Award-Winning Articles by Margaret Schindel
27 Purple Star Award Winners and 1 Purple Product Review Award
The Stories Behind the Stars
On February 13, 2014 I received my 27th Purple Star Award for outstanding content for my Romantic "Queen of Hearts" Earrings Project jewelry making tutorial on Squidoo, where most of my online articles were published prior to being moved to HubPages when Squidoo ceased operations.
Receiving a purple star award was a huge honor for any writer who published on Squidoo. I was both proud and grateful each time one of my articles was chosen for this special recognition. Special thanks to Bonnie Diczhazy, Robin Svedi, and Stephanie Mangino. I am extremely honored that you deemed so many of my articles worthy of this coveted badge of excellence.
Each time one of my articles was awarded a prestigious purple star, it only strengthened my commitment to writing and publishing more articles with outstanding content. We all appreciate receiving recognition from knowledgeable and discerning peers when we've accomplished something significant. That's why purple stars were so meaningful.
I'm very proud that 27 of my featured articles on Squidoo were awarded purple stars for excellence, two of which were selected as Squidoo Lens of the Day, and one of which was selected as the Squidoo Purple Product Review of the Day for December 13, 2013.
I'm also extremely excited to have been the "Bangles, Baubles and Beads" Contributor on Squidoo from January 2014 through Squidoo's cessation of operations in October 2014.
What Is a Purple Star Award, You Ask? And Why Was Receiving One Such a Big Honor?
The Squidoo purple star award recognized articles with outstanding content, innovation, engagement, and creativity. The Community Organizers who ran the program saw a LOT of lenses every day, so they knew content that stands out from the crowd when they saw it. There were lots and lots of great articles that didn't make the cut, so earning a purple star for one of yours meant that you'd created a very special lens, indeed.
In fact, this award was so coveted that many Squidoo writers said they would prefer to receive a purple star award than to have an article featured as the Squidoo Lens of the Day (LotD).*
*Source: Poll responses on Norma Budden's lens, Have You Received A Purple Star?
Here's an excerpt from the official SquidTeam page on The Purple Star Program on Squidoo:
Purple Stars are...trophies celebrating authentic, original, fantastic content on Squidoo. They're given out by our editors and community organizers, whenever they find a lens that makes them smile...Bonnie and Robin, your hardworking community champions, will dust standout lenses, both new and old, at any time of the day or night, with purple stars. Masterpiece lenses. Lenses making a name for themselves. Lenses trying new things.
To sum up, if one of your pages received a purple star award, it meant that the discerning purple star fairies thought your article had outstanding content and they were rewarding you "for trying new ideas and modules, for running conversations on your lenses, for standing out from the crowd" in the best way possible.
My First Squidoo Purple Star: Metal Clay - Precious Metal Clay / PMC and Art Clay Silver and Gold - Received a Precious Purple Star Award on February 15, 2011
When I decided to try working with a little-known jewelry making material called precious metal clay in the fall of 2004, relatively few artists were using gold and fine silver metal clay, and they were constantly experimenting to find the best ways to work with it. By early spring in 2006, I had been gathering, organizing, and constantly updating my personal collection of metal clay information and resources for 1½ years. And although some best practices were becoming established, the frequent new discoveries and product developments made it hard for anyone to stay up-to-date. I decided that I could give back to the metal clay community by sharing the knowledge I had accumulated and vetted with metal clay experts. Squidoo was a new publishing platform that seemed tailor-made for my purpose and would allow me to create, share, expand, and update the first comprehensive, central resource for authoritative, reliable, unbiased information about metal clay for interested metal clay artists around the globe.
I kicked off my new metal clay article series on 04/11/2006 with my first Squidoo lens, Metal Clay - Precious Metal Clay / PMC and Art Clay Silver and Gold. It provided a brief overview of precious metal clay followed by categorized links to the very best, most authoritative information and resources I had found in my research about metal clay guilds and organizations, top metal clay artists and teachers, authoritative charts and technical data, metal clay projects, and the best of the books and educational DVDs I had read or watched.
Five years later (shortly after Squidoo's Purple Star Program was opened up to non-Giant Squids) I was thrilled to receive my first purple star award on February 15, 2011 - appropriately enough, for the very first article I had created on the site!
A Great Metal Clay Book for Beginners
Cindy Pankopf has done a terrific job of providing a strong foundation of basic metal clay skills in her book The Absolute Beginners Guide: Making Metal Clay Jewelry: Everything You Need to Know to Get Started along with projects so well designed that even first time metal clay users will be proud to wear them or give them as gifts! The projects start very simply and then gradually build on the prior skills and techniques by adding new ones. Since this book is written for metal clay beginners, the projects are made from fine silver clay (the easiest and most forgiving to work with in many ways) and are fired with a butane torch. By the time you've read this book and made the projects, you'll know whether you want to continue working in metal clay regularly and/or try working with sterling silver clay or the less expensive base metal clays such as copper, bronze and steel, which would require access to, or investing in, a suitable kiln. A terrific introduction to working with metal clay!
Purple Star #2: Metal Clay Textures - Received a Metallic Purple Star Award on April 1, 2011
Within four days of publishing Metal Clay - Precious Metal Clay / PMC and Art Clay Silver and Gold, I published the second, third and fourth articles in my new metal clay series: my list of recommended Metal Clay Tools, Supplies and Equipment (April 14, 2006), an explanation of the different Forms of Metal Clay: Lump, Slip, Syringe and Paper Type Clay and their uses (April 15, 2006), and a comparison of the similarities and differences between the two (at the time) Metal Clay Brands and Formulas: Precious Metal Clay (PMC) and Art Clay Silver and Gold (also April 15, 2006).
