Saturday, December 29, 2007

Santa been berry, berry good to me..

One of the great things about the holiday season around here is the annual "Day After Christmas" sale at my LBS. 60% off the entire store (except lampwork...damnit!)!! Plus, this year, my family finally clued (I've only been doing this for, like, 10 years or something) in that I like beads and got me a gift certificate to use at the store on sale day.

I had limited time so didn't end up waiting in the mammoth lines for Swarovski, wire and chain like I'd planned, but still managed to get some other great stuff:


Got two strands of this gorgeous Jasper - one in coin shape and the other in diamond shape. I'm envisioning mixing the shapes together in a necklace, but haven't fully fleshed out the entire design yet.

These four strands are African Blue Jasper - 2 in coin shape and 2 in square shape. One of the great things about this sale is that it allows me to get enough of a particular type of bead to really play with design ideas. Usually, when it comes to stones, I have to limit myself to one strand only or I blow my entire budget on just one kind of stone.

This strand of Labradorite coins has some beautiful, but subtle, chatoyancy going on in nearly every bead. It's tough to scan, but trust me, these beads are absolutely stunning in real life.

I'm not usually a big fan of Rhodochrosite, but I thought this strand of coin-shaped beads was pretty and well matched in size and shape and I do always try to pick up something that I wouldn't normally get when I hit a show or a sale. Otherwise, I'd end up with nothing but turquoise, amethyst and blue opal when I shop.

Just to round out my stash and fill in some projects I'm currently working on, I picked up a large selection of Czech crystals. They make great filler beads when you need to add color and flash without the expense of Swarovski crystals. The store had some new and unusual color variations I hadn't seen before so I picked up multiple strands of each - this picture is just a small sample.

Other purchases included some size 6 and 8 seed beads in various colors for beading edges around cabs, some Lacy's "Stiff Stuff" (also for cab beading), some polishing cloths, glues and replacement tools.

I also spent part of yesterday on-line doing my major bead ordering for the year. Some of it was generic supplies like head pins, filler beads, earring wires and jewelry boxes for shipping orders, but I found some really different and unique stuff at a few websites so I'm looking forward to watching the mailbox over the next few weeks.

Pictures, of course, will be posted ;-)

Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and I wish you all a Happy New Year! Looking forward to a fun and exciting 2008!

KJ


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Was everyone nice instead of naughty this year? I sure hope so! It's so totally worth it - Santa was VERY good to me.

I got a great new bike and so did the kid so we can start riding together. At least, we can start as soon as the HURRICANE FORCE WINDS die down! Who ordered Santa Ana's for Christmas, anyway? I protest!

I especially protest the part where I came downstairs this morning to find piles of black dirt blown under my front door and all over my entryway by the wind. Too bad I didn't find them before the kid had walked through them and then tracked them all over the carpet.

However, Santa was so good to me, I can't complain too much.

And since it's Christmas, here are a couple more pictures I never got around to posting:





Furnace glass with pearls and Swarovski crystals.


Venetian lampwork from Murano with pearls, Swarovski crystals and 14k gold filled beads.

And now, I think I hear pecan pie calling my name - or else I just had too much champagne at brunch.

Nope, definitely the pie!

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

KJ

Sunday, December 16, 2007

And one more picture...

...because I have nothing more interesting to write about.



Cane glass, Swarovski crystals, freshwater pearls and sterling silver.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Site Update & Pics

Whew! Did a major site update today and added lots of new items for sale. Also updated the gallery pages with items that have recently sold.

I need a nap now, but before I go, here are the Christmas presents I've finished so far. See? If you people read the blog, you'd know what you were getting for Christmas. I'm just sayin'..

Fairydust Stripe Earrings - cane glass, Swarovski crystals and gold vermeil accents.


Black Cherry Rosebud Earrings - Murano lampworked beads with vermeil accents and Swarovski crystals in rose satin.

Raspberry Stripe Earrings - cane glass, Swarovski crystals and gold vermeil accents

Purple Suede Earrings - these look blue and green, but are actually purple and turquoise enamel and sterling silver findings with sterling silver accent beads and Swarovski crystals in my new favorite color - purple velvet. Yummmm.

These are for someone special on the kid's Christmas list and he helped pick the beads, colors and design structure. Cane glass with Swarovski crystals in blue topaz and chrysolite.


Ruby Slipper Earrings (the kid and I watched the original "Wizard of Oz" last week for the first time) - red Murano glass beads with sterling silver accent beads and Swarovski crystals in siam.

I just love earrings - so quick and easy to make and so much "bang" for the buck in terms of eye candy and adding the perfect touch to finish off an outfit. I always say you don't have to have a ton of jewelry for every outfit as long as you've got THE perfect pair of earrings!

Oh, and no nap for me. Time to go make Christmas cookies with the kid and my nephew.

Happy Holidays, all!

KJ

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Nights in Black Onyx...

...perhaps I shouldn't listen to The Moody Blues while I'm trying to name new pieces...


This set just DEMANDED to be named "Nights in Black Onyx."


And yes, another sub-par scan. This new scanner has about 10 times the bells and whistles that the old one did and is smaller and lighter, but the old one was SO much easier to use and end up with good pictures on a consistent basis.
Sigh.
KJ

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Thank you, Merci and Muchas Gracias!

Thank you so much to everyone who has placed a jewelry order recently! Given that I'm now a single parent trying to support what was a dual-income lifestyle on a single income, every little bit helps. This extra income means that Santa can be really good this year to a kid who really deserves it.

Now, a bit of housekeeping...

If you've ordered something from the site and I've shipped it, its picture has been moved to the Gallery Pages of the website so if you want to show someone a picture of what you've ordered, that's where you'll find it.

And, of course, pictures...

Just finished this set this weekend.


The scan is absolutely awful as it has turned everything that is bright gold to a very dark, tarnished-looking color, but it's the best I was able to do. The cab is some kind of miscellaneous agate that I got in a grab bag full of stones from Fire Mountain Gems. I actually think the stone is not very attractive on its own, but with the addition of some bead embroidery, it has really come alive.

There are two pairs of matching earrings:


Also finished this custom order today.



Once again, seriously crappy scan...sigh. A customer ordered a similar item off the website because some dippy blonde website owner (me) forgot to take that item down when it sold. So, I spent the weekend frantically trying to re-create the original which is nearly impossible given that the beads are furnace glass which makes them very unique and individual. Plus, I bought the original beads probably two years ago so no way my suppliers still had any of the same lot left. Still I was able to come pretty close, I think.

You be the judge...here's the original:

And then I finished off a couple of pairs of earrings which I've posted before, but never had time to put the tops on them. They are now actually DONE!
And yes, the really bad scanning continues...

And now, to bed. The bills and laundry will just have to wait until tomorrow...or longer.

KJ

Friday, November 09, 2007

Split personality

No matter how many times I've taken various versions of the Meyers-Briggs personality index throughout my life, the first two letters are ALWAYS the same: I and N.

The second two letters change every time I take the darned thing. Sometimes I'm an INTJ or an INTP.

Today, apparently, I'm an INFP:

Your Personality is Very Rare (INFP)

Your personality type is dreamy, romantic, elegant, and expressive.

Only about 5% of all people have your personality, including 6% of all women and 4% of all men
You are Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, and Perceiving.

I wonder if this is a Gemini thing? Today the INFP twin has the controls, but tomorrow, the INTJ twin might be running things?

Scary...

KJ

Thursday, November 08, 2007

I iz smart

You paid attention during 91% of high school!

85-100% You must be an autodidact, because American high schools don't get scores that high! Good show, old chap!

Do you deserve your high school diploma?
Create a Quiz



Frankly, I think I would've gotten 100% if I'd paid more attention in geometry - HATED that class.

KJ

Quick...hand me that firehose!

A friend sent me this picture of the recent fire in our area:



This is the fire that was known as the Santiago fire. The lake in the foreground is Mission Viejo lake. The fire originated north and east of this spot (that would be off the left side of the picture) which is the area my son's school is in. Just about everything around his school burned although the school itself was fine. It did close for a week because of the fire danger and the poor air quality.

I hadn't realized until I saw this photo how close the flames came to the very populated areas of Mission Viejo and Rancho Santa Margarita. Very scary and I hope they catch the freak who set this fire and when they do that they lock him/her up and throw away the key.

