Friday, August 15, 2008

Guilty Pleasures

I thought Friday would be a good day to write an entry about a little something I’d like to call “Guilty Pleasures.” You know, that stuff you love and can’t get enough of, but know is probably bad for you, but you do it anyway even though you feel a bit guilty about it, but it’s so much fun that you don’t care?

Yeah, that stuff.

So, here’s my list (and since I’m trying to make interesting reading here, I’ll just go ahead and skip the obvious ones like, say, chocolate):

1. Short-term GP – staying up ‘til 1 AM on a work night to watch Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson kick butt in the Olympic gymnastics competitions. Go, girls, go!

2. Summer-time GP: A li’l show I discovered on USA last summer called “Burn Notice.” I do love me some Jeffrey Donovan. Mmmmm.

3. Beads, beads and more beads:

I purchased both of these focal beads from Robin Weber on eBay and they are even more stunning in person than in the pictures.

These beauties came from Little Crow, another eBay vendor. They are yummy shades of ivory, moss, olive and gold.

4. Learning new beading techniques – especially things with lots of sparkle like these Rivoli earrings:

These are my latest pair of Rivoli earrings. The scanner has turned them a really funky color so the real beauty of the jonquil rivolis (on top) and sahara rivolis (on the bottom) is not readily apparent.

Here's a scan of what the stones look like by themselves - I got a more realistic view of the colors on this picture than on the earrings:

Even this scan is not completely accurate because you can't see the really gorgeous sparks of sapphire blue that are in the smaller Sahara stones.
5. Walking on the beach during “off-peak” times when there aren’t many people around (okay, so this one is actually good for me, but I still feel guilty because it’s time away from the kidlet)
6. Writing blog entries when I ought to be doing laundry or working or some other truly productive thing ;-)
Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Have some earrings with that whine...

I finally made something with the silver pieces that I created in my Art Clay Silver intro class back in May.

I just added some sterling silver chain, a few crystals (both Czech and Swarovski) and some Bali silver spacers and…ta DA! Instant, cute earrings.

Of course, I haven’t made any new silver pieces since I took the class (and bought all the corresponding supplies) THREE MONTHS AGO! While the material itself is relatively simple to work with and has a lot of creative applications and potential, there’s a lot of set-up and preparation that has to be done before you can sit down and actually work with it and I just do not have the time right now.

In fact, most of my beading is getting done on my lunch hour at work because that is the only free time I have any more. Sometimes I get an hour or two after the kid goes to bed at night, but I’m usually too tired to do much at that point. I certainly don’t feel like dragging out a bunch of stuff that will just have to get cleaned up and put away before I can go to bed.

I’ve also learned from past experience that it doesn’t do me any good to attempt creative work when I’m tired. Either I make mistakes in execution (knots, tangles, skipped beads, etc.) or the designs are boring or bad (poor color choices, etc.)

This lack of time is also why I’ve been doing mostly beadwork rather than stringing or wirework, lately. The short amount of time I have at lunch is mostly conducive to rote work like bead embroidery where I’m just doing the same stitch over and over and not having to read/interpret patterns or make color selections. I only bring in projects that are in a certain “phase” – they’re already underway and the color selections have already been made and I just bring the beads I need. I certainly can’t set out my beading board and fiddle around with potential stringing combinations at lunch. Not enough room and even if I did get a combo I liked, I probably couldn’t get it strung before lunch was over and then I’d have to pack up and lose the design.

This whole single, working mom deal is really, really tough. Even when I can get a babysitter (that I can afford), I have to use the free time to get chores and errands done AND I feel guilty about not spending that time with my son even though I know it’s not something that can be helped and he’s probably happier at the park with the sitter than waiting in line at the bank or dry cleaners with me.

Anyway, I just wanted to say kudos to all the women out there that fill the roles of two parents as well as keeping the household financially afloat. I’m sure there are many who aren’t even as lucky as I am to have the family support that I do. I don’t know where I’d be without my folks around to help out.

Probably under a bridge somewhere, living in a box, eating cat food and making jewelry out of tin cans and grass blades or something.

Okaayyy…on that happy note…time to go to lunch and hopefully, get a pair of Rivoli earrings finished.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Rivoli Madness - Part Deux

Well, the Rivoli madness continues. I think maybe the reason I resisted playing with these for so long is that I subconsciously recognized the potential for serious obsession with them. Which, of course, is turning out to be absolutely true.

I wasn’t happy with the stitching or color combinations on a couple of my first attempts so I re-did them and I think they are definitely much improved:

I'm now calling htis pair "Amethyst Glitz" and I think they look a lot better than the original design.