That fall I added the fifth and sixth articles in my metal clay series. The first provided a wide variety of methods for Setting Gemstones in Metal Clay both before and after firing (July 2006). Then, after becoming PMC Certified by renowned artist and metal clay pioneer Celie Fago, I created a comprehensive guide on creating Metal Clay Textures (September 2006) that now includes more than four dozen metal clay texturing tips and techniques including carving, molds, texture stamps, tear-away texture sheets, water etching, etched metal texture plates, and many other more unusual methods.
These two articles were even more popular than the first four. On April 1, 2011 I received my second Purple Star Award for my Metal Clay Textures article, which also was featured in the So Crafty magazine article "6 Sensational Ways to Craft with Clay" by Stephanie Mangino who headed up the Squidoo Magazines and in Bonnie Diczhazy's "50 Crafts I Want to Try" monsterboard.
My article on Setting Gemstones in Metal Clay also was awarded a Purple Star in 2013 (but we'll get to that later).
Since then I've significantly expanded my series of metal clay articles, which is now on HubPages and includes 21 articles so far. I'm very proud that 10 years after I started publishing them, my metal clay articles continue to be highly respected. widely used and frequently recommended resources by top metal clay artists, instructors, and students around the world, and that four of the metal clay articles in this series were honored with Squidoo's Purple Star Award for outstanding content.
Read more about how I came to write this series of metal clay articles.
Terrific Books on Intermediate to Advanced Metal Clay Techniques
There are lots of wonderful metal clay books out there for intermediate-to-advanced metal clay artists. Here are just two of my favorites.
The first is a book by my wonderful colleague Lisa Barth. I think it's so terrific that I've written an in-depth book review of "Designing From the Stone: Design Techniques for Bezel Setting Gemstones in Metal Clay". This is really an awesome book that belongs in every metal clay artist's library, so I hope you'll read my review and order Lisa's book. Everyone who's read it will tell you it's fabulous!
The second is Hattie Sanderson's superb book, "Contemporary Metal Clay Rings". Hattie Sanderson is a highly respected metal clay artist and teacher and as the inventor of HattieS brand products (including HattieS Patties fire-in-place shrinkage limiting inserts for ring bands). She is best known for her incredibly detailed, intricate silver clay rings. Now Hattie shares her methods for creating durable, beautiful, ornately embellished metal clay rings. Hattie is a superb teacher and this book is the next best thing to taking a master class in metal clay ring making with her!
Purple Star #3 & Lens of the Day: How to Paint and Embellish Your Shoes for Fabulous, Fun and Frugal Fashion Footwear! Received a Fashionable Purple Star Award
In April 2012 I was invited to participate in the Squidcademy Awards quest, an exclusive, by-invitation-only quest for Squidoo's top writers.The introduction to this quest read as follows:
- "We've rolled out the red carpet to you, one of our very best lensmasters, to challenge you to create a show-stopping award-worthy lens...As a top lensmaster, we know you create outstanding content rich lenses... lenses that demand to be read... lenses that we're proud to showcase... lenses that serve as prime examples for our newest lensmasters. That's why we're challenging you to make what could very well become the best lens of your lensmaking career."
I love writing how-to articles, so I decided to use this quest as an opportunity to teach myself something I had wanted to learn anyway—how to paint leather shoes so that the paint didn't crack or peel and the results looked professional rather than amateurish—and to share my personal learning experience with the shoe painting process.
I documented every step of the process in words and photos as I transformed an extremely comfy but old and dowdy pair of beige leather comfort sandals, taking them from boring to bling with the help of the wonderful book Sassy Feet! Paint, Embellish and LOVE Your Shoes (and Bags)! by Margot Silk Forrest and Destiny Carter and their Sassy Feet site and companion blog Glitter Sweatshop. The resulting DIY project article, How to Paint Leather Shoes and Embellish Them for Custom Fashion Footwear, is a step-by-step tutorial on the best way to paint leather shoes and handbags (or manmade leather shoes and handbags) as well as a photo journal of my first shoe painting experience...including my mistakes and lessons learned.
Shortly after I submitted it for the Squidcademy Awards quest, this article was awarded a puple star for outstanding content, selected as the Squidoo Lens of the Day (LOTD) for May 7, 2012 and featured on the Squidoo home page for two weeks. It also was featured in Squidoo Community Organizer Bonnie Diczhazy's post on Turning Your Expertise Into a Useful Lens on May 24, 2012, picked for the 50 Creative Upcycling/Recycling Lenses MonsterBoard on May 25, 2012, and hand picked by Bonnie as one of her Bravo Squidoo - 200+ Lenses We Love feature on June 28, 2013.
Sassy Feet - The BEST Book on Shoe Painting and Embellishing Techniques!
When I was researching the best techniques for painting leather shoes so that I could resuscitate my very old, very boring beige comfort sandals, the book Sassy Feet was by far the most authoritative resource I found.
Margot Silk Forrest and Destiny Carter explain in detail how to transform any type of footwear you can imagine into fun, fabulous and fashionable wearable art using paint, sequins, glitter, buttons, trim and other embellishments. Best of all, anyone can get professional results by using their methods!
I Earned My "Angel Wings" on 5/22/12
I Blessed More Than 500 Deserving Articles Before the Program Was Retired
I like to think that the three purple star awards and one lens of the day that I had earned by that time helped me earn my Squid Angel wings by demonstrating that I understood what type of content Squidoo considered great.
I loved having the ability to bless terrific articles and give extra praise and encouragement to the talented writers who created them. I'm deeply grateful for the blessings and supportive feedback I've received from other Squid Angels and Giant Squids and it felt great to be able to pay it forward until the program was retired in May, 2013.
