Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Focus On Life Week 52: Saying Good-bye

Here are some more good-byes from our fantastic group:

Friday, December 20, 2013

Focus on Life Week 51: Togetherness

I had so many ideas for this week's post, it was tough to decide which way to go. And then I remembered our holiday card. This year, our son was married and we also had a few other fun milestones. So we decided to send a collage holiday card that captured many of our more significant events for the year. And one theme connected our photos: togetherness with family and friends.

2013 Holiday Collage Card Side 1

Holiday Collage Card Side 2
Happy Holidays from our family to yours!

For more stories of togetherness, step on over to Sally's blog.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Third Annual Ornament Swap

Even though this is the Third Annual, this is my first time to participate in Sally's ornament swap and I was really lucky to have the wonderful partner of Lynne, aka Island Girl from Fireball Studio and Gallery. Look at this wonderful wirework. And the best part is that the lighthouse is removable and can be worn as a pendant so I can enjoy it year-round. I just love the touch of the green leaves and red berries too.

Lynne even added some additional goodies - beer bottle beads. Lynne, how did you know that I enjoy a frosty beverage from time to time?

Thanks so much for the beautifully crafted treasures. They were a perfect start to my holiday!

Here's the package I sent to Lynne. The beaded icicle is a pattern I found online by The Bead's Knees. The art bead at the bottom is by our very own Sue Kennedy.

The bonus ornament was a sweet little star made in peyote diamonds and stitched together with bicone crystals.

To really get in the holiday season, hop on over to see the other participants in this year's swap!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Focus On Life Week 50: A Pop of Red

It's a good time of year for this theme and perfect synchronicity as I had just finished an ornament pattern I purchased on Etsy. This was such a fun ornament to make, done in circular peyote and when you are nearly finished, it is stuffed with fiberfill to help maintain the shape.

Here is the Etsy pattern - the seller is Christmas Creation.

Please visit the contributors below for more festive touches of red!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Focus on Life Week 49: Add A Little Sparkle

Well, Sally's prompt found me at the time of the season when I am knee-deep in my ornament-making frenzy. Every year, I pick one of Sandra Halpenny's snowflake ornaments to mark the official start of my holiday beading. This year, the design was Snowflake Ornament #86.

Paula Stitches Sandra Halpenny's Snowflake #86
 Last year, I got my sparkle from Sandra's Snowflake #79.

Take a peek over here to see some other fun sparkly moments.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Focus on Life Week 48: Giving Thanks

Many of us are probably giving thanks for our families. That is my story as well but this one has a different twist. It begins with my paternal great-grandparents who had 19 children. This was the era where children were needed as extra hands to work the farm and my great-grandfather, Francis, retired early to supervise his sons as they performed the many chores around the homestead. Most evenings they gathered after the meal to sing the popular tunes of the time. Just about everyone was musical and, if you couldn't play an instrument by ear, you were expected to sing all the more vigorously. The gathering of family was so important to Francis that family lore says a provision of his will required the attendance of all family members to an annual family reunion. Here we see many of the children. My grandmother is seated in the center of the first row, wearing what looks to be a dotted pattern.

Children of Francis and Mary Genevieve
The reunion was a mainstay of our family life. And with 19 children, each generation added greater numbers. Here we see my father's generation. I think he is seated on the ground, fourth from the left.

The date of the reunion rarely changes: the week-end before the July 4th week-end. The location was the family homestead until it was sold and then we moved around but always within close proximity to our Loretto, PA base.

This is my generation shown with my grandmother on the right. I am in the back row wearing red and a very coquettish expression. We loved the reunions and the chance to see aunts, uncles and cousins that we saw infrequently throughout the year. Friday night was always a family sing-along followed by a big picnic on Saturday. Games of pinochle, softball and horseshoes were accompanied by more singing and passing the hat to pay for the venue for the following year's events. In recent years, we added a golf outing to the Friday activities.

All of the original 19 have passed on but their children and children's children continue the tradition. I especially like this last picture because it features my siblings and their children. It was taken about 14 years ago when we were just starting to have our families. Today, I have 20 nieces and nephews and, with everyone's crazy schedules, don't think we have a picture with all of them. 

