Friday, October 31, 2008

When was your Halloween?

As far as I can tell, today is Halloween, but you'd never know it in Southeastern Wisconsin. Our town celebrated last Saturday night, so my kids are feeling been-there-done-that about it. We are going on a Haunted Hike tonight with Haley's youth group. Hmmm ... 15 middle schoolers, pitch black, woods, bloody lumberjacks popping out ... what we do for our kids...

In honor of her recently broken arm, Haley went all out for her last year of trick-or-treating as an injured person. Here's her photo from last week:

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Which Witch?

The Art Girlz witch! Sometimes when you want a quick project, or you want to try something outside of your normal skill set, the best bet is to get a kit. I fell in love with this witch and just had to make her. In fact, I love everything on their site (and their blog is fun, too.) I used their felt beads in several Altered You! projects, and we've made vacation scrapbooks with their blank books.

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Thanks to the Nursery School Teachers

Remember that bestseller from a few years ago ... Everything I need to know I learned in Kindergarten? I'd like to propose a sequel: Everything I Know About Art (my kids) Learned in Nursery School. My favorite part of decorating for a new season is pulling out the box and finding the great projects from the nursery school years. They mix in perfectly with my eclectic modified-country-folk-art-aesthetic. Here's the Halloween clan, thanks to Mrs. D., Mrs. Broda, Mrs. Archer and Miss Leah from Gateway Nursery School and Perinton Nursery School in Fairport, N.Y.:

If you have little ones at home and you'd like to make these ghosts, here's how:

1. Use a product called "stiffy" a liquid fabric stiffener found in craft stores, or dilute some Elmer's glue with water.

2. Use cheesecloth, re-cycled sheets, or paper towels. Soak the fabric in the stiffener and wring dry.

3. Drape the fabric over a TP tube (or trimmed paper towel tube) and let dry.

4. Add detail with a black Sharpie marker. (One of my daughters was going through a bride obsession at age 4, so the ghost in the back left is wearing a veil.)

These ghosts (and the pumpkin) have lasted for at least 12 Halloweens.

Monday, October 27, 2008

More Jewelry

I had a dream the other night. It was one of those crazy dreams where I was trying to go somewhere or get something done, but it just wasn't working out. Anyway, the dream was a little disturbing, but the good part was that in the dream, I was wearing fabulous jewelry! when I woke up, I just had to make the necklace I was wearing in my dream:

Here are a few more views, because I just love it.

It's a long black and silver single strand necklace, that can also be doubled or worn as a six-times-around bracelet. I used 6mm lava rock beads from Rings & Things, a black stone bead simply called "black stone" also from Rings & Things, and lots of Hill Tribe Silver.
Now, where can I find that cute black cocktail dress I was wearing with it? Hmm.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Jewelry just for me

I spend most of my working day reviewing, editing, and proofreading jewelry- and craft-making instructions. Needless to say, I leave work with lots of ideas swirling around in my head. This week, I thought I would try do a few projects exactly as they were written. No matter what your skills may be, coming at a project from someone else's point of view can help you expand your skills and find some new tricks.

The first project I did was from Australian Beading and was designed by Kim Glass. I had never tried a garage-door spring before, but I'm pleased to add this technique to my wire-work repertoire. The entwined heart (the focal point of this bracelet) gave me a lot of trouble, but I think it was "operator error" -- no fault to the directions. I'm kind of attached to my quirky result, though. I used German Jewelry Wire to make this project, because I wasn't sure if I wanted to use up my stash of sterling silver.

The second project I did was these fantastically easy I-wish-I-thought-of-it-myself earrings. They're designed by Denise Peck of Step-by-Step Wire Jewelry. The first version has little gray pearls.
I love them so much I made a second pair, and this time I oxidized the silver (just a little) and used turquoise beads for a more casual look.
The final project I did was all mine:
and here's another view:

Here's hoping you have an artfully crafted weekend!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The new flip-flop

A new suffix has crept into our family lexicon, and I wonder if it’s indicative of a greater trend – our national reluctance to take a firm stand on just about anything anymore. Our new suffix is “ish” and it’s quite handy for getting one off the hook. For example, consider the difference in meaning between:
- I’ll be there at 8:00 and I’ll be there at 8-ish. You’ve instantly gained at least 20 minutes of cushion, so you don’t really have to have your act together to leave on time, after all. Or, more realistically, I’ll be home at 11 or I’ll be home at 11-ish. Who’s now in charge of the curfew? The non-able-to-commit teen!
- I’m hungry (Let’s get lunch, now!) and I’m hungry-ish (I could eat, unless you’d rather not, and in that case, I can totally skip lunch and do what you want to do.)
- He’s hot (he’s the one for me) and He’s hot-ish (I think he’s cute, but if you think he isn’t I can easily back out of my opinion).