Purple Star #4: Top 10 Beach Vacation Tips - Received a Sunny Purple Star Award on May 29, 2012
I created my article on the Top 10 Beach Vacation Tips for the May 2012 Weekend at the Beach lensmaking challenge that invited writers to create a beach-themed article over the Memorial Day weekend.
I put a lot of thought into which tips would be the most helpful, and included important but often overlooked things like first-aid kits, how to swim out of a rip current/rip tide, and planning for bad weather, as well as practical tips for choosing the best beach totes and chairs, and the most important tip of all, maintaining a positive attitude, so that you can enjoy your beach vacation even if things don't go exactly as planned.
I'm very honored that this article was awarded a Purple Star on May 29th and featured in the 35 Awesome "My Summer Vacation" Lenses MonsterBoard, the 25 "Best of the Beach" Lenses MonsterBoard, and the "Weekend at the Beach" MonsterBoard.
This Beach Survival Guide Could Save Your Life! Don't Go to the Beach Without It.
Did You Receive Any Purple Star Awards?
Purple stars are difficult to earn, which is why receiving one is such a special honor. If you earned any, congratulations! That's a major achievement to be proud of.
How many purple star lenses have you published?
Purple Star #5: Top 10 Nail Polish Colors and Trends - Received a Trendy Purple Star Award on July 6, 2012
At the beginning of 2012 I started experimenting with bolder, more trendy nail polish colors as an easy, inexpensive way to update my look - one small part of a much larger effort to shake up my comfortable routine and start experimenting more.The range of nail polish colors on the market had expanded into previously unthinkable shades and special effects and for a long time I dismissed it as a teen fad. But then I started dipping my toes - or, more accurately, my fingertips - into a little nail art. Nothing wild, mind you! Just a little white lace pattern stenciled on the tips over sheer pink polish. It was quite pretty and fairly subtle. I loved it!
Encouraged, I tried a sheer glitter top coat next, and then metallic gold. This felt quite daring at the time, and my fear that strangers might stare, smirk, or whisper behind their hands at the sight of "a woman of a certain age" wearing such bold nail polish was unfounded. Then again, my nail polish shades really weren't all that bold in comparison to the neon colors, vivid blues, greens, purples and yellows, metallic green-golds, patterned metallic designs and color shifting shades that were so popular that spring and summer.
I was extremely surprised by how much I was enjoying this seemingly insignificant expression of individuality and creativity. Then I realized that it has taken on a much greater significance than just experimenting with bolder nail polish colors. It was a visible and very personal symbol of my commitment to try more new things, take more risks, have more fun, and take better care of myself.
The classic, conservative nail polish colors I had worn for most of my life (when I wore polish at all) - pale pink, peach and mauve shades for warm weather, mauve or berry in the fall and winter, and red for some formal occasions - were now joined by aqua, teal, bright and burnished golds, and color shifting special effects polishes. I loved feeling like a kid with a huge, brand new box of crayons!
I decided to write about all the fabulous nail polish colors for spring and summer 2012 in the hope that it might encourage others to step out of their comfort zone and try a manicure in a fun color they might never have considered otherwise. I put a huge amount of work into making it fun, authoritative, entertaining, and colorful, and I was really pleased with the way it turned out. I was thrilled when Top 10 Nail Polish Colors for Summer" was awarded a purple star on July 6th and featured not only on the Best of Squidoo: Summer Fashion and Beauty 2012 MonsterBoard but also in a Purple Star Featured Lensmaster Spotlight post by Robin Svedi. And I certainly never dreamed that it would become my top-ranking and top-earning page on the site!
This article has evolved over time into the Top 10 Nail Polish Colors and Trends and has been updated with new manicure colors and trends for all seasons.
Purple Star #6: Lampwork Glass Beads, Sculptures and Blown Glass Art Installations - Received a Translucent Purple Star Award on July 9, 2012
I have been in love with art glass (AKA glass art) ever since I was a little girl and saw the first strands of shimmering Murano glass beads my mom brought back with her from a trip to Venice, Italy with my dad. When I married for the second time, while my husband and I were honeymooning in Florence and visiting the surrounding towns and villages of Tuscany we also had the privilege of studying lampwork glass bead making with renowned glass artist and teacher Kristina Logan. In later years I began collecting "inhabited planets" and "possibly inhabited planets" by world-renowned glass artist Josh Simpson, thoroughly modern fantasy world created with ancient traditional Venetian glass techniques. Later I was introduced to the breathtaking glass chandeliers and huge yet delicate glass sculpture installations of master glass artist Dale Chihuly.
So when the topic for the SquidWoot Week 1 challenge was announced as "something that melts" I knew right away that I wanted to write about hot glass techniques. Although I didn't win the challenge, I was elated when my submission, Lampwork Glass Beads, Sculptures and Blown Glass Art Installations, was given a Purple Star Award on July 9, 2012 just a couple of hours after I published it!
I Became a Giant Squid on 7/13/12
I had achieved one of the prerequisites for applying to become a Giant Squid - publishing an "About Me" lensography, Margaret Schindel (AKA MSchindel on Squidoo) - on June 18, 2012. I had been working up the courage to apply for Giant Squid status for many months, and after earning my sixth purple star award on July 9, 2012, I finally had enough confidence that more than 25 of my articles could be considered "great" and I submitted my application. So the next day, July 10th, I submitted my application to become a Giant Squid (Level 25).
If you heard a very joyful noise on July 13th, 2012 it may well have been me singing, whooping and doing the happy dance when I found out I had been accepted into the Giant Squids Club. WOOT!
Purple Star #7: How to Make Polymer Clay Mokume Gane Cabochons for Jewelry - Received a Patterned Purple Star Award on July 16, 2012
July's SquidWoot Week 2 Challenge topic was to make a lens on "How to _____". I love writing tutorials so this was right up my alley! I decided to write a tutorial for a crafts project that was fairly easy to do, used inexpensive and widely available craft materials, and produced elegant, professional results that looked nothing like the typical easy-to-do crafts project.
