Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Experimenting

I've got a rather large number of silver-lined, bright green beads that are either of Chinese manufacture, or Czech before they started to care about uniformity.

You're seeing only a small number of them in this picture; there are lots more hiding in my drawer. I like the color, but I'm not crazy about the idea of culling them; they are terribly irregular in size. And they're very, very bright; silver-lined beads are always bright, but these seem to be brighter than usual. I've been passing them over for a long time; wondering if I should just get rid of them, or let them stay, taking up space.

Did I mention that I have quite a lot of them?

So, yesterday I had an idea. I've started a new piece; it's to be completely beadwoven and contain ceramic and lampwork focal beads. It's going to be a medium-big piece, but the focal beads are heavy, so it needs a lot of structure. A lot of structure that isn't going to show . . . do you see where I'm going here?

I'm hoping that these bright green silver-lined beads will reflect light up into the piece when it's done and create a subtle glow. That may be too much to expect; I'm prepared to cover every inch of them with other beads if they turn out to be less of a design element and more of a distraction. But, regardless of whether or not any of them end up being seen in the final product, I'm using them.

Without culling. Well, at least without very much culling. The really bizarre ones do have to go.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Ghost of Christmas Past

"And the stockings were hung by the chimney with care . . ."

That turned out to be the hard part.

The little tree with all my favorite glass ornaments and a ton of glass icicles went up very happily in my new studio; that was new, and I loved bringing Christmas into my new space. We bought our big tree for the hall early; it isn't decorated yet, but that's only because decorating the tree requires scheduling. It's the one part of Christmas decorating that I don't do all by myself.

The wreath is on the door, and the plants have their decorative stakes; the nativity and winter scenes are arranged; the dining table is dressed; the little trees at the top of the stairs are decorated, and the dolls and toys have been arranged beneath them. The pine cone candy basket that my sister made is on the coffee table; the little train set runs around it, as it always has. The poinsettia is on the bar, the M&Ms are in the little candy dish, and the Santa plate is filled with cookies.

But the box with the stockings in it sat, untouched, for days.

I just couldn't do it.

This is the first year that my daughter won't be home for Christmas; she's with her boyfriend, on the other side of the country. We're happy for her; she's a grown up, and she's where she needs to be right now . . . but seeing her Christmas stocking brought more than a few tears to my eyes.

It seems like just yesterday that I made it for her; just yesterday that she waited impatiently on the stairs on Christmas morning for the signal to run as fast as she could to see what Santa had brought. Her stocking is the green one on the right; see Santa on it? She loved visiting Santa; when she was in kindergarten, she and I visited every Santa in town. I don't think we missed a single one.

Her stocking will remain empty on our mantlepiece this year; Santa will have real snow to get through when he visits her.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Exclamation points

!

They're getting out of control.

I've noticed them creeping into my writing; not just one of them, but two, three, six or nine of them to punctuate a single sentence. When I see that happening, I'm starting to hit the delete key; really, there are very few times that I'm that surprised, shocked or delighted. It seems that, like potato chips, when it comes to exclamation points: one is no longer enough.

I never used to use exclamation points at all; I had it drilled into me that it was far better to use words to convey excitement than punctuation. I seem to have grown lazy; my sentences are getting shorter and my punctuation is getting longer. I don't like what that says about me; I want to express my feelings, not rely on a generic punctuation mark.

So that's my resolution for 2011; to eliminate the effusive use of exclamation points and get back to using my words.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Following directions

It's relaxing sometimes, y'know?

I'm not very far along on this one, but it kept my sanity intact while judging the Ice Queen Challenge. There were so many gorgeous entries; it's a total cliche, I know, but I wish we could have declared all of them winners. There wasn't a piece entered whose merits we didn't debate; it was terribly hard to choose just three winners. We were still debating it less than an hour before it was time to announce.

But that's neither here nor there.

I've actually used two tutorials from two different shops to make this little snippet; I will be adding more sections until it's long enough to wear as a necklace. The beaded bead is beAd Infinitum's Ionic Octahedra, and the rope is a variation of NEDBeads' Trellis Series Necklace. I used the beaded beads in place of the crystals in the rope, and made it a little bit bigger around to balance the beaded beads. Both changes were super-easy to make; this rope has room for a lot of variations.

I'm not normally very good at following directions, but when my mind is occupied with other things, it's a real relief to have something to do with my hands that doesn't involve thinking. Using a tutorial is like stepping into another artist's brain; it's very inspiring once the need for relaxation has worn off.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

No goats were harmed in the making of this bracelet

That's probably one of the odder disclaimers I've ever had to make; but I fear it is going to be necessary.

I'm getting close to finishing my original Ice Queen Challenge piece, and just this morning I got the brilliant idea to incorporate some angora goat hair into the clasp. It's gorgeous, but it looks rather like fur, and I fear that in order not to freak people out, I really must explain.

No goats were harmed in the making of this bracelet.

Many years ago my mom had a pet angora goat. Giselle was a beautiful animal, and lived a long, and very pampered life. Every year, her long hair was trimmed to keep her cool in summer, and one year, I took home a lovely bag full. No, I don't spin, but it's so pretty and soft, and I just knew that I would have some use for it, other than simply stroking it; which, come to think of it, is not a terribly bad use for it, in any case.

I did use some of it to make Santa's beard when I knit my daughter's Christmas stocking, but, other than that, it's just been for petting. Until this morning, that is, when I suddenly decided to sew some of it onto this bracelet. I had planned to do bead embroidery on that section, but it just seemed too cold. I wanted something furry and soft on this cuff. I thought about using rabbit fur, but I really didn't want to. It didn't feel right.

Giselle's hair, on the other hand, is perfect. It's soft, curly, and very touchable. And, best of all:

No goats were harmed in the making of this bracelet.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bookmark this

Here's a quick and easy gift to make for all those teachers, babysitters, and other people who are on your list. If you really like them, give them a book to use it with, too.

First, you'll need a nice big focal bead. I made this one from a pattern by Gwen Fisher of beAd Infinitum; it's called Time Machine.

I made a few mistakes while making it, but it's still a nice-looking bead. I didn't even realize the mistakes I'd made until I tried the pattern for the second time, so it's a very forgiving pattern. Let's just call it a variation, okay?

Anyway, you'll also need an elastic head band, some 20 gauge wire, some chain, head pins and crystals for embellishments, and a nice big, thick jump ring.

Use your 20 gauge wire to make a wrapped loop on each side of your focal bead. Before wrapping the bottom loop, slip a small length of chain into the loop.

Use the head pins and the crystals to make wrapped loops that attach to various links of the chain. Pearls or gemstones would make nice dangles, too. Or you can skip the chain and embellishments for a more tailored look.

Open the large jump ring, and slip it through the loop on the top of the bead and the elastic headband. Close the jump ring. Wrap the 20 gauge wire around the elastic headband a few times, just above the large jump ring, and hide the ends inside the elastic.

Put it on a book, or pop it in a bag, and you're done!

Happy Holidays!!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Who me, naive?

Erm, yes. Apparently so.

I had no idea that there was a secret underground of people who exchanged scanned copies of patterns, magazines and books over the Internet until someone clued me in that my patterns, photos, and name were being used without my permission on one of these sites.

I'm not going to name names, or provide links; I don't want to give them any viewers or publicity. Contact me privately if you are concerned that your copyrighted material may have been stolen, and I'll give you a link to get you started looking.

I'm not really all that surprised that this is happening; there are lots of people who want to own things they haven't paid for. There are lots of people who think that just because they can scan a printed page, or email a PDF, they have the right to do so. I get that; or at least I thought I did.

Until I spent some time this afternoon, digging a little bit deeper, and I found the names of people I had considered my friends and acquaintances participating in this activity. They're not face-to-face friends, or close friends, but they are people whom I've been in contact with via email and on beading forums; some of them are people I have "known" for years.

That made me very sad. I'd expected better from them. If you are reading this, and you have been exchanging patterns, magazines and books over the Internet; please think about what you are doing to your friends. Even if you have never exchanged one of my patterns, it made me very sad to see your name linked with someone who has.

It's wrong, y'know.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Weight problems

I went to a birthday party for my Grandmother yesterday, and saw members of my family that I haven't seen in 20 or even 30 years. It was so much fun catching up with everyone; for the most part, I enjoyed myself throughly.

