30 December 2011

Aloha - aka notes from a small tropical island

We spent Christmas on Oahu again this year, I guess that's as close as I get to a tradition.
The days went much too fast, probably because there was one day I spent on the sofa - not by choice but because I was still struggling a bit with whatever I had brought over with me from home.
I did take some pictures, that'll be another post. For now, I'll link to the photo album on FB - because it's so darn easy to upload from the iPhone:
They are eclectic to say the least: posters, a statue of Duke Kahanamoku, Occupy Honolulu, flowers in the gardens of Queen Emma's Summer Palace, sunrise, sunset, photos from the North Shore where the surf was not very impressive and one of the lines outside the Ugg store (yes, there were so many tourists from Japan shopping there, that there were lines waiting to get into the store).
The notes, in no particular order:
There's an Occupy Honolulu, only 6 tents and a large tent that seems to serve as a business office. The message here seemed to be "Free Hawaii" (I've seen that before along with a picture of a machine gun), I guess not everybody wants to be part of the US there.
Japanese tourists - everywhere, especially at Ala Moana mall and the main strip in Waikiki. The exchange rate makes it attractive.
There are more solar panels on houses than anywhere else I've ever seen. Makes sense, the sun shines a lot, but I bet there's some big subsidizing going on. Those things are not cheap.
There also is at least one huge wind farm, along the road of the North Shore.
Shrimp trucks - something to be found along the North Shore. We only tried Macky's and found it to be so good, we made a special (40 min.) trip back.
Obama arrived a few days after us and there was a warning on the news about possible traffic jams (what? You mean worse than usual?). He stays on the windward side of the island in a nice, upscale area where there's golf and a lovely bay that was closed to other tourists so he and his family and friends could enjoy. Large fines to anybody daring to approach.
Friday evening, the road around the corner from our hotel was closed, there was heavy police presence, the Coast Guard was patrolling the marina and tourists stopping were strongly encouraged to move along and those whose hotel happened to be on the closed-off street were only reluctantly allowed to enter. Turns out that Obama and friends were eating at Morimoto's.
There's a huge homeless camp along the road to Ka'ena Point - approaching from the southern part of the island (we also went to the end of the road from the North). We knew the road dead-ended somewhere just short of the point and we'd never been, so we decided to take a bit of a drive. The area leading out that way isn't touristy at all, but nothing like that camp, which looked like it had been there for quite a while. We got to watch a woman washing her kids by hanging a waterhose over a bridge into the stream below. A little disturbing, to say the least. I find there's quite a bit of poverty on Oahu, once you get away from the main tourist drags, things can get quite seedy.
Rain - it rains just about every day and it did more so this time around then on any of our previous trips.
Of course, that also leads to spectacular rainbows. No pictures of those, we always were in the car at those times.
Newscasters wear Hawaiian shirts - not the anchorman, but the weatherman and the traffic man.
It's windy there, very much so. Thankfully, my hair is long enough to be pulled back. Hats are iffy, mine almost got blown off when we went to the overlook along the Pali Highway.
Waikiki is a shopper's paradise. The same kind of labels found on Rodeo Drive in LA, just lots more of them. Mostly aimed at the above-mentioned Japanese tourists.
The water there is gorgeous, lovely shades of blue and turquoise. No decent waves while we were there, not much good for big-wave surfing anyway. Fun to look at, though.
Traffic's hell, especially in Waikiki. I found the following quote on Frommer's: "Oahu residents own 600,000 registered vehicles, but they have only 1,500 miles of mostly two-lane roads. That's 400 cars for every mile, a fact that becomes abundantly clear during morning and evening rush hours. You can avoid the gridlock by driving between 9am and 3pm or after 6pm." And I can attest to that.
Still, it was lovely to get away and I think there'll be plenty more visits in the future.

06 December 2011

Too much time at sea?

According to the description, a 7 week deployment turned into 7-1/2 months. During that time, 15 babies were born (fathers got to go home to see mums and babies) and 5 people got to go home for their own weddings. The HMS Ocean is returning home on 9 December.