KJ

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

And my check would be where?


My blog is worth $2,258.16.
How much is your blog worth?

Dude, seriously, I have a credit card bill that needs to get paid off. Send the check already!

KJ

Monday, November 05, 2007

Almost forgot...

...to mention that the items on the Dollar Sale page on the website are no longer available. They've all been sold. I just haven't had a spare moment to take the page down or update my shopping cart to show those items as sold out.

Note to self: time to update website and shopping cart.

Self to note: will do it right after the laundry is all folded and put away - estimated time of completion is sometime in mid-2008.

I hate writer’s block.

It’s such a strange, thing, too. Some days I can just write pages about, essentially, nothing (those who’ve been reading this blog from the early days already know this) and yet on other days it’s like I have to lasso each single word and drag it out of my brain using all my strength.

The “blocked and dragging” days (as I have creatively chose to call them) seem to happen more frequently when there’s a lot of crap going on in my personal life. You’d think it would be the other way around – isn’t emotional drama supposed to be the most potent writer’s brain fertilizer there is?

Apparently, I don’t respond well to fertilizer. Or, maybe the problem is that I’m over-fertilized these days? I suppose too much fertilizer can be just as bad as not enough.

Although, why I’m using gardening metaphors, I’ll never know. I am the absolute owner of a certified “black thumb” when it comes to gardening.

And now writing, too, it seems.

And jewelry-making – I feel like my latest work has been very rote, simple and totally uninspired. I don’t remember ever having been as unexcited about finished designs as I’ve been lately. Each project feels like it is taking eons to finish and by the time each is done, I’m so “over” the design that I don’t even want to put it up on the website.

I haven’t touched either of my other two favorite hobbies – cross stitch and rubber stamping – in several years. Some of that is just due to lack of time – there just aren’t enough hours in the day to work full time, be a single parent, get all my chores and errands done, deal with the fall out caused by the irresponsibility of the kid’s other so-called parent, and also do necessary things like eating, sleeping, exercising, etc.

See, anything creative or hobby-related didn’t even make that list.

Sometimes I think I should just give up on the art stuff, but how are you supposed to have an enjoyable, balanced life if you don’t make time for the recreational things you enjoy? What kind of life is that?

On the other hand, if I carve out the time for the fun stuff, it invariably means that required stuff such as, oh, I don’t know, 18 bazillion baskets of laundry, doesn’t get done. Or rather, it gets washed, but doesn’t get put away.

Is that really bad, though? I mean, is there some cosmic rule that says that the laundry police are gonna put me away for life because it took me two weeks to get the laundry put away by which time there was more laundry to be done?

But it’s one thing when I make a conscious choice to ignore the laundry in favor of something “fun.” It’s a totally different thing when I make that choice and the resultant creative effort is…less than inspiring. Not to mention that there’s this whole guilt battle going on in the background of my brain that tells me that I’m wasting time and should really be attacking the giant laundry monster instead of waiting until it’s large enough to take on a life of its own, rampage through the local area and cause widespread chaos and destruction.

Guilt sucks, btw. In case you didn’t know. Sadly, giant guilt capacity apparently comes standard from the factory with my model and I haven’t been able to find a mechanic competent enough to uninstall it. Not that I haven’t tried…

So, I suppose all of this is my long-winded way of saying that today I find myself tired, out of time, overwhelmed by both household chores and creative projects, and totally uninspired to tackle any of it.

Oh, and feeling guilty for not being able to overcome all of that.

On the bright side, I’ve managed to turn whining about all of it into a blog entry of decent length even if it is of totally non-sensical and meandering structure.

Go, me.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Is it a bad sign...

...when you wake up to your clock radio playing R.E.M's "It's the End of the World as We Know It"?

I'm just sayin' is all...

KJ

Sunday, October 28, 2007

I'm ALLLIIIIIIIIIIIVVVVVEEEEE!!!!!!

Okay, so that was the closest I could come to a Halloween-related Blog title. Since it's been such a long time since I was able to post, here's a quick re-cap of the last month:


1. Computer died.

2. Computer replaced.

3. New computer incompatible with old...er...ancient...er...pre-historic scanner.

4. New scanner purchased.

5. New scanner looks lovely sitting on floor of office for a month waiting to be installed.

6. Ex-husband arrested for domestic violence against his new wife of 3 months (yeah, THAT marriage was a good idea...not).

7. Fun (not) adjustment to becoming completely single parent with no time off for ANYTHING.

8. Discover I have ONE white eyelash on my right eye for no apparent reason. Wonder how long it's been there that I haven't noticed and how long it will be before the rest of them turn white.

9. Stomach flu (kid, not me)

10. FIRES! Our house safe, but kid's school at "ground zero" for Santiago fire and closed all week.

11. Despite items 1-10 above, find time to meet goal of finishing Halloween jewelry BEFORE Halloween. Have had this goal for the last 3 years, but have never been successful with it until now.

12. Got new scanner installed and scanned the new jewelry.

13. Gave the website a much-needed overhaul and posted the new jewelry for sale.

And here are the pics to prove it:










Whew! Are you sure it's only been ONE month since my last post? It feels like at least a year. And of course, Halloween is always a mixed blessing for me now. My second-favorite holiday (after Christmas), but also the anniversary of the worst 24 hours of my life. At least I will have the kid with me again this year which will help give me something positive to focus on. I was concerned about how I would handle being alone on that date without him.

Well, that's about it. Hopefully, it won't be another full month before I have anything to post again! Hope everyone has a wonderful "trick or treat" time this week!


KJ

Friday, September 14, 2007

Clever Blog Post Titles are the Bane of My Existence

Today, at least. Tomorrow, I'm sure there will be other banes, but for today, clever blog titles are it.

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. The home computer crashed so on-line access has been extremely limited.

Also, not much to say. Not much happening, lately. But, I have pictures:


It's hot. Or at least, it WAS hot two weekends ago when I took this picture. It's excellent the way I posted it in such a timely fashion ;-)


New lampwork beads.


More new lampwork beads.

And yet more beads.


And yes, try to contain your surprise, more beads.

Other than that, I've been busy trying to get the computer fixed and taking the first few steps towards redecorating my house. The kid and I are each getting new beds which are being delivered tomorrow. I re-painted an accent wall in my bedroom and moved some furniture around. I bought new bedding and accent pillows to match the new wall. Next step for that room is to buy a media center to house the TV and components and finish the window treatments and possibly re-cover the dressing table chair to match the new decor and that room will be done.

The kid's room got new bedding, too. Transformers. Duh.

Moved the furniture around in there, too. I have to change out the window treatments in two tiny accent windows, put in more toy storage and empty/remove a couple of bookcases (going to work on that part tonight) and that room will be done, too.

Next after that is new carpet and furniture for the living room. I'm looking at carpet samples right now but haven't picked a color yet. Also still need to make a run to IKEA to check out some furniture I saw in their catalog that I think will be perfect, but I want to see it in person.

The family room needs a couch - I've already selected a brown leather sectional with a recliner on one end, but have to save up the $$ for it first.

The rest of this weekend will consist of trip preparation for a big family reunion that the kid and I will be attending soon. It will be the 75th anniversary of the founding of the family farm in southern New Mexico. Can't wait to go and see all my cousins and their kids! I wish it wasn't going to be 95 degrees and rotten with mosquitoes the size of airplanes, but oh well, not all vacations are to lovely tropical destinations where cute cabana boys in very revealing clothing bring me an endless round of foofy drinks.

Sigh.

That's it - I got nothing else.

Have a great weekend!

KJ







Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Ettykett and Protacoal Blog

Why are people so rude these days?

In one weekend, I was subjected to the following:

A woman at the bead show who, even though I was clearly perusing and picking through two trays of cabochons, shoved her way behind me to come up on my other sided and began snatching cabs as fast as she could out of one of my trays. I mean, it was amazing. There I am carefully looking at each cab – color, shape, design possibilities and trying to make decisions and she literally had half that tray gone and into her bag in about 30 seconds. Now, to my knowledge, there’s no book of “bead show booth etiquette” out there (maybe I should write one?), so I suppose there’s no hard and fast rule, but it sure seemed incredibly rude (and greedy!) to me and not at all the correct way to behave.

