Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Day trip to Stockbridge, Mass.

A pretty spot in front of the Red Lion Inn.
One day last week, I took a drive over to Stockbridge, MA to meet with an old friend and her sister.  It had snowed the night before so the ride over was absolutely gorgeous.  I wanted to take some photos along the Taconic Parkway, but that's pretty much impossible since there are no shoulders along the road side and my camera is currently held together with electrical tape - no easy snapping of pics can be done with it, believe me!  It was quite magical as there was little traffic, and the trees were loaded with fresh snow.  I was half expecting Mr. Tumnus to walk out from between the pines as in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

I don't recall having been through that part of Massachusetts before - through the Berkshires, into Great Barrington and north up to Stockbridge which is famous for a Norman Rockwell painting of its Main Street, among other things.  Quintessential New England at its best.  The only thing missing was the white church with a tall steeple in the center of town, but then again it likely exists and I just didn't see enough of the side streets. 

I met my friends at the historic Red Lion Inn which was splendidly decorated for the holidays.  There was a fire going in the lobby where a large Christmas tree was laden with what seemed like hundreds of ornaments.  Very quaint and cozy.  I could have settled in for a hot toddy and called it a day, but I only had the afternoon to catch up.

The festive porch, decorated with kissing balls and lit trees on the roof.

Even on a cold day, this is a lovely spot to take a quick rest.

The Christmas tree in the lobby.

We had lunch at a lovely cafe where we lingered to talk and talk and talk.  My friend, Louise, is amazing.  She is inspiring, funny, loving, warm, hilarious, generous, energetic and largely responsible for some of the best times in my life.  I went to Europe for the first time because she invited me to go.  I worked and lived in Antarctica because she had been there before me and knew all the contacts to get a job.  Even beyond that, she has always been a good friend, tried and true, no matter what.  How lucky I am!

Louise in a phone box in Vienna. 

After our meal, we shopped a bit and then wandered into Williams & Sons Country Store.  It's a general store that is full of nostalgia (old tins and signs, original shelves and fixtures) and has a bit of everything - from soup to nuts, as they say.  What a fun place to meander.  I was happy to see that Swedish fish are still a penny each, just like they were when I was in elementary school and shopped at Kaz's, the mom & pop store I passed on the way to and from school every day.  

Gingerbread house (structurally sound but inedible) in the window at Williams & Sons.
I took a different route home which was a little precarious, but I was rewarded with the sighting of an owl and several deer.  I hope to visit that area of The Codfish State again.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Bead Hoarders Blog Hop!

It's here!  Reveal Day for the Bead Hoarders Blog Hop!

In looking through my um...collection of beads, I realize that my attachment to travel memories is largely why I hoard beads.  They help me recall funny things that happened on a trip or with whom I was traveling.  I am reminded of friendly bead shop owners who took the time to talk about their wares.  I think of friends I visited in their hometowns who recommended a particular shop.  Perhaps, in part, I keep beads to retain a tangible record of my journeys.  Maybe that reads as silly, but then I can be silly.  And sentimental.  Obviously.

Bits and pieces from my bead stash:

The flower pendants in the top photo came from all over the US.  The seven of the same design were bought in MA & MT  from bead shop owners who separately found vintage clay beads from the 70s.  The foil glass beads came from a lovely lady who ran a bead shop from a booth at an antiques shop in Florence, OR.  She was a hoot to talk with.  The lentils were handpicked at shops in Sedona, Arizona and West Yellowstone, MT.  I think the blue ceramic and glass came from a shop in Springdale, UT - Regalo Beads.
I once wore the super chunky magnesite strand as part of a Frida Kahlo costume.  Those gorgeous pendants came from a small bead shop in Pasadena (Farrin O'Connor) as did the jumble of ocean jasper.  The reds and oranges came largely from bead shows in MA and NY.  The Labradorite strands were found at a bead show and online at Fire Mt. Gems.
Vintage Belgian sequins found in Santa Fe; Czech glass (Easter eggs) bought in Christchurch, NZ at a shop that doesn't exist any more due to earthquake damage; pink glass purchased from an estate sale junkie at a flea market - she bought broken old pieces and sold the bits in baggies; sea green ceramic & glass from a bead shop in Eureka, CA (Talisman Beads); those fused glass pendants all came from a tiny store in Venice, Italy.
Borosilicate strands bought in Florence, OR; sheep, dog and kitties by Kaylee Lampwork (aka Vicky Kerr); three strands of large spacers from J. Karnos (Silver Sage Creations) ; on the red / white fabric are glass beads by beginners from bead stores in CA & CO; a small collection from lots of difference places; spacers, long chevron, focals and a spider body all made by Wesley Fleming, an amazing artist who makes glass insects you can read about at wesleyfleming.com (I took a class taught by him in 2009).