31 October 2011

Happy Halloween

It's almost 4 pm already and I haven't put out my few minimalist Halloween decorations yet. Had to upload these photos first. L said putting a costume on Jerry would be cute overload and I went along with this and didn't buy one, even though Petsmart had some really cute ones (I can see, though, that a cute costume on a cute dog is definitely overkill). So, instead of putting out the everlasting light-up pumpkins and hanging little pumpkins in the trees, I looked for fabric and cut out a big bandana for Jerry. Now he's all set.
Halloween is not just my favorite holiday (I don't have to cook, although I do try to clean up the hallway a bit), it's definitely Jerry's. He thinks all the kids come only to see him and it takes him quite a while to settle down at night when the doorbell has stopped ringing.
We're pretty much ready, though - except for the decorations, of course. There's way too much candy (and I've been pretty good so far (probably because I'm counting calories yet again)), there are princess rings and cute little plastic bracelets (none of which fit me, zut alors!) and there are my all-time favorites: little Matchbox cars. This year, though, I won't let the kids pick, it takes them forever to make up their minds. I'll just reach into the bowl and pick something for them.
Let the fun begin!
Happy Halloween everybody!

13 October 2011

Pretty it isn't

Still experimenting, not just with enamel and technique, but now with "tools" - and I use that word loosely.
Yesterday, I made the above pendant, using my centerpunch to make those bumps. I used two coats of black enamel (actually, my counterenamel) and one coat of red and I quite like the effect.
I figured, it would be better to find another type of tool because that centerpunch really isn't meant to be whacked this hard with a hammer. So, bring on the nails, really big nails, deck nails is what my husband calls them. Perfect! They don't just make bumps, they leave holes if I hit them hard enough and often enough. Case in point, the slightly blurry blue pendant below. Same technique: two coats of black, one of blue, lots of heat.
Then I went for my favorite colors: an opaque light bluish-green topped with a layer of Nile green transparent and lots and lots of heat, so much so that the opaque comes through the transparent. Love that effect, although, it might be time to move on to something else. I mean, how many of the same does one need?Same basic technique, with a dark-grey under white. I was hoping for more distress which I got below .............Now that's what I call overfired. Here I actually used just white, fired like crazy from underneath and then moved the flame to the top. Love, love, love the effect, but really: pretty it isn't.And just to show that I learned something new: the above photo shows that you can zoom with an iPhone. I learned that from a teenager this weekend (should hang out with some of those more often).
Now, I really need to buckle down and work my way through the videos in my online class with Deryn Mentock ......... and study some French. I probably should have scheduled my classes just a little better, oui?

My new favorite book:

A few weeks ago, while surfing the web and looking for links to torch fired enamel, I discovered Barbara Lewis' website - http://paintingwithfireartwear.blogspot.com/.
It's not just a website, there are links to video tutorials, a link to her shop and a link to an online forum - a ning. I'm not much of a joiner (of anything), but I joined the forum and have found it tremendously helpful. Experts and beginners alike, all very willing to share what the know and are discovering, and Barbara herself answers questions very knowledgeably.
As if that wasn't good enough, she's written a book: Torch Fired Enamel Jewelry, which is available from her shop and through Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Torch-Fired-Enamel-Jewelry-Workshop-Painting/dp/1440308861/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1318523382&sr=8-1). Total eye candy, the kind that makes you want to drop whatever you're doing and go play in your little studio. I don't yet have the right kind of set-up, but I've improvised and it works.
There is a blog tour going on at the moment to promote the book and it includes giveaways of some pretty fantastic prizes. Obviously, I'd love to win, but I get a real kick out of seeing what others are doing with copper and glass powder. So inspiring!
Today's blog tour stop is here: http://www.prettythingsblog.com/2011/10/torch-fired-enamel-virtual-book-tour.html

06 October 2011

What's new on my bench?

Nothing finished, just lots of components - and lots of little pots full of enamel powder with test rings on top waiting for a little tag with number and name.

I played some more with overfiring, but I have a feeling neither butane nor propane get hot enough to give me the effects I want. The pictures above and below show the same pendants. The colors just show differently. The purple piece is closer to the picture on top, but everything else is shown truer in the picture on the bottom.
I tried various things here, crackle enamel - I don't think that worked. Although, I was surprised to see the top layer kind of shrinking into puddles, most obvious in the circle pendant in the top picture.

These little discs are the beginnings of a sort of charm bracelet. I'm playing with shades of blue and green opaques with a layer of transparent on top. I can already tell that the combo on top is my favorite - the combination I used makes a lovely turquoise.
I'm beginning to wonder if I shouldn't keep a kind of journal where I jot down colors used for future reference because I can't for the life of me remember the name of the opaque I used in that piece.

