Thursday, April 28, 2011

Lunchtime Bead Shopping

So when your bestest beading buddy who also happens to work at the same office that you do utters the words "you know there's a new bead store we can get to on our lunch hour, don't you?" you sort of HAVE TO go check it out. Two Fridays ago, that's exactly what Julie and I did (never mind that each of us has enough beads to open her own bead store...and she could open a second store just for scrapbooking stuff, too).

AD Beads is quite the nice little place. Very clean and well organized. Not much in the way of art beads, but lots of stones and Chinese crystal and pretty decent prices. I didn't pay more than about $6 for anything I bought.

I've been wanting to get some of these little rhinestone balls for quite a while, but the ones I kept seeing at my other local store looked kinda tarnished and junky. These were nice and sparkley and came in two different sizes (so I got one pack of each size, of course).

No idea what these are - they feel sort of like ceramic, but are too lightweight for that. I just got them because of the pretty colors.

Strands of carnelian - one carved into roses and the other with a swirly melon kinda shape. In real life these are much more orange/amber/brown colored, but they turned pretty reddish in the picture.

Spring green magnesite heishi - thought these would make some cool spacers.

Another stone that I didn't recognize, but since it looks like Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream, I'm in!

Bright yellow dyed jade "pumpkin" beads.

Same beads in blue.

Couldn't get a great picture of these, but they are blue tigereye hearts. Really outstanding quality with a lot of shine and blue flash. I've rarely seen this stone look so good.

Small oval crackled agate slices. They are black around the edges and then have a "window" of transparent crackled aqua in the centers. GREAT quality and nice uniformity on size and shape - no chips or other weirdness going on like I've seen in lots of other strands of this stuff at shows.

So, I bought a strand of larger, more freeform shapes in the same stone.

That's it for the purchases, but I actually made something, too. This set got started while I was on vacation, but then I needed to re-do one section and had to wait until my wire order arrived so I could do that.

Earrings are purple jade disks and amazonite pebbles with Bali silver spacers. They're a bit ho-hum on purpose because the necklace is, well, kinda wild.

Since Ryan and I just recently saw the movie "Rio" and the colors in it reminded me of this necklace, I'm calling this entire set "Carnivale":

This necklace started with a gorgeously crazy wild set of lampwork beads from JulsBeads. They all have silver dots on them so I knew I'd be working with silver as the metal of choice for this necklace.

I added in some mirrored lime green shell disks and amazonite pebbles.

Along with some juicy orange jade, teal seed beads and Bali silver bead caps.

Dyed purple jade disks and textured silver rings.

And lots and lots of wire-wrapping...

And finished it all off with a sterling silver lobster clasp and a last texture ring.

And it's off to Carnivale with all the bright festival colors!

Hope you enjoyed it!


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Vacation Download - Part III

Okay, I know, enough with the vacation pictures already. This is the last lot, I promise!

Although this guy just looks like a slightly cuter version of a rat, he posed so nicely that I had to take his picture. He is a desert round-tailed ground squirrel.

These next few pictures were taken at the animal show. This is a white-nosed coati. Sort of an exotic version of a raccoon.

African crested porcupine.

This is the world's smallest type of fox called a Fennec. As you can see from his body language, they are nocturnal. He didn't even wake up for his applause. But sooooo cute!

And now we come to my favorite part of the show. Meet Treasure - the Thick Billed Parrot.

Did you know that there were once two parrot species indigenous to North America? The Carolina Parakeet and the Thick Billed Parrot. Sadly, the Carolina Parakeet went extinct in the late 1800's. Their feathers were popular as decorations for ladies' hats back then.

Thick Bills have not fared much better. They once roamed the pine forests of the Southwest all the way down into Mexico. VERY few are left - they are nearly extinct. A number of years ago, there was a project that involved releasing around 20 of them into the wild in Arizona, but it was not successful. Their defense mechanism against predators is to be part of large flocks - the size of the flock confuses the predators and while they may pick off an individual bird here and there, the majority of the population survives. A necessary defense when you wear such brightly colored plummage! A flock of 20 birds is not enough so most of them did not survive. The ones who remained were recaptured and a new breeding program started.

How cool would it be if we were able to get their numbers up enough to fill out forests with parrots again?

Then it was on to the raptor enclosure. This is one of our most common local raptors - I see one on about every other lightpole on my way to work each day. It's a Red Tailed Hawk.

