Saturday, March 28, 2015

Winter Blues Blog Hop

Liz of Bead Contagion decided that one way to fight the winter blues was to throw a blog party. She decided that her extra stash of navy blue goldstone beads would be the perfect thing to chase those blues away.

The deep color of these stones with their bit of sparkle does remind me a lot of Van Gogh's Starry Night series. While I of course love the one that is so popular with the swirls in the sky, this quieter one of the bridge over the Rhone is my favorite. It has the balance of deep blue night and a touch of gold. I can almost feel the warm summer air. Almost. Boy am I done with this winter.

I am with Liz on this, this winter has had it continued oppression this year. I saw a great meme a few weeks back that went something like this ...

"Is it just me, or does anyone else think we're stuck in a snow globe & some jerk keeps giving it a shake?!"

Yep. That pretty much sums it up for me. It just kept snowing, and snowing and snowing this year

Liz sent quite a large stash of these deep blue beads. Not only did she send a large doughnut, and several small ones, she also sent some beautiful small rounds. So after finishing the necklace I decided to also make a bracelet, but this time with a touch of silver. Blue goes so well with either metal!

Liz certainly did chase the blues away, and now I can't wait to see what everyone else created. Check out all the other bloggers: Liz (our host), Therese, Bobbie, Christine, Amy, Jasvanti, JoJo, 

CC7A: Circle of Love

Last year a group of us were brought together by Alicia Marinache of All The Pretty Things. We named our group CC7A (Creative Continuum of 7 Artists). 

Once the year ended, we started to talk about a year two to the group, and this year Alicia is changing it up a bit. We are kicking off with these lovely stone doughnuts she shared with us all, and then for the rest of the year we are using color pallets as inspiration for our creations. Our kick off post to get us all back together Alicia called 'The Circle of Love' represented with this collection of doughnuts.

There is, of course, yet one more story of that wacky Canadian Post. Alicia sent out Christmas cards and within them she included one of the doughnuts pictured. However, the Canadian Post seemed to have removed doughnuts for any of the cards heading over the boarder. I have to say that I was curious why Alicia had sent me a Christmas card with a bit of wrapping paper included? Nothing else, just wrapping. But when she followed up in email we quickly discovered that all of us South of the boarder had our stones confiscated. 

I'm actually not sure which one of the doughnuts was sent to me, but I picked up this lovely cherry quartz one to create my piece. While this looks like a simple pattern, I actually broke (ok snapped in half) the bail and had to start again. The wire loop just did not want to cooperate. But one I got it to behave I added just a  bit of leather for necklace as the I did not want to overwhelm the 'rustic gate' feel to that bail.

I'm looking forward to another year with my CC7A group, and can't wait to see what everyone else created. Please stop by the rest of the team's blogs: Alicia (our host), Christine, Emma, Monique, Sally and Therese.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Make Your Own Sushi

I know, this isn't my typical blog topic, but the sun came out on Sunday this weekend and made me hopeful that Spring is nearly here. 

When the weather warms up, I love to have more fresh veggies in the diet. And one thing that my family loves is some simple sushi.

In fact, The Bead Girl is kind of obsessed with sushi. If it is her turn to pick where we go for dinner, she picks sushi. If it is her birthday and she chooses the destination, she will pick sushi. If she is at the grocery store with me she beelines over to the sushi counter and raises a hopeful eyebrow. So last Fall for her birthday one of the things we gave her was a sushi maker thingy called Sushezi. I know it is a strange thing to give a 12 year old, but considering her love of this stuff ... it just seemed right. She was pretty excited when she saw it. So when the sun popped out yesterday we pulled out a few key ingredients and got cooking. It is actually really easy:

Pot of rice (2 cups rice, 4 cups water, 1 pat butter) bring to a boil, then simmer until done
Rice vinegar solution (1/3 cup vinegar, 2 teaspoons sugar, dash salt) boil until sugar is dissolved
Mix the vinegar solution into the rice until it holds together

Steam any root vegetable until just tender (boil for 3-4 minutes) slice in matchsticks
Remove the outside of cucumber, slice in quarters, carve out seeds, slice in matchsticks
Half an avocado and slice 
Add any seafood (lump crab, grilled shrimp, grilled or steamed salmon)

We used the sushi maker and packed in some rice on either side, then add the slices of veggies, or pieces of seafood. Mix and match and add whatever sounds good to you. Fold the top over (the side with just rice), latch then push down using the inside press. This last step compresses all the ingredients, and presto ... a perfect sushi log every time! Just place the sushi log on some nori (the seaweed typically around the outside of sushi). I use a bamboo mat that helps to roll and lock the seaweed in place, and then just slice it into pieces about an inch thick. 

