Sunday, March 30, 2014

Bird admiration

Despite the fact that it is snowing outside right now, earlier today I was blessed with a sighting that some would say is an indication of spring.  And what a beauty he was.  He visited our tumble weed strewn, patchy grass mess of a back yard for about fifteen minutes this morning.  Just stopped by for a chat with a chickadee and a breakfast of seeds.  Hope he comes again.  Perhaps a few yellow-headed blackbirds and meadowlarks will drop in soon as well.

mountain bluebird in the yard at 8:00 am
snow in the yard at 5:30 pm - 'tis spring in Montana!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Beads & a bit of fabric

Last weekend I attended a bead show and came home with a bag of beauties.  (Yes, more Czech glass!)  More money was spent than budgeted, but that is sometimes the case with beads.  Surely, I am not the only one with  

In southwestern Montana, we don't have huge bead shows like those in Tucson and Philadelphia.  Nor would you find nationally known artists who sell their wares or teach classes at these smaller-scale shows.  Still, many of us manage to find what we need and want.  Luckily I also have access to an excellent bead shop and a few craft stores in the town over from where I call home.  So in the end, I can't really complain about smaller venues and fewer shops.  Besides, limited options can sometimes help spur creativity, right?                

Here are some photos of what ended up in my basket.  Clearly the sunny day and my longing for spring inspired a lot of what I chose:
The green hues
Love the colors of the tulip beads
Always on the lookout for blue beads
A bouquet of spring-colored lucite flowers

Magnesite briolettes
Some quilter's squares from JoAnn Fabrics

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A quiet Sunday morning

I woke up rather early this morning and decided to look for something funny or entertaining to watch on YouTube.  While I typically find myself giggling over talking dogs and sreaming goats or wishing I had the moves to join a dance flash mob, today I found something that brought real joy on a hushed Sunday morning.  Years ago, I was lucky to attend a live performance that included Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" at a sublime venue known as SPAC in Saratoga Springs, NY.  This video brought back the feeling of serenity one can experience while listening to beautiful music and voices.  I especially like the looks of contentment and delight both the musicians and the audience have on their faces during the performance.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Holy Bead Soup, Batman!

Today I would like to reveal the very handsome lot of beads I recently received from my Bead Soup Blog Party partner, Kitty Bozzini.  She was incredibly generous with what she sent, and many bead lovers / jewelry makers likely already know her as both a talented lampwork artist and owner of the on-line shop Stinky Dog Beads.  Trust me, her shop is well worth checking out - especially if one likes artisan beads and Czech glass.  I feel I am quite the lucky person to have been matched with Kitty for this  blog hop.  (Thank you very, very much Lori Anderson!)   And not just because she sent me gorgeous stuff but because in reading her emails I can tell she is, foremost, a lovely person.  I apologize for the somewhat blurry and dark photos.  I truly need to invest in a new camera and soon.

The package

Very sweet card

The goodies!
Czech glass chain & coppery brassy seed beads
Silk Shibori ribbon & woolywire
Lampwork flower button & rondelle by Kitty, Czech glass, clay discs
Loads of Czech glass!
Lampwork owl, spacers and hollow spikes by Unicorne glass beads, brass chain, gemstone chain
Now do you see why I believe I am very lucky?  I have a kabillion ideas already.  Okay....maybe more like ten or so.  However, with this much variety and this many stunning options, I am certain many more designs will come to mind in the upcoming weeks.  Thank you again, Kitty!  It is time to start creating.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Today is better known in my family as my sister's birthday.  Over the years, she has been the recipient of gifts and food items in any and all shades of green.  Green cake, green beer, green earrings, green clothes, green household decorations.  I did try to avoid it this year but ended up making her an ornament made from blue and green beads strung on memory wire.  As they say, old habits die hard. 
Of course today is also St. Patrick's Day.  A time to celebrate the patron saint of Ireland and perhaps all things Irish in general.  I recently learned that parades in honor of St. Patrick started in America - New York City, to be specific.  That he was actually born in Britain but spent a good many years of his life as a missionary in Ireland.  He has been credited with bringing Christianity to the Emerald Isle.  It has become custom to celebrate this day in honor of him (and shamrocks and green duds and green drinks) as it marks the day of his death.  See what one can learn from reading a book about Irish history and folk tales?  I know.  I'm a bit of a nerd. 