Another view of the hawk - most of the raptors at this zoo were taken in as injured birds. They try to rehabe and release those that they can. The ones in the exhibit like this one are mostly non-releasable due to the severity of their injuries.

This is another one of my favorite local raptors - it's called a Kestrel or Sparrowhawk. It's a bit of a misnomer as they don't eat sparrows at all. They are small bird so mostly eat bugs and lizards.

For a while, they were fairly scarce as the malathion spraying that was done back when I was a kid to get rid of a certain kind of fruit fly really messed them up. It affected the density of their eggshells and led to some genetic abnormalities. I'm glad to see them making a comeback because I think they are so beautiful - love the gray and russet coloring!

We didn't really have to go to the zoo to see these guys - we saw them running on the hotel grounds and even in a shopping mall parking lot!

Beep! Beep! It's a roadrunner. There were a pair of them in this enclosure and they had a nest going, too! I would've thought they nexted on the ground, but the nest was in the lower part of a tree.

Couldn't get a very good closeup of this one, but it's a Golden Eagle sitting on its nest.

Okay, so I know this looks like just a hollow tree trunk, right? That's what we thought, too, but I took a picture of it for a reason.

As we were standing there, this little guy showed up with some grass in his beak and hopped right down inside that tree. His mate showed up and did the same thing a few minutes later so we realized they must have a nest inside there.

Which wouldn't be a big deal except this tree stump? Yeah, it's in THIS cage:

This guy has his own protection racket going!

Okay, that's it for the raptors. We moved on to bigger animals. Because of the cool weather on this trip, I got a shot of this animal for the first time:

I have tried to spot this cat every year that we've been to this zoo and it's always been hiding away in its den. But this time, I managed to capture it on film. ALMOST as exciting as my last bobcat encounter - which happened at the park across the street from my house where one sauntered right across our hiking trail about 25 feet in front of us in broad daylight. Talk about a surprise!

Another animal we see around our neighborhood quite frequently - Wile E. Coyote. Again, I think I only got a shot of him because of the cool weather.

Then, it was on to the final exhibit of the day. The zoo had just opened this exhibit for the first time about 4 days before we got there so we were among the first to see this animal:

Stupid, slow digital camera! I swear there was an animal in this picture when I pressed the button, but by the time the camera actually took the shot? Poof! Gone.

So, I tried again. Better, but still not what I was going for. However, gives you an idea of how you'd never even notice this gal if you were out in the wild and she was sneaking up on you and getting ready to pounce!

And this is what it looks like when it's walking away from you LOL! Again, the difference between the time I hit the button and the time the camera actually took the picture!

I was DETERMINED to get a good shot of this baby girl. Because yep, she's not quite full grown yet.

And then I had a brainstorm!

Put the small, helpless child in the BRIGHT YELLOW SHIRT right in center front of the glass.

Ta DA!

Bait works ;-)


Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Hangover

I invented that term this morning when neither the kid nor I felt like getting out of bed to face the fact that it was oh-my-gosh-Monday-already.

I don't know if it was all the busyness of the weekend or too much Easter candy or what, but I could've used about 10 more hours of sleep!

Friday started out with half a day at the office and then it was off to have a parent/teacher conference at Ryan's school. I met with his teacher to go over the results of Ryan's recent testing that shows that he has the "inattentive" form of ADHD. Given that this teacher has been a problem and a sore spot for me all year long, I didn't really expect much, but I have to say I was surprised when the principal showed up halfway through the meeting (unannounced) to tell me that the school district wouldn't accept any of the test results or recommendations. I needed to sign a form so the district could perform their OWN evaluation and then they would only provide accommodations based on THEIR results.

Which I think is bureacratic budget speak for "we've gotta knock as many kids as possible out of the program because we don't gots no money."

The teacher seemed genuinely surprised when I showed him the PILE of blank classwork that Ryan has been bringing home for the last two weeks. Claimed it "must have happened when the substitute teacher was here." Gee, do you think that's why all the parents are pissed off that there is a sub EVERY WEEK for at least a day or two?

So, after that ginormous waste of time, it was off to use the rest of my afternoon to cram in Easter Bunny shopping for Ryan and my two nephews, then back to pick him up and get dinner.