03 October 2011

Busy, busy, busy

Today's Monday, that means French class tonight. Yes, I'm trying to re-learn what I used to know. It's an enrichment class, which means no serious homework, no tests, no finals etc. And I am under no illusion that a 3 months class will be enough to get back to where I was many, many years ago when I had taken French for 4 years - with daily classes. But it's fun and I've completely fallen in love with the sound of it - language discs in the car, an online class through the library; all in addition to the one-night-a-week class through the Adult School.
I'm also doing another online class with Deryn Mentock - http://somethingsublime.typepad.com/jewelry_works/. Two months, this time. I signed up in plenty of time. Lots of videos to be watched whenever I want to. I should be able to make perfect jump rings, wrapped loops and clasps when I'm done (if I practice enough). I wonder if one can learn to design, though?
In addition, I am still completely hooked on enameling. There are so many things I want to experiment with. There isn't really the time, though, not right now. But I'll get to it, eventually. Would love to have the set-up Barbara Lewis (http://paintingwithfireartwear.blogspot.com/) uses: MAPP gas and dipping. No tedious cleaning with pickle or copper cleaner and scrubbies. But that's something I can't do in my little studio/converted bedroom; that's something that needs to be done in the garage or a larger studio with ventilation (and no carpet on the floor). Maybe someday?
Right now, it's time to do some yoga, though. And come up with more enameling projects.

30 September 2011


Gotta love it when your government legislates what you should eat:
I just wonder when that'll happen here.

And how about this one:
Two year minimum, huh? Sort of like leasing a car.

25 September 2011

Art it isn't ................

................... but it sure is fun - experimenting, that is. Learning new things, playing with that newfound knowledge, trying things.

The above were all made in a class or just after with Anat Silvera - stenciling and stamping. Stamping was easy, stenciling took a little more practice.

The above is stamped. I just happen to have a stamp with artists' signatures.

Everything below is an experiment. I discovered Barbara Lewis' blog and her brandnew book (http://paintingwithfireartwear.blogspot.com/ ) and "ning" - a forum for enamelists to hang out and exchange info, ask questions and learn.

Tried overfiring. Didn't quite work, neither propane nor butane get hot enough. The piece did get hot enough for me to hold my breath, hoping it wouldn't slump and totally melt into the trivet.

These, too, are experiments in overfiring. Here I did try Barbara's method of holding the copper blank, heating it and dipping it into the enamel powder (as opposed to the traditional method). Results are more interesting because, I think, the opaque enamel in the bottom rose to the surface through the transparent. I can't decide whether I like the pendant with the holes or the one with the bumpies (made with centerpunch and hammer) better.
No art, but definitely lots of fun.

09 September 2011

A week of high drama

I like my life quiet and uneventful and this past week hasn't been. And it's not over yet - there's still the anniversary of the San Bruno explosion (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_San_Bruno_pipeline_explosion) and the 10-year anniversary of 9-11. No link necessary, we all know about that huge tragedy.

The following happened, in no particular order:
My PayPal account was hacked and somebody tried charging something to my bank account. I caught it within minutes and filed a claim for fraudulent charges and everything should be okay. Still, one feels violated.
The plane crash in Russia with a whole hockey team. We are hockey fans and several of the players are familiar. (http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/europe/09/07/russia.plane.crash/index.html?hpt=hp_t1).
The neighbor's kid bought himself a pitbull puppy. This family has a rather bad record of pet ownership and, while the son doesn't actually live at home any longer, I don't see this ending well.
The local newspaper published my annual letter yesterday and today we are giving away Henry's old car - just as soon as we can get it started. Sitting in the driveway and not being driven enough isn't doing anything good for the battery. (http://www.henrysmomsmusings.blogspot.com/)
Obviously, not all of these things are bad and not all of them affect us directly, but still ............ it's drama.
Let's hope next week is quieter. I need it.

26 August 2011

On my bench today

Work(s) in progress. Wires that have been textured and annealed but not shaped yet. Some that have been shaped and are waiting to be finished.

A pair of copper hoops that needs a bit more polishing.

Silver hoops.

Abacus earrings - a little wonky. My first try. Actually, I seem to specialize in wonky.

