Thursday, October 29, 2009

Beaded Jewelry by Susan: Glass Bead Primer, Part II

In the earlier post, I described the process of lampworking, making lampwork or lampglass beads, over an open flame, turning the bead and adding bits of colored glass and so on. One particular variety of lampglass bead that is especially lovely is the "foil bead." Gold, silver, or copper foil is added while the bead is molten and thus embedded inside the bead, either near the surface or around the core. Sometimes the foil presents a crackled sort of pattern that's very pretty. Sometimes the foil is smooth and even and it serves to reflect light beautifully. Here are some examples:

In the capri blue oval lampglass beads in these earrings, sterling silver foil has been added in thin strips that wrap around the bead and shine and sparkle nicely. In the red and gold pair, the gold foil creates a pattern, mixing with red glass inside the clear glass shell. Sometimes the foil is added on the surface of the bead in thick stripes, as in the black and gold discs below, or in a smooth single sheet to make the whole bead glow, as in the clear foil squares.

Nifty, huh? There can also be flecks of gold or silver, swirls of "gold dust" (aventurine glass powder), and other great effects. There's more to come in this glass beads series, by the way: millefiore, hollow blown glass, furnace or cane glass, pressed (molded) glass, etc. Lampworking is an old art and a modern one as well, with lots of new technology (propane torches instead of oil lamps, for example), and it is practised in many different places: Italy (especially Venice), the Czech Republic, Japan, China, and, most recently, in the United States -- where many wonderful glass artisans are making unique and thrillingly intricate handmade glass beads.  Final note for now: all of the "examples" that I'm showing in this glass bead primer are available right now for purchase at affordable prices (twelve bucks, free domestic shipping) at my etsy online shop:

Armchair Philosophy: Save Your Teeth

When I was a kid growing up in the late forties and early fifties, the world was a different place -- in so many ways. Don't worry, though, I'm not about to wax sentimental about old tunes or glass milk bottles or anything here. In fact, I'm about to highlight a way in which things have actually improved (hah!): dentistry. When you had a toothache back then, in my family anyway, first you rubbed oil of clove on your gum and hoped the pain would go away. When it didn't, the cut-rate dentist pulled out the offending tooth. There were no sealants or fluoride treatments to prevent more decay of other teeth, and since children (and even adults) considered pennies to be real money in those days and saved them, you could buy quite a bit of "12 for a penny" sweet treats that didn't help with cavities either. Bottom line result: I have only one decent molar left for chewing. Night before last, at 2 a.m. I had a cough drop in my mouth, which I evidentally bit down on -- and the back half of my last molar crumbled. But I'm lucky this time -- my dentist filed down the sharp edges and set up an appointment for me to have it filled next week. The moral of this story, kids, is Save Your Teeth!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Beaded Jewelry by Susan: Treasury News

News flash: I'm in my very first Etsy Treasury! Treasuries are collections of photos from Etsy shops that are put together by fellow Etsians. Vicki Diane has done a treasure of "Artists Exposed" that aims to show the artist behind the art work. Check it out!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

In the Garden: Fall Color

Despite the chilly rainy days we've been having in east central Illinois, the fall color this year is really fantastic all over town. Champaign-Urbana is a town with a LOT of mature trees in a wide range of species, and it's quite a show. In our garden, there are a couple of show-offs that I wanted to share with you all. In the southeast corner of the south yard (protected from the cold drying winter winds from north and west) are two Japanese maples, one with a single trunk and another variety with a branched fan shape. Both were planted as quite small starts about 14 years ago. In the summer, their leaves are a lovely green, but in spring and, especially, in fall, they turn flame red and almost glow when the sun is out.

They are lovely little trees that aren't necessarily easy to grow here in the Midwest. Out in Oregon, where my sister and mother live, there are zillions of varieties of Japanese maples and they are common in private and public gardens. I also have a small very cut-leaf type in the north yard (sheltered by a circle of arbor vitae shrubs) that I found in a drugstore parking lot, its pot tipped on its side, a few years back. It suffered a major break a while ago when the big locust lost a large branch in a summer storm, but it is still with us, thank goodness. The two in the south are so bright that they even make a showing from some distance, as in this photo taken from the north end of the east garden.

Across the street from us, there's a larger Japanese maple that was planted when the neighbor's son was born and he's in his late twenties or early thirties now, I think. It shows how nicely the red foliage contrasts with a nearby birch.
   It is interesting to see what a range of plants provide fall color. The euonymous so-called "burning bush" shrubs all over town are brilliant this year, and the sugar maples are yellow and orange. The sweetgum trees have a riot of color in their foliage, including purple! Oaks, including the pin oak in our northwest garden, come in many shades of coppery orange and brown. But surprisingly, some of the perennials also show color.

