Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Bracelet Project Progress Report

A while back (like November of last year??), I did a post or two about some bead embroidery projects I had started because I thought it would be fun to follow the progress from beginning to end. But, I can't find anything other than the original post, so apparently...good idea, but poor follow-through on my part. I know I took some interim scans, though, so I thought I'd make up for my mistakes by posting all the pictures here and doing one big update.

Here's stage 1 of the bracelet:

At this point, I've traced the basic bracelet outline onto the backing. I've glued the three cabochons (yellow quartz and dyed red agate) down and done the peyote bezels. I've also added an additional ring of beaded backstitch around the cab on the left. I later removed this ring because I didn't like the bead color I'd chosen. I re-did it in the same gold beads that I used to do the bezel on that stone. Lastly, you can see where I sketched in my "flame" design in between the stones.

Here's stage 2:

In this photo, you can see that I've completed a ring of beaded backstitch around each of the three bezels and I've begun to bead the flame designs on the left. I'm using three different colors of beads to do the flames - a transparent dark red, a transparent amber with an aurora borealis finish and an ivory gilt bead that basically matches the color of the center cabochon.

Here's stage 3:

All of the flame designs have been completed and I've begun filling in the background on the left hand side of the bracelet with a transparent brown iris bead. If you look carefully across the lower left side, you can faintly see the working thread laying across the picture. I should have pulled it to the back side before I did the scan, but I was in a hurry.

This is my first attempt at a beaded cuff bracelet and I'm glad I designated it as "test/learning" before I started. I'm definitely not satisfied with it, but I've learned a lot in the process and my next piece should really benefit from this experience. If I were going to sell this piece, I'd definitely have a LOT of ripping and re-beading to do.

Since I like to end on a positive note, let's start off with the things I messed up on and go from there.

  1. Over time, as the piece is worked and handled, pencil marks wear off of the backing. I should've re-traced everything with a permanent Sharpie once the design was set.
  2. I like the cabs I chose, but in addition to measuring to space them evenly, I should have wrapped the design around into bracelet shape to check the positioning from there. If I'd done that, I would've realized that the two smaller cabs should be closer to the center cab so that they don't sit too far down the sides of the wearer's wrist.
  3. The flame design was a big risk for me. I NEVER freehand anything and now I know why. It looks nothing like flames - more like autumn leaves so I may have to change the name of the bracelet when it's finished. Also, with three cabs PLUS the flames, the design is too busy. I should've just done the three cabs OR done a larger center cab and then done flames all along the rest of the band. I should've created matching flame patterns, cut them out and used them to trace the design (reversing for the opposite ends) in order to make them match.
  4. I took another risk with the color scheme. These are not colors I usually work with...ever work with actually. I like colors, but I should've simplified and just chosen 3 and stuck with them, but I couldn't make up my mind. Also, sometimes with beads, it's hard to see what a color is going to look like until you've actually beaded a section with it and by the time I've put in that much work, I'm usually unwilling to change.
  5. If I'm going to sketch the design, I need to sketch every section and not just a basic outline and then I need to bead from the center out. Otherwise, I end up with weird little spots where I can't fit a bead or have to turn the bead a different direction to make it fit.
  6. The background bead color isn't right - not enough contrast to the flames.
  7. I haven't pictured the bracelet form and suede backing here because they're impossible to scan, but I learned a lesson there, too. When cutting slits in the backing to help it stretch and fit more tightly onto the form, don't cut so close to the form or the tips of your cuts might show.

And now for the positives:

  1. I'm glad I took risks with this project and wasn't hampered by my usual perfectionist tendencies.
  2. I'm still hoping when it's completely finished that the differences in the flame design will turn out to be a plus - making it look truly original and handcrafted.
  3. The stones are nice and I like the two colors together.
  4. The peyote bezels look nice in the metallics.

Okay, that's it on this one. See, I told you I learned a lot. I do have another test project that I started at the same time as the bracelet, but it's not nearly as far along. Still, I do have two scans of it and will post about that next time.

I'm looking forward to finishing both of these tests so I can apply what i've learned to a future project to improve the results.


Monday, January 30, 2006

Dollar Sale Update & Monday news

Okay, for all my customers who were kind enough to clean out my $1.00 sale items...here's an update. EVERYTHING shipped out on Saturday, 1/28/06! I didn't get a chance to actually send the notices until today, but the orders went out Saturday.

Also, for those who ordered out-of-stock items, your substitutions and/or refunds have all been processed as well.

I hope that everyone will be pleased when their orders arrive and would love to hear feedback so feel free to e-mail me!

In other news, I survived the San Diego Wild Animal Park with Ryan this weekend and we had a lot of fun. He liked the elephants a lot and at the bird show, an owl flew right over his head and I think that impressed him. Still, I'd have to say his favorite part of the day was when we stopped for a break in the food court area and they were playing African (I guess) music and he just danced his little heart out. He loved that. And, since it meant I got to sit quietly for almost an hour, I loved it, too. Plus, he's a great dancer so it was very entertaining to watch.

Oh, we also went to Target this weekend and Ryan got to choose his first "big boy" underwear! He picked Batman, Spiderman and, of course, Spongebob. this morning he went and sat on the potty all by himself! What a terrific kid! I bought some little plastic animals at the park yesterday to dole out as rewards so he got a cheetah this morning for doing such a good job! And, he got to take Batman underwear to daycare today (although I had him wear a pull-up in the car on the way there - I just couldn't face having to clean pee-pee out of the car seat on a Monday morning!)

Well, as you can see, my life is living up to its usual level of excitement, but hey, if you ever have trouble sleeping, you know you can come here and read the blog and you'll be SNNNZZZZZZ'ing in no time :-)

A la prochaine...


Friday, January 27, 2006

Friday Book Review

It’s time for the Friday Book Review! I must be busier than usual lately because this is the second week in a row that I’ve only made it through one book.

I did start a second book, but it was so incredibly bad that I gave up after the first chapter. And let me tell you, this almost NEVER happens. I usually soldier on hoping for improvement somewhere along the way. I can probably count on one hand the books I’ve failed to finish (including the one that I threw across the room in disgust after I realized what the author’s idea of a “proper woman” was).