One of the things that first attracted me to polymer clay was the mokume gane technique, which was inspired by an extremely difficult 17th-century metalworking technique for adorning the swords of Japanese samurai warriors. The polymer clay mokume gane technique is not difficult and even beginners are able to achieve beautiful, sophisticated looking results. Since so many of my articles were about how to make jewelry I decided to write my step-by-step tutorial for the SquidWoot Week 2 Challenge, How to Make Polymer Clay Mokume Gane Cabochons for Jewelry, about not only the polymer clay mokume gane technique itself but also how to apply it to making faux gemstone cabochons that can be incorporated into jewelry making projects.
This polymer clay tutorial was awarded a Purple Star on July 16, 2012, and to my great surprise and delight, bloomingrose featured it on her own wonderful page, "Squidoo Lenses I Wish I Had Written." I am proud and very grateful for both those honors!
Learn Easy Techniques for Creating Fabulous Polymer Clay Mokume Gane Jewelry in Unique Patterns and Custom Colors!
Julie Picarello is an incredibly talented polymer clay artist known for her bold, striking mokume gane patterns. While many polymer clay artists and tutorials focus primarily on how to create translucent mokume gane veneers that yield unpredictable patterns, in her book Patterns in Polymer: Imprint and Accent Bead Techniques Julie shows us her techniques for engineering specific patterns in high contrast colors of opaque polymer clay.
She also shares some of her custom color blends and techniques for creating your own custom polymer clay shades to make your pieces truly distinctive. Highly recommended for polymer clay artists at all levels of experience!
Purple Star #8: Make Fabulous Vintage Inspired Jewelry with Authentic Vintage Beads and Jewelry Supplies! - Received a Bejeweled Purple Star Award on September
In the 1990s I began collecting vintage beads and jewelry components, learned beaded jewelry making techniques, and started my own one-of-a-kind and custom beaded jewelry business, Polished & Put-Together. Most of my jewelry designs for P&PT include vintage beads, vintage components and/or vintage jewelry making techniques. The bridal jewelry set shown above, which includes a pearl necklace, earrings and bracelet with bead-embroidered brass filigree focal points on the necklace and bracelet, is an example of a custom jewelry piece I designed for a bride in Scotland that I created using a combination of vintage and contemporary pearls, reproduction vintage filigrees, contemporary earring findings, and a vintage jewelry construction technique.
When I started researching sources for vintage jewelry supplies I quickly discovered that very few jewelry designers who work with vintage beads and components are willing to divulge their sources. Given that vintage beads and jewelry components by their very nature are in dwindling supply, I could understand their reticence, but I decided that when I eventually managed to suss out the best sources of vintage beads and other vintage jewelry making supplies I wouldn't try to keep all of them a secret (okay...maybe just one or two!) so that other jewelry artists wouldn't have to spend the same frustrating years' worth of research and effort to find great places to buy vintage beads and jewelry making supplies.
So I decided to share some of my very best sources for vintage beads, stones, filigrees, stampings and other vintage and reproduction vintage jewelry supplies as well as great jewelry making tutorials and tips to help others get started making their own vintage-inspired jewelry (or contemporary jewelry with vintage beads and components). The resulting article, Make Fabulous Vintage Inspired Jewelry with Authentic Vintage Beads and Jewelry Supplies!, also included photos of many of my own one-of-a-kind and custom beaded jewelry designs as inspirational "eye candy" to show some of the ways that vintage beads, stones, and other vintage components can be incorporated into jewelry.
I was doubly honored that in addition to being awarded a Purple Star for this article on September 7, 2012, writer Rose Jones (bloomingrose) also featured it in "Squidoo Lenses I Wish I Had Written."
Purple Star #9: Top 10 Gifts for Business Travelers - Received a Globetrotting Purple Star Award on October 29, 2012
When I worked in the corporate world several of my positions involved frequent business travel. I am very familiar with its challenges and how much more challenging traveling on business has become over the past 30 years.
The dramatic increase in oil prices and the severe global economic recession of the 1980s brought and end to the days of first class business travel, luxury hotels and unlimited expense accounts for anyone other that top executives at major corporations. The airlines pulled out their comfortable, wide seats and ample legroom and replaced them with smaller, narrower, less cushioned seats that barely recline and are packed in as densely as possible with minimal legroom. With the advent of the "mobile office" today's business travelers are expected to work throughout the trip. And since 9/11 increased security measures have made business travel more stressful and challenging than ever.
So when I thought about what niche to choose for the "What's the Best Travel Gift?" quest in October 2012, I felt that frequent business travelers, even more than leisure travelers, would appreciate gifts to help improve the quality of their travel experiences. I created a niche gift guide, Top 10 Gifts for Business Travelers, that focused on the best travel gifts for reducing the stress and discomfort of business travel and improving the traveler's productivity and efficiency.
I was delighted to receive a purple star award for this gift guide on October 29, 2012.
Purple Star #10 (and My 2nd LOTD!): Pumpkin Whoopie Pies - Delicious Thanksgiving Desserts and Sweet Fall Treats - Received a Sweet Purple Star Award on October
In tandem with the launch of the new Happy Halloween magazine on Squidoo, Bonnie invited writers to sign up for the Halloween Club to participate in a series of eight weekly Halloween-themed during September and October 2012. The last quest in the series, at the end of October (Week 8) was the Pumpkins Galore SquidQuest.
