rest…

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