”Minion: A Vampire Huntress Legend” by L.A. Banks managed to be bad enough to add itself to the list, though. This thing reads like a “Buffy the Vampire” script reject – if Buffy were a black teenage female rapper whose dialogue sounds like what a white person thinks black teenage female rappers must sound like (think K Fed only an octave higher).

And really, can we stop with everyone having the same damn cover art? I’ve already got two books with covers featuring a woman in a halter top and tight pants with a lower back tattoo as viewed from the rear. That’s two too many (although at least the other two manage to have good stories inside of them). Not only is it repetitive, but really, who would be dumb enough to go out and face a potentially life-threatening situation (vampire hunting/fighting) in a HALTER TOP? With string ties no less. Anita Blake would laugh her ass off. Well, the old Anita would. The new Anita is too busy doinking anything that moves. Sigh…I miss the good old days when she kicked ass and didn’t even bother to take names.

Thank goodness for Linnea Sinclair. I’ve already reviewed her two other books, “Finders, Keepers” and “Gabriel’s Ghost” here and both were terrific. She hits another one out of the park with her latest, ”An Accidental Goddess.”

Sinclair creates well-rounded characters, gives them an interesting “universe” to inhabit and provides fast-paced, well-plotted action. The use of humorous details, such as the “space station parrots,” makes the story even more memorable.

“Goddess,” like Sinclair’s other books, has a romance at the core of the plot. Normally, I’m not heavy into the typical “romance” genre. I’ve got two main problems with it. I’m not big on all the “heaving bosoms” and “throbbing” whatevers. I like a little more mystery when it comes to the steamy scenes…I don’t need graphic anatomical detail. Also, the romance element often seems to evolve too quickly and therefore feels contrived.

Sinclair deftly avoids both of these pitfalls by providing just enough amorous detail to get the point across without making the reader feel like an immediate shower is required. She also allows some time for the romance to evolve. Sure, there’s an initial attraction, but the characters are given a chance to get to know each other before they give in to it. Heck, they even go on actual dates. Given what the late Marion Zimmer Bradley used to refer to as “the inelasticity of typeface,” it’s a real accomplishment to pull this off within the scope of a novel.

If I had one teeny, tiny nit to pick, I’d say that I found it surprising how well the heroine, Gillaine, takes her sudden three-hundred-year jump into the future. I would have thought it would be a little more disconcerting considering that everyone she knew is now dead, etc. Even someone who doesn’t have a lot of family or close ties would probably have some sense of loss or grief at having EVERYTHING familiar ripped away so suddenly. There are a few touches on this in the book, but I felt that the impact would have been more significant.

Perhaps her realization of what she’s left behind might be more fully explored in a sequel?

Still, this is very minor, insignificant concern and certainly does nothing to prevent the enjoyment of the book.

Kudos, Ms. Sinclair. Keep up the good work…we need more writers like you!

Okay, everyone, that’s it for this week. Have a great weekend and take care!


Thursday, January 26, 2006

Speaking of fashion...

I keep forgetting to post this picture. My mom was nice enough to take me shoe shopping a couple of weeks ago to cheer me up and I resolved to get something different from what I usually wear. Not only have I not been shoe shopping in over a year (the horror!), but when I have gone, I've had to be very practical in my selections. My budget is usually pretty limited ('scuse me while I shush the voice that's yelling something about buying too many beads), I have to take some back problems into consideration and my foot is right on the borderline between a medium width and a wide width which can make it hard to find the right fit (insert rant about stores never carrying anything except mediums...hello?...some people have narrow or wide feet, you imbeciles!) I have to stick to black or brown, work-appropriate, not too high a heel, comfortable, etc. All of which is pretty obvious code for bland and boring.

Not this time. Moms was footing the bill (gawd, I hate it when horrendous puns just force their way into my writing...I'm helpless against them) and, miracle of miracles, there were a few wide widths available or the mediums were fitting perfectly. I still had to get something fairly conservative for work so I got a great pair of Bandolino black leather slingbacks with a MUCH pointier toe than I usually wear and a much higher heel, too. Yet, surprisingly, they're comfortable (for heels) and wearable.

So, with practicality satisfied, it was time to have some fun. I settled on a great pair of brown, faux-crocodile ankle boots with a seriously pointy toe and a dangerously high heel. I think they'll look great under jeans and I might even be able to spice up a pair of work pants with them...maybe...if I'm in the mood.

Now, the whole time I'm trying on shoes, there's one particular display in front of me that keeps catching my eye. But, it's a summer sandal and I'm not really "there" yet so I force myself to ignore it. Well, I tried that anyway, but the darn things were RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME! And, they were really, really cute and totally impractical and probably will be unwearable after this year and all that stuff I usually say to talk myself out of purchasing something frivolous.

Only, this time, myself didn't listen. I asked the saleslady for a pair in my size, but reasoned that A. they probably wouldn't have my size and B. if they did, the shoes would prove to be really uncomfortable or unwearable or whatever.

I was wrong on both counts. Not only did they fit, but they were comfortable. And soooo damn cute! So, they came home with me, too, and now I'm on the hunt for the perfect denim skirt to wear with them for summer. Here they are:

Wait, did I forget to mention that THEY'RE BEADED?! I got the pair on the right in the bronze/peacock blue color combo (although the gold pair was cute, too).

I can't WAIT for summer!


Silver is a girl's best friend (if she's too poor to afford diamonds)

So, blogger was being funky the other day and wouldn't let me post the last of the pictures from my gift show experience. I thought I'd give it another go and hey, whaddaya know, it worked. Here's some of the Thai silver goodies I bought. I think they're going to look great with some of my new stones and the leather cords I bought.

Of course, I got some regular silver, too. Take a look:

The large circles with the swirls are pendants featuring amethyst, moonstone and peridot. I got an entire bag of the butterfly toggle clasps because I thought they'd be great for spring designs. And the last item is a 2-1 connector that I thought would be interesting as a pendant or for chandelier earrings or lots of other things that I haven't thought of yet. I got an entire bag of these as well, which is a little much, so Jenie and I are going to go halfsies on them.