With one, rather weighty, exception.

There are some members of my family who have a serious weight problem. By that, I mean, they have a serious problem with other people's weight. I hadn't really noticed it before, because when I was young, I was very thin. I was too thin; it wasn't something I tried to be, I just grew 9 inches in about a year, and it took the rest of me a decade or two to catch up.

To give you a little perspective, I was 5'7" and wore a size one in 1976; before women's sizes started to relax and stretch. I didn't break 100 pounds until I was in my 20s. I was very, very thin. Over the years, I celebrated when I gained weight; I was very happy to find myself fitting into bigger clothes. I'm now on the slightly higher side of normal weight; I could lose a few pounds and get back into the middle of the range, but I'm not stressing over it.

I like my curves, and so does my husband.

So, after being on the other side of the country for nearly 20 years, and not seeing my extended family during that time, it was a bit of a shock to me to see how interested several of them were in other people's weight. It wasn't just me whose weight was noticed; almost everyone came in for a choice remark or two.

At first I was a bit hurt and shocked. But then I thought about it, and I realized that I like myself just the way I am. I'm healthy and happy and I enjoy my life. I don't want to be like the people they pointed to as examples; they're too thin. They work too hard at it.

Weight just isn't a problem for me.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Beading Backwards

I've been having a dickens of a time working on my Ice Queen Challenge; I've been feeling very twitchy and haven't been able to sit and work comfortably on it. I start in on it, then suddenly find myself overwhelmed with the conviction that I must do something else, right now; and off I go to do whatever it is that has raised itself to the top of my priority list.

Well, I've finally figured out what's bugging me. When I bead, I always start with the focal and bead outwards. Always. But, for this piece, a key component of my focal is off riding the rails with other delinquent packages in transit with USPS; it's not here, and I can't make the focal without it.

However, since the challenge deadline is November 28th, I couldn't keep waiting for it; I freeze up when deadlines loom, and I need to be well on my way with it early, or I will panic and not be able to do anything. So, I decided, hang the focal, I'm going to start with the rest of it. Who knew that would make me so twitchy?

Paradoxically, now that I've finally realized what's bugging me, I can bead (and breathe!) easier. I've gotten more done this morning than I did all week. That doesn't mean I wouldn't like to find that package in my mailbox today and get going on the focal this afternoon; I don't like beading backwards.

But at least now I know why I've been having trouble sitting still for it.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Gotta love the post office

Or not.

I'm waiting on a package containing a key element of my Ice Queen Challenge piece, and, according to the tracking, it's gone right past me, twice; from northern California, to southern California, and back up to northern California. I am, of course, in central California. California is a very long state; it's made quite a journey bypassing me twice! And to top it all off, the trail has grown cold. No scanning has been done since October 27.

My package has been in transit for 15 days now.

I'm starting to get worried. My piece has been built around the idea of this component; it won't work without it.

Please, Mr. Postman . . .

Sunday, October 31, 2010

We've got a website!

The Bead Mavens are now on the web; you can visit us there and find all the information you need about our Ice Queen Challenge.

Seeing Mikki and Peter's gorgeous creations makes me want to work harder on mine! I'm still waiting on one component of it, however, so I really can't work much faster than I have been. I'm hoping that the big brown truck with the guy in the cute shorts will stop at my house tomorrow with a package for me.

In the meantime, I will keep beading the bits I can until my special component arrives. Go take a look at our site, and happy beading on your Ice Queen.

Friday, October 29, 2010

say what?

There's something in the air today.

It started this morning, when my husband read his horoscope. It said that he would, "radiate contentment and anger." We had a good laugh over that one; I mean, how is that possible? How can anyone be content and angry at the same time?

Later events (fortunately not on the part of my husband, he is his usual self today!) made me realize that such an odd combination can, indeed, be possible. I have an acquaintance who is a drama queen. She stages fortnightly events that are most likely for the purpose of making her feel reassured; she has a huge tantrum, calls everything unfair, claims everyone is against her, and, by the end of it, everyone is trying to comfort her.

She appears to be quite content with her anger. I'm not. I'm tired of the drama; I'm worn out by her angry words. I'm sorry she's upset; it's too bad that she's unhappy. But - and this is a big but - her dissatisfaction doesn't give her the right to mess with my mind on what has become a fairly regular basis.

I'm all there when my friends need me, but I'm tired of having that need manufactured. That's a big step for me. Like I said in the beginning, there's something in the air today.

Breathe deeply.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sedona

We took an unscheduled trip; we hopped in the car and ended up in Sedona. I think I love unplanned trips the best; it's fun to just head out and end up wherever we end up.

Of course, it doesn't always work out when we do that, but this time everything went perfectly. Our hotel was at the base of one of the wonderful red rock formations, and we enjoyed taking the hiking trail that started just outside our room. We also enjoyed gallery hopping and shopping.

We had to scrap our plans to stay in Flagstaff, however, as they were expecting snow. We remember snow, and we'd like to keep it a memory! Sedona was lovely and warm with gorgeous thunderstorms in the late afternoon; it was so much fun to watch them roll in over the hills.

It's an interesting time in our lives; we've only got one of our kids left at home, and he's barely here between his active social life and full-time job. I miss them, but it's fun to be able to take off at a moment's notice, too. I bought some gorgeous beads in Sedona; once I've finished the piece I'm working on, I'm going to make myself a necklace.

Red rocks, and stormy skies.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Note to self:

Don't use dyed beads on a design where the beads have no choice but to rub against each other.

Well, not if you want to color to last long enough to actually finish the piece.

'Nuff said.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Try, try again

If you remember my post from the other day, about how I always start with the stupidest way to do something, you'll be glad to know that I have found a much better way to do it. I scrapped the first mess and started again; no, you won't get to see a photo because this time it's working, and it will eventually become a pattern.

Then you can see it.

Of course, I also saw something today that got my mind moving on a new project, so I must bead as fast as I can to finish this one off so that I can start the next one. I both love it and hate it when that happens; I love knowing that I don't have to worry about not getting an idea for the next project, but, at the same time, it's hard for me to carry two projects in my mind at the same time.

This time it's not that difficult, though. The current project is now past the design stage and into the execution phase; I don't anticipate any redesigning or major changes in it. The next project is still in the nebulous, "oh, yes, I want to do something like that," phase and will need lots of thinking before I find a starting place.

But still: I think I need to bead faster.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Pioneer Day, 2010


It's Pioneer Day in Paso Robles, where the slogan is, "Leave your pocketbook at home."

That's because everything you want is free today; if what you want is a parade and a bowl full of baked beans. You can have a pot or a kettle full of beans if you bring your own pot or kettle - no charge - and the parade lasted for two hours this year, so that should be plenty of entertainment to satisfy anyone.

In the parade we had tractors, horses, kids, roller derby, more tractors, marching bands, scouts, lodges, shriners and more tractors. There were so many people in the parade, it was amazing that there was anyone left to watch it. I think the whole town turned out, however, and the sidewalks were packed. We found some nice seats on the curb and had a wonderful time.

After the festivities, we decided to indulge in a visit to a winery; that wasn't free, but the tasting fee was applied to our purchase, so now we have some lovely new wines to enjoy at home.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I always do things the hard way

It's a funny thing about designing; the first time I do something, it's like pulling teeth. No matter where I start, I always manage to find the hardest way to do it.

Take this little bit of beading.

I'm quite sure that I have found the most difficult and stupid way to assemble it; I will definitely not do it that way again. Can we say tangled thread, bits sliding off and a general mess, not once, but several times? However, by the time I've tinkered with it a few dozen times, I am quite sure that I will magically hit on a simple way to assemble it that is completely unknown to me right now.

How do I know this?

Because it happens every time. The instructions I write up skip all the stupid bits; they make it look easy. But actually, I go through quite a lot of beading contortions before I figure out an easy way to do something. I always seem to start the hard way; I don't know why that is, but it is what it is.

Cue Tina Turner . . . only backwards. I start rough, but I finish nice and easy.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I'm a Bead Maven!

Something very exciting has happened; I've been asked to join a wonderful group of fabulous bead weavers and teachers for a joint venture.

