Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Photos

Merry Christmas, Happy Boxing Day and Happy New Year!! I hope everyone had a lovely and relaxing holiday and if you had to work, that it was a very slow day with lots of cookies and cupcakes (and nice customers, bosses, co-workers or what have you..).

Our little household was supposed to have been at my parents house Christmas Eve and not home until tomorrow, but the flu struck and I've mostly been prone in bed or lounging on the futon since a week ago. What timing... Anyway, we hadn't decorated much since we planned to be where there are much prettier decorations and quite a bit more room, but after the decision was made for me to stay home, we got out some things from storage and my husband found a wowser deal of a little tree for ten bucks at a mom and pop stand outside Richmond, and we had a very fine little Christmas of our own. Lucy, above on her roost, is excited about the presents. Yes, she thinks they are ALL for her.

Mango is entranced by his gift. Lucy looks on without enthusiasm. This gift obviously isn't for her...

Merry Christmas! Our tiny apartment is just that, but it's still a cozy space I always look forward to walking in the door...

I've been working on a project for a special someone that I will post soon as the item is delivered. Otherwise, in my recuperation I've been enjoying reading a gift from Michael-- Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals. I haven't enjoyed such a voluminous book as this one in a very long time and I highly recommend it for those interested in Lincoln, life in the mid 1800's, anti-slavery issues. It's extremely engrossing.

Today we headed out for a bit to look over after Christmas sales. My coat closet is busting out with jackets and coats but all of them, without exception, are rather vintage and not in such a good way. My other coats are ones my dad gave me from his former working days, and while very warm, serviceable and well loved normally, are not the pinnacle of fashion. So, my husband, who has a better sense of what looks good on me that I do, picked out a lovely alpaca coat for me at a shop in Richmond. It's on hold until close tomorrow since I couldn't make up my mind to spend the money for it or not. I had no idea stylish coats were so very expensive so I'm reluctant with our trip less than a week and a half away. Anyway, I can't make up my mind.

Michael has made popcorn now, this is kind of a boring and unintended post anyway, so it's bedtime with good eats and tv, animals all snuggled in bed with us. Good night!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Time Escaping

Due to time constraints, commitments and other pursuits, my blog is on hiatus indefinitely until my new life sorts itself out a bit and I figure out how to balance the load.  Everyone have a happy holiday and a healthy new year.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Journals on Etsy

I've been making journals lately to put on Etsy and to take with me on my upcoming trip to Italy. Tired of purchasing journals, and drooling over the art papers in our local art shops as well as online, I took several classes a while ago and learned how to stitch coptic journals myself. This one I finished and pressed flat a few days ago.

It is spine reinforced with renewable Lokta fiber paper. The textblock is 70 pound white drawing paper and the interior covers are Lokta paper covered with natural Amate bark. It is a coptic style book that opens flat, bound with russet colored waxed linen thread.

Look for this beauty in my little etsy shop tomorrow.

The days are dwindling
down both until Christmas and our departure for Rome. I am freaking out with all there is left to be done for preparations for both events. We are traveling to visit my parents and their little dog on Christmas Eve day and then to stay a few days. I'm looking forward to it very much. My mom and dad always go all out with Christmas decorations, many of them have been in my family for generations. I love to look at all of them every year.

Speaking of our departure, I am soliciting ideas from anyone anywhere who has been to Rome and or Florence, as these are the two principle cities we will be staying in. We have all the tourist destinations in mind to visit for art viewing but I am sure there may be out of the way or tucked into the tiny corners shops someone may advise me on to visit for leather goods, paper for book making, and antique jewelry or trinket shopping. Also any fabulous cafe, please let me know your favorites so we can try them out. I know there are a few readers of my blog living in Italy, so give me a shout out either on comments or email. Many thanks!!

It's now 6:47 a.m. and I am still not tired. My thoughts race and my list of things to do doesn't seem to be getting any shorter. My dog got us up at 4 a.m. to go out this morning, followed by the cat at 5 a.m., wanting a bite of wet food to eat. After all that I couldn't get back to sleep, so I decided to get a very early start to the day.

And I have a start date for my job-- January 15. A little later than I figured, but at least it's there. Two days after we return from Italy. I wonder what shape I will be in? Hmmm..

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

a wedding, a remembrance

Recently I received a commission for a pin from a woman whose daughter is marrying very soon in the new year. She said she wanted her late mother with her on her daughter's wedding day, and asked me to make a pin for her to wear on that special day. This is the result, still sort of curing for a day or two more...

