Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Eleven Months

Yes, it's that time again: Cookies, truffles, fudge, rich foods and champagne.

Butter.

Sugar.

Chocolate.

Egg Nog!

And my monthly check in. Yes, it's been eleven months of healthy eating for me, and this month is definitely the hardest one. I can't claim to be cookie-free . . . though I will say that I can count the number of cookies I've eaten on my fingers. I might need a toe or two before the month is over, but I won't need to borrow anyone else's hands or feet.

That's huge for me. Cookies have always been a major comfort and joy food source in my life; I love them. They're so easy to grab; they go from the jar to my tummy without a fork or a plate. Cookies are a combination of instant gratification and a trip back in time to a point when childhood was a blissful combination of butter and sugar. That might seem like a lot to ask of such a small morsel, but for me, they've always delivered.

It's a real shame about the fat, sugar and calories. Without those, cookies would be the perfect food.

I'll be cookie free-again in January. This month, I'll settle for enjoying them in moderation.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Elegant Elements, indeed!

Isn't this clasp just the prettiest thing you've ever seen? I fell in love with it the moment I saw it. And - lucky, lucky me! - it's on my bead board right now. Surrounded by piles of gold beads, pearls, Swarovski crystals, and vintage rhinestones.

Along with several other wonderful beaders and designers, I was asked to be part of an exciting challenge sponsored by The Beadsmith, a supplier of beads and bead stringing supplies to qualified wholesale distributers throughout the world. This clasp is part of their Elegant Elements collection, and it is aptly named. Beyond aptly named, actually; the picture doesn't do it full justice.

I'm weaving a lacy bracelet to set off this clasp; I wish it were going to be finished by tomorrow night so that I could wear it to a party, but I think that's overly optimistic. It will be done when it's done, I won't rush it.

I think a door just opened. I wanted a fun challenge, and I got one.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Old hands and new tricks

Sometimes it's easy to recognize where my ideas come from. I'm working on a project right now that's all about trying things I haven't done before; the pendant owes everything to Jamie Cloud Eakin, and the rope it will hang from has echoes of Marcia DeCoster and Rachel Nelson-Smith.

It also represents my own journey in every bead and in every stitch. My love - and knowledge - of lacemaking, architecture, and engineering are mixed together in this piece. It has vintage beads that my grandmother saved for probably 50 years, and new beads that are much more regular in size. It has a new cab, featuring a vintage photo; it is a combination of old and new in every part.

As am I.

I've been thinking about creativity lately. I've been through a dry spell, and I'm just now confident that I'm coming out of it. I was pushing too hard for too long, trying to be something I'm not; and, in doing that, I lost the gist of what I am for awhile. But I've found it again. I'm an amalgamation of everything I see and do; a casserole of everything I've ever seen and everything I've ever done. I distill my experiences and bring out something new with my hands, one stitch at a time.

I've also discovered that I need balance in my life in order to create; I don't do well when I try to focus on my craft and make it happen as a business venture. The more I thought about business, the more I lost my creative spark. And without that, I had no business on which to focus.

So, I've decided to put the business part of it on the back burner and get back to living a creative life. I've learned that I need music, and art, and friends, and laughter in order to be a creative person. I need to keep joy as one of the primary ingredients in my creative stew; without it, everything falls more than a bit flat.

I learned that this year. Seems I'm always learning something. My hands have been beading for nearly 50 years; I hope they have many more years of beading in them.

I guess I'm getting to be an old hand at this. How odd.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Ten months in



It's been ten months since I started my experiment in healthy living, and I am happy to report that I can now look at a photograph of myself without cringing. When I saw the photos from last year's family reunion, I cried. I hated the way I looked; and I hated the way I felt. I was unhealthy, uncomfortable, and scared. I knew I was in bad shape, but I didn't think there was anything I could do to change it. I was almost afraid to try; I'd heard so many people tell me that after 50 the body goes downhill and there is nothing anyone can do to stop it.

So, back in late January of this year, I decided that even if losing weight was not possible, I could eat a healthy diet for four months and see if it made me feel better. Yes, I secretly - okay, not so secretly - hoped the weight would come off, and I would look better, but I wasn't counting on it. I decided to cut out refined sugars and processed foods, eat mostly fresh vegetables and fruit, and slowly decreased my portion sizes. I made sure that I ate a good breakfast first thing every morning - usually plain yogurt with fresh fruit and nuts - and, if I want to snack, I have a few nuts or some unsweetened dried fruit (check those labels!). I promised myself that I would stick to it for four months because my birthday was four months away, and it seemed like a good idea at the time.

I told myself that if I had lost enough weight to go down a size, then I would ask my husband to take me clothes shopping for my birthday. If I hadn't lost any weight, then I'd ask him to buy a dozen doughnuts for my birthday breakfast, and I'd do a face plant that evening in my own birthday cake. I had a plan, and I was sticking to it. I can do anything for four months; I figured that was enough time to see results, if it was going to work; if it wasn't, then I could rest assured that I'd given it a good try, and I could go back to eating all the things I loved. In excess, of course.

I can admit something now that I couldn't say back in January, 2011 - although I could squeeze myself into a pair of size 8, spandex enhanced, lowrider jeans, it wasn't a pretty sight. My "real size" was more like a 16, but I was clinging to the myth that I was a size 8. How bad could I be if I was a size 8? Well, I wasn't a size 8 then, but I was after four months of healthy eating. No more squeezing. The spandex didn't have to expand, and my cell phone fit into my pocket without bulging. In the fitting room, I managed to squeeze myself into a pair of size four, spandex enhanced lowrider jeans, but I didn't buy them. I liked the way I looked in the size 8 pants. I liked the way I felt in the size 8 pants. I bought some new tops, and a pair of loose-fitting, size 8 cargo pants, and decided to go for another four months of healthy eating.

I'm now halfway through my third set of four months, and I'm wearing size 6 jeans. Comfortably. Loosely, even. And I don't even know what size I could "squeeze myself into" because I haven't tried squeezing for 6 months. Although I still have horrible cravings for sweets, they don't taste the way I remember - when I do give in and take a bite of something sweet, I don't really enjoy it like I think I will. Truth be told, I miss dessert; I loved sweets, and it makes me sad that I've lost that enjoyment. On the other hand, though, fruit tastes really, really good to me now - so sweet! - and I get to eat it every day. Guilt-free. For breakfast, even.

The holidays are upon us. Will I be able to handle it? I will eat some pumpkin pie, but not the baklava. I think fudge is behind me; it doesn't even really sound good. But I might make some really, really dark chocolate truffles rolled in unsweetened cocoa. Eggnog? no, I don't think so. Half a cup of eggnog in my coffee was my favorite treat from Thanksgiving until the last carton was gone at the supermarket, but I think I'll give it a miss this year. I am thinking of treating myself to spoonful of a homemade alternative: heavy cream, vanilla and nutmeg. Just a spoonful, though. I've actually gotten rather used to taking my coffee black.

I'll make up a pan of shortbread, because I adore Christmas cookies, and I don't want to give them up. I know that the super-sweet ones most likely will not taste good to me anymore; but I still want to have something to nibble on in front of the fire after the tree has been trimmed.