We're just in the very beginning stages so far, so I have no concrete details to give you yet, but the ideas that have been floating around are fabulous.

You can find all of the Bead Mavens on Facebook and on our blog. We'll be updating you there as things happen; with this group, things are sure to happen fast!

I can't wait to see what the future brings; I have a feeling it's going to be an exciting year.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Shining sky

I took this photo last night, but it was such an interesting night, I didn't get a chance to unload it and make a blog post.

After this beautiful bright early evening sky, we had a wonderful, far off thunder and lightning storm; we sat on our porch half the night and watched the show.

Apparently, it poured down rain about 15-20 miles south of us; we didn't get a drop. But it sure was a gorgeous show; great long forks of lightning lit up the sky and the thunder rumbled like bowling balls hitting the pins. We stayed out way past our bed time, enjoying it.

We loved thunderstorms when we lived in New York, but we didn't appreciate them the way we do now. They're rare here; in New York, they are as common as dirt.

Funny how much more important that makes taking the time to enjoy it.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bead porn

You knew it existed.

Did you think it would be like this?

Even I am shocked. I've unpacked all my lampwork beads and put them in a drawer (no, I will not tell you which drawer, that is a state secret) and now I can pore over them, raggedly mumbling, "my presiousssss . . ." for hours on end.

And, since I can see them easily and often, I may even use some. Actually, I figure I'm going to have to use some, or the drawer will fill up and I won't be able to buy any more.

We all know what a tragedy that would be.

As you can see, they are neatly organized; I string them on pipe cleaners and attach a tag at the end with the artist's name on it. When I have a card, I punch a hole in that and use it. They're not organized by color or anything, but that's okay. When I use lampwork, I usually start with the lampwork beads and match other beads to it.

Now, where shall I start?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Snapshot

I have a new cellphone that takes pictures and sends them to my computer via bluetooth.

Pretty fancy, eh?

Don't tell me that you've been doing it for years; I've only recently given in to carrying a cell phone at all, and now I'm texting and taking pictures with it.

If it strapped to my wrist, I'd think I was Dick Tracy.

I took this photo while taking the garbage out; the sky was so pretty, even though, surprisingly enough, it really didn't color up much. I don't know why; it was cloudy enough, but it just sorta went from blue to grey to dark. No reds, no oranges.

It was another really hot day here today; it's still warm out there. Usually by now we've got a breeze and it's cooler, but not tonight. I guess summer's just late this year.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Busy, busy, busy

Hmm. Seems I've used that title before; I typed "Bu" and up it came. No matter; it still works.

We spent the weekend up in the Sequoias; no computers, no cell phones. It was lovely to step off the treadmill of life, but today, I'm back on it with a vengeance. I'm working on an article for a European magazine; it's for a necklace that I hadn't taken notes on, so I'm reverse-engineering myself.

I'm actually making it in a much more organized way this time; the original had quite a few "by gosh or by golly" moments that have been smoothed out this go around. I've also changed the color scheme, and put in pearls in place of the crystals; I'm writing the instructions for both options, so this one will be a necklace and a variation.

The magazine article is scheduled for Spring; I've been beading and writing like a madwoman today. I want to get it done and sent off as quickly as possible so that they will have plenty of time to prepare it for publication.

Then it will be back to finishing up my "Darkness" tutorial. It went into a holding pattern when the magazine article came up.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Lunatic fringe

I'm fringing today. Long, lovely strands of seed bead fringe; it's been ages since I made a fringe this long and lush. I don't know why I suddenly stopped adding long fringe to pieces; but, looking back, it's been awhile.

Maybe I stopped doing it because it's a pain to get right. I know, it couldn't be easier; just count, and make sure to go through every bead, but, for me, it's a hard element to get right. It's a slow process, and I'm not a patient person. Sometimes, making fringe gives me just too much time to think.

I haven't wanted to think for awhile; I've wanted to keep my mind occupied. I still feel that way, actually; but I needed to fringe this piece, and I guess I probably needed to think, as well.

It's time.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I'm beading as fast as I can

I'm almost finished with the structural part of my Haute Couture contest entry; one side is done, and the other is lacking only the last element.

I'm trying to get it finished as soon as I can; I have the possibility of an exciting new opportunity on the horizon; if it comes to fruition, I will need to spend quite a lot of my time on it over the next month or two. I've also got a couple of new projects that I'm in the process of turning into tutorials; I need to find some time to finish those, as well.

But right now, I'm caught up in my contest entry.

I love making big, over the top pieces. They're fun and exciting; although they take weeks (and even months!) of beading to make, I love watching them grow and change. I never know at the beginning of the day what it will look like by the end; I love the twists and turns that these big pieces go through. It's like reading a novel; the plot develops gradually and I don't want to put it down.

But just as my eyes will close while reading, my hands (and back!) need breaks from the beads. It's time to take a little walk; the beads will be here when I return.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Haute Couture

I'm still working on my contest entry for the Haute Couture Beading Contest; it's coming along slowly, but it's gradually taking shape. I have to confess that I've been haunting the site, looking at the entries on a regular basis to see if anyone has used "my" picture yet.

I am very happy to report that they haven't. I have no clue why that matters to me; there is no rule that says that only one person can use a photo. But I am hoping against hope that no one else picks the same one as me. I'm sure we'd do very different piects; I'm sure that a dozen people could pick the same photo and come up with entirely different ideas.

Okay, I'm not that sure.

It could happen.

I'd better get back to beading now.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

My room

Here it is; my very own studio. I love my new workbench; I have lots of drawers, and two separate work stations.

That means no more beads in the keyboard!

It also means that I get up and stretch more often, as I move from beading station to computer and back again. That's always been one of my biggest problems; I get involved in what I am doing, and I forget to get up and move around.

It's so nice to have room to spread out, and someplace quiet to go when I want to work. My family can cook, eat and watch movies without stumbling over me and my beads, and I can work in peace without being stumbled over.

It's a good thing.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Nearly done

Simply put, I've been working like a madwoman. My studio is nearly done; I have a few odds and ends to move yet from the infamous cupboard under the stairs, but the furniture is in place, I have hung some pictures, and made a new cover for the old futon.

I've even put a lovely (and very fragrant) vase of roses and lavender on my workbench. My twelve-foot-long workbench. That's nearly four meters for those of you who speak metric.

I can't believe it's mine!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

In the white room

If you were a little girly-girl in the 1960s, I'm sure you remember the White Bedroom Suite. It had everything a girl wanted, and it was white. Pure, pristine, and feminine. The canopy bed was a froth of lace; the dressing table had a mirror over it, and the desk was a confection that would thrill any girl into doing homework.

Of course I wanted it. I don't know if the girl in the frilly pink robe with the beautiful doll was in the ads, or a product of my imagination, but she was my idea of perfection. I knew that if I had a room like that, I would keep it spotlessly clean and I would be happy forever.

It was not to be. Looking back, it was an utterly impractical room for a real little girl, but it entered my consciousness in a way that even Barbie couldn't touch. I don't long for an impossible figure; I want an impossible room.

I've updated that dream; the canopy bed has been jettisoned, and I no longer have any use for a dressing table. But I now own a white work area in my brand-new studio. It has two workstations flanked by three storage sections; I have nine small drawers, two large drawers, and a bookshelf shelf. (Or I will, once I finish putting the drawers together!)

It's white, but it's a practical white; it's all powder coated, so it's easy to wipe up any spills. It certainly cost less than any single component of my dream bedroom; but it's perfect. My workstations are high enough to work either standing up, or perched on a stool; and one workstation is under a north window with a view of the hills.

It's a dream come true.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Easily amused

I've just found the special characters menu on my computer; it's been there quite awhile, but I didn't know it was there. That may have been a good thing, as I'm sure to annoy people by using it for awhile.

So, now I can type things like this:
or this:
or this:
or this:

There are quite a few new toys for me to play with.

{Did I mention that I'm easily amused?}

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Just keep swimming

Sometimes, when I keep going, trying to make things right, it just doesn't work. I throw good beads in after bad, and, in the end, everything has to come out anyway. It's worse, of course, when I've suspected all along that it was going to happen that way.

Other times, it works.

