Saturday, November 24, 2018

Puffy holiday stars

We rarely have snow in Arizona and, when we do, we all rush out to take pics... like the one here of our front yard.

So, to get in the holiday spirit, I overcompensate by making lots of beaded ornaments and found a fun pattern by Seed Bead Bliss. It uses 6/0 seed beads and rondelles and makes up in about an hour.

Puffy Snowflake Tutorial by Seed Bead Bliss
They're a fun project to do while you are watching all those great holiday specials.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Improvisation success

I am sure to receive compliments when I wear the below design by Stephanie at BronzePony Jewelry.  And it is really fun to make.

Dizzy Daisy Bracelet Design by BronzyPony Jewelry
There's something hypnotic about joining the daisy components together as little bracelet puzzle pieces.

I decided to make the design for a friend's birthday but when I got to the closure, I couldn't find the right size/color beads the design uses as the closure. So I decided to make three of the daisy components and use them as buttons. I actually like these better and they feel a bit more secure. And while I was making components, I made four more and built a pair of earrings.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

From beading to books: my favs so far this year

One great thing about retirement is that I have lots more time to read. Reading has been a passion of mine just about forever as you can tell from the below picture of me with my Dad when I was three.

It may look like I was more interested in my thumb but I was truly enthralled with the story of Heidi. Since then, my reading tastes have evolved and, of the 32 books I read during the first three months of this year, I have two favorites:

The Heart's Invisible FuriesThe Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

John Boyne has now made my list of favorite writers. I tend to be a bit skeptical when books get so many great reviews but they are truly, truly deserved in the cast of "The Heart's Invisible Furies" - perhaps my favorite read in several years. At the heart of the book is Cyril Avery whom we meet at the outset as his mother is being ejected from Catholic mass as a result of her out-of-wedlock pregnancy with him. It is 1945 but, in most respects, the social mores in Ireland might as well be a century earlier. By the time we actually meet Cyril, he is seven years old, adopted by Charles and Maude Avery, perhaps the most unconventional adoptive parents ever depicted in fiction. Adopted as a baby, they re-named him and chose the name Cyril after a spaniel they once owned and loved. While he used the Avery name, Charles and Maude take every occasion to remind him that he was not a "real" Avery. Cyril absorbs this with the same calm acceptance he does most things in this unusual household.

Their hands-off parenting leaves Cyril with a stammer and a powerful connection to, Julian, the son of the family solicitor. The boys' temperaments make them pretty much polar opposites, yet they become fast friends, perhaps the one bright spot in Cyril's growing up years. Over the span of 80 years, we watch history as the backdrop to Cyril's life path, which is often a painful, poignant one. Boyne so perfectly captures the social upheaval of the time and draws characters that I don't think I will ever forget.

More than anything, "The Heart's Invisible Furies" is a commentary on family and how often our chosen family can be closer to our heart and soul than our given one.

The ForceThe Force by Don Winslow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wasn't sure "The Force" would be my cup of tea. Sure it got great reviews but it seemed to skew more to the male side of the equation with the plot dealing with a good cop gone astray. But it is so much more than that - it is an epic tragedy of the extremely charismatic protagonist, Denny Malone, leader of the elite Manhattan North Special Task Force. The Task Force is the cream of the crop, attaining heroic proportions across the city and in the press. Malone's guys are the "best of the best...the smartest, the toughest, the quickest, the bravest, the best, the baddest." Think Seal Team 6 with a wise-guy edge.

"The Force" pulled me in the same way I got hooked on HBO's Soprano's. Just as I knew Tony Soprano was a bad guy, I still recognized humanity in him and found a small voice rooting for him even as he committed heinous acts. Winslow's prose packs a terrific punch. It is economical, powerful and perfectly captures the language (at least how I imagine it would be).