Our sushi might not be exactly perfectly round by the time we plate it up, but it is fun to make and tastes amazing. Since everything was just cooked and sliced, the sushi was still slightly warm. It doesn't have that refrigerated, dense rice ball flavor or feel you get from sushi bought in the store or at a deli. The rice is soft and the flavors are fresh, and makes me feel like spring is just around the corner. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

I Have to Ask One More Time, Will It Ever Stop Snowing?

If you are anywhere in the US Northeast then you are in my snow-globe world. Someone keeps picking it up and shaking it. What's a girl to do on yet one more snowy day? Pull out my beads and wait for the snow to stop long enough for me to break out the shovel at get to it (again). 

You see we will need to shovel today because it will turn to rain at some point later in the day. And since there is roughly a new 12 inches of snow (yes there really is since it has been snowing for 24 hours) all the rain will do it turn it to slush. 

And here is the fun part. By Sunday the temperature will drop below freezing until Weds which means a whole new layer of ice out there to slip on as I navigate the front walk and driveway each day to get on my way to work. 

And so I ask one more time, will it ever stop snowing? Because from where I stand in the snow globe it does not appear to be anytime soon. I might sound just a tad crabby about all this because I am. If any of you see the guy that is shaking my snow globe can you ask him to put it the _!#@%__ down already.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Desk With a View

Seems several of you guys were curious about my office space, so I'll show you a bit more. There are lots of interesting corners in my office, so it might take several blog posts to get through this. But let's start with the actually desks themselves. 

We have enough desks for roughly 80-85% of the people in the office because on any given day there tends to be about 15-20% of the people out whether that is traveling, at meetings cross town or home sick. There are plenty of places to 'plug in' even if for some reason you can't find a desk. After 6 months in this office, I haven't heard one person complain that they could not find a place to sit and work. I usually do sit at a desk with a monitor (you can see my set up here in the pic). I am always the first one in to the office as I get in at 7am each morning. 

When you get in, you decide where you want to sit. It is a first come, first served situation. Which means you likely won't get the same seat day after day. Although several people try. You could if you get in as early as I do, but what fun would that be to always sit in the exact same place when you don't have to?

I do, however, like to sit up front by the big windows where there is a ton of sunlight. After nearly 30 years in an office (oh god did I just admit that?) I have a vitamin D deficiency. My doc told me I will have to take 1000mg a day for the rest of my life. So I try to find ways to get a bit of sun into my day when I can.

I love these windows. They are floor to ceiling and overlook Herald Square. Across the street are wonderful old prewar buildings, one of which is a mini flat iron shape. I love the architecture in NYC; it is one of the things I enjoy most about this city. I could spend weeks wondering around with my camera just taking pictures of buildings and looking up their history.

The 'corner office' is actually a lounge area (on both sides of the the office). So that anyone can enjoy the view during a meeting. I do love the democracy of that. You can see a few of the lockers I mentioned yesterday behind the lounge. Those are double stacked, so you need to be selective with what you absolutely need to keep in the office. Also notice that the desk is clean as you are expected to pick up everything each night. Well everything, except the monitor and the cords. 

The open campus, as they call it here, is an interesting concept and has taken a bit of time to get used to. But I actually do enjoy it most days. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St. Patrick

Much of my day is spent in Manhattan at the office. But I rarely show you what goes on there. And while I won't bore you with the 'work' part of that ... I can show you some of our new digs. 

About 6 months ago we changed our building location and moved into a a new style of floor plan. It's what's called an 'open floor plan.' Sounds nice, right? Plenty of space, big windows, lots of lounge-like areas. So what's the catch? The catch is that in order to get lots of cool fun common area, you have to give up offices. Wholesale. There are no doors in this place expect those on the bathroom stalls, a handful of conference rooms and the front door to the office. We sit in rows of desks. In fact, we don't have assigned seating. Instead we all were issued a locker (the size of which you'd get at the bowling alley to keep your shoes and jacket in). Seriously, no kidding.

But there are fun things about this open floor plan. Lots of collaboration (aka noise) and people leaning in to impromptu meetings. The entire floor is the length of a New York City block, which makes for a lot of walking in a day. It is really common for people to wear the biometric bracelets to keep track of steps, heartrate, etc. I've heard from several people that they'd made their 'step goal' by noon. 

