Saturday, December 31, 2011

Beaded Laughter Blog

Okay, so one of the reasons why I love the online community of beaders and bead artists so much is...this. Bead artist Sylvie Elise Landsdowne, who makes amazing and brightly colored lampwork glass beads, has been horsing around making hunky inspirational posters for those artists who are frantically preparing for the Tucson shows coming up in less than a month.

They started out just as a little joke between her and artist Jill Wiseman, another insanely talented beadweaving artist, and now it's just taken on a life of its own! Check out Sylvie's new blog, Beaded Laughter...

And check out this morning's blog post with my favorite hunk-a, Robert Downey Jr...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Habit

I must be getting old, because I feel as though I've become quite a creature of habit. For breakfast every morning for the last several months (except during my little bout of cranky gallbladder syndrome), I cook a bowl of oatmeal with dried cranberries and toasted pecans and a cup of hot chocolate. (Made with milk, not water.) It's turned into a morning ritual of sorts, as I stir and pour while Colden eats his eggs or muffins or whatever he has requested for breakfast.

So this morning, with Tom home from work and me trying to get functional with dried-up sinuses, an aching lower back and a pending migraine, I found myself getting quite testy when I saw that Tom had left one of our ginormous house plants in the sink to be watered and drain, and that he had left all of the cooking utensils from his and Colden's breakfast scattered all over the stove and counter.

I grumbled to myself about messing with my morning ritual, but felt instantly better when Tom and Colden came into the kitchen with the huge airplane that Tom had built for Colden with the Tinker Toys from Santa.

Many more things I want/need to write about in the last few days, but it'll have to wait until later... Off to get our family picture taken today, and then dinner out with Kathy and Kevin!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas

Christmas was pure magic at our house. Colden was so thrilled to see that Santa came, and he took his time opening all of his presents - almost a full hour! It was just so much fun to watch him and see his reaction as he realized what each one was. He was totally thrilled with his Thomas, Hiro and Spencer toy trains, so we may have to complete his set for his birthday in a couple of weeks.

We've been spending every day over at Oma and Opa's house with the cousins, and while I think Colden is having a blast playing with his Reno relatives, I think he's starting to feel a little overwhelmed. Maybe time for a little break for him this morning.

The office is closed this whole week until January 3rd. And while I'm loving the time off from deadlines, not writing every day is sort of driving me buggy. I keep trying to make a little time to do some writing or some beading, and it's just not happening. If we go over to Oma's house this morning, maybe I'll bring some beading with me.



That said, the other night I was browsing beading books on Amazon, and I stumbled across this volume by Wendy Ellsworth, one of the bead artists who got me inspired to start on this path. I've always loved and admired her work, her use of color and her flawless techniques, and I was absolutely thrilled to see that she has written a book about the connection between spirituality and beading! I was even more thrilled to see that it was available for download on my Kindle app, so I had it in seconds.

I finished the first chapter last night after everyone else had gone to sleep, and now I want to start stitching a mandala. After starting up with massage therapy and acupuncture this year to treat all those lovely digestive issues, 99% of which are probably from stress, I feel so strongly like I need to find my spiritual center again.

I had to force myself to put the book down last night, because I desperately needed some sleep, but I'll be picking it up again today. My only gripe is that there aren't any color pictures, but I'll get over it. Wendy's writing is easy to read and fascinating when she talks about the long history of beads as they have been used for spiritual purposes throughout human history. I think what appeals to me the most is that she's talking about spirituality - not religion - and cosmology as she takes you through each chapter and project. There are meditation exercises and beautiful beading projects for both beginner and advanced beaders. All I have to say is, Wow. This is such an amazing book.

So, before I start stitching on a mandala today or tomorrow, I need to get the breakfast dishes cleaned up, take a shower and get Colden and I dressed, and then clean off my work table. I've also got to run some errands in Lake Placid before we pick up Tom from work this afternoon... At this rate, I'll need a vacation from my vacation!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Finished?





This is the first "big" piece of bead embroidery that I've attempted since finding out that I was pregnant in 2007. It was supposed to be my entry into the December Etsy Beadweavers' Challenge with the theme of "Arabesque", but I just couldn't make the deadline.

So this afternoon when I found myself pretty much done with deadlines until January, I decided to pick it up and start stitching on it again. Lo and behold, the bead embroidery just sort of stitched itself, including some very unexpected embellishment with pearls.

And then...just when I thought I was finished...I had the "good" idea to embellish the cabochon bezels with pearls. Oh, wow. More embellishment...more pearls...totally yummy!

So, now I've got about a zillion more pearls to stitch on to this puppy. Will I have it finished for Christmas? Probably not. For New Year's? Very possibly. Will I list it in my Etsy shop? Highly unlikely.

Handmade ceramic cabochons by Lisa Peters Art. Stitched on a piece of wonderful, thick, powder blue Nicole's Bead Backing.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Thankful



I think we've got these holidays totally mixed up. Around Thanksgiving, I don't usually feel that "thankful" sort of thing that everyone says you should. I just feel mostly annoyed at the barrage of ads and sales and other nonsense that gets people lined up outside big box stores at midnight and pepper-spraying each other for video game consoles.

No, I start to get thankful around Christmas. When people seem to be focused on buying, buying, buying and more, more, more, I start to think about what I already have.

First of all, I have a wonderful family. Tom and Colden are more than I could ever have hoped for, and while things certainly haven't been easy these last few years, they have been more rewarding than I could ever have dreamed. Second of all, we have a beautiful home, Moose, the chickens and our gardens - they all go into making this place special. I'm thankful that we have a warm, bright home and that Tom and I have the resources and the ability to maintain it.

This year, I'm particularly thankful to have my health relatively intact after a tough year of doctor's visits and uncertainties. I'm thankful that I have the resources to address problems when they arise.

I'm thankful that I have a job that I love more than I could ever have imagined, with a team of co-workers who are truly delightful and talented, and who make me laugh out loud when I read their emails.

Lastly, I'm thankful for the healthy food in our cabinets and freezer, and our access to healthy, nourishing food. So many others are forced to go without, and with every meal, I am thankful that we have never suffered from hunger in this house.

What I'll be most thankful for this year is that we are going to have a wonderful holiday at our house, and we didn't have to spend a ton of money to do it.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Manhattan, Day 2

The next morning, we ate breakfast and then headed back into the city to meet up with Lisa Peters of Lisa Peters Art. I've been buying Lisa's cabs and beads for a couple of years now, and I swear, she puts some kind of highly addictive drug in her clay. Every time she lists her items on Etsy, I end up buying more. And more. And...you get the idea.

The first thing Lisa did was hand me a little package with my latest order in it. Yowza! These cabs and connectors were just gorgeous! This was already off to a good start!

We walked up to Beads on Fifth, where I had purchased and printed out a couple of special deal coupons - buy a certificate for $20 and redeem it for $40 at the store. Fantastic!

Beads on Fifth was small, but packed with beads, findings, charms and tools.

Lisa and I did a little creative collaborating...


And then we got down to the business of buying beads!


So much fun! Lisa even took a quick pic of me, Min Ping and Min Yee as we were browsing the trays and trays and trays of beads and findings.



Next up, we went to York Beads, where I nearly lost my mind just after walking in the door. All the colors, all the shapes, all the sparkle! It was almost too much!

Min Yee took my picture in front of the Wall O' Czech Seed Beads. I hadn't seen this many beads since I left my house on Saturday...


The only thing about is that you have to buy in quantity. They don't sell just a strand of daggers - you gotta buy the whole hank of daggers! Not necessarily a bad thing, but it meant that I could only get one hank of daggers, one hank of glowing copper drops and one hank of green lustered mushrooms. But considering I also picked up three new colors of 13/0 charlottes, some excellent Picasso-marbled tube beads and a strand of marbled green tribal curved daggers, I think I did pretty well.

After that, Min Ping and Min Yee went off to find lunch, but Lisa and I were just hungry for more beads. We went into Phoenix Beads, where we browsed but didn't buy, and City Beads, which was a very impressive shop, indeed. I found a few Swarovski crystal components that I need for projects for The Book, a strand of textured glass coin pearls, and a small package of metallicized plastic beads.