Happily, I'm in the second position tonight; the first three rows were iffy, but now, with the beginning of the fourth row, I think it's going to work. I'm glad I didn't pull it all out; I'm glad I kept going.

It doesn't always turn out that way, you know.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Was there ever any doubt?

Of course I'm going ahead with it. How could not? I've heard it said that a little bit of ugliness is what changes prettiness to great beauty; I'm hoping that's true. Haute Couture certainly has its own bits of ugliness, and the photo I've chosen is no exception.

But that's not what has convinced me to move ahead; oh, no, that's just the justification for it. I'm moving ahead because of my own innate tendency towards contrariness; it tickles my fancy to use something so very ugly in this way.

Is that how the designers feel? Do they enjoy startling people by inserting an element of ugliness? Is that what it's all about: daring people to look at prettiness marred, forcing them to consider ugliness turned beautiful?

I don't know if I can pull it off, but I'm going to try.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Ambushed by inspiration

That's the only way I can describe it.

There is a contest that I've been wanting to enter, but I have been sadly lacking in inspiration. The contest is the Haute Couture Beading Contest, and, since it is all about providing inspiration, I'm quite horrified to admit that I just wasn't finding my way into it.

Until last night.

Yesterday, I received a packet of ugly beads as part of a fun challenge I'm participating in, called, of course, an Ugly Bead Swap. The idea is to send off a packet of ugly beads to another participant; by the time the postman has made his rounds, we will all be the proud owners of a pile of, well, ugly beads. You can see the beads that I received to the right of this paragraph.

Oddly enough, I like almost all of them. Okay, that's not entirely true; the orange beads in the middle of the far left column are ghastly. So ghastly, indeed, that I had to begin with them. There are two different types of beads in that bag; four very badly foiled Chinese lampwork flattened bicones and a string of neon orange and yellow oval glass coins.

They just cried out to become beaded beads. To be honest, one of us was crying; it may well have been me. Those lampwork beads are a sin against molten glass, and the coins are bright enough to stop traffic. After quite a few bad starts (and even worse finishes) I came up with a design that I liked. I thought that would be the end of it; I could toss it on a headpin, string it on a chain, call it a pendant, and fulfill my duties to the challenge. We don't have to use all of the beads; just some of them. I'd used the worst of them; surely that was above and beyond the call of duty?

And so, after settling my mind on that, I let my mouse wander off to other, more interesting, pursuits. Once again, I found myself looking closely at the inspiring photographs on the Haute Couture Beading Contest. And it was there that I was ambushed: my beaded bead of ugly beads called out to one of the photos and gave me an idea, all at once.

Do I dare use it?

Friday, August 20, 2010

One down

Our daughter is moving out on her own very soon; she doesn't have a date yet, but it could be anytime in the next two weeks. We are giving her our old futon (also known as our living room couch), which meant that we had to find a new one.

No problem . . . or so we thought.

Yesterday we went down to the Futon Store, only to find that it had closed, lock, stock and barrel. No forwarding address; no suggestions of where people who are in dire need of new futons should go.

We looked, half-heartedly, at several regular sofas in regular furniture stores; we're just not upholstered people. We needed to find a futon store. I googled; there was one option listed near us. They had one left in the style we liked; we bought it and went off to get the jeep so that we could bring it home.

Sadly, by the time we returned with the jeep, they had uncrated it and discovered a problem. Since it was the last one, we had to cancel the deal and look elsewhere. We did a bit more looking at regular sofas; we just couldn't see ourselves owning them. And then, in desperation, we stopped at the local oak furniture store. We'd never seen a futon there before, but thought that perhaps they would have a sofa we could live with.

They had one futon in stock. Mission-style. We love it. It's in our living room already.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Waiting Game

A friend of mine said recently, "I don't mind change, I just hate waiting for it."

Bingo; that's me in a nutshell. I like to just get on with it! Once I know change is upon me, I'm the first one over the wall, my hat sailing merrily before me. I hate to wait; I'm a do it now sort of person.

Oh, would that I were in control of the world! Change would occur at a dizzying rate; there'd be no waiting around for things to happen. Everyone would get things done and make things happen. The word "later" would be struck from our vocabulary.

Obviously, I've not been voted Queen of the World.

Neither have I been voted Queen of my little section of it.

So, here I sit: waiting most impatiently for change of which I am not the agent; suffering through the pain of watching other people miss deadlines and procrastinate their way through things they really ought to just do. I want to get moving on this.

I am not a patient person.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Preview

I finished i!

And I spent all day today drawing diagrams and writing up my notes to make the tutorial.

I love the dark red crystals with the black beads; I don't do a lot of dark pieces, but I really like the way this one turned out.

It may have given me fits while I was working on it, but I love it now that it's done!

I got a good start on the tutorial today; I'll keep at it, and hopefully, I'll get it finished this week or next. I'm happy to say that the writing is going a lot better than the beading went!

Monday, August 16, 2010

This is why they pay me the big bucks*

Over the years, I've had lots of people ask me how I come up with my designs; they seem to think that I know what I'm doing when I set out to make a piece of jewelry.

Listen up: my method is quite simple. Trial and error. Yup, that's it; I try something, and if I like it, I keep it and add something else to it. If I don't like it, I rip it out and try something different.

This is usually a pretty good method; most of the time, I like what I try more often than not. But not on this necklace. Whooee, nope, this one is 99% error. At every turn I've tried a dozen things and ripped them all out before finding one I could keep. I'm not sure what's up with that, but I'm hoping that my next project goes a lot smoother. It's taken weeks, and I haven't even begun to write the tutorial for it.

I'm almost done with it.

I think I've found the right thing to do to finish it off.

Wish me luck!

*Only kidding about the big bucks; I'm keeping my prices low. No need for everyone to suffer!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Wow. My "baby" is 18.

How did that happen?

I know, I know: time passes. But really, it seems like just yesterday that she was small enough to carry around and tuck into bed. How many times did we read Elmo's Lift-and-Peek Around the Corner Book? Enough times so that I can close my eyes and see every page. I'm on to you, kid; I know it was a favorite because it took so long to get through and postponed your bedtime.

Now that she's 18, all I remember is the good stuff. The problems we had are irrelevant; she's 18 now. Not that I won't still worry, or want her to be safe and happy; but it's not my call in any way, any more. She's 18, and that means she's in charge of herself. My job description has changed; mom doesn't mean supervisor any more.

I get to cheer from the sidelines now.

You GO girl!!! You ROCK!!!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Is that a window?

As I mentioned before, doors have been closing around me a lot lately. At first, I was upset about the changes; I failed "meets new situations with confidence" in kindergarten, and, although I've improved enormously since then, I do still find sudden change a bit upsetting. Especially when it comes roaring in at me, with anger, loud voices and a lot of drama.

Luckily, doors can also be closed quietly. Without drama, and without any noise. I can also close them myself. Quietly. Without drama.

Learning that, is a window opening.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Frying squash and other veggie tales

It's been a good harvest in our garden; the artichokes and patty pan squash are coming in fast and furiously. I have accepted the title of hors d'oeuvres mistress, and I have to admit that I not only deserve it, but I'm doing my best to keep it.

Most of the hors d'oeuvres so far contain artichokes; the artichoke harvest has been very, very good. I've cut and cooked more than 50 so far; there are more out there, getting bigger every day. Not all of them have gone into hors d'oeuvres, however; about 30 of them have been frozen whole.

I've mixed them with all sorts of things; crab, garlic, poblano peppers, basil, and, of course, cheese. Cream cheese, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese; alone or in combination. I've fried them in wonton wrappers, rolled them up in puff pastry, and served them in a dip. I am nothing if not resourceful.

Today, however, the artichokes have been (temporarily) contained, and I have segued into the squash. I've been breading and deep frying it; whatever we don't eat right off, I'll put into the freezer for winter.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Waiting for windows


When a door closes, a window opens.

We've all heard that one before, and it's very comforting to think that an opportunity is waiting for us when we lose something. I've been watching doors close lately; don't get me wrong, they're doors that need to close, but they're doors that I didn't want to close myself. It's scary to close doors, sometimes, even when they need to be closed.