Same booth, different side, two women are standing in front of a set of trays, completely blocking all access to them, but not doing any shopping. They’re just chit-chatting away and are completely oblivious to the fact that I and a couple of other shoppers are quite obviously trying to make our way to that section to shop. Do they move? Heck, no. It’s sort of like those people who meander down the middle of the aisles in parking lots even though they KNOW there are cars behind them trying to get through, but they just keep on walking as sloooooowly as possible while trying to pretend they don’t know you’re there and then when you finally lose all patience and honk at them, they either glare at you or flip you off. It was like that.

Only without the honking.

Although, if I’da had a horn to honk, you can bet I would’ve.

I finally had to tap one of the women on the shoulder and say “excuse me, but if you’re not looking at that tray, would you mind moving down a bit or switching places with me?” She glared at me, chided me for interrupting her conversation and finally moved about, oh, maybe 2 inches away. Yeah, that was a BIG help. I exchanged perplexed/horrified looks with the other two ladies who wanted to get to that side of the booth as well. Finally, the booth owner had to take pity on us and ask these women to clear the booth if they were not shopping.

How can you not realize you’re being rude when the VENDOR asks you to VACATE HER BOOTH????

Then, that night, I took my son to the movies. My parents went with us to dinner beforehand and then we met for ice cream afterwards because they saw “The Bourne Ultimatum” and the kid and I saw “Underdog.”

Yes, this is what my life has become.

The “Underdog” movie.

Fortunately, for a kids’ movie, it wasn’t too bad. The kid and I sang the “Underdog” theme song all the way home:

“Speed of lightning, Roar of thunder
Fighting all who rob or plunder
Underdog
Underdog”

“Not bird, nor plane nor even frog. It’s just little old me, Underdog.”

Ahem.

But back to my story.

While we’re standing in the massive (and by massive, I mean it was out the door and around the corner) line at Coldstone Creamery, these two guys come running through the line and actually SHOVE my 70+-year-old dad out of the way. They basically all but knocked him off his feet. Now, if they’d been some rowdy teenagers, I still would’ve been appalled by the behavior, but it would’ve made more sense. However, these guys had to be in the 22-25 year old range.

And my oh-so-brilliant response to this totally outrageous behavior? I fixed them both with a steely glare and said “that was incredibly rude.”

Yeah, I know. It’s why I’m feared worldwide. Vicious, that’s me.

I did get a mumbled and totally insincere apology out of them, though. For whatever that’s worth.

On the other hand, the old me wouldn’t’ve said anything at all so I’ve made some progress in the “not willing to tolerate crap from others” department.

All of this behavior contrasts really strongly with other things I observed over the weekend. Y’see, with the exception of “Underdog”, I had kind of a “period” weekend in the arts and entertainment department. I watched the movie, “Miss Potter”, about the life of author/artist Beatrix Potter. I also re-read a couple of old favorite books, “Mairelon the Magician” and “Magician’s Ward” by Patricia C. Wrede. They are urban fantasy set in a Jane Austen-era London society. Whenever I delve into that period of history, one of the things that really stands out to me is the incredibly strict set of social rules of the time.

It seems we’ve evolved from one extreme to another. From a time of overly burdensome, complicated and strict codes of behavior to a time of no standards at all. Anything goes. Treat people as crappily as you want to.

While neither extreme is desirable, I can’t help but wish sometimes for that earlier era. I certainly had several occasions this weekend where I would have liked to exclaim, as Mairelon’s stuffy old aunt does when faced with a low-life criminal, “I do NOT wish to be presented to this person. See to it that we do not become acquainted!”

KJ

P.S. For those anxiously awaiting the end of the transformer story, I did go ahead and give the kid the small transformer for staying in bed all night. I did not replace the larger one that went to school and got destroyed. He continued to get a small transformer from the set for each night that he stayed in bed without getting up. However, he continued to ask for another big transformer, but he was doing so well with his sleeping rules that I came up with a way for him to earn one. He had to stay in bed every night for seven nights (1 trip to the potty being the only allowable exception). I made a sign with the numbers 1-7 and he got to cover one number with a sticker each morning if he’d followed the rules the night before. He made it all seven nights and got his big transformer.

The kid is now staying in bed without any rewards and he is the one who reminds ME every morning that he cannot take his toys to school.

He is also trying to come up with something else he can do to “help Mommy” so he can earn another big transformer. I proposed seven mornings of him putting his clothes on all by himself without help (which he’s perfectly capable of doing – just doesn’t like to).

He’s thinking over the proposal ;-)

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Picture Day

I'm trying to post more regularly, but life does not seem to be cooperating in the "let's give Kelly amusing anecdotal experiences that she can blog about" department.

Sooo...here are some pictures:

Picked these babies up on eBay a few weeks ago. I thought they were an interesting departure from my normal blue/green choices.

Of course, I never like to stray too far from my palette of choice:

Isn't he cute?

Oh, and I made some more cab earrings over the weekend using my two new books:

If I had it to do over again, I'd've used a darker pink seed bead for the outside ruffles, but I didn't have that color in size 15. Also, I think I would have made the dangles shorter. But, anyway, they came out pretty well for a new technique AND a new color scheme.

KJ




Tuesday, August 07, 2007

"The Dark Is Rising..."

"When the Dark comes rising, six shall turn it back;
Three from the circle, three from the track.
Wood, bronze, iron; water, fire, stone;
Five will return, and one go alone.

Iron for the birthday, bronze carried long;
Wood from the burning, stone out of song;
Fire in the candle-ring, water from the thaw;
Six Signs the circle, and the grail gone before.

Fire on the mountain, shall find the harp of gold;
Played to wake the Sleepers, oldest of the old;
Power from the green witch, lost beneath the sea;
All shall find the light at last, silver on the tree."

So, they’re making a movie out of one of my favorite books of all time: Susan Cooper’s “The Dark is Rising.” While I’m thrilled that the success of the “Harry Potter” films is getting Hollywood to look at producing some of the other great YA fantasy out there, I’m terrified that they’ll rip the guts out of this fantastic story and turn it into so much celluloid schlock just like they did with “Eragon.”

Which I watched this weekend.

And which sucked mightily.

“Stardust” and “The Golden Compass” are other examples, but they haven’t been released yet so can’t say whether or not they’ll fall into the same abyss of suckage.

I don’t know that much about the movie yet, but what I do know thus far does not give me a good feeling. First of all, they changed the title to “The Seeker.” I guess calling a movie marketed to kids “The Dark is Rising” was deemed too scary? I dunno, but how’re you going to tie in to the book’s fan base without the title? Also, Susan Cooper didn’t have anything to do with the screenplay.

Worst of all, now that I’ve looked at the imdb.com page and seen the actor they’ve picked to play Merriman…uh, no. Just…no. And they’ve got a handsome young guy playing The Walker? I can see it for the big flashback scene, but for the rest of it? They’ll need to rely heavily on good makeup effects, I guess.

Anyway, as another fantasy hero of mine once said “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

All of which brings me to my list of fantasy/sci fi books that I wish would get made into GOOD movies. The following are in no particular order:

1. Zelazny’s “Amber” books. The casting call for Corwin alone would become legend, I think.


2. Any of the Sime/Gen books – such great potential for intense drama


3. Norton’s “WitchWorld” series – although you’d have to be careful with this one so that it didn’t come off like a bad “Conan” re-make. I mean, look at what Hollywood did to her “Beastmaster” novel. {{{Shudder}}}


4. The “Darkover” books – can’t decide which book to start with, though. I’m partial to “The Bloody Sun” but there would have to be quite a bit of exposition/intro leading up to it.


5. Melanie Rawn’s “Dragon Prince” and “Dragon Star” books – the undercurrents of political intrigue and the ability of power to corrupt have such great parallels to much that is going on in our world today.


6. For YA markets, Mercedes Lackey’s “Valdemar” books, but the whole pretty, white, talking horses thing would have to be carefully handled or it would come off pretty campy.


7. “Sorcery & Cecilia” by Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermeyer – it ties in quite nicely with the popularity of Jane Austen’s works in recent years as well as the new movie “Becoming Jane” and last year’s “Miss Potter.”