Tim and I took a trip to Ireland and Northern Ireland this past November.  This had been a dream of mine since I was a kid.  We spent two weeks seeing as much as possible, circling the island counter-clockwise, starting and ending in Dublin.  It would be difficult to pick a favorite city or place we stayed or spot along the journey, but there definitely are places I hope to revisit and others yet to see.  There is more gorgeous scenery to take in.  More friendly, generous and lovely people to meet.   More history and lore to learn.  More pints to be ordered.  More Irish scones and fish & chips to be eaten!  Everything about Ireland and N. Ireland delighted us - from the neolithic sites and the coastal drives to the charming villages and the cozy pubs.  Hopefully we will find our way back to explore again.  I found it to be quite a magical place.   Even if we didn't see any fairies, banshees or leprechauns.
Entrance to Newgrange

The Dark Hedges
Coastal Northern Ireland
Sign outside a pub in Kinsale
Cliffs of Moher
Columns at Giant's Causeway

Creek alongside the road

Sign above a pub in Cork

Tom Crean's Inn - Antarctic memorabilia & history in Annascaul

Celtic cross on The Dingle Peninsula

A bit wet and windblown yet quite happy in Connemara National Park

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Mr. Selfridge is my best-loved site for watching television.  Owning a TV that is at least fifteen years old, heavy as a boulder and sans cable or satellite compels me to view programs on-line.  While Downton Abbey and Sherlock Holmes are tried and true favorites (who doesn't love both Maggie Smith and Benedict Cumberbatch?), I am currently enjoying the first season of Mr. Selfridge.  It's being aired again prior to the debut of season two for those of you interested.  Many of the actors are from varied shows and movies I have seen over the years, and Jeremy Piven is pretty terrific as Harry Selfridge. 

While watching episode 2, I was reminded of a department store I visited in Wellington, New Zealand in December 2011.   It is a beautiful store that has been around since the 1860s.  I came upon a display of frilly, girly, holy cow! pink hats in the ladies section and asked to take a photo of it.  Perhaps the women's accessories counters in Selfridges have looked something like this in real life.

Kirkcaldie & Stains Department Store

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Hooray For a Sunny Day

I know many parts of the country have been experiencing quite a snowy winter.  Montana is certainly seeing its fair share of the white stuff, I assure you.  A lot has melted in the last few days, but I feel I've shoveled more in the past five weeks than in several winters put together.  My new neighbor across the street has been kind enough to plow my driveway and my sidewalk on more than one occasion because that's just the kind of guy he is.  I wish I could tell you that this has prevented me from whining about all of the snow.  Alas, it has not. 

I have always loved winter.  As a kid I would play outside for hours, bumbling around in my hand-me-down snowmobile suit, sledding down whatever small hill I could find in our yard.  I love to cross-country ski.  I spent two winters at the Geographic South Pole, for heaven's sake.  It's safe to say I am a fan of cold weather and snow.  But something about this winter has been sort of looming over me.  I figured out today what that is.  It has been a rather grey season.  In my experience, winters in MT are usually quite sunny.  When it's 10 degrees outside and the sun is shining, I feel comfortable without a hat and wearing only a few layers.  Back east where I grew up, 10 degrees is painful.  Damp to the bone kind of cold.  Today the tide has turned.  It is sunny and warm.  Blue skies and some clouds here and there, but mostly sunny.  I feel like singing.  I even found myself humming in the grocery store this morning after a marvelous cup of tea and a walk.  There is a short trail not far from my home that borders a marshy area with a few small ponds.  In past jaunts I've seen a fox, muskrats, mule deer, magpies, rabbits, ravens, Canada geese, all manner of songbirds and in the hotter months, snakes.  Today it was just me and the honking geese, but it was a lovely walk all the same. 

Willow-edged marsh and snow-covered mountains

Also this morning, I stopped by one of the local thrift shops and came home with a piece of china and some colorful lace.  These shops can be dangerous for me - as are garage sales.  And flea markets.  And antique shops.  You get the idea.  I shop in places like this all over the country and in other countries, for that matter.  A good bargain for something I will use and savor is hard to pass up although the joy is often solely in the looking.  A good time can be had without making a single purchase.  Does that make me weird?  Hope not.  

Ooh...what to do with these pretties?

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Happy Anniversary Yellowstone!

On March 1st, 1872, with the signing of a bill by President Ulysses S. Grant, Yellowstone was made the world's first national park.  Yesterday was the anniversary of this remarkable day.  I agree with Ken Burns who pointed out in his magnificent PBS series, The National Parks, the creation of these parks was quite possibly America's best idea.  I am an enthusiastic national park fan, junkie, supporter, lover, explorer - whatever noun one can use to describe my adoration for these amazing places of natural wonder.  I called Yellowstone home for almost ten years, I once worked in Zion for a scant five weeks, and I have visited many other national parks over the years.  Yellowstone is undoubtedly my favorite, and there are many I have yet to visit.