I'm learning the difference between closing them nicely, slamming them, and leaving them off the latch. So far, I've resisted the temptation to turn the lock behind the door-slammers; the doors may be closing, but I don't really want to lock them. Okay, in the moment of slamming, I would love to turn the lock with a flourish, but I'm resisting that moment of evil satisfaction. They're all doors I wouldn't mind seeing open again some day, and I don't need to contribute to the negativity.

Of course, the rooms beyond them will no doubt undergo a redecorating project while their doors are closed. I may not even recognize them when the doors open again. That's okay. I'll be doing some redecorating on my side of the wall, too.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

My rebellious nature

I'm not good about doing what I'm told; even when I'm the one telling me. All I have to do is write a list and I am out of here, busily doing everything but what I've just written down. I sabotage myself; there's no two ways around it. I hate being told what to do, even when it's something I want to do.

I've reached this conclusion after something totally inexplicable happened. Along with a group of friends, I agreed to commit to doing something jewelry related every day this month. We agreed to share our progress, and let each other know how we were doing. You guessed it: I became a member of the jewelry fantasy league.

I did get a few things done, but not much. I found myself setting goals, and avoiding them. The beads did not call to me; instead, they hollered, "Get outta here! We want to be left alone."

And so I did. I've been out in the garden, I've been harvesting, cooking, and freezing veggies and appetizers. I have not been beading. And so, I decided to give up my commitment. And guess what happened?

Yup. I'm interested in beading again.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

My garden


Here's a photo of three of our four raised beds; I'm standing on the hill, looking down on them. Everything is growing like mad; it is so much fun to grow so much of our own food. Last night we had the first of the corn; it was so sweet and good.

Of course, one problem with a garden is that when it's ripe, it's all ripe. Today we picked a bushel or so of peaches; we'll be making everything we can think of that includes peaches for the next few days. There are still some left on the trees; we'll have another big picking and then they will be gone until next year.

Harvesting from the garden is different than harvesting from the grocery store.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Whew.

I'm beading again. When I get away from it for awhile, I really miss it. I've been so busy for the past week or so; I've been beading only in my head. Sadly, those things didn't work. I tried to put them into reality today, but the beads just wouldn't do what I thought they could do.

Life's a lot like that.

Wouldn't it be fun if you could have a whole day where fantasy became reality? Where everything - and everyone - behaved exactly the way you imagined they could?

I wouldn't really want life to go like that all the time; oddly enough, I'd miss the element of surprise and the challenge of changing plans. I surprise myself by realizing that; but it's true. I like thinking on the fly.

Most of the time.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The last of the zucchini



For today, anyway.

And probably only because I am not going out to look at the plants to see if any need to be picked. Nope, I'm going to savor my victory over that particular green vegetable, even though I know it is a hollow one, and undoubtedly short lived.

I used them to make these quiche, which have just come out of the oven and are sitting on my stove to cool. We will take a couple of pieces from one of them with us tonight to picnic on at the concert in the park; the other will go directly into the freezer for another time. I like having things in there that can be pulled out for dinner quickly and eaten without any fuss. And, I always figure: if I'm going to make one, I might as well make two.

Here's the recipe, if you'd like; it makes two. Of course. One for now, and another for later. Cut the ingredients in half if you only want to make one:

  • Two deep dish pie crusts (if you are using disposable pie tins, be sure to set them on a cookie sheet covered with foil before filling them. Uncooked custard is heavy and wobbly; those pans just can't cope without help.)
  • 12 ounces evaporated milk
  • 2 cups milk
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • garlic and oregano (or other herbs) to taste
  • grated mozzarella cheese
  • grated zucchini (courgette)

Fill each pie crust 1/4 of the way with grated cheese. Add enough zucchini to fill them about half or 2/3 of the way, depending on how much you've got. Toss the cheese and zucchini with a fork, being careful not to dig into the crust. You don't want to leave them in layers, but they don't have to be mixed perfectly, either.

In a bowl, slightly beat the eggs. Add the evaporated and regular milk and the salt. Mix well, but don't beat. Pour the custard over the cheese and zucchini mixtures until you've used it all, or the pans are filled up. Extra custard can be sweetened, flavored and baked for dessert - I didn't have any this time, though.

Bake for 50 minutes at 400°, or until the tops are well browned and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. If it hits some cheese and comes out with a cheesy spot, but the rest of it is clean, that counts as done. It should have a slight wiggle when you move it, but shouldn't look gooey.

Let cool a bit before cutting for best results; it can be served warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Our little friend

Last month, in my post Wild Things, I told you about our new friend, RJ.



He's a scrub jay, and he's very friendly. It took awhile, but he now trusts us enough to land on our laps and take peanuts from our fingers. He likes to hide his treats in the garden; he will actually lift mulch in his beak and arrange it so that the ground looks undisturbed; he's very particular about his cache. Luckily, the peanuts are roasted; otherwise, I'm sure we'd be having them growing all over the place.



He's a greedy little thing; he'll fly back and forth as long as we keep handing him peanuts. When I'm working in the garden, he'll fly over to where I am and scold me; he's firmly convinced that my purpose in life is to feed the bird.

I'm likely to agree, some days.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Vegging out

My meticulous garden is making lots of food. I have been harvesting every day; mostly green beans, artichokes and squash; though the strawberries and peaches have been steady, and the garlic all came due in one fell swoop. Now, of course, it's time to cook it and eat it; what we can't consume in a timely manner I am freezing.

Yesterday, I made roasted garlic and artichoke won tons in my new mini-deep fryer; what a difference it made! It's a lot less messy than trying to deep fry in a pot, and there's no guessing about the temperature. It's very small, so it doesn't use a lot of oil; I do have to fry in small batches, but that's okay. I never used a very large pot when I fried over the stove, so I'm used to small batches.

Today I'm frying patty pan squash in panko crumbs; I'm having fun with my new toy. But lest you think that everything I make is high calorie and deep fried, I must let you know that I also made a lovely bean salad today with roasted garlic and feta cheese, and I blanched three quarts of green beans for the freezer. We had them steamed last night at dinner, and by tomorrow there will, no doubt, be enough for another meal.

Tonight I'm going to make a pesto with more of the roasted garlic (yes, I roasted quite a lot of it!) and some basil from the garden. I've got some ravioli in the freezer, and we'll have it with a salad of baby lettuces and some of the roasted garlic and rosemary bread I made last night.

It's summer time, all right!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Me, meticulous?

My sister looked at my garden the other day and said I was a meticulous gardener. My first thought was, I know some really meticulous gardeners, and I'm not even close!

And then I took a look around.

You know what? I am pretty meticulous. The tomatoes are tied neatly; the new supports are actually supporting them. The squash, melons and pumpkins have been trained to go in the directions I want them to go in; with the exception of some rebellious yellow squash that is taking liberties with the marigolds, they are all behaving rather well.

The weeds, for the most part, have been pulled; though sis did manage to find a rather large one pretending to be part of the rhubarb. The strawberries have their own bed, and the mint is held in check by a path that gets no water.

I'm still not up to Connecticut standards, but yeah: this garden merits meticulous.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Strawberry Margaritas and Fried Squash

Yup, today's harvest was long on strawberries and squash. And since we're committed to eating (or drinking!) as much of the harvest as we can, we have had to get creative.

I breaded the sliced squash in panko crumbs for an appetizer (nearly a meal, actually!) and tossed the strawberries in the blender for a really intense strawberry margarita.

We've still got more squash to use; I think we will have zucchini bead and muffins in our future. I'm determined this summer!

(I'm cutting this short because my daughter has brought home a chick flick on video. We pulled the plug on television reception today, so it's movie night!)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

I've got my mojo back

. . . now I just need to figure out how to keep it!

I've been having lots of fun playing with beads and chain; there are three new tutorials in my Etsy shop:



I've started on a necklace today, with the same technique, but in copper. I'm hoping to incorporate a lampwork pendant into it; using lampies with seeds is another of my goals this year.

Friday, June 25, 2010

My little town

I live in a town that has often been rated as one of the most livable towns in the United States. Tonight was one of the reasons why; in the summer, we have weekly concerts in the park.

They're free. Anyone can come, bring a picnic or buy food from the sponsoring restaurant; bring their own bottle of wine, or purchase a glass or two from the sponsoring vineyard. Most of the town turns out; there are children running around, seniors strolling, and couples dancing.