It's quite different than anything I have made within this genre. Lots of hammering and soldering, bending the metal this way and that to get that perfect lineup of curve and straight lines. Because the requested sentiment on the reverse was too long for the picture, I compromised with a small slab of stamped silver submerged with the resin and the photo.
And also I could not get photoshop to lengthen the photo without a gap in the pendant...

This past weekend my husband, our dog Lucy and I traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina to visit friends. While there, we took in the museums and lingered over the exquisite traveling exhibit, Ornament as art - Avant-Garde Jewelry From the Helen Williams Drutt Collection, from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Oh, my, was it wonderful. I could have stayed for days examining each piece. The design of this pin was influenced by several pins I saw at this exhibit by Eleanor H. Moty and William Harper. The fabulous book detailing this exhibit came home with me to study at leisure. Merry Christmas to me. =)

Here we are at the home of our hosts... December 5. I realize my hair desperately needs root coverup, pronto... dang gray hair anyway...

At home last night, Mango peacefully slept on the Ornament as Art book...

We spent Thanksgiving in the Laurel Highlands of Somerset, Pennsylvania. It was a Thanksgiving blizzard and very, very cold... After the roads were plowed and salted we managed to drive (slide) around the country roads, where we viewed the most breathtaking scenery and sunsets I've seen in quite a while.

Somerset County. This moment in early evening was stillness personified.
Beautiful and unforgettable...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Love Your Dog

In honor of the lovely lady who watched our dog Lucy, and since she is not only the occasional watcher of our dog but also a dog trainer and loving dog minder of several regular critters, I presented her with this necklace. The stones are Czech glass and red coral. Since I couldn't find a suitable stamp for the pendant, I drew one myself in the image of our Lucy and etched it. It's kind of a whimsical piece but I'm pleased with how it turned out. I probably couldn't draw another dog like that if I tried, so I traced it on paper in case I ever wanted to duplicate it. One never knows...

This morning I got up early to do what everyone is just dying to do at 9 a.m.-- be strapped down to a polygraph machine for two hours of pre-employment fun. After three previous polygraphs for various law enforcement jobs, one would think I would be relaxed about it, but no... not the case. The questions they ask... good grief. Don't worry, I passed and then flew over to a coffee shop to dunk a 24 ouncer french vanilla coffee with extra french vanilla creamer and sugar. That was the zinger I needed earlier.

All my background stuff, polygraph, drug test, all the usual stuff, should be wrapped up in a fat report by the weekend and a start date should soon be on my calendar. Hello, early mornings... again. I'm not used to them at all after eighteen months of not working a job "out there."

This is why I usually have to sit on the floor... what we do for our little animals, eh? Only usually Lucy, if she gets to it first, has a heating pad under a blanket turned on low when I am home. Spoiled little kids. Who could deny them anything when they are so cute?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

soft glow of silver & pearls in the midst of cha cha changes...

Believe it or not (I wouldn't blame you if you didn't), I've made some jewelry lately...

These are very beautiful lustrous freshwater pearls in natural white, with tiny brown freshwater pearl dangle, all wrapped up in sterling wire with soft patina. The ear wires are handmade and compliment the main components nicely. I didn't intend them to, but I have to agree with my husband that they look rather like crosses. After a long absence of making jewelry, I relished making these pretty earrings and they will be for sale in my little etsy shop tomorrow, after I take some nicer daylight pics.

I also made some etchings in nickel with french script, three different sizes suitable for charms or pendants, lightweight and comfortable, available in my etsy shop.

Last Tuesday, my husband had a piano servicing appointment in Smithfield, Virginia, which is quite a drive for us but we keep the client because we rebuilt the Steinway grand that is now housed in the customer's living room. The drive is down route 64 and then because it is so pretty, we opt out of completely travelling the conventional route, and instead take the Jamestown/Scotland Ferry from Jamestown landing. This small ferry operates year round and takes cars and passengers from Jamestown to Surry County, Virginia. It is also free. Anyone who is in the Williamsburg area and wants a lovely free outing, this is it. We almost always see eagles, osprey and cormorants in abundance. It takes about twenty minutes to travel one way and it is very relaxing to walk around the vessel looking at the sites. My husband took these photos, as I had to wait in the car with our dog Lucy, who is afraid of the rolling motion of the ferry, and requires Mom to stay with her for comfort.

This photo was taken as we were leaving the Jamestown side. Note the numerous cormorants on the piling.

Hours later, heading back to Jametown Landing... Isn't this beautiful?

I have news to tell besides earrings. I finally got a job. And it's one I wanted. I got an offer last week from a state agency and accepted immediately. Because they have to do a background check from the interim period when I was separated from state service the last 1. 5 years, I won't know a start date until about two and a half more weeks. I am enormously relieved. HUGE **Sigh**.....