It is a cautionary tale as old as the ages but made fresh in this telling as we watch Malone and his partners self-destruct. We know it will happen in the very first pages of the book as Malone describes his tragic arc: "No, he started with his eyes firmly on the guiding star, his feet planted on the path, but that's the thing about the life you walk--you start out pointed true north, but you vary one degree off, it doesn't matter for one year, five years, but as the years stack up you're just walking farther and farther away from where you started to go, you don't even know you're lost until you're so far from your original destination you can't even see it anymore." Wow.

This is a long, substantial book but seems to go by in the blink of an eye.

View all my reviews

And now for some bead work....

Oh, and I do have a little beading eye candy to share. I somehow managed to complete something but I am embarrassed to say that the above caterpillar bracelet was from a kit I purchased in 2014 during my trip to the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. It was a pretty expensive kit too: $54 from Glass Garden Beads. I think it's a nice way to turn the calendar page to April and Spring.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Bit by bit, stitch by stitch

Seems everything I am working on now involves LOTS of time. A couple weeks ago, I wrote about the Autumnal Equinox design that I hope to finish by this fall. Goodness, it is a real marathon!

While I am working on that, I decided to try to finish one of the many kits in my stash. So I started this kit by Ann Benson, owner of Beads East. Ann had a moving business sale a couple years ago and I bought many kits that have been sitting dejectedly in my stash box.

And wouldn't you know, this is another BIG project. Here is my progress so far. But I get a little bored with all the back stitch and find myself taking many breaks.

So I thought I would change things up with a little crochet. A good friend is due to be a first-time grandmother in a few months and I wanted to gift her son and daughter-in-law with something hand-made. I am just about finished with this adorable baby blanket but it was pretty time-consuming too! This is a tutorial by one of my favorite crochet designers, Ira Rott. We don't know if the baby is a boy or girl so once we know, I will either add the bow or not.

Josefina and Jeffrey Elephant Blanket by Ira Rott
Now I need to look for something quick and easy.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Two more weeks until Easter bunny visits

I've been crocheting a bit more than beading these days, inspired by new granddaughter, Jane. I couldn't resist this pattern by IraRott Designs.

Ira Rott Bunny Rabbit Hat

And here's how the hat looks on sweet Jane.

She's a pretty cute little bunny!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Beads and recipes: Sweet and Sour Beans and Hamburger Soup

How's that for a random title? I mostly write about bead projects but occasionally take time out for other topics. Today I decided to write about a journey I have undertaken with my recent retirement from corporate life. First, let me just say I hate the word retirement but I certainly am enjoying the act. It's such an indulgence to face an entire day, knowing I can mold it anyway I want. And, like most freshly-retired folks, I have a list about a mile long of those tasks I promised I would do once I had more time to myself.

One of those activities is to build a family cookbook with my mother's recipes as the centerpiece but interspersed with family stories. Mom was a great cook. By my calculations, she cooked over 10,000 dinners, usually served at 5:00 pm sharp when up to eight of us would be starving, home after school and sports or band practice and before we started our evening routines of homework, music lessons and Dad grading papers. I didn’t think it was a big deal then but now it boggles my mind compared to my bouts of cooking, which are sporadic at best.

Mom was Martha before there was Martha (Stewart). She was always game to try something new and always had an appreciative audience. We all had large appetites and nary a picky eater in the group. The only disappointment for Mom must have been that it took us about 10 minutes to inhale dinner and jump up to whatever came next on our agenda that night, except for me as I was the clean-up assistant - a chore I enjoyed as it allowed me to munch on the rare leftovers, listen to music while doing the dishes and make a cup of instant coffee for Dad, served to him with a spoon in his thick white mug.

Me and sister Greta in the kitchen with our Mom
When my Mom passed away, my sister rescued two recipe boxes just bursting at the seams. We decided that compiling and publishing these recipes would be a great way to preserve and share our legacy with the many offspring, nieces and nephews who never had a chance to know our Mom. So I volunteered to do the heavy lifting and boy is it ever heavy. There are literally hundreds of recipes to review, scan, and catalogue. Then I want to add snippets of family history, which is a whole other project of researching family facts and collecting and organizing photos. I initially thought the project might take me a year but I think I need to at least double that estimate.

