Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Feliz Año Nuevo!

I'm packing for Mexico and resolving never to take a trip so close to a move again. I feel like I can't find anything!! Everything I want to pack seems to have gone AWOL and I'm frantically scrambling through various boxes trying to find whatever it is (beading supplies, US money - which I put in a very safe place just before the move and now have no idea where it might be!!, the charger for my iPod, etc.) So I'm wasting time looking when I should be packing and making a mess when I should be tidying up.

On the plus side, Max is helping me pack:

I think he wants to come with me. :)

In the Jan/Feb 2009 issue of Step by Step Beads magazine, the editor Leslie Rogalski writes that she doesn't make New Year's resolutions. Instead, she makes "resignations", things she is resigned to accept. I hope she doesn't mind if I share a couple of my favourites:

"I will never have enough beads.
I will never have enough time to bead.
I will sacrifice sleep so I can keep beading.
My cat deserves credit for some my designs."

Happy New Year everyone. May 2009 be a year of health and happiness for us all.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Beading on the Go

I'm packing for Mexico and figuring out what beading supplies I need to take with me.

I know I need pliers, because Kate advised us to bring our own (note to self - don't pack them in the carry on bag, they won't make it past the x-ray machine - no tools of any kind are allowed, I've been told.) Even if I am taking a class where the tools are provided, I usually end up bring one or two of my own - especially the bright yellow handled pair you can see in the bottom left of the photo below. It has a smaller head than a regular pair of square nosed pliers and it is especially good for wrapping wire. (For more info on what tools you need, see the Beadfx blog posting of today's date, in which Dwyn provides a very good summary of the basics - Her hint about not buying tools with the same coloured handles is an especially good one, although as you can see from the photo, it's too late for me to make use of this suggestion!)

I'm also taking a beading mat and tray. Kate suggested we bring a portable work surface so we can move from sitting by the pool to indoors to outside under an umbrella to the beach, etc. - did I mention it's not too late to sign up and join us? :) My friend Colleen (who is also going on this trip) told me a few months ago that she uses baking/cookie sheets with a bead mat on top as a work surface and I have found this to be an excellent idea. It's lap size and easy to move, plus if you get your baking sheets at the dollar store, it's not a very expansive investment at all. I usually have more than one sheet on the go at a time, as usually it's easier to start a new one than it is to clean up a work-in-progress and start over. Plus my cousin Catherine gave me a jumbo sized cookie sheet that was too big for her oven but is really handy for projects that need a larger workspace and sometimes I turn it over and use it to cover up my projects to keep the cats from sleeping on or eating what I am working on.

The hard part about packing bead stuff for this trip is deciding what miscellaneous beads and components to take with me. Kate is bringing us each a bountiful stash of goodies to work with but she also suggested we might want to bring some of our favourite beads, or something we've been meaning to make something out of. I have several vials of seed beads that have been waiting to be put to good use but how will I decide on which few to take with me? Hopefully the beads I leave behind won't be too jealous of those I take. :)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Time Flies

Phew, that weekend went by fast! Hard to believe Christmas is over already and we're winding down yet another year. I'm home from Calgary, unpacking my suitcase full of the bulky sweaters and wool pants that I had taken to keep me warm in the minus 20 degree weather they were having out there. As soon as it is empty, I will start filling it with lightweight summer clothes in preparation for 9 days in plus 30 degree weather.

On New Year's Day, my friend Colleen and I are flying to Puerto Vallarta to join Kate McKinnon for a jewellery class. It seems like just yesterday I was in southern France with Kate, taking a week long PMC class. The sunflowers were in bloom, the sun was shining and France was ours to explore.

But that was the end of July and (zoom) now it's the end of December and I'm getting ready to explore Puerto Vallarta. Can't wait!

We'll be staying at a place called Hacienda Mosaico, beading by the pool, sipping margaritas. Sounds like there will be a little bit of PMC involved but mostly we'll be putting components together that Kate has gathered up for us and making things of our own to add to the mix. I don't know exactly what that will involve and I don't really care, because it will be warm, we'll be having fun making jewellery - as a way of starting off a new year, it sounds pretty good to me!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

Weather permitting, I am off to Calgary tomorrow for the next four days to celebrate Christmas with most of my immediate family. Unfortunately, one of my brothers and his kids won't be able to make it but at least we'll all be in the same province, if not together - that's got to count for something. But in case I don't have access to a computer, I just wanted to wish my loyal readers and dear friends a very Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah or Festivus or Winter Solstice or whatever it is you might celebrate at this time of year. I shall commence musing again next week (just in time to tell you all about my preparations for Mexico!) Merry merry, everyone.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Looking for a last minute gift?