I'll let you know next month how it goes; it will be nearly Christmas by then.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Social Networking

I have depended upon social networking for my daily "people fix" for upwards of twenty years now. As a writer, I've often worked from home, and, beginning with CompuServe Forums so many years ago, I've really come to enjoy - and depend on - my little trips to the virtual water cooler for gossip, information, and contact with living, breathing, albeit asynchronous, human beings.

At its best, it's a giant network of pen pals from all over the world. I can drop in whenever I like and see updates from people whom I've gotten to know through photographs and the written word; someone is always doing something interesting.

I work in short bursts; I get antsy if I focus on one thing for too long. I need short breaks to function at my best, so social networking is ideal for me. I'm in and out in a few minutes, feeling refreshed and human again; that little bit of contact with the world allows me to dip back into my work with renewed vigor and get the job done. There are no interruptions when I'm working, and I'm not interrupting anyone else's work when I need my people fix. That's the beauty of asynchronous communication.

Unfortunately, Facebook has a chat function. Since I usually keep a Facebook window open and handy for my quick little breaks, chat means that anyone can open a window to me anytime they like. I was raised to be polite; it's hard for me to ignore someone who is asking to speak to me. Unfortunately, those little windows usually open at a time when I'm busily writing, which created a dilemma for me: politeness or work? Whichever I choose, I'm going to have regrets. So, for a long time, I'd managed to keep the chat function disabled. I think that option must have run out; suddenly that darn chat window has started popping up again.

This morning, it popped up while I was taking a physical break from the computer; when I came back, I saw the little chat window on my screen with two lines of text in it. The first line said, "Hello," and the second said, "Why did you accept my friendship if you're not going to talk to me?"

Oddly enough, this plaintive cry was from someone who didn't appear to be human. The entity who was upset when I didn't instantly respond was a bead store. Now, I like bead stores as much as any beader, but I like to visit them when I want to buy beads. As much as I like them, I'm not in the habit of inviting them into my home. I began to think about the bead store's message, and then, I began to wonder why I had accepted the friend request. I unfriended it. If a bead store believes that I should be at its beck and call after accepting its friendship, then I don't want the friendship.

I realized that I needed to deal with the chat window. Now.

I went into the settings, and "disable chat" was no longer an option. "Available to chat" was checked off; I clicked on it again, hoping to see the check mark disappear. No such luck. That stumped me for a few minutes; the only other option was "Limit availability." I clicked that, but found only a list of my lists; it seems that Facebook does not want to let me choose to chat with no one anymore.

I fooled 'em.

Or at least, I hope I did; I made up a new list called "Chat," and selected it as the only group to whom I am available for chat. The "chat" list is empty.

I've got my fingers crossed that it works.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Time and understanding

Yesterday, we went to a family reunion and birthday party for Gramma; she will be 105 in about a week. She is doing amazingly well; she has some trouble hearing, which she finds frustrating, but her mind is as sharp as ever.

Still - at 105 - she knows that her time is running out; she's surprised that she's lasted this long. She doesn't necessarily expect to wake up when she goes to sleep each night, and one of these days, she won't. She's very matter-of-fact about that. She has come to terms with the eventuality of death; she has an understanding of it that I am not able to accept.

I've mentioned before that the concept of mortality has begun to slap me around a bit; yet, when I look at Gramma, I'm faced with the fact that I'm only a little bit more than half-way to her age. There's no guarantee I've got her life expectancy, of course; but neither can I focus on the possibility of dying for the next 52 (or more!) years. It's still time for me to work on being alive.

I may grow hard of hearing; I may not be able to do the things I can do today at some time in the future, but I can do them now.

105 years and counting.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Opening and closing

This year has been a year of change for me; physical changes to be sure; but emotional and life changes, too. I've been trying things that I've always wanted to do, but didn't have the nerve to do, and I have been working on getting healthy and strong.

As the year winds down, I'm really feeling the changes; I've let go of some things, and opened up room for others, yet unknown. Letting go can be very painful; not just for the one who lets go, but for others, who don't want to let go. That's the hardest part of letting go; sometimes other people feel hurt.

I wish I could please everyone all the time, but I can't. I've spent about 50 years trying, and have recently come to the reluctant conclusion that I must let go of that need in me to please others; I must, finally, be true to myself. And so, I've opened another door, cleared out some more space in my life, made some more room for something that will be a better fit for me.

When I did that, a door closed behind me.

It happens sometimes. It's sad; but it also makes me very grateful for the times when the door wasn't closed behind me; grateful for the friends who understand that sometimes we need to walk in different directions in order to meet up again and share our stories. Those people are rare and precious jewels; I treasure them, and love knowing that we will always be close in our hearts, even if life has taken us in very different directions.

You know who you are. I love you always.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Check in

It's been nine months since I started dieting, and I've been on a plateau for the last two or three months. Maybe even longer than that, actually. It's sort of hard to tell, since I'm still refusing to step on the scale.

You see, I'm dreadfully competitive. If I were to purchase a scale and use it, I would fixate on the number I saw there; I would weigh myself daily, and put the number in a spreadsheet. I would analyze it, and I would want to see results.

I can't do that to myself any more; it's not productive and it only serves to make me unhappy. But I know myself too well to think that I could make myself stop if I ever let a scale into my life.

How do I know I'm on a plateau? My clothes. My belt has been on the same notch for so long that it's starting to wear. I haven't needed to move down a size for quite awhile. I'm not gaining, so I'm not complaining.

Much.

But I would love to get off this plateau and lose the rest of the weight. Ideally, before my one year anniversary. But I'm not going to stress too much about it; I'm committed to living a healthy lifestyle, and I've been doling that. Instead of counting the pounds or the sizes, I'm keeping track of my exercise routines and staying away from the sugar.

I'm still at it so I'm calling this month a success.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Once more, with feeling

I'm studying voice, and I've reached the hard part: my teacher wants me to sing with feeling.

You see, I'm a living, breathing, walking contradiction. I'm a very emotional person who presents a very even-keeled view of myself to the world; I've spent the past 50-plus years making my shell stronger, smoother, and harder. I don't share my feelings; I'm calm. I'm rational. I handle things.

I do my feeling in private.

How can this be the next step? It's not fair. I love the technical aspects of singing: it's fun to find the perfect pitch, to feel my voice resonating with the guitar or the piano, to make the sound waves match up; I like my breathing exercises; I like learning where my lips, tongue, epiglottis and breath need to go to make a good sound; I revel in warm-up exercises and am startled when I lay claim to a new, even higher, note. I'd be perfectly comfortable staying in this analytical phase forever.

But no.

Apparently, music is about feelings. About sharing feelings. About communicating feelings. I'm having trouble with that; I'm not sure I remember how to do that; I know I'm not comfortable doing that.

But I'm going to try.

Step one is this post; you're not only getting my confession; you're getting a piece of my abstract art. I loved painting abstracts; I loved shutting off my brain and letting my emotions fill the canvas. It was the one thing I let myself do that was completely irrational. But even that became too difficult for me; I set down my paints over 20 years ago.

