Monday, July 30, 2012

What's New?

The short answer: not much. Back to Monday, back to work, trying to get all my blogs and newsletters completed before I head to Philadelphia in two weeks. I've got ideas for tutorials, blogs, articles, etc., that need to be sketched out before I sit down to flesh them out.

Long answer: Tom is hoping to have the last of the metal roofing up on the garage tonight. (Exciting, right?) And then he just has to finish the gutters and the ice hooks, and we won't have to think about that building again as long as we live here.

It's going to be hot today. We're planning on a swim later on, and I'm sitting in the living room under the ceiling fans trying to get warmed up for some serious writing. I'm stuck in the house today because we dropped the van off at the body shop last night for the repairs. I'd forgotten how much it sucks to be without a car during the day.

And here are some funky cloud pictures I took last week when we watched the cold front sliding through the river valley down the hill from our house. Enjoy.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Welcome to the 1st Reveal of the 6th Bead Soup Blog Party!

Woo-hoo! Welcome to the 1st reveal for the 6th Bead Soup Blog Party! A HUGE thank-you should first be made to the amazing Lori Anderson for all the work that goes into these. Lori has done the beading community around the world such a fabulous service for putting these events together!

I got paired up with the amazing Birgitta Lejonklou of Sweden for this Bead Soup Blog Party, and I was absolutely amazed at what she sent me.

Two pieces of sari silk, a chain, and five of her amazing handmade porcelain cabochons and pendants! Not to mention the cool copper clasp and the assortment of glass, gemstone and wood beads. The whole package was just breathtaking!

My initial thought was to use the Buddha connector with a bead and wire chain, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't make the design work.

Realizing that I was getting reeeeeeeeally close to the deadline, I had to come up with something fast. So, I had to resort to my good old quick'n'dirty beaded cabochon skills.

The first piece that drew me was this gorgeous flower cabochon. I started stitching on it for a while, but then ran out of steam. I had a much grander piece in mind, and didn't want to do it a disservice by just doing something fast.

But fast was what I had to do, because I was running out of time!

So I dug through the stash again, and through my own stash, and found a set of beads that worked with the brown cabochon. And this is what I created...

I put some of my newly-acquired wire wrapping skills to good use and attached the copper clasp to the length of brown sari silk. Then I stitched up a bezel and added some crazy fun embellishment to the cabochon!

I've been having some fun lately playing with different edgings and trims for my cabochons. I love the look of lace surrounding the cabochon, and I think I may have to turn that edging into a full-fledged beaded necklace!

I should also give a big thank-you to my swap partner, Birgitta Lejonklou, for sending me such beautiful pieces! I still have plans for the rest of the components...and I want to finish that blue floral cabochon before I head to Bead Fest Philly on the 15th. I've got an idea for embellishing it that I want to try...

So, while you're here, check out all the other amazing goodies that are being revealed today in the Blog Party!

Hostess, Lori Anderson,
Alice Craddick,  Alice's Beads and Baubles
Alicia Marinache,  All The Pretty Things
Amanda Tibbetts,  Amanda Made
Amber Dawn Goldish, Inventive Soul
Annita Wilson,  AW Jewelry
Beti Horvath, Stringing Fool
Birgitta Lejonklou,  Create With Spirit   
Candida Castleberry,    Spinning Spun Sugar
Carolyn Lawson, Carolyn's Creations
Cassie Donlen, Glass Beadle
Cheryl McCloud,  One Thing Leads to Another
Cheryl Roe, BeadRoe
Christina Hickman, Vintage Treasures Jewelry
Christine Hendrickson,  Clamworks
Cilla Watkins, Tell Your Girlfriends
Cindy Wilson, Mommy's Dream
Cindy Wimmer, Sweet Bead Studio
Cory Celaya, Art With Moxie
Cory Tompkins, Tealwater Designs
Cris Peacock, Cris' Page
Cynthia Deis, Shiny Little Things
Cynthia Machata, Antiquity Travelers
Cynthia Wainscott, Exotic Peru
Dana Hickey, Magpie Approved
Denielle Hagerman, Some Beads and Other Things
Diane Valasek, Dragonfly Close
Doris Stumpf, Glaszwerg
Dyanne Everett-Cantrell, Dee-Liteful Jewelry Creations
Elaine Robitaille, Too Aquarius
Eleanor Burian-Mohr, The Charmed Life
Enikö Fabian, Perl-eni
Erin Prais-Hintz, Treasures Found
Heather Davis, Blissful Garden Beads
Hilary Frye, FryeStyle
Inge von Roos, Inge's Blog
Jami Shipp, Celebrating Life
Jayne Capps, Mama's Got to Doodle
Jennifer Cameron, Glass Addictions
Jennifer Pottner, Rock Candy Beads
Jennifer VanBenschoten,  Jewelry, Art and Life
Jenny Davies-Reazor, Jenny Davies-Reazor
Jenny Vidberg, Shyme Design
Jessica Dickens, My Jewelry, My Life, Me
Jessica Klaaren, Beadful-Things by Jessica
Joan Williams, Lilruby Jewelry
Judith Johnston, Judith Johnston
Judy Riggs, Rigglettes
Judy Turner, Silver Rains
Julie Anne Leggett, The Peaceful Bead
K Hutchinson, Jumbled Hutch
Karen Meador, Dreamcatcher Ranch
Karyn Bonfiglio, Plus Size Bangles
Katherine Gale, Terra Beadworks
Kathleen Lange Klik, Modern Nature Studio
Katja Benevol Gabrijelcic, Slovonske Technobe
Kelli Jacobson, Creative Moon
Kelly Ramstack, Adventures with Kelly
Keri Lee Sereika, Pink Lemonade
Kim Bender-Hora, KimmyKat
Kirsi Luostarinen, Kirsi Luo Korut
Kitty Bozzini, Kitty Lampwork
Laura Demoya, The Bead Therapist
Laurie Hanna, Laurie's Jewelbox
Leah Curtis, Beady Eyed Bunny
Lesley Watt, The Gossiping Goddess
Linda Inhelder, Must-Haves Jewelry
Lisa Liddy, Metal Me This
Mallory Hoffman, For the Love of Beads
Marge Beebe, Rock Creek Creations
Marianna Boylan, Pretty Shiny Things
Marion Simmons, Shade Tree Studio
Marla Gibson, Spice Box Design
Marta Weaver, Marta Weaver Jewelry
Marti Conrad, Marti C's Clay Blog
Maryse Fritzsch-Thillens, GlassBeadArt, Lampwork Beads
Melanie Brooks, Earthenwood Studio
Michelle Hardy, Firefly Visions
Mikala Coates, Maybe Just Perhaps
Mowse Doyle, HoCArt
Nancy Boylan, Snazzy Doodle Designs
Nancy Peterson, Beading From the Heart
Nicole Rennell, Nicole Rennell Designs
Niki Meiners, 365 Days of Craft
Niky Sayers, Silver Nik Nats
Norma Turvey, Moonlit Fantaseas
Paige Maxim, Paige Maxim Designs
Pamela Gangler, She Always Loved Pink
Perri Jackson, Shaktipaj Designs
Raida Disbrow, Havana Beads
Renetha Stanziano, Lamplight Crafts
Shannon Hicks, Falling Into the Sky
Shannon LeVart, Miss Fickle Media
Sharon Driscoll, Right Turn Art Werks
Shelley Graham Turner, Fabric of My Life
Sherri Stokey, Knot Just Macrame
Shirley Moore, Beads and Bread
Skylar Bre'z, Brising Beads
Stacie Florer, Soul to Substance
Stacie Stamper, Park Avenue
Stacy Alderson, Iridal's Attic
Stephanie Haussler, Pixybug Designs
Stephanie Stamper, Rainy Day Designs
Suzette Bentley, Ellie's Bijoux
Tammy Jones, Jewelry Making Daily
Tanty Sri Hartanti, TJewellicious by Tanti
Terry Matuszyk, Pink Chapeau
Vonna Maslanka, Just Vonna