Here is what I made:
I designed a necklace with this color scheme, using some of these same beads, months ago.  There are so many color facets to the orange / green / blue stones that they could be paired with almost anything.  The hoarded beads are the stone squares, the amazonite rondelles, the orange seed beads and the small Czech glass rondelles - I've had some of these since the mid-2000s.
For me, there are lots of interesting beads in this memory wire bracelet.  The lampwork beads came from a bead shop in West Yellowstone, MT that closed its doors years ago.  I bought a baggie full of this particular bead - the purple swirls spoke to me!  The glass pearls came from a woman at a flea market - parts of a broken necklace that belonged to her mother.  The large matte purple seed beads were some of the first beads I ever bought back in the late 90s.  Same for the matte yellow tear drops (Saratoga Beads).  Other ingredients have been in my bead boxes for years and years as well.
I actually made this bracelet a few years ago with beads I found at a flea market.  The woman selling them told me they were from pieces she bought at estate sales that were damaged or broken.  She coordinated them by color, packaged them and sold them so they could be made into new jewelry.  This was in 2007.  I made this with the intent to sell it, but I think it might be too girly for many. 

So after work today, I came home and took more photos of this necklace.  These are a bit brighter than those in the original collage I posted this morning.  The enamel pendant is vintage from the 70s.  I found it at Garden of Beadin' in Missoula, MT at the end of a six-week road trip in 2008.  The other components I've collected over the years.  The tiny plastic flower above the pendant is from a 1960s necklace I found in tatters at a garage sale.  I ended up getting it for free.  Score!

 I had another necklace designed for this blog hop, but I didn't find time to actually put it together.  Another day....

Click here to get to host Lori Anderson's blog.  See what she made and find the list of links for all participants.  Have a great time looking at all of the creativity.  I will be taking lots of time to visit and leave comments.  Hope you will too.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

How did the holidays get here so quickly?

I used to be one of those people who started buying Christmas gifts in July.  If I saw something I thought one of my sisters would enjoy or an item that would be perfect for a friend, I would buy it and squirrel it away for Christmas.  Those times have passed, it would seem, because I can't even wrap my head around the fact that we're in the month of December!  Good gravy.

I'm missing Vienna a lot these days since that is where we were living this time last year.  It's a lovely city, but it becomes even more magical when the Christmas markets open.  There are many, many, many of them, and some people travel to European cities this time of year just to enjoy the food and shopping at these markets.  I think we may have gone to every one in the metro area of the city.  Some are focused mostly on handmade arts and crafts, others offer a bit more of the touristy things along with traditional foods and trinkets, others have loads of handmade items from nearby countries like Italy and Hungary, and others have tremendous light displays on top of all you can buy and eat.  They can be a lot of fun (mulled wine and ginormous pretzels help with that), and I especially liked seeing the artisan made items.  We bought some ceramic ornaments, Polish pottery, porcelain pendants and glass balls but ogled a whole lot more, believe me.  We visited some of them multiple times over the course of several weeks.  Here are some photos of the booths of beautiful ornaments:


I'm also missing my favorite Austrian family who welcomed me into their home for Christmas.  They actually had lit candles on their tree!  And sparklers too!  And, as always, my friend Barbara and her husband, Janos, made a feast of amazing food.  I hope we get to celebrate together again one day.

This coming Saturday, I will be participating in my second jewelry blog hop.  The objective is to go through my stash of beads, look for those special beads I've been unwilling to let go of for whatever reason (i.e. hoarding) and use them to make some jewelry.  Tim has often said to me that I need to stop collecting and start making.  In that vain, I will be creating this week, and I will post about it on Saturday, December 6th.  Please stop by to take a look.  There are around 100 other participants signed up for this hop.  I'm excited to see what everyone else has been holding on to and what they've done with those items. 