Lisa was totally smitten with a package of beads that looked like dice, so I helped her pick out a few little goodies to go with it for a special gift for her grandmother. (Can't wait to see that one!)

Then we wandered into the Toho store. And wow. The selection of components there was just unreal! I picked up more than a few beautiful items to bead around and to incorporate into beaded chains, as well as a set of beautiful gold wire mesh roses. (I've been lusting after those roses for a long, long time, and this seemed as good a time as any to give in!)

After we met up with the Mins again, we had some time to kill before our train back to NJ, so Lisa suggested we go into MJ Trimmings. Once again, total sensory overload combined with the deepest relief that I had left my credit card at home.

To get the full idea of what it's like in MJ Trimmings, imagine 20 foot high walls, stacked to the ceiling with boxes and boxes of buttons. All sorts of buttons. Toggles, shank buttons, painted, metal, glass, crystal...the place sparkled like sunshine! In the next room were nailheads, rhinestones and walls and walls of ribbons, lace and decorative edgings and trim.

Lisa came up to me as I was picking out a few buttons and told me that I had to see these amazing metal sequins - and I did. Oh, wow. I picked out three packages of them to take back with me.

By this time, I was totally exhausted, overwhelmed and excited all at the same time. We said goodbye to Lisa and went back to the train.

In a way, I'm glad that I don't live closer to Manhattan. I'd be in there all the time to buy beads! On the other hand, for me, the city is a place that is full of energy, excitement and inspiration, and I think I need to go back there maybe more than once a year!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Manhattan, Day 1

So,  my first morning in New Jersey with my friends, we decided to make the trek back into New York City and visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I hadn't been to the Met in many, many years. Probably like ten years since my last visit - and for a place that has always provided me with inspiration and relaxation, that's ten years too long! I had wanted to go for a visit last fall when I was down in NYC for the About.com Guide event, but just couldn't make it in that weekend.

We hopped on a late morning train into NYC and then navigated the subway. I joked with Min Yee that I was too out of shape to keep up with her. It was all I could do to keep her bobbing pony tail in my sight as she raced up and down the streets of Manhattan toward the museum!

So, there I am in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art with Min Ping. I was so excited to go in there and see everything! I'd been having dreams about this place, and as soon as we got past the crowded entrance hall, it was amazing.

Almost the first thing we saw was this case full of ancient Egyptian beads. It still boggles my mind how these tiny, carefully and skillfully crafted bits of sand, stone and glass have survived for thousands and thousands of years.




Stunning, aren't they?

Then we decided to go spend some time in the Asian arts wing. We spent a couple of hours admiring the insanely beautiful and quiet art of China, Japan, Tibet and India. The sculptures and statues of the Buddha in all his many forms were very inspiring and soothing for me.

Here is Min Yee, hugging a post of Nan wood in the beautiful Chinese courtyard installation.



And I totally fell in love with these doors, leading into the interior of a traditional Chinese house. They just looked so soothing and inviting with the warm wood, the carved-out lattice work and the light falling gently onto the stone floor beneath our feet.


There were a series of lattice work windows all around the installation, and we got the idea of translating them into beading patterns for netting and right-angle weave - perfect for all those new Twin seed beads I just got from Sparkle Spot Bead Shop! (In all my free time, right? But these should work up quickly, so maybe I'll at least have the basics down before Christmas!)

Then we took a photo of this intricate carved rosewood roof on the way up to the galleries with the art of Bhutan and Tibet. The light was poor, and flash photography isn't allowed in the galleries, so this was the best we could do with my little Nikon point-n-shoot.






The craftsmanship of these types of installations just thrills me. I can imagine the craftsman at work, lying on his back, looking up at his work, patiently carving out each figure and pattern from the wood.

There were more things that we saw, but unfortunately, photography wasn't allowed. I can only say that I finally got to see the famous Met Nativity Scene live, in person and up close and it was as every bit as amazing as I had expected it to be; I found myself breathless at the sight of two 17th century Japanese kimonos that were embroidered with silk and precious metal threads; and the European decorative arts wing with all of the elaborate Baroque furniture was just as gorgeous as I remembered it.

We had long talks about the differences between Eastern and Western religious art and the differences and similarities between Chinese and Japanese art and culture.

And the sushi in the cafeteria wasn't half-bad, either!

On the way home, we took a "slight detour" (according to Min Yee, who could qualify as an Olympic marathon speed-walker) and went to see the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center. I need to figure out how to get the photo off of my phone, but we got there just as a show at Radio City Music Hall was letting out and the streets were packed with people and cars and police officers. The crowd at the Christmas tree was incredible - I don't think I've seen that many people in the same place at the same time since my first rock concert back in 1991.

I was absolutely exhausted when we got home, but a hot shower, a hot meal and some decent sleep had me recharged and ready to go the next day when we met up with Lisa Peters of Lisa Peters Art and did some serious bead shopping in the fashion district!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Friends

Wow. Just wow.

I posted on Facebook about this crazy convo I received yesterday, and I was overwhelmed with the dozens of responses that I got! Truly, I am in good company when it comes to dealing with insane people who have no idea what it takes to create the type of handmade jewelry that we do.

It inspired me to get this post out on Beading Daily about How to Price Your Handmade Jewelry. 

I was even more thrilled to discover that the amazing Margot Potter addressed this in her blog this morning! Way to go, Madge!

I think what thrills me the most about this whole situations was that through the power of the Internet and our collective dedication to the art of handmade, we took what could have been a very hurtful message and turned it into something positive and humorous! Way to go, Beaders!

It was one of those days where I just wanted to sit back and give a contented sigh of, "I love my job."

Happy December! I'll be packing tomorrow for my big New York City bead shopping trip! I'm planning to meet up with a couple of beading friends, spend some time wandering around New York City, and sleeping in past seven a.m. without a rambunctious four year old yanking on my hair. (Although I will miss the rambunctious four year old terribly while I'm gone.)

What's on your agenda this December?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Retrograde



I awoke this morning to a convo in my Etsy shop regarding this necklace which read:

"about your necklace are you seriously charging that much !!! i saw one idetical but with jade and it was only $50 your price is ridicolous besides a kid could make this minus the edging around the pietersite"

Now, my first reaction was to think, "That's just great. You can go buy that other necklace. You must have confused my work with that which is made by child labor in a sweat shop for a dime a day. So sorry." My other reaction was to send her back a long-winded reply about the time and particular techniques involved in this piece, but I decided to do neither.

My one-word reply to this crazy person? "Whatever."

I mean, come on, seriously? Surprisingly, I was not at all offended by this insane message. First of all, I found it highly amusing that she misspelled words like "identical" and "ridiculous" but somehow managed to spell "Pietersite" correctly.

Second of all, she obviously has no clue that the "edging around the pietersite" which is the only part of my necklace that could not be done by a child is, in fact, what makes the necklace handmade and unique.

And third, if she thinks my price is too high, well, she doesn't have to buy it. I don't care if she buys it. In fact, I would prefer that she NOT buy it, because she obviously has no respect for beautiful handmade objects and would most likely not care for it properly.

But I have to wonder, what did she think I was going to say?

"Oh, my goodness! I didn't realize that I was overpricing my work! How helpful of you to drop me such a direct note to let me know that I'm heading down the road to failure because I am charging too much for my handmade work! Would you like me to knock $85 off the price for you? And can I get you some cocoa with that?"

Or maybe...

"Wow, I had no idea that this is so overpriced. Thank you so much."

Or maybe this...

"Whatever."

Which brings me to a good story from a couple years ago at my farmer's market.

It was a lovely Sunday morning, warm and breezy, and it was getting to be near the end of the market that day. This was when I was selling my fused glass pendants and jewelry, and I had a lovely selection of brand new work displayed on my black velvet pads. I was especially proud of a new set of 1 3/4" dichroic glass pendants that had just come out of the kiln, all with sterling silver bails.