Whew! That's a lotta blogs!

And please, please head over to Birgitta's blog, Create with Spirit, and check out what SHE made with the soup I sent her! She's really a fantastically talented jewelry designer in addition to being a gifted ceramic artist. Lots of pretty stuff to look at!

So now, if you'll all excuse me, I'm off to the farmer's market and to cook dinner for eight! Have fun!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The First Battle is Over

And I lost out in my battle by one vote! One vote!

Even though I'm not moving on to Round 2, I'm still pretty durn pleased with myself and with my entry. I pushed myself harder than I've pushed in a long time, and I'm very happy with the result. I completed my entry on time and met the deadline. And I got so much amazing feedback, both before and after the results of the first round of voting came in, that I feel like this is a great personal success for me.

There was, as to be expected, some backlash after the results of the first round were announced. And I was just gobsmacked to see how some people reacted after being eliminated or after their favorite pieces (not pieces that they made themselves) were eliminated.

Cries of "foul" filled the Battle of the Beadsmith Facebook page, even as most of us who were eliminated were graceful and just happy to have participated in this event.

What surprised me most was all of the criticism that was unleashed after the results. People were hurt that their work wasn't voted on the next round, and more than one person even suggested that the competition never should even have taken place.

People complained about the judging - there were no set criteria! How were these pieces judged? How could someone come up with a competition that pitted one bead artist against another?



Now,  here are my thoughts. And I'm sure I'm gonna piss off a few people here.

I almost didn't enter the competition. I didn't think my work was nearly good enough. I was sure that I was going to be eliminated in the first round. (Which I was, but that's besides the point.)

I talked to my sister about the competition, and as a working artist herself, she had some very good points.

1. If you're an artist, you're automatically in a competition. Whether you like it or not, as an artist, as soon as you create a piece of art - whether it's a song, a poem, a novel, a short story, a painting, a sculpture, a piece of jewelry, whatever - SOMEONE is going to judge it. They're either going to love it, or hate it, or be neutral about it. That's just the way it works. And it's no good to be an artist and make work that you stick in a closet for thirty years. Art is meant to be shared, to spark conversation, and yes, to be judged. If you don't want to be judged, don't be an artist. (But, really, people are gonna judge you, anyway.)

2. Just because your beautiful piece of beadwork wasn't voted forward to the second round doesn't mean that your work is worthless, awful, or "not good enough". Both artists and non-artists seem to equate commercial or competition success with good art. And that's just not always the case. (Anyone who has ever seen any of the Twilight movies, or any of the Transformers movies, will understand this point.)

Yes, there were some amazing freaking pieces of beadwork that were voted into the second round, but all of the pieces were amazing.

True story: after selling my handmade fused glass very successfully at the farmer's markets throughout the summer of 2008, I started taking it around to a couple of local craft stores to see if they would be interested in either consigning it or wholesaling it from me. I remember one store owner in particular who told me that my pieces would never sell. Whatever. I took it with a grain of salt, and went on to have two more very successful summers of selling my handmade glass and beadwork at my local farmer's markets and craft shows.

3. If you don't want to lose, don't enter a competition. That's the whole point of a competition, right? Someone wins, someone loses. Entering a competition doesn't guarantee a win. And neither does entering a competition if you have "name recognition". There were a few heavy-hitters in the beading world that were eliminated in the first round, people that I would have totally expected to move forward. But that doesn't necessarily mean that their work is inferior. (See #2, above.)

4. Don't complain about the judges in a competition. Seriously, people. The judges in this first round were all of the competitors and a select panel of judges, some of whom have been involved in beading as an art since before I could eat my own solid food. That's good enough for me. Those judges are well-respected bead artists, and really, they've seen it all. The participants who created all of these amazing pieces of art also seem to know what they're doing when it comes to judging beadwork and art, so, yeah, I'm pretty sure that they have good reasons for choosing the way they did. Not that the judgement of any one person (or any group of people) makes a work of art "good" or "bad". (See #1 and #2, above.)

5. Just because there are some awesome pieces in this competition that got voted out in the first round and people's feelings got hurt doesn't mean that the competition should never have happened in the first place. I can't imagine even making that statement. I'm sure there are dozens, if not hundreds, of entries into competitions like Bead Dreams and Bead Star that get booted out in the first round, but has anyone said that those competitions should be shut down? Heck, no! Those competitions have resulted in the recognition of some of the most important emerging bead artists in recent years!