Wondering what to get for that special someone who already has everything they need? Why not give a caribou? That's what my boss gave me. To be more precise, she "symbolically adopted" a caribou in my name through the World Wildlife Foundation - Canada. There are a bunch of different animals to choose from, depending on whether you prefer something from the land, air or sea and if you want small and cuddly or something a little more adventurous (grizzly bear, anyone?). The gift recipient gets an adoption certificate and a very cute little stuffed animal to show for your donation and the money you pay is used to save endangered species and habitats around the world.

Alternatively, you might want to give a live animal to a needy family somewhere in the world, who either use it to feed themselves or earn income by starting a business with the product(s) generated by the animal. For example, $35 will buy 2 hens and a rooster or a couple of rabbits, for $100 a goat and if you're feeling really generous, you can get a dairy cow for $600 or fill an entire stable for $1,200. Check out World Vision's website for more details:
Sure, there are still going to be those who will tell you they'd rather have a present for themselves and they might even offer to make it easier for you by offering to just take the cash, but just think of the life-changing possibilites you might bring about by saving a whale or giving a family an alpaca instead! Imagine...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Finally Found the Toaster Oven!

It has taken me three weeks since the move but I finally found the toaster oven. You wouldn't think it would be that hard to find, especially since it was carefully packed in its original box, which included a picture on the outside guessed it...a toaster oven! But somehow, it got piled at the bottom and behind of a bunch of boxes in the living room of all places and it has taken me until now to clear out the boxes in front and on top of it. How this particular box ended up in the living room instead of the kitchen is a mystery but it happens.

In the meantime, I've been making due with the stove top and the microwave to do my cooking but I'm glad to have the toaster oven installed where it belongs. Not that I couldn't use the regular oven if I needed to but it's brand, spanking new and you just know the first time I use it, something is going to drip on to the bottom and turn black and remain there for several months until I get around to cleaning it out. So I think for now, I'll only use the little toaster oven as needed and the oven can remain sparkling clean for just a little while longer.

Today, I also found the lint brush to clean off my clothes, which otherwise look like the cats have been sleeping on them, even when they haven't, the Harry Potter books I wanted to donate to the Xmas toy drive and the glue gun to fix the things that are suddenly in pieces following the move, which items I've also been looking for at various times over the past three weeks, so it has been a very productive day!!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Island of Misfit Toys

In the spirit of the classic Rudolph Christmas animated show, I call this bracelet "The Bracelet of Misfit Beads". Some of them are a little bit misshapen, i.e. not quite perfectly round - in fact, some of them look more like a mushroom cap or muffin top than a round bead. One of them is a funny shade of yellow/orange compared to the others and one of the orange beads got a weird stripe in it (probably from overheating the glass). But they all work together very well, I think, and I made some really funky beads by stacking some of them on top of one another or with other beads (an idea I copied from Dwyn Tomlinson).

They're not perfect but I made them myself and they are not unloved. I like to think there are no bad beads, it's just that some of them are not quite ready for prime time. See for yourself:

Friday, December 19, 2008

Home Sweet Home

As much as I enjoy travelling, it's true what Dorothy said, there's no place like home. I like being away but I also enjoy coming home to my own place. I especially like coming home on a day like today, when the weather outside is frightful.

We got sent home at lunchtime from work today due to the snow, for which I am very grateful. It's always nice to get a few extra hours of free time at this time of year. I'll be spending the time unpacking a few more boxes, starting to pack for Christmas in Calgary (hoping the snow stops before my flight next week!) and making just a few more pieces of jewellery.

I am even happier about coming home these days, because my commute to work is only about 10 minutes and even in bad weather, it only takes me 15-20 minutes max. to get home. Where I used to live, it was usually 45 minutes to get home and could be as much as twice that in bad weather or heavy traffic.