For example, hydrangeas can take on a lot of subtle coloration. There's a hydrangea in our north yard called "Blue Billow" that has some lovely pale shades of pink and yellow this fall. I notice that many hostas' leaves turn a bright yellow, especially the really big, wide-leafed kind. Another surprise this fall was the two Chinese dogwoods (Cornus kousa varieties) in our north garden. Last year, they were touched with bits of red and orange, especially at the very top of the small trees. But this year the color goes all the way down and encompasses all of the leaves to a greater or less extent. The older of the two trees has grown quite a bit this year, too.

I took two photos of it this past weekend -- one up fairly close and another back far enough to show the color on the large hostas that are planted in a circle at the base of the dogwood. The Chinese dogwoods bloom later than the "regular" (i.e., Cornus florida) type here, which often means their blossoms are saved from late-spring frosts. The flowers are pure white and quite large and they seem to lie horizontally along the branches, so it's an amazing effect, sort of like snow on the boughs.

I hope you enjoy this little peek at fall color in my garden!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Beaded Jewelry by Susan: Glass Bead Primer, Part I

I thought that some of my followers on this blog and on my Beaded Jewelry by Susan Etsy site might be interested in knowing a bit about the different kinds of glass beads. So, over several posts, I'll be presenting a quick primer. Part I introduces lampglass beads.

Lampglass beads are handmade, one at a time, over an open flame. The molten glass is turned on a wire mandrel, and bits of colored glass and other materials are added. They melt into the bead and are a permanent part of it when the bead is annealed (cooled and hardened). Here are a few examples of the types of patterns, colors, and designs that are possible. As you can see, sometimes the finished bead looks as though it has flowers on it or inside it. Sometimes the patterns are more abstract, such as swirls of color. The outer shell of the bead may even be clear glass, with colored glass embedded in its center.

Another common motif is that of the so-called eye bead. This is a very common and ancient design, dating back, literally, hundreds of years. Circular marks like eyes were added to beads of all sorts in an attempt to bring good luck and protection to the wearer by distracting, and thus warding off, the "evil eye." Many attractive eye beads today are created through lampglass techniques in which the patterns of the eyes in a contrasting color are added to a solid-colored molten bead.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Armchair Philosopy: Planetary Consciousness

Identity is a complicated matter -- knowing who you are and who else you identify with. It probably started being a problem when the first one-celled creature was able to say (so to speak): "This is me. This, however, is my food." Seriously though, our sense of identity is terribly important, and it extends far beyond the obvious distinctions. We "identify" with so many different kinds of entities -- people we feel connected to such as family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, others of the same sex or age or cultural group; institutions we belong to such as schools, churches, clubs, businesses; more abstract identification with political parties, environmental organizations, and so on. And, of course, there is national identity, language identity, and species identity ("This is me. This is my cat. This is my oak tree"). All are part of who we are and therefore worth thinking about in a considered way, not taken for granted or adopted carelessly.

Ever since we first saw the beauty of the earth from outer space,thanks to NASA photos, we have had another kind of identity possible: identification with all life on our planet earth, our planet among planets among galaxies, among universes. Awesome thought, isn't it? And now, more than ever, with so many of the really vital problems of our age being global problems, truly global solutions are called for. And the kind of consciousness that needs to "raised" to begin to address these issues is planetary consciousness -- part of who we are is that we all live together -- all peoples, all creatures, all plants -- on this earth. Long may it live!

In the Garden: Garden Rehab Update

     Leaf color is changing rapidly and leaves are coming down in the wind. It's been rainy and cold at night. Translation: fall has come to east central Illinois. Our garden rehabilitation project is still ongoing, however. We had a few dry days and friend Bryan put in some time on it. Right now, we're trying to get rid of tree seedlings that got big over the two to three years of zero maintenance and to pull up the ready-to-seed weeds, including the chocolate eupatorium that took over large portions of the yard. Of course, this particular plant may be fine in your conditions. In my case, I started with one plant, a pretty thing with chocolately brown leaves and white flowers in the fall (related to the annual ageratum and the tall pink Joe Pye), that became an explosion in all of the shady areas.
     Most of the real rehab work -- re-doing raised beds, filling in gaps where perennials couldn't compete with the weeds that got established, and generally reorganizing with easier maintenance in mind -- will have to wait for spring. It's a big garden with a lot of treasures, collected over 15 years in this location and another 15 or more of plants transplanted from prior gardens. But the past few years, when health issues prevented us from working in the garden ourselves, have taken quite a toll. Fortunately, there are houseplants to cheer us all up through the long winter:


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Beaded Jewelry by Susan: Background Info

Ever wonder how somebody gets started with a hobby, craft, or interest that turns into a passion, obsession, or addiction? Are you interested in knowing what kind of physical space is the home for beaded jewelry creations? If these questions intrigue you, read on ... The following is taken, in part, from a feature that appeared on a fellow Etsian's block.