Today I thought I'd try an abstract in Photoshop. It may not taste like paint, but the feeling is still there.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Remembering why I do this

Here's a shot of my bead mat, as it is this very moment. As you can see, I'm building some components; I don't know yet if they will turn into a bracelet or a necklace, I'm just playing with shiny things today.

I've been at loose ends this summer; I haven't been my usual, driven self. You may have noticed that I haven't written many new tutorials lately; I just can't seem to get myself settled down to draw diagrams, or write directions. I have several projects waiting to be written up, but i've found a million excuses to do something - anything - else. When my resistance to something is this high, I've always found that it's best not to force it; time and tides have a way of coming around again, and I'm sure that one of these days I will wake up and begin writing and drawing diagrams like a madwoman.

But not today. Today I am playing with shiny things.

It's been a rough year; mortality has reared its ugly head, and I've had to face the fact that things change and I won't live forever. Not that I really ever thought I would, but it's just not as abstract a concept as it used to be. No matter how I slice it, I'm in the second half, or maybe even the last quarter. This year, I committed myself to eating properly and exercising; I know it won't make me immortal, but I'm hoping that being in better shape physically will keep me from facing some of the physical problems and limitations I've seen recently in the people I love.

I want to keep playing for a long time yet.

That's why I make jewelry; I like to play. I like to experiment; I like to build things. I like to put beads together, one at a time, and I love shiny, sparkly things. Today I'm playing with gold-plated Delicas, rivolis, an exorbitant number of bitty little Swarovski crystals, and faceted ruby rondelles. You know: all the good things that I haven't used because they were expensive and precious.

I'm using them today.

Because life is short, and everything can all change in an instant, I'm going to start using up all the expensive, too-good-to-use beads.

This is my time.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Well, it's been 7 months

When I started, I believed that I should be where I wanted to be st six months; I know lots of people who've lost more weight than I have in this amount of time. I'm feeling like an underachiever, and I hate that. I want to have all of the excess weight gone now.

I still have to really try to say something nice when I look at a photo of me. I'm very harsh with myself; I know that, and I'm trying to get better, but my first reaction is crushing.

I still look as huge as a house to myself.

For that reason, you're not getting a close-up, clear photo of me in my workout clothes today; you're getting the artsy, darker, smaller, looking-into-the-sun-so-you-can't-really-see-me-very-well one. Isn't the garden pretty?

I sometimes wonder if I will ever feel good when I look at a picture of myself. Oddly enough, the mirror is starting to be my friend; I don't hate what I see in the mirror anymore, so that's a step in the right direction. I'm hoping that it really is true that the camera adds fifteen pounds, and that what I see in the mirror is more truly a reflection of how I really look.

I know I'm smaller. I've lost more than 10 inches in each of the crucial bust/waist/hips measurements, and my legs and arms are also much slimmer and trimmer than they were six months ago. But I'd still like to lose another 5-6 inches from each spot, especially in the bust; I tell myself that my big bust is the reason I look so huge in photos, and it might actually be true.

It's frustrating sometimes, but I'm still at it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Nice way to start the day

I spent the morning out on the porch, stripping off lemon verbena leaves, loading up the dehydrator, and feeding the blue jay peanuts.

Sometimes I really love my life.

Yes, it's a lot of work to grow and process so much of our own food; some of the tasks are back breaking, and performed under the hot sun, but some of them are totally delightful. This morning was one of the most delightful ones; I took my dehydrator trays out onto our lovely shady back porch and slowly filled up all six with lemon verbena leaves. In between stripping off the leaves, I tossed peanuts to our resident blue jay.

We haven't taken the time to tame this one; this has been an extraordinarily busy summer. But he knows how to call to us when he wants peanuts, and we toss them out for him. He has no problem swooping in and picking them up; he hides them all over the yard, mostly in the lawn.

Next winter, when I'm sipping hot lemon verbena tea, I'll remember this morning.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Lost . . . and found

In many ways, this has been a year of loss for me; some of the losses have been necessary and good, some of them have not.

I was raised to believe that "no one wants to hear about your troubles;" and while I do believe in the power of positive thinking, and the importance of attitude, I have also come to the realization that there are times when I need the comfort of knowing that people love me, even when I'm hurting and sad. I don't think I'm alone in that; I think we all need to be reassured that we're still loved, even when we're not particularly lovable.

"She's just doing that to get attention. Don't give it to her."

How many time have we heard that, or said it ourselves? How many times have we felt resentful towards the people who are doing that to us - or hurt by the people who think we're doing it to them? How can we tell the difference between a play for attention, or a real need for love?

I'm good at asking questions; I don't have any answers. But, lately, I've been coming to the conclusion that it's important to honor our struggles. It's important to validate other people's efforts, and to mourn their losses with them. We all need to be told that it's okay to hurt; that we don't have to keep all the pain inside.

Pain happens; hurt happens; loss happens. I think we need to let ourselves pay attention to that; we don't have to give ourselves over to it, and we shouldn't let other people's trouble overwhelm our lives, but if we can stop for a moment, look someone in the eye, and let them know that we care, we should.

I know how much that has meant to me this year.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Month five check in

The novelty has certainly worn off; I'm getting used to having sore muscles, and I'm starting to get grumpy about it. At first, I was sort of excited about it; I have muscles, who knew? The fact that they were sore meant that I was getting stronger, and what's a little pain compared to that? After all, I have a mantra: no hurt, no mini-skirt.

Well, that worked for the first couple of months.

Not so much, anymore. There is, of course, the very real possibility that I'm overtraining just a little bit; I tend to overdo most things, so it wouldn't really be a surprise. I've decided to stay at the weights I'm using now until I can do the exercises fairly easily; I'll sacrifice a bit of muscle growth this month in favor of feeling less pain. I don't like to admit it, but I'm not a kid anymore. I just don't recover quite as quickly as I used to.

I'm determined not to get discouraged, however; I'm not giving up. I'm getting close to my goal, and it's more important to make this something I can live with than it is to get there fast. Of course, I'd like to have both of those things happen, but I'm very aware that if I don't slow down, I will eventually talk myself into giving it up, and I certainly won't get there without it! So, slow down, I will.

Can you tell that I don't like having to slow down?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Just for fun

Today, I decided to decorate some earring backings. I love the feathers in my hair, but they're fairly subtle, and sometimes I want to be a bit wilder.

But not every day.

So, instead of putting these larger, brighter feathers into my hair, I attached them to some butterfly earring backings. As long as you can crimp (and, for some reason, today was not a good crimping day for me, I ruined several crimps before I got them right) you can make these fun earring backings, which can be worn with any of your post earrings.

1. String a crimp bead on one end of your beading wire, and add one or two feathers under the crimp so that feathers are going down, and the beading wire going up. Crimp. Trim off any excess feathers or beading wire. If you're a neat freak, or a bad crimper (like me!) add a crimp cover.

2. String on an accent bead, and as many seedies as you like to get the length you want. I might go longer next time.

3. String a crimp bead, and go through one of the little curls on the earring backing. Leaving the beading wire loose enough for movement, go back through the crimp bead and several of the seedies. Crimp and trim off the excess beading wire.