Friday, November 28, 2014


Have you ever found yourself elbows deep in conversation with a complete stranger just seconds after meeting him or her?  A deep convo about spirituality, ownership of your truth and creativity, the bigger purpose of our lives, how certain landscapes make you feel immediately grounded and at peace?   I had one of those conversations last week at a small craft fair with an artist named Miani Carnevale.  She sells what everyone else would call jewelry.  She, however, refers to them as prayers.  "They call to people.  When they pick one up, they have to have it because it's meant to be theirs.  This isn't jewelry.  It takes me weeks to make these because I put prayers into the process.  Whomever needs them, finds them and has to have them."  Her prayers were made of natural materials, mostly.  Nuts, stones, glass, seeds, etc. strung on Irish linen cord.  Standing in front of her display - rocks, tree branches, feathers, natural fibers all surrounding and supporting the pieces - almost felt like coming upon debris in the desert that had somehow strung itself together to adorn and be worn.  Instant appreciation and a sense of natural connection is what I felt. 

We then talked about living in the west.  She described it as "a place so open and vast that one has to be honest and truthful.  There's just not room for anything else."  I love that.  I understand that.  I know what she says is true.  And boy do I miss those humungous spaces.  Where you drive for hours and are still looking at the same landmark or landscape or mountain range because it's just that open, a huge part of an even larger view.  I felt so relieved and relaxed and calm while talking to her.  I kept thinking that she gets it.  She verbalized what I was trying to say and what I've been feeling ever since we left the west.  I know in my soul that I simply need wide open spaces.  Big sky.  The ability to see for miles and miles and miles.  There is something incredibly freeing to be able to lock your eyes onto a monumental piece of geography in the distance and to move toward it, on a highway, at 70 miles an hour and have it STILL take you a few hours of driving to get close to it.  Or to stand on a mountain with a 360 degree view where you can't hear the sound of anything but wind, you're eye level with soaring raptors riding thermals and you can see changing weather en route that won't actually arrive for an hour or more.

I didn't buy one of her prayers although I was drawn specifically to two of them.  I may take a basket making class with her.  After all of the amazing people I've met on this planet, I'm still overwhelmed when I meet someone with whom I feel a lightening-quick bond.  Even if it lasts for only the length of one conversation, the effect can last for much longer in my thoughts.  I feel people like that have something to teach me.  Perhaps our meeting was meant to remind me of my love for the west and southwest, that my connection to that type of terrain lies deep within me and has nurtured me in the past.  I ought to pay attention to those memories and focus on ways to make new ones.

If you're interested in her art (she paints as well), you can view some pieces along with her bio and artist statement here.

If you'd like to read a quick article about her, you can do so here.
                                    *                   *                   *                 *

We had our first NY winter storm, starting on Wednesday and leaning into Thursday.  We lost power for almost twenty-four hours which hampered our Thanksgiving cooking, but we made do.  So glad we brought our sleeping bags, camp stove & fuel, mess kits and head lamps with us as they all came in handy.  Here are some pics.  Snow just makes everything more beautiful, doesn't it?

Getting ready to make tea with the camp stove while Penny admired the snow.  It might be time to put the clothespins away until spring!

I love how hushed it feels after a fresh snow fall.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Wandering in the yard

We take our kitten for regular walks around our yard.  It seems to amuse folks biking, walking or driving by to see a cat on a leash, but we don't do this for the amusement of the neighborhood.  We do it primarily to give in to her caterwauling.  Spending any longer than say ten seconds in our kitchen encourages her to pace in front of the door that leads outdoors, walk over to her leash and harness to bat at them and even to put her paws on the doorknob, seemingly willing it to turn - all while meowing very, very loudly and repeatedly.  She simply loves to be outside.  This is where she gets to eat grass and sniff around for other creatures that pass through - our neighbor's cats, deer, critters that eat other critters and lots of berries based on their scat.  I swear she almost whispers "thank you" when we scoop her up and carry her inside after these explorations.  Or that could just be my imagination.

The lighting was just right this afternoon that I found myself noticing things I usually take for granted.