That day, I was set up next to a couple of guys in their 50s who were selling some absolutely amazing handmade rustic and birch bark furniture. Like, real Adirondack Great Camp style work. Well made, with dovetail joints and the whole bit. Real luxury stuff.

A woman came along to my table, two little kids in tow. She looked over my pendants, then picked up the largest piece, which incidentally, I had also decorated with traditional henna tattoo patterns using enamel paints. She held it up in the sun and admired it, then turned it over to see the price marked on the back.

"Forty-five DOLLARS?!" she gasped. She tossed it - literally, threw it! - back down on the table and huffed off with her children.

I hadn't even had time to react when one of the gentleman next to me leaned over and said, "Attention, Wal-Mart shoppers..."

I burst out laughing at that point, because what he said was absolutely true and was something that I had learned that summer while selling my work at the farmer's market. I do not sell jewelry that has been made in a sweatshop or by child labor for pennies a day. I sell handcrafted wearable art. Not everyone is looking for my kind of jewelry, and that's fine. The reason I sell my work at farmer's markets and fine craft shows is because, yes, there are people out there who are looking for unique, well-made, handcrafted jewelry. That simple.

So, hey, I'm not going to worry too much about that message from this morning. Because I know that this necklace will go to a good home when it's time, and I'm really not going to let this insane, unappreciative person who can't spell or punctuate to save her life get to me.

But at least it was good for a few chuckles when I shared it on Facebook this morning!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Words

Words are getting in the way today. I am trying like hell to finish up these blogs posts, but the words that usually come so easily seem like a distraction to me today. I can usually put Pandora radio on the iPad while I write and have background music, but today, I seem to notice every single word from the lyrics that are coming through the speakers. It's driving me mad. I need to concentrate on this, and, well, it's just not working...

Strange today that my back is hurting me down through my knees, the same way it did at the beginning of all this digestive unpleasantness, and sure enough, my stomach has gone on strike today. Nothing sits right when I eat. Going to the chiropractor this afternoon to see if that helps a bit, and then I think I should have acupuncture this Friday instead of trying to go for another two week stretch without a treatment. Damn it all...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sunday

Tom is off deer hunting today, and he called me this morning to tell me that he got the buck he had been watching since he arrived in Greene on Friday afternoon! Truthfully, I was a little worried about what would happen if he didn't get a deer. He's had such rotten luck so far this season and he missed out on his big island hunt with Rob and The Guys in October. It'll be nice for him to have venison in the freezer this winter!

Colden and I are having a lazy morning. We're both still in our pajamas, although I did actually make it into the shower to wash my hair and clean up a bit. It's a windy, overcast day today, with a sprinkling of rain. We've had breakfast (sort of) and watched The Santa Clause 2 (oy) and are hanging out in his bedroom, sort of cleaning and straightening up and sort of playing with his favorite magnetic fishing game.

Tom called me last night when I was just about to have a nervous breakdown. I had finished the last of the "chicken" strips for lunch, and Colden decided that he wanted them for dinner. (After we had come back from Oma and Opa's house, where we had mac and cheese and peas for dinner.) So in addition to the guilt I felt from eating the last of the strips and the exhaustion and aches, I had a screaming nearly-four-year-old to soothe.

After Colden finally went to sleep, Tom sent me a text message. I can't repeat it here, but it made me laugh. So we sent text messages back and forth for about half an hour before we both conked out and needed to go to sleep. I felt like my sister, who texts back and forth with her husband all day long. What's next for Tom - a Facebook account?!

Beading later. I got some ideas that I need to start working on before my deadlines completely overwhelm me and I drown.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Up the Ante.

It's been years since I did any bead shopping down in New York City. The last time I went was the year before I got pregnant with Colden, and I can still remember traipsing around the fashion district with my two friends, buying beads, eating falafel from a street vendor...

I may not be able to do the street vendor falafel thing this time around, but I can certainly still shop for beads! (I'm thinking maybe some meal replacement bars from my favorite place in Willsboro will have to do instead of the falafel.) So the other day, I bought a train ticket down to Penn Station for the first weekend in December to spend some time hanging out with friends and hitting the bead shops in NYC.

Maybe it was that episode of Project Accessory where they went to the Swarovski store in Manhattan that got to me. Or maybe it's just that I haven't been away to do anything fun in a very long time. And now that I *can* have a little getaway without feeling horribly guilty over finances, I think I need to do this.

Besides, it'll give me great blogging material!

Speaking of blogging, make sure you take a few minutes and check out this blog over at the Lark Crafts site! They've asked bead artists for their recommendations for holiday book wishlists, and right now, you can read my recommendations (there are quite a few!) as well as the recommendations of my beady friend Jill Wiseman of Tapestry Beads!

Got to get back to it now...we've got a holiday weekend coming up, and I still need to get two more blog/newsletters out of my brain and on to the proof reader...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Babies

In the last month, four of my friends have announced that they are pregnant. Some of them are having second and third babies; some of them are having first babies. Most of them are my age or older, which made made Tom and I have the big talk again: are we going to have a second baby?

The more I thought about it, the more I thought that at this point in my life, with our financial situation being what it is, I can either have a second baby or a career. I don't see any practical way of doing both right now. And I'm 37. I certainly don't see myself doing the round-the-clock feeding thing again when I'm 40. (As it is now, we still have to get up sometimes four times a night with Colden!)

We had always thought about having a second baby so that Colden wouldn't be an only child. Tom's mom was an only child, and she has always said that the one thing she really wanted was a sibling. I have to admit that since my mom passed away a few years ago, I've become closer to my sister. I would love for Colden to have a brother or sister that he could have that experience like Tom and I did.

But. I just don't think it's in the cards. Not right now, anyway. Maybe I'll change my mind in a year. Maybe we'll find a way to do it in a year. But for right now, we're just going to enjoy Colden, and enjoy watching him grow up, even if it makes me a little sad that he's doing it all by himself...

Monday, November 14, 2011

More NaSeeBeMo

We are now at Day 14 of the month of November, and so far, I have managed to bead every single day, even if it was only for ten or fifteen minutes. Feels pretty darn good.


This is my Arabesque challenge piece for the Etsy Beadweavers' Team. I have to have this baby finished and listed in my Etsy shop before midnight on December 5. I'm pretty confident that I'll have it ready to go by then!

I'm amazed at how much I've accomplished just by breaking down this large-scale piece of bead embroidery into manageable pieces. I think to myself, okay, I'll just stitch this one line here. And then when that's done, I tell myself that I can stitch one more line before I have to get up and do something else. Then when my thread is finished, I start on another section of it.

I'm purposely keeping my threads short so that I give myself that good ol' pat on the back for accomplishing something. I love it.

I also managed to get the brass collar form for my Day of the Dead challenge covered in Ultrasuede the other day. Once I finish edging it with those tiny black seed beads using brick stitch, I'll start adding the embellishment with the beads. This is going to be interesting...I'm still trying to figure out how to add the lampwork sugar skull. It might involve some wire work and a cabochon, we'll see.

And on that note, I'm trying to plan a few days away down in NYC with some friends for some bead shopping. It's been far too long since I've been down there for a visit, and I need some time away from home to recharge my batteries. While I'm there, I think I'm going to have to hit Rockefeller Square to see all the Christmas decorations and eat some street vendor falafel. Sometimes I really miss living so close to the city, but I can't imagine living anywhere else but here.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Foggy

The last couple of days, I've felt like I've been in a total brain fog, which is not a good thing for a writer/blogger. My attention jumps from piece to piece as I'm writing. I probably shouldn't have sixteen pieces open at once in my word processor, but there it is.

I did, however, manage to finish two more pieces from Bead Riffs last night and get started on another one!


I have been just itching to make those lovely little Nightingale earrings. The idea of stitching together all those tiny, shiny little Swarovski rounds just tickled me! Once the pieces were finished, I was genuinely happy with my color choice of Crystal Copper for these earrings. I seem to be gravitating towards copper and warm brown tones lately, and these will go nicely with a number of sweaters and shirts I have for winter.