I'm not trying to discount anyone's feelings. Of COURSE it hurts when you're eliminated from a competition. Let yourself get upset, if you want to, but don't let it make you think any less of your art. And please, please, please don't point fingers at anyone for your not winning! Entering a competition does not guarantee success! (See #3, above.)

Remember: your art comes from YOU, and the great thing about it is that no one can duplicate your own artistic vision. If you didn't make art, would you be miserable? I certainly would. Making art makes me a happier person, and I really don't care who does or doesn't like it. In the end, if I like it, that's good enough for me.

Personally, losing round one by just a single vote was a big win for me. I never dreamed that I could hold my own against such an amazing piece, but I did! And the feedback I got about my entry - that it was risky, edgy, and unabashedly unique - means more to me than any "win" could.

So, if you want to enter a beading competition, go ahead and enter. But do it with your eyes open, and with the knowledge in your heart that even if you don't win, yes, you are good enough.

Peace, out!

One Step

Among some of the characters that live in AuSable Forks about five miles up the road from here, there's one woman who's particularly disturbing to me. She looks to be about my age - maybe mid to late 30s - and whenever we see her walking around town, she's got a huge "hat" made of plastic bags strapped to her head and tied under her chin with a black strap.

We see her talking to herself as she walks up and down the street, and more often than not, she's got this look on her face like she's recoiling from something particularly odious and offensive. Once, she stood in line behind Tom at the grocery store in AuSable Forks, and Tom said she was hissing and making menacing sounds under her breath the entire time.

He came back to the car, more than a little shaken up.

I wonder about this woman when I see her. I wonder what her story is, and I wish that there were some way for her to access the mental health services she so obviously needs. Is there someone who takes care of her and looks out for her? Is she actually a caretaker for an elderly parent or relative?

Sometimes, though, I feel like I'm one step away from becoming just like her, and walking up and down Main Street with a ginormous plastic bag hat strapped to my head.

We haven't been sleeping at all this week around here, and I don't know why. Energy upheaval, Mercury in retrograde, whatever. We haven't been sleeping.

Last night, I laid in bed until 11:45 before I finally fell asleep. Then Colden came in with his pillow around 3 a.m. Around 3:30, he woke up and cried that he was thirsty. I got up and got him something to drink. Then he went back to sleep, but I laid there until about 4:30, when I finally got up and went to sleep in his bedroom. I'm guessing I fell asleep around 5 or 5:30.

I woke up later on, not sure of what time it was, to see Colden standing at the side of the bed with the kitchen tongs, peeling the blankets off of me, one at a time. Funny. He says, "Mommy, wake up! It's morning! Time to get up!"

I was still feeling so wrecked that I said, "Colden, if you go get the iPad and let Mommy sleep for a few more minutes, I'll make hot cocoa for breakfast." Zoom! That kid can move fast when you mention two of his favorite things in the same sentence.

Next thing I know, I'm awake again, and thinking I had better get out of bed and see what time it is, since the clock in Colden's room hasn't worked for the last couple of weeks.

I looked at the clock in our room: 8:05.

Aw, shit.

Threw some breakfast together for Colden (peanut butter and jelly, his favorite), jumped in the shower for about thirty seconds to scrub the grime out of my hair and brush my teeth. Get dressed, get Colden dressed, run out the door.

Come home after dropping Colden off and think that my stomach is right - I need to eat breakfast. I start to make breakfast - potatoes and eggs - and pretty soon after I turned up the burner to cook the potatoes, I smelled something burning.

No biggie, probably just a little piece of food in the burner. (Electric stove.) Turn around to turn the ceiling fan on in the kitchen to blow the smoke away, and I turn around and...

Flames. Big 'uns. About the size of my hand.

Switch off the burner, turn on every fan in the house, open the back door, try to work the fire extinguisher, not even sure if I can USE the fire extinguisher on a fire on an electric stove.

Called 911 for guidance. Flames go out on their own while I'm on the phone. House filled with smoke, and potatoes cooked to shit.

At least the fire department didn't have to come out.

So, granted, I'm sure this isn't plastic-bag-hat-strapping material, but it sure feels like I'm at the end of my rope today. I don't know whether to laugh or cry or a little bit of both.

One thing is for sure: I'm not turning on the stove or the oven again until tomorrow.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

RIP, Gigi

In the five years that we've had chickens, we've never lost a single one to predators - until this week.

Earlier in the week, Tom and I went out to check the coop before a big storm blew through, and we discovered a single chicken leg caught in the top of the 8-foot fence that surrounds the large chicken yard. (There's so much vegetation in it that we call it the Chicken Jungle.)

Then this morning, Tom found a whole pile of feathers in the chicken yard and realized that Gigi, the last of our original flock from five years ago, was gone.

Gigi, the beautiful speckled hen we had since 2007.
I don't mind saying that when Tom told me she was gone, I cried. Gigi, short for Grousy Girl, was one of our original flock. She was such a gentle bird. Back in her day, she was a good layer, giving us two or three eggs a day. And after she stopped laying, she was just a nice bird to have around. She would jump up into my lap when I came into the coop to collect eggs, she would let Colden stroke her feathers, and she was a good mama hen to the other birds.

Tom is going to look into some kind of netting to put over the top of the chicken run to prevent this hawk (which is what we figure it is) from eating any more of our birds.

Bummer. What a way to start the day.

Friday, July 20, 2012


I don't know what's going on, but this morning, I just want to cry. The horrible news out of Colorado - I feel as if I'm an honorary resident, since so many of my wonderful co-workers are out there - combined with the stress of last weekend's car incident and the unending parade of housekeeping chores that seem to go on around here just makes me feel completely overwhelmed.

So after I finished my writing for the morning, I sat down and did a little bit of beading. Not on my Bead Soup project (not yet, anyway), but on this beautiful Ganesha that I recently acquired...

And of course, in looking through my Traditional Jewelry of India book to get an idea for a neck strap for this piece, I found another piece I want to try to re-create with beads...