Here is a close up of the barn foundation from when this land was a pig farm.  I was thinking of writing down my worries, dreams, thoughts, what-have-you and tucking them in between the rocks like May did in The Secret Life of Bees.

feathery-topped plant stalks that must be nearly 8 or 9 feet tall, winter's leafless trees behind

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Daydreaming about Utah

side canyon in Zion N.P.

sunset in Capitol Reef N.P.
view from the top of the Moki Dugway - talk about wide open spaces!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

New beads and things

A few weekends ago, I went to a bead show in Albany (The Innovative Bead Expo) and found some beauties that simply had to come home with me.  Some gorgeous findings, dainty & colorful enameled pieces, and a gaggle of carefully chosen lampwork beads are now amongst my stash.  I keep looking at them and sketching designs in my mind  The truth will be in the pudding, as they say, when I actually use them to make some jewelry.  

I met some really lovely women at this bead show, artists and vendors alike, who were quite generous with their time and their energy.  It is so worthwhile to arrive early enough where truly engaging with the artists and purveyors is an option.  This is when I learn things, I notice trends, I can make a quick turn around the space in order to focus on who has the best stuff.  And it's also when I often get to chat about what I'm admiring.  It certainly can influence what I end up taking home and what I then create.  It can be an opportunity to find out what else that particular artist is up to.  Or it can be that dorky fan moment.  You know, when you actually get to meet someone whose work you've seen in magazines or on a blog.  When they are right there in front of you so you may tell them how amazing and talented they are.  I'm all about telling people how wonderful they are!  Why not?  Doesn't everyone want to hear praise?

These came from Kabela Design.  LOVED this booth.  I wanted to look at each and every piece Beth had to offer.  Check out her website: www.KabelaDesign.com.  You won't be disappointed, and she is authentically excited about her products.  I enjoyed meeting her.
These lovelies (and a few other sets) were found at Anne Lichtenstein's booth - Gardanne.  Her work is gorgeous, colorful and...precious is the word that comes to mind.  And she is lovely - kind,friendly and happy that I recognized her name from bead blogs and published designs.  I can't wait to turn these into something special.

These are all from pjBeads and were made by Patricia Dugmore (pjbeads.com).  She had bowls and bowls and bowls of beads to look through.  I could have been there all day, but she was busy and I had a spending limit.  The glass beads below came from her booth as well.  We talked about color combos and collecting beads.  She was fun.

Owlets.  Sweet little owlets.
These immediately made me think of Van Gogh's painting of blossoming almond trees.

This same weekend, I also got to spend some time with my family.  We needed to make plans for the upcoming holidays, and we just wanted to hang out.  There's nothing like reading the Sunday paper and perusing the sale fliers while eating breakfast and shooting the breeze with them.  Since my move back east, we haven't spent as much time together as we might like as we've all got busy lives and our own pursuits going on.  But being less than two hours away by car is a lot easier than being on opposite sides of the continent.  Next weekend, we'll get together again to celebrate some birthdays.  That should be fun.

Here is a necklace I made some time ago.  I had been thinking of changing out the stone donut, but I may keep it as is after all. There are so many fun beads in this piece - glass from Africa, wood, vintage glass, porcelain, Czech glass, seed beads, stone discs, faceted agate, etc.  I don't recall where I found that large chunk of turquoise used as the focal, but I've carried it in my pocket as a talisman of sorts a time or two.  I tend to do that with smooth stones.  I've been toting a thin disc of greenstone from a beach in Hokitika for a few years now.  It is a reminder of a country I love to visit and my connection to nature.


Saturday, November 8, 2014

"This Train Is Bound For Glory"

If this song doesn't get your toes tapping....well, then you're just not listening!  Or maybe you need to turn the volume up a bit.  This YouTube video always, always, always puts me in a good mood.  Without fail.  Makes me yearn to play an instrument.  If only I'd stuck with violin lessons in the third grade.  Sheesh.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Almost nothing beats a good tune

Been thinking lately about our trip to Ireland last November.  Which makes me think of this song.  And this pub in Dingle, a town we both quite liked.  Nice beach nearby where we met a friendly dog.  A grocery store that sold fresh Irish scones in the morning.  A B&B owner who disliked Tom Cruise and loved to chit chat about everything and anything.  A drive around the peninsula with stunning views and old churches.  I look forward to visiting Ireland again one day.  Lots left to see and explore.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


sunrise on Saturday morning

I'm pretty sure she was thinking about hopping the fence and knocking me down

I'll never get tired of the scenery in New Zealand

sheep beads that came all the way from Scotland

part of the facade on the opera house in Prague

plants poking above the water on the Hudson
I imagined men dressed as penguins singing like the Blues Brothers.  "I'm a soul man..."
One can never have too many monster finger puppets!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Exploring a bit more of New York