The Grand Canyon of The Yellowstone - Lower Falls

I drove out to Montana in July of 1999 for my first summer in the park.  The farthest west I had been before then?  Buffalo, New York.  No kidding.  I took the advice of friends and family ("don't pick up hitchhikers" and "don't let your gas tank get below half full") and set out to cross the country mostly unsure of what I was doing and why.  I had lost my job due to a business closing, and on a whim went to meet a recruiter hiring for Yellowstone at a local hotel conference room.  Up until the day before I left, I wasn't all together sure it was the right decision to go thousands of miles away for a seasonal job in a place unfamiliar to me or anyone I knew.  Nevertheless, I decided to go.  Along the way I met kind people and saw more farmland than I ever guessed existed.  I listened to way too much country music and hog reports because in some states that was all I could get.  I swelled with pride at how beautiful America is, how diverse and huge.  I imagined what Montana and Wyoming would look like, basing it on old westerns and Robert Redford's movie A River Runs Through It.  My friend Andy and I saw that movie years before and left the theater in awe.  He summed it up best when he said, "I don't quite know yet why that movie was so wonderful, but I really, really liked it."  I guess it had planted the seed in my mind to one day see Montana.  In fact, I now live in the town where much of that movie was filmed. 

Electric Peak 

The last bit of driving to the north entrance of the park was stunning.  Huge mountains on either side of the highway, cattle ranches spread throughout the valley, the Yellowstone River winding its way north.  When I got into the park and eventually drove south to the Old Faithful area which was to be my home for the next several months, I was surely driving like those tourists who gawk at everything and seem incapable of maintaining a regular speed.  I had never seen a place so beautiful and wild.  And that was just the beginning.  

Bison cows and spring calves aka red dogs
Yellowstone changed me.  It changed my life immeasurably.  Living and working in a place with millions of acres to explore, lush with geyser basins, mega fauna, wildflowers, lakes, rivers and wide open expanses of preserved wilderness made me the happiest I had ever been in my life.  I made friends from all over the world.  I saw kids from Singapore who had never seen snow roll around in the white powder, squealing with delight like small children.  I met guests and fellow employees from countries I had never even heard of before.  I saw bubbling mud, boiling hot springs, geysers erupting day and night.  I have seen Old Faithful erupt more times than I can count, sometimes in the moonlight during winter when the water cools enough that it sounds like shattering glass when it comes down to land on the geyser's cone.  I witnessed a golden eagle steal a fish from the talons of a bald eagle while both were in flight.  It then proceeded to eat it in full view of the bird who had just been robbed.  I glimpsed wolves hunt elk, take care of their pups and chase after hungry coyotes approaching their kill.  I viewed cow elk harassed by bulls during the fall and then watched them give birth to calves in the spring, having to soon after encourage their new offspring's first wobbly steps.  I've caught sight of foxes hunting in the snow, porcupines removing bark from the branches of Lodgepole Pines, great grey owls keeping watch over their parcel of forest and river otters hunting in partially frozen waters.  I've spied ravens working in pairs to unzip backpacks of inattentive snowmobilers, pulling out everything from cameras and car keys to full loaves of bread and spare gloves.  I watched enamored as a grizzly sow lay on her back to feed her year old cubs, and I envied the climbing skills of a black bear as she treed her cubs to get away from curious humans.  Once, I even got to view an obstinacy of bison one-by-one try to help a large bull with a broken hind leg to stand.  They tried to raise him with sheer will and the help of their horns, bulls and cows alike, until they realized there was no hope and moved on.  Some of the cows repeatedly stopped and looked back at the suffering animal before finally moving along into the trees to join their herd.  All of these things and many more reasons are why I loved living in Yellowstone.  I will forever be grateful that men like Ferdinand Hayden, Thomas Moran, Nathaniel Pitt Langford, Lt. Gustuvas Doane and many others from those early expeditions became advocates for setting aside the land that is now Yellowstone National Park "For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People."

Lone Star Geyser
If you have never been to Yellowstone or any other national park, I encourage you to seek them out and relish the protected splendor of these places.  Whether you visit one of them or all of them, enjoy knowing that they are set aside for our pleasure and quest for adventure.  Respect the wildlife and the resources please, and embrace nature in its abundance.  It just might change your life too.
DeLacey Creek Trail