I think tonight will require another trip to the farmer's market for some (healthy) retail vegetable therapy, and then a trip out to the Wild Center tomorrow with Colden to watch the otters and play on the trails.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

True Story

This just needs to be said.

When I was studying environmental science at Ramapo College, I had to take an introductory level course in environmental policy. It was a course designed to be a general education class, and many of the students in the class were not actually environmental science majors, but were taking the class to fulfill a gen ed requirement.

One evening in class, and I can't remember how we got on the subject, the conversation turned to some of the recent laws that had been passed by then-mayor Rudy Giuliani. Some of them seemed a bit arcane, and the teacher referred to Mr. Giuliani as a "fascist".

The girl sitting next to me giggled when she heard that word, looked at me and the boy next to her, and said, ">giggle< I don't even know what a fascist IS. >giggle<"

Something in my brain snapped. What she was doing was not cute. I looked right at her and said, "Buy a dictionary, Barbie. Look it up."

So, before ANYONE goes flinging that word "socialist" around again, do me (and yourselves) a favor.

Buy a dictionary. Look it up.

Now on to something better, like my beads for the day...

Monday, July 16, 2012


So, after a fun-filled weekend of suppositories and insurance adjusters, I was very happy to find that my awesome bead soup had arrived from Sweden, courtesy of ceramic bead artist Birgitte Lejonklou!

The handmade cabochons just took my breath away! The designs are so delicate! And the Buddha connector is just amazing - I've already got a project in mind for that one, but not sure if it will be my Bead Soup piece or not.

I really, really, really want to do something with one of those cabs and some of that sari silk that Birgitte included in my package. It's just calling to me! I wonder if I can "whip" up a little piece of bead embroidery...or maybe that's just something I'll have to wait on for another day. (Since I have to have my piece finished and ready to post on the 28th - yikes!)

On that note, I spent half an hour on the phone with the insurance company today, and I was so stressed out after I answered her questions (all 64,000 of them), I spent a few minutes working on a Zentangle. Since I've been looking at the amazing beadwork in the Battle of the Beadsmith, and idea about beading occurred to me, and I've treated myself to an online Zentangle class and took a new interest in digging out my sketchbook with all my old tangles in it.

I need to go crunch some numbers for tomorrow, and then I need to clean up the kitchen and get some dinner cooking for the three of us, but after the dishes are cleared away, I am going to sit with my kid on the back porch and do some more Zentangling and coloring while I plot my next move.

Happy thought for the day: sunflowers.

To be continued...

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Just when I think that there's nothing left to write about on my blog...

Today didn't exactly go as planned. Colden is playing another round of hide 'n' go poop, and with the heat we've been experiencing, he just hasn't been himself. So this morning, he said he wanted to go to the library for the annual library sale fundraiser and to return our books and see Yosi's mom, Martha.

We walked into the library, put our books down on the librarian's desk, and saw Martha waving at us. I started to walk over and say hi, and Colden planted his feet and let out the most ear-piercing shriek I have ever heard.

Turned around, scooped up Colden, and walked away.

We tried to walk through the library sale. Colden whined and pulled at my hands the whole time. The kid was MISERABLE. But still, he refuses to poop, despite repeated administrations of Miralax.

Enough, I said, we're going home right now.

Drove home. Got Colden to sit on the potty, but he screamed and cried the whole time that it hurt when he was trying to poop. (Which, of course it did, because the kid hasn't pooped since Wednesday, so he's probably got something like an elephant turd in there.)

He finally wore out and started crying that he was tired. I got him off the potty, got him dressed. He asked for strawberries and something to drink. I got that for him, too. Then he laid down on the bed and went to sleep.

Tom came home, and I said I was going to just go to Target myself while Colden was sleeping. We were running out of water filters for the pitcher, pull ups, and Tom's Zyrtec.

Drove up to Plattsburgh. Looking for a place to park in the 94+ degree parking lot, see an empty space, go to turn into it, and WHAM!

I smacked into the car next to me.

I panicked. What the hell did I just DO?!

I called Tom, in tears. Front headlight on the brand-new van smashed. Nice dent in our front bumper. Big scratches on both cars. (Thankfully, not much else really wrong with other car, just some big scratches on the rear bumper.)

The people who owned the car came out while I was on the phone with Tom and the insurance company. Surprisingly, the NY State Troopers agreed to come file an accident report. (According to the insurance adjuster, usually if something like that happens in a private parking lot like at Target or the mall, it's considered a civil case and no police report is created.)

The guy who owns the car says to me, "You look so familiar." Turns out he used to work at the co-op in downtown Plattsburgh, right next to wear I used to have my store. I used to see him every day when I went in there for my lunch!

So, if I'm going to smash up our brand-new van, at least I hit someone I know, right?

And silly me, I had always thought that Friday the 13th was the unlucky day. Maybe I should have stayed inside all day today, too.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Big Reveal: Mother of Dragons

So, here it is. The wonderful Steven Weiss starting posting pictures today in the Battle of the Beadsmith. The last battle pair that he posted (the 13th pair, on Friday the 13th, no less!) was myself and the lovely Ekaterina Kalinina! That means I get to show you my entry, so here it is. With the name of "Mother of Dragons: Revolting Women", this is what I created for the Battle of the Beadsmith:

And if you would like some more detail:

A shot of the clasp, made with brass hooks and a couple of vintage buttons from the thrift shop:

And a closeup shot of the sculptural peyote stitch elements that make up the collar:

The idea for the sculptural peyote stitch domes came from a picture I saw in a comprehensive book that details the history of jewelry from India. I thought about doing something similar, and while these domes don't look exactly like the piece that was in the book, they're pretty darn close.

I traced a circle on the Nicole's Beadbacking (the best bead embroidery medium in the world!) and then stitched over it using backstitch. After that, I just started working in tubular peyote stitch, just the same as I would have if I were bezeling a cabochon or a stone.

From there, I made the appropriate decreases, and finished off the tops with a tiny silver bead.

Each dome took me a little over an hour to stitch. And then there was the bead embroidery between elements - the spacing on these was so tricky!