Mom's Recipe Jumble
So while I am working, I thought it would be fun to share a few excerpts on my blog along with a link to recipes. To start, I am sharing two recipes that made me smile. The first one is for Sweet and Sour Beans and it made me smile because it calls for one can of odd beans, among other things. Now what in the heck does that mean? I am guessing it is any type of bean your heart may desire. Unlike most of my Mom's recipes which were clipped from a newspaper or magazine or written on a recipe card, this one was written on an envelope that must have been laying by the phone when she was talking to whoever provided it.

Recipe: Sweet and Sour Beans

The second recipe, Hamburger Soup, makes me smile because there are absolutely no quantities listed for any of the ingredients. This more than anything reminds me of Mom for whom recipes were more of a suggestion and road map to which she would add spices, often chaotically along the way, until they tasted just the way she wanted.

Recipe: Hamburger Soup

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Lukewarm on beading mags, but glad there's YouTube

I used to subscribe to just about every beading magazine and, when they went electronic, I'd buy the electronic and paper versions. But lately I have been a bit disappointed with the designs and haven't found much to motivate me to renew my subscriptions. There are so many new bead types and shapes, I never seem to have everything on the materials list and I'm really trying to use my stash before making new purchases.

Anyone else out there experience that? I find I get more inspiration from YouTube tutorials than from the beading mags, and my favorite "Tuber" bead artist is Stephanie from Bronzepony Beaded Jewelry. She consistently uploads new content which is a nice blend of easy-to-intermediate. Her instructions are excellent as is her pace of instruction. And her designs are wearable and stylish.

Link to BronzePony Beaded Jewelry YouTube Channel

I looked back over my old blog posts and found quite a few of Stephanie's designs. The caption under each photo takes you directly to the YouTube tutorial for that item.

Bronzepony Design: Interlace Pods Earrings

Bronzepony Design: Hematite Heaven Ring

Bronzepony Design: Summer Daze Earrings

Bronzepony Design: Summer Daze Necklace

Bronzepony Design: Tapestry Ring

Friday, February 2, 2018

When all else fails, make earrings!

I'm finally back to beading on a more regular schedule. I wanted to sink my needles into a challenging project and dug out this yummy design by LeAnn Boehman, saved from the August 2015 Bead & Button. And yes, this project just screams for fall weather and I am hoping I will be able to finish it in time for this year's autumnal equinox.

Autumnal Equinox Design by LeAnn Boehman, August 2015 Bead and Button

I had finished the below pendant almost two years ago, with the thought of using it for this design instead of the cabochon shown above. And, as (bad) luck would have it, I just couldn't find it in my trove. At least I took a picture of it, so I know it exists somewhere!

Long-lost earthstone cab

I dug in my cabochon stash and found this round stone that probably better serves the design. I do love the leafy fringe treatment. Now, I just need to keep track of it while I finish the neck strap.

And I wasn't joking when I said I was endeavoring to finish this by 2018 fall! While quite beautiful, the leafy fringe on the neck strap is making me crazy! The entire 10-inch strap is embellished with three leaves in between each core bead of the foundation spiral rope. Below are a little over two inches which took me about a month to complete.

With the postponed gratification of this work-in-progress, I turn to my old stand-by to get a feeling of accomplishment: EARRINGS! Thanks to AmyBeads who shared the below design for Orb Earrings, by Kelly from Off the Beaded Path. I liked this design so much that I made it in silver:

Orb Earrings: Design by Kelly from Off the Beaded Path

Then I made it in bronze:

And then I thought it would be a really pretty ring, so I made one of those:

I made a couple adjustments to the earring design for a slightly wider ring band and used 4mm bi-cones instead of 3mm.

Now I am ready to resume work of the never-ending Autumnal Equinox neck strap!

© Cave Creek Beads