The only mishap occurred when I tried to attach the earrings to the fancy sterling ear wires that I got for the project. (They were similar to the ones pictured in the book, and not the sterling round hoops you see in the picture.) I went to gently open the bottom loop of the second ear wire to add the finished earring and the loop broke right off! Considering what I paid for them, I was a little annoyed, but decided that they look just as nice on the round hoops. Unfortunately, those round hoops are NOT comfortable for me to wear, so I'm probably going to find another pair of fancy ear wires for these.

Then I started in on Drop Me Off in Harlem, another 3-dimensional right-angle weave project that I was fascinated with making.


It's truly a stunning pendant, and it came together so easily! I stitched up both bases in just over an hour, and the embellishment itself only took me another hour or so. Stitching it together took no time at all, and now all I need is a chain for it!

Similar to the Night In Tunisia necklace, the real shape of this piece didn't come together until the last step when I was stitching the bases together. But it felt wonderful in my fingers as the curves and angles came out, and I'm also pleased with my color choice of a permanent-galvanized rose gold seed bead from Beyond Beadery. 

The only thing that really gave me problems was figuring out how to attach the rose montees to the top of the peyote bumps during the embellishment. I always felt like there was too much thread showing, and trying to keep those little crystals from flipping over before I could make the second and third thread passes was a challenge, too. Which leads me to....



The beginnings of 'Round Midnight! The color of this piece in the book is metallic silver, but I wanted to do something bright and cheery. I got these permanent silver-lined fuchsia from Beyond Beadery at Bead Fest a few years ago, and I've had the size 15s in this color for so long that I can't remember where I got them. (Beadin' Path? Whimbeads? I have no idea.)

If I want to master the art of adding montees to peyote bumps, this is going to be the piece that does it. I've got to add 12 montees to 12 peyote bumps. Three down, nine to go...

I really want to dive in to some of the larger and more complex pieces in the book, but I'm afraid those are going to have to wait until 2012. >sigh< I've got three big beading deadlines coming up in December, and even with NaSeeBeMo, I'll have to put off anything else until after Colden's birthday in January.


For now, though, I'm really thrilled with all the little sparkly pieces from Bead Riffs that are making their way into my jewelry box!

Monday, November 07, 2011

Sparklies

They're here! They're here! They're here!

I have been a very patient beader these last few weeks, and now it's paid off! I can't jump in and start Rondo or Dolled Up just yet since I don't have everything for those projects, but I can get started on some of those smaller pendants and rings - beaded rings! (Which will be great to go with my newly manicured fingernails.)

Saturday, November 05, 2011

NaSeeBeMo

Maybe you've heard of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo - it's an event where writers are encouraged to write every single day during the month of November, with the idea that at the end of 30 days, you'll have a first draft of a novel, or pretty darn close to it.

One of my beading friends on Facebook, a very talented beader named Dulcey Heller, mused about what would happen if there were National Seed Beading Month in November. What a great idea! Beaders being encouraged to bead every single day for an entire 30 days!

All too often, at the end (or at the beginning) of my days, my beading gets pushed aside to do other things. I decided to pick on the NaSeeBeMo idea because I feel like I'm ready to get back into large-scale beading projects, and I just need some impetus to do it. Giving myself the encouragement to bead every single day for a whole month is something that I really need right now.

So far, we're five days into November, and I am happy to report that I have picked up my beads every single day for five days. I've made good progress on my Etsy Beadweavers' challenge piece (which is due on December 5th, yikes!) and I've made progress on a couple other pieces that were sitting on my work table.

Even if I only bead for five or ten minutes, it feels good to hold that needle in my fingers.

We'll see what the rest of NaSeeBeMo brings...!!!

Friday, November 04, 2011

Decisions, Decisions...

So, I got the order of brass bead embroidery collars from Designer's Findings the other day, so now I'm all set to start my project for The Hole Bead Shop!

...or so I thought...


My first thought was to make a collar covered in Ultrasuede (no bead embroidery actually on the collar) and then just fringe and embellish the hell out of it. But when I checked my Ultrasuede supply, I found that I didn't have enough black to do it. I had a large piece of the off-white, but I didn't want to use that because it seems to get dirty pretty easily on a big project like this. I had a very cool deep red/orange that would look fabulous, but without the black... Meh.

Fortunately, I am expecting a new order of Ultrasuede any second now. Which, translated into shipping times to rural areas like this, means sometime between now and the 17th of November.

So, I have a choice. Do I hold off on working on this collar until I get the Ultrasuede and go ahead with my original plan? OR do I just say to heck with it and do a bead embroidered front?

I'm thinking that I will probably stick with my original plan. I don't want the bead embroidery to take away from the lush and lavish fringe and embellishment that I have planned. And truthfully, I don't know if I'll have the time to do a full-on bead embroidered panel for the front. (I'm already working on a big Arabesque bead embroidered piece for my Etsy Beadweavers' Challenge this month so I don't get kicked off THAT team.)

I went into town today and had lunch with a friend, and it was a fabulous time. I miss having grown-up talk like that during the day. And I didn't even have any digestive issues with the lunch, either! Huzzah! Followed that up with a great acupuncture appointment, and came home to a hot meal of homemade Indian food, thanks to the spousal unit.

Tomorrow morning, I have to be at the lab bright and early when they open to get that last set of blood tests that the acupuncturist wanted. (Have I mentioned she is also a fabulous M.D.?) Then I think some Beading in Public at Starbucks before I have a manicure... And don't laugh. It's been two years since my last manicure, and I need to do something girly for myself this weekend.

Trying Times

We had a potty training meltdown this morning.

What is going on?!

Colden wouldn't get on the potty to poop. He ran away from me every time I tried to get him in the bathroom. I finally got him on the potty, and then he wanted to read every single book he owns. I couldn't get him off the potty. When I tried to get him off, he started screaming and just went limp so that I couldn't pick him up. I finally relented, and we wound up getting over to Oma and Opa's house at ten o clock in the morning.

Of course, the whole time this was going on, I was thinking about all the things I had to do today: the work, the writing, the beading, the photographs, the appointment for acupuncture... And I could feel myself just getting more and more stressed out. I had to walk away from Colden while he was sitting on the potty just to get myself together.

And then I start thinking that I must be doing something wrong. Is Colden's behavior my fault? Am I allowing him to get away with having a temper tantrum? Am I "enabling" as someone once told me?

The whole thing starts to make me feel like a very inadequate mother.

On the other hand, some mornings it's HARD getting a nearly-four-year-old washed, dressed and well-fed before we get out the door all by myself. Colden is a bright, active kid. It's hard to find a balance between letting him assert himself and making sure that I can get him to do the basics all within a reasonable amount of time.

On a good note, a friend emailed me this morning and asked me to have lunch with her. And I rescheduled my acupuncture appointment for later this afternoon. That will be a very nice break for me today.

Rejection

I got a rejection yesterday. I've gotten lots of rejections before, and while having your art rejected isn't fun, this particular rejection was just mean. The rejection letter said something like, "We have deemed that your work is not of sufficient quality or artistic merit for our program."

Wha?

Two of the pieces I submitted, mind you, were good enough to appear on the cover of a certain well-known beading magazine. But they were not of sufficient quality or artistic merit for their program.

My sister, who is an up-and-coming science fiction/fantasy/horror writer, called me and understood exactly what had happened. She said, "There's a difference between CONSTRUCTIVE criticism and just plain criticism."

What I experienced was the latter.

It got me so pissed off. How dare these people go so far as to insult me and my work like that? Being rejected is hard enough; but getting a MEAN rejection is just, well, mean.

I may write a response to their rejection letter and suggest that in the future they refrain from using those particular sentences when turning down candidates for their program. Why? Because nice matters.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Eggs

I was cooking an egg, avocado and Swiss cheese sandwich for myself this morning, and I was looking at the egg as I cracked it into the bowl. Last month when Tom's hunting buddies came up from downstate, we used up pretty much every egg the girls laid. And then we actually had to go BUY eggs, because until Tom got the red light installed in the coop for the winter, those girls were not generous in replenishing our supply. The other morning, Colden asked for an egg for breakfast, so I opened the store-bought carton of eggs.

