Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cute Guy, Wine, and a Picnic!

Well, after almost twenty years I still think he's cute! My cute guy and I went on our yearly outing this Memorial Day weekend, wine touring. Many of the wineries around our area are open daily for the three day weekend. We usually just go one day, but some people take the entire weekend to visit many different areas. This year, as in many of the past years, we started in the Salem area at the Willamette Valley Vineyards. They own several vineyards through out the state, so they pour multiple wines at one location. We have long enjoyed their wines and continue to go back each year to sample what is new. The setting is of course picturesque with the main building where the tasting room is located, perched high up on a hill over looking rows of grape vines neatly planted and maintained. They usually have a few vendors in the building as well selling food, chocolates, and cheeses. I can not pass up good chocolate, so this year I enjoyed a delicious chipotle ganache filled piece. It was divine!

We took Freyja with us this year and she behave remarkably well in and out of the car. Being only three and a half months old, she was a instant attenttion getter where ever we went. She was always gracious to her adoring public! Our final stop for the day was at Oak Knoll Vineyards, were we enjoyed more delicious wines, and set up a picnic on their lawn. Freyja played in the grass, and greeted all who came by to see her with puppy enthusiasm. Bob and I ate our selection of cheese, salami, nuts and spreads, with some fresh bread and crackers until we were stuffed. It was a gorgeous day weather wise, which is rare given that is was a holiday weekend in Oregon before mid-July. We stayed and soaked in the sun a little longer before packing it all up and heading back home.

They also have the wine tour over the Thanksgiving weekend, and we usually try to go then as well. Different weather, for sure, also a different selection of wines with many places offering special holiday wines. We have purchased several of those before for the holidays and really enjoyed sharing them with family and friends. Hopefully we can do it again this year!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

New Listings On Etsy!

This is just a sampling of the new listings currently in my Etsy shop.The beautiful artisan made lampwork beads featured in this bracelet come from Blissful Garden Beads, on Etsy.

I don't know what it is about a cupcake, but I am rendered powerless around them. This one happens to be glass, but I will take all types! I love to eat them, love to make jewelry out of them and hopefully someday, I can even make my own lampwork cupcakes! For now I will have to rely on the talent of others since I can only successfully produce a round bead, and that isn't all the time! This adorable set of beads was created by Crazy Lady Beads, on Etsy.

These have become some of my favorite beads. They are created by Susan Sheehan, on Etsy. She makes a wonderful selection in an array of colors as well as other beautiful beads in other styles. These are great beads for bracelets since they lay nice and flat on your wrist and don't flip around while your wearing your piece. I have made several bracelets with this style bead with more to come. If they don't sell in my shop, they will all just become part of my collection, which won't hurt my feelings!

I can't say enough about owning classic pieces. I love them and reach for them time and time again. Some days you just don't know what to wear and it is so nice to have a few things that go with anything.

I have lots more pieces planned for summer, since we are just getting started, but I am well into my mental plans for fall. I am truly enjoying this business and appreciate all who have supported me. I am thrilled to be home full time now and will endeavor to make more and better blog post, keep the Etsy shop filled with new and interesting things and keep working away at my skills to learn making lampwork beads. Hopefully someday my creations will feature some of my own hand torched beads! I will likely continue to buy beads from the many incredibly talented artist out there. There is so much diversity in this art form which I will likely never cover all of on my own, but I will want to feature in my jewelry designs.

I am very careful to only use artisan made lampwork beads, made by self representing artist. What does this mean? These beads are not mass produced over seas, by underpaid factory worker in less than ideal conditions. The beads have been made one at a time here in the US, although I have some sources in Canada and a few other foreign countries, they all meet this same criteria. The beads are properly annealed in a kiln. This is a process similar to tempering glass, which cools that glass at a controlled rate, which insures it's safety to be used in jewelry and gives it a long life. Mass produced foreign beads, while they often times may look just as pretty, are usually not annealed, making them unsafe for long term jewelry use, since they can easily break at anytime. You will frequently find these beads for sale for a fraction of the cost of beads made by a self representing artist.

How do you know what to buy and who to buy from??? Well, it's a bit of a trial and error process, but you are going a long way to assuring yourself the best product by purchasing from someone who has acquired a self representing artist designation, which has a number assigned to it, they will tell you in their listings, or if you ask, what types of glass they used in their creation, and how they annealed them. There are still varying levels of quality and service out there. I have found some incredibly talented artist that offer very poor customer service. This is unfortunate since they make wonderful, beautiful beads, but they must count on a lot of new business, or have a lot of REALLY tolerant customers.

Thanks for stopping by my blog! Until next time....

Monday, May 25, 2009

Freyja Update!

The little stinker is getting bigger every day. She is keeping Quinn busy every moment that she is awake, and still thinks that 6:00 am is a good time to get up daily. We are trying to convince her otherwise, but she is rather resistant to this plan. Fortunately it is getting to be nice out, so I guess it'll be a good time to start taking the dogs for morning walks. It's not like they are lacking in anyway in the exercise department since Freyja believes that anytime is play time. Basically if you are awake, you should be playing. Quinn, who always seem a bit disappointed with Basil's lack of interest in playing, may now be wishing that he hadn't hoped so hard for a more willing playmate.

Freyja has settled in nicely, after a bit of a rough start. She didn't think she should have to sleep in a kennel, and spent a few week fighting the reality of that. She now does really well almost all of the time, with an occasional off day. She loves going for car rides, and thoroughly enjoys the adoration of all drive through workers. Quinn has never really enjoyed riding in the car, he'll go because he wants to be with you, but it's that whole car thing that he doesn't like!