I wanted to come up with an unusual angle that would stand out from the likely submissions about jack o'lantern ideas, popular Halloween party foods, and Halloween-themed craft projects. I had published an article on The Best Whoopie Pie Pans for Making Homemade Whoopie Pies on September 15, 2012, and during my research I had discovered that Amy Bouchard, the woman who owned Wicked Whoopies (quite possibly the best whoopie pies on the planet), had shared her recipe for pumpkin whoopie pies on a local Maine television station. I always had admired her success story (she started her whoopie pie business out of her home kitchen and over the past 20 years turned it into a wildly successful and profitable $2.5 million company that has had a huge positive impact on Maine's economy, has continued to create new jobs even during times when most businesses were laying off large numbers of employees, and has been a collaborative labor of love for Amy, her husband David and their two children.
I created Pumpkin Whoopie Pies - Delicious Halloween and Fall Treats! as my submission for the Pumpkins Galore quest. It not only featured Amy's delicious Pumpkin Whoopie Pies recipe (which I revised with clearer, more detailed instructions and my own baking tips to ensure success) but also allowed me to share her heartwarming and inspiring success story as well as lots of fun whoopie pie history, facts, and lore. I worked literally day and night researching Amy Bouchard's story to uncover the hard-to-find details that would allow me to do justice to her extraordinary accomplishments. By the time I published my article I was exhausted but really proud of what I had created.
I was delighted to discover that my Pumpkin Whoopie Pies article was being featured on the Pumpkins Galore MonsterBoard and positively thrilled when it was awarded a purple star on October 26, 2012. And you could have knocked me over with a feather three days later when I found out that it has been chosen as the Lens of the Day for October 29, 2012! It was rare for two articles by the same author to be chosen as Lens of the Day in the same year, and this wonderful honor took me completely by surprise. I was walking on air!
Purple Star #11: Afternoon Tea - Low Tea vs. High Tea: Delicious Recipes and Elegant Ideas for a Delightful British Custom! Received a Purple Star on 1/26/13
I kicked off 2013 by creating my submission for the January Food Club Quest, Afternoon Tea - Low Tea vs. High Tea: Delicious Recipes and Elegant Ideas for a Delightful British Custom!, after researching January food holidays and learning that January is National Hot Tea Month.
When I was in my twenties and thirties and living in Manhattan, one of my favorite treats was to enjoy an elegant, three-course afternoon tea at one of the fancy New York hotels that served it, such as the Plaza Hotel, the Ritz Hotel or the lovely Stanhope Hotel on Fifth Avenue (which, sadly, is long gone). I loved everything about it, from the exquisite, dainty and delectable food, the formal table linens, china, silver and crystal, the fresh flowers, the well-trained waiters and the beautifully played live piano or chamber music. I've always enjoyed cooking, baking and entertaining, so I started serving afternoon tea with all the trimmings to my friends and family. I learned the proper way to brew a flavorful pot of English tea, tried out lots of different recipes and came up with some of my own (including a recipe for positively addictive ginger-raspberry scones), researched the best tasting jams according to Cook's Illustrated and added to my collection of classical music recordings to serve as background music for my afternoon tea parties. When I decided to write an article about this delightful and traditional British custom, I also researched the history and lore surrounding this beloved ritual and how it has changed over the centuries.
In my article I've shared some of the most interesting facts I uncovered along with my favorite afternoon tea recipes, tips, and recommendations for serving a simple cream tea with scones, clotted cream and jam to a full, three-course afternoon tea for an engagement, wedding or birthday celebration or other special occasion. I invested a great deal of time, energy and heart into developing this article for which I received my eleventh Purple Star Award on January 26, 2013.
Delicious Recipes and Lovely Chamber Music for Afternoon Tea
Amazon reviewers agree that this book lives up to its name, with 256 pages jam-packed with delicious recipes and stunning photos! Recipes are written in both Imperial and American measurements.
Tip: Oven temperatures have been converted from Celsius to Fahrenheit; round them to the nearest 25 degrees Fahrenheit.
I Became a RocketSquid Mentor on 1/30/13
The RocketSquids program was a combination intensive training bootcamp and supportive coaching community for promising new lensmasters who wanted to master the basics of creating terrific content on the site as quickly as possible.
Every week, the official team members who ran the program, which eventually was headed up by Susan Deppner, provided daily lessons with valuable tips and insights into what made new content on the site great. RocketSquids also participated in weekly writing challenges and received helpful feedback and support from the RocketSquid Mentors / Greeters. This fabulous program also was a community where aspiring content creators on the site had a chance to meet one another.
I was a RocketSquid Mentor between January 2013 and January 2014 and provided feedback, help and encouragement to the program participants. I gave up that role in order to focus on my new role as Squidoo's "Bangles, Baubles and Beads" Contributor.
Purple Star #12: Purple Star Lenses by MSchindel AKA Margaret Schindel - The Stories Behind the Stars - Received an Amethyst Purple Star Award on February 7, 20
Purple Star...Chinese Bellflower. Platycodon Grandiflorus
I published this article about my purple star award-winning articles on February 6, 2013. I've seen very few themed lensographies that have been awarded purple stars, so when this one was honored with its own shiny new purple star the very next day I was truly surprised and extremely proud. In fact, I was over the moon about receiving my 12th purple star award.
Purple Star #13: Polymer Clay Flower Tutorial - Fantasy Flower Jewelry - Received a Flowery Purple Star Award on February 11, 2013
Polymer clay fantasy flower brooch designed, created and photographed by Margaret Schindel
At the beginning of February 2013, Squidoo HQ rolled out a new "IMMINENT!" weekly quest for Giant Squids. Bonnie chose her favorite 15 submissions for each week's quest to win a cool Squidoo Pirate Trophy and a raffle ticket for a drawing in December, 2013, with the raffle winner choosing one of four fabulous "dream" prize packages. Sometimes Bonnie also handed out a prize or two from her "Treasure Chest" of goodies.