8. The first three Anita Blake novels. Yes, I know. But maybe all the money could be diverted to charity? Or at least character rehabilitation classes for Ms. Hamilton? And the first three books ARE good. Oh, and I’d vote either Jessica Alba or Eva Longoria to play Anita…provided they could pull off the sarcastic humor AND the toughness part.


9. Sharon Shinn’s “Angel” novels. They’d be an interesting poke in the eye to the current religious climate. Oh, and cute guys w/ wings…always a plus.


10. Honorable mention goes to Butcher’s “Dresden” books. They would probably have been my first choice except they’re already a TV series (which, please, oh please, let Sci-Fi decide to make a second season of). His Alera books would be great, too. They’d kind of play off that whole recent “Troy,” “300,” etc. genre.



What, you didn't think I was going to give away the end of my "Transformers" story already did you?



HAHAHAHAHA! I'm evil that way...



KJ

Monday, August 06, 2007

L'enfer, c'est les Transformers.

I am in “Transformer*” hell.

I had hoped that Ryan was too young to get swept up in the craze as he’s DEFINITELY too you to see the movie so I didn’t take him to it, but no such luck. Last Friday, he found a small orange and purple Transformer on the playground at school. Being four, and fascinated with cars and things with moving parts, he brought it home

Whereupon we had a number of lengthy discussions about taking things that don’t belong to us and making good choices vs. bad choices and damn but being a parent is exhausting and not very much fun sometimes. I made him aware that come Monday, we would be taking the Transformer back to school and returning it to its rightful owner.

He actually seemed okay with that plan in the abstract, but I was already envisioning major disaster on Monday when he had to give up the car. Because, let me tell you, that child was in LOVE with that toy. For 48 hours I don’t think it left his hand for more than a few seconds. He slept with it. It went to the beach with us where he showed it to pretty much every stranger he came across and proudly announced “I have a Transformer.” I’m sure it would have been at the dinner table if I didn’t have a strict “no toys at the table” policy. Anyway, by the time Sunday night rolled around, I was starting to feel really badly about taking the toy away from him that he obviously loved so much.

So, I decided that if he voluntarily gave up the toy on Monday without making a fuss, I’d take him to buy his own Transformer that evening. I didn’t tell him the plan because I wanted him to make the right choice on his own and not because of a “reward.” And I have to say, I was SO proud of him when he marched into class on Monday morning and held the car up and asked if it belonged to anyone. When another little boy claimed it, Ryan turned it right over to him without a fuss (although I did see his bottom lip quiver just a teeny bit.)

I couldn’t wait to pick him up on Monday night and tell him that we were heading to Target to buy him his very own Transformer. And when I got to his class on Monday evening, that’s just what I did. He was SO excited. He jumped up and gave me a huge hug and then ran around the room telling everyone that he was getting a Transformer of his very own.

Off we went to Target where he told everyone we passed in the parking that we were going to get him his own Transformer. Then he told everyone in the store. Then he stopped a Target employee (all on his own without any prompting from me) to ask him “Where are the Transformers because my Mommy is getting one for me.”

So, after much perusing of the (incredibly picked over) selection at Target, Ryan finally selected a blue motorcycle Transformer named “Arcee.” It was a tough decision because he was determined to have an Autobot and most of what was on the shelves were Decepticons (yes, I know my Transformer lingo). Oh, I also picked a set of smaller Transformers to use as future rewards for good behavior.

And here is where the descent into hell begins.

First of all, “Arcee” was MUCH more complicated to transform than the orange car had been. I used the directions to do it the first time and it took me nearly 20 minutes to turn the motorcycle into the robot and then there’s a whole missile launcher accessory that took another 10 minutes to figure out (not to mention the whole “we don’t shoot missiles at Mommy, or the glass vase, or the windows or other people” lecture that had to be developed on the spot).

Now, Ryan’s favorite thing about these toys is the transformation process. Which means that, for him, playing with them is really nothing more than constantly transforming from vehicle to robot to vehicle to robot and on and on. This was fine with the orange car, but didn’t work so well with the much more complicated Arcee. This led to me being presented with Arcee about every 60 seconds for me to transform her from whichever form she was currently in to the other form. Then Ryan’d play for about 10 seconds for handing it back to me to be transformed again.

So that took up the rest of Monday night.

Then, on Monday morning, I had to have the “you can’t take your Transformer to school” conversation with him (this is a different school than where he found the orange car and they don’t allow the kids to bring toys from home not to mention I knew if he took it there would be fights and lost robot parts, etc.). Unfortunately, I had to leave for work and relied on Grandpa to make sure the toy got left at home.

Grandpa’s not so much for the enforcing of the rules it turns out.

So Arcee went to school.

So Grandpa, Grandma and Mommy got an earful from the school about the policy violation (we are, sadly, repeat offenders on this). Mommy even got a note sent home to her.

And, as predicted, some of Arcee’s parts disappeared at school. By the time we got home to go to bed on Tuesday night, Arcee had a torso, one arm and half a wheel left. Oh, and I have half the missile launcher, too.

It’s pretty sad when a toy doesn’t even last 24 hours.

So, then I got hit with the very sad and pathetic (but extraordinarily cute) 4 year old BEGGING me for a replacement toy. Let me tell you, sad, 4 year old cuteness is HARD to resist. But, I knew he needed to learn the lesson about why we don’t take toys to school and that Mommy can’t replace toys that we don’t take care of.

So I said “no.”

And then proceeded to feel major guilt even though I know it was the right thing to do. Just as a point of order – doing the right thing ought to feel better than that!

At which point, the 4 year old (whose memory is WAAAYYYY better than mine), innocently reminds me that I had promised him one of the smaller Transformers the next morning provided that he stayed in bed all night and didn’t get up.

Of course, I made that promise before Arcee got scattered all over the Saddleback Valley from Foothill Ranch to Aliso Viejo.

Oops.

Then I went to bed last night thinking “well, he’s gotten up every night for the last two weeks so he’ll never make it and then you won’t have to provide the replacement toy and everything will work out.” That’s a first for me – hoping the kid DOES break the rules and get out of bed.

But darned if the kid didn’t stay in bed all night.

And when he did get up, he marched straight into my room to ask if he could have another Transformer because he had stayed in bed all night.

Rats. It sucks when the kid has a better memory for things than his Mommy does.

So, the dilemma: Do I keep my promise and give the kid the toy thereby proving that while Mommy DOES keep her promises, she will also immediately replace any toys that you have broken or taken to school against the rules?

Hmmmm…

Stay tuned to find out what I did.

KJ

*If you missed the massive media blitz for the hit movie that’s currently in theaters (and is well worth seeing, by the way) or have been unconscious for the last 20 some years that these things have been around, Transformers are robots that “transform” (get it?) from robot shape to vehicle (truck, car, plane, etc.) shape and back again. There are two kinds of Transformers: Autobots (the good guys) and Decepticons (the bad guys). Optimus Prime is the leader of the Autobots and Megatron is the leader of the Decepticons. They are mortal enemies and fight each other and blah, blah, blah. You get the picture. And yeah, I know, I’m a total dork for knowing these things.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

And the bead(ing) goes on...

I am having the BEST time with Julie Cloud Eakin’s “Beading Around Cabochons” book! I have been sans inspiration for so long that it’s great to feel the creative fire roaring again. I can’t say enough about this book – it’s taken my bead embroidery skills to a whole new level in less than a week. I find her cab beading technique to be far superior to the technique I had been using previously. By not using peyote stitch for the bezel, you get a much cleaner, more tailored design and the beauty of the cab takes center stage.

OOOOHHHH…and I just realized I can adapt these new techniques to my cuff bracelets!

Woo hoo!

It’s also been great to expand my edging technique repertoire. Previously, I had always used a picot stitch and been pretty happy with it, but Eakin’s book opens up a whole new world of edging and embellishment possibilities. The fabulous array of photos is a big help, too.

To help get the “fire” lit, I also picked up Sandra Wallace’s "The Beader's Color Mixing Directory." I don’t have any formal art training (unless you count that time I failed 7th grade art class and my parents made me drop it so it wouldn’t ruin my GPA any more) and so my knowledge of color theory is pretty much limited to “blue and yellow make green.” Even the kid has passed that stage in pre-school. I want to become more sophisticated in creating my color schemes as well as have the ability to branch out from my “safety” zone of cool, ocean-based colors.