When I first made this pair, I'd used some green AB and light amethyst AB seed beads and they ended up looking kind of weird. Much better in just amethyst and gold, I think.

I also have to mention that Rings N Things’ customer service department was kind enough to send me some free additional Rivolis after reading here on the blog about the non-matchingness of a couple of crystals I used in one of my early pieces.

This is the original pair. After I make a second pair using the new Rivolis they sent me, I'll have TWO matching pairs of earrings. {insert happy OCD dance of joy here}

This really went above and beyond the call of duty on their part and I’m beyond grateful. You can be sure I always recommend them as a vendor to fellow beaders whenever I get the chance!

After re-doing those earrings, I decided to hunt around and see what else I could with all the Rivolis I’ve since been compelled to purchase and I found Laura McCabe’s book: “Creating Crystal Jewelry with Swarovski.” Even if you never want to make a project from this book, it’s worth the purchase just for the eye candy factor alone. Wow – gorgeous stuff.

Whereupon I was of course compelled to go out and buy more Rivolis and coordinating crystals to make some of the things from the book. And what luck that there just happened to be a bead and gem show in town where I was able to hit up crystal vendor for a bunch of really unusual Rivoli and bicone colors and sizes.

Sadly, the book also requires size 15 Czech charlotte (or one-cut) beads to finish nearly every single project. Were there any to be had at the massive bead show? Umm…no.

And by “no” what I really mean is that there were several vendors selling size 15 charlottes, but, after purchasing them and bringing them home, I realized that these beads could not possibly be what McCabe is calling out in her book. Because they are larger than regular size 15 beads and the book clearly states they are supposed to be smaller.

Confusing, right? Because a size 15 should be a size 15 regardless of the facet cut, right?


Turns out that what I had purchased were size 15 charlottes, but they were JAPANESE size 15 charlottes…which are BIGGER than regular size 15 beads. They are, in fact, closer to a size 12.

McCabe’s book requires size 15 CZECH charlottes…which are smaller than regular size 15 beads.

And also, apparently, nearly impossible to find.

Not to be deterred, I decided to finish off my Rivoli bezels with just another row of regular 15’s although I culled out the smallest ones I could and pulled my tension as tight as I possibly could. It seems to have worked out tolerably well (other than being a pain in the ass to do) and I should have a finished pair of earrings based on a project from the book to share here in fairly short order.

My other purchases at the show were fairly mundane as I stocked up on a lot of basic findings and other boring stuff. I wish I’d realized while I was doing that that I was running out of both Power Pro and Fireline and need more of both – especially if I’m going to tackle all these crystal projects.

Of course, before I can get going on any more of them, I’ve got to stop staying up til 1 AM watching the Olympics. I’m so glad I lost sleep last night in order to see the US Women’s Gymnastics team completely fall apart on balance beam and floor exercise. Oh, that was SO frustrating and sad. I can only hope things go better for them on the individual events.

Oh, and here's one more necklace (having nothing to do with Rivolis) that I managed to get finished over the weekend after it'd been hanging around for about 3 months in a half-finished state:

These cute, buggy lampwork beads came from an on-line vendor and then I added crystals, pearls, Czech cubes and some sterling and Bali silver beads and spacers. The chain is sterling silver as is the lobster-claw clasp.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Les livres sont magnifiques...

...ou, comme on dit en anglais*: "Books rule!"

For some reason, I am having problems writing book reviews this year. I’m not sure why, but it’s been like wading through tar to get one done. Hence the reason this one is about 10 miles long – I’m clearing the backlog.

So, first up is Simon R. Green’s “Daemons are Forever” which is the sequel to his first Eddie Drood book: “Man with the Golden Torc.” Although the first book was good, I actually preferred the second one. It’s unusual for the second book in a series to eclipse he first one, but the characters are so busy running around trying not to get killed that there’s not much time for character development. In “Daemons,” Green has more time for insight into Eddie’s character and the further development of his relationship with Molly Metcalf. The side-plot involving Mr. Stab is also interesting. If I have any negative critique, it’s that Green borrows a little too heavily from his “Nightside” books in creating all the odd characters and archetypes that the Drood family runs into. While none of the characters are the same, they have the same “feel” as who (or what) you might run across in the “Nightside” books.

Books 2 and 3 of Kelly McCullough’s “Ravirn” series are “Cybermancy” and “Codespell.” These books are run romps – especially if you are a Greek mythology buff. I wonder if they might be a bit confusing to someone who isn’t up to date on Homer, though. While the computer-tech-geek stuff can be a little overwhelming for anyone who’s not an IT specialist (hello? I’m lucky I can find the power button on my computer), it’s only intrusive in a few spots. I’m not sure I’d be quite as happy with these books if I were paying hardback prices for them because they are sort of “fluff” reading, but as long as they’re paperback, I recommend ‘em.

