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


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.


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.


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


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.

Monday, March 8, 2010

I'm going to have to embellish it

The muse in this round of the Use the Muse contest is flat. Not flat as in dull; it's been very inspirational for me, actually. But flat as in flat as a pancake. It has no texture, no raised areas, no crevices or bumps. It's perfectly flat.

My beadweaving is not flat.

On the contrary, this piece is turning out to be a veritable feast of texture; even areas that I thought would be flat are not. It has ruffles, peaks and valleys; I've used so many different types and sizes of beads that it has no choice but to be textural.

I'm really happy with where it is going; I love where the muse has led me. I just have one, teeny, tiny problem. The muse really doesn't fit in with all this texture. She looks, well, flat.

She needs a bead job.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Punto en aria

That's what I'm playing with today. It's a lace-making technique where you start with a solid edge, and build the lace off of it; loosely translated, it means, "stitches in air."

Of course, I'm using beads instead of lace-making stitches, but the method is very much the same. Each stitch is replaced with a bead, but the lace is built up, row by row, with a needle and thread. I've nearly finished the base of the collar; next up is figuring out how to work the muse, and the lace motifs inspired by it, onto the neckpiece.

I used the rondelles and the 6mm crystals in the neckpiece of the collar; I have now used some of everything in the kit. That wasn't a requirement, of course; it was a personal challenge.

Meeting personal challenges rocks!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The results of rain

We drove up to the lake today; we'd been hearing about how great it looked and we wanted to see for ourselves.

California has been having lower than normal rainfall for several years, and the lake was down to about 10% of capacity.

Large portions of it had dried up altogether, and last summer there were boats laying on their sides on dry land. It was a very sad sight.

This year, we've had above normal rainfall, and the lake is at nearly 50% capacity. It has a ways to go, yet, but what an amazing transformation. There is still a good 30 feet of land showing, but it looks a lot better than it did last summer. We're waiting on another possible storm tonight; I hope it makes it here.

Seeing the lake fill up again would be wonderful.

There have been times during this rainy winter when we've been tired of clouds and mud; we've itched to get out in the garden and pull up the weeds that are thriving on a steady diet of water. But, after seeing the bounty that the rain has brought to the lake, I resolve to complain no more.

Bring it on!

Friday, March 5, 2010

My insanity pays off

It worked!

I've sewed seed beads along the length of the leather cord, and begun to bead an edge on one side. It's working out even better than I imagined it would; I think I am finally going to be able to use the fiber element in my Muse entry!

That leaves me with one type of crystal and some rondelles to figure in, but I have some ideas.

I've never worried about using beads.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

This way lies madness

I thought it would be interesting to challenge myself to use all the elements of the Use the Muse kit this go-round. The beads are easy to incorporate, I've never had any trouble using them, but each time the fiber component has left me stymied. This time it's a length of 2mm black leather cord. It's a good length, just long enough for a necklace, but how to incorporate it into beadweaving?

Hold onto your hats, I had a "What if?" moment. Yes, boys and girls, I am sewing seed beads to a 2mm leather cord. No, it's not easy, that's why I've titled this post the way I have. It is ridiculously hard to sew beads to a cord that small. The truly horrid part is that it is a detail that will probably not be noticed by anyone who looks at the finished piece. It's the hardest part of it, and only you, my loyal friends and readers, will ever know that.

That's why I had to tell you.

When you see the finished piece, you will know that I pulled the needle through the leather with pliers for every stitch. You will either appreciate my attention to detail, or think that I've finally lost it completely.

It's cool, people.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Using the muse

My kit arrived for the Use the Muse IV contest; and I have begun to bead. I've made a good start on it; the muse component was immediately inspirational for me.

Of course, I have also ripped out a good bit!

I am going to try to use all the components of the kit this time; I can't guarantee that I will use them all, but that is my goal. I won't try to force it; if there is something that just won't work with my design, it won't go in. But, if things go according to plan (who am I kidding? when have I ever had things go according to plan?) I will use at least some of each item.

Plus, of course, a few extras.

Quite a few extras.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The taxman

Well, I just finished making my financial statement for last year; I didn't make any money, but I didn't lose much, either. I bought a lot of beads last year; I have a hard time resisting beads. They don't cost much per bead, but it is surprising how quickly they add up over a year's time!

But the good news is that I now have a very good selection of colors; a box of beads outlasts most projects. The bad news is that the bead companies keep coming out with new colors; it's hard for me to go in with the intention of buying one box of black matte size 11° beads and not end up with a few extras in colors I've never seen before.

And don't even get me started with on-line orders! They are so very helpful about pointing me to more beads, in colors and sizes that coordinate with the beads I've just put in my cart; I must confess, I have been hooked that way more times than I care to admit.

This year, I am hoping to actually make a profit. Probably not a large one; but that's my goal. I'm forcing myself to cut back on buying new beads; so far this year, I've been pretty good about it. 

It helps that my closest bead store is a good 45 minutes away...

Monday, March 1, 2010

Exploring 8-fold symmetry

Now that sounds terribly mathematical, doesn't it? No, I didn't get a brain transfusion from my friend Gwen at BeAdinfinitum, but the fact that I am recognizing the maths behind my play is probably due to her influence.

I'm making wee mandalas out of beads; they look a bit like conchas, actually, and all of them have 8-fold symmetry. Of course, since it's me making them, no actual maths were used in their design or construction, but the end result is pretty cool, and I'm not above claiming maths after the fact.

As of right now, I'm thinking that they will go into an asymmetrical necklace, but I might surprise myself and continue the symmetry. 

Time alone will tell.