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.