I give thanks for my great-grandfather who started quite the tradition and to my family whom I love so dearly.

Be sure to visit Sally's blog for more inspiring stories of thanks.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Focus on Life Week 46: Reflect

A couple weeks ago, our family spent the week-end in Annapolis to watch the Pitt-Navy game. It was a glorious fall week-end spent in a beautiful corner of the world. The outcome of the game was not in our favor but that didn't seem to matter much as we watch the midshipmen in formation.

Midshipmen in Formation, USNA, Annapolis, MD

This week I reflect how grateful I am for their service and sacrifice.

Here are some further reflections from our fine contributors:

Friday, November 8, 2013

Focus on Life Week 45: Industrial Photography

Well, this was a tough one!

When I think Industrial, I think machines. And this time of year, I think of all the machines whose proper functioning keeps us warm and comfortable. Things like:

the water meter

and insulation

and the furnace and hot water heater

But somehow I wasn't quite satisfied with these industrial samples and my hubby reminded me that we have one of the very best examples of industrial art in our former back yard.... here's a hint:

This is a very far-away view of the Carrie Furnace, which is a blast furnace that formed part of the Homestead Works where my father worked years and years ago. The Carrie Furnaces were the heart of Pittsburgh's steel industry and, while not operating now, they are part of the Homestead Works National Park. Here's a wonderful photo my hubby found online but if you really want to see some amazing examples of the Carrie Furnaces, visit this photo tour by Veronica  Varos.... just amazing!

Here are some more wonderful examples of industrial photography:

Friday, November 1, 2013

Focus on Life Week 44: Saints, Souls, Sugar Skulls and Scares

I know we are supposed to use photos from this week for our postings but I had to dredge up a subject from last year since it is so darn perfect for this theme.

In the photos below, you see my posting from July last year after I had modified Christine Wilson's Bohemian Rhapsody pattern from the June/July issue of Beadwork Magazine, page 53. Now tell me this isn't perfect for this week's theme.......

And the very best part of the posting was that somehow Christine got wind of my project and commented on my post. I was so thrilled, I saved a screen shot! Of course, you could always take a blog trip back in time if you wanted to read it.

And here is a sample of how our other talented contributors celebrated this week's theme:

Monday, October 28, 2013

Time out for Books: The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (5+ out of 5!)

The Signature of All ThingsThe Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My favorite book of 2013 -- a 5+! Thankfully, it arrived before the year ended. It's interesting that the last 5 I gave was to Barbara Kingsolver's Flight Behavior which I read last year at about this time. Even weirder is that Barbara Kingsolver reviewed The Signature of All Things (Signature) for the New York Times and you might enjoy what she had to say:

I absolutely adored this book. I fell in love with the characters, with their minds, their successes and their tragedies. The book opens with the birth of protagonist Alma Whittaker on January 5, 1800 and uses her life events to track the scientific milestones of the 19th century. The story began 40 years earlier with the birth of Alma's father, Henry Whittaker, whose circumstances of birth couldn't have been more different from those of his daughter. But it is these circumstances that formed Henry, prompted his choice of wife (Beatrix) and ultimately became the critical nurture component that fostered Alma Whittaker. One of my favorite passages that helps us understand Alma's mother and offers a preview of what Alma is to become is, "She (Beatrix) prayed that her daughter would grow up to be healthy and sensible and intelligent, and would never form associations with overly powdered girls, or laugh at vulgar stories, or sit at gaming tables with careless men, or read French novels, or behave in a manner suited only to a savage Indian, or in any way whatsoever become the worst sort of discredit to a good family; namely, that she not grow up to be een onnozelaar, a simpleton." From this beginning, how could Alma grow into anything other than a scientist, even though the word did not yet exist at the time of her birth?

Gilbert creates characters who jump off the pages, grab you and don't let go. Other reviewers have noted their Dickensian qualities, citing names like Ambrose Pike, George Hawkes and Professor Peck. Gilbert uses their names, personalities and turns of speech to develop these entertaining, enthralling guides through this period before the Internet existed, when learning had to occur the painstaking way - by reading, discourse and travel. Imagine the advances Alma Whittaker could have achieved with the world wide web at her fingertips!