And, of course, it's time to talk Project Runway again. I really liked the challenge that was posed for last night having to do with "inspiration." What is it? Where does it come from? How does one translate it into a design successfully? All questions that affect my work as a jewelry designer. The contestants were sent out into NYC with cameras and had an hour to take pictures of anything they wanted and then they had to select their favorite picture and design based on that. It was very interesting to see what people came up with.

I liked Andrae's picture of the gutter water and his idea of using it, but I feared the end result. Surprisingly, he did a really beautiful evening gown (it had one piece of trim in an unfortunate spot on the model, but that's a minor thing that could be easily fixed given more time) and I really thought he should have won. Daniel V. (who did win) also had a great picture and I thought he translated his inspiration into a design very well...you could really tell that the outfit came from the picture and yet at the same time, it wasn't strictly a literal translation. However, I didn't think the top was very wearable or attractive-looking.

I liked Chloe's dress, too, but didn't really see how it translated from her picture. But, once again, she's the one of the few who went with color. I am SO SICK of everyone choosing gray and brown and black. BOOOOORRRRIINNNNNGGGG! Santino chose color as well, but unfortunately, the fabric he picked had been used by a designer in the previous season of P.R. and it was, like, so totally obvious. Plus, his dress was unbelievably ugly and unflattering. I have no idea why he's still around.

Zulema was the one who got the boot. And, while I thought Kara's design was actually worse, at least her dress was finished properly. Zulema has had some major problems finishing her work and executing it properly (in the first episode, she cut her dress so short that the model's backside was totally exposed...it was really gross). Plus, let's face it, she's not exactly the nicest of the contestants. In fact, I think Zulema could be "Amarosa" spelled backwards. Anyway, she's gone, buh-BYE!

Lastly, we come to Nick, who I think is actually one of the more talented people on the show, but this week, Zulema took his model away from him and he got all pouty and bitchy and whiny about it and kept talking about how he was done and he wanted to go home and waah, waaah, waaaaah. You know, fashion's a bitch, girlfriend. So suck it up or go home, but quit whining. His design was lame and had NOTHING to do with the picture he selected (which was of some fabric in a store window). He's lucky he didn't get the axe, but Zulema and Kara were so much worse that it saved him.

So, I won't be sorry to see Kara and Santino go and maybe Andrae and/or Nick, but I like everyone else and hope they make it to the final three! Actually, I think my picks for the final three would be Daniel, Chloe and Nick (yeah, he's whiny, but I've generally liked his designs...Andrae's had more than a few clunkers).

Can't wait to see what atrocities come down the runway next week!


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Scientists spot a new Earthlike planet - Space.com - MSNBC.com

Scientists spot a new Earthlike planet - Space.com - MSNBC.com

Okay, seriously, how COOL is this? For a fan of sci-fi/fantasy like myself, this is just soooo interesting.

Yeah, yeah, I know, I'm a geek. At least I never played Dungeons & Dragons (well, except for that one time because my younger brother was just WHINING so much and I needed to shut him up and that's my story and I'm sticking to it).


Small Miracles

I thought I’d written a pretty detailed account of my adventures at the L.A. Gift Show, but I left out one important part. While I was at the show, a miracle occurred. Now, don’t get me wrong, it was a small miracle. Not more than a 1.0 on the miracle Richter scale, really, but it made an impact on me.

As some of you know, I’ve been going through a difficult time in my personal life. In violation of all true blogger principles, however, I’ve refrained from posting the ugly details here because A. they are UGLY details and B. it’s just too painful right now. But, my point is, any little GOOD thing that comes my way these days is extra-appreciated.

Now, let’s get back to my miracle. It involves a pair of earrings (see how I tied that whole personal-life-experience thing back to the main theme of this blog?). There was nothing really special about this pair of earrings. They were plain, cast sterling silver circles with a hummingbird and flower design that I picked up years and years ago in a gift shop at the Marriott Palm Desert hotel (the hummingbird is the official symbol for that hotel). They became my “every day” earrings. I never had to worry about matching them to anything because they were casual enough to wear with jeans, but still nice enough to go to work. They were lightweight so I could wear them all day without getting a headache and they didn’t “clank” into the phone when I picked it up at work. They didn’t dangle so much that my son could get a hand on them and yank when he was a baby which is probably the reason why I still have the ability to wear pierced earrings to this day.

So, I proceeded to go on my merry way wearing these earrings almost every day for a number of years and over time I got really attached to them. Not only did they remind me of a great vacation, but they made getting dressed and accessorizing in the mornings REALLY easy.

Then, one day I went shopping. And I tried on clothes - lots and LOTS of clothes. I kept taking tops off over my head and putting new ones on. You know what’s coming, right? I got home that night to discover to my utter HORROR that I’d lost one of my hummingbird earrings! I searched the entire house and the inside of the car. I called the stores I’d been in. I went back to the stores I’d been in. No hummingbird earring. Later that year when my family went back out to the Marriott, I searched all of the gift shops for a replacement pair. No hummingbird earring. I did get a cool set of Brighton jewelry on that trip, though, but I digress…

For the next year, I kept the one remaining hummingbird earring on my dressing table in the forlorn and useless hope that its mate would somehow miraculously reappear. Every day when I got dressed and reached for a pair of earrings to put on, that little hummingbird stared accusingly up at me as if to say “how could you lose my other half?”

Eventually, for my own peace of mind (and remaining scraps of sanity), I had to put that earring away somewhere and move on with my life.

Cut to this weekend at the gift show. My friend Jenie is busy at a Thai silver booth and looks like she’s going to be a while so I start idly browsing through some of the nearby booths. None of them hold much interest for me – some ugly purses and wigs (and why are wigs in the jewelry section for heaven’s sake?), some really tacky rhinestone crap, an over-priced gemstone vendor and a silver casting vendor. I’ve already bought a lot of silver at the show and don’t really want to spend any more, but Jenie is still drooling over the Thai silver and doesn’t look to be done any time this century so I decide to start poking through the tiny, pill-box containers of silver that are all over this table. I mean, you never know, I might find something that I REALLY NEED to have!