And today's finish - Boho Bangles. Not perfect either, but sometimes finished is better than perfect.
The camera and I still haven't made friends again, I used the camera phone for these. Easing in slowly. And I'd better get back into it, I have a huge backlog of photos that need to be worked on.

From the garden

My first attempt at growing onions (and garlic - no picture). Not a great harvest, but not bad. Not much is doing well in the garden this year - weeds don't count. Not sure if it's the cooler than normal summer we've had or the rainy season that lasted longer than usual. But the lettuce is puny, the beans that managed to survive aren't producing as much as they did last year and something ate about half of my bean plants even though I did what I could to protect them. Better luck next year.

22 August 2011

What I learned in the last two days

I am taking on online jewelry making class ( http://somethingsublime.typepad.com/jewelry_works/bo.html). We're making earrings, several different types. There are videos to watch, there's a message board to post questions and there's a flickr group for photos of finished eye candy.
I joined late because I didn't find out about the class until it was well on its way and I'm trying hard to catch up. Thankfully, I had most of the supplies - tools and materials.
I've learned during the last couple of weeks:
Copper is a lot softer than sterling. It is much harder to ball the ends of copper wire than sterling wire. And it takes lots longer to work harden copper.
Sterling likes a cooler flame. I have been using the propane torch to ball the copper and used it on the sterling this morning and those balls fell right off into the quench bowl, three times. After that, I turned down the flame and had no more problems. Oh, and those balls shattered completely in the water.
Brass and bronze are much harder to work than either copper and sterling. I pounded those two until my arms hurt and still didn't get to where I wanted to be. I've put them aside for now.
Worm binders from Bass Pro Shop are excellent for storing and organizing wire. We actually made a road trip to one of two Bass Pro Shops in California, quite an interesting trip. Photos are here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150274659593129.328904.708398128&l=f654373a2d&type=1)
Okay, I needed to put that down somewhere before I forget it, but now it's time to go back to hammering and shaping.

13 July 2011

to dye for

Here are the results of my dyeing class:

First the buckets where I soaked the fabrics (twice) one by one, then the finished fabrics. The last is the one piece of tie-dye. It isn't anywhere near as bright as I expected, but it's okay for a first piece.

11 July 2011


As I said in the previous post, I took a dyeing class on Saturday and spent most of Sunday with my hands in water, rinsing in cold water and washing in hot water until the water ran clear. Today, I decided enough's enough and chucked everything into the washer. Since I have a front loader and a pretty new one at that, I don't think I'm wasting all that much water compared to running the sink full 5, 6 or more times.
There are some winners and too many losers (for my taste) among my dyed fabrics and I still don't have pictures of the finished product, but I put a few pictures of the rinse buckets on FB:
Hopefully, I'll get around to taking more pictures this week.
And it's not as if I need yet another hobby, but I wanted to learn to make dyed silk scarves after seeing them at a farmers market (and being a bit shocked over the price), walked into Dharma Trading and saw the class samples and decided I had to try it. Lynn Koolish taught and I already signed up for the intermediate class.

10 July 2011


I didn't realize it's been over a month since I last posted. It's not that I've not been doing anything, it's more that I still haven't made friends with PSE. There's been a lot of sewing going on - but no pictures.
Yesterday, I took a class on dyeing and I seem to be spending today with my hands (in gloves) immersed in water, lots of water. I'm reluctant to put multiple pieces into the same bucket for soaking and so it's taking a long, long time and an extraordinary amount of water. There seem to be a few successes (Jerry Garcia would like some of my stuff) and a few failures. Not sure what went wrong, maybe the dye solution was too old? Once dye and soda ash solutions get mixed, there are only 30 minutes to use the stuff, after that, all bets are off.
There just might possibly be some pictures in the near future.
Until then, I uploaded to flickr and, after a rather long and painful process, managed to upload the flickr badge to the sidebar.

13 May 2011

Postal mishap

Today's mail contained a plastic envelope for DH. On the very top, it says "WE CARE." in very large letters. Under it, is a long letter that starts with, "We sincerely regret the damage to your mail during handling by the Postal Service. We hope this incident did not inconvenience you. etc. etc. ....." Basically, it says that sometimes things get damaged in transit.
It concludes with, "We hope you understand. .......... Please accept our apologies."
Inside the envelope was the front cover of The Economist, nothing else.
Inconvenience? Let me think about that one .............................