Alma's epiphany comes about 1/3 into the book when she decides to dedicate herself to the study of mosses. Gilbert uses this wonderful device to help frame the scientific advances of the century as well as to define Alma herself who has much in common with the substance, as told in these sentences: "In every way mosses could seem plain, dull, modest, even primitive..... But here is what few people understood, and what Alma came to learn: Moss is inconceivably strong. Moss eats stone; scarcely anything, in return, eats moss. Moss dines upon boulders, slowly but devastatingly, in a meal that lasts for centuries..... Moss grows where nothing else can grow." Simply substitute the name "Alma" for moss and you have a perfect description of our main character.

Is Signature without flaws? Of course not. Gilbert was chastised in one review for omitting large chunks of time when her character aged twenty-six years. As it stands, the book is just over 500 pages and covering each and every moment of Alma's life would have been entertaining but unnecessary. Yet, I would have welcomed another 500 pages!

View all my reviews

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Focus on Life Week 43: In the Shadows

This is a great theme for the week-end before Halloween. It brings to mind goblins and scary creatures lurking in the dark waiting to pounce! I saw some goblins and scary creatures last Sunday when we hosted a group birthday celebration for five of our nephews who all have birthdays clustered together in the fall. We called it the Birthday Boys Bowling Bash and the bowling venue features cosmic bowling every Sunday. What might you ask is Cosmic Bowling? They turn out the main lights in the bowling alley and rely on neon lights, loud music and affects that make certain colors glow in the dark. This is where the shadows come in.

This past Sunday, Cosmic Bowling had the added feature of a Halloween theme. Here you see the boys clustered at the entrance, where a scary blow-up creature hovers over them.
Here are the shadows.... in the foreground of the photo, you can see my sister bending over Tyler, age four, who needs a little extra assistance guiding the bowling ball.

It was tough to capture the cosmic lighting on my iphone but here's a try.

And to cap off bowling, we have some very scary faces.

.....Followed by some happier faces at the restaurant where we completed the birthday event!

Now, carefully step on over to Sally's blog to see more shadowy tales.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Focus on Life Week 42: All In A Day

I am jam-packed with work this week so I took a short cut on Sally's prompt. Here's a lovely pic of my Outlook calendar for the week, with lots of messy scribbles of last-minute tasks and notes.

Just click on over to see how our other contributors did with their daily descriptions.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Focus on Life Week 41: Connections

There are a lot of possible angles to take with this week's subject. But what came to mind for me is the connections that we "un-connected" humans make. Like when we work together to help people we don't even know. Last night I participated in a Light the Night Walk to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. It was a gorgeous fall night as we convened at Heinz Field.

My niece Josie won Wells Fargo Advisor's MVP award for her fund raising efforts making rainbow bracelets.

Each walker receives a paper lantern to signify our collective efforts at contributing toward a cure. Certain people carries gold lanterns in memory of a survivor and others carry white lanterns in memory of a loved one lost to the disease. This is how we looked as we navigated the streets.

And the quote that Sally found to inspire us really resonated with this event: "We can not live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men." To see how others are connecting, please visit The Studio Sublime.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Focus on Life Week 40: Give Us A Smile!

Before I tell you about my smiles, I have to admit to some frustration since I could not get to my Blogger edit window through any of the computers in our house except my ipad. Unfortunately, the Blogger app is somewhat more limited than the web version and I couldn't make my usual adjustments. I was able to finally paste the Inlinkz code into the HTML window so hopefully that is working ok.

Whew - therapy session concluded. Now onto this week's topic. Two things brought a huge smile to my face and I am hoping they bring one to yours.

I visited my sister and was delighted to see that one of her kitties had a litter of five kittens. Here I am with one of those sweet kitty-babies.

Then, my pre-order of Jamie Cloud Eakin's new book arrived in the mail. Yippee! Not only does this book include some scrumptious-looking projects, but Jamie goes into detail on design principles and construction.

And here are some project pages:

And for more of what is making our other blogger beauties smile, just click on over to

Friday, September 27, 2013

Focus on Life Week 39: Your Best Shot

OK, resisting impulses to use a photo of a shot glass...

I don't think the below is my very best shot but I wanted to use it for this post since I took it as an assignment for a photography class I recently completed, and then edited it in Photoshop Elements, which I also learned in a class. I think expertise will take a long time to develop but I had fun using my new skills on this flowering shrub in our back yard.