The egg that I cracked into the bowl for him that morning was pale, neon yellow. It looked sick. I actually felt a little sick cooking it up for Colden, knowing that it probably came from a hen that was crammed into a tiny cage so that she couldn't even stand up or move her wings, and that her beak had probably been removed, too.

It did not look like a happy egg.

This morning, I had a nice supply of eggs from our girls to use, thanks to that red light that keeps them warm and gives them some extra light when the days get short. (I could probably use some extra light, too.)

When I cracked that egg into the bowl, I noticed what a deep gold it was, how it was a thicker yolk and a thicker shell. It tasted much better than the other eggs that I cooked from the store-bought container earlier in the week. It looked better. It looked like an egg.

So here's what I'm going to take away from this experience with the eggs: Our chickens are raised with care and love and pride. We do not remove their beaks. We play with them. We pick them up and pet them. We interact with them. They get good food, lots of fresh vegetable and meat scraps, lots of fresh grass from their huge enclosure, and they get to walk and run around in the fresh air and the sun every day. They get fresh water. They get love and attention.

And in return, they give us beautiful, nutritious eggs.

If you want to do something well, do it with care and love and pride. Do it with respect and a consciousness of your actions. Do it with the understanding that everything you do will affect someone else, somewhere.

Be nice to your chickens.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dias de los Muertos

Look what was in my mailbox today! My Day of the Dead challenge kit from The Hole Bead Shop!


I was sooooo lucky to snag one of these kits - there were only ten of them! And I cannot believe what is in there. Fire polished beads, daggers, Tilas, drops, seed beads, Lucite, freshwater pearls, and this absolutely gorgeous handmade lampwork sugar skull bead!



I love that my sugar skull bead has a happy face on one eye because I usually sign my emails with a little happy face. Goofy, I know.

I can't wait to get started on this project! I have until December 10th, which means I need to do some serious beading on it. This will probably require several late nights, which may or may not work with Colden's sleep schedule.

I feel like I'm ready to start working on large-scale projects again, I just need to figure out when and how to do that. So I called Designer's Findings to order a couple of thick brass embroidery collars, and guess what? She's traveling until the 24th! I was so disappointed, I wanted to cry. That means I probably can't start working on this piece until November 1, darn it.

On the plus side, that also means I have another week or two to do some sketching and some coloring and see what other beads I have and what other beads I might need to do this project. This is gonna be something gooooood...

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Swing Time!

Here it is, the first few rows of Swing Time!


So, I'm getting a little impatient waiting for the order of chaton montees and rose montees that I ordered back in September, so I decided to start Swing Time, since I've got pretty much all the materials for this bracelet with the exception of the clasp and the liquid silver beads.

I knew which colors I wanted to use for the bracelet after my first acupuncture treatment - the colors came to me while I was lying there on the table, full of needles, relaxing. (I know, that doesn't sound like it's very relaxing, but really, acupuncture is very relaxing for me.)

Then I realized that it has been a very, very long time since I had to read a graph for right-angle weave. A very long time. The last time I did that was back in 2001 or 2002 and I was trying to do a double needle right-angle weave project using a graph from my old White Russian beading book.

Reading the right-angle weave graph is a bit tricky, but I'm coming up with a system for it, which I'll post here and on Beading Daily once I get it written up.

I also ordered a whole bunch of seed beads from Fox Den Beads, since she's going out of business, and I thought I could get some of the colors I needed for a few more projects. Well, that was a great idea, but since she's not restocking anything, I received my order and it was a few tubes short of some critical colors. Dang it. I'll probably order some more beads from her just to add them to my stash, and then get the rest of the colors I need/want from Whimbeads and Beyond Beadery. Darn, darn, darn.

The Hunter

So, one of the things my acupuncturist suggested to me at my appointment last week was that I try the blood type diet to see if it helped ease my digestive issues. I had a few issues with that. First of all, I view any diet that is "trendy" as a sham. Atkins, South Beach - they're all a crock, as far as I'm concerned. Second, according to my blood type, I'm supposed to be eating a diet of red meat and vegetables with very little grains. I haven't had red meat since I was 15 years old. I haven't had chicken or turkey or any kind of white meat since 2003. When I told the acupuncturist about this, she said that sometimes in Chinese medicine you can substitute beets for red meat. (Don't understand that, but maybe it's the color?) Since I love beets, I thought, cool, I'll make a big kale and shredded beet salad for dinner that night.

I'm standing there shredding the beets with a hand shredder (Why didn't I use the food processor we just blew a bundle on? No idea.) and suddenly my hand slips and I neatly slice off the outer 1/8" of skin from the knuckle on my thumb. Tom took over and completed the shredding while I washed the wound and put a Band Aid on it.

Thus ended my experimentation with the blood type diet.

There's really nothing wrong with the diet that I eat - no meat, lots of fresh fruits and veggies, not a lot of processed foods (since I can't digest them anymore, anyway) and whole grains like quinoa, bulgur and kasha. Lots of beans and protein sources like tempeh, too. Low-fat dairy on the occasion that I want it like low-fat cottage cheese or hot chocolate made with 1% milk. That's about it. Of course, Colden and I bake cookies and during the summer I'm a sucker for those gourmet cupcakes from the farmer's market. But I think that overall, I eat a darn good healthy diet.

That said, I had my second acupuncture treatment yesterday and I feel great. Had a little bit of a queasy stomach the other night, but I now believe that was due to other circumstances. No more nausea after every meal, no more gagging and dry heaving... And I actually feel like cooking again!

Colden and I are going to baby sit for a friend this afternoon, so we're putting a harvest soup in the crock pot this afternoon - mixed lentils and barley with brown rice, chunked up butternut squash, celery root, carrots, chopped kale and leeks. Tomorrow night after Tom's hunting buddies have left, I'll be making a vegetarian cassoulet with tempeh, carrots, white beans, sweet potatoes, chopped kale, and a yummy buttery breadcrumb topping.

Yep. I should have done acupuncture months ago.

Monday, October 10, 2011

I'm Awake

That's what the acupuncturist told me the other day. When we were talking about how my body just doesn't react well to most Western medical practices, particularly to prescription medications, she nodded and smiled and said, "Well, that's a good thing. It means that your body is still awake."

It certainly was awake the last few nights. Colden had a rough couple of nights. The first night, he would not sleep unless I was in bed with him, and even then, he would cry (with his eyes shut) and say things like, "Mommy, I wanna go an a big airplane NOW!" (The best we can figure is that he was thinking about the movie Rio and the three second clip where a big airplane touches down at the airport in Brazil.) Then the night after that, he and Daddy laid there in bed and cuddled and snuggled and laughed and laughed and laughed. Tom said something about Moose chasing a critter in the backyard, and Colden just took that and ran with it - "Moose is chasing those freaking racoons again!" Not exactly conducive to sleep, but we didn't have to get up early the next morning or anything.

We went to Canadian Thanksgiving at Rob and Jenny's last night, and the place was packed. It was so much fun! I can't remember the last time I saw so much food - or felt like eating so much! My only mistake was that I went back for thirds. After my third plate of mushroom stuffing, mashed squash, locally-raised and roasted beets and carrots, mashed potatoes and green salad, the music, noise and heat started to get to me. (It was 83 degrees yesterday!) We had to bail a little early, which was a shame because Colden was having so much fun playing with the other kids.

At one point, I heard singing and I looked down into the lounge area and saw Colden with his little friend Andrew. They were putting together a HUGE wooden train track and singing the theme to the Wonder Pets about teamwork. It was so cute and funny, I told Andrew's mom about it.

Lots of beading for today. Two deadlines: one project needs to be out the door tomorrow morning, and the other needs to be ready to post for Friday morning on Beading Daily.

And I've started another project from Bead Riffs! More on that later today once I get the camera out and ready...