Tanya Huff’s latest installment in her Torin Kerr series, “Valor’s Trial,” is not quite as enjoyable as the earlier books. I’m getting a bit tired of the “Gunnery Sergeant Kerr is practically God and can do no wrong” bit. Plus, I thought one particular element of the plot should have been totally obvious from the beginning – especially given Torin’s previous encounters with a certain alien intelligence. Still, while this book may be a tad bit mediocre compared to the earlier entries in the series, Huff is such a great writer that this book is still head and shoulders above a lot of other stuff out there. I’d just wait for the paperback version, but definitely pick it up – especially if you’re already a fan of the series.

And now we come to what I like to call the “bite” section of the review i.e. the vampire books.

First is the latest in Rachel Caine’s “Morganville” books, “Feast of Fools.” And yeah, okay, I know this is a “teen” book, but in my defense, I offer the following:

1. It’s better written and more entertaining than a lot of the regular stuff in this genre.

2. Caine’s next “Weather Warden” book just came out last week and I needed to keep occupied until it did.

3. Part of being an adult means getting to make your own choices without having to justify ‘em to anybody so if I want to get my 16-year-old-girl-with-cute-boys-and-vampires groove on, then I will. And you can’t stop me. So THERE!

And as for what I thought of the book:

1. Good book (as is the rest of the series)

2. Sucky ending (don’t buy it until the next book comes out in January and then buy ‘em both together so you don’t get pissed off, like I did.

Then there’s E.E. Knight’s “Vampire Earth” series, which, admittedly, are not really true vampire books (the Kurians being some sort of interdimensional, aura-sucking, alien leeches) and which, also admittedly, are not my normal fave kind of story. They are strangely addicting, nonetheless. I find it especially eerie the way Knight posits how the takeover of Earth and destruction of human civilization might have come about. When you think about some of the recent natural disasters (Katrina, the earthquake in China, the cyclone in Myanmar), the current military situation (our forces spread too thinly on multiple fronts) and the current economic conditions (sucking big green ones), it’s all too easy to see how a slight increase in any of these things could really overburden mankind’s ability to cope. On the downside, I wish there was a bit more in the way of character development and personal relationships in these books, but the action is sure non-stop. I also have a bit of a nit to pick with the transition between book 5 and book. The upside is that there are 6 of these books out in paperback and the 7th just came out in hardback so there’s a lot of reading to do here to catch up if you get hooked (like I did).

At this point, I found myself in a book wasteland as there was nothing new from any of my favorite authors for most of June and July. So, I grabbed a few old faves and re-read them beginning with Sharon Shinn’s “Mystic and Rider.” If you haven’t yet found your way to this wonderful author, you’re really missing out. But if you hurry, you can get caught up on the three published books in her “Twelve Houses” series before the fourth one comes out this November!

Another perennial favorite of mine is Linnea Sinclair. All her books are good, but I’m particularly fond of “Finders Keepers.” “Gabriel’s Ghost” is my second favorite and the sequel to that book, “Shades of Dark”, just hit the bookstores last week. It’s already on my nightstand in the “to be read” pile! I can’t wait!

Then, in the “I don’t know why I didn’t read this eons ago” category, I finally decided to pick up a copy of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” I’ve always loved the film adaptations of Austen’s work and have read most other major works of English literature (during that time period where I thought I would be an English major before I switched over to majoring in French at which point I had to read all the major French authors…in French), for some reason I’d never gotten around to actually reading her books. Frankly, I wondered if I’d find them as delightful to read as the stores were when presented on the big screen. I’m happy to report that their delightfulness is in no way diminished when encountered in its original form. I confess that I find myself strongly tempted to tackle “Sense and Sensibility” next.

Paying homage to approximately the same time in history is Naomi Novik’s “Temeraire” series – the latest of which is “Victory of Eagles.” A sort of “Horatio Hornblower” meets “Pern” idea, the Temeraire books are smartly written and very enjoyable. For the most part, that is. I had a few problems with this latest book – possibly due to how miserable the main characters are as a result of their actions in the last book. Also, the dragons come off as a bit more immature and greedy in “Victory” than they have before. I particularly noticed this with relation to Temeraire himself as he’d always seemed to be a bit more advanced in both intelligence and maturity than some of his scaled compatriots. I can only hope that the next installment brings both the dragon and his long-suffering captain some long-deserved happiness and peace.

Okay, that catches things up on the book front. I should have some fun jewelry things to post over the next few days so stay tuned!


*Hey - my parents spent all that money on that fancy French degree and I like to feel they are getting their money's worth out of it ;-)