The first week's IMMINENT! challenge topic was "Think Spring". Here in Boston it was bitter cold, gray and gloomy with no evidence of Spring in sight, so it was a bit hard to get inspired. So I decided to create a polymer clay flower jewelry project to help bring some cheerful Spring color and warmth to my online visitors a little early. For the first few IMMINENT! quests, there was another catch - our articles could be submitted through the deadline at the end of the week OR until Bonnie had chosen 15 high-quality submissions...WHICHEVER CAME FIRST! There was no way to know when the submissions would be cut off until after it happened. The submission window closed just as I was submitting my article for the quest, so it wasn't in time to be one of the first 15 chosen for the IMMINENT! Think Spring Highlight Reel. However, my Polymer Clay Flower Tutorial - Fantasy Flower Jewelry article was honored with a Purple Star on February 11, 2013 and I was one of two participants who were given a wonderful surprise gift from the "Treasure Chest" - in my case, the Step 2 Garden Hopper Mobile Garden Stool and Storage.
Purple Star #14: Joni Mitchell - A Woman of Heart and Mind - Received a Melodious Purple Star Award on February 15, 2013
I fell in love with Joni Mitchell's music when I was in high school and must have played her Bluealbum a thousand times. I was an amateur singer and songwriter in high school and a paid one throughout my college years, and Joni was my idol. I could replicate her vocal sound very closely and frequently performed her music at coffee houses and clubs. I also used the radio station recording facilities at college to record myself singing some of her songs and overdubbing harmonies (for my own pleasure, not for sale).
Each time Joni Mitchell made a new album I fell in love with her music all over again. Throughout her career she has continued to explore and push her creative boundaries, and each of her albums has had a definite and fresh point of view and taken her musicianship to even greater heights. She has collaborated with some of the best musicians in the world, and those collaborations have produced some amazing music, although I think I love her solo work even more. It's no wonder I was moved to pour my heart and soul into my tribute to her, Joni Mitchell A Woman of Heart and Mind.
I was honored to receive a purple star award for this article on February 15, 2013.
Purple Star #15: Top 10 Chocolate Dessert Recipes for the Most Decadent Chocolate Desserts - Received a Decadent Purple Star Award on February 26, 2013
I put together a collection of 10 of my favorite chocolate dessert recipes that are guaranteed to produce oohs and ahhhs from anyone lucky enough to taste them. I guess my passion and enthusiasm for these treats must have resonated with some of the folks at Squidoo HQ, who awarded me a shiny new purple star for Top 10 Chocolate Dessert Recipes for the Most Decadent Chocolate Desserts in February, 2013.
An Amazing Chocolate Desserts Cookbook for my Fellow Chocoholics
"First Lady of Chocolate" and founder of Cocolat chocolatiers Alice Medrich has completely revised her 2003 award-winning cookbook Bittersweet. The recipes are simply divine and a chocolate lover's paradise!
Purple Star #16: Setting Gemstones in Metal Clay - Received a Faceted Purple Star Award on April 4, 2013
Fine silver earrings by Margaret Schindel, made from PMC silver metal clay, textured with tear-away textures, embellished with lab sapphire cabochon gemstones in metal clay settings and 24k gold keum-boo accents.
This was one of the first metal clay articles I wrote on Squidoo and always has been one of my favorites. One of the many advantages of using metal clay for jewelry making is the ease and variety of ways of setting gemstones in precious metal (and bronze, copper, and other base metals as well). Metal clay artists from all over the world have told me how useful it is. Even so, it spent many years envying my other purple star lenses and wondering why it had been passed over when those violet badges of excellence were being handed out.
So you can imagine how stunned and overjoyed I was to discover that Setting Gemstones in Metal Clay finally had been awarded that longed-for purple star on April 4, 2013 - seven years after I first published it!
Purple Star #17: Claymation - Stop Motion Animation with Modeling Clay Characters - Received a Plasticine Purple Star Award on April 4, 2013
I grew up watching Gumby and Pokey and have been a sucker for stop motion animation using clay models ever since. When Will Vinton came out with his distinctive style of clay animation that he branded Claymation, we all were getting down with the dancing California Raisins. And I simply lost my heart (and my funny bone) to Wallace and Gromit.
I had been wanting to learn more about how the magic was made for quite some time, and when I finally got around to educating myself about it I decided to share both some of the mechanics and, mostly, some of my favorite clay animated characters and movies with my Squidoo readers.
I was delighted when Claymation - Stop Motion Animation with Modeling Clay Characters was awarded a purple star on April 4, 2013.
Purple Star #18: Create a Luxurious, Romantic Bubble Bath Spa Experience (with Candlelight and a Glass of Bubbly)! - Received a Frothy Purple Star Award on Apri
You probably can tell by my love of decadent chocolate desserts and food in general that I'm a bit of a hedonist at heart. So when Squidoo issued a challenge to write a great article about a wacky January holiday and I discovered that January was National Bubble Bath Day here in the US, I decided to write a guide to creating the perfect bubble bath experience in 10 easy steps. After all, who would love a wonderfully relaxing and sensual pleasure that is neither expensive, illegal, immoral, or fattening?
I published it in January 2012 and was delighted when it was adorned with a beautiful purple star on April 10, 2013.
Purple Star #19: Healthy Vegetable Soup Recipe with Cannellini Beans and Chicken Sausage - My New Favorite Lunch!
Received a Nutritious Purple Star Award on June 17, 2013
As you probably can tell by now, I have a tremendous sweet tooth and love both making and eating wonderful desserts. I also tend to become extremely focused when I'm working - especially when I'm writing - and usually end up grabbing whatever seems quickest and easiest for lunch.