When did you start making jewelry?

About 18 years ago, a coworker was going to a bead store at lunchtime and asked me if I wanted to go along. I didn’t know anything about beads but felt like getting out of the office. Wow! Like a candy store without calories! Love at first sight! Signed up for an earring making class right away; Carol Jo, the teacher, warned me that beads could be addicting. Hah! I didn’t believe her at the time. The rest is history.

What is your crafting space like?

When I first started, I just had a box of beads in a cupboard and worked on the dining room table. Three years later, we moved into our present home where I have a great beading studio space: my husband installed a kitchen-type counter with cabinets underneath, just for beading!

The countertops all have storage units stacked on them—three high in some places. On top of the counters are 23 storage units. Each unit has four trays and each tray has 24 compartments. I have a lot of beads LOL! There’s a workspace in the middle with two lamps and room for my beading board. Underneath the counter are cupboards and drawers with smaller beads (especially seed beads in old film canisters and delicas in tubes), some plastic drawer units with stone chips, donuts, and bags of bead mixes, and other beading equipment such as wire, tools, etc.

What inspires you?

I’ve always loved working with color and design; before beading, it was painting in oils and acrylics. I love being out in the garden looking at flowers and out in nature and noticing color combinations and moods in the landscape. But mostly, it’s the beads themselves that inspire my designs. I just open a storage tray with compartments filled with beads and ideas start coming into my head.

What item in your shop did you enjoy making the most and why?

This is a hard question to answer. My designs are all my favorites in a sense—they’re my creations, my “babies.” But there is one necklace and earring set that was especially fun to create because my husband and I worked on it together. He was doing some wireworking with a jig and made some sterling silver elements that I had drawn an idea for, and I used them in between groups of handmade Chinese lampglass beads on wire. The finished piece, called Black-and-White and Wire Fantasy Necklace, was selected for inclusion as a project in a Lark Books publication in 2006.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fiction Corner: Women Writers

A while ago, a woman friend of mine was saying that she wanted to read some literary fiction by women writers but had a hard time choosing where to start. I told her that I have really enjoyed fiction written by women and would send her a list to get her started browsing in the library. I thought I would reproduce it her for you, dear readers, along with some pictures of a small portion of the overloaded shelves of fiction in our downstairs library (nonfiction upstairs, of course). I have since quit buying books, for the most part, and have been making wonderful weekly trips to the Urbana Free Library.

Here's the list. Warning: It's LONG, but incomplete, of course, because I've read many that I didn't think of when writing this. But it should get some of you started. Barbara Kingsolver: The Bean Trees, Ann Hood: Somewhere off the Coast of Maine, Julia Glass: Three Junes, Mary McGary Morris: Songs in Ordinary Time, Jennifer Haigh: Mrs Kimble, Ann Patchett: Bel Canto, Penelope Lively: Moon Tiger, Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages, Mary Lawson: Crow Lake, Anne-Marie MacDonald: The Way the Crow Flies, Ursula Hegi: Stones from the River, Sue Miller: Lost in the Forest, Audrey Niffenegger: The Time Traveler's Wife, Jane Harris: The Observations, Joanne Harris: Gentlemen and Other Players, Beth Gutcheon: Leeway Cottage, Gail Tsukiyama: Women of the Silk, Sigrid Nunez: The Last of Her Kind, Amy Tan: The Bonesetter's Daughter, Kate Atkinson: Case Histories, Jane Urquhart: The Underpainter, Jennifer Egan: The Invisible Circus, Elizabeth McCracken: The Giant's House, Elizabeth Hay: Student of the Weather, Lynn Sharon Schwartz: The Writing on the Wall, Laura Kalpakian: These Latter Days, Andrea Levy: Small Island, Elisabeth Rosner: Speed of Light, Joan Barfoot: Lucky, Carol Shields: The Stone Diaries, Sarah Waters: Fingersmith, Bobbie Ann Mason: Feather Crowns, Helen Dunmore: Talking to the Dead, Margaret Atwood: The Blind Assassin, Pat Barker: Double Vision, Doris Lessing: The Summer before Dark, Jane Hamilton: Map of the World, Joyce Carol Oates: When We Were the Mulvaneys, Jane Smiley: The All-True Adventures of Lily Newton, Isabel Allende: House of the Spirits, Alice Munro: Dance of the Happy Shades, Kate Morton: The House at Riverton, Lionel Shriver: We Need to Talk about Kevin, Jhumpa Lahiri: The Namesake . . . and on and on.