This book was a great place to start on my expanded color journey. Not only does Wallace do a great job explaining basic color theory, but the color “recipes” she provides are extremely helpful for someone like me who wants to be more adventurous with color choices, but isn’t sure where to start. I’m using her “Rose Garden” recipe for my second pair of beaded cab earrings.

About the only drawback I’ve found to using this book is that if you want to re-create a recipe or project exactly (which is what I usually do when I’m first exploring new ideas in cooking OR in beading – follow the directions exactly the first time til you get it down and THEN experiment) it can be difficult if your LBS is way low on seed bead stock.

Which mine was this weekend.

Which put a HUGE crimp in my creative plans.

I mean, really, how can you let your seed bead selection get almost totally picked over? How can you run out of size 11 plain black or S/L gold for heaven’s sake? Those are like so totally BASIC!

Whatever.

Anyway, I soldiered on despite the supply issues and produced my first pair of beaded cab earrings using the new techniques:


Not quite the color scheme I had in mind when I started out, but I had to improvise and I think they still turned out rather well. Finding matching sets of cabs for earrings (same size, color and dome slope) can be a challenge as well. All four of these cabs are red agate and I picked them up at a bead show a while ago after spending an hour picking through the cabs to make matching pairs.

Coming tomorrow - new bead pics!

KJ

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A cool thing happened to me on the way to the beach.

I meant to write about this a couple of weeks ago when it first happened, but y’know, life stuff got in the way. Still, it was one of the cooler things I’ve ever gotten to experience so I wanted to make sure to share the story.

It being summer in Southern California, the kidlet and I have been hanging out at the beach.

A lot.

He has a blast. It’s free. It’s great exercise for both of us and I believe that we’ve now caught every single sand crab between Main Beach and Corona Del Mar. He never gets tired of catching them. I should’ve known that would happen – after all, the kid spent about 2 years out of his 4 year existence being utterly fascinated by snails.

Well, apparently, sand crab is the new snail.

Oh, and I SOOOO went way up on the “cool-o-meter” when I showed him how to catch them. I rock.

But, I also digress.

So, a couple of weeks ago, the kid and I headed out to my favorite beach in north Laguna called Crescent Bay. It’s prime sand crab territory don’tcha know. As we head down the hill to the beach, I realize there’s a big crowd on the sand and some chick is talking away on a megaphone although I’m not yet close enough to hear what she’s saying. Now, this being Laguna, it could be anything from a wedding to an injured surfer to some weird sea creature (yes, I’ve seen a couple, but that’s another story) getting coughed up on the sand to the Laguna Beach Hare Krishnas doing their daily dance or whatever.

But as we get closer, I see a vehicle parked out on the sand, with the logo of the Pacific Marine Mammal Center on the side and two cages being offloaded onto the beach. We’d walked right into the release party for two rehabilitated California sea lions!

We got to watch them open the doors on the cages and see the two pups head for the waves. Well, one of them headed for the waves. The other decided he liked his cage and all the free fish just fine and had to be persuaded to go, but once he got into the water he and the other sea lion had a great time playing in the waves and then heading off to the rocks where the rest of the wild sea lions hang out.

The Rescue Center is located right on Laguna Canyon Road and while I knew they did animal releases on the beach, I’ve never been privileged to actually witness one live before. It looks like they don’t have pictures of this particular event on the website yet, but the pics from their April release are on the same beach (Crescent Bay) and the animals are about the same size and weight as the ones I saw released so you can get an idea by checking out this page.

I just love days like that where you randomly happen onto something cool!

KJ

P.S. The center really does fantastic work and has been around for a long time. It’s part of a national network of marine mammal rescue centers and is definitely a worthy cause if you are looking for something to donate to.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Wait, didn't this blog used to be about jewelry?

Why, yes, yes it did.

Remember way back in November when I finished the lavender embroidered bracelet and started this new bracelet?

Yeah, I hardly remember it either.

And now that I finally have said new (and functioning!) digital camera, I'm proud to get this blog back on track. Of course, the new camera has far too many buttons and thingymabobs that will probably require me to take some sort of four year degree program to understand them before I can safely use it without opening a hole in the space-time continuum (continuoum? whatever.) or accidentally beaming myself to Jupiter or something.

But, all fears for the safety of the universe as we know aside, I was able to make enough progress with the technology to FINALLY take pictures of the lavender bracelet that was finished, oh I don’t know, EIGHT FREAKIN’ MONTHS AGO!

Here's a close-up of the front of the bracelet showing the center cab of fused glass:



Here's a side shot:


The accent beads are lavender pearls.

Here's another front view:


And a shot of the other side:

Lastly, here's a shot of how it looks being worn.

Wonder Woman has nothing on me - I could block rocket grenades with this thing ;-)

Also, the black bracelet? Wasn’t turning out as well as I had hoped. So I ripped out some of it and re-did it. And then I didn’t like that version either and ripped it out and re-did it. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. And so on.

But, I’m finally working on a version that I don’t totally hate:


Here's a close-up view:


I’m using more non-seed beads this time. The seed beads that are being used are mostly 11’s as opposed to the 15’s I used in previous projects for which my eyesight is profoundly grateful. Lastly, this project has some ruffles…little loops of five or seven beads to add some dimension and “fluff.” I think I’m also getting a little bit better with my spacing and not crowding everything so tightly together. I’m excited to see how this one turns out. Hopefully, once it’s done, I can finally move on to some other projects. This thing has been clogging up the works for a long time (a long time being previously defined above as eight months!) so I look forward to getting it finished.
Lastly, as part of my crusade to turn my attention back to jewelry-making, I purchased a couple of beading books last week. I've only had time to get into one of them so far, but OH...MY...GOD! The project pictures alone are to die for. I've had to tie on a bib to stop me from drooling on the pages.
So, what is this fabulouse repository of eye candy, you ask? It's "Beading with Cabochons" by Jamie Cloud Eakin. Although I haven't made it past the first few pages of the basic part of the instructions (too busy looking at and drooling over the project pics), already I've learned that she has a completely different technique for beading around cabs than I do. She doesn't use a peyote bezel and she has a whole treasure trove of different edging techniques that I think will really be invaluable to me as I adapt them for future projects. Plus, with all the years of experience and experimentation that she can draw from, I've already picked up a lot of tips and tricks to solve those nagging little problems that keep a good piece from being truly great.
Oh, and did I mention the pictures are fantabulous? The book is worth buying for those alone.
The other book I bought is about color and I haven't read it yet, but will review it in future issues.
KJ
P.S. Apologies for the long time between entries. I had thought life was done kicking me in the teeth, but apparently that was an overly optimistic estimate. It seems some people are inherently incapable of exercising even the most basic aspects of courtesy and respect and I need to YET AGAIN lower my expectations in this area.
Except, I'm not sure how much lower than "boil on an amoeba's butt" one can get. Hey, that just gave me an idea for a contest. Free pair of earrings (my choice) to the person who comes up with the best "how low can he go" description and e-mails it to me or posts it here. Have fun!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The lull before the storm...of books