With this week being St. Patrick's the office threw a little party in our beer garden. Yes, we have a beer garden. It is fully stocked with one of our client's products --- beer (from Miller Coors). It is always stocked with beer, so if you feel like grabbing one after work with a co-worker then it is only a few steps away. I especially love the gnome side tables. They make me giggle every time I see them, and they make me think of Christine and Bobbie who seem to have an affinity for them. 

To date my blog has been mostly about beads, various travel and history. But I've been doing so much lately at the office, including business travel, that I thought I'd share some of these stories. This part of my life seems to be eating into my beady life, so I might as well show you what is consuming my time lately. Hope you all have a happy (and safe!) St. Patrick's celebration!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Old Turquoise and Gifting

I posted earlier in the week some beautiful old carnelian from my mother-in-law, and I promised to show you the old Indian turquoise as well. These are simple. Just baubles really, but they were designed for the wearer. 

My sister-in-law is notorious in the family. She is the one that when you've gifted her something that she knows instantly she isn't fond of, you will know it shortly there after. I've learned over the years that she really just wants a little something simple, that dangles from her ear. She isn't big on bracelets, although she has a few. She doesn't prefer necklaces as she only wears a handful if she wears one at all. It is earrings that she enjoys.

But here is the thing. She has MS, and earrings are not easy for her. She doesn't want anything fussy. She just wants a natural stone. So when my mother-in-law handed me the strand of old Indian stones at Thanksgiving, I instinctively handed it to my sister-in-law to ask which stones she liked. She said turquoise. But I knew she'd say that. 

She then reached into her purse and said, "oh I've been meaning to ask you," which usually means a jewelry project is imminent in my future. I had made a pair of simple sodalite earrings for her years ago. Apparently she had worn them so much that they were both missing earring backs, and one the jump rings to the earring post had long since broken lose. To know my sister-in-law is to know that this is a sign of love. She had worn these to death. I smiled, and said I'd fix them and send them back. I only kept the stones, and gave the rest of the setting a face lift with new silver findings. These two pair went out to her for Christmas. And I got a very sweet card back. It's funny, I've never encountered that look from her. The one when you know she doesn't like the gift.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Old Carnelian

I've talked about my Mother-in-Law before and the fact that she grew up in India. Through the years, she collected many pieces of jewelry. Mostly from local vendors selling bits and pieces, polished stones or hand knotted jewelry. Some are simply strands of beautiful stones. This past Thanksgiving she pulled out another strand from the jewelry box to give me, and simply said "I figured you could pull this apart and create something new and pretty." She knows me well. That is for sure.

There were several types of stones in this recent strand including carnelian and a green turquoise. Typically people do not associate turquoise with India, but actually it has been mined there for centuries and there are some beautiful colors of this stone across the foothills of the Himalayas from Northern India, into Pakistan and beyond.  

As for carnelian, I have such a weakness for the rich, honey color of these stones. Especially some that have been weathered from the years like these. This pair has already become some of my favorite new earrings that I'll be wearing for years to come.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Ra & Riddle of the Sphinx

My Ra necklace was inspired by the story of the Sphinx. There seems to be two riddles of this Sphinx: the first is why it was built. The second the legendary question the Sphinx is said to ask travelers. 

Egyptologists believe the 'travelers' question came about centuries after the original Sphinx was built and bears no meaning to why it was created. Actually, the Sphinx has been around for 45 centuries according to a NOVA special I found (which I highly recommend if you're interested in the subject). The Sphinx is the biggest and oldest statue in a land of colossal ancient monuments (according to Nova). The head alone is the size of the White House, and the body is nearly the length of a football field. And research done on the statue reveal that it was carved out of one massive piece of limestone. Truly amazing.

The riddle is mentioned in early written works like the Odyssey where the Sphinx is described as a monster terrorizing the people of Thebes. It is said that the Sphinx asked travelers a riddle that if they failed to answer correctly; they were killed. Oedipus is one of the travelers and is asked:

What goes on four legs at dawn, two legs at noon, and three in the evening?

Oedipus answers "man, who as a  baby crawls on four legs, then walks on two legs as an adult and in old age walks with a cane as his third leg.'

But this riddle has nothing to do with the origin of the great Sphinx. The statue itself is quite unusual with its 'part man-part animal' structure that seems to be guarding two of the pyramids. Typically deities had a human body with an animal head, but the Sphinx is the opposite. It has a man's head on the body of a lion. Which experts believe symbolizes the intelligence of man with the power of a lion; or power in control. This would likely be ascribed to a pharaoh. Experts conclude that the Sphinx represents both a god, and a pharaoh.