Also, I am continuing my university education starting in January, so my life will be very full and busy beginning in mid January.

Things in the world may be gloomy right now, and certainly I still feel it. But I am so very fortunate for these events, and am very, very grateful for the security coming our way.

Looking at this sunset last week, we both felt it... Isn't life wonderful?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

For sale on Etsy

small double sided Italian script etching...

Medium double sided Italian script etching...

Large double sided Italian script etching... Leaves courtesy of the tree in our parking lot.

It's almost 1:35 p.m and I have yet to head for my husband's workshop. It's too cold to strip a piano. The weather said it was to be 58 today but it's still pretty chilly. At least I am using time wisely- doing some laundry, finally getting these pendants listed on Etsy and packaging some books I sold on Ebay.

Mostly today I am thinking about Veteran's Day. Selfishly I am glad I don't have jury duty today as I otherwise may have been sitting in circuit court today.

On a grander and more important scale, I am remembering all the Vets out there, living and dead, who have done so much to protect our country. My grandfather on my mother's side was a WWII vet, stationed in the extreme remote wilderness of Attu, Alaska for several years. Some of the worst bloodshed of WWII was fought on Attu. My mom was a tiny baby when he left, a three year old when he returned. I can't imagine not seeing my family for such a long time. I can't imagine his loneliness, or my grandmother struggling to support a household that included my mother, my great grandparents, and my great aunt, who was a high school student at the time, all on a bank teller's salary. This is how people looked out for one another back then. But she never complained, either at the time or years later, an admirable quality I wish I possessed.

While the war raged on, my grandparents kept up a correspondence, writing each other every day the personal and plain events of their lives, documenting my mom's development from an infant into a toddler and all the events that my grandfather was missing back home in Ohio. The letters are voluminous and detailed and they were saved by my grandmother for more than forty years after my grandfather's untimely departure from this life at the age of 51. After my grandmother's death in 2000, my mom discovered these letters kept in a large wooden box, preserved in order, along with tiny Eskimo dolls, postcards and the long awaited cable from my grandfather, telling his wife that he was finally coming home...

Happy Veteran's Day, everyone. Thank you for your service.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Let the Eagle fly...

Boy oh boy, please don't tell me I'm the only one who is already tired of reading blog entries dedicated to praying for President-elect Obama. Nothing wrong with prayer, nothing at all. But the way it is used is really too much. Such as one I saw today-- prayers that Obama will come to know Christ, which I really don't understand. Has Obama denounced or renounced Christianity? Not to my knowledge. That aside, no one can presume to know what someone else may know of Christ in their personal life and to project it as such upon them is self righteous and self serving.

Then, I saw a blog discussing prayers that Obama may somehow "surprise" us with his ability to successfully lead this country. Honestly, somehow, I think Obama has it covered.

Sincere prayers are one wonderful thing, otherwise it's clear to me the "prayers" alot of these people really would like to have answered would be for Obama to have lost the election. In each case, these good people make sure we the readers know they did not vote for President-elect Obama. That's all fine. Everyone has their opinion.  

In the prayers of some of these bloggers, I read alot of fear.  In between the lines it oozes and splatters all over the place.  Because my goodness, we may very soon have life saving stem cell research in the works, finally. Heavenly days, we will very likely have in the next four years supreme court justices appointed that support pro-choice. We may have to end the war in Iraq. We may see an increase in gun control laws. We may see steps taken to ease our reliance on foreign oil and steps taken to protect our planet from environmental disaster. At long last. These are my opinions.

So continue to pray for Obama, by all means. Thanks be to God. Right now I pray I can continue to pay our bills in this lousy economy. I pray I can find a job that pays more than seven bucks an hour. I pray for good health for myself and my husband and that we, along with 50 some million other uninsured American citizens, can have affordable health insurance. I pray I can finish college without having to sell everything I own to pay for it. I pray I can continue to help out the homeless guy that lives on a plastic chair near my building with two shopping carts. My husband and I feed him several days a week and give him money when we can, a veteran of the Vietnam war, like John McCain. This homeless vet's words? "I never thought I would be the one to end up on the street... I never thought it would be me."

So there are many things to pray for, aren't there, out there, other than for Obama's projected deficiencies and inabilities based on the loss of a candidate. It's everso disheartening.

