Monday, November 19, 2012

Some of my Favorite Things in Blue

My dad loved to decorate for Christmas in blue...his mom always had blue candle lights in the window of their house in the winter and one of his uncles had blue lights on the Christmas tree.  The last few years before he and mom died, Dad changed their tree over to blue lights and it was beautiful.
I'm sharing some of my favorite blue items from the talented artists from the On Fire for Handmade group.  Maybe you'll find the perfect gift you've been looking for!
This beautiful Snowflake Charm Necklace is from Shade Tree Studio.  I love the modern feel of this necklace.
I collect Christmas churches and I love these Christmas Chapels Insulated Coasters by VA Beach Quilter.  The church in this design looks a lot like the little country church I grew up in.
There have been hydrangeas growing no matter where I have lived and they are one of my favorite flowers.  This photo of blue hydrangeas by Janet Long Arts captures the early shades of green through the deep Nikko blue in one picture.
I have long been a fan of Jim and Gina Mahoney's work and I love this sweet Honey Pot from their Hummingbird Studio Pottery shop.
This painting on a page of an old book by Kostas Tsipos has found its way to my personal "wish list" this Christmas. 
As a huge fan of the ombre effect, these Dark Flower Earrings by Becky Helmer Designs caught my eye.  Delicate and striking...what a great combination!
And finally, because I'm wishing for a  White Christmas this year, here's a snowflake cross stitch pattern from One of a Kind Baby Design.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

It all started with the mashed potatoes...

Family dinners at our house have always been a little crazy.  And when I say our house, I mean my Granny's house.  At one point we had 27 people sitting at a table that stretched from the wall in the dining room to the opposite wall in the living room. You had to have conversations by carrier pigeon that year.
This is the last family photo we had taken...three generations all together
Not that we was always great to have the family together.  We all lived fairly close to each other, but with work and kids and schedules it seemed that the only time everyone got together was at the holidays.
And inevitability, there are the family stories that are part of what makes the holidays so much fun--reminders of our shared past that bring us together even though there are so many things that are different in our lives.
All of us in 1980...well, not me because I'm taking the picture!
Each month, the talented artists who are part of the Facebook group, Bead and Jewelry Artisans, are given a challenge.  We are given a topic and then asked to create a necklace using that topic as inspiration.  
This month's topic was "Thanksgiving Dinner" and what an incredible amount of colors and textures to work with!  No matter how you celebrate Thanksgiving, each person's dinner is unique to their family and lends itself to to creativity of this challenge.
One of the fun things that happened each and every year (well, each time Granny and Poppop had company over for dinner if truth be told) was the conversation about the mashed potatoes.
Poppop would peel and cube pounds  and pounds of potatoes and start them boiling on the stove.  Granny would come over and decide that we didn't have enough and ask Poppop to peel a few more.  Poppop would sigh, remind her that we always had so many mashed potatoes left over, and then proceed to smile and peel a few more potatoes.
It's one of those events that you can count on to occur every time.  And there is a certain amount of security in that. 
So my necklace, as strange as it may sound, was inspired by mashed potatoes. 

 I found shiny and frosted white pearls in my stash that reminded me of the color of mashed potatoes.  I added large and small faceted crystals for some sparkle and then put it all together with a variety silver bead caps and silver wire. 
All in all, I really love how this necklace turned out and each time I wear it, I will remember the fun times our family had when I was growing up.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Kalmbach Bead Soup Party

It's time for another reveal!  First of all,
a HUGE thank you to
for getting the Kalmbach Bead Soup Party started! (Be sure to vote for your favorite necklace here.)
And another HUGE thank you to Thistle Beads for the amazing bead soup they sent me! 
The challenge was to take the bead soup we were sent and add to it from our personal stash to create a one-of-a-kind necklace. I have to admit, this soup stretched me outside my current design style.  I've been working with seed beads and beading patterns, so it was a lot of fun to get the wire out and go back to wire working.
I had never made a double strand necklace and decided that I would use these pieces to create my first! It took a while to get the look I wanted, and once again I ended up with a fairly symmetrical design. (I don't think I'll ever be able to make a truly asymmetrical piece without help.)
 I have been collecting antique brass and antique copper findings for a special project and this necklace fit the bill.
I love the varied colors of turquoise in all the beads...the antique brass wire set it all off beautifully!

It took several attempts to get the two strands the right length but it was worth the time.

The little antique copper beads and hammered links really gives the necklace a unique feel. 
I even had enough left-over soup to create this matching bracelet. 
It was so exciting to be chosen to be a part of this bead soup party!  And the next time we're traveling to Maine, I'm making sure we have an extra hour in the schedule to stop in Connecticut and visit Thistle Beads to thank them in person!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Pimping out the White House

I could not believe my eyes when I watched the latest Obama re-election ad.  (If you haven't seen it yet, here's the YouTube link:
Let me start by asking this question...if this ad had been put out by the Romney campaign, would it still be OK?  If the conservative right had conceived this idea and ran the ad, how would the media, feminists and the liberals have reacted?  With open arms and tongue-in-cheek smiles?
And there lies the issue at the heart of it all--the double standard our media has chosen to uphold.
To imagine that we were shocked by Bill Clinton's sexual acts when he was in the White House...and now 12 years later, the current president can advertise to have virtual sex with millions of young girls this election day and it is touted as progressive and light-hearted. 
Having been raised by my grandparents as much as my parents, I definitely have a different value system than most of the people my age and younger.  But I don't think that changes the fact that this ad is deplorable.  How a woman can watch this and not be outraged is beyond me. 
I have a young daughter and I can't imagine telling her that one of the ads to get her father re-elected is that he wants all the young girls to lose their voting virginity with him this election. 
This ad pushes the bounds of decency.  
I feel sorry for Michelle Obama...imagine having to go to sleep each night next to a man who is planning to have millions of young women lose their voting virginity to him.  I wonder how many women that marriage bed can hold.
This country was founded on the idea that different ideas and ideologies can co-exist.  But even the Founding Fathers had common ground to meet on. 
There is no common ground with a man who holds the highest office in our country and pimps it out for re-election.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Old-fashioned Goodness