Click on over here to see the terrific shots of our other talented contributors:

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Focus on Life Week 38: A Quiet Moment

Sally's theme for this week made me think of an unexpected surprise we had last year when we discovered a bobcat, sound asleep right outside our window. He looked so peaceful and quiet.

But if you prefer one who's a bit more wide awake, here's another visitor we had just last month. He had stopped for a drink of water from the dish we keep outside for birds and bunnies. They sure skedaddled when bobcat arrived!

For more such moments, click quietly on over to these other fantastic contributors.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Creating with Cabochons

Cabby Blog Badge

In all of the beading world, cabochons are my most favorite element. A single stone can have endless variations. The variation I like best are characters that I fashion into pins. These are not your grandmother's brooches!

For this challenge, I combined two of my favorite things: kitties and cabs! The cab for the head is a button cover (remember those things?) and I removed the finding on the back so it could lay flush against the backing. The kitty body is a dichroic cab I purchased on eBay. Introducing Fantastic Feline:

Here is the pin back.

And, in case you are interested in the "before" picture. Here she is before embellishment and finishing.

Here are our fantastic challenge participants:
Your Host: Sally Russick
D Lynne Bowland
Alicia Marinache
Lynn Jobber
Marde Lowe
Dawn Doucette
Mary K McGraw
Gloria Allen

Cheri Reed
Sonya Stille
Elizabeth Owens Dwy
Veralynne Malone
Tania Hagen
Lynsey Brooks
Christina Miles
Holly Westfall
Kathy Lindemer
Patti Vanderbloemen

Therese Frank
Adrienne Berry
Liz E
Tanty Sri Hartanti
Ginger Bishop
Renetha Stanziano
Marlene Cupo
Sandi Volpe
Sharyl McMillian-Nelson
Niky Sayers

Mischelle Fanucchi
Tracy Stillman
Skylar Bre'z
Ann Schroeder
Paula Kramer
Jess Green
Susan Kennedy
Stacie Florer
Cathie Carroll
Susan F.

Michelle Caballero
Sabine Dittrich
Kristina Johansson
Kimberly Sturrup-Roberts
Melissa Meman
Cheryl McCloud
Michelle Timms
Cindy Pack
Lynda Carson

Cynthia Machata
Julia Harris
Karin Slaton
Ingrid Anderson
Karin Grosset Grange
Jasvanti Patel
Inge von Roos
Molly Alexander

And here are some sneak peeks at their creations:

Friday, September 13, 2013

Focus on Life Week 37: In Motion

I recently had the opportunity to take a rather long car trip. As you can see by my GPS image below, this was day 1 - with 564 miles to go.

I happen to love road trips but I had some company that doesn't love road trips quite as much as I do. This is Poochie in one of his more well-behaved postures.

Harold, on the other hand, seemed to enjoy travel - especially the tub in the hotel. Thank goodness, the bed was on a metal platform. Otherwise, I would have spent most of the next morning trying to lure kitties out from underneath.

All in all, they were pretty well behaved and even sort of cute, taking time to make a window seat out of the air conditioner unit!

And for more lively tales of motion, please travel on over to these fine destinations!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Focus on Life Week 36: In Two

Two great products from the city of Pittsburgh:
 The Pittsburgh Pirates and IC Lite Beer!

And for some more double doses of fun, visit these fine contributors:

Friday, August 23, 2013

Focus on Life Week 34: Add Something

All football fans out there know we are counting down the days until our season openers. My hubby and I often kid that our black and white kitties should really be black and gold to pick up the colors of our Pittsburgh Steelers. So for this week's theme, I went to town on this challenge!

Below is the before photo of kitties Poochie and Harold. They are sitting in one of their favorite spots -- on seats from Three Rivers Stadium which we bought when they tore down the stadium to make room for Heinz Field, the Steelers' new fancy digs.

Now here they are "re-painted" in Steeler colors with a Terrible Towel:

And to wrap up our Steeler theme, below is a necklace I made for a friend who is another Steeler fan.

And to see what everyone else is adding this week, check out these contributions:

© Cave Creek Beads