Unlike pyramids (or tombs) where we know who is buried inside them, and thus who likely built them, the Sphinx is more of a mystery as to who built it and why. Given its size and stature, only a pharaoh is likely to have built it. And probably it was a pharaoh who was buried in one of the two pyramids behind the statue, which were built by a father and son: Khufu and his son Khafra. But which one built the Sphinx? And why? 

One of the clues are hieroglyphs at the base of the statue. An important set identify the Sphinx as the guardian to the after life using a combined symbol of the falcon (Horus) which is positioned just above the symbol for the horizon (Akhet). These two together means "Horus on the horizon" or the name of a deity that guards the entrance to the after life. Not to be confused with Ra (the sun God) with the head of a falcon but the sun disc overhead. Ra was thought to travel among the living during the day, and passed over the horizon to the underworld at night. Only to then appear on the opposite horizon the following day for rebirth.

To ancient Egyptians, the horizon had great significance. We see it throughout their symbolism. Another hieroglyph has two lions back to back. The curve of the lions' backs represent the horizon with the sun disc held between them. This represents the deity Aker, the god who guards the gates to the after life. 

So why are all these symbols of the sun, lions and horizon important to the Sphinx? The answer is found in the sun temple directly in front of the Sphinx. When the setting sun hits just right (the spring and the fall equinox) it creates a line right over the shoulder of the Sphinx, past the pyramid of Khafra and marking the journey over the horizon to the after life. So likely the Sphinx was designed and built as the guardian to the after life for the son Khafra who wanted to ensure a safe journey. Mystery solved.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Will it ever stop snowing?

Right about this point in the winter I just want to see the flowers start to poke their heads above the snow. I just love those first arrivals with crocus followed by groups of snowdrops and small hyacinth. It blankets our side yard and tells us like a big neon sign that we're nearly through the other side of winter. 

These are some of our snow drops from 2 years ago. A girl can dream ... can't she? I got up today to heavy grey skies, a cold that felt like my head was in a fish bowl and all I wanted to do was crawl back into bed. I managed to stay up today only to watch the snow start to fall. Five hours later ... yep, still snowing. The thought of having to get out there and shovel once it stops is enough to make me cry. Yeah, I'm sick and don't have control of my senses. 

I've been meaning to post these little copper flower earrings, but my pesky day job has been busy lately. So today as I dream of crocus and snowdrops I'll post the only flowers I have in the house at the moment. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Bernini Spiral

Yes, I have changed the name of this stitch. At least for me. A few posts back I talked about its origin, and its likeness to the columns that Bernini carved in St. Peter's Basilica. I'm sticking with my story.

I have avoided this stitch. It is one that has had me frustrated and baffled at many points. Never quite knowing which row I'm on and whether I should be switching up the beads. That is, until I realized that all I was really doing was peyote, in a circle, at an angle. Yes that doesn't necessarily sound easy. But it was the key that allowed me to relax and just bead. Peyote was the first stitch I learned. There is comfort in this stitch for me. A rhythm my fingers feel on their own.

Lately I've been wanting to combine beads and leather. I like the look. It feels slightly boho, not as heavy as full on beadwork and wearable everyday. This gorgeous thin, off-white leather was introduced to me from Melinda Orr. I would never, in a million years, have picked this up on my own. I would have looked at it in the store and moved on. But she sent me some, and it challenged me to get outside my box of browns and blacks. And now I can't imagine why I never thought of using leather in this way. Aren't friends amazing?

I think that I'm moving through a blue phase, perhaps an ombre phase. Whatever it is; I'm just letting it flow. There has been a lot of blue beads on the table lately and I've been working the hue. I can't say that blue was ever my 'go to' color. Normally it is green. I love green. 

One of the new tricks I've been embracing is glue. There, I said it. Yes, glue. It isn't sexy, doesn't feel 'handmade' and needs plenty of ventilation. But a tiny bit of it isn't reeeeallly cheating. It turned my Bernini spiral into a beaded bead that stays put. I used a flat disc bead at the end and dabbed just a touch of e6000 around the edges and attached them to the spiral. Now the 'bead' doesn't flop around on that sweet leather cord. VoilĂ 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Twisting Beads and Words

I haven't been creating much lately as my mojo seems to have been frozen under all this snow that is piling up around me. Which is strange since typically this is the time of year when I'm beading like a crazy person and making piece after piece.