So, I look through a few containers – pretty boring, typical stuff that I’ve seen at a zillion vendors. I leave that section behind and move to another section and look through a few bins there. Yawn. I turn back around to check on Jenie…nope, still shopping, so I go back to the silver booth.

I stick my hand in one last container that I’m not really even looking at as my hand goes in (hey, a cute guy walked by and I got distracted, so sue me). I look down to see what I’ve pulled and DAMNED if it isn’t the EXACT, IDENTICAL cast sterling silver hummingbird and flower design from my earring!

I squealed. At least, I think that’s how one would describe that sound – I’ve never actually made that sound before so I’m not sure. I call the vendor over and tell him I’ll take two of them (after I dig through a few pieces to make sure the sizes match up exactly). By now, I’m bouncing up and down and mumbling “I can’t believe this…I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS!” to myself over and over. Needless to say, the vendor looks at me rather strangely and I say, “but you don’t understand…I’ve been looking for these for FOREVER!” I tell him my story about the lost earring which clearly makes no impression on him whatsoever, but he does proceed to take my money and wrap up the charms for me.

By now, everyone in the booth is staring at me. And they weren’t doing the normal, every day type of stare, either. No, I was getting the “crazy bag lady mumbling to herself and it’s time to think about slowly edging away for my own safety” kind of stares. But, I didn’t care. The earrings are BACK, baby!

So, I race across the aisle to where Jenie is STILL shopping for Thai silver and I interrupt her (big, BIG mistake…never get between a jewelry artist and the merchandise she’s zeroed in on) and excitedly tell her my story. I have to give her huge credit for remaining calm in the face of my insanity, not ditching me at the show, and not quietly pointing me out to security and having me carted off to the asylum (which is what I think the other people at the previous booth were plotting to do).

Then, of course, I had to see what was so completely fascinating at the Thai silver booth and realized they had some cool stuff that I didn’t have in my silver collection so I did end up buying some things there and I'd put a picture here, but blogger.com seems to be anti-pictures today for some reason and is not letting me upload ANYTHING. So, I'll post 'em later.

Anyway, that’s the story of my miracle. It was small, but it sure made my day. Okay, the massive shopping expedition, great company and fabulous dinner played a part, too, but it was the unexpected find of a real treasure that was the icing on the cake.

And today, I came to work wearing my restored hummingbird earrings and my beautiful new alexandrite pendant (pictured in a previous entry). To top it all off, this morning, my son was kind of staring at me and I asked, “What’s wrong, honey? Does Mommy look funny?” He paused and said, “No, Mom, you look great.” And then he gave me a kiss on the cheek.

Life is good.


Monday, January 23, 2006

L.A. Gift Show - Part II

Picking up where I left off in the previous entry...

Then I found the Russian lacquerwork booth. Holy cow! This stuff is amazing. Years ago my parents were in Russia and brought me back some traditional lacquerwork and I’ve always loved it. Until now, though, I’d never seen it done on beads. Plus, most of the designs were PANSIES! Those who’ve been reading this blog for a while know that I am just a sucker for pansies. It’s like I’m bonded to them because I have to have them. So, into my bag went a pair of lacquerwork pansy beads which I promptly turned into these cute earrings with the addition of some Bali vermeil and some black Swarovski crystals.

I bought a few other pieces from the same booth in both the lacquerwork style including this fabulous mother-of-pearl pendant with a detailed winter landscape painted on it. Here's a close-up:

The same booth also offered beautiful things from porcelain artist Kenneth Chen who was featured in a recent issue of “Beadwork” magazine and I bought some of his beads as well. The round pieces in this picture are all porcelain and the others are the Russian lacquerwork:

I’ve already paired the winter pendant with the green apatite I mentioned earlier and some pearls and seed beads to create this piece:

It will be up for sale on the website later if I can manage to pry myself away from it. I think it’s now my favorite thing that I’ve ever made and the picture doesn’t really do it justice because you can’t see the details of the pendant and the perfect way that the apatite and pearls pick up the gorgeous colors.

As if the show wasn’t enough by itself, Jenie and I headed over to Santa Monica to have dinner at a place called “Monsoon” on the 3rd Street Promenade. Wow! The food was fabulous. Of course, we were both famished having skipped lunch so that might’ve helped, but still! I almost cried when I made myself leave half my dessert on the plate so as not to COMPLETELY blow my diet.

Anyway, it really was a terrific day and it gave me the motivation to speed through all my chores on Sunday morning (laundry, laundry, laundry, dishes, kitchen counters, more laundry) so I’d have a couple of hours to play with my new stuff before Ryan got home.

In fact, I had such a great time that I almost managed to not notice how much I missed my little Ryan – I’m having a hard time getting used to this new schedule! As great as the show was, the best part of the weekend was seeing Ryan’s sweet face last night when he got home and gave me a big hug! He is just one terrific kid and I’m so lucky to have him!

Take care all!


L.A. Gift Show - Part I

You know how, every once in a while, the stars align and you have a really truly fabulous weekend where everything just goes perfectly? Yeah, me neither. But I did manage to come close this weekend at the L.A. Gift Show.

Saturday morning, I left the safe confines of Orange County to brave the 5 freeway up to downtown L.A. For once, my directions were right on and I got there on time and didn’t get lost (which, after having seen the local area around the convention center in L.A. was a VERY good thing). I most definitely would not have wanted to be lost there!

I met up with my friend Jenie from Dragonfly Jewelry after a small delay caused by sucky traffic conditions on the 101 and the fact that the convention center has a cavernous lobby in which it is very difficult to find anyone. Since I was a gift show virgin, I let Jenie lead the way to point out the best vendors. We had this great plan wherein we were going to walk the show FIRST, and then go back to shop anything that looked interesting. Yeah. Right. That plan lasted up to about the third booth we passed (and that’s only because the first two booths didn’t have anything we were interested in).