Unlike Quinn who is afraid of everything, Freyja is fearless! There is almost nothing that ever gives her reason to be concerned. I think you could even vacuum her and she'd be fine with it. She's already shown she's not limited by barriers, and the cat is not getting the respect she is used to getting. Daisy has thrown all she has at the puppy and she keeps coming back for more. What's probably most disturbing to the cat is that the puppy has no qualms about touching her! That is the big kitty no-no as far as dogs are concerned. Freyja will flatten her to the floor, with the cat hissing, yowling, giving all she has, to no effect. The puppy just continues. Daisy has gotten in a few good blows. She bit the puppy on the nose on day, which did get her to back off for a bit, but only temporarily. I think this is one dog that the cat may have to accept, isn't going to play things her way. It's a bit of a circus around here some days, but it's our little circus and we like it... most of the time.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Moving On!!!

After what seems like 100 years, not four, Bob is finally done with his degree in nursing, has taken his licensing exam and is an RN at long last. As of this writing, a job is still something he is pursuing. Hopefully he will be able to find something locally. Amazingly for the first time in 30 years, most hospitals have gone into hiring freezes, even with Rn's. It's not that the overwhelming demand for Rn's has changed, it is only growing. The photos here are of the University of Portland School of Nursing Pinning Ceremony. Bob opted not to participate in the actual graduation commencement ceremony. This was a very nice program done just for the students from the nursing program, and they received their pin, which has been given out to graduates since the first class graduated in 1937.

This is a lovely picture of our very photogenic family! I think you could take 100 pictures and still not get a good one of all of us! We at least all look happy, although I am not sure about Emily, she could be bored.

In other news, I have left my job with the school district a little sooner than planned, but I am happier for it. I really enjoyed the years I worked with the elementary kids, and a great number of the staff members. I had planned to quit at the end of the school year, but certain situations, not worth talking about here, expedited my departure. For me this has turned out to be great timing since Bob is still not working so we have a lot of time to spend together. After four long years in school, we lost out on a lot of quality time and have a bit of catching up to do. We have already gotten a good start on planting a vegetable garden, eaten out ALONE several times, and have plans to take the dogs to the beach this week since the weather is supposed to be nice.

I am working diligently at learning to make lampwork beads. It is quite a process to learn. It is not something that, for me, is second nature, so I am having to just patiently and methodically work at learning each step of the process. I am very glad to have taken classes. I think I would be far more frustrated if I hadn't. I am certain that I will take more, since I am such a visual learner. I have some really great books, and they do help, but there is nothing like being able to do something with an experienced person watching and be able to tell you what you are doing wrong and how to correct it.

Quinn and I spend a couple hours every night out in the garage melting glass. So far I haven't sent any molten glass projectiles his way. As long as I think he'll be safe he can stay, but if things get dangerous, I don't want to burn the dog! I am really anxious to get a better torch since I learned on a great high end torch, so my simple Hot Head torch has been a bit of a step backwards. I am getting it down more now. I spent more time reading in Cindy Jenkins book, since she invented the darn thing, I figured she would have the best instruction in regards to it. I may do a bit of research on the Internet as well. I need to get some better visual pictures as to flame setting etc. Also the expense of these mapp gas canisters is crazy! I would use a larger propane tank, but I don't know where I can get it filled with the mapp gas. I think this week I will check with the welding supply place since these little canisters are costing way to much. I am just too slow at shaping beads right now, which is part of the problem, but I am not getting enough use out of a tank.

As always, I am trying to keep my Etsy shop fresh and intresting. I have a bunch of new summery listing for you to check out. I will try to do a post of those here soon. If you'd like to contact me you can leave a message here or through my Etsy shop. Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, May 8, 2009

My New Adventure!

I've started a new adventure! I am learning to make lampwork beads! First let me say its not as easy as it looks and I now have a great deal of respect for anyone putting out halfway decent beads! Those who are making perfect beads, well to you I say... I am not worthy!!! If I ever get past this awkward stage I am presently in, I will think I an a bead goddess. That isn't to say I would be making anything that is even saleable, just not as bad as my first few attempts!

I am taking classes here in the Portland area from Trina Rindy of Reflections in Glass. She is infinitely patient! I am learning a lot, even though I feel like I am moving slowly, I think I am getting a really solid foundation. I would rather come away with just a few basics, well learned, than a lot of expanded information that only overwhelms you and leaves you feeling unsuccessful. Trina and her husband Jim, make and sell fused glass objects on their web site, as well as at the wonderful Portland Saturday Market. Trina makes lampwork beads and jewelry pieces which are also featured in both places.

I was surprised at how calm I felt behind the torch, which as you can see from the pictures, Trina has one very nice torch! It's a very calming zen like experience watching the glass and rotating the mandrel.

When I left after the first day I was pretty sure I had made some of the most hideous beads ever and was pleasantly surprised when I returned for my second class that they weren't as bad as I thought they were going to look. They are by no means classic works of art, but I made them and they aren't the worst looking things ever.

This is certainly a challenging art form to learn. It is going to take a whole lot of work to get good at this. I know I will be spending a lot of hours behind the torch learning how to make the glass do what I want it to do. I've already learned NOT to touch hot glass! It may not look hot still, but it is! I will no doubt post updates on my progress from time to time here on my blog, and maybe someday my Etsy shop will have pieces made with my own hand torched beads!

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