But this year is a little different. I recently had a rather harsh encounter with someone in the beady community that really surprised me. She was quite demanding with her request to alter some writing I was doing, and simply would not stop until it met her approval. The accusations were of the nature that I was being careless in my opinions and potentially dangerous in my advice. That of course stopped me in my tracks as I would never want anything that I was doing to mislead someone or cause them harm. I bead because I love it, and no one should get hurt in the name of beads. In my opinion. After all, its just beads.

I was so taken aback by the aggressiveness and harsh depiction of me that I needed to walk away. If only for a bit.

I have a rather stressful day job, and often deal with abrasive people. I'm used to it, and tend to take that in stride knowing that it is part of my job to navigate issues and problems and figure out the way forward. 

But my hobby is supposed to be something that relaxes me. Something to take my mind off work. So when she came at me relentlessly, I have to say I was a bit like a deer in the headlights. I needed to take a break.

Slowly I'm easing back in. But my blog has been neglected, and I apologize if I haven't been round to see your blog. I did finally finished a piece that had been on my bead table for some time. It uses a glass ribbon cab and a bit of twisted, bead braiding. Simple, relaxing and repetitious. It made me smile as it ended up looking a bit Scandinavian with all that blue and Viking-esk bead caps on the end. Thanks for those Melinda, and thanks for shoulder to lean on.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Inspired by Basketry

I have always loved baskets. It probably stems from my mother who was quite basket crazy. She would hang them on the walls, take them out in the garden, use them as storage in the kitchen, and even as storage in her hatch-back car. I inherited many of her baskets, but my favorites are her Navajo patterned ones and her old hamper picnic baskets. I just kind of love the handmade look to baskets. 

I decided to create a bracelet that had that woven look to the sides but a sturdy rim. This is a right-angle weave attached to leather using hemp. And for just a touch of an old-world, Egyptian look, I decided to include a brass scarab cabochon as the focal. 

The craft of basketry seems to have changed very little over the centuries. In doing my little history search for this post I came across gorgeous baskets woven today as well as wonderful, rustic antique ones from around the world. You can see my collection on Pinterest, or the Etsy treasury I created below.

Basketry is one of the oldest crafts around originating back to ancient Egypt when materials like grasses, reeds, stalks of flax or twigs were abundant. These were used to make not only baskets, but mats, bags, beds, sandals or even reed rafts. It is said that basketry came first and influenced cloth weaving, pottery and even carpentry. Some say that basketry inspired pottery as early baskets were lined with clay for waterproofing and those that accidentally burned left behind thin-walled pottery. I love discovery out of what might at first glance look like a mistake. 

One of my favorite examples of a mistake is about Ivory soap. Ivory was originally just another bar soap, but the guy who ran the mixing machine accidentally left it on while he was out to lunch and it over whipped the batch of soap. P&G decided to sell it anyway, and once out on the market people were clamoring for the 'soap that floats' because at the time woman would have to dig around in the bottom of the washtub for the soap. I know, I know. I'm off track again. But sometimes I love the little side stories.

Basket Case

My mother loved baskets and often joked calling herself a Basket Case given her rather large collection
Antique Native American Indian Hupa Basket
Antler Basket with Dried Philodendron - Item 670 by Susan Ashley
Vintage Woven Boho Basket / Boho Decor / Southwestern Decor / Mexican Tight Weave Basket With Lid
Washoe Polychrome Degikup Native American Indian Tribe Paiute HUGE GIANT Coiled Native Globular Basket Giant Enormous Willow Rod Coil
Large Red-Man Picnic Basket w/ Accessories 50's & 60's
Straw Flower  Pine Needle Basket handmade
Tlingit Indian Style Spruce Root Rattletop Basket
Vintage  Hupa Basket - Mint Condition - Rattle Snake Band Basket - Native American Basket -  Indian Basket - Home Decor
Vintage Round Coiled Basket with Lid, Finely Hand Woven
Large Vintage Woven Basket or Purse - Black Straps, Handles
Native American hand woven coil basket southwestern
Vintage Native American Round Lidded Trinket Basket with Knob
PNW Native American Designs
Papago Horsehair Mini Basket & Lid Genuine Tohono O'odham The Desert People
Native American Basket / Authenticated Indian Coil Basket With Lid / Rustic Southwestern Decor / Unique Storage / Antique Handmade Container
Vintage Coil Basket Southwestern Design

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