We had to stop at the third booth because Jenie had shopped them before so we knew their merchandise and prices were decent and I got myself some kick-ass pendants including a gorgeous piece of faceted alexandrite which is my birthstone and which I can almost never find so I end up having to settle for amethyst instead. Not that there’s anything wrong with amethyst – I happen to love it – it’s just nice to get the real thing for a change. And no, that piece won’t be up for sale on the website…it’s mine, all mine, hahahahahahhhhaaaa!

Okay, sorry, I just fuzzed out for a second there, but I’m back now. What did you say? Pictures? Well, of COURSE! It wouldn’t be any fun to get new stuff if I couldn’t do the whole “nyah, nyah, lookee what I got and you didn’t” thing in public, right?

So, in addition to the alexandrite pendant (which is the large, circular sterling silver setting with the pinkish-purple stone in it), I also got a pretty oval, mother-of-pearl pendant, a Tibetan turquoise pendant and pendants of blue moonstone and pink moonstone.

Then we shopped and wandered some more and I managed to maintain control until I got about halfway through the hall and came to the Earthstone booth. Oh…My….God! I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Beautiful stone pendants at terrific prices and all the other gems and stones you could ever want. I’m still kicking myself for putting back that strand of emerald rondelles. Those REALLY needed to come home with me. I mean, a girl’s GOT to have emeralds, right? But here’s a picture of what I did get:

The two rectangular pendants are kyanite, the teardrop pendant is aquamarine and the larger blue piece is chalcedony. I also got a really fab strand of polished green apatite nuggets which isn’t pictured because I’ve already used it in a design which WILL be up on the website for sale later on (today or tomorrow, hopefully). Jenie bought some of the same apatite as well a strand of blue-gray Celestine which I had never seen before and am totally jealous of.

The silver prices at this show were much better than what I can get at the shows in OC so I stocked up on some more unusual pieces. I haven’t scanned those yet, but maybe later this week. One vendor had some AMAZING Bali beads that were copper and silver together which I hadn’t seen before and WHY OH WHY did I not buy some when I had the chance? Drat! Of course, it figures the company doesn’t have a website, either. People, listen to me, join us all in the 21st century, please, and GET A FRIGGIN’ WEBSITE FOR YOUR BUSINESS! Did I mention it’s a peeve of mine when people don’t have websites? Well, it is.

But, back to the treas…er…loot…er…oh, hell, back to the descriptions of all the completely and totally fabulous stuff I got! I always have to stop at booths selling larimar because it’s just so pretty. I can never afford it, though. Larimar only comes from one teeny li’l spot on one teeny li’l volcano on one teeny li’l island in the Caribbean which means the vendors can charge damn near whatever they want for it. But this booth was different. This booth had reasonable (for larimar) prices. In fact, they were so reasonable that I actually got up the nerve to ask how much their unset cabochons were. I nearly fell over when they turned out to be not just affordable, but actually CHEAP! I had to get some, of course! Here’s a picture:

I will use these in some of the bead embroidery projects I have planned. I think they’ll make gorgeous focal stones for cuff bracelets. Just you wait!

I found a booth with great prices on plain, black leather cord necklaces already finished and just waiting for the addition of a great pendant to make a simple, modern and stunning design. I picked up two sets in different widths so if any of y’all like leather necklaces, gimmee a shout and I’ll be happy to put something together for you.

In addition to the bead area, I wandered over to the “World Style” area of the show and found a vendor selling all kinds of unusual things such as “singing magnets” (which we discovered don’t so much sing as make a really annoying “zyyppp” noise). The most interesting things I found there were some thermo-sensitive liquid crystal beads (remember the “mood” rings of the 70’s?) capped with sterling silver. I bought a few to play with because I just thought it would be fun to revive the trend AND the beads are really pretty in and of themselves…the colors are much more bright and spectacular than what I remember from when I was a kid. I also bought a bag of antique shell “buttons” that had silver accents and came from old-fashioned ladies high top shoes. I’m not sure what I’ll do with them, but they were cool looking so I figured what the heck?

And now I'll skip to Part II of this story in the next post as blogger.com will undoubtedly have issues with how many pictures can be included in a single entry...sigh.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Books & Miscellaneous Mental Meanderings

Hey, so I was in an alliterative mood this morning...I blame the donuts.

I’ve only got one book to talk about this week. Yes, I was a bit busy with Ryan’s birthday party, but the real reason there's only one is that I purposely read this one as slowly as possible. I love Sharon Lee & Steve Miller’s "Liaden Universe" series so much that I wanted to really savor the latest installment: ”Crystal Soldier.”

Not only do we finally meet the fabled Cantra yos’Phelium, the near-mythical founder of Clan Korval, but many of the mysteries inherent in the other books are at last explained (the origin of the Tree, etc.) so I do recommend that readers start with the other books in the series first. One can’t really appreciate the importance of many of the elements in this story without having read the other works (which, by the way are ALL excellent). My favorite is ”I Dare”, but it should probably be read last. I recommend starting with either "Local Custom" or "Pilot's Choice."

The next book in this duology, ”Crystal Dragon” is due out later this year. You can find out more about this fascinating universe and even download electronic versions of most of the stories at a nominal cost by going to the Korval Website.

In other news, I’m off to the L.A. Gift Show tomorrow, and am very excited about it. I’ve never been before and am looking forward to discovering heretofore unseen treasures (some of whom will undoubtedly insist on coming home with me). I’m not necessarily looking forward to the drive into downtown L.A. – this OC girl prefers to remain behind the “Orange Curtain” whenever possible, but the lure of potential new treasure is just too strong so I’ll be braving the 5 northbound tomorrow morning.