4. Wear!

This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to decorating earring backs; attach chain with a jump ring, make beaded fringe or string beads to match your favorite earrings. The wilder the better, I think.

If you decide to make some, I'd love to see your photos! Please share them with me on my Jewelry Tales Facebook page. If you're not already a fan of my page, you will need to "like" it before you can add a photo.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Body image, or why women feel fat no matter what we do

I saw an excellent video today that reminded me why I will probably never look in the mirror and see what I think I should see; in our culture, women in photographs aren't real. They've been edited, polished, thinned out and turned into something very unrealistic; we see these photographs every day, and they influence our perceptions.

The picture on the left is me. Today. As I really look.

The picture on the right has been photoshopped, following the guidelines used for publication. I've been smoothed, my legs have been lengthened, my bust-line is perkier and my waist is thinner. My wrinkles have been touched up, my lip-line redrawn, and my hair is a bit fuller. My neck is longer and thinner; my arms are slimmer. I didn't spend a ton of time on the retouching, so it's not perfect, but you get the idea.

I'm not real anymore, but most people would say I look a lot better.

I will never look like that in real life, no matter how much weight I lose, no matter how many weights I lift. There is simply no way to make my legs get 30% longer. But it's what we see in every magazine, it's how we grow up thinking we should look, and when I looked at it, even I thought, "Yes! That's how I should look."

Not.

Not, not, not, not, not.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Muscles and bones

I'm adding them to my goals for the next four months. As I've lost weight, I've seen some of my bone structure re-emerge; today I saw an abdominal muscle.

More, please.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Four months is only the beginning

This probably comes as a surprise to no one but me, but here goes:

I've made it through four months of healthy eating, and about three months of exercise, and, although I've met my original goal of losing weight and wearing smaller sized clothes, I'm not about to stop now.

Four more months.

Yup, I'm officially committing to four more months of healthy living; I will continue to keep taking a look at myself every month about this time, and will re-evaluate my position at the end of another four months.

This time, I'm not setting size or weight goals for myself; I'm setting health goals. I've been getting stronger, and I will keep lifting weights and exercising in order to keep getting stronger. I've been sleeping better; I will keep exercising and eating lightly so that I will continue to sleep well. I'm generally happier, calmer and more optimistic; I won't say that I can handle everything that life throws my way, but I'm definitely feeling less panic in situations that used to throw me for a loop. I have discovered that I don't need to eat my way out of trouble; I can get through fear without food. I will keep exercising and eating properly because proper nutrition and exercise definitely enhances my positive energy.

I feel better, and I look better. Because of that, I'm less fearful now in social situations. While I will always be on the shy side, I'm becoming more comfortable talking to people I don't know, and I'm enjoying life a lot more. I'm taking a big step, starting today; I will be taking voice lessons. I've always wanted to be able to sing; I don't know yet if I can learn, but I believe that I can get better, and I hope I can become more comfortable singing out loud. Right now, I'm really only comfortable singing when I know no one can hear me, so it's a very big leap for me to take lessons; there is no way to do that without being heard by at least one person.

So, although I suspect that I will want to keep going down this path for as long as I keep going, I'm only committing to four months at a time. Four months is doable, comfortable, and not threatening; it's also enough time to see progress. I need reasonable goals with defined outcomes; I need rules, time limits and routines.

I want to be able to sing.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Freedom!

I overbooked myself this winter; I made too many commitments, and said yes to too many projects.

I don't regret any of them, but it's nice to have things winding down. This past weekend, I finished two big projects - on or before their deadlines - and I'm looking forward to making something that I've been thinking about making for over a month.

Coincidentally, I also had a wonderful letter from a customer this week; she told me about her aunt Elaina, a free spirit whom I wish I could have known, and asked me if I could design a bracelet that would honor her aunt's memory. The more she told me about her aunt, the more I realized that the bracelet I've been wanting to make just might be exactly right.

I've laid out the lampwork beads, and the seed beads I want to use with them; now it's time to figure out the details. I love to play with beads, and I'm feeling especially playful right now. I'm not unlike a kid after finals; school's out, my assigned projects are done, and I'm tossing my books in the air.

Color. Gotta have color! and big, bold shapes. Nothing subtle about my mood; it's time to let the wild child run.

Friday, April 29, 2011

I never thought I'd say this . . .

. . . but it's true. I actually look forward to two things I used to hate with a passion: breakfast and exercise.

I never used to eat breakfast; I woke up every morning feeling yucky, and the last thing I wanted to do was put food into my stomach, so I didn't. I didn't believe it when people said that breakfast was the most important meal of the day.

I didn't want to eat anything in the morning, so I didn't.

But now I love it. I actually wake up feeling hungry instead of yucky, and my big bowl of fruit and yogurt is my favorite meal of the day. Not only does it taste good, but it's so pretty. This morning, I had sliced pears, strawberries, kumquats and pecans in yogurt with a sprinkling of cinnamon and freshly ground nutmeg. It's a color combination that I really should bead up; soft white, pale green, bright red, bright orange, light orange and reddish-brown.

And it tastes good, too. It's funny; when I stopped eating candy and other sweets, other foods started tasting sweeter and sweeter. My morning bowl of fruit gives me the same explosion of sweetness that I used to get from a bowl of ice cream. And to think that it's actually good for me!

After doing a few things around the house and checking my email, I'm ready to exercise. I just finished doing my weight lifting; I used to hate anything to do with exercise, but now I actually look forward to that, too. I work out in the garage, and during my 60 second rest periods between sets, I wander out into the garden and admire the flowers, pull a weed or two, or pick and eat a strawberry or a few peas. Then I go back and do my next set.

The lifting gets my blood moving, and the sunshine, plants and flowers lift my spirits.

Who knew?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

It's that time again

I'm three months into my healthy living experiment; I've got one more month to go on my original plan. Although sugar still calls my name, I've been able to resist; I've eaten many, many strawberries as a substitute for candy.

Thank goodness we have a very large, and prolific, strawberry patch.

This month, I'm happy to report that a few people around me have actually noticed that I'm getting smaller; it felt really good to have others affirm my progress. I bought a pair of shorts last week; my shorts from last summer are just way too big. I felt so good about myself today that I was able to pick out - and purchase - a new bathing suit.

A bikini.

Hubby may be the only one who sees me in it for awhile, but when I got home, I threw away my old suits. I'm moving forward, and there will be bikinis in my future. I believe that I can do it, and that's a very good feeling.

This month, my goal is to keep on keeping on; to not let myself become complacent and slip back into bad habits. My goal is in sight; I'm feeling good, I finally believe that I can reach my goal, and I don't want to let the siren song of sugar lead me astray. I know that the last of the weight will take longer than a month to lose, and I'm ready to commit to four more months of healthy living.

I might even be ready to commit to a lifetime of it.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Woo hooo!

It's always exiting to get a package from a publishing company, rip it open, and start looking for myself in there. This time, I'm on page 18 of the 7th Anniversary issue of Bead Unique.

I love Bead Unique Magazine; in addition to cool projects, they always have articles about lampwork beads and lampwork bead artists.

And you all know how much I love lampwork beads!