It’s book review time and I may as well get the bad news out of the way first. Thanks to a lengthy break between decent books being published and the eternal optimism that a character I once loved will somehow be redeemed, I succumbed to the temptation to buy “Danse Macabre,” I know, I know. I swore never again, but it was in paperback. And I was jonesin’ for a fix. And, like I said, hope springs eternal…only to be bitterly disappointed yet again. Ms. Hamilton has apparently decided that it is her mission in life to take porn out of the visual media (video, internet, mags, etc.) and shove it into the literary media (er…doesn’t she know that “Penthouse Forum” kinda already filled that niche?) Why she couldn’t come up with a new character to do this with and leave poor Anita alone, I’ll never know (oh wait, that’s what the Merry Gentry series was supposed to be for except I guess Ms. Hamilton’s porneriffic imagination overfloweth). Again, it’s not so much the sex that bugs me (although it IS getting kinkier and kinkier and I fear what taboo it will go after next), it’s the INCESSANT sex and lack of plot. Oh, and the talking. Good heavens, the talking. I’m actually starting to sympathize with guys who want their women to just shut up and do it already. I suppose the talking is supposed to be the respite from the sex, but since the talking is all ABOUT sex, it’s not much of a respite. Also, except for the sex, nothing happens in this book. LITERALLY NOTHING. Anita goes to the doctor and to a ballet and the other several hundred pages are sex and talking. And for those who complain that Anita is growing too powerful, I beg to differ. She has grown weak. She is a complete prisoner to the ardeur, the munin, the multiple strains of lycanthropy and heaven only knows what else is running around inside her. She’s quite the biomagicalSTD petrie dish. Don’t believe me about her weakness? The woman could not go to the doctor’s office without taking about 7 boyfriends AND a crew of bodyguards. She’s no longer Anita Blake, bad-ass vampire hunter. She’s really Paris Hilton minus the dye job and plus the magical entourage. As for the secondary characters, Richard has become such a complete asshole that he’s nothing more than a caricature. And what has happened to poor Ronnie is just unbelievable. It’s like she’s morphed into a different person…a person who’s meant to represent all the negative fan comments Ms. Hamilton is receiving. There are volumes on Amazon.com and other sites dedicated to basically saying “what the eff happened to our beloved Anita and why don’t you pull your head out of your ass and fix it?” Although, to be fair, given where her head is, all she probably hears is “mmmpff mmmphhphf mmmmphphphmmm.”

After I hosed off the “ick” factor of Ms. Hamilton’s book, the lull between decent reads was over and I found myself with a nightstand full of new books to read and review. These next two both provide a refreshing take on how to handle a mix of action/romance/sex without losing little unimportant things like plot…or taste.

“Magic Bites” by Kate Daniels hearkens back to the good old days of the real, original Anita Blake. The heroine is a tough, kick-ass, don’t mess with me mercenary in a world where the laws of magic and the laws of physics take turns wreaking merry hell on modern society. Hot guys and elements of romance abound, but never so much so that they overwhelm the rest of the story. Rather, they add depth and interesting nuances as well as possibilities for future storylines. Also, on bookshelves overcrowded with vamp/necromancer/lycanthrope stories, Daniels offers a more original take on the nature of the monsters. I hope to see more from this author!

Kelley Armstrong’s “No Humans Involved” continues her “Women of the Otherworld” series. Jaime Vegas, a secondary character in some of the other books, takes center stage here as she advances her TV career as a medium and pursues her “he likes me, he likes me not” potential relationship with the Alpha of the North American pack. While there is a graphic sex scene (get that? Scene. As in one. As in singular), it features writing of a much higher caliber than Hamilton’s scenes and therefore is more seamlessly integrated into the rest of the story. Also, there are important romantic development interludes in the earlier part of the book that lead up to the scene which makes it more believable AND enjoyable. Hmm, foreplay. Who would’ve thought? Not Ms. Hamilton, apparently. Also, this book has a plot! Mystery to be solved. Ghosts to help. Bad guys to be caught. Y’know…stuff actually HAPPENS.

Next, we have C.E. Murphy’s “Coyote Dreams” – the latest installment in the “Walker Papers” series. I have mixed feelings about this book. Murphy is definitely improving as a writer in a lot of ways. The storyline flows more smoothly and the plot is tighter. However, while the “villain” in this story is a very interesting and unique concept, I don’t think the author takes full advantage of her creation. The climax and resolution of the plot left me saying “Really? That’s it?” Not the reaction that Murphy intended, I’m sure. I also missed the interaction between Joanne and Coyote, her shaman guide. He’s missing for most of the novel, which is odd because, given the title, I thought we would get more of him. Still, as a fan of the series overall, I look forward to seeing where the next installment takes us.

Kate Forsyth’s “Heart of Stars” brings her “Rhiannon’s Ride” trilogy to a conclusion. Unfortunately, since she had enough storylines and action going for about 8 books (which I think is how long her first series took to resolve), everything had to come to a head rather quickly. Again, I found the climactic scene a bit contrived and less-than-satisfying. Also, Olwynne’s punishment seemed abrupt and far too harsh for her crime. Haven’t we all done something impulsive and stupid when driven by love and youth? Still, Forsyth does know how to plot enough action to keep the reader rocketing along at breakneck speed. Despite the heavy-handed, faux-Scottish dialogue which has been a staple of all her books and which I find quite tiresome after a while, the amazing creatures and magic with which she has endowed the land of Eileanan are reasons enough to get involved with this series.

In Simon Green's “The Man with the Golden Torc” John Taylor is back and better than ever in the latest “Nightside” novel…oh, wait, wrong Simon Green series. Not that there’s much difference. Eddie Drood/John Taylor. Mr. Stab/Razor Eddie. Weird and kooky archetypal villains and magical beings/ Weird and kooky archetypal villains and magical beings. If I’d never read the “Nightside” books, I’d have nothing bad to say about this new series as it’s well-plotted, action-packed, funny and filled with Green’s forte – the aforementioned weird-and-kooky. But, since I HAVE read the other series, I kinda wonder why Green didn’t just write another “Nightside” book instead of going to the trouble of putting a little window dressing on one and calling it a new series. Of course, he did get a hardback deal out of it so maybe that had something to do with it. On the upside, this new world is a bit lighter in tone and I like the love interest much better than Suzie Shooter, but otherwise, same ol’, same ol’. Oh, and I don’t really get the whole Dickens tie-in, but then I never really was a Dickens fan (except for “A Christmas Carol”) so “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” is not something I’m overly familiar with. Still, if the family’s name was “Smith” instead of “Drood”, it wouldn’t take anything away from the story so it’s not apparent to me why this connection was made.

Lisa Shearin’s “Magic Lost, Trouble Found” is a book that I almost gave up on after the first few pages. It just seemed very “been there, read that.” The whole wisecracking elven thief bit has been way overdone and even the cover art left me cold. It looks like someone took a picture of a very human Ren Faire attendee with a pair of fake Elvish ears on and then sort of painted in what’s supposed to be a fantasy background around her. I also had a hard time getting past the main character’s similarity to the Anne Logston’s elvish thief character “Shadow” in the series by the same name. Still, I pressed doggedly forward and what I found was that there is a kernel of a good read here. I liked the contrast of the elves and goblins – sort of a new take on the whole “light elf” vs. “dark elf” thing and I think the real issue is that Shearin appears to be a new author. I’d like to see where she goes from here – especially as she does seem to have mastered one thing: the lustful glance/powerful attraction without excruciatingly detailed sex scene. My brain was happy for the break!

From the newest of the new, I segue to the oldest of the old. It seems like I’ve been reading Katherine Kerr’s “Deverry” novels forever. Except that it turns out it’s not been forever – just 20 years or so. I suppose it’s fitting that a series that deals with multiple reincarnations of souls over a thousand years should’ve lasted this long. In fact, it’s been around so long that I may’ve even missed a volume or two because the latest installment, “The Gold Falcon”, picks up with Rhodry having been transformed into a dragon and I don’t remember that. Of course, that could just be my memory – I did turn 42 this week after all! Practically ancient. But back to the book. Some of the original characters are still around (Dallandra, Salamander) and others have finally been reincarnated (Jill and Nevyn). The Horsekin are up to their old tricks and their goddess, Alshandra, seems to be continuing to stir up mischief despite having been killed off in an earlier installment. This is definitely not a series you can pick up in the middle. I’ve read it from the beginning and even I have to occasionally refer to the chart in the back of the book to remember who’s been reincarnated as who and how many times. Oh, and Kerr does suffer from the same overuse of accented dialogue as Kate Forsyth, although it’s not quite as egregious. Still, I do grit my teeth every time someone says “my thanks” or “ye gods” as they do on just about every other page. Overall, the series is definitely worth reading, but my personal preference is with the earlier books revolving around the Nevyn/Jill cycle rather than the later books centering on Rhodry and the elves.