Around 8 PM, I came to the HORRIBLE REALIZATION that my phone was nowhere to be found. Last time I remembered seeing it? Outside the classroom before the conference. Off we went, the kid and I, in a total panic, to the deserted school campus. In the dark. To search for a lost phone in the bushes outside his classroom.

No joy.

I did eventually find it that night, but I won't tell you where because it's embarrassing and makes me look like (even more of) an idiot.

Saturday morning was the neighborhood Easter Egg hunt and pancake breakfast. My brother and his family joined us. Many eggs were found and many pancakes were eaten. Then off we went to the park to hang out and let the kids play for a while.

They were all just leaving when Ryan's dad showed up for his afternoon visit. That's the first time the rest of my family has seen him since the divorce so that was....awkward.

I spent the rest of the afternoon doing chores and getting things ready for Easter.

E.B. visited bright and early at 6:30 AM on Sunday (thanks, Ryan). Toys were played with, books were complained about (for not being toys) and much candy was eaten.

Then it was off to church to meet Mom for the 9:30 service. The flowers on the altar were in honor of my Dad - it being the 2 year anniversary of his passing. I have to say, it was kind of hard having that coincide exactly with Easter Sunday, but we got through it. Took the flowers up to the cemetery afterwards. It was NOT nice weather for us - gray, cloudy, windy and very drizzly. We had a hard time getting the flower arrangements to not fall over, but finally managed it.

A quick trip home to change and load up the car and we headed to my brother's house for Easter dinner: ham, sweet potatoes, crescent rolls, fruit and my Mom's fabulous deviled eggs. She makes 'em like no one else and I could eat an entire plateful!

Chocolate pie and pound cake for dessert and then we made it home just in time for pj's and bedtime.

Which is why I need 10 more hours of sleep!

Hope you all had a nice weekend...whether it was Easter for you or not!


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same

OR...Why I have nothing to blog about today.

Because today's entry was going to be pics of the new necklace I made at the end of my vacation week. Except that after perusing it a bit longer, I decided it needed a couple of small adjustments. Since it's a wire-wrapped necklace, this required more wire.

Which I didn't have, but proceeded to dutifully order. It arrived just in time for this past weekend so you'd think I should have been able to get the adjustments done and the necklace photographed.

But then it was 85 degrees on Saturday and we went to the beach. So that was it for that day.

Next, I targeted Sunday. But we ended up going to see "Rio" in the morning (and yeah, my mom has already taken care of the "people who go to the movies on Sunday morning instead of to church are going to hell" guilt trip speech so no need to address that topic in the comments) and then it was homework time when we got home.

Which should have taken 30 minutes. Little did I know that the "Ginormous Homework Meltdown of 2011" was about to take place. Not only did I not know it was coming, I had no idea how to handle it. Ryan has NEVER flat out refused to do his homework before nor has he ever had what I would describe as an almost mini panic attack in response to my standard "if you don't do as Mommy asks, you lose X for the day" (where X is something valuable like TV time, dessert, etc.)

So, anyway, instead of 30 minutes, homework (plus time for freakout, timeout, and subsequent resolution) ended up taking almost 3 HOURS!

After which, I was in no mood for anything but vegging in front of the TV (to detract from the "I can't believe how much I suck at being a mom" monologue that was running through my head) with a nice Dr. Who marathon (new season starts this Saturday! Woo Hoo! I am such a sci-fi geek).

FINALLY managed to get the wirework done late Sunday night after the kid was in bed (my LEAST favorite time to work on things, but at least no creativity was required - just a structural change).

Figured I'd do the new photography yesterday when I got home from work, but didn't plan on having to stay late. Which made me late to pick up the kid. Which made me late to meet with the YMCA people about reserving Ryan's spot for summer. Which made dinner and (oh yay) more homework time late.

Yeah, not so much left in the way of light for picture taking.

Today is not going so much better thus far:

I have booked appointments with Ryan's teacher and with the counselor at school to discuss the schoolwork issue (in addition to the homework freakout, he's come home with BLANK classwork for about the past 10 days).

I have called the dentist AND the orthodontist to continue the neverending saga of Ryan's teeth (only ONE more extraction, thank goodness, but we still have to have the lower appliancd molded and installed)

I have spent TWO HOURS total over the last couple of days on the phone with Marriott and the timeshare exchange people TRYING to get some kind of vacation booked for this summer. Yeah, we have FIVE WEEKS worth of time share available, but can I actually BOOK IT anywhere? Ummm...nope.