the river, fall colors and the Catskills beyond

In the Mid-Hudson area of New York, people often refer to a place as being on "this side" or "that side" of the river, referring, of course, to the Hudson.  Where we call home is relatively close to Connecticut.  Close to Hyde Park where Eleanor and Franklin Delano Roosevelt called home.  In an area that has widespread ties to the Revolutionary War.  There are plenty of large opulent homes that belonged to famous artists, politicians, people of historic significance or extremely wealthy families such as the Astors and the Vanderbilts.  This area in general is full of artists, tantalizing restaurants, people opening up businesses in tiny towns in an effort to revitalize a way of life many haven't seen in half a century, colleges and universities, boutique shops and farmers who are interested in growing food for locals and restaurants alike who want to eat regionally.  In other words, there is a lot to see and do and get involved in.
On the other side of the Hudson, there are the Catskill Mountains, the farm where Woodstock happened, lots of small towns and villages - many of them with downtowns that resemble sepia-toned photographs from an era gone by, communities focused on art, and ever more farmland.  I took a drive this past Monday from Kingston to Catskill too see what's what over there.  Along the way I stopped for a walk to an old lighthouse near Saugerties which is now cared for by a non-profit group.  The upstairs rooms have been turned into a B&B.  Such a pretty building that made me think of England.  

on the path to the lighthouse

the Saugerties Lighthouse

Further north, I popped into Leeds to check out some real estate I found on-line (yes, I peruse just for the heck of it, quite often).  It is an old-timey looking store with what looks like original shelving plus an apartment above.  You may check out the listing here.  Then I crossed over the Rip Van Winkle Bridge and headed south, stopping in tiny Germantown to see the grocery store and hardware store that have opened in recent years.  I didn't spend much time in the grocery store (which is more than a simple market) although the lunch time crowd's plates looked and smelled delicious.  I did, however, spend some time in the hardware store.  I felt as though I had stepped back in time, into something resembling a Little House on the Prairie episode.  Thankfully, neither Nellie or Harriet were inside!  Nope.  A very friendly pair of sibling cats named Hansel & Gretel were cuddled on a counter.  They and the woman who runs the shop, Denise, made for a nice visit.  I absolutely love that there are people out there who take the risk of opening stores that are remote and small yet truly have virtually all you need, all in an effort to breath life back into rural communities.  To live and shop locally.  To get to know your neighbors.  I also love that people go out of their way to patronize stores like this.   

I hope to spend more time diving into all this part of the world has to offer.  Since our path may very well lead us elsewhere once Tim is finished with his studies, taking drives and making stops along the way is likely how I'll spend some of my days off as long as the weather allows.  
a twisted tree that made a nice silhouette

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Elusive creativity

Everyone's heard of writer's block or painters who are without inspiration to put brush to canvas for a while.  Sometimes athletes have slumps.  Occasionally we all get stuck in a rut.  Personally, I've been without creative inspiration for weeks and weeks.  Granted, we moved across the country and started a new life in a new place with new roles.  So I should probably give myself a break already, but the thing is this: I really like making things.  I like thinking about making things.  I like buying the things I need to make things.  I like looking at things that other people make - in galleries, on the internet, in magazines, on blogs, etc.  So why has my vision and imagination been eluding me?  

Without intensive psychotherapy, perhaps I will just chalk this up to being distracted with every day life.  And that is okay.  It happens.  And I can already feel myself being pulled back in the direction of creating.  A few nights ago I assembled a collage and framed it.  I don't love it.  I think I could have done it better.  But it's a step.  I taped and tacked things to the walls in my crafty, creative workspace.  I fished out some cool business cards from artists whose work I either own or really admire and put them in a bowl on my desk.  I hung a print on a wall that Tim bought over the summer as well as a photograph of my grandparents my mother gave to me.  So, it's coming back in some ways. 

owl patches that live on my wall

a close up print of my favorite Boticelli painting, handmade paper, a page from an art catalog

I do believe the intense fall colors and the way light filters over the landscape in the early evenings is helping.  Cooler weather and less hours of sunshine in the day encourage nesting amongst my bead stash and art supplies as well.  
the view across the Hudson

Thursday, October 2, 2014

It's in the details

Be Bright And Happy For Time Passes Away That With Grief And Sorrow Ye Can Not Delay