Eventually I realized I needed to figure out something I could make in advance for a grab-and-go healthy lunch that also tasted good enough that I would want to eat it at least a few times a week. After researching some recipes, I found one by Ellie Krieger that sounded pretty good, and as usual I tinkered with it a bit to come up with my own version tweaked to my taste and nutrition preferences. I've been making it in large quantities and then refrigerating and freezing it in individual portions so I can just grab a container and warm it up in the microwave for a delicious, nutritious, healthy lunch.
I thought other people also might be looking for a tasty, nutritious, healthy lunch that can be made ahead and just reheated, so I decided to share my Healthy Vegetable Soup Recipe with Cannellini Beans and Chicken Sausage. I was delighted to find that it struck a chord with many others and that Squidoo awarded it a purple star on June 17, 2013.
Photos of my prepared Healthy Vegetable Soup Recipe with Cannellini Beans and Chicken SausageClick thumbnail to view full-size
Purple Star #20: The Best Dark Chocolate Fondue Recipe for Dark Chocolate Lovers - Received a Chocoholic Purple Star Award on July 4, 2013
I started making chocolate fondue way back in my college days. We weren't allowed to use electric cooking appliances in our dorm rooms, but we were allowed to use them in the communal kitchen in one of the administrative buildings. So when I wanted to make a meal to impress a guy, I would head to that kitchen and make a broiled marinated flank steak with tomatoes provencales, creamy wild rice pilaf, and then use my trusty electric fondue pot to prepare a luscious chocolate fondue with pyramid-shaped bars of Toblerone Swiss milk chocolate (which contains bits of nougat and a touch of honey). This tried-and-true meal never failed to impress, and later I started adding a little cognac to enhance the richness of the chocolate (and boy, does it!). I still make it to this day for my husband.
A few years ago I decided to try making my chocolate fondue recipe with dark chocolate Toblerone bars (and cognac, of course). It turned out to be divine. The recipe also is delicious made with white chocolate Toblerone bars, although I usually substitute Chambord black raspberry liqueur or Cointreau orange liqueur for the cognac when I'm using white chocolate. It's mouthwatering in any of its variations.
I decided it was time to share my dark chocolate fondue recipe with honey and cognac, along with great ideas for dipping tidbits to serve with it and some fun fondue traditions and customs that make throwing (or attending) a fondue party a blast. I had an extra reason to celebrate the 4th of July in 2013 when I discovered that my recipe article was awarded a yummy purple star!
The Best, Most Versatile Electric Fondue Pot / Fondue Set You Can Buy
For Chocolate Fondue, Cheese, Broth or Oil Fondue or Tempura
This brushed stainless steel electric fondue pot set is great for making any type of fondue — chocolate fondue, cheese fondue, broth fondue or oil fondue — as well as tempura, which basically is an oil fondue with batter-dipped vegetables.
The Cuisinart CFO-1000 Lazy Susan Electric Fondue Maker comes with a large, 3-quart, brushed stainless steel fondue pot bowl with a nonstick interior and a glass lid, 8 fondue forks with color-coded handle tips, a fork ring to hold the fondue forks steady in the pot, and a removable, rotating Lazy Susan ring with 4 detachable cups to hold the various items to be dipped into the fondue. The 1000-watt heating element and adjustable thermostat let you keep chocolate or cheese fondue warm without burning or heat up broth or oil to a simmer quickly and keep it there. Another great feature is that everything except the thermostat and power cord are dishwasher safe. You can use this fondue set to make my dark chocolate fondue recipe, your own favorite fondue recipe, or one from the great fondue recipe booklet that comes with this set.
Purple Star #21: Enjoy "Dairy" on a Vegan, Dairy-Free, Soy-Free, Heart-Healthy Diet with Vegan Cashew Cream Recipes! - Awarded a purple star on 9/15/13
My husband and I have been trying to limit the amount of animal fat and bad cholesterol in our day-to-day diets so we can enjoy a truly indulgent meal or dessert from time to time without wreaking havoc with our health. We also both love dairy products, and even though we drink skim milk and I often bake with almond milk, it's hard to justify indulging in dairy products that are high in saturated fat, like heavy cream, whipped cream, cream cheese and ricotta cheese. There are lower-fat substitutes, but many of them contain chemicals we can't pronounce and would rather not ingest, and in general they don't offer much in the way of good nutrition.
That's why I got so excited when I discovered that raw, unsalted cashews soaked in cold water could be liquefied into dairy substitutes that not only are tasty but also are much more heart-healthy than their dairy counterparts and that also pack a powerful nutrition punch. When I calculated side-by-side nutritional comparisons of heavy cream, whipped cream, cream cheese and ricotta cheese and their cashew cream counterparts, I was absolutely stunned.
I shared my detailed nutritional research into these soy-free, dairy-free, heart-healthy dairy substitutes and the best vegan cashew cream recipes I found and was extremely happy to have been awarded a purple star for my article on September 15, 2013.
Purple Star #22: The Best Gazpacho Recipe You've Ever Tasted - Received a "souper" purple star award on September 15, 2013
Photo of my delicious gazpacho soup with garnishes of light sour cream and homemade cornbread, prepared and photographed by Margaret Schindel, all rights reserved.
I've been making my version of chilled gazpacho soup for several decades. Everyone loves it, but since I didn't use a recipe each batch was a bit different. Finally I decided to write down the quantity of each ingredient and the types and amounts of seasonings I put into my next couple of batches and to refine the ingredient proportions and seasonings. This allowed me to create a repeatable, dependable recipe for my delicious, healthy, refreshing, cold gazpacho soup.
I knew I would want to share the recipe once I had quantified the measurements, so I took some photos while I was working out the quantities and seasonings. I published the resulting yummy gazpacho recipe on September 15, 2013. I was over the moon when it received a shiny purple star award the very same day it was published.