Trying to get the fringe on the finished piece was enough to make me want to give up. I nearly did give up. I spent three hours on Saturday putting fringe on seventy-five percent of the piece before I stood up, took a good look at it, and realized that it was all the wrong shape. Commence tearing out, crying, and general feelings of discouragement.

I sat down to work at it on Sunday and spent five hours in the afternoon experimenting with different lengths and combinations of beads. I finally hit on it and finished it after dinner while Tom and Colden were out having a tractor ride.

Monday was the day to finish adding the chain. That was maddening. Measuring, clipping, sorting, counting, measuring, clipping, sorting, get the idea. And it took me a little while to figure out the correct "rhythm" for adding the chain.

And of course, I posted about my freaky photography session on Tuesday before I sent in my piece. But there it is! After nearly forty hours of work, lots of episodes of "Frasier" on Netflix, and talking myself out of dropping out of the Battle, I finished it and got it submitted on time!

There are a few reasons why I am glad that I did this competition. Lately, I've been starting to feel like I don't have anything original left to say in my beadwork. This piece made me realize that yes, I do still have a voice.

I also feel stressed out over my lack of time to bead. This piece was time management challenge to myself. Between making this piece, I also managed to finish two new tutorials for Etsy, stayed on top of things with my job, and spent enough time with husband and child so that I didn't feel like I was neglecting my family.

My experiments with combining sculptural peyote and bead embroidery have led to a whole slew of new pendants and earrings - many of which I need to finish photographing and writing up as tutorials for my Etsy shop. But stay tuned - they will be listed in the coming weeks before I go to Bead Fest!

So for now, I'm going to take a few days off from the beading (yeah, right), sit back, and enjoy all the eye candy Steven Weiss is posting in the Battle of the Beadsmith group on Facebook. If you really want to join, message me, and I'll add you!

Oh, and if you're wondering if this piece will be listed in my Etsy shop for sale, the answer is...maybe. I've already had a couple of inquiries, but I'd like to be able to submit it to the Lake Placid Center for the Arts juried show in September. And Colden has asked me not to sell it. He thinks I should "keep it forever".

He's a really smart kid, so...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Ghost Story

I want to preface this entire post by saying that if you don't believe in ghosts, you're going to think I'm totally full of it. But if you *do* think that there might be something out there that we don't yet understand, by all means, read on...

Yesterday was the day to take the pictures of my entry for the Battle of the Beadsmith and get them submitted to the competition organizer, Steven Weiss.

And of course, the 20% chance of rain the forecast was calling for? Yeah. For the first time in nearly a week, it rained.

The night before, I had gone down to the basement to find my light tent, thinking that I would use the lovely bakgrounds to get a good shot. When I opened the tent, I discovered that my fabric photo backgrounds were not inside. Nor were they anywhere in the basement where I usually store them!

Okay. Whatever. I could work with this. I rigged up the extra window shade in the wooden plant stand and then tried to attach my piece to a couple of pieces of Fireline that would suspend it in mid-air while I took photos.

I couldn't get the Fireline to knot properly. It kept slipping around the wooden slats of the plant stand. By the time I finally got it half-suspended, I realized that the light coming in through the dining room window on this dark and stormy morning would be less than adequate for a good photo.

Drat. I went back downstairs to the basement to find my photo lamps. And discovered that they, too, were nowhere to be found.

While I was tearing through boxes and bags and trying to think where on Earth I could have left all my photo equipment, I heard someone behind me say a very loud, "Harumph!"

Of course, I was down there alone. When I turned around, there was no one behind me. And really, I was too pissed off to be very worried that there might be something (or someone) else down there with me.

It should be noted here that the last few days, whenever I went into the basement, I was immediately overcome with this sense of DREAD. To the point where one night, I almost couldn't stand it and raced up the stairs once I had what I was looking for from the bookshelf. And as soon as I got to the top of the stairs, the feeling just evaporated, but I couldn't help but feeling like someone was looking at me as I ran up the stairs.

Anyway. Back to my photo crisis. I set up the photo tent in the dining room. I thought maybe using the tripod and the macro zoom lens would help. I got the camera attached to the tripod, and took four pictures before the camera went dead.

Dead batteries. I rummaged through three drawers before I discovered that I had put the spare batteries and charger in the camera bag. (Why would I have done THAT?! I never keep the spare batteries in the camera bag. I have no idea what I was thinking last time I charged up those batteries.)

Changed the batteries. Took about forty pictures, and then opened them up in Photoshop. They were all AWFUL. The light was yellow, and there were glares when I used the flash. I was really starting to get angry and frustrated now.

While I was sitting at my chair in front of the computer, I heard it again from behind me. A loud "Harumph!" And then, not two seconds later, BOTH shelves of my bookcase collapsed onto themselves simultaneously, sending books and beads everywhere.

That shook me up a little, but more than anything else, it just added to my annoyance. I was beyond worrying if there was a ghost in the house now - I just HAD to get this pictures right! And now I had to clean up two bookshelves' worth of beads, books, Ultrasuede, and beading supplies!

Right about then, I had a stroke of inspiration. (Good thing I didn't have an actual stroke, which was very possible at the time.) I grabbed the tent, the necklace bust, and the tripod and set up on the back porch with the big windows behind me for lighting. Even though it was still coming down in buckets, I thought the brightly lit clouds might act as a diffuser for the natural light. I decided to break out the big guns and try shooting this with the macro zoom lens, too, to get some good, detailed photos.

I took another thirty photographs, and went back inside to the computer.

As I crossed through the dining room, I noticed that all the extra cords and cables and lenses had been removed from my camera bag and strewn across the dining room table. But no, I was not going to panic right then - I had to see how these photos came out! I was working on a deadline, and no stupid ghost was gonna deter me from getting this piece submitted on time!

I loaded the new photos into the computer and found that they were all PERFECT. There were a couple of shots of the clasp that were fuzzier than I would have liked, but the detail shots were incredible. The light balance was perfect.

After I cropped a few of the photos, I even managed to get the Battle of the Beadsmith logo placed on them properly without too much aggravation. Huzzah!

After that, there were no more disturbances. No more gruff-sounding exclamations from whatever was keeping me company that morning. I went about the rest of my day, had a good brainstorming session at Starbucks, and basically went about my day.