I’m continuing my “love-to-hate it” affair with “Project Runway” and just have to say that the skating costumes designed this week were a total disaster. And WHY does everyone keep choosing such BLAH colors: black, white, navy, maroon and more black. Blech! Chloe was the only one who did anything interesting with color with that beautiful aqua, but I didn’t like the neckline on her design. Still, it was FAR and AWAY better than Santino’s or Andrae’s (what WAS that thing with the weird draping and the dead bird on the shoulder and WHY Andrae didn't have to answer to the judges for that monstrosity I’ll never know). Whew! Still…can’t wait until next week!

Lastly, I haven't posted a picture in a while so thought I'd share one here. This is my latest treasure from Jeff Welsh:

I just loved the combo of the bright pink and sunny yellow. I can just see this little guy swimming around a tropical reef somewhere.

Who knows...maybe I'll find the perfect accent beads for this little guy at the show tomorrow? Ahhh...the anticipation...

Have a great weekend everyone!


Thursday, January 19, 2006

Site Update - Save $$$$

Well, the dollar sale was such a success that I decided to make it a permanet feature at Silver Parrot Designs. It's now a special page in my regular "Bargain Basement" section. It's been updated with all new $1.00 sale items so be sure to check it out.

I've also updated the "Bargain Basement" section overall. I've lowered the prices AGAIN on some of the older items and added a large crop of newly reduced items. There are now TWO whole pages of bargains PLUS the dollar sale page!

On top of that, the free shipping deal for all orders of $20.00 or more is still in effect!

So, as you can see, I've made it more cost-effective (sounds better than "cheaper" doesn't it?) to shop Silver Parrot Designs than ever before.

The gallery has also gotten a facelift as I've added several pages in that section because of all the items that have sold recently.



P.S. For those who ordered from the original dollar sale - your orders are in the works. Please be patient as there was a LOT of activity from this sale and I will get the orders out as quickly as I can.

Monday, January 16, 2006

I survived!

Yes, that's right, Ryan's 3rd birthday (and the attendant celebration) is over! And I survived (mostly) intact. After all, the rain held off until after the party had moved indoors. Okay, so it was colder than, well, a word I won't let my 3 year old say, but I think everyone was prepared for that. I only had to call the bouncy house delivery company once when they didn't show up on time and I was panicking. The cake arrived without mishap. Although the design was nothing like the picture I saw in the bakery - at least it still had a Spiderman on it so it fit the theme. None of the kids hit or otherwise antagonized each other. Ryan had a minor mishap on the front steps and banged up the side of his face, but he recovered quickly when offered the chance to go the store with grandpa to pick up the cake (and at the store the clerks felt so sorry for him and his poor little face that he scored a free bunch of balloons with multiple lollipops attached). And yeah, my mother did re-frost all the cupcakes and re-tie all the treat bags because I had failed to do either task correctly, apparently, but it was a small price to pay for all the help she gave me with set-up and clean-up.

Of course, the most important thing of all was that Ryan had a BLAST! He stayed in the bouncy house until nearly 6 pm when I finally had to drag him out because it was so dark we couldn't see each other and kept bouncing into one another. Plus, it was getting really, really COLD!

So, we went inside and played with some of his new birthday loot. He's such a doll and we had a lot of fun together. I'd forgotten how much fun new toys are :-)

I'm hoping to have revisions to the website up later this week now that the dollar sale has cleared out a lot of the old inventory. I'll have a whole new crop of bargains to put up and maybe even some new stuff! Woo hoo!

After that, I'll be busy shipping the dollar sale orders and, best of all, going to the L.A. Gift Show this weekend for the first time ever. I'll be meeting up with my pal, Jenie, from Dragonfly Design and I can't wait. She's a gift show veteran so I'll get to tag along behind her and hopefully score some great stuff!

Take care everyone!


Friday, January 13, 2006

Friday Book Review

This week’s recommendations are short and sweet. I didn’t have a lot of time for reading (sob!), but I did manage to get through a couple of books.

First, I read the next installment in Mary Janice Davidson’s “Undead” series called ” Undead and Unemployed.” I really just love this series and can’t wait to pick up the next installment. The heroine has a great sarcastic sense of humor and shares my love of fabulous shoes so what more could a girl ask for? Oh, I forgot the hot, hunky love interest and various steamy love scenes which, okay, are a BIT on the “romance novel” side for my taste, but at least there’s a plot going on to hold them together (are you listening Laurell Hamilton?) Yes, there’s no great overwhelming literary themes going on here, but these books are perfect for beach reading or any time you just need a fun, trashy novel to enjoy. Personally, I like to read them while sitting in the spa chair at the local mani-pedi parlor.

From trashy, girly fun, I moved on to Dave Duncan’s “King’s Blades” series. I’ve been hooked on these books from the first one, “The Gilded Chain.” The universe created by Duncan has some fascinating details such as the ritual for becoming a blade – after all, who among us could really stand calmly still and let our future employer ram a sword through his or her heart so that we could take up a life of servitude afterwards. And no, not EVERYONE survives the magical sword-ramming ritual. So far, all the books have been of good quality, but this latest one, ” The Jaguar Knights,” leaves something to be desired. It starts off well with a midnight raid, a stolen Marquesa and a tortured hero, but it quickly degenerates. I got the feeling this started out as a two-book story which got crammed into one volume thereby necessitating severe cuts towards the end. The investigation into the raid and the love story between Sir Wolf and Dolores should have been one book and the ensuing expedition to Tlixilia (insert rant about authors who use un-pronounceable made-up words just to torture their readers) should have been another book. The story rapidly accelerates at the end with huge giant chunks missing and lots of questions left unanswered. Except they’re not unanswered in the “oh, an obvious sequel is coming up” sort of way (although we get that, too – it IS a series after all) but more in a “my editor says I have to cut X number of words and I hope no one will miss this bit here so SLASH.” Very frustrating. If you’re a fan of the series, I suppose it’s worth having to complete the collection, but if you’ve never picked up one of these books, go get “The Gilded Chain” and read the story of Sir Durendal (who makes a brief appearance in “Jaguar Knights”). It’s so much better that there’s almost no comparison.

