Cooking with Myra: Beads and prime rib

March 22, 2010 at midnight
Updated March 21, 2010 at 10:22 p.m.

By Myra Starkey

Over the years I have tried many different hobbies. Some of these activities stood the test of time and others have gone by the wayside because of a lack of interest or talent on my part.

Their remnants often lay stowed away in an attic, crammed into the corner of a closet or were sold at garage sales. Taylor and I married in 1982. During those years I started sewing, probably for both economic reasons and creative release. I sewed curtains for our first house and some of my own clothes. By the time we started our family added gardening to my list of hobbies and began to grow vegetables and herbs. I needed to decorate the baby room walls so I started cross-stitching. I continued to sew baby clothes for the growing Starkey clan, expanding my skills by making appliquéd jumpers for all three kids. After moving to Victoria I took quilting classes because some of my friends were doing that. I actually finished a couple of quilts which gave me a great 'rural craftswomen' sort of satisfaction. I tried my hand at rug hooking but could never master this art well enough to produce anything worthy. I briefly attempted painting but lacked the artistic talent, especially when compared to Taylor's skill on the canvas.

Several years ago I picked up the long lost hobby of knitting. I had knitted some when I was a kid but hadn't picked up yarn and knitting needles for more than 30 years. I had seen some neat work by two friends of mine, Judy and Mary Ann, and they helped me to learn new stitches and build my confidence. I completed several mufflers, scarves, hats, ponchos and even a shawl. It makes me feel very relaxed to sit and knit and I especially enjoy it if I can do it while chatting with close friends. I like to call myself a knitter. A knitter is one who hoards all sorts of beautiful yarns with the hope that someday those colorful skeins will become sweaters, more mufflers or maybe a warm hat for a future grandchild.

Last year my friend Mary Ann invited us to go with her family to their ranch in the mountains of New Mexico. Mary Ann discovered a bead show in Santa Fe, which was only about two hours away and so we planned to stop in and check out the beads. We were overwhelmed by the vast array of colors, textures and varieties. They were made of plastic, metal, stone, coral, wood, pearls and every imaginable thing that could be used on a necklace. Some of the completed projects there by skilled craftsmen were stunning works of art. Ideas swirled through our minds at lightening speed and we filled our bags with beads to make our own masterpieces. Unfortunately we had a 3-year-old in tow (Mary Ann's sweet grandchild) and shopping for beads was slightly difficult because she was also greatly interested and desirous of these colorful beads. We vowed to return with projects, pictures and plans the following year.

Several months ago I started buying bead magazines and researching bead projects from books at our local library. Mary Ann and I would be traveling once again to the fantastic Santa Fe Bead Show but this time we were women on a mission. Both of us had a basic idea of the beads we needed. Mary Ann also loves to needlepoint and even has her own shop in downtown Victoria, so she had several canvases to bejewel and needed to stock up on supplies for her customers. I tend to lean to clay beads or African beads so I looked for patterns knowing Santa Fe would be a great place to shop for these.

I was as excited as a school girl as I walked (or maybe skipped) into the convention center in downtown Santa Fe this past weekend. Serious beaders, those who bead jewelry and other crafts, often tend to look alike. Most of the skilled ones sport some piece they made. They might have a beaded necklace or earrings. Some might have a beaded purse or even a hair barrette but all are very interesting to behold. I might add that Mary Ann, Meggie and I entered the room lacking any sort of jewelry. Meggie is Mary Ann's oldest daughter, lives in Ft. Worth and works for a large commercial real estate company. She is a beautiful young woman with a sparkle in her eye and a zest for living. I am sure she thought, "Oh great! My mom and her middle aged friend think they are going to convince me to start stringing beads." I assured her she would find the show interesting and would leave with a project in hand. We even let our husbands accompany us to the bead show on the first evening. They were excited, attentive and encouraging. That they could pretend to act that way showed us what good husbands they are. Because we planned to return the following day without them, we allowed them to follow us around for an hour or two as we dashed in and out of booths checking out the ones we planned to return to the following day.

I was dancing with delight as I spotted a tomato worm pendant made of blown glass. Most beaders probably did not even recognize that the large glass bead looked just like a full sized bright green tomato worm but Mary Ann and I, both being gardeners, knew that was the artist's inspiration the moment we saw it. I left the booth promising to return to purchase it the following day.

After the preview of the bead show we walked to a local restaurant called the Pink Adobe located near the old historic Loretto Chapel. Everything in Santa Fe is near something old and historic. Our hostess seated us in a small room off the patio at an oblong table for seven. Cindy and Chris were with us on the trip. Their goal was to shop for wedding rings and not to hang out at the bead show. We refer to them as the "nearlyweds" since they are to be married in a few weeks. Most of their attention is focused on each other, and the eating or other activity seems only secondary. That is the way it should be. I excused myself from our group and made my usual restaurant walk to look at the dishes on the other guests' tables. I came back regaling the seafood enchiladas with black beans. These turned out to be a delicious choice but the bread pudding for dessert was perhaps the best I ever had. I promised my companions that I would recreate these dishes with a little help from their cookbook and invite them as my guests.

After sleeping like a kid on Christmas Eve, the next morning after breakfast the women headed to the bead show. We developed plans for those special projects we would each make. I split from my companions and headed for the tomato worm bead. I smiled at the artist and she agreed to put the necklace on a silver chain without charging me. Like a kid with new shoes, I put the necklace on and proudly walked to the next row to shop. Now I felt like a beader. Never mind that I did not make my new find but it was unique. I met up with Mary Ann and Meggie as they were perusing geode beads. We shopped for the next several hours pausing only briefly to eat lunch.

I declared beading to be my new hobby or at least my current obsession. Once we met up with the rest of our traveling companions we proudly displayed our purchases. The beads that filled the small Ziploc bags would become beautiful necklaces as we retreated to their ranch home in the mountains that evening. It was great fun to sit in front of the large fireplace and string beads and talk of the day's adventure. We had to endure a snowstorm on the drive to the house so we were especially happy to have safely arrived.

The next evening, Meggie prepared a standing rib roast which was coated with a garlic crust. She prepared potato coins fried in duck fat, totally decadent, which were sprinkled with sea salt and chives. Cindy made a green chili cornbread to accompany our meal. We sat down to this delicious feast with the new necklaces around our necks. We had become beaders.

I realize that beading may be another passing fad or hobby. I don't plan to give up the other things that fill my free time but it is so fun to learn to do something new. We are never too old, too young, or too busy to learn to create.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or e-mail



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