Purple Star #23: My Book Review of Sassy Feet: Paint, Embellish and LOVE Your Shoes (and Bags)! - Awarded a sassy purple star on September 25, 2013
The photo above shows my personal copy of "Sassy Feet: Paint, Embellish and LOVE Your Shoes (and Bags)!".
When I saw the challenge Try a Crafty Hobby Book Review Quest in Septmber 2013, I knew immediately that I wanted to write an in-depth book review of Sassy Feet: Paint, Embellish and LOVE Your Shoes (and Bags)!, the awesome book that had guided me through my successful "bling" makeover of my tired old comfort sandals (see Purple Star Lens #3, which also had been featured as the Lens of the Day / LOTD for May 7, 2012).
When the winners of her challenge were announced, Jennabee25 explained how she chose the crafty hobby book reviews to be awarded purple star honors from among all those submitted: "The ones that I chose all stood out because of the depth of content, photos, and general creativity of the way their topics were displayed. I also chose the ones that I felt I myself could learn from." I was overjoyed on September 25, 2013 when I discovered that she had chosen my detailed book review of Sassy Feet: Paint, Embellish and LOVE Your Shoes (and Bags)! as one of only five Crafty Hobby Book Reviews to be awarded a purple star.
Purple Star #24: Creepy, Crawly, Gory, Ghoulish, Spooky, Scary Halloween Dessert Recipes - Awarded a spooky purple star on September 30, 2013
Photo credit: HungryHappenings.com, used with permission.
As Halloween approached I was intrigued by some of the really clever, inventive, fun and sometimes creepy scary Halloween desserts recipes I was seeing, mostly from really talented and creative food bloggers. I really wanted to share the best of the best scary Halloween desserts I had found, since I knew that a lot of people would be planning Halloween parties and would appreciate these terrific scary Halloween recipes for sweet treats. Besides, I was anxious to introduce more people to these fantastic bloggers and their blogs.
But just trying to describe the desserts and provide links without any photos of these Halloween desserts would give readers little incentive to check out these fabulous recipes on the blogs. I wasn't sure whether the three food bloggers who had published the photos to 9 of my 10 favorite scary Halloween desserts would want to let my use their amazing photos, but I nervously contacted Beth Jackson Klosterboer from the Hungry Happenings blog, Jamieanne from the Sweetest Kitchen blog, and Meaghan Mountford from The Decorated Cookie blog to ask their permission to share their photos in my "best of" scary Halloween dessert recipes article. They couldn't have been more gracious, and I was thrilled when all three of them gave me their permission to use their photos in my article on the best scary Halloween dessert recipes, along with a video of Chef Duff Goldman of Ace of Cakes bakery fame making his Eyeball Cupcakes. I was even more delighted when my article was awarded a purple star on September 30, 2013!
My Review of the Wilton Portable Cake Caddy Was the Purple Product Review of the Day for December 13, 2013
Whether you bake them yourself or buy them from a bakery, iced and/or decorated cakes are a real challenge to carry and store easily and safely. It's very difficult to cover an iced cake and keep it fresh without ruining the frosting or decorations, and even harder to transport it to a party, school, office, etc.
The Wilton Portable Cake Caddy lets you store and carry cakes securely. I wrote a review of it and was delighted when it was selected as the Purple Product Review of the Day for December 13, 2013.
Note: I have since found a cake caddy that I like even better, and I may review it in the future. In the interim, I have taken down my review of this caddy.
Purple Star #25: I'm the "Bangles, Baubles and Beads" Contributor on Squidoo
Adorned with a glitzy purple star award on January 14, 2014
I can't tell you how thrilled I was to be among the first writers to become an official Squidoo Contributor when the new program launched in January 2014! I became the Squidoo Contributor for "Bangles, Baubles and Beads". I shared jewelry making techniques, tips and tutorials, of course, and also cultivated a community of other jewelry making fans — beginner, intermediate and experienced jewelry makers — who wanted to share their own experience, expertise, projects and reviews of jewelry making books, tools, storage, and other products. I also launched my Jewelry Making Techniques blog.
I was delighted that my "Bangles, Baubles and Beads" Contributor bio / profile page was awarded a shiny purple star - my 25th!
Purple Star #26: Forms of Metal Clay: Lump, Powder, Slip, Syringe and Paper Type Clay - Awarded a crafty purple star on January 17, 2014
Photo of various forms of gold and silver metal clay by Margaret Schindel
One of the metal clay articlesI wrote early on in my series was about the different forms of metal clay. When I originally published this article there were only four forms of metal clay: Lump clay, slip or paste, syringe, and paper type. As metal clay powder became more popular and widely available and more manufacturers started offering metal clay formulas in powdered form, I added information about this fifth form of metal clay.
I was very happy when this article on Forms of Metal Clay: Lump, Powder, Slip, Syringe and Paper Type Clay was selected for purple star honors on January 17, 2014.
Purple Star #27: Romantic "Queen of Hearts" Earrings Project - Awarded a regal purple star on February 13, 2014
One of my goals as the "Bangles, Baubles and Beads" Contributor was to publish a growing library of jewelry making projects with step-by-step tutorials. I wanted to start with a sophisticated design that used basic jewelry making techniques that even beginners can make successfully.
So in honor of Valentine's Day 2014 I designed a pair of elegant drop earrings featuring a striking yet classic red, white and black color palette with red heart shaped beads and jointed dangles for lots of movement when the earrings are worn. Then I wrote a detailed step-by-step tutorial for my Romantic "Queen of Hearts" Earrings with lots of close-up process photos and professional jewelry making tips to ensure that even jewelry making newbies can make them successfully and wear or give them with pride.