Thursday, October 06, 2011

The Death of Jobs

One of my beading friends on Facebook posted this quote last night:

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.” Steve Jobs
And I just loved it. I had to share it again. I don't know why I was so shocked to hear about the passing of Steve Jobs. It's not like I knew him, although his company certainly affected my life. I can remember playing and working on my dad's Apple IIe computer during grammar school, learning about programming languages and learning how to use a word processor. I think we even used that thing to access the first BBS on a local college campus.

I can remember my uncle using his Mac to create those wonderful church bulletins every week. He was truly talented at desktop publishing, and he and my father had many long conversations about the pros and cons of Apple vs. IBM.

In 2008, my father sent me my first iPod, and I was hooked. Ever since I loaded most of my music collection into my iTunes, I've always said that the only way anyone is going to get that device away from me is to pry it from my cold, dead hands.

I also saw with some amusement this story from The Onion with the headline, "Last American Who Knew What the Fuck He Was Doing Dies". Sadly true, I think.

Wherever he is, I hope Steve Jobs could see Colden this morning as he played on my iPad. RiP, Mr. Jobs.

Night in Tunisia

First of all, I loved this piece from the minute I saw it. But when I started picking out my colors to go with those Siam Swarovski crystals that I picked, I felt totally disheartened. I just could not find a set of colors that went together well, so I cheated a bit.


I decided to stick with those lovely hematite colored seed beads for the base, and I found some silver lined red beads that were a perfect match for the crystals. I loved the way the grey-lined 15s contrasted with both the red and hematite beads, but I just could not find a color of size 8 that I liked with these beads. So I used size 8 beads in silver lined red.

Stitching this piece together was, I thought, like magic. As I made the base with right angle weave, I couldn't get over how unstructured it looked. (I should have taken a picture.) It was loose, floppy, and just didn't sit right, no matter what I did.

Then I started filling in the little squares, and WOW! Things just tightened right up, took shape, took form... It was a beautiful thing to watch.

I loved the freedom in this piece - Rachel didn't have a specified thread path for filling in each of the little units of right angle weave, so I was free to wander through my beadwork in any way I saw fit, which was good when I was trying to squeeze my beading needle through some of those tightly-filled bead holes.

My current obsession: finding the perfect red sweater to wear with this necklace this winter. I did see a couple of beautiful jewel-toned red cocoon sweaters at the Bass outlet in Lake Placid the other day. Maybe another quick trip there with Colden this weekend...

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

How to Bend a Tulip Beading Needle

Well, I did it. I finally figured out how to bend one of those new Tulip beading needles! I finished High Style the other day, and when I was finished, my gorgeous Tulip beading needle had a definite curve to it!

I just love this bracelet! I really should have made it one unit shorter, but as long as I don't lose any more weight, I should be okay with it. And truthfully, if I did have to tear it apart and re-stitch it together, I think I'd be okay with that. (Just can't do it right now with deadlines and some new designs floating around in my head!)


Just look at those fun little bumps! I loved them. There was just something so wonderful and soothing about stitching these. They were simple, once I got the hang of them, and I was amazed at how quick they stitched up.

And just look at how they tarnished! At first, I was disappointed that the shine of those little copper beauties faded so quickly, but then I tried it on with my favorite long copper earrings and my new favorite brown hemp wrap shirt, it looked fabulous. Really fabulous. Like, I can't believe that I made this bracelet fabulous.

I also finished Night in Tunisia, but that will be another post for tomorrow...

Monday, October 03, 2011

Why?

One of my non-beading friends asked me the other day why I had decided to bead my way through Rachel Nelson-Smith's newest book, Bead Riffs.






There were a few reasons why I wanted to do this. First of all, ever since I saw Rachel's first book, Seed Bead Fusion, I've been totally captivated by her style. I love her techniques of making peyote stitch bumps on a base of right-angle weave, the way she creates bezels to capture rivolis and cabochons... I especially love the way she uses Swarovski crystals. I've never been much of a sparkly-beader kinda gal, but Rachel uses crystals in a way so that is so subtle, you really don't notice them. So when I first took a look through her book, I was just totally inspired to start stitching up every single one of these projects.

Another reason why I was motivated to stitch up all her designs was because I don't often get a chance to stitch up another artist's designs. For the last few years, I've been so busy making beadwork for inventory and working on my own designs that I just haven't had time to make up designs from someone else. That was always something that I loved to do when I first started beading and brought home a new beading book - I would make up little lists on sticky notes with all the beads I needed to buy for each project, and my hours after work were always spent sitting with Tom and watching movies and beading. I thought Rachel's designs are just so beautiful and so WEARABLE that I had to give them a try!

I've also been feeling a little stifled in my own beading designs lately as well. I'm so used to the ideas flowing easily into my sketchbook that this most recent dry spell has left me feeling a little bummed out and a little worried about if the ideas will ever come again. (Of course, on some level, I know they will, but right now, it feels like I've been hung out to dry by my Muse.) I'm hoping that getting a peek into Rachel's process and her designs will help ignite some of that inspiration in my own designs so that I can start designing my own pieces again.


So, enough of that for now. We had a fabulous weekend up here, complete with roaring fires in the wood stove to chase away the damp chill from the rain, a HUGE (60+ pound) box of assorted squash, a big pumpkin that Colden picked out all by himself, and a dinner of roasted vegetables and tempeh with a big loaf of Tom's homemade bread.  If this is autumn in the Adirondacks, I say bring it on!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Good





I saw this on the tire of the Jeep in front of me as I drove into Lake Placid to pick up Tom from work this afternoon. And surprisingly, after having a few days of really dark thoughts and feeling very frustrated with my latest set of digestive problems, I actually ended this day feeling pretty good.

I had a good appointment with my doctor. I am so thankful that I have her as my primary care physician. She is a wonderful, wonderful woman who is not just an excellent doctor, but also has the best bedside manner of any physician I've seen, ever. She suggested to me that I start acupuncture for my digestive issues because of its effect on the autonomous nervous system, and she was pleased when I told her that I've already started. She reassured me that this is nothing more than a gallbladder with attitude, and there's really nothing else we can do for it right now. She doesn't want to push me into surgery, and that's fine with me, because I think I'd have to be a LOT sicker than I am now to go that route.

The nice thing about my acupuncturist is that she's an M.D. She KNOWS this stuff. She knows what works and what doesn't work, and like I said yesterday, she completely understands that I just have one of those bodies that doesn't respond well to Western medicine. So, I'm feeling very optimistic about things after this last set of appointments.

On my way home from the doctor, I stopped in at the local natural foods store to find out if they had any ready-made seitan for a dish I wanted to cook for the potluck tonight, but they were all out. However, when I noticed that they now stock my friend Andrea's organic jams, I mentioned to the girl behind the counter that I knew Andrea from the farmer's markets where I used to sell my work. She asked me what kind of work, and I said beaded jewelry. She looked at me funny. "What's your name?" she asked. I told her. She said, "Oh my gosh! You're the Jennifer that Annie talks about all the time! You were supposed to be at the party yesterday!" Turns out that my friend Annie is friends with this gal, Kate, and Kate does some fabulous bead embroidery and resin jewelry! We exchanged numbers quickly because I had to get home in time for a meeting, but it just made me feel all warm inside to have met another fellow beader who totally understands the addiction as much as I do! (Also gave me a great idea for a blog post about craft junkies, which is, after all, what we really are...)

Then I cooked up another batch of Swiss chard and barley stew, and we went to the potluck Autumn Harvest Dinner at Colden's preschool. So much fun. So much food! Colden got to see his friends again, we all had a great dinner, did some socializing, and then Miss Mona (Colden's teacher) told them a story before we all left.

It's nearly bedtime. Colden is out in the garage workshop with Daddy, doing "man things". (Have no idea what those are, but they're having a good time.) It's chilly tonight, so we'll be piling up a few extra blankets.

We have fresh apples from the orchard. Tomorrow, Colden has a playdate in the morning with his friend Yossi, and Yossi's mom, Martha, and I will get to catch up with each other. Colden and I will bring freshly baked muffins with jam centers.