It wouldn't be the first time that I've lived in a haunted house. The farmhouse that we rented before we bought this place was full of old spirits. Every time someone new from the local area came over, they would say, "Oh, you know, my [uncle, grandfather, cousin, aunt, sister, neighbor] died in this house." Oh, yeah, I'm no stranger to stranger things.

But on the bright side, I finished my entry on time, and it's a beaut. I got the perfect photos taken and submitted on time. And now, I can rest my weary beading hands for a few days before I get back to the list of beading projects I've been putting off for the last month!

Monday, July 09, 2012

Growing Up

We had sort of a rough weekend with Colden and the potty. Saturday was one of those days where he went through every single clean pair of underpants and shorts he owns. After the first few times, we started to lose patience. I don't know why we didn't just put him in a pull-up, but I think it was because I know he can use the potty when he has to.

At any rate, on Sunday, Tom called me outside for a few minutes to hold the ladder against the garage while he finished attaching the last piece of metal to the far side of the roof. When I came back inside, Colden greeted me with a look on his face that just screamed, "I've been up to something!"

He could barely contain himself when he said to me, "Mommy? I've got to tell you something."

"What is it, baby?"

"I wet my pants."

"You did? Okay, let's go get changed."

"No, I already changed myself! Into a pull-up and clean pants!"

I did a double-take. Sure enough, he had on a new pair of shorts.

"Well, what did you do with your dirty clothes?"

"I put them in your room!"

Yep. Dirty pants and underwear were on top of the dirty laundry basket in the bedroom.

We were both a little bit gobsmacked that our kid managed to change out of his own pants and into clean ones by himself! I couldn't believe that he's tall enough to reach the pull-ups on the back of the dresser in his room. Where did my baby go?!

Then this morning, he HAD to get changed all by himself. (He did ask for a little bit of help from me, but not much.) My little man.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Four Years

Today is four years since my mom died. I was thinking about it this afternoon as I drove back from the store, picking up a container of buttermilk for dinner. I was thinking about her as I walked back from picking fresh kale from the garden.

I made fried green tomatoes for dinner tonight, and I remember when that book came out (Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe), my mother was all about the fried green tomatoes. She wanted to cook them for all of us, even though she wouldn't eat them.

My mother cooked a lot of food she didn't eat. She cooked for my sister and I, for our dad, even though she refused to eat any of it because she thought she was allergic to everything. How cruelly ironic it was when she was finally admitted to the hospital those last three weeks of her life and she was eating sweet potatoes with maple syrup and hamburgers.

And then I was thinking about the passing of time. Four years since she's been gone seems like an awfully long time on one hand. Four years since our last conversation. Four years since her last email or phone call.

On the other hand, four years isn't really that long, in the scheme of things. Colden is four.

I suppose tonight after Colden goes to sleep, I'll continue to work on my Battle of the Beadsmith piece (with the ever-looming deadline) and watch Twister, the movie I watched over and over again on the night she died.

And I'll continue to think about her, and hope that she would have been proud of me and my family.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Beading Projects, All In a Row

After I finish my Battle piece this weekend (and figure out how to photograph it, yikes!) I've got eleven beading projects all lined up, patiently waiting for me. And that's not counting the other projects that I've just put aside for now for one reason or the other...

Do I have Beading Attention Deficit Disorder? (BADD?) Or maybe it's a case of Beading Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. (BOCD) Either way, if beading is wrong, then I don't want to be right. Just a look at the various projects scattered around the house these days...

A selection from my most recent purchase of vintage Czech glass stones, sitting on my desk. There are at least four or five projects in this pile, but there are three that I have concrete plans and notes for.

I love the colors and the shapes of these stones. They're such a challenge to my beaded bezel skills! I've finally figured out how to recreate some of the amazing Czech and Bohemian antique glass jewelry that I've admired for so long with these stones.

There are two projects sitting here. One uses those large vintage German glass stones that I bought from Beadin' Path about a hundred years ago, and the other is the rubber grommets in the corner of the box, a bracelet project for my four weeks of bracelets Bead-A-Long on Beading Daily.

I've been waiting to use those large German glass stones for YEARS! Suddenly, with my newly-developed bezeling skills and the box of birthday beads I received back in May, I've got the design all worked out. Now I just need to sit down and actually DO IT.

And my Czech spike beads! Oh, my spikes! I bought a sampling of colors from Beyond Beadery at the Tucson shows back in February, then decided that I liked them so much that I bought a whole big stash of them from The Hole Bead Shop during their Tax Relief sale. Then during my recent trip to York Beads in Manhattan (which I STILL need to write about here!), I bought four more colors to add to my collection.

While browsing through the selection of amazing Swarovski stones Betcey brought along with her to York Beads, I discovered that one of them matched the spikes perfectly. Gorgeous! So now I have this idea for creating a bezel and studding it with spikes. So far, however, I've stitched three bezels and torn them all apart. A work in progress, indeed...

Another recent addition to my collection of Lisa Peters Art pieces is this fabulous mini flower ring kit! It features a Lisa Peters tiny flower button and an amazing kit with a project by Grace Danels. And I have to tell you: this is absolutely the most impressive beading kit I've come across in a long time. It includes not just the beads, findings, and other materials needed to make the ring, it includes a handy thread cutter, a beading needle, beading thread, and a tiny tube of glue with a toothpick! Talk about instant gratification - you can open this kit and just start beading right away! Amazing!

And what else... I need to get busy with my Beading For a Cure project, which is due at the end of August. That will probably be the next thing I work on. Then I've got a bracelet using more of the Czech spikes, a beaded vessel pendant tutorial that I want to put in the Etsy shop, a bead embroidered cuff pattern I want to put in the Etsy shop, two beautiful glass bead cap findings that I got from the farmer's market the other day.

So what else do I do when I have all this beading and all these blogs to write? I procrastinate by writing about all the beading and writing I have to do!

An Anniversary, Part 3

Tom had wanted to take me up the Whiteface Memorial Highway to the top of Whiteface Mountain. Whiteface is the fourth highest peak in the Adirondacks, coming in around 4,900 feet above sea level. The memorial highway was started in 1929 just as the Great Depression was beginning, and was eventually completed in 1935. It was dedicated to the veterans of World War I, the Great War, just a few short years before the start of World War II.