This is just me.  Now I can get back to making things.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Italian etched pendants

Since I was working on filling some Etsy orders for etched pendants anyway, I got a hankering to try out a huge new rubber stamp, all in Italian. Even though I am going to Italy in less than two months *gulp*, I do not know what the etchings say. This time, instead of leaving the back blank, I took a gamble on burning through the thin copper and etched the reverse side with additional Italian text. They turned out spendidly, although an etched brass barrel didn't fare so well, burned to a thin rusty looking hunk of junk. Lorelei, I'm going to get you!! No, it was my own dumb fault. Trying to do too many things at once and putting different pieces into the etchant at different times and then getting mixed up what was done and what not and you can predict the results.. oh yes. So I spent this evening working on another barrel, which turned out well, and it's on it's way to California.

Reverse side of each, in order as above, shown below... Tomorrow, into the beleagured Etsy shop they go.

Two weeks ago, I went to visit my parents. This past weekend, they and my little pal Maggie came to visit us for a few days. We dashed here, there and everywhere, sightseeing, looking at leaves, eating ice cream and enjoying each other's company. Here I am in front of an ice cream shop with my sweet little girl. Don't laugh, but Maggie knows me as her "Sissy" and goes crazy whenever anyone mentions that word. We have a special bond, that little dog and I, and she is even crazier about my husband, who is known to her as "Uncle Michael." Do we love dogs or what? =)

Of course, even though he is ornerier than the devil and in trouble much of the time as a result, I loves me some fat orange kitty as well... I'm not sure Mango appreciated this hug and kiss, but he should be used to it by now.



Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Zipper Pull

Recently I received a request for something unusual for me-- a sweater zipper pull. The woman who is the recipient does not wear necklaces but loved this pendant, so we improvised and this is what we came up with. It is one of my favorite quotes and one everyone can identify with... The beads are aquamarine and smokey quartz, the pebble comes from Riverstone Bead Company, care of Lake Michigan. The chain I recycled from a necklace I bought a few years ago and dismantled and was perfect regenerated into this piece.

A close up...

I downloaded some photos from my trip to visit my parents on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Here is my parent's dog Maggie (on the left) and my dear Lucy snuggling together. They are particularly fond of each other and are good companions.

My parents had a surprise in their little garden this year-- a tiny pumpkin! They planted some seeds last year and nothing yielded but this year, this darling little thing. Isn't it cute? I think they should carve it with a tiny knife and put it in their front window.

Here are my dear folks on the beach at Assateague Island, soaking up the last of the relatively warm weather. This is the day we spotted several peregrine falcons on the same beach, resting on their migratory journey from Greenland to South America.

More recently, this past Sunday my husband and I decided we needed an emotional lift (I probably needed it more than he did) so we drove up to Ashland, VA, a small and charming community north of Richmond off of Rt. 95. On the main street of the town, in front of the library, there is a wonderful kugle ball. I spent more time than was probably normal spinning the ball in the water and then stopping it with some effort and reversing the earth's rotation. Just like Superman...
No, we didn't go back in time.

Lucy went with us, of course, and we all enjoyed ice cream cones from the old fashioned soda fountain next to the library, and then headed into the country to view lovely red and orange trees, horse farms and a pretty stream along the way.

Every day, we've decided we need to do something, however small, to keep our spirits up and refreshed, in the face of this hardship. Spending time together carries me through. And hey, look at that blue, blue sky....

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

History in the Making

My husband and I went to the Obama Rally in Richmond today. We waited in line for almost two and a half hours, around two city blocks, and then once inside, waited another hour to see and hear the man himself. Later I saw on the news that 7000 (!) additional people didn't make it inside since the coliseum was filled to capacity (12,000) and then some. I'm thankful we made it in because baby, it was C O L D outside! Michael snapped these photos. It was difficult to get good pictures because of the crowds and we weren't exactly up front either. But it was really wonderful to see history in the making and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Otherwise, I had a great trip to visit my parents. Two days we spent driving the beach, where we saw two juvenile and one adult peregrine falcons resting on their migratory journey, plus one hawk on the beach. I've never seen such birds on the sand before so it was thrilling to say the least.

Since returning home, I haven't made any jewelry, although I have one order to fill that came in just tonight. Mostly I have been taking care of the important business of keeping a roof over our heads, helping my husband with our piano business, trying to generate more business and filling out applications for jobs for myself. It's really tough right now for us and we're fighting it, these hard times. Sometimes it's difficult not to get upset but we're keeping straight and level.

More than ever before, I am reminded how much there is to be grateful for. So many simple things, like food in the freezer and pantry, flats of dog and cat food piled in the bin, fuel up to the top in both cars, library books that are new and free, plus DVD's from same place, walks around the neighborhood, cheap and good coffee at WaWa =). We both have good health and those we love are healthy. And our dear little animals keep us laughing and loving every day.