To make things worse, “ish” is often employed after a slight delay and searching-for-approval glance. It’s even able to stand alone, away from the verb it modifies. For example:
Teen: “I’m done with my homework.” (scans Mom’s face to see if she believes)
Mom: raises eyebrow and gives a stern look.
Teen: “ish.” (turns off the Gilmore Girls episode she has seen at least 15 times and slinks back to the books).

My concern with “ish” is that it goes against one of my core principles – say what you mean and mean what you say. One could see that it’s quite handy but I’m afraid that it’s making us somewhat lazy and selfish, and also more concerned with other’s opinions than our own.

Will I be banning ish from my girls’ vocabulary? Probably not. But, I will be on ish-alert, and I’ll be sure to challenge them to say what they really mean the first time, and be confident in their own opinions regardless of how they may be received.

Friday, October 17, 2008


As I looked up from rinsing my coffee cup this morning, I saw a flash of blue outside my kitchen window. I took a closer look through the binoculars, and it was a bluebird -- not a blue jay -- sitting in my shrub. Then, much to my surprise, there was a flurry of blue, and at least five bluebirds flew across my back yard. Some people can go a lifetime without seeing a bluebird up close ... for me, I've only seen them in the Spring or in the South (they nest in my mother-in-law's yard, and she hand feeds them).

Seeing the bluebirds instantly brightened my mood. It got me thinking of the other way we use this word -- a bluebird is an unexpected and pleasant surprise. So, happy Friday, and may the bluebirds come your way.

P.S. If you enjoy birds, please check out my friend Monette's watercolors! And, don't forget to keep your feeders full this winter.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My mom

Here is my lovely mother in her 10-10 necklace. We had a fun visit!

Friday, October 10, 2008


Paris Hilton -- smart and funny? That's today's oxymoron, and I know we have to credit the writers, but this cracked me right up. Check out her fake campaign.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

October 10

I know it's the 9th today, but this post has to do with tomorrow and I know I'll be too busy to post. I wanted to share this necklace I made for my mom's birthday (10-10). She and my dad are traveling to our house as I type, due to arrive tomorrow. (Hopefully they won't be checking the Internet at their hotel!) There are little special details built into this necklace, that wouldn't be obvious at first glance. I like making jewelry this way -- hiding some meaning so it's not just another pretty thing. For example, the focal stone is a Peruvian Opal (October's birthstone is Opal). Also, I strung everything in multiples of 10 (except the large pearls) in honor of her special day. I think the colors will look great with her coloring and her wardrobe. We'll see tomorrow, when I give it to her!

I bought the opal and the pearls at the Rings & Things show last month. Here's a close up view:

Friday, October 3, 2008

Alphabet Game revisited

This weekend, we'll need to put what's left of our vegetable garden to bed. It was an odd season for us, as I've reported before. However, we had some delicious late-season tomatoes, one lonely (but yummy) eggplant, and a handful of hot peppers. Our most successful crop was cucumbers. My kids will rebel if I serve another one! So in honor of the garden, I bring you the letter C.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Do you Re-Do?

Here's a picture of one of the first pieces of jewelry I made as an adult. I was so inspired after my first interview at BeadStyle magazine, that I came home and made this bracelet based on ideas generated during a conversation with Mindy Brooks, the first editor of the magazine. Since I didn't have many beads on hand, I bravely cut apart a Southwestern Native American coral and turquoise necklace and mixed in some inexpensive base metal beads I had from the craft store. To this day, it is the one piece of jewelry I've made that literally stops people in their tracks who feel they must comment on it. It must be the energy of those ancient beads.

Before I started, I took a picture of the original necklace. I wanted to be sure I could restring it if I changed my mind.

If you're at a creative impasse, turn to your old jewelry for inspiration. Why have you stopped wearing a piece? Is it the fit? A bad clasp? What did you like about the piece to begin with? The colors? A specific bead or two? Then figure out what you can make using the best of what's there.

If you're still stuck, check out this new book by Brenda Schweder called Vintage Redux. I was the editor for this book and it'll finally be available at the end of this month. I'm sure you'll love all the creative ways Brenda has taken vintage finds (and some that may have remained lost if a less-creative eye was searching the second-hand shops) and made truly fabulous modern jewelry. My favorites are the class-ring-as-toggle bracelet (I wonder if my dad is ready to part with his?) and the charming bangle bracelets (attach a few charms and your plain-jane bands will have a modern look).

Let me know if you've ever been moved to "redux," and what happened when you did.