Feline Tails: Panther and the "Gym"

Panther is the newest addition to our six-cat third generation of feline friends. He was a rescue kitten who was fostered by a local organization. He is a beauty: sleek, silky medium-long black fur, two white whiskers (one on each side) and gray stomach. He is full of energy -- always hungry for more food, affection, and play -- and full of mischief of all sorts. He's very manipulative with his paws and loves to carry objects upstairs. He delights in ambushing other cats, leaping on them, and wrestling for all he's worth.

One day at the grocery store I spotted this kit to assemble a "cat gym" and figured this might be good for an athletic young feline like Panther. The "Gym" has turned out to be a fun place for all of the cats (except Aunt Angel, more on that later) to play, chase each other, hide out, and snooze. Often, one cat will be inside and another on top, poking at each other through the nylon tent. Sometimes a couple of them will race through the front and back tent openings at high speeds. The various antics have been quite entertaining for us and our friends -- cheap thrills thanks to our feline friends!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Another Quick Music-Related Post

This isn't really about music; it's about hope for the future. But if you appreciate star musicians who sometimes use their celebrity for good causes, check out Bono's opinion piece on "Rebranding America" on the NYTimes website today.  He's so right about the danger of the "three extremes" in our world: extreme poverty, extreme ideology, and extreme climate change. Let's hope that America can rebrand itself in the way he suggests to address those extremes for the sake of all of us!

Music: The Music Genome Project

Sometimes when I am doing copyedit work online, I like to listen to Internet radio in the background. I like a range of music types, depending on my mood. Several months ago, a friend turned me on to an Internet radio site that is free, fun, and quite unusual. You enter names of artists, song titles, or types of music and then music is played and your feedback is used on an ongoing basis to determine what is played next. It's a great way to hear what you want and to learn about artists and albums that you discover that you like but hadn't heard before. (Then I try to find their CDs in my library.) Today, there's an article in the NYTimes online about this site and how the "Music Genome Project" works. It's quite interesting. If you want to try the site yourself, use this link

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Social Networking 101 anyone?

     I had an interesting and somewhat frustrating experience this evening. I wanted to create something called a Facebook Fan Page, that is, a page for my jewelry business as opposed to my "personal" page. I think I may have done it, but I'm not sure! It seems to be impossible to see your Facebook pages as another person would see them, without the buttons and options and so on. I'm not even sure what "URL" is the right one for accessing this page. I'd like, of course, to have "fans," and "followers," and "comments," but all of that is a little vague for me too -- both how to encourage people to do it and specifically what "it" is.
     I also tried to connect the beadedjewelrybysusan Facebook Page with Twitter and with Susan's Blog and with my Etsy site. Again, I'm not sure if everything is working the way it's supposed to, but there is a link to Facebook at the bottom right corner of this blog page.
   Is it just me or is all of this horribly complicated? There is an entire field of study devoted to "human factoring," in other words, interfaces that allow ordinary people to interact with computers easily and naturally. I don't think the Facebook creators know about it maybe, but that may be unfair.
     I didn't use a computer until I was 26 years old and that was a very long time ago and on a specialized system that preceded so-called personal computers by a decade. So I'm not illiterate about computers exactly, but geez ... kids who start having their own websites in kindergarten can run circles around me already.
    Is there someone out there among you, dear readers, who can direct me to a simple roadmap, to a Social Networking 101 short course, or something like that to ease my way a bit? Does anyone want to comment, become a fan, follow, or just sympathize?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Beaded Jewelry by Susan: New Listings

I've finally gotten a chance to start the new earring listings from the photos taken on Sunday. This morning, I 've listed quite a few new pieces, including these etched stone earrings. It's interesting how much I've learned over the years about different types of stone and the many processes of etching, faceting, polishing, drilling, etc.

Collecting beads is a fascinating hobby because beads all have a story: where they're from, what they're made out of, how they're made, etc. For example, these carnelian ovals etched with a circular pattern like an "eye" are classic. Since ancient times, beadmakers have been using carnelian as a material for etching. And the eye motif is very old as well; the eye is intended to bring good fortune to the wearer because it fends off the feared "evil eye" that represents a powerful concept for many civilizations, past and present.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Beaded Jewelry by Susan

The latest news for my etsy shop is that, after getting the necklaces arranged by color, I have started listing another great batch of earrings. These are from one of my rotating display stands (one of five, so you know there are lots more earrings to come), and I photographed them on Sunday evening. I'll have to list them during free times on and off over the next weeks because I've got an editing project going right now. But I just put one up on the site this afternoon: Poppy Jasper Triangle Earrings. Here's the link to this item on etsy:

Feline Tails: Three Cats on a Dresser

I couldn't resist sharing this shot of Toffee, Panther, