Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What I Learned in 2014

OK, this is not a metaphysical post. I actually acquired some new skills in 2014 and have been using them to take my beadwork in new directions.

Skill #1: bead crochet. I took a class earlier this year at Creative Destination, my favorite local bead store. I did not leave the class with anything remotely looking like bead crochet but I practiced and practiced over the next couple weeks and while I am not a master, I definitely completed quite a few projects and love the way it combines fiber and beads.

Skill #2: crochet. My entry into bead crochet led me to explore sites like Ravelry and Etsy for patterns and I was inspired to pick up crochet hooks that belonged to my mother, who was an amazing crochet-er. My projects have been VERY basic - a few bracelets and of course Sashay scarves like the one shown below. All my friends received these Steeler Sashays as part of their Christmas care packages.

Skill #3: Photoshop. I actually started taking classes in Photoshop last year but they extended into this year. Some of you may be thinking. Classes? Why not just use it? Well I have learned many software programs in my years in corporate business but I did not find Photoshop to be intuitive... at least for me. So I bought about a gazillion books and took three online classes and have really enjoyed learning new methods of creating impactful photos. This is a skill I will work on for many years to come.

So that's my round up of new learnings for 2014. For 2015, I'd like to:

  1. Create inventory for my Etsy shop (yes, this is a repeat item!)
  2. Improve my crochet with more complex projects
  3. Learn more about appliqué quilting with beads (just purchased Nancy Eha's book Bead Creative Like Crazy)
  4. Improve my resin skills
  5. Maybe even venture into polymer clay
What skills would you like to develop in 2015?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Focus on Life Week 52: Gather

My gathering was of the bead-shopping variety. I joined the masses of people who went shopping on the day after Christmas but my travels took me to my favorite local bead store: Creative Destination in Mesa, AZ. It's amazing how much value I can cram into a small brown bag!

Here are the items I gathered:

Let's see what everyone else is gathering this week:

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Focus on Life Week 51: Ornate/Ornament

Each year, I select a design for ornaments I make for gift-giving. This year, I picked a Cellini spiral that can be adorned in many different ways - with bottom fringe or by adding a bauble which in my case was for our favorite sporting teams.

For the Steeler and Pitt ornaments, I made the bauble by disassembling earrings and gluing the decorative component together.

Wishing you and your loved ones a most joyous holiday!

Let's do some ornament-hopping through our other neighborhoods:

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Focus on Life Week 50: Lights

I know holiday lights are out in abundance but coming home from a party this week, hubby and I stopped at one of our favorite dessert spots where the twinkling lights told us about an important new menu addition. I think you can probably guess the spot!

What a great way to top off a fun evening!

Let's go for a hop to see some other lights:

Friday, November 28, 2014

Focus on Life Week 48: Blissful Thanksgiving

Just had to share some pics of a very blissful Thanksgiving holiday. We didn't travel and instead spent  the day relaxing and then having dinner with friends.

I started the day by blissfully baking some pumpkin-oatmeal muffins, recipe courtesy of AllRecipes.

Then, to work off some of the muffin and the upcoming feast, I went for a blissful bike ride in a balmy 72 degrees (sorry cold weather folks!).

Next on tap was some blissful beading as I finished up some bracelets.

Then onto the main event of the afternoon spent with blissful buddies for our Thanksgiving dinner.

The blissfully-delicious menu consisted of (of course) turkey....

Roasted root veggies.....  (very, very blissful and beautifully presented)

Along with many other side dishes which I did not photograph since I was starting to get on everyone's nerves. But did manage to snap this photo of the blissful pies: turtle pie and apple pie. Of course I had to have the one drizzled with caramel (and yes it was blissful!).

The rest of the evening was spent in blissful conversation and food coma.

Let's check out some other blissful moments this week:

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Focus on Life Week 47: Hopeful

For folks looking for the Moon Garden Challenge reveal.

My bloggy buddies are also welcome to check out my challenge project. But for this week's theme of "hopeful", I snapped the below sculpture which is outside the YMCA where I work out. What can be more hopeful than children?

And for those of us celebrating Thanksgiving this week, have a wonderful holiday!

(The cool Thanksgiving graphic courtesy of Rita from The Coffeeshop Blog. If you're not familiar with it, do check it out. She's an amazing lady!)

Let's see what's giving hope to everyone else this week:

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Moon Garden Challenge Reveal

What a wonderful abundance of goodies Andrew curated in his Moon Garden Challenge package. The variety of beads and shapes just shouted bead embroidery to me and I came up with this cuff.

The flat piece provides a better view of how Andrew's goodies came together.

Here are a couple more views.

After finishing the cuff, I still had plenty of wonderful beads and the amazing mystery component pendant. The mystery component was so beautiful, I wanted a piece to really show it off and finally decided to incorporate it into a bead crochet necklace.

Andrew, thanks for coming up with such an inspirational assortment of lovely items. Be sure to visit the other challenge participants at these locations:

Paula Kramer - You are here!
Carolyn Lawson
Carole Carlson
Alice Peterson
Kari Asbury
Tammy Bowman
Shaiha Williams

On Andrew Thornton's Blog:
Andrew Thornton
Crystal Lombardo Farrell
Geri Colgrove
Laurie Carpenter
Alison Herrington
Naama Eisenstein
Laurel Ross

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Focus on Life Week 46: Faithful

What a lovely theme for this week's challenge! Many of the same thoughts probably occurred to all of us: faith in our spouses, our faith in a supreme being, faith in each other.

What came to my mind is one of the things I like most about living in the Southwest: the religious art and artifacts. A small store just up the street carries a variety of Mexican art and one of my favorite artists is Hector Rascos, who carves primitive wooden crucifixes which are delivered just once each year right before the holiday season begins.

Here's the one I bought in 2010. 

Let's take a look at some other faithful images.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Focus on Life Week 45: Grateful

This week, I am grateful for the opportunity to spend two months in Pennsylvania and for a safe return drive back to Arizona, which we just completed yesterday. We had a whirlwind 10 weeks filled with family events, get togethers with friends, and football, football, football! The drive takes us three overnights and four days because our traveling companions are our two kitties, Poochie and Harold, shown below in their travel crate.

We tried flying with them a couple years ago and it was nothing short of a disaster with Poochie howling for almost all of the four-hour flight. I was so mortified, I vowed never to subject myself or other passengers to that. So, it's a road trip for us. We have taken them cross-country twice and they are very well-behaved in the car, maybe because they are together in one crate versus all cooped up in a little airplane carrier.

Here are the camera shots from our GPS each morning.

Day 1: Pittsburgh to Highland, IL. 589 miles. The GPS estimated our trip at 9 hours and 40 minutes but it took well over 10 hours due to some hard rain for at least half of the leg.

Day 2: Highland, IL to Oklahoma City, OK. 529 miles. This was our second-shortest driving day and favorite hotel of the bunch.

We tend to stay at Holiday Inn Express hotels since they are pet-friendly and this particular hotel is really beautiful and so, so clean. Poochie and Harold especially like the window ledge.

Day 3: Oklahoma City, OK to Albuquerque, NM. 546 miles. Another reasonable driving day but the kitties were getting pretty restless by the time we arrived at the hotel.

DAY 4: Albuquerque, NM to Cave Creek, AZ. 454 miles for a short 7 hours and 18 minutes.

The 2,119 miles pass pretty quickly for me since I keep busy with beading projects and crochet. But all four of us were thrilled and grateful to walk into our Cave Creek door.

Let's see what's making everyone else grateful this week.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Focus on Life Week 44: Extraordinary Photo - Ordinary Everyday

What is more everyday than a Halloween photo posted on Halloween? Here is one of my all-time favorites.

These are two of our nieces and a nephew from many Halloweens ago. The extraordinary part is where they are now. The tallest pumpkin is working on her doctorate, the lobster just completed his MBA at night while working full-time, and the smaller pumpkin just graduated with her B.S. and started her first full-time job in her field! Like all of our 20 nieces and nephews, they are quite extraordinary individuals.

Let's take a look at more of the ordinary-extraordinary from our other contributors:

Friday, October 24, 2014

Focus on Life Week 43: My Favorite Color

Oh dear, impossible! A favorite color is like a favorite child. I love them ALL.

I guess my favorite color is whatever I happen to be working with at the moment. And my current project happens to have a whole lot of color thanks to Sue Vandever from SuzieQBeads on Etsy. Sue made a custom batch of these wonderful bracelet cuffs for me. How is this for color?

This is the beginning of my Christmas gift-making frenzy. I have already made up the Pitt and Schwick bracelets and here is a peek at the completed items.

In case you're wondering, Schwick is a card game a group of us have gathered to play for over 20 years. I thought my card-friends might appreciate a memento of our many fun evenings. The band is a flat Turkish crochet treatment I learned from Marion Jewels in Fiber, who used it on her Princess Warrior bracelet kits. Here is another one I made with a link I bought from Sue last year.

Let's see if our other contributors can pick a favorite color.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Focus on Life Week 42: The Color of Evening (Golden Hour)

The golden hours are my favorite time of day in Arizona. The contrast between shadows and light is so pronounced and seems to bring more drama to the landscape. But the golden hours are wonderful in the East too, especially in the Fall as they accent the magnificence of the changing leaves. I was visiting my sister and photographed her children playing in the leaves right before she called them in for the evening.

I just missed that period right before twilight so I used Picasa to give the photo a little golden boost.

Let's take a look at some more golden hours.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Focus on Life Week 41: A Punch of Color (Macro)

OK, I confess. I am crazy for cabochons. I love their bite-size bursts of beauty and the opportunity to embellish them in unique ways. They create almost-instant beading satisfaction as many projects can be finished in a day, to package up for a gift or last-minute night out on the town. Here are three different punches of color.

Let's visit our contributors to see what punches of color they found this week.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Focus on Life Week 40: Colors

I am guessing I will have company thinking of Fall colors this time of year. The photo below was from a recent road trip when I was snapping away. I love how all these lovely grass plants are aligned in a row. You can catch the muted fall foliage peeking out from the green and beige.

On a more personal note, I just love the colors in this Cosanti Quail Bowl, given to me this year as a birthday gift from my good friend, Janet. If you're not familiar with Cosanti Originals in Paradise Valley, AZ, it's definitely worth a visit - online or in person.

Let's check out some other "colorful" activities this week:

Friday, September 26, 2014

Focus on Life Week 39: Simplicity (Hands)

For this week's post, I thought I would share one of my favorite quotes. I used this graphic as my design in a Bead It Forward quilting project awhile back and when I saw Sally's theme of hands, it seemed the right time to share.

Let's see what other handy business our correspondents are up to:

Friday, September 19, 2014

Focus on Life Week 38: Simplicity (One)

Yay, football season has started and with it is the promise of cooler temps in sunny Arizona. But the team nearest and dearest to my heart hails from my home state of Pennsylvania and although they have had a bumpy start to the season, they are always #1 ("one") in my heart.

Let's see what's number "one" with everyone else this week:

Friday, September 12, 2014

Focus on Life Week 37: Simplicity (Windows)

I was looking through photos to see if I had taken any interesting ones with windows lately and stumbled upon this taken in 2005 when we visited New York. We made our way to the site of the World Trade Center where this was the view for so many years before the new structure had taken shape. The scaffolding around the site created a window-like framework through which we peered.

There is a new memorial today but during our visit, these plaques with the names of the fallen and a solitary vase of flowers brought tears to our eyes.

And here's what's happening in our other window views this week:

Friday, September 5, 2014

Focus on Life Week 36: Simplicity

Well, the door I came up with certainly looks odd this time of year. This is from our place in Pennsylvania during our first winter after we bought it. No, we didn't have second thoughts!

But Sally's theme of simplicity made me think of a recent project. I think the shape of a cross is both simple and complex with the meaning we bring to it. And maybe it is a doorway of sorts. That's why I loved this pattern by Juelles Designs that I found on Etsy earlier this year. Here is my version of it, which I backed with ultrasuede and embellished with the spirit charm. Julie designed this to be a pendant but my additions of backing and ring at the top make it more of wall adornment.

Thanks to Julie, the creator who developed this design for her mother-in-law and gave me permission to share my version with you. If you like the pattern, I have provided the screen shot and link from Etsy. 

Charlcie's Cross by Juelles Designs

Let's see the other renderings of simplicity for this week.
© Cave Creek Beads