The end of summer is always a busy time for's when I get most of my canning done!  This year, the only thing I managed to can was my homemade spaghetti sauce.
The story about making sauce starts about three years ago.  I had canned bread-and-butter pickles with my Granny's recipe and tried my hand at canning fresh peaches (which were delicious, by the way!) so I decided it was time to make my own spaghetti sauce.
Having never made anything like this, I knew enough to start with plum tomatoes but that was the extent of my knowledge.  So I went to the local produce stand and bought a basket of plum tomatoes and headed home.
At around 4 pm, I decided to get started...after all, how long could it take?  (Cue suspenseful music)
By 8 pm, the sauce still looked super watery and tasted horrible.  My hubby took one look at the sauce and told me I had another 3-4 hours for it to cook down and to get rid of the excess water.  
I didn't see my bed until after 2 am, but it was some good sauce!
So this weekend, I got started at 8 am (sometimes I do learn from my mistakes!)
After blanching the tomatoes and getting them into a cold stop bath, I had to peel them and run them through the blender. 
Then a trip through the mill to separate the seeds from everything else. 
Next comes the hard the tomatoes down so the excess water can evaporate.
You can see the pan in the back is darker.  That's because it was cooking about an hour longer than the other pan.  And yes, those are extremely large soup pans.
These tomatoes cooked from around noon to about 6 pm and reduced almost to half of what I started with. 
Then it was time for the fun part of it all...
I used pint jars for these batches.
Doesn't it look yummy???
Finally a quick stop in  the water bath and then it was just a matter of waiting for the "POP" (If you've ever done any canning, you know the sound I mean...)
And the final tally?  24 pints of delicious spaghetti of preservatives and anything unnatural.
Now, if I can just find a recipe for homemade marinara sauce so I can use up the last basket of tomatoes I have...

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sometimes you have to imagine

I have to admit...I am a person who usually takes things literally.  So when our monthly challenge was to use dragons as inspiration in the Facebook group Bead and Jewelry Artisans, I was a bit nervous.
And then people started creating and sharing and I almost decided to just wait this one out and hope the next challenge was more something my style. 
This beautiful dragon was beaded by Patricia Reeves who creates amazingly realistic 3-D works of art.
This stunning necklace with carved jade dragon pendant was created by Jamie Anderson, who sells the most amazing jewelry components in her Etsy shop.
 And this eye-catching piece was created by Linda Marie Owens...she used a hand-painted  dragon eye as the focal and then gave it her own creative flair. 
But then I remembered something someone in the group had posted that talked about not comparing your work to anyone else and even if you were just beginning your jewelry journey to be proud of what you have accomplished so far.
So I went back to what I had wanted to do for this challenge and that was to learn a netting stitch that reminded me of dragons. 
I found a pattern that was actually designed to be fall leaves and use fall colors in sparkly shades, but it reminded me so much of dragon teeth I knew I had to use it.  (I was also told they look like dragon of the girls in the group said it was too pretty to be dragon teeth!)
I used 8/o matte seed beads in white and lime green.  Usually you think of dark colors or high contrast colors for dragons (like black and red) but I really liked how these colors looked next to each other.
I'm looking forward to October's challenge...especially if it pushes me out of my comfort zone again!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

With either a Roar or a Wimper

I like a good challenge and I always enjoy the opportunity to stretch myself and learn new things.  But sometimes there is a challenge you wish you could ignore but you know that you just can't. 
It's actually not so bad . . . really.  . . I suppose . . . One of the groups I'm part of on Facebook is Bead and Jewelry Artisans and it is such a great group of people who love to support and encourage each other.  They decided to have a monthly challenge for the group where we are given a topic and then we need to be inspired to create a piece of jewelry that reflects that topic.
I have to be honest, the idea sounded great when it was first mentioned.  After all, I had just completed two blog hops this summer where I taught myself new beadweaving/beading techniques and it was a lot of fun.  And this challenge gives me a whole month to work on it, so what could possibly go wrong?
In a word....DRAGONS.

Not that I have anything against dragons, mind you.  My favorite time period to study was medieval and dragons factored greatly into the stories and artwork of the time.
St. George and the Dragon
This is probably one of the most famous historical paintings concerning dragons and knights.  So much to take in and so much symbolism!
And I can't let this post go without mentioning one of my all-time favorite knight paintings...
The Accolade
But dragons as inspiration to create a piece of jewelry?  Have you seen my jewelry?  I design with the ocean in mind...sea glass and little tiny beads that reflect the colors you find in the sea...or with crystals that are used to create something romantic and girly.
Not exactly my usual choice for something to inspire I asked my daughter for her advice.  She loves dragons and has the most incredible imagination and if anyone could help me look beyond my mental block it would be her. 
The first thing she suggested was that maybe I could use the scales as inspiration.  I've been wanting to teach myself a netting stitch (and failing miserably, I might add) and when I showed her a picture of what I was thinking of, she said it really looked like dragon scales.  This would certainly be far out of my comfort zone design-wise.  Good for this challenge!
THEN she mentioned that creating something using red, orange and yellow that resembled the fire that dragons breathe would be amazing.  (This from my beautiful teenage daughter who is not at all into pressure...)
Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon
So, at least I have some inspiration to get started with this challenge...and a whole month to work on it. 
Wish me luck!