The bands aren't famous; many of them are locals. But they're enthusiastic and there is something so sweet about sitting in the park, under big old trees, eating a picnic dinner, sipping on a glass of wine, and listening to music in the company of neighbors.

It's one of the things that makes this town special.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thank you, Mother Nature

We had the most glorious sunset tonight; nearly the entire sky was lit up in shades of orange and red. I could have photographed it and shown it to you, but hubby and I decided to go for a walk instead.

It was so beautiful; the colors just kept changing, and we ended up walking quite a lot further than we usually do. But the air was cool, the breeze was fresh, and the sky was gorgeous.

And then . . . a complete surprise: it actually started to rain on us. Not a heavy rain; just enough big, fat, drops to scent the air and make us feel reckless. So we took another turn and walked an even longer way home, in the rain.

We got home just as the sky went completely dark; just in time to see the full moon light up the sky.

Perfection.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Less is more

Several years ago, we decided that we wanted to scale back and decrease the number of things we owned. They were beginning to own us; taking care of them took more time than we had to enjoy them. Books were an early casualty; we had so many, and all we did with them was dust them. Off they went, a box at a time, donated to the library. We only kept the ones we truly used for reference, or which were out of print and unlikely to pop up at the library.

That opened up so much space and time; we culled out the decorative items next. We only kept the things that truly made us happy; we decided that if taking care of something wasn't worth the enjoyment of it, out it went. Sure, there was guilt, at first, but the more we let go, the better we felt. Taking care of all of those things was weight we were glad to lose.

When we moved cross country, we did one more round. Everything now had a monetary weight to overcome; it wasn't enough to like it, we had to be willing to invest another dollar a pound in it in order to keep it. It was amazing how many things were just not worth it to us.

But now we're going after even bigger guns. We're talking about eliminating television reception from our lives. It's gotten dreadfully expensive, and the programming is not very good. We don't really enjoy it; we just fall into it because it's there, and we're tired or in a lazy mood. We're still discussing it; we haven't pulled the plug on it yet. We're not talking about eliminating the set; we'll probably rent movies when we want to watch, and maybe we'll even use the Wii more often.

I have to admit, I'm looking forward to losing it. With what it costs, we could eat out twice a week!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Classic cars, kettle corn, and a walk on the beach

Does it get any better than that? Yup, we took the day off and went down to Pismo Beach to see the the classic car show. Today was the first day, and it was pretty relaxed. It will get crazier this weekend; there will be more cars, more vendors, and lots more people.

But today was more our speed. We had plenty of time to really get a close look at the cars and chat with the owners and other car fans. There were no lines at the food stands, and the kettle corn was fresh and hot. The pier was uncrowded and we strolled until the wind pushed us back to the shelter of the buildings.

There are some days that are just too California for words, and this was one of them. I was more than ready to grab a board, hop into a Woody, and hit the waves. Where are the Beach Boys when you need them?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

No more PTA

My youngest graduated from High School this year.

The school calendar is officially none of my business anymore; I no longer need to know when school starts or what time the bus arrives, and did the route change from last year? No more frantic runs for school supplies that weren't on the list and are sold out at every store within a 20 mile radius, and no more calls asking me to find something under the bed and bring it in right now to keep a kid from failing one subject or another.

It's amazing how many final grades over the years have come down to a poster that was stored under the bed.

No more Back to School nights, Open Houses, teacher conferences, and calls from an automated system that says, "Your student was absent one or more periods today," that always seem to come to our house by mistake, or so I've been told. It's amazing how many teacher seem to have trouble taking attendance.

But never mind all that; the truant officer never actually came to our door, and all three of our kids have high school diplomas.

Life is good.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Playing with chain

I've been intrigued with mixing metal with seed beads for a long time; lately I've been playing with beads and chain. There's no getting around it; it's fiddly. It's also very delicate and pretty.

That's what gets me; it's just so pretty.

I know that everything I've done so far is just too fiddly to teach; it's driving me crazy, so I know it would have the same effect on others. I keep having new ideas; sadly, I'm moving towards more fiddly rather than less.

I'm actually toying with the idea of making a pattern anyway, and calling it, "Some Like it Fiddly."

Don't try this at home unless you're as mad as me.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Wild things

I'm making friends with a Blue Jay. We started with me tossing a peanut in his general direction, and him flying off. Eventually, he would fly off and wait for me to go back into the house, at which point he would swoop in and get the peanut. I knew it was him, because I watched from the window.

Time passed, many peanuts were exchanged, and at last he would wait on one of the porch beams for me to toss a peanut; he'd look around and come get it while I sat in my chair. Very gradually, I tossed the peanut closer and closer to where I sat; he would let me know when I'd gone too far by refusing to get it until I'd gone back in the house. The next day, I'd start out back in his comfort zone, and then keep trying to lure him a little bit closer.

Every day, he did get a little bit closer; and each time I could see that he was really thinking about it. He'd skitter in and out very fast; grabbing the peanut and flying off to safety. Then, after a few times, he'd suddenly relax. Getting the peanut was easy for him; he seemed to understand that he was not in any danger.

One morning, I woke up very early, and Blue Jay was already on the porch, as if he were waiting for me. That morning, I coaxed him up onto the table next to my chair and he took a peanut from my hand. We've been doing that for a few weeks now; he's grown very comfortable and today he stood on the table and squawked when I didn't get him his peanuts quickly enough.

So I decided to up the ante; I held the peanut in such a way that he would have to perch on my knee to get it. At first he was not amused; he stood on the table and made all sorts of noises in an effort to get me to bring the peanut to him. I held firm, and the lure of the peanut won. He hopped onto my knee and got his prize.

He repeated this performance at least a dozen times today; we were both very pleased with ourselves.

Monday, June 7, 2010

It's finished! (maybe)

I finished it yestereday (unless I decide to make some changes, of course) and installed it, but by the time the cement had cured, and the last leaf was put in place, the light was gone and I couldn't take any photos. So, this morning, I got up at dawn and took these. The first photo is looking east. I've placed it on a ridge in our backyard; we've got multiple levels, so it's not on the highest ridge, but it does command a good bit of sky when I'm down below it, as in this photo.

It's a kinetic sculpture; the leaves act as little sails and the entire top part whirls around when there's a stiff breeze. It's very capricious; sometimes the least little puff will move it, and other times, it resists. But when the wind is coming from the right direction, and the sails catch it, it really gets going.

It's made from copper; copper pipes from the plumbing department, and copper sheet which I chased and dapped to form the leaves. I wanted to give it a more organic feel, so I added some wire-wrapping; as far as I'm concerned, there's no reason why outdoor sculpture can't be considered garden jewelry. The little light fixture at the top is a solar light; it was fun watching it from my bedroom window last night. As the sculpture spun around, the light winked and danced.

In the last picture, I took the photo facing west, from the top of the ridge looking out across the valley to the mountains. It's a beautiful spot; we have a pair of lounge chairs off to the left of this picture on the same ridge as the sculpture. I love to sit out there and enjoy the view.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A change of scale

I do a lot of small-scale work, and it's fun sometimes to change it up and work on a much large scale. I've taken it into my head to make a copper sculpture for the garden; it will have moving parts that will, I hope, spin in the wind.

I've admired kinetic sculptures for many years, but I've been a bit afraid to work on that scale. My beaded jewelry is often on a large scale for seed beads; but with this venture, I'm talking feet, not inches. I think the finished sculpture will be between six and eight feet tall and probably about three feet wide.

Of course, I have no hard and fast plan, just a general idea of what I want to do.

I'm free-falling on this one.

Does that surprise you?

Friday, June 4, 2010

It's the tomatoes again

Some day I will find a way to support tomatoes. We're already onto the second method this year; last year I tried cages; they fell over, and I tried to prop them up with stakes, but it wasn't pretty.

It was a mess, in fact.

So this year, I got some really large stakes, dumped the cages into the shed, and tied the tomatoes to the stake every few days. I was feeling really good about it; they were growing tall and strong, though I did have a bad feeling about how big around they were getting.

This morning, one of them took a dive. The stake - which I had driven two feet into the ground - gave way. Luckily, no damage was done to the plant, but it did tell me that my method was already failing.