That’s it for books because I’m STILL waiting for B&N to get in my copy of Linnea Sinclair's “An Accidental Goddess!” GRRR!
And now, I’m off to spend the weekend in children’s birthday party hell as my son turns 3 tomorrow and I have outdoor entertainment planned that I hope we will manage to get through before the predicted rainstorm arrives (stupid weather!). So, happy weekend all and take care!


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Sale Update!

Whew! I knew this group could shop, but holy cow! Things went so quickly that I've put up an updated website page so you can see what's left.

For those who ordered something that was already taken by the time their order came in - I've e-mailed you privately.

But, don't despair. This went so well that I'm thinking of moving more items over into the sale section and will announce if/when I do.

The free shipping on $20.00 or more orders will continue until at least mid-February and maybe longer if I feel like it :-)

Thanks everyone who shopped! There are still a few items left on the sale page and of course lots of other great stuff on the rest of the site.


Major Sale at Silver Parrot Designs!

Let's face it - doing inventory sucks. It's boring and takes time away from making new jewelry.

So, I've decided to have an "I hate inventory" sale at Silver Parrot Designs. All items in the sale category have been reduced to $1.00!!! That's right...one measly little dollar will get you any item on that page. And, if that's not enough, any order of $20.00 or more will receive free shipping!

Just follow the dollar sign on the main site page: Silver Parrot Designs to get to the sale (but the free shipping applies to any items on the entire site as long as the order totals $20.00 or more).

Go forth and shop!


P.S. Jenie - just for you, the aqua lace embroidered pendant is on sale for $1.00!!!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Why I love "Project Runway"

So, yesterday I mentioned my unreasonable addiction to a little show on Bravo called ”PROJECT RUNWAY.” I’m not entirely sure why I’m so in love with this show – after all, the people on it are INCREDIBLY annoying, but I still can’t stop watching. I suppose one reason is that not only do I love fashion, but I REALLY love to hate bad fashion. And there’s a LOT of bad fashion on this show. It is interesting to see how the designs turn out as they come down the runway after having seen them in the “assembly” phase, too.

Last night’s “challenge” was to design a party dress for Nicky Hilton. Nicky was a guest judge on the show and made the final selection of the winner. Before the designers started, they were each given a “dossier” (and why they used this word when Ms. Hilton is not a CIA agent or international terrorist, I’ll never know, but whatever) about Nicky and her personal style. It included a couple of pictures of her in some designer dresses and a letter from her to the designers in which she describes herself as having “exquisite” taste.

Okay, first of all, that’s not something that one says about oneself. That’s a compliment, that, if one is lucky, gets paid to one by someone else as in “My dear, that dress is lovely. You have exquisite taste.” Second of all, one of the pictures of Nicky in the “dossier” (I keep laughing every time I think about that) is of her wearing this incredibly ugly black Chloe dress. So, obviously, her taste is not “exquisite” 100% of the time. She’s also got her hair dyed this weird shade of dark chocolate brown that looks TOTALLY fake with her skin and eye color. I get that she’s trying to not be Paris’s clone, but with the kind of bucks she has, you’d think she could at least afford a top-notch colorist who could successfully talk her out of bad hair choices. Finally, Nicky appeared in two different outfits on the show. One was some kind of weird, pastel, throwback-from-the- 80’s-sweater with gigantic buttons down the center and a placket that didn’t even hang straight. The second outfit was even worse. She wore one of the hippy, boho-chic crap floaty skirts that are so popular (although I don’t know why) right now and paired it with a tank top that was tie-dyed in shades of black, gray and white. Maybe she forgot to look up the definite of “exquisite” before she wrote that letter? Someone should buy the poor, deprived girl a dictionary.

And while we’re on the subject, I seriously don’t get why the Hilton sisters are so famous. I mean, yeah, so they’ve got a gadzillion dollars, but really…is that enough to make people so obsessed with them? *Shakes head in disbelief*

Oh, and one last tidbit about Nicky. Although she’s trying to look different than Paris by having the dark hair (blech!), she’s copying her in another respect by trying to popularize her own catch phrase. Paris is known for saying “that’s hot” and Nicky has chosen “I love that” as her catch phrase. As each designer came up to her on the show to present their creation, she had the following responses:

1. “I love that.”
2. “I totally love that!”
3. “Love it” (an ingenious variation)
4. “I sooooo love that!”
5. “Loooooove that!”

My brain hurts. Really. Could whoever signs up to send her a dictionary include a thesaurus as well? Thanks. I may survive now.

In the end, Guadalupe got kicked off the show last night for creating what was possibly the ugliest monstrosity of a dress I’ve ever seen. Although, frankly, I thought that Marla should have been tossed, too, for her blatant rip-off of the ugly Chloe dress shown in the now-infamous “dossier.”

Damn, I love this show!


P.S. I almost forgot to say "way to go Texas!" I just love me a good ol' fashioned Trojan ass-kicking because no one deserves it more than they do. And yes, I went to UCLA. So?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

More Fun Pics

Well, nothing interesting happened in my life in the past 24 hours so here are some more pictures of cool stuff I'm planning to use...er...eventually :-)

This pretty little boro dolphin by Jeff Welsh caught my eye one day and just had to come live with me. At first I planned to do a really involved design with it, but I'm starting to think that just a plain silver chain is what it needs so it can be the center of attention. Hmmm....

Since I got a dolphin pendant, I figured I should get a shark, too (okay, yeah, so I bought several sharks...your point is?) This was the only mako shark design the artist was selling - all the other sharks are flat and straight on as you'll see in the next picture. I used to have this book all about sharks when I was a kid and I was fascinated by it and took it everywhere with me until I stupidly left it down at the lake by our house one summer afternoon and when I went back for it, it was gone. So, a big "shame on you" to the shark-book stealer who is no doubt still out there robbing other children of THEIR favorite books or despoiling library shelves or something equally awful.

This shark design is by Jeff Welsh - really, he is so talented and just does the MOST amazing stuff. Just wait until I start posting the pictures of the sea horses and sea dragons! I lived in Hawaii when I was very young (this was before the house by the lake where the shark book got stolen) and I remember some of my Hawaiian neighbors talking about sharks and how their culture views them as ancestral spirits or even gods. These beautiful pieces reminded me of those stories and I thought it would be awfully cool to have your own personal "shark totem" pendant to watch over you. They each seem to have their own personality.