Here's what it looks like outside my window right now, complete with a mini snow drift up against the window pane:

Hope everyone is keeping safe out there on the roads and if you can, stay inside, cozy and warm.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Kibble Trail

My cat Max likes to spit out some of the kibble bits when he's eating. I'm not sure why and it definitely seems to be a boy cat thing, as my female cat Carly doesn't seem to do it nearly as much. The result is that after a few days, the cat food dish looks like this:

But this morning, as I sat down at the kitchen table and happened to glance down at the cat food dish, this is what I saw:

A little trail of kibble bits, all perfectly lined up to lead to the water dish. Kinda cool, eh? But how did they do it???

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I've Been Procrastinating

I was procrastinating tonight. I had planned to work on a bracelet that someone had asked me to make for a Christmas present but that was going to be after I went grocery shopping, filled up the tank with gas and had dinner. Of course, after that, I needed to vacuum and the next thing you know, I found myself on a ladder, sorting boxes on shelves in my storage closet. That was the point where I said, okay, enough is enough, now it's just getting silly.

I love making jewellery, so why exactly was I procrastinating? The only thing I can think of is the fact that it was because I HAD to do something. It wasn't a bracelet that I was going to sit down and make up out of thin air, the swirls in my brain and the beads on hand. Well, technically it was,but it was also tied up with, "can you make this for so and so in this general style and these colours for this price?" It was as if my creative muse was resisting the pull of practicality, or perhaps rebelling against the idea of someone else telling it what to do.

The good news is, once I forced myself to sit down at the table with the bead stuff and make a start, it was easy to get going and I enjoyed myself. The bracelet isn't quite finished but all the little dangly bits are made, all I have to do is attach them to the chain, add a clasp and I'm done.

As Scarlett O'Hara would say, "Tomorrow's another day!" I'll finish it then. :)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Butterfly Beads

My friend Sharon of The Psychic Cottage emailed me today that she is interested in jewellery featuring butterflies. Coincidentally (or is it? The woman is a psychic, after all!), I was making a few bracelets yesterday with some butterfly beads I recently found at Walmart, of all places. They come in both gold and silver and while they were quite inexpensive, they don't look too cheap (not that anyone is going to mistake them for the real thing either, of course!)

Here are a couple of pictures of the bracelets I have made using these beads. So far, I've only made them in kids' sizes but it would be easy enough to make them for adults as well. And naturally, I've made matching earrings as well!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Buy 2, Get 2 Free

Just to let you know that Bead Junction has this great sale going on at the moment. They are selling strands of glass beads from India and if you buy 2, you get 2 free! There are lots of colours and styles to choose from and they are only $2.95 a strand for about 40 beads.

The even nicer thing for me is that I was in about a month ago and bought a whole bunch of these strands (27, to be exact!) and they weren't running this sale, but Patricia very kindly offered yesterday to match the ones I had already bought, which was really nice of her. But that's just the kind of people they are at Bead Junction - very nice, generous and helpful!!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Creating Snowflakes

Today I took a class at Bead Junction to learn how to make snowflakes. It was taught by the amazing Maria Rypan of Rypan Designs (, who is well known for her beadweaving and especially her expertise in Ukrainian-style beadwork.

The snowflakes were very easy to make and quite beautiful when finished. Maria sells kits in three different sizes (small, medium and large). They are made using something called Soft Touch, a relatively new product of beading wire (or maybe just new to me!) available from both Beadalon and Soft Flex, that is thin like thread but strong like wire. It's very soft and flexible and you can even tie knots in it! You actually thread it onto a needle, which makes it very easy to work with, especially when making these snowflakes.

The pattern is very simple, a combination of overlapping "v's" with Swarovski crystals on the tips. It also folds up into a neat crown-like shape when not laid flat. (notice how the AB cut of the crystal reflects the light as a colour in the photo? cool!)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas parcels

I've been busy tonight, wrapping gifts and getting parcels ready to mail out. Going to head to the post office first thing tomorrow morning and hopefully avoid any major lineups. Apparently, if I wanted to send a parcel to Australia for the cheapest price, I should have mailed in back in mid-October. Which explains why the Christmas package I sent to Oz at the beginning of December last year didn't arrive until March! Who knew? In this day and age, you'd think the post office would move just a little bit quicker somehow.
I found this cool photo on the Internet:

Luckily, the packages I'm sending tomorrow aren't travelling quite so far. Two medium sized boxes are going to Alberta, one to Calgary (to cut down on what I have to carry on the plane) and one to Jasper, a much smaller package is going to Montreal and one fat little envelope is not leaving Ontario. Next up, writing Xmas cards!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Artistic Wire

My friend Stephanie, a.k.a. The Dixon Chick, crochets beautiful necklaces out of wire and beads. The wire she uses and now sells is known as Artistic Wire. When I was first introduced to this wire, I thought you could only get it in brass, copper or silver colour, which suited me fine. Then I discovered that they also make a really cool royal purple colour and even a metallic turquoise and I was pretty excited. In October, Steph was able to provide me with Christmas green and red shades of wire and I was an even happier camper. What did I know?