So it is particularly appropriate that the bracelet pictured in this issue uses lampies from one of my all-time favorite artists, Melissa Vess.

I was thrilled when my Hugs and Kisses bracelet won second prize in their Spring 2011 Bead Accessory contest, but seeing it in print is even more exciting.

Thank you, Bead Unique!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Weighty matters

They look so innocent, sitting there.

Two dumbells, with five pounds on each side of each one, making twenty pounds total. When I first started using them, I couldn't believe how heavy they felt; there was no way I could finish all the repetitions in each set. But I've been persevering; each time I lift, I've been able to do a few more, and now I can do all of them.

Not easily - no, it's still a struggle, but it's supposed to be hard. If it were easy, I'd be wasting my time, right?

I've got six weeks left in my original four months of healthy eating and more exercise plan. I have no idea how much weight I've lost; I'm smaller, and that's a good thing, but I'm not where I want to be yet. I've got several more inches, and at least two or three more sizes, to lose before I'm at my fit and fighting weight.

I'm starting to really re-think my "weigh in date;" right now, I feel good about my progress, but I suspect that the number on the scale won't be nearly as low as I want it to be, and that would, I know, negate all the positives I'm listing and make me feel as though I've accomplished nothing.

That's pretty sad.

Here's the reality: Even though I'm not "there" yet, for the first time in quite a few years I'm not cringing and looking away as quickly as I can when I walk past a mirror. I'm not laying on my back on my bed and stuffing myself into "relaxed" jeans that are three sizes too small and pretending they fit, just to avoid buying a bigger size. My clothes actually have extra room in them; I need a belt to keep some of my jeans from falling down.

And still, the thought of seeing the number on the scale terrifies me.

Whatever it is, it won't be enough. My four-month plan covered 17 weeks. At one pound a week, that's a potential 17 lbs of weight lost; that amount would bring me half-way to my final goal. It sounded so reasonable when I started, but it is (forgive the pun) starting to weigh heavily on me now. What if I haven't lost nearly that much?

I'm scared of the scale; I'm afraid that it has the power to send me into despair and make me want to give up. Would it be cowardly to skip the weigh in and just keep going for another four months?

I've got six weeks to decide.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Tale of Two necklaces

I'm in love with the Seven Sisters Pendant pattern from beAd Infinitum.

It's got a very romantic and vintage look to it, which suits me to a T. I used the first one I made as a closure for a pretty, lacy choker; if I'm wearing my hair up, it goes to the back, and if I'm not, I can wear it in the front as pictured here. I added a vintage rhinestone to the center of the pendant to give it a bit more bling; it was very easy to drop it in and bezel around it.

For my second pendant, I wanted something a bit bolder. I love the vintage look of the Seven Sisters Pendant, and I wanted to play that up. I immediately thought of my vintage brass stampings; I bought quite a lot of them from a local antique store a couple of years ago, and have been waiting for inspiration to strike.

This particular piece was one of the first ones I pulled out; I couldn't believe how perfectly the pendant fit onto it. Of course, I didn't select it immediately; I had to try out several other stampings, but I kept coming back to this one.

In this case, my first choice definitely was my best choice.

I added accents of chain, and put the whole thing together with brass jump rings. I think it has a very romantic and pretty look, and it goes perfectly with my favorite plum hippie skirt.

Which I am now skinny enough to wear again, hurrah!

Monday, March 28, 2011

RAW Inpressionism, or the Importance of Not Being Earnest

I have a tendency to go overboard.

No, really, you can stop laughing now. I know, it's more than a tendency; going overboard is pretty much a way of life for me. I get an idea in my head, and it's all I can see. I've been known to not only make myself crazy, but to contribute to the craziness of others.

Sometimes I just need to step back, turn off my mind, and do something random.

Case in point, I'm doing a project that involves a bunch of other beaders, most of which are head and shoulders above me. It's thrilling and downright scary; I swing between joy and terror every time I think about it. I thought I had my part done, but then I learned that I'd done a bit more than I was supposed to do; in fact I'd not only done my part, but the part of the person who was to come after me.

Gulp.

Now what? Obviously, I must start over. It will not do to overstep and break the rules before the project has even begun; but how to proceed? Panic, no, that is not a good option, though it is my initial reaction.

Fortunately, I realized that I am completely over-thinking this, and it's time to stop being so earnest. Which brings me to my title. I wanted to begin this project with a fabric of RAW, and I shall stay with that plan. So I laid out a pretty palette of beads, and have begun stitching them into a vaguely Impressionistic garden, or at least that is my intent.

I'm not charting anything out; I'm going with my gut on this one. In fact, I'm playing with the beads; letting myself choose the colors as I stitch. I'm going to leave a lot for the next person to interpret; I'm not going to try to dictate the direction, second guess, or try to impress. I'm just going to be me.

Silly, silly me.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Two months in

. . . and I'm feeling brave enough to show you my before and after pictures. This one, to the left, is what I look like today. I'm sitting in my studio, leaning forward to press the button on the computer that takes my picture.

(If you're busty, like I am, leaning over is a good thing when you take a photo. It really shifts the mass; it made me look a lot better than when I took the photo straight on. I'm vain enough to use perspective tricks, oh, yes I am!)

And to the right, we have the before picture, taken with my cousin's beautiful daughter. I love looking at her; she's adorable. But the picture of me still makes me cringe. Obviously, I was enjoying myself and very happy that day - look at that smile. But the rest of me - ouch! How did I get that big and not notice it happening?

(Erm, I stopped looking in the mirror about 25-30 pounds ago, that's how.)

Okay, enough with the recriminations. It is what it is, and I'm looking now. So, how did this month go, you ask? Not as thrillingly as the first month, when I was losing inches pretty much every day or two. The pace has slowed; the changes are becoming harder and harder to see.

I didn't start exercising right away; it took me a couple of weeks to make that commitment a reality, and I expected too much from it when I did start. I had a meltdown, and was rescued by my friends. I reconnected with an old friend who is now a fitness coach; check out her blog, BAM Fitness Coaching, if you're interested in building muscle and losing weight. She's got me lifting weights in addition to the cardio workouts I was already doing; I can already feel the difference, and I'm looking forward to seeing the difference.

All in all, it was a mixed month.

Though I would really like to see more of a difference, I have lost about 30 inches all told, and even I have to admit that's a lot. I'm not looking as good as I'd like to look because I have about 20 more to lose before the numbers are beginning to be where I want them to be. I started exercising later than I wanted to start, but once I got started, I've been very consistent.

Next month, I want to keep on with the exercise, and work on developing patience. Urk. Not my strong suit. I want the weight off, and I want it off yesterday. But, as I'm constantly reminded, I didn't put the weight on in a week, and it's not coming off in a week. I will get there if I keep working at it.

Eventually.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Two days . . .

. . . and counting.

My goal this month has been to workout more, and I have to admit that I didn't start off very well. I have been moving more; walking, hiking a bit, and doing short bouts of push-ups and sit-ups, but I really wasn't exerting myself, if you know what I mean.

Long story short, I had a horrible nightmare which pushed me to put on my exercise clothes yesterday and get started. I put my old Tae Bo DVD in the machine and turned it on. Has it really been 7 years since I've worked out? Judging by the date on the disc, yes, yes it has.