Okay, that's it for today. But, if the next 24 hours is as boring as the last 24 have been, I'll undoubtedly have more pictures to post soon. Oh, except that "Project Runway" is on tonight so I have that to look forward to. I have no idea why I'm obssessed with this stupid show, but I can't stop watching it.


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Book Recommendations or “What I Did On My Christmas Vacation.”

I guess the folks at Amazon.com read my slightly (ahem!) disparaging remarks about their free shipping program because a whole box load of books arrived on my doorstep a couple of days before Christmas. Of course, since I’d already given up on them (based on the arrival date prediction on the Amazon.com website), I’d made an intervening trip to Barnes & Noble to stock up with the result that I am actually overloaded on books for a change. That hasn’t happened since…well…actually, I don’t think that’s EVER happened before. I really like not having to force myself to read ever-so-slowly because I know there’s nothing left on my nightstand after I finish the current book. My nightstand overfloweth J

So, on to the reviews. Years ago, I read an amusing little story done in the Jane Austen style with a dash of magic thrown in for spice. ”Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot” was written by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer. Since I happen to adore all things Austen, I really enjoyed this book and it’s become a perennial favorite re-read. So, imagine my delight when I discovered that Mmes. Wrede and Stevermer have finally come out with a sequel which follows the continuing adventures of Cecelia and her cousin Kate as they make ”The Grand Tour.” Alas, it’s not quite as good as the original book, but for those who enjoyed the original, it’s nice to find out what happened to the characters and it’s still good enough to be a likeable read on its own. Unless you’re a major fan, however, I’d wait for the paperback version.

From the whirl of the London “Season” and travel on the continent, I moved on to radio shows and werewolves. Hiding on the shelves at B&N I found a little ol’ first time novel by Carrie Vaughn called ”Kitty and the Midnight Hour.” Despite a disturbing tendency for the cover art to look like a rip-off of the cover of Kim Harrison’s ”Dead Witch Walking,” this book was a lot of fun. While it’s true that werewolves and vampires seem to have been done to death (no pun intended) lately, the main character’s job as a midnight disc jockey on a radio station and her startup of a call-in talk show for pathetic supernatural beings is quite original. In fact, the one thing that would have made this book even more effective would have been for it to feature MORE of the radio world and a little bit less of the werewolves chewing each other up on the streets of Denver, CO. A sequel is already in the works and is forthcoming this summer. I look forward to reading more about Miss Kitty.

From there, I moved on to an anthology called ”Night's Edge” which includes four novellas (or LONG short stories) by some of my favorite authors including Charlaine Harris and Barbara Hambly. I particularly enjoyed Hambly’s story and wish she would go back to writing sci-fi and fantasy instead of her recent addiction to historical fiction. I’ll take spooky haunted buildings over Mary Todd Lincoln any day. It was quite obvious in the story that the author was exorcising some of her personal demons relating to the divorce and subsequent recent death of her husband George Alex Effinger.

Then it was time to head into space (as in “outer”) with Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s anthology ”Low Port.” I’ve been a huge fan of their Liaden Universe series forever and am familiar with their concept of the “Low Port” as it exists in that universe so I thought it would be interesting to read what other authors did with the idea. The problem with anthologies is that you never know what percentage of the stories will be excellent vs. mediocre vs. out and out clunkers. It’s kind of like when you buy a new CD and there are one or two hit songs on it and the rest suck and now you’re out twenty bucks for two good songs and thirteen rotten ones. I hate that. But, I’m happy to report that most of the stories in this anthology are really enjoyable. There were a couple that I thought were overly obscure or had difficult-to-follow dialects in them, but no major suckiness anywhere. I particularly liked “Angel’s Kitchen.”

Then, it was time to move on to vampires. See, I’d already done a werewolf novel and the vampires are just so annoyingly competitive. They HAVE to horn in and make sure they are represented. Sadly, there’s so much vamp fic out there now that it’s really kinda getting a “been there, read that” feel to it. I’m happy to report that Mary Janice Davidson’s ”Undead and Unwed” brings a fresh new voice and humor to the genre. Although it takes place in Minneapolis, it really reads like “Sex & the City” meets “Dracula.” I’m not sure which of the four girls the heroine of this novel would be (some combination of Carrie’s shoe fetish and Samantha’s willingness to boink anything that will stand still long enough is probably about right). Anyway, this one is hilarious and highly recommended. And yeah, there are a few bits that will test your WSD (willing suspension of disbelief) such as the heroine luckily having a gazillionaire best friend who is able to buy her house and keep it safe until she “rises” from the dead, but who cares? This novel is sooo not about nit-picky little details. Tell your inner rational voice to shut the hell up and just enjoy the ride. I’m already on to the sequel and there are at least two more books in the series that are already in print. Yay!

Whew! Okay, by this point, I probably need a new eyeglass prescription from all this reading, but hey, I was on vacation. Which brings me to the last book, ” The Givenchy Code,” by Julie Kenner. A while back, I reviewed Ms. Kenner’s “Carpe Demon: The Adventures of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom” and was slightly disappointed in it. Not so with “Code.” This book rocks (and not just because of the clever play of words in the title). The heroine is smart, the hero is yummy-hunky-gorgeous and the plot is interesting as the two of them race around Manhattan trying to stay ahead of a killer who thinks a computer assassin game has come to life and is playing for real.

And lastly, since I unfairly (as it turns out) bitched about Amazon, I figure I need to even the scales by complaining about B&N now. How come they can’t get new releases on the shelves on time? Linnea Sinclair’s ”An Accidental Goddess” was released on December 27, 2005, and even though I gave B&N until the 29th to have it in stock, I had no luck. Ditto with the 30th and 31st. Now, here it is a whole new YEAR and I still don’t have this book. Phooey, I say!

Still, Happy New Year to all and if there isn’t a review this Friday, it’s B&N’s fault!