Steph now stocks a whole bunch of really cool shades in almost every colour of the rainbow. Here's a picture of just a few of them: golden olive, powder blue, lavender and turquoise.
And just when you think it can't get any cooler, take a look at my new metallic favourites: brown and gunmetal.
The spools are $7 each for 30 yards and Stephanie stocks them in 26 gauge. You can get in touch with her via the link here on my blog page and let her know what colours you desire - there are more than 20 colours available right now and more on the way.
I can't wait to crochet something up with my new wire stash!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Fringe Bracelet

Tonight was Techniques Night at the December meeting of the Toronto Bead Society. Twice a year, in December and April, various members volunteer to teach really cool things to 8 or 10 people per table. It's hard to pick just one class, as there are so many interesting choices. Of course the Dixon Chick offered her hooking services but since I've already learned that particular technique and joined her happy hooker club, I opted for the Fringe Bracelet class instead. Many thanks to Wiesia for sharing her very interesting design.

As you can see from the photo, you make little "branches" of beads off the main strand of beads. It's a pretty simple technique and I'm only partly finished, you make branches or leaves up one side of the beads and down the other - I haven't even finished one side yet so I just spread them out to sit on either side for the photo so you get the idea. The finished product is much more fringier (is that a word?). I think it will be fun to try different colour combinations for this pattern and perhaps even different types of beads, or add a special bead at the end of random leaves. We'll see what I can come up with.

We had a fun bunch of ladies at our table. We were swapping stories and discussing our beading addictions - jokes about "who's your dealer?" (translation: what's your favourite bead store?) and having to work a day job to pay for beads were commonplace. Thanks also to those who brought tasty treats to the meeting - yum!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Imagine - Part 2

I woke up thinking about John Lennon today. I knew all day yesterday there was something significant about the date, Dec 8th, but it wasn't until I woke up today thinking about Lennon that I realized what it was - yesterday was the anniversary of the day Lennon was shot. I can remember exactly where I was when I heard the news. I was in second year university, studying for a Statistics exam that I did not want to write. At the time, I shared a house with 6 other women and one of my roommates came in to tell me that she'd heard Lennon had been shot. It was quite shocking and we were all rather upset. Some wondered if exams would be cancelled as a result because how could we write an exam when we were so upset but of course, they weren't. Still, it was one of those moments that stay with you. My mom says for her generation, they can still remember the same sort of details about when Kennedy was shot. It's the same for me when I remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard Princess Diana had died. People you'd never met who still had such an impact on your life when they were alive that the event of their death leaves a lasting impression on your psyche. It's hard to believe it's been 28 years since that day. It's hard to believe I'm 28 years older and he is frozen in time at 40 years old. I wonder what he might have done with the rest of his life if he had lived, if the Beatles would have ever had a reunion tour like so many older bands are doing now. Man, that would be a concert ticket I would pay a whole lot of money to get! It's a terrible tragedy that he was killed but the older I get, the more grateful I am that his music lives on for all of us to enjoy.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Hardware Store

One thing about creating jewellery - you just never know where you might find your "ingredients". In this case, our inspiration came from the hardware store. At our final Bead Crazy class last week, we made a necklace using different sized washers - bronze, steel and, thanks to Jane1, copper coloured washers. The result was a really funky necklace that I found to be just a little bit heavy but totally cool looking.

Of course, I had to make a pair of matching earrings too!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Accepting our Limitations

I met a woman the other night who admired my wire crochet necklace and when I told her it was quite easy to make, she didn't believe me. She told me she loved the idea of beading but thought she had to "accept her limitations", in that she didn't think she'd ever be able to do it herself. I found that statement to be rather sad.

For one thing, there are many aspects of beading that are so easy to do. The end result can be absolutely beautiful with very little effort. But she sounded like she had already made up her mind that that door was already closed to her, so she wasn't even going to bother knocking on it.

