I was encouraged to contact Diane Fitzgerald herself and with some trepidation I did just that! I was pleasantly surprised to receive a VERY gracious email reply from Diane shortly after sending the email. What a lovely lady! I sent Diane the photos of my initial attempts and her suggestions have to do with using the actual thread she recommends (I have not been doing that) AND playing a little with the tension to get the desired effect.
Well I sure wish I'd more time to devote to this, but I've done what I can and have not yet achieved success. Attempt #4 was going well until the first layer was mostly complete and ... one of the beads on the base row broke!! Can you believe it? In an attempt to keep the initial tension tight, I overdid it. My balloon burst and of course that was the end of that. I don't think I've ever worked as hard to achieve an outcome as I have with this, but I AM determined to master the pattern.
I DO need to shop for some more delicas, and make sure I am using the PERFECT thread -- so after the weekend I'll take up the needle again and give this lovely pattern another go!