Of course, it kicked my butt.

But I went through the whole Strength Workout, without sitting down, even though I did need to slow the pace a little, and grab onto my desk for balance some of the time. I felt really good when I'd finished; it was hard, but I didn't quit. And even though I was feeling the pain this morning, I put that DVD back in and did the Power Workout.

I'm two for two - and counting. I'm going to beat this.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Yippeeee!

I'm so excited! My Hugs and Kisses Bangle (pattern available in my shops) won second place in the Bead Unique Beaded Accessories Contest.

I've been making a lot of bangles lately; I just can't seem to get enough of them. They're fun; I think that's it. They're playful. It's hard to take a bangle seriously, and that's the mood I've been in lately. I just want to have fun!

Look for my bracelet in the June 2011 issue of Bead Unique, and expect at least a few more bangles from me before then. I don't plan on stopping any time soon.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

One month

This is me, one month into my diet. I have no idea how many pounds I've lost so far, because I'm not weighing myself. I have a tendency to be very competitive, and very, very impatient. I want results immediately, and I want them to be extraordinary.

When I've tried to diet in the past, I've found that weighing myself led to feelings of despair and frustration. I've never been able to lose as much as I expected to lose as quickly as I expected to lose it; getting on the scale and seeing the real number gave me a "what's the use?" feeling that led to giving up and gaining more. So this time, no scale. I've committed to four months of healthy eating and exercising, and I'll wait until then to see how I've done, pound-wise.

Every month, I'm going to look back and see how I've done. This month has gone well, I think. I'm feeling a lot better; I have more energy, I'm sleeping better, and I've seen a change in my size. My chin is pointy again. My nose got thinner; I had to readjust the nosepiece on my glasses to see properly. My eyelids aren't puffy any more. I went down two, count 'em, two bra sizes - and I'm wearing jeans that I couldn't even zip a year ago, without a muffin top bulging over the waistband!

I've already met my goal of dropping one size in four months; my new goal is to stay there, or possibly go down one more size. I'm not going to beat myself up if I don't; I've already met my original goal, and this new goal is strictly for extra credit. I'd like to eventually fit into size 3 jeans, and size 8 tops, but that is my final goal. I've always been broad-shouldered and busty; even when I was thin, I needed a larger size on top, so I don't expect that to change. But I used to be slim-hipped, and I'd like to be there again. Not this quarter, though - that goal is much longer-term.

I'd like to be exercising more; I am definitely exercising more than I was before I started, but I think I could be doing more, so that's my primary goal for this month. I'm very happy with my new diet; I cheated twice this month, once on my sister's birthday, and once on Valentine's Day. Sadly, both times, the yummy desserts didn't agree with me; my mouth loved them, but my stomach said, "no way." As it stands right now, I really have no desire to try that experiment again. My body has made it abundantly clear that it doesn't want sweets. Sorry, tongue. You lose this one.

All in all, it's been a good month. I like how I feel, and I'm not avoiding the mirror any more. I still have more to lose, but I don't hate the way I look; I can walk by a mirror and actually look into it and smile. I can take a picture of myself and let other people see it.

Yay, me.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Moving down the stack

Not unlike a lot of women, I've got a stack of jeans in my drawer. At the bottom is the holy grail - size six. They move on up from there. I've just tossed out the largest pairs, and I'm down to fitting into the ones I haven't been able to zip for about a year. Oddly enough, they're all the same size. Every single one of them are labeled size eight, and they're from the same manufacturer. However, one group is about a year and a half older than the other group.

Before I tossed the too-big pants, I held them up to the smaller group to see what the difference was. It's an amazing two inches. Yup, in the past year and a half, size eight jeans from this manufacturer got two inches bigger in the waist and hips, and so did I.

That's really sneaky.

Oh, on some level, I knew it; I couldn't zip the old size eights anymore. But I was perfectly willing to overlook that and go on happily, telling myself that I was okay as long as I was wearing a size eight. It was the tag that counted, and the manufacturers know that. They're perfectly willing to play into my little delusion; they knew that I would continue to buy new clothes as long as they have "size eight" written on the tag.

And I'm sure I'm not alone.

Of course, now my mind is reeling. If size eight jeans got two inches bigger, then what happened to size six jeans? Are they two inches bigger, too? Am I really a size six, in today's sizes, right now? And about those sixes at the bottom of the stack - which are much older than any of the size eights - are they really fours in today's sizes? Or even smaller than that?

I'm not going to find out, yet; I'm committed to not buying new clothes, or even trying any on, until my birthday, at the end of May. I want to give myself enough time to make a real change; and, in any case, I've got a few more sizes in the stack to get through before then, so there's no risk of running out.

But it definitely gave me something to think about; it gives me hope that I really am uncovering a thinner me.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Look for me in Perlen Poesie

I've got a project coming out in the Spring issue of Perlen Poesie; I'm honored to be in the same issue as the amazing Suzanne Golden.

I'm not going to tell you what my project is; but I will tell you that it's one of my favorite pieces. For those of you who don't pick up the magazine (it's published in Germany) the pattern will be available in my shops in a couple of months. Yes, I will tell you which one it is after the magazine is available.

It is so exciting to me to think of my pattern being published in a language I don't even speak; I can't wait to see it. I'm also looking forward to making new friends; Perlen Poesie is a beautiful magazine.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Modified multi-tasking

Multi-tasking is not a concept I was born understanding. For most of my life, I did one thing at a time. I like to start something and work on it until it is done.

And then I had kids. Leaving aside the fact that almost nothing ever gets done once you have kids, I suddenly found that it was necessary to pay attention to more than one thing at a time. Saying "hold that thought, " just doesn't work with a kindergartner.

So, after many years of semi-successful multi-tasking, I'm getting used to it. Sort of.

A few months ago, I committed to being part of the beAd Infinitum Design team. It's a 6-month commitment, and I'm required to produce two designs by the 15th of each month, using their patterns. It's a sweet deal; their work is very different from mine, and I've been enjoying rummaging around in their brains, via their patterns. I don't think any of the maths have stuck yet, but i've learned a thing or two, and had a lot of fun doing it.

So, you ask, where is this going and what does it have to do with multi-tasking?

My kids taught me how to do several different things at the same time, but I've always been careful to keep those things from being too similar. I can bead, do laundry, and help a kid with homework all at the same time, but those things are very different, and require different parts of my brain.

But now I'm trying to design and execute multiple projects at the same time; between the commitment I've made, the projects I want to do, and the vagaries of my muse, life has become very interesting.

So I've compartmentalized again.

Since I'm working on a very intensive piece of beadweaving for the Bead Mavens' Challenge, I decided to make a strung necklace, using their Double Rose Window beaded bead, for my first February design team project, and use wire-working, with an Infinity Dodecahedron beaded bead, for the second project:



Modified multi-tasking. We do whatever it takes, right?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Do you want fries with that?

There was an article in this morning's paper about fast food restaurants; it seems they've decided that their market is people who want a lot of calories for a small price. They're making their burgers even bigger, and the bigger they are, the faster they sell.