I realize that we all have things that limit us, whether it's time or money or the fact that there is only one George Clooney and chances are, he's not going to be knocking on my door any time soon (although a girl can still dream), but I think if you have the mind set that you can't do something, then you can't. At the very least, you certainly won't enjoy the process of learning to do it.

I was in a class a few months ago and sat beside a woman who got so frustrated when she couldn't catch on to the technique in the first five minutes of the class that she ended up in tears and left, never to return. I felt so bad for her, that her belief in her own abilities was so low that she felt she would never be able to do what the instructor was showing us.

There usually aren't enough hours in the day to do everything you might want to do, although somehow everything that has to get done, does. If we're lucky, there is a tomorrow and the day after that to squeeze it in. Most of us aren't going to win the lottery so there might never be an unlimited excess of funds to do whatever we want, but if we're lucky, there is enough to pay the bills and feed ourselves and hopefully a little left over to do the things we want to do - we might have to work a little longer or harder to save up for them, but hopefully that makes it all the more enjoyable. Perhaps I'll never date George Clooney but I do continue to hold out hope that someday, I might meet some other incredibly fun, talented, smart, funny man who thinks I'm the bees' knees and we will fall madly in love with each other.

In the meantime, I believe we have to keep our minds and our hearts open to the possibilities and accept that the only real limitations we face are those we impose on ourselves.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

I Need To Get Back to Beading

I have several custom orders to complete, which is exciting. Plus I am missing the opportunity to create things and play with the beads. Only one little problem: my beading stuff is neatly packed away and I am surrounded by stacks of other boxes that also need to be unpacked, some of which are on top of or in front of the beading boxes. Plus I don't yet have a flat surface upon which to work, even if I were to be able to get to my beads. So I have to deal with first things first. I am slowly unpacking the boxes that I need to do first and finding new homes for their contents. It's a big job and I'm trying not to be overwhelmed by the scope of the entire project, by focusing on one box at a time. I have to keep reminding myself that I didn't pack all these boxes in one day and I don't have to unpack them in record time either. Luckily, I have no plans for this weekend so I've got two full days to spend sorting stuff ouf. I've already accomplished a lot today, although it might not look like to anyone else.

I'm also glad I don't have to go outside today, as it's cold and windy and snowing just a little bit at the moment. I like being tucked up inside, puttering around. Here's what the view looked like about an hour ago, outside my window:

(believe it or not, this is a colour photo!)

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Outfit Dictated the Style

In the end, I decided to wear the little black dress with a cute little red jacket that I picked up at lunch today and the neckline of the jacket dictated the style of the necklace. I ended up taking off the focal bead, as you couldn't see it too well with the jacket on. Here's a photo of me with my friend Coretta:

Thursday, December 4, 2008

What to Wear?

Our company holiday party is tomorrow night and I don't know what to wear. Clothes wise, that is. Partly because I haven't had time, with the move, to try on anything in my closet to see if it still fits or is suitable for a fancy dinner dance type of event. Whatever I choose, it will be black, but will it be a little black dress or a long skirt? Velvet or silk? Long sleeve or sleeveless? Flats or heels? These are the choices with which I struggle.

The good news is, I know exactly what jewellery I'm wearing, because I've already made it. I call it "Starry Night". It's made from some pretty special beads. The star shaped ones are from my trip to London this past January and the black and white focal bead is from a bead store in Paris (although I can't quite decide if I like the necklace better with or without the focal bead).

Whatever I finally decide, I've been saving these beads for just the right piece and just the right occasion, so I'm excited to finally get a chance to wear them.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Back Online

I am pleased to report that my move went very smoothly, although it took much longer than any of us expected and everyone was quite tired by the end of it. Many thanks to Shane and his crew from A&D Movers for all their help.

So now I am in my new place, surrounded by many boxes. Every time I need something, there is usually a bit of a search to find it. The cats seem to be adjusting quickly to the new space and hopefully have forgotten the trauma of being shut up in a small room for most of moving day, except for the part when they had to ride in the big, noisy, scary car.

An IT friend very kindly offered to come over the day after the move to set up my computer for me. Everything seemed to be in order until he discovered that my mouse no longer worked. Not sure why or how that happened, but luckily it was a cheap and easy fix, and now I'm back online and ready to blog.

Here's a picture of Max checking out the new place from his perch high atop one of the box piles.