I have three beading projects on my table for next week. I have a job that I love, a beautiful family, and the best friends a person could ask for.

So, yeah. Life is good.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ground

So,  one of the things that I have available to me through my (wonderful) new job is this health flex account. I can use it to cover medical co-pays and my dental co-pays (ginormous) and I can also use it to cover the costs for massage therapy at my chiropractor and acupuncture. If you've never had a therapeutic massage or acupuncture treatment, you have no idea how huge this is for me. For years, struggling with migraines, nothing seemed to help until I started getting regular chiropractic adjustments and therapeutic massage.

In July, I went for my first massage in nearly four years, and it was every bit as wonderful as I remembered it. But the first thing that the massage therapist said to me as we started was that I needed to get grounded - she said that she could sense my energies swinging back and forth, which was totally on the mark and a little frightening because it was as if she were reading my thoughts as I tried to relax and follow my breath.

This morning I had another much-needed massage to try to help with this lower back pain and the digestive issues I've been having since August. Both of these things have caused a lot of stress for me (and Tom and Colden, naturally) and I finally decided that while going to the doctor and following her recommendations for treatments was a good thing, I needed to do something else to get myself grounded and relaxed so that I could deal with all of this.

It was a rough morning. Colden hasn't been sleeping well for the last three nights - he's been awake about every forty-five minutes, asking for milk and juice and then yanking the crap out of my hair as he tries to go back to sleep - and Tom and I are feeling stressed out and not well-rested at all. I was late dropping Colden off at Oma and Opa's house, and feeling more than a little wound up and strung out when I got to the chiropractor's office. Well, as soon as Dawn, the massage therapist, took me into the room, she gave me a new relaxation technique to try that involved a series of counted breaths and a position holding your arms out, palms up.

After two breaths this way, I could feel the tension starting to drain from my head and my neck. A few seconds later, I remembered her recommendation to me to get myself grounded, picturing myself as a giant tree with roots going deep into the Earth, my arms and my torso being the trunk and beautiful branches reaching up to the sky. As I did this, she said quietly, "Now, imagine yourself as a tree and get grounded again."

Mind-reading? Maybe not. My sister-in-law, who has been to massage school, has said that this particular type of massage is like "reading minds" because you need to be in tune with the energies of the person you are working with. And Dawn is very, very, very good at that. She can zero in on what is hurting me or causing me distress, and she can make it go away.

So as I was lying there this morning, focusing on my breathing and relaxing each part of my body as she worked, I came to the realization that my body works a little differently than other people that I know. I'm very sensitive to Western medical treatments - if there's a side effect associated with a drug, chances are that I'll get it. I bruise easily when it comes to drawing blood, and I have a wicked gag reflex that makes things like throat cultures and routine dental work horrific for both myself and the doctor or dentist trying to perform the procedures. But what I have noticed is that my body responds to things like massage therapy, chiropractic adjustments and acupuncture, and it responds very well.

Now, I'm not poo-pooing Western medicine. It works very well in some cases. If we hadn't had the option of having a c-section when I was in labor with Colden, we both would probably have ended up being statistics. And I am deeply grateful for antibiotics for the times that Colden and I both had pneumonia. But I just wish that there were more doctors (like mine) who recommended "alternative" therapies like massage and acupuncture, or at least who wouldn't scare the crap out of patients when they ask about them.

The doctor who is the owner of the practice where I go is pretty much clueless when it comes to things like vegetarian diets, chiropractic adjustments and acupuncture, so I do my best to avoid seeing him if at all possible. But on those occasions when he is the care provider on duty and I have no other choice, I'll go to let him make sure that there's nothing seriously wrong with me (because he is a good doctor, even if his bedside manner is horrible) and then I'll work with my acupuncturist or massage therapist to come up with an alternate plan of treatment.

Maybe it's just because I'm more comfortable with a less medically aggressive treatment option. Maybe it's because 99% of my problem is that I've never been very good at handling stress. Or maybe it's because these things actually WORK. These therapies have, after all, been around for thousands of years. We can't pinpoint exactly how they work in a laboratory, but they work.

I walked out of that chiropractor's office feeling better than I've felt in WEEKS. I was relaxed, refreshed, my sore back wasn't sore anymore, my stomach wasn't rumbling or queasy, and I felt ready to tackle the rest of my day. It wasn't just my physical self that felt better, my mental state was vastly improved, too.

So, tomorrow I go back to my regular physician to talk about the next steps in figuring out what's going on with my poor digestive system and what kinds of diagnostic tests we'll do and when. But after I'm finished there, I'll be stopping at the acupuncturist's office and setting up my next series of appointments.

So this is what I learned about myself today. Funny that I never really thought about it like this before, but there it is.

Oh, and the grounding part? Dawn is right on with that. She knows her stuff, let me tell you. I think as an artist and a writer, it becomes very easy for me to get lost, off in the clouds with my thoughts or my ideas. Working online just sort of adds to that ethereal ditziness, too. I need to make more of an effort to be present in my life when I'm not dreaming up ideas or writing or dreaming about what to write next. And it won't happen overnight, but that's what I need to do. I think all artists need to make that effort to become more grounded - otherwise, we'll all become the hazy, shadowy, absent-minded artist-figures that everyone thinks we are!

More on my Bead Riffs project later. I finished the latest project, and am gearing up for something bigger now...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Night in Tunisia

Okay, so why the hell did I choose Swarovski crystals in Siam?! Huh? Why?






I didn't like those milky pink crystals pictured in the project. No, I thought I would go with something different, something BOLD! Yikes. I think I own about one red sweater, and I only wear the damn thing on Valentine's Day. I have about a dozen tubes of red seed beads, compared to the hundreds of browns, greens, blues, pinks and other earth tones that I own.

So WHY did I choose Siam for this project? I thought the silver-lined red would look beautiful with the gunmetal grey seed beads. But now the problem becomes finding other colors of seed beads that look good with the red and the grey.

Colden and I scoured my seed bead collection. We took out hundreds of tubes of size 8s and 15s and spread them on the floor next to the gunmetal and the silver lined red. And I couldn't find any that I liked.

I finally settled on using some silver lined red size 8s (cop out, since they match the size 11s) and some silver-grey metallic lined 15s.

I just realized that I haven't done a single necklace from this book yet - this will be the first! If I can get it whipped up before the weekend, I just might have to go to Target and buy a red or a grey t-shirt to wear with it...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Shake Yer Groove Thang

Okay, okay, the project was just called "Groove", but darn it, I couldn't get that song out of my head while I was stitching up these earrings and the ring!



The only problem I had with these was my tension. At first, I was afraid to stitch too tightly because I wasn't sure how the pattern was going to work out. But after I finished the first earring and started in on the second, I saw that I could stitch with a tight tension and it actually made it easier to add the bumps and finial beads!




I didn't like the way that the tops and bottoms collapsed in on me while I was adding the bumps around the sides, but once those bumps were stitched, the earrings had a lot more body. They worked up surprisingly fast - it was like they should have been in the "Easier Than They Look" chapter.

When I ordered the 2mm gold beads for this project, I threw in some extras because I knew that I wanted to make a matching ring. And it came out beautifully:


Yes, there was a little bit of thread showing on this project. I didn't know how else to make it go away. The project called for blue thread, but I used my green Wildfire instead, which looks just as good with the olive-green seed beads.

Fun, fun, fun! These stitched up so easily, I was genuinely surprised at how fast they went. I started them yesterday afternoon while Colden was painting and put the finishing touches on the ring this morning while I was waiting for my oatmeal to cool.

I started feeling a little panicked about how quickly these projects were working up, until I sat down to look at what's ahead of me. Reading a right-angle weave graph. Adding hundreds of bumps and rose montees as embellishment to a necklace. Joining dozens of liquid silver bead components to jump rings. And I gave myself a year to complete all of these projects? I better hope those rose montees and chaton montees come sooner rather than later so I can finish knocking off all the "little" projects in this book and get on to the big ones!