Oh, and last month? They sent my mom a coupon for ANOTHER WEEK to thank her for being such a good customer. So now I have try to book THAT ONE, too. AAAAGGGHHHHH!!!

I still have no Yahoo IM and this week I was informed that NO ONE will eat the item I was planning to make and bring for our Easter Sunday family meal. Apparently, no one understands how much my menu creativity is limited by the lack of a functioning oven. There are only so many options for stovetop or toaster oven. Not to mention that we were all given a "theme" that the dish has to be meaningful (like remind us of childhood Easter meals or some other BS) somehow.

The men with the straightjacket will be coming soon. I only hope that the TV in my padded cell gets BBC America in time for Dr. Who.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Vacation Download - Part II

Every year that we go out to the desert, we make a trip over to the Living Desert zoo they have there. And every year, I find it a frustrating experience because the heat is usually so intense (runs about 10 degrees warmer that at the resort or even the surrounding town) that a lot of the animals are hard to see because they're hiding in the shade or in their burrows AND we all get tired, sweaty, and cranky. So, last year, I decided that we just wouldn't go any more. But this year, we had some unusual weather out there. We actually had one cloudy, cool and rainy day. So, I thought, why not try the zoo again? And it was a totally different experience. Ryan actually paid a lot of attention the animals this time. The butterfly exhibit, where we usually see the most activity, was less exciting than usual because the cooler weather kept a lot of the butterflies from coming out. However, the trade off was that a LOT of the animals we never see were out and about and I got some great shots. This entry is about the butterflies and hummingbirds. I'll share more later this week about the other zoo animals. One of the first things you see in the exhibit is these glass cases full of narrow boards that are covered with various different kinds of chrysalis. Some of them are in the process of hatching - like this Lacewing. Another Lacewing - with chrysalis in the background. A newly hatched Painted Lady drying its wings. Then you move out into the rest of the enclosure that's full of pretty flowers. The butterflies were kind of scarce this time as I mentioned, but I did get a few good shots like this Spicebush Swallotail taking a drink of nectar. This plant is called a Star Cluster (cool name, right?) and the butterflies are C-R-A-Z-Y for it. This bush was covered in them, but several flew away just as I snapped the picture. Still, I can count at least five still on there with one in flight.

These Spicebush Swallowtails are my favorite butterfly in the exhibit.

Can you tell? Plus, I loved the contrast of this one sitting against those bright yellow-orange flowers - even if his wings ARE a little raggedy.

And here's another closeup of one on a Star Cluster.

Every year, I try to get a Luna Moth picture and I usually can't get close enough. Finally got one this year, although his wings aren't spread out all the way. Still, you can see the great colors!

Here's a pretty Painted Lady sitting on a white flower.

A Zebrawing taking a drink.

And here's what it looks like with its wings up - notice the bright red spots along the bottom edge. You can't see them from the top. I think it's kind of like their own secret tattoo ;-)

I am not above using the kid as bait to attract a Julia butterfly and get a great shot.

But the exhibit is home to more than just butterflies. Now, they have hummingbirds as well. This is a newly-fledged Purple Chinned hummingbird. When the sunlight hits his throat feathers just right, they flash an almost metallic violet color. I tried, but just couldn't get a shot of that.

I did get this Anna's hummingbird sitting on a branch next to the feeder.

She actually let me get a closeup!

And I don't care if it IS a little blurry. Do you know how fast these buggers are?

But, the exhibit is not the only place where you can find them. We sat on a bench at one of the shuttle stops and watched about 30 minutes straight of "Hummingbird Wars" aka "Dude, That's MY Flower!" Most of these are newly fledged youngsters and they are seriously battling it out for territory.

"Look, Ma, my wings are invisible!"

NOW, the sun comes out and I get a great shot of a Purple Chinned Hummingbird.

I want some beads that color!!

After I got dizzy from trying to capture the zooming hummingbirds, I decided to try some easier shots...of things that stand still. Like this Butterfly Flower bush.

Pretty pink and white daisies.

I wish these had been fully opened because the colors were gorgeous. Oh, and I forgot to ask what they're called, but I think of them as the Sunset Flower because of the colors.

This actually turned out to be my favorite shot of the entire day. I love the tiny detail of the water droplets on the flower.

I hope some of this stuff will find its way into jewelry designs as color inspirations.