Included in the article were calorie counts for some brand new fast food offerings: the Stuffed Steakhouse sandwich from Burger King has 600 calories, the All-American Jack sandwich from Jack in the Box has 840 calories, and the Footlong Cheeseburger from Carl's Jr. tops that with 850 calories. By the way, those numbers are just for the burgers.

Add a large order of fries (590 calories) and a 32 ounce Coke (388 calories) to your Burger King sandwich for a grand total of 1,578 calories; 1,966 calories if you go back for your free refill. At Jack in the Box, a large order of fries has 580 calories; add that and a 32 oz. Coke (with a free refill) for an All-American meal that contains 2,196 calories. Add a large fries (470 calories) and a 32 oz. Coke (with free refill) to your Footlong Cheeseburger for a grand total of 2,096 calories. And a Big Mac meal? 704 calories for the sandwich (that 570 number they love to share is for the Big Mac without cheese!); add fries (500 calories) and a 32 oz Coke (don't forget the free refill!) for a grand total of 1,980 calories.

That's a big lunch.

But, hey - we all know that fast food isn't exactly good for us, right? Well, how about these numbers for a couple of popular sit-down restaurants: choose a Fire Pit Bacon Burger from Applebees, and you've just consumed 1,070 calories. Add french fries (400 calories) and Coke with unlimited refills . . . . and, in no time, you're over 2,000 calories. At Chili's, the Barbeque Ranch Burger has 1,110 calories and the fries have 520 calories. With our favorite soft drink (unlimited refills!) the meal once again weighs in at over 2,000 calories. And that's without dessert.

Beth Mansfield (spokeswoman for the company who owns Carl's Jr.) said, "If we wanted to listen to the food police and sell nuts [n.b. 160 calories] and berries [n.b. 80 calories] and tofu burgers [n.b. 80 calories], we wouldn't make any money, and we'd be out of business." (Total calories from a meal of nuts, berries and a tofu burger: 320. Add a glass of water for free.)

Just to put that into perspective, the average recommended daily calorie intake (yours will vary based on your age, height, weight and activity level) is 1,940 calories for women, and 2,550 for men.

One meal. That's all it takes.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Anatomy of a challenge

I've been working on my Vernal Visions Challenge piece for awhile now; it's actually a piece that I've been wanting to make for close to a year now.

There have been several reasons why I haven't made it before now; the main one being that I couldn't figure out how to do a critical part of it. This piece is inspired by the work of Faberge; he, of course, worked in gold and precious jewels, and I'm working in seed beads.

There is a difference.

I tried close to a hundred ways to make this tiny little component that inspired me, and failed miserably each time. I knew that I should be able to do it, but I just couldn't find a way to translate it into beads. Until recently. And the solution was so simple I nearly cried. All those complicated, crazy things I tried didn't work at all; and here it is in seven beads, done. In this piece, the challenging part isn't going to show in the final product; the challenge was finding the simple way to do it.

So now, with that problem solved, it took only a few tries to work out the rest of it. Now I know what to do, and how to do it; all that's left is the doing.

The part that shows is such a little bit of the work.

Monday, January 31, 2011

One for the girls

One of the things I decided to do while losing weight is to get rid of my clothes as I shrink out of them. I'm not even going to consider keeping them; no matter how nice they are, I'm never going to wear them again. I'm making a change for life.

Today I tossed my first item.

Items, actually; three bras were ceremoniously tossed into the trash this morning. I am down a size. I'm not going back to that size - ever. Hurrah!

Getting rid of them made me feel so good; I'm actually wearing a pretty bra today; it's been a long time since I've been able to do that. I'd gotten too big for pretty bras; I was stuck in utilitarian ones. I've got a few more sizes in my drawer to get through before I buy any new ones, but I'm already thinking about how much fun it will be.

Pretty bras. Who knew that could be such a motivator?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A little adventure

We were both feeling a bit restless today; we wanted to get out and do something different. We're very lucky to live in an area with abundant open spaces. There are so many, in fact, that it can be hard to choose just one.

Today we decided to go to San Antonio Lake. California has been suffering form drought for several years now; this December we had a lot of rain, and it was good to see more water in the lake this year. It's currently at 54% of capacity, and if we get another good stretch of rainy weather, it will go even higher than that. But never mind the data; it was good to get out of our own backyard and into nature.

We saw several herds of deer, including this gorgeous buck; I wanted to get closer so that the picture would be better, but I was afraid of spooking him. There are lots of deer in this area, but this was the first time I've ever seen a buck. There were two of them, actually - but the other one went behind a tree and I couldn't get his picture. We usually just see the does and the fawns; the bucks don't come out in the open very much.

We also enjoyed the ground squirrels; squirrels are such silly creatures. They were chasing each other all over the place and running like mad with their tails straight up in the air. We also saw a lot of magpies; I love their gorgeous black and white plumage and the way they whirl around, showing off.

We stayed until it started getting cold; once the sun gets low in the sky this time of year, the temperature drops rapidly. We weren't dressed for that, so we got back in the car and headed home. I love my town, but it's nice to be able to get out and feel as though we are miles and miles away from civilization.

Being close to nature soothes my soul.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Garden notes

Our winter garden is growing nicely; here's a shot of the brussels sprouts. No sprouts on them yet, but I think we'll have some before the end of next month. The broccoli is starting to bud; in a few days, I'll start picking. The collards are getting bigger; I'll be able to take a few leaves from them by the end of the week. The chard - a leftover from last winter - is still growing like mad and producing far more than we can eat. I like chard, but not every day!

Yesterday I planted two rows of spinach and a row of lettuce, and today I planted a long row of peas. It might be too early for them, but the weather has been so lovely that I decided to plant them and see how it goes. Volunteer lettuce plants are already coming up where some seeded last year; I'm going to trust that they know what they're doing. If it turns cold on us again, I can always replant. If it doesn't, then we'll have a nice long season of spring veggies.

It gets hot here pretty early, so the season is usually short, especially for the peas; fresh peas are so good, though, that they're worth it. This year, I'm trying an experiment; I'm planning on planting the tomatoes in front of the peas. While the tomatoes are growing, I expect the peas to finish off; I've got a sturdy wire and steel trellis for them to grow on, and, as the tomatoes grow, I'll tie them to the steel posts that support the trellis.

We're eating through the veggies that I put in the freezer, and looking forward to having fresh ones very soon.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Patience

All my life, people have accused me of being a patient person. And then, they're surprised to find out that I'm a very impatient person. They can become very annoyed with me upon that discovery; I can't count how many times I've had someone say, "You work with things that take forever to finish; what do you mean, you're not a patient person?"

Because finishing is inconsequential to me.

I don't need to finish something; I just need to see change. I don't care if the change is measured in millimeters or miles; I can keep working on something for years as long as every thing I do makes it look just a little bit different. I've chosen this picture of the amaryllis in my window to illustrate the point; it sat there, doing nothing, for weeks. And then, all of a sudden, it's growing. I know, from experience, that every day when I come into my studio from here on out, it will look different. Every day, that stalk will grow an inch or two until the day that the bud on top splits open and flowers. The flowers will last for awhile, the stalk will no doubt become top heavy and tip the whole pot over if I don't figure out how to stabilize it before then, and then the flowers will die, the leaves will form, and it will be just another bit of greenery in my window. I was impatient for it to start, but I won't need any patience for the rest of its bloom period.