Speaking of a blast from the past, Deborah J. Ross has published her latest posthumous Darkover collaboration novel with Marion Zimmer Bradley. At least, it’s posthumous for Ms. Bradley. Ms. Ross is still alive as far as I know. With the exception of Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Bradley’s Darkover is hands-down my favorite “universe” to visit. With her death a number of years ago, I was sure that I’d never again be able to visit Thendara or Nevarsin or Arilinn Tower. Thankfully, Ms. Ross has been around to keep the dream alive. While I felt that her “Clingfire Trilogy” was a bit weak in spots, I was just happy to have more Darkover books so I was willing to overlook just about anything. Thankfully, “The Alton Gift” is a vast improvement. I found one minor plot device to be painfully obvious, but other than that, it was a great read. It is nice to see Lew Alton finally attempting to resolve some of his issues – the poor man has suffered for such a long time. Also, this book provides a lot of continuity from some of Bradley’s earlier works (“The World Wreckers”, “The Planet Savers”, and Exile’s Song in particular). Still, there are many questions about Darkover remaining to be answered. For example, I’ve always wanted to know if the woman held in stasis in the rhu fead is really Dorilys from “Stormqueen.” If so, what would happen if someone woke her up? I can only hope Ms. Bradley left enough material behind so that Ms. Ross can keep publishing Darkover books until my eyesight begins to fail and I can’t read them any more.

Whew! That’s it for the books. It doesn’t seem like it’s been that long since I did an update that I would have so many to review, but maybe I’ve just been ripping through them faster than usual.

In other news, I turned 42 this week (boo! hiss!) and while the past year hasn’t exactly been fun, it was better by far than the year before. So, at least I’m making some progress. And I do have a lot to be extremely grateful for: my terrific family, my health (despite last week’s cold which seems to be hanging on far longer that I would’ve liked), the divorce being final, getting to keep the house so I don’t have to live in a box under a bridge somewhere, and of course Ryan who is the world’s most fantabulous kid.

In fact, his quote of the week (decade?) is: “I’m so cute, you can’t stand it!” To which I could only reply, “you are absolutely right, kiddo.”

Have a great weekend, everyone!

KJ

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Yes, Virginia, good people still exist in this world

There are still a few nice, honest people left in the world. Case in point: the guy who saved my ass this weekend. After church, I stopped at the grocery store on the way home to pick up a few necessities. I had the kid in tow and we were both still dressed in our good church clothes so I was carrying a clutch purse instead of my normal, ginormous, running-around-doing-errands purse (this fact becomes important later – just trust me on this). I’m never a fan of grocery shopping even at the best of times and doing it in 3” heels, with a 4-year-old who is ready for his nap and yet still not too tired to notice and ask about every toy, piece of candy, box of cookies or sugary cereal that we come across is even more difficult. So, I was on a mission to get in, get the stuff we needed, and get outta there as fast as possible. I managed to accomplish this task fairly well except I had to give up on the lunch meat as there was a line 6-people-deep at the deli counter so that was a no-go. Still, got the milk, the diet coke and the peanut butter and everything else on my list and got out of the store without any tantrums occurring on either my part or on Ryan’s part. Navigated the demolition derby that is the parking lot without breaking my neck or having Ryan get run over by some crazed psycho in a Hummer who thinks the parking lot is the best place to try to break the land speed record. Got the kid and the groceries in the car, was a good citizen and put the grocery cart back in the cart return area and headed for home. No problems, right? I pull into the garage and start to unload things when I suddenly realized that I don’t see my purse. Anywhere. I start frantically looking for it at which point this small voice pipes up from the back seat: “Uh, Mom, are you looking for your purse?” “Yes, honey, do you see it back there?” “No, you left it in the cart at the grocery store.”

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Those of you that are women and carry purses are screaming along with me, I am sure. See, my normal purse is a shoulder bag, which stays on my shoulder and therefore is never at risk of being left behind somewhere. Not so with a clutch purse – it’s easy to set it down and forget about it. In fact, if you want to free up your hands to do anything, you almost have to set it down (although mine has a wrist strap so you can hang it from your wrist and note to self that I need to freakin’ use the strap next time!) I remember jumping back into the car and starting the engine and then everything is a blur until I pull back into the grocery store parking lot. Well, I do remember Ryan saying from the back seat that I should slow down or the “pleaseman” will give me a ticket and me muttering some response about an emergency (Ryan has since told at least two perfect strangers that it is okay to break the law if it is an emergency – way to go, me). As I squeal into the handicapped spot (emergency, remember?) which is the closest place I can park to the cart return, I can see my grocery cart sitting there by itself, but it’s obvious that there’s no black clutch purse in it. My heart is sinking, but I decide to go into the store and check to see if anyone has been honest enough (yeah, right) to maybe have turned in the purse. As I get up to the door of the store, I see a man standing off to the side with a cart and something black in it. Just as I’m about to try for a closer look, he looks at me and says “I think I have your purse – I recognize you from your driver’s license. Don’t worry, everything is still in it.” After he picked me up off the ground where I had fallen into a puddle of relief, I thanked him a bunch of times and headed back for the car because Ryan was still strapped into it and I didn’t want to leave him alone (or the car in the handicapped spot) any longer. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized I should’ve given the guy something as a reward. That purse had all the cash I’d just taken out when I bought groceries, all my credit and ATM cards, my (brand new) driver’s license, my phone, and a new pair of Brighton sunglasses that I just bought in Vegas. Losing it could have so been a complete disaster.

So, thank you again, Good Samaritan, whoever you are!

In other news...

I am completely addicted to the Choco-Nut trail mix from Mother’s Market and it is ruining my diet. And yet, can’t stop eating it. So good.

Went to Vegas over Memorial Day Weekend and had a fabulous time. Bought the aforementioned Brighton sunglasses, saw two shows, shopped, hung out by the pool, ate at a couple of fabulous restaurants and just generally had a terrific time. Oh, here’s the pair of sunglasses I almost bought instead. I actually like them a little bit better, but they are very similar to a prescription pair that I already have so I decided to go for something with a little different look. The prescription glasses are at the eye doctor’s shop for repair so I needed something to wear in the meantime.

The shows I went to were “Le Reve” at the Wynn hotel and “Love” at the Mirage. The former was good, but very bizarre with no real story line. The latter is a Cirque-du-Soleil show set to Beatles’ music and it was excellent!

While in Vegas, I noticed a disturbing trend. I wasn’t going to mention it figuring that hey, it’s Vegas, you never know what you’ll see there (for example, there were so many women wearing hooker gear and having several inches of thong showing out the back of their pants that my retinas nearly burned out, but whatever), but since my return, I’ve noticed it occurring here as well. What is it, you ask? Women wearing shoes that are either way too big or way too small for their feet. Did I miss a memo? When did it become okay to have 3” of shoe base sticking out behind your heel or 3” of your toes hanging off the front edge of your shoe? Shoes – especially heels – are uncomfortable (and expensive) enough that I cannot fathom why anyone would buy and wear shoes that don’t fit. And I don’t mean that they’re just a tad bit tight and you know the leather will stretch out. I’m talking don’t fit by at least a couple of sizes. Why? I don’t get it. Oh, and besides the comfort and expense issue, it’s incredibly unattractive. Someone please explain this to me.

Oh, and speaking of shoes…the highlight of my trip was when I went into the Stuart Weitzman (ritzy, high-end, designer shoes) store in the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace and both of the sales clerks kept commenting on the shoes I was wearing and how cute they were. Now, I’ll admit, they are a really cute pair of metallic silver strappy sandals with some jeweled embellishment on the front (hey, it was Vegas – if you can’t wear your bling there, then you might as well not own any). But, it was all I could to make it out of the store without bursting into gales of laughter.

Why? Because those so cute sandals?

They’re from last summer.

And they’re from Payless.

They cost me about $9.00 during a BOGO sale.

Not only can I rock the cheap shoes…I can rock ‘em in Stuart Weitzman’s store.

Life is good.

KJ

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Biz & Books

First, a bit of business…

There’ve been a couple of recent inquiries about pricing on my jewelry so I just thought I’d put up a reminder that everything is available for sale at the Silver Parrot Designs website. I accept credit cards and will ship anywhere in the United States.

Okay, on to the books.

It took me forever to find a copy of “ Crystal Dragon,” the second book of Sharon Lee & Steve Miller’s Great Migration Duology. None of the local bookstores carried it and even Amazon was sold out of it for a while. I learned recently it’s because their publisher, Meisha Merlin, has gone out of business. That’s a real shame because they were doing a great job bringing new talent into the field and they were also set to publish the long (and I mean long – like 20 years) awaited new addition to Jacqueline Lichtenberg’s Sime/Gen series. I don’t think that book is EVER going to get published!