17 April 2011


I've been taking pictures and uploading them to Facebook regularly because it's so unbelievably easy with an iPhone. But, to get them on here takes a few more steps. I know it can be done using a cable but I just email them to me, copy and past them into Photoshop Elements, fiddle with them a little bit (and I mean a little bit, no fancy editing here) and then add them here.
So, here in no particular order and for no really good reason, a few pictures:
I watch cooking shows fairly regularly and, more often than not, marvel at how people can eat THAT many calories and not drop dead of a heart attack right there and then. Every so often, though, I find something I like and try a new recipe. Potstickers with a shrimp filling passed muster and they really do taste delicious. I made a huge batch and a few of them actually looked good, like the one in the second picture.Couldn't resist those, a Mad Magazine cover and a calendar that's pretty much spot-on. Airlines charge for everything these days, seat back may well be next.
I still have pictures for two more posts - doll eye surgery (don't ask!) and pictures from a recent Sharks' game we attended. But, for now, I'm all "computered" out and will go back to working on quilt blocks.

an evening with arlo guthrie

Thursday evening we went to see Arlo Guthrie. We've both been fans since way back when (and I'm very obviously dating myself here).
He doesn't look like the cute guy seen running around in his undies in "Alice's Restaurant" any longer, but the hair is still long (even if it's white these days), he can still sing up a storm and he tells a fun story or several. He sang several of his father's songs, was accompanied by great musicians, including his son Abe on keyboards and the Burns Sisters, who sang backup, were a good addition.
I'll be listening to my old Arlo CD's in the car for a while now. It's been a while.

Can't figure out how to upload a video that isn't mine, so here's a link to one of his songs (which, BTW, he performed that night):


07 April 2011

clouds and lilacs

Dark, angry clouds this afternoon. Took the dogs out so they could run off some energy in the backyard and, after clipping lots of lilacs, wet back for the cell phone to take some pictures. No rain so far.

I realize this shot is a little out of focus. Bear with me, I'm learning new things here. Not just how to take decent shots with a cell phone (that part is surprisingly easy), but how to deal with yet another new computer. Yes, we had yet another computer give out on us. The new one is good, but it won't let me use the oldest version of Photoshop Elements - the one I'm most familiar with.
And, what's even worse, it absolutely refuses to load my really old copy of Printshop. I only use it for address labels, but I used to print such nice ones. After looking around, reading lots of reviews and getting some input from the techie brother-in-law, we decided to do without a new version of Printshop (far too many bad reviews). Instead we spent many happy (?) hours coming to grips with Outlook and Word and hope to do decent address labels there. Wish me luck!

20 March 2011

more rain = studio time

There's been a lot of rain lately and, in my case, that meant staying home and experimenting in the studio. The above pendant shows yet another (mostly) cold connection technique.

The two pictures above show what I played with this morning: a new texturing hammer, cutting apart an old tin that one of those free AOL discs came in and an enameled piece from my "neat and tidy" period. I seem to have moved out of that particular period.
Wish I could get my hands on more tins with interesting print, but, these days, plastic seems to be king.

19 March 2011


We've had lots and lots of rain lately. There have been heavy rain, high winds, reports of tornadoes here and there, power outages and, yesterday, late afternoon, the above.
Another big storm expected late tonight into tomorrow morning.

15 March 2011

on my bench this morning

It's raining this morning, perfect for a bit of experimentation. And experiment I did. Not all of the pieces were made this morning, but today's session was tremendous fun.

This is chocolate foil fused onto copper. On the piece on the left top, I also experimented with enamel powder, mixed success, it sort of melted the foil, but I like the effect anyway.

I obviously have a thing about windows. Here, I used decorative paper (and brushed nail polish on it for safety reasons).
Another window, this time using several colors of enamel powder.

This involves enamel and an underglaze pencil. The pencil is really meant for ceramics, but it works very nicely here, too.

Texture and enamel.

Pitted enamel - spraying the unfired enamel powder with a bit of water - very carefully. Too much and the whole thing is ruined. Guess how I know that? :-)
I seem to be an enamelist at heart, just about everything I make involves a bit of enameling.
Most of the pieces shown are components, waiting to be made into something cohesive. We'll see.