It's the same thing with beading. I rarely ever make anything that can be finished in a day, but even a few stitches create a very satisfying change in the work. Truth be told, I'm almost sad when I do finish a piece; I miss watching it change. I do wear jewelry - sometimes - but most of my pleasure comes from working on it and watching a pile of beads on my table become a piece of jewelry. I don't need any patience when things change so quickly.

And that brings me to the reason that I'm thinking about patience this morning. As you have no doubt realized, I've been alerted to the fact that I need to lose weight. That's a hard one for me, because change happens so slowly. I'm only a couple of days into it, and already I'm impatient for change. Shouldn't my clothes feel looser? Shouldn't I be dropping a size any minute now? Shouldn't I look different? Shouldn't I feel different? Shouldn't something have changed by now?

Well, no. No, not really. This is going to take patience, and patience is something I simply do not have. But I'm going to have to find some, and I'm going to have to find it quickly.

Told you I wasn't a patient person.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Walking, walking, walking

The Salinas River runs close to our house; it's a seasonal river here, and it's dry most of the year. But this is the rainy season, and we had a very wet December, so there's plenty of water in it right now.

One of the really nice things our town has done is to lightly develop the riverside; there are trails and the occasional picnic table or bench in the fields near the river, and a few access points with trails down to the river itself. I decided to kick off my new exercise program with a walk along the river; it was so nice out, I'm really glad I did.

Because my husband came along, the pace was brisk; the man does not know how to walk slowly. Nor does he know how to take a short walk, so we covered a few miles. Walking in the sandy areas gave my leg muscles an extra workout, but it was worth it; the river is so pretty this time of year, especially so now, because we're enjoying unseasonably warm weather.

We saw numerous birds, including a red-tailed hawk, and a rather confused jackrabbit that ran across our path and then back again. It felt really good to get out in the sunshine and walk!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

It's a plot

Or not.

I've been feeling fine about my weight, because I wear size 8 jeans. How bad could it be if I can wear a size 8? (No, I don't wear a size 8 top. I wear a medium, or sometimes even a large. But I'm able to rationalize that. I'm busty. That's okay, right?)

Well, yesterday I went to the doctor for a check up, and somehow I weigh more that I thought I did. Rather a lot more, actually. Nearly 30 pounds more. So I did some research and found out that the size four I wore 20-30 years ago would now be called a 0 or a 1. My size 8 is the equivalent of a size 12, back in the day.

Oh. My. Goodness.

How did that happen? I know how the weight happened; too much food and not enough dancing. But how did something as sacred as clothing sizes shrink so rapidly? It's not new; from the 1950s to the 1970s, a size 12 went down to a size 10. But it didn't stop there; sizes have dropped four more times in the past 30-40 years.

No wonder I've been able to wear the same size for so long, even though my old pants are too tight. And here I've been blaming the dryer. My jeans weren't shrinking, but the sizes were.

Time to shrink me, instead.

Monday, January 17, 2011

More trees

We planted three more trees in our little orchard today; a Black Jack fig, a Wonderful pomegranate, and a Spice Zee nectaplum.

So what's a nectaplum, you ask? Obviously, its a cross between a nectarine and a plum; I don't know any more about it than that. The advertising copy makes it sound very delicious; but advertising copy makes everything sound delicious.

We figured that since we like nectarines and plums, we'll probably like nectaplums. And it's something different; not something we'll see in every grocery store. We like to be a little bit different.

I'm going to have to learn how to juice pomegranates when they come in; right now the pomegranate tree is a stick, and we won't see much, if any, fruit for at least a few years. But, eventually, it will get big and it will produce more than we can eat. I figure I have a few years before I need to find out how to make juice, but I'm looking forward to having my own fresh pomegranate juice. It's unbelievably yummy mixed with champagne.

This year, we're hoping to get some apples, pears, nectarines, apricots and cherries; last year we had a nice peach harvest and a few white figs, but the rest of the trees weren't quite ready to produce. We did have one cherry, but a bird got it before we did. This year, we hope to get at least a few more.

It's fun growing our own food; we're not quite self-sustaining, but we do grow a lot of what we eat. Once the fruit trees start producing more than we can eat out of hand, I'm looking forward to making juices and ciders.

I might even have to learn how to make wine.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The chicken or the egg?

Designing beadwork is a very interactive process for me; quite often one design builds upon another, incorporating bits and pieces here and there from other things I have already done. Some days the process feels like I'm riding a barge down a river; as I go around each bend, I see new sights and my work changes to include them.

These variations on designs gradually become new designs; most of the time I keep the variations to myself and only show my work when it has turned the corner, left its origins behind, and become something new in its own right. This time, I'm breaking that long-standing tradition; this bracelet is the precursor to my latest design, and, although I'm calling it a variation of that design, it actually came first.

I'm the designer here; if I want to alter the timeline, I can.

Anyway, there's a really good reason why this one has to be labeled a variation, even though it came first. See the cute little beaded bead balancing on the top of the bangle? And the giant beaded bead that it's leaning against? Those aren't my designs. They're called Infinity Dodecahedrons, and they're the work of the mathematical masterminds behind beAd Infinitum. I had to come up with a new focal for this bracelet before I could write up a pattern for it.

But, in the interest of keeping at least one part of the story straight, I'm publishing this one here before publishing the final design to my Jewelry Tales blog.

Yup, you saw it here first.

Friday, January 7, 2011

My muse has been on holiday

Last week we went down to San Diego, and I think my muse kept going and ended up in Tijuana. She'd been sulking and refusing to work for most of December; she has not been herself for quite awhile, actually.

She needed a vacation, and I know better than to ask where she's been. There are some things that I'm just better off not knowing.

She's back now, and she brought me a new bangle idea to make up for her recent behavior. She knows I'm a sucker for bangles. I've finished one, and am working on writing the tutorial while I make another.

I haven't stopped to take photos; I haven't had time. I've been beading and writing pretty much constantly for the past two days. I will probably take pictures of the first one in a day or two, depending on how the beading and writing goes on the second one.

I'm having so much fun being creative again.

Monday, January 3, 2011

I've got famous friends!

I'm so happy for two of my friends and fellow Bead Mavens that I could just burst. Not only are they wonderful people whose presence in my life I cherish, but they've also been recognized by one of the best beaders in the business for their gorgeous beadwork.

Mikki Ferrugiaro and Nancy Dale have just been named up and coming beader/designers by Marcia DeCoster, author of Marcia DeCoster’s Beaded Opulence, on the Lark Crafts Site.

And, without any further ado, here is a little eye candy from the Artfire shops of these wonderful women (to see even more, click on their names and you will be whisked off to their shops):

Royal Amethyst Lariat by Nancy


Kimono Royale with Geisha Bow from Mikki


Barrel Urn Beaded Vessel by Nancy


Victoria Vintage Style Tile bracelet from Mikki