But anyway, back to Lee & Miller. I can’t say enough good things about the entire Liaden Universe series. Wonderful. Original. Action-packed. Romantic. Just plain good. The basic elements of the books speak for themselves, but I thought I’d point out that one of my personal favorite things about the way these authors write is their dialogue. There’s a certain cadence or rhythm to the way the characters (particularly the Liadens) speak that invokes a feeling of antiquity. There are always multiple unspoken levels of complexity for every word that IS spoken and the whole is infused with a very dry sense of wit. Altogether enjoyable!

I do think the Duology books are perhaps the weakest of the entire series, but this second book is definitely better than the first. The reader is given much more insight into the origin of the dramliza, the origin of Clan Korval, and the personalities and relationship of Cantra yos’Phelium and M. Jela. If you haven’t ventured into Liaden space yet, I probably would not start with the Duology (even though it is the “origin” story). It makes much more sense if one already has the background from the other books. I suppose with Meisha Merlin out of the picture, it will be a long time (if ever) before we get any more books in this series, but don’t despair, pilot! The adventuresome can find an on-line version of the latest Liaden story at the Korval website. The story is free, but if you are suitably impressed with the tale, you can make a donation to keep these wonderful authors afloat while they find a new publisher. I highly encourage everyone to do this as these two are the type of authors who should be supported. They’re turning out high quality, inventive, INTELLIGENT work as opposed another tired re-tread of Star Wars/vampire/werewolf novels.

Which is a wonderful segue into my review of Karen Chance’s two, um, well, vampire novels, “Touch the Dark” and “Claimed by Shadow.” Although, technically, they are really the story of Cassandra Palmer who is an oracle (and those of you who know your Greek mythology are now going “ooo…an oracle named Cassandra…how, er, daring). However, Cassandra has managed to deeply entangle herself into the affairs of vampires, weres and pretty much every other supernatural beastie around. Orphaned as a child when supernatural politic led to her parents’ death in a car bombing, Cassandra is raised at the vampire court of Antonio (sort of a combo of Tony Soprano and Dracula rolled into one neat package) who wants to control her in order to use her psychic gifts for his own material gains. Cassandra eventually escapes and teams up with the FBI for a little payback of the “even vampire gangsters have to pay their taxes” kind which eventually leads to her being in the witness protection program with a pack of vampires perennially trying to find her. One day, they do.

And that’s where our story begins. And, it’s actually a pretty good story, at that. Leaving aside some rookie author mistakes in the continuity department and the fact that Cassandra is not ALWAYS the brightest bulb in the room, these were an enjoyable read. The action is certainly non-stop. In fact, a few restful scenes here and there to allow the reader to recover would not go amiss in future installments. The vampires come in a variety of different flavors: creepy, evil, nice, sexy but dangerous and of course, just downright sexy. Which of course means that there are the de rigueur (apparently) sex scenes, but they are nowhere near as intense or as ubiquitous as those found in, oh, I don’t know, say, a Laurell K. Hamilton novel. I did find it a bit creepy that the one vampire Cassandra is most strongly attracted to is the guy who was kinda sorta her “guardian uncle” while she was growing up. But, given the essential immortality of vamps, I suppose it’s no creepier than say Harrison Ford and Callista Flockhart or Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Or Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher.

Then, I read the two remaining books in Diana Pharaoh Francis’s “Path” series: “Path of Honor” and “Path of Blood.”

The best thing I can say about this trilogy is that it is mediocre. After a promising, but somewhat juvenile, start in the first book, Francis meanders through a second book during which (as far as I can tell) nothing much happens except a lot of whining. Yes, the plague is terrible and yes, Reisil can’t seem to get her powers functioning to cure it, and that’s bad. But what I didn’t see in this book was Reisil really taking any ACTIONS to address this. There’s a lot of “poor me, nobody likes me” and “woe is me I can’t save everyone” moments, but is she running around looking up obscure magic texts, or spending hours on her knees in the temple praying or roaming the countryside trying to scare up the wizards so she can ask them questions? Nope.

The whole story really falls apart in the last book where a whole new character from another world is suddenly introduced and then Reisil has to go to his world and then she comes back and blah, blah, blah. THEN, the author skips over the actual RESOLUTION of everything and just gives us a synopsis of it in a flashback that occurs two years later. GRRR! And that’s not even what I hated the most (although it was pretty bad). I hated, hated, HATED the way the author chose to resolve Reisil’s romance with Yohuac. I suppose I won’t reveal that here in case anyone is actually tempted to read these books, but man, was it frustrating! The sad thing is that these books contained some nuggets of really quality stuff – too bad they didn’t come to fruition.

Which leaves me with the last thing I read this month – Jim Butcher’s second “Alera” book: “Academ’s Fury.” This book has been out for a while. In fact, it’s been out long enough that it’s now in paperback (originally released in hardback) and I waited to pick it up because I had mixed feelings about the first book in the series. It was well-written in true Jim Butcher style, but it just didn’t have quite the same “oomph” for me as the Dresden books do. Perhaps that’s an unfair comparison because of course the true, high fantasy, Alera books won’t have the same snappy, pop culture references and humor as the Dresden books. I also felt like the teenage character of Tavi not having any furycrafting ability in a world where everyone else DOES was so very reminiscent of the plot of the original installment of Piers Anthony’s “Xanth” series. Of course, the two series could not possibly be more different in every other respect. I’m just saying I felt I’d seen this device before.

But, there it was in paperback and I was having a hard time finding anything else decent to read so I thought I’d give the series another chance. I knew it would at least be intelligent and tightly crafted if nothing else.

Wow. Am I glad I picked this book up. It completely blows the first book away! Non-stop action (in fact, this book could’ve used a couple of “respite” moments, too), non-stop plots, and danger, danger, danger Will Robinson. Thoroughly entertaining from cover to cover. In fact, I ran out as soon as I’d finished it to pick up the third book in the series (which is out only in hardcover thus far) only to have to throw a fit in the bookstore because they were out of stock! If I have one critique (other than the request for a breather from the action) it would be that while the use of overwhelming odds is a tried-and-true device, I found the odds against Tavi, Isana, Bernard and Amara in this book to be SO overwhelming as to be unbelievable that they accomplished what they did. This is exacerbated by the fact that they all survived a “battle of overwhelming odds” in the first book of the series already. Still, there are hints that perhaps Tavi is more than what he seems and that this may account for some of his “luck” despite his apparent lack of furycrafting ability. I’m headed to a different bookstore at lunch today in the hopes of picking up the next installment so I’ll have to let you know how it all turns out.

That’s it for now.

Take care all and have a Happy Memorial Day weekend!

KJ

P.S. Dratted Barnes & Nobel didn't have "Cursor's Fury" so off to amazon.com I go!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

You have got to be freakin' kidding me!!

Well, if I ever needed any (additional) proof that TV execs are idiots, this is it. And look at the absolute DREK! they are going to replace it with.

I am now officially boycotting all CW shows. Except for the remaining episodes of the last season of "Veronica Mars."

RIP, girlfriend.

KJ

Monday, May 14, 2007

Saying "65% off retail"...

...to a bead addict is like saying "free crack" to a drug addict. Which is why it was so hard to restrain myself at the Rings & Things trunk show this weekend. Amazing prices and probably every type, color and cut of every stone you've ever heard of (and a few you haven't).

Pictures?

Mais, bien sur!





These amethysts were my big splurge for the day. But, thanks to the aforementioned 65% off, they were actually affordable. And sooooo cute!

Now, if I could just get some time to actually do some beading...sigh.

Hope everyone had a happy Mother's Day!

KJ

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Thou shalt not covet...

...but if thou do, thou shalt covet the GOOD stuff!

To wit:

Are these the cutest or what? Perfect for summer earrings!

I just love this new CZ shape, but wish they had more colors available.

And for these I just have one word: DROOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Sadly, way out of my budget realm right now.

And yet more pictures of beads I covet but cannot afford:





There's no real point to this other than that I figured eveyone was getting tired of my diet ranting so it seemed like a good time for some eye candy. Except now I am depressed and must go in search of REAL candy.

Poorness sucks!

KJ