The drive up the highway was enough to make me dizzy, if I hadn't been so enthralled by the magnificent views. Once you arrive at the parking lot at the base of "the castle" (the structure at the very top of the mountain), you can either take an elevator to the top or you can walk up.

The walk up is a little tricky - there are little strips of non-skid turf that have been adhered to the mountain to prevent people from falling, because really, the only thing between you and the base of the mountain 4,900 feet down is a handrail about three feet high.

We took Rosie up with us, and once we got into the castle, where there are numerous museum-style exhibits about the 1932 winter Olympics which were held at Whiteface, we went out onto the observation deck to look around.

On a clear day, you can see straight to the mountains of New Hampshire from that height. There is a rock wall that stands about chest high on me to prevent someone from looking down and falling, but Rosie, our crazy husky, jumped right up onto it!

Tom grabbed her and brought her back down again, and we tried to calm ourselves down. All we could imagine was Rosie jumping down the other side of that wall and slipping out of her harness!

On the way back down, we both noticed the smell of something burning in the Jeep. We thought maybe it was the brakes, since the trip back down that mountain is a little bit of a brake check.

Then I started to see smoke inside the Jeep.

It was coming up between the front seats. Tom saw it, too. "Holy shit!" And he pulled over at the first safe place he could find.

I, of course, jumped straight out of the Jeep without waiting to see where the smoke was coming from, and I ran around the back to grab Rosie.

Tom started digging down through the backpacks we had piled between us and found the culprit: the 1,000 candle-power spotlight that he used for his job as a park ranger had been switched on when we piled the packs on it, and the heat from the lamp had started to melt the flooring in the Jeep.

The rest of the trip was relatively uneventful, as we made our way back to the heat and craziness of suburban northern New Jersey.

I started thinking about all of this the other day, because I realized that it's been nearly seventeen years since my first summer trip with Tom to the Adirondacks. Through all that time, I wonder how much we've both changed. I mean, seventeen years is a long time. When we met, we had both just left teenage-hood. Now we're both approaching 40, with a child of our own.

But sometimes when I look at the old pictures of him, I think he hasn't aged a day. Aside from the increased facial hair, he still looks the same as he did when we first met. Tall, blonde, and boyish, with that wry, sneak-attack sense of humor.

But we're still exploring, still discovering, still having crazy adventures that make our friends shake their heads and say, "Why did you do that, again?"

To be the best way possible.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

An Anniversary, Part 2

I woke up the next morning to Rob's girlfriend saying something about, "Get it off, get it off!" Turned out that they had decided to sleep without a tent, under the stars, and a slug had decided that her face was a good place to spend the night.

Once the slug was removed, we had a little bit of breakfast and headed off on the trails.

What I remember about my first hike in the High Peaks Wilderness area was the mud. Lots of mud.

Hurricane Bertha (actually a tropical storm by the time it reached New York) had recently passed the area, and the trails were thick with heavy, wet mud. We sank in above our ankles every time we took a step, and it was like slogging through quicksand with every step.

Around lunch, we found a beautiful place to take a break. A long, long, rock wall near a stream was just high enough for us to climb up and give us a magnificent view of the forest.

We ate our cheese and crackers, trail mix, and peanut butter sandwiches as we looked down at the stream below us. The only sounds we heard, aside from the stream and the wind, was our own conversation.

We had ditched our heavy packs in the woods so that we wouldn't have to slog them through the mud, and sure enough, they were still there on our way back through. This was 1996, and while some hikers still do this, I have friends who recently lost hundreds of dollars of camping equipment when they ditched their packs in order to complete the last tough mile of a mountain hike.

I remember going back to Rob's house where we showered and tried to hose the mud off our boots. What we ended up with was very, very wet boots. We ate at a local restaurant, outside on the deck, with the Chubb River flowing beneath us.

The next day, Tom and I were headed home, but not before we took a trip up Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington.

To be continued...

An Anniversary of Sorts

I'm having a hard time getting warmed up for my blogging duties today, so I thought I'd start here...

Yesterday, as I was on my way to the chiropractor, I drove past High Falls Gorge in Wilmington Notch, and it made me think of the first time that Tom brought me to the Adirondacks for a summer hiking and camping trip.

It was right around his birthday (this time of year), and Tom had just come back from seeing his sister in Las Vegas. We had this bright idea that we would load up the Jeep and leave around eleven at night, drive all night, and then hike up St. Regis mountain and watch the sun come up.

Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans and all?

Sometime around two a.m., we were just wrecked. We knew there was no way we were going to actually be able to finish driving all night, so we started to look for a motel where we could crash for the night. Problem was, we had Rosie, Tom's husky, with us.

We found the Grand Prix Motel around exit 13 on the Thruway. (They closed it up and tore it down a couple of years ago.) The rooms were in a separate building behind the front office, giving us the opportunity to smuggle Rosie inside.

Tom paid for the room, then came back out to the Jeep, wrapped Rosie in a cotton blanket, and we smuggled her inside.

Once inside the room, she took off like a maniac, sniffing out the corners, looking for places to pee and mark her territory... (She was just that kind of dog.)

We finally fell asleep around 3 a.m. When we awoke a few hours later, Rosie was doing her early morning howl. Tom grabbed her and hustled her back to the Jeep while I packed up and we were outta there!

We made the hike to the top of St. Regis mountain with no problems, although we missed sunrise by several hours. We were totally exhausted. It was lunchtime, and we tied Rosie's leash to the fire tower so she wouldn't take off on us, ate lunch, and then settled down for a little nap on top of the mountain.

That afternoon, we hiked back down and drove to Lake Placid to meet up with Rob and his then-girlfriend for another evening hike to where we would camp. That was a whole new adventure!

We had planned on hiking into the High Peaks Wilderness to a place called Indian Rock, where Rob knew of a lean-to. But I really wasn't used to this much intense hiking, and I was starting to feel it. I was anxious to get to the lean-to where we would be able to pitch our sleeping bags for the night.

But when we actually made it to the lean-to, we discovered that there were already seven - seven! - other people who had settled there for the night. So we had to move on.