So I went to the hardware store and bought steel fence posts. I drove them into the ground and wound wire between them at six inch intervals, the entire length of the row. Then I untied the tomatoes, one by one, and tied them to the wires, espalier fashion.

We'll see. It's awfully early in the season to be on plan B already.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Kreativ Blogger Award

While I was hiding from the world, the lovely lady behind Releases by Roofydoof gave me this award. Thank you, Karyn!

I am very late in accepting, but I am deeply touched and honored. You see, this month I have not been feeling terribly creative.

I've started and abandoned ever so many projects, and, well, I've been doing a lot of wondering about my life and how I've spent it.

I won't bore you with the details - well, not today, anyway! - I'll just get on with the pleasant task of accepting this award.

Here are the rules for accepting this award:
  1. Post the award on my blog.
  2. Thank the person who gave it to me.
  3. Link to the person who gave this to me.
  4. Share a list of 7 things that you probably don't know about me.
  5. Choose 7 great bloggers to give the award to.
  6. Share a link to their blogs.
  7. Leave a comment on their blog.

Seven things you probably don't know about me:
  • I'm five feet six and three-quarters inches tall, but I like to say that I'm five foot seven.

  • I don't like to be surprised by garden worms, though I no longer shriek when I do see them.

  • I will use a nut cracker to open unopened pistachio nuts.

  • I put garlic in everything that isn't a dessert.

  • I have already picked, cooked and eaten all 14 artichokes that my plants have produced (so far!) this spring.

  • I planted twelve more artichoke plants this year in the hopes of getting enough to actually freeze some for later.

  • Cream cheeses are my dietary downfall.


Here are the blogs I've nominated:

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

In case you hadn't noticed . . .

May was a difficult month for me.

My father was in and out of the hospital; and two brain surgeries later, I'm happy to say that he's doing very well. It was utterly unexpected; he's been very healthy and active; in fact, he's in better physical condition than a lot of people half his age. You just never know what's around the bend.

Anyway, it was something I just couldn't blog about; and it was something that filled my mind so completely that I couldn't think of much anything else to write about, either. So not much blogging in May.

I'm hoping to do better in June.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Where is love?

Do you remember the song Where is love? from the musical Oliver!? It's been running though my head a lot lately.

Although things have been fabulous on the beady front, there has been a lot of turmoil in my personal life. Someone very close to me has been having some physical problems, and, while we are very hopeful that all will be well in the end, it's been very stressful. This person means a lot to me; I know where love is. I do not want to lose him.

This song, that question, is stuck in my head because of the words of two other people who mean a lot to me; one of them told me recently that, although she may not show it, she does love me. And the other one told me that she doesn't have to do anything to prove her love; that everyone knows how she feels and that's enough. Showing, proving; what you may ask, do they have to do with love?

I've always felt that love is a verb, not just a feeling. Without showing it, without proving it, it gives nothing to the one who is loved; it only benefits the lover. I think of love as the ultimate gift; it gives joy to the lover and the loved. Show it. Prove it. Every hour of every day.

Don't wait.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Even by my standards . . .

. . . this one is fiddly.

A lot of interesting things are going into it, and I will be breaking them apart and making additional projects for patterns. This is my practice piece, my place to go crazy and do whatever I want, no matter how insane it is to stitch. It's all going in there, and it's just too much to reconstruct for one pattern.

But I'm certain that there are plenty of things in here that are worth revisiting. So that's what I'll do; when this one is finished, I'll make up some new necklaces and perhaps a bracelet or two with all that I've learned while making this one. We'll get there.

One fiddly bit at a time.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

How fiddly is too fiddly?

If you're a seed beader, it's pretty much a given that you like small, detailed work. But how small is too small? How detailed is too detailed? When does it cross the line from fun to just too fiddly?

I have to watch that one, because my answer is pretty much never. I love little beads; although I need a magnifying glass to see quite a lot of the work I do, I use it gladly. I like to work small. I'm also a big fan of little details. The more detailed the better; I don't care if it takes me hours to do an inch; if the results are cool, I'm so there.

I mention this, because I've started a project today that is definitely on the fiddly side. It's not that it's difficult; it's just one of those things where attention must be paid, and each stitch demands to be settled in the correct orientation before going on to the next. But the results are just so cool, I have to do it.

I'm trying to decide whether or not to write up a pattern for it; I'd have to put some sort of disclaimer in the description if I did. Yes, it's just that fiddly.

But cool. Oh, yes, it's very, very cool.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Garden notes

I've been spending a lot of time in the garden lately; you may remember that when we moved into our house a year and a half ago, the back yard was nothing but a field.

A half-acre field.

We've been steadily working out from the house, and this month has been retaining wall month. Chances are, next month will also be retaining wall month . . . we've got several changes of levels in our yard, and my husband is intent on taming them. Yes, he's building the walls. My job is to clear land, and plant after the walls have gone up.

I'm a demon weeder; I rip them from the ground with great force and speed. No finesse whatsoever; but when you're clearing a field, delicacy is not what you need. Brute force is.

We've settled into a routine; we're out after breakfast and we work in the garden until it gets too hot. Then it's time for beading for me; after supper, if we're not worn out, we're back out there until the sun goes down. It's fun seeing the transformation; our wild lot is becoming civilized.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

It's been an amazing week

First, of course, was seeing my project in Bead & Button. There's no way to top that, right?

Well, maybe it doesn't top it, but it comes awfully close: I passed the 1,000 sales mark in my Etsy store last night. A big thank you to all of you who have purchased my patterns; you have made me feel incredible! I never, ever thought that my work would be in the hands of so many of you; it is such an amazing feeling to think of so many different people making my designs. I really can't put it into words; it's the best feeling, ever.

And third: I remembered the name of an Elvis song that I heard about 30 years ago and fell in love with. I've been searching for it ever since, and wouldn't you know, I remembered the title a few minutes ago, googled it, and found it.

So that's where I'll leave you. If you like Elvis, go listen to my favorite song:

It was a night; what a night it was, it really was such a night . . .

Friday, April 23, 2010

It's here!

I just received my advance copy of Bead and Button, and my bracelet is in there!

I don't know why, but I was afraid it wouldn't be.

I'm like that. I hope for the best, but prepare for the worst; I tend to need preparation in order to face disappointment properly. But this time, I didn't need to. It's all about celebration in my house today!

The pattern they used is my Caribbean Sea bracelet; when the August issue comes out, I'll put my version of the bracelet in my Etsy store. They didn't really change anything; they just reworded a few things and added step-by-step photos in place of my diagrams to make it fit their editorial style.

Oh, they did give it a new title. It's called Filigree Fling, and it's on page 72. It will probably be a couple of weeks before the magazine comes out; I hope you'll look for it and think of me when you see it!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Channeling the Baldwin Sisters

Does anyone else remember The Waltons? (First run on TV from 1972-1981)

"Good-night, John-Boy . . ."


signaled time for bed in our house, too. Even if it was too early to go to sleep, everyone felt compelled to call it a night when the Waltons did, though most of us stayed up to read or do homework, just like John-Boy. So why am I thinking of this now, some 30-40 years later?

Because I'm channeling the Baldwin Sisters.

I'm making Recipe. Nope, not whiskey; I don't have a still. But I have vodka, and I have loads of lavender and mint. I've been making extracts by soaking mint and lavender in vodka for two weeks and shaking them daily; (each in their own Mason jar, just like the ones the Baldwin Sisters used) and then, after two weeks, I mix the resulting liquors with simple syrups to make amazingly tasty liqueurs; and I'll be switched if I don't think of those two characters every time I mix up a new batch.

It's funny how stuff like that lingers in my mind.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Woo hooo!

This is turning out to be my lucky month! I just found out that my design, Plum Lacy, is the winner of the Beaded Passion Contest, sponsored by Bright Circle Shimmerstone Jewellery.

I love shimmerstones; they have the wonderful depth of dichroic glass, but are very reasonably priced.

I had so much fun working up this design, and I am thrilled to find out that it won. There were so many beautiful entries, including the wonderful winner of the Most Unusual Entry, Karyn of Releases by Rufydoof, and the winner of the People's Choice Award, Degber.

I hope you will take a look at all of the entries; voting is, of course, closed, but they are well worth drooling over!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Garden notes



This is what has been keeping me from beading.