We have for a long time been learning to do with less. We don't care about the newest electronics, or what is the hottest video game out there, or digital television, or what is new and better than anything we may have. We never go shopping. Even when I go to Costco, I get the essentials and get out. I can't believe all the stuff out there to buy, buy, buy. Who really needs all this junk?? There are more important issues. And I know we are strong and resilient and willing to work hard to make it through this economic catastrophe. Staying strong, staying together. These are the important things. In the end, it's good, and it's enough.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tiny Egg Book

Another of my passions in life is book making. Here is a book I just completed. It is made from cut up matchbooks for the covers, vintage maps for inserts, and 70 pound drawing paper. The stitching is two needle coptic binding, although actually this technique uses six needles to sew up a nice opposite braid for each set of two holes. It has eight signatures and measures 4.5" x 2.25". I intended one more signature but Mango sat on it and mashed the papers while I was working.

Lucy and I are off to the Eastern Shore of VA now to visit my parents and deliver some jewelry.

I'm thinking of selling these on Etsy. What do you think?? Comments, please... =)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Beads on Ebay

In an effort to assist our trip finances, and to eliminate some beads I have had sitting around for far too long, I am de-stashing some artisan beads courtesy of Ebay. This Anne Choi sterling silver Mandrake With Eye bead was purchased last year for $75 plus shipping. It will be listed on Ebay tonight for a seven day auction under the user name doggiecentral, so check them out and bid, bid, bid! Get some good beads that are no longer made, some one of a kind, for far less than retail. I will be putting a "buy it now" listing for this bead, so go and take a look. Some of these beads I hate to part with but honestly, in my drawer for two or three years? Time for them to ship to another loving owner...

Otherwise, I am heading to my parents house on Tuesday for the visit that was previously delayed. I'll be back on Friday. I'm looking forward to seeing my folks, my mom's good cooking, and some beautiful scenery on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Have a good week, everyone!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Finished with some projects

My dear friend of many years asked me several months ago to create a necklace for her based on one I made for my mother. My mom's necklace is comprised of a photo of her mother taken in the mid 1940's, set in a bezel and nestled in resin. It has a poem on the back I wrote and was appropriate for the piece. My friend, an artist in advanced age, was taken with it and asked me to do one up for her with her mother's picture, highlighted with silver chain and blue stones of my choice. This is what I came up with:

As an afterthought, she also asked me to do a different one for her daughter featuring her own picture from her youth. This is it:

I was to have travelled to the Eastern Shore of Virginia this weekend to deliver them and visit my parents but the flu derailed my plans, so it will be next week after the bug is long gone, I hope.

For anyone so inclined, I create custom memory necklaces based on a photo you provide and your color preferences, and go from there.  For more information or requests, contact me at my email  Prices start at $130 and as you can see, I use fine stones and I don't skimp!

I didn't feel quite right last Friday evening and by Saturday morning, boy, I knew I was in for it. However, the Northern Virginia Bead Society Bead Show was that day and Sunday. What to do, what to do.... Why, go anyway, of course! Michael didn't want to go (I can't imagine why) so I went it alone, all 109 miles one way up 95. It was no trouble to find the Vienna Community Center. Here's what I got:AD Adornments was there with a jackpot of lovely things. As my budget was limited, I actually made a list of beads to look for instead of my usual MO-- scoop, pay, and run to the next booth. AD Adornments had tons of interesting base metal chain but good heavens it was so expensive it made sterling chain look like an incredible deal. So I didn't get any. These are faceted blue labradorite teardrops, and faceted freshwater pearl in a deep blue.
Natural Golden Coral and again, faceted freshwater pearl, in a color I wouldn't normally buy but it was such a pretty shade of pink, it called my name. This bead show was four rooms in all, and many more artisan dealers than I have ever seen before at a bead show. Nice to see. Also, I am always on the lookout for faceted pearls but never could find them at shows until this one. Always before I had to order online. Wonder what the deal was? Seemed everyone had them for the first time ever.
I bought these faceted crystal and prehnite from a very patient Indian man who let me handle all his fabulously expensive beads, explained the cuts and origin of many different stones, before finally ringing me up some of his less expensive wares, these two strands. As it was, they were the most expensive items I bought, but aren't they beautiful? A beautifully cut stone with gorgeous color can just make a piece of jewelry pop with a single bead.

I got lost on the way home, after chasing cheap gas promised at a WaWa from a sign on 95. Once I got into Potomac Mills area, turned here, turned here, turned here, etc., got gas, I could not remember at all where I should go, so 15 miles later I found myself in the middle of Prince William county cow country. Oh dear. Finally, after several calls to my husband, I made my way back to 95 and home. Then I spent the next four days in bed with the flu. Now that is dedication to craft, folks.