Colden has conked out for a nap, and I have a choice: do I go try to catch a quick nap, take a hot bath with a piece of chocolate and a good book, do the dishes and clean the kitchen, or go rummage through the basement and look for my 1/4" plastic tubing for the two projects that call for it?

I'm thinking that the bath and the chocolate are going to win here...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Addicted to High Style

I started working on High Times last night. I couldn't stand it - that little baggie of shiny copper beads was just teasing me. They were begging me to dump them out in a little pile and start stitching with them. So after Colden went to bed, that's what I did. (The poor kid was finally feeling better, but he was totally exhausted. He ate a HUGE dinner, came into the bedroom to snuggle with me for a few minutes and just conked right out before eight.)





Once I started stitching the base, it was damn near impossible for me to stop. Seriously. There's something about the rhythm of right angle weave that just hooks me. I can feel something click in my brain and there's that rush of serotonin...almost like eating dark chocolate.

What I discovered, though, was that stitching with these 2mm copper beads was NOT like stitching with regular seed beads. I had to slide them onto the thread past the eye of the needle. The holes got stuck on the needle. And there wasn't any way to just scoop them up with the needle like I usually do with seed beads - I either had to put them on by hand or pick them up one at a time with the needle. Ack!

Then, like I said before, I don't like it when I can't picture how the piece will come together from instructions. This was the case with the start of this bracelet. I just couldn't figure it out. As I was stitching it, I felt the light bulb come on: this was a cubic right angle weave bangle bracelet! Made with metal rounds! Oh my God, it suddenly felt a lot more intimidating...

I sat down and put on 3rd Rock From the Sun, and I told myself that I would stop beading at nine o clock and go to bed. Nine came and went. Okay, I thought, I'll stop at nine-thirty. Pretty soon, I was telling myself that I would stop at ten. Finally, at ten forty-five, I had to quit. My eyes were so tired that they felt puffy and my sinuses were telling me to get some sleep. So I reluctantly put the beading aside and went to bed.

One thing I realized as I was working, though, is that I'm going to need more copper beads. Something else I don't like is when I run out of beads in the middle of a project! I can't stand it - it drives me nuts to have to put down a project right in the middle of the stitching because I've run out of beads. Darn it. And what kills me is that I thought I had way more beads than I needed for this!



I had ordered a package of 1,000 2mm copper beads. I figured that would be plenty - the instructions in the book said that the bracelet pictured used 960 beads and I only added one extra unit to make sure that the bangle would fit around my oddly enormous knuckles. I finished six bumps and I only have enough beads left to make maybe another six bumps! Even when I did the math, it came out that I should have had plenty of beads to finish this bracelet. I have no idea what happened. I know I didn't spill any on the floor, but on the other hand, I didn't count every single bead that was in the bag when I got the order last week.

Nothing to do now but wait for the rest of the beads to arrive next week.

When I looked at the bracelet this morning, I realized that the bright, shiny copper beads that I was stitching the night before had turned dark and dull overnight. I was a little disappointed at first, but then I realized that the only pair of copper earrings that I own have a dull finish. So at least the two pieces will match when I finish the bracelet...

My plan for now is to finish this bracelet, and then move on to another quick project while I wait for the rest of the beads. Maybe a pair of earrings with a matching ring over the weekend is the thing to do...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

High Style

I'm 2 hours into the next project, High Style, and I've realized a few things:

1. Beading with 2mm metal round beads is NOT the same as beading with size 11 seed beads. It's much harder.
2. Somehow, I've been roped into doing a cubic right angle weave bangle bracelet without realizing it.
3. I'm gonna need a lot more of these copper beads. 1,000 of them weren't enough!

Time for bed...

Two-Beat Finished!

I finished it! Despite everything that was going on today... Last night, Colden didn't want anything for dinner. Not terribly unusual, he eats really well during the day, so we usually just let him nibble and then give him a snack. Sandy said that he didn't seem himself at their place yesterday, and he was acting strange while I was fixing dinner - he would suddenly just start crying and saying, "Moooommm-y!" We figured maybe he was just being needy. Then Tom got on the phone with Kathy, and Colden started crying again. This time, he came running at me, and - BLEAH! - just projectile vomited all over the floor.

We got him cleaned up and snuggled into bed with me, and he eventually started acting a little better and went to sleep. In the morning, he was acting more like himself and he asked Tom for some peanut butter crackers. Tom gave him one peanut butter cracker sandwich and some juice, and Colden came back into bed with me and threw up again.

Taking him to the dentist in Burlington didn't really seem like an option at that point, so after I got Colden cleaned up again and settled into bed, I called and canceled our appointment and then called the pediatrician. Everything checked out okay at the pediatrician, and we went home to let Colden rest and watch Diego for a while.

I took the opportunity to finish the last link in Two-Beat and attach everything together! And here it is! Yay! Second project down!


I love this bracelet. I loved making the beaded beads. I loved making the toggle and attaching it to the pieces of chain. I love the colors I picked for this bracelet - it will go with pretty much everything I have in my closet.

What I discovered while making these beaded beads was that I was really afraid of making those beaded beads with the size 15s! Like, seriously afraid. I whipped through the size 11 beaded beads with no problems, but when it came time to sit down with those teeny tiny beads...I felt like I had to fight myself to use them.






I made the clasp right after I made the first two beaded beads, thinking that it would be a good way for me to estimate the number of beads I needed for the bracelet. I also thought that maybe working with those size 15s on the clasp would limber me up for making the rest of the beaded beads...but it didn't. I still had to fight myself to sit down and make those tiny beaded beads!




As I stitched up the toggle bar with the 15s, I kept thinking to myself, "How many more of these clasps do I have to do?"

I've been looking through the projects and through my beads to see which of the projects I can start next without having to buy anything else. The other bracelet projects that call for a 7-strand 41mm silver tube clasp have me a little worried: the instructions call for me to nip off three of the loops on the clasp. Honestly, the thought of mauling a $35 silver clasp just makes me shiver. Am I going to be able to do it?

And now, I'm going for a break. I've been sick as a dog since Tuesday night, sneezing and coughing and blowing my nose... I was completely miserable last night, sinuses aching so bad I thought I was going to pass out. I think a nice hot bath and a piece of chocolate are in order for this afternoon...and I'll decide which project to tackle next!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Supplies

This is what was in my post office box the other morning:




My order from Fusion Beads! Sterling and gold-filled seamless rounds, a big bag of tiny 2mm copper rounds, some Swarovski rounds, bicones and sequins, a length of chain, a clasp, two sets of ear wires... And all of this was $117?! For real?!

I was really stunned at how much all of this came to when I was placing my order. On the computer screen, it looked like a lot: all those neatly itemized little lines with the numbers and the cost. And then I realized, as I was waiting for my order to arrive, that all of these items would fit perfectly in a teeny tiny little padded envelope that was small enough to fit right into my post office box. Wowza.

So, please, no one tell my husband how much all of this cost...

The upshot is that these supplies are enough for me to make five more projects from the book: two pairs of earrings (once I get the rose montees from Rachel), a necklace, a ring and a bracelet. I can't wait to jump into them, but first I need to finish Two-Step this week.

And in other news... The Keene farmer's market was open again this week after being closed since Irene tore up the roads. This was the first time that 9N from Jay to Keene was open, and the first time that route 73 was open through Keene since the storm. Upper Jay and Keene just looked like a war zone: trees down, roads still washed out and ripped up, the remains of houses and buildings flattened and waiting to be cleaned up. A total mess. So I went and did my bit and spent some money at the farmer's market. We bought some gourmet cupcakes, jam from my friend Andrea, and I even picked up a couple of hand cut gemstone cabochons:





I just know I've got the perfect gemstone beads to accent these... So in all my spare time, I'll start stitching them up, right?

Crappy, cold, rainy, grey day here today. Bundled Colden up extra well this morning for his outdoor playtime at Miss Mona's. Barley and Swiss chard stew for dinner tonight, and hot chocolate right now to get me through the afternoon...