In the foreground, you can see one of our raised beds; this is the one that I can see from my living room. It is filled with flowers and veggies; right now the ranunculus are the stars on the flower side, and we're harvesting lettuces, brussels sprouts, spinach, onions and swiss chard. The peas are just starting to bloom; I can't wait to eat them!

To the left, you can see the other raised beds; there are three of them, though it's hard to see that in this photo. We've already planted the summer veg; the corn, pumpkins, cucumbers, beans and squash are sprouting, and the tomato and pepper transplants are holding their own. We're still waiting on the watermelon, cantaloupe, and basil seeds to do their thing.

You can't see my flower beds, or our fruit trees in this photo; I'll save those for another day.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Not gonna let it get me down

Yup, you heard me - I'm not gonna give in, not gonna let the drama get me down. I had a few days of sadness over the latest round of insanity, but I am determined to rise above it, step aside, kick it to the curb, and move on.

There are so many good things going on right now; that is where my focus belongs, and that is where I intend to put it, every time it tries to stray. I've put on one of the biggest, wildest pieces of jewelry I own, and that's the attitude I'm gonna cop.

Watch out - here I come!

Friday, March 26, 2010

It's official!

Pop on over to the Bead & Button site, and look at the photo on the bottom of page one of the Table of Contents for the next issue.

That's my project article!

If you have really good eyesight, you might even be able to make out my name. Or maybe it's just 'cause I know it's there that I can read it. But, either way, it's pretty exciting.

I can't wait to get my paper copy.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sneak Peek

I've finished my Use the Muse IV piece for the Beader's Muse contest, sponsored by Artbeads.

I can't show you all of it, but I can give you a little sneak peek:



This time, the challenge for me was using so much black. I don't know why, but I almost never use black as more than an accent. I wanted to retain the color proportions of the kit, and there was a lot of black in it. I really enjoyed using the shiny and matte blacks together; I think they give my piece a real "leather and lace" look.

I can't show you the muse, of course, but rest assured, this piece is absolutely inspired and informed by the muse in every part. That's why you're getting such a small look; I don't want to give anything about the muse away.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Planted

Have you been wondering where I've been?

It's spring here, and that means it's time to plant my summer veggies. This year it was a bit more labor intensive, because I decided to revamp the irrigation lines; some of them were a bit too long and the water lost pressure before it got to the plants. Now they are all short, but, of course, that means I had to put in quite a lot of them.

Our veggie bed are all raised, and are 6x16 feet. I used drip lines with pre-made 6" spaced emitters, and I ran them from a large line that went across the long way; each line is six feet long, and spaced one foot apart; there are now fifteen lines in each bed, with the first and last six inches from the end. I figured that would give me the ability to rotate crops without adding new lines in the future; the stuff that needs only a foot of space can be accommodated, and the stuff that needs more space can just skip a line or two.

I alternated fixing the irrigation with planting, and now I have all three beds done. Unfortunately, the pipe that feeds those beds seems to have a break in it, so I won't be able to use the irrigation again until that particular area dries out enough to dig for the pipe and replace it, but in a week or two that should be done. In the meantime, I have a hose and I know how to use it.

I've planted pumpkin, corn, basil and watermelon in one bed; squash, beans, peppers and cantaloupe in the next, and today, I planted tomatoes, lemon cucumbers, and another variety of squash in the third bed. All three are edged with marigolds; they are supposed to repel pests, but even if they don't, they are so cheerful that I'd plant them anyway.

The fourth bed is outside our living room window and is half flowers and half veggies. I redid the irrigation on that last summer, and planted lettuce, peas and brussels sprouts, which are still going strong. When the brussels finish, I'll start my summer lettuce rotation in their place; a row every other week should keep us in salads for the summer. That bed gets some shade in the afternoon, so it is ideal for lettuce during our hot summers.

The peas are an experiment. Our spring might not be long enough for them; I don't expect they will like our hot weather. But they will get afternoon shade, so maybe they'll survive. As I said, they're an experiment. I love fresh peas, so I hope they survive.

Big news: I have two artichokes coming already!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The heart wants what it wants

. . . and so do my beads. After spending a few days spinning my wheels, trying stuff out, and taking it to bits again, I went back to my first thought.

Fringe.

I was avoiding it, because fringe is a rather controversial element in beading. People either love it or hate it; there doesn't seem to be much middle ground. If this wasn't a contest piece, there would have been no question about it; I'd have gone directly for the fringe and not mucked around with anything else.

However, I just wasn't sure if fringe was a good idea for this contest; if the judges are fringe-haters, then I'm sunk. But the beads want what the beads want and these beads wanted fringe. They also wanted a rather large boulder opal as a dangle; this is a very demanding bunch of beads. I've given them what they wanted, and we're both happy now.

Okay, guys; what do you want for a clasp?

I'm listening.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Taking it to bits

Today has been one of those days. I've been taking everything I've tried apart. It needs something, but none of the things I tried today worked. I've used - and reused - the same beads, over and over again.

Some days are like that.

Sigh.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Subsistence farming

We're just about there. We're actually growing enough vegetables to feed our family. I took stock of the freezer today, and, when I factor in the produce from our winter crop, we'll most likely be eating our own vegetables all year 'round.

Today I picked brussels sprouts, broccoli and our second-to-last cabbage. I think the broccoli is just about over, but there are enough small sprouts still on the plants to keep us going for a few more weeks. If they show any sign of bolting, I can always pick them and freeze them. I've already got two bags of sprouts frozen; we've been eating them at least once a week, but one of those weeks we had a huge harvest, so I froze the excess.

Our fruit trees are beginning to bloom; it's too soon to expect much fruit, if any, from them, but it's nice to see them bloom. It's a reminder of all the fruit to come.

We harvested our first two strawberries yesterday; I dipped them in chocolate.

Life is good.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

It just keeps getting bigger

My muse entry, that is.

I had flirted with the idea of making an "everyday" sort of piece, but it's just not in me. I like big pieces, and the muse is a bold little missy who likes a lot of company.

So far, I've made a 5 inch bib on a slightly larger than choker length - collarbone length, really - necklace. I say "so far" because I'm flirting with the notion of putting fringe on it. I'm not totally decided on that; I still have some structural work to do before I go there.

I've managed to use at least some of every element in the kit, plus a lot of extras. Perhaps that's why it refuses to be small!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Digging it

As you may remember, our garden started out as a field. We have been working on making it into a garden; hubby built four large raised beds for vegetables, and I dug out a large border and planted a small orchard of fruit trees.

This year, we're tackling the hillside. On one side of our property, we have a steep hill about 20 feet high that goes the entire length of the property. We've cleared the third nearest the house, and have planted it with native plants. The remaining two thirds I seeded with lupine; they are fighting it out with the grasses, and mostly winning. I'll toss out more seed next fall.

I've discovered that planting on a hillside is an amazing workout. I have to brace myself so that I don't slide down the hill, and work the shovel at the same time. Somehow that seems to take every muscle I have, and a few that I don't have.

I'm gonna be buff.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Nostalgia

It's a funny emotional desire; to want what we actually used to have. Ever since the daffodils started opening in my garden, I've had the most horrible nostalgia for . . . forsythia.

Yup, you read me right. That shrub that is much maligned and as common as dirt in the midwest and eastern United States; the shrub that wants to be a fountain of bright yellow and green, and is usually tortured into hedges, balls, or pyramids. We had a lot of it when we lived in New York; so did everyone else.

The best thing about forsythia was forcing it indoors. I would go out every day in March and look for the buds to start swelling; I would always cut some too early and be disappointed when it refused to bloom. But, after the too early cuttings died, I'd cut again; the second cuttings usually bloomed.

Unless it had been a really, really cold winter and I started looking for buds way too early. Then it took three cuttings before the yellow flags unfurled.

Anyway, now we're back in California, the winter is easy, there isn't any snow, and I've had something blooming in my garden every week . . . why am I nostalgic for forsythia? I don't need it to tell me that Spring will come; Spring is already here. Nostalgia isn't logical, apparently.

We were at the nursery today, and guess what I saw? Umm hmm . . . there's a forsythia planted by my front door today. It's yellow. It's Spring.