Rob knew of another place where we could camp for the night, and by now, I was so exhausted, I was starting to panic. So when we came to a huge cataract, filled with a hugely rushing river, I had a melt down. I watched Tom and Rob's girlfriend jump across it - probably about five feet - and when it was my turn, I just knew that there was no way I was going to make it across. The river was raging from the recent tropical storm that had just blown through. I was exhausted, and my legs felt like jelly. If I tried to jump across that river, I was going to fall, smash my head against a rock, be swept away, and drown. I just knew it.

Rob to the Rescue. He turned his back to me and said, "Come on, get up."


"Climb on my back, I'll get you over."

Now, the only thing that could possibly have been more dangerous than me trying to jump across that cataract by myself would be if I climbed onto another person and then HE tried to jump across with me on his back!

The exhaustion clouding my judgement, I hoisted myself up onto Rob's back, piggy-back style, and held on for dear life as he lightly sprang over the cataract.

My initial relief at actually making it over the river without any bodily injury was quickly replaced with the urgent need to lie down in my sleeping bag and lose consciousness. After we set up our tent, I bid the others good night and curled up to go to sleep. I was even too tired to eat. I have vague recollections of hearing Tom and Rob outside playing "Who Can Make a Bigger Flame With a Campstove", and the last thing I thought was that I would wake up to find that they had both burned off their eyebrows...

To be continued...

Monday, July 02, 2012


Since the Supreme Court Ruling last week, I've seen some pretty durn good paranoid delusional fantasies popping up all over the internet. People screaming about how this is unconstitutional, and the justices were "bought". (Um, hello, Congress? Your corporate sugar daddy is on the phone.)

Do you know what I really want to hear from a conservative who is against Obamacare, aka, Making the Private Insurance Companies Play Fair? I want to hear a realistic, well-thought-out, viable solution to the alternative of continuing to allow millions of Americans to die every year of preventable causes because they can't afford to see a doctor.

Now, there are a couple of rules for forming your answer. "Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out" is NOT an acceptable answer. Neither is anything that begins with the phrase, "Yeah, but, Obama..." NOPE! Disqualified. Paranoid delusional rants about microchipping all Americans before 2013 and the secret backdoor to Islamic law introduced in Obamacare are not allowed, either. So sorry!

When the GOP becomes more interested in providing us with some concrete, productive solutions that target the well-being of the majority of Americans, then I'll listen. But if all I hear coming from them is, "Wah wah wah, staying healthy is an assault on our civil liberties," well, I'm just gonna continue to tune them out.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Farmer's Market Day

So, last night, I decided that I was getting way too negative about things that were ALREADY very negative, and I knew that I was going to cleanse my brain and my soul and hit the Keene Valley farmer's market this morning.

Colden and I left right after breakfast, and I was surprised and pleased to see a huge, long line of tents set up at Marcy Field when we arrived.

My first stop was my friend Annie Destito, who makes wonderful lampwork glass beads, pendants, and jewelry making components. I snagged two of her latest creations:

They look like ruffled glass bead caps! All I could think about was making some killer beaded rope, threading the ends through the top of the glass caps, and then making strands and strands and strands of fringe. Aaaaah!

And of course, I have the *perfect* beads in mind for the projects, now I just need to find the time to actually do it...

I also splurged on something for Colden. Ever since he was a baby and I started selling my work at the farmer's markets, I've waited for the day when he would be big enough to ride around on one of these handmade wooden hobby horses.

Today, I decided, was the day I would get him one.

He was so thrilled! He was a little unsure of how to use it, at first, but once I showed him how to grab on to the handles and run with it, he was hooked. Since we got back home, he's had it out for a run in the spiral path (the "spin", he calls it) in the tall grass out back six times.

I was even more thrilled when he told me that his favorite toy was no longer the iPad: it's his hobby horse!

Of course, being the farmer's market, I had to stock up on other, edible things. I grabbed three jars of my friend Andrea's homemade jam in tart cherry, peach, and wild blueberry. All organic, all homemade by Andrea, in her kitchen. And it's without a doubt the best jam that I have ever put in my mouth.

I stopped at the Fledgling Crow stand and grabbed beets, carrots, zucchini, summer squash, and sugar snap peas. A couple more stops to get rainbow chard, peaches, and strawberries, and our shopping list for the week was complete.

Since we've decided to stop the Essex Farm experiment (for now), I'm focusing on buying less and using more of what we have. We're already pretty darn self-sufficient with those gardens. So this week, I'll be cooking what we have and not making any additional trips to the grocery store. (Unless I need some more potatoes because my mouth is still killing me where I got jabbed by that crazy oral surgeon.)

I also made sure to stock up on my favorite locally-made headache-busting aromatherapy oil. I gave away two of my extra bottles, and the one I have left is nearly finished. It's really the only thing that helps relieve the pain when I get a good ol' migraine that has me sensitive to light and smell and leaves me nauseous and incapacitated in bed for a whole day. 

We saw my friend Robin, who makes amazing fused glass bowls, cheese platters, and home decor items, and Colden picked out a beautiful glass bowl as a thank-you gift for someone special.

Last but not least, I treated myself to a beautiful copper and crystal bead chain, handmade by my good friend Heather. I know, I  know, I could make it myself. But Heather does such beautiful work, and she has such an amazing sense of color, and I love her and I love her work, so I figured it would be a nice treat for myself. And it matched my shirt perfectly, so, there you go.

As I was shopping this morning, I was amazed at how good I felt. This was so much better and so uplifting. I spent way more money than I should have, but the way I see it is that every single dollar I spent today went towards supporting small businesses, craftspeople, artists, and local, organic farms. And in return, I got items that were all made with loving care and joy, food that was grown without toxic pesticides and chemicals, and I got to spend time chatting with people I love. I can't imagine a better way to spend my money!

So, that was my soul-cleansing ritual this morning. I've still got to finish cleaning up the kitchen, do the dishes, get that huge bag of rhubarb cleaned, chopped, and ready to freeze, clean up the dining room, make some dinner for all of us, and try to squeeze in a little more work on my Battle of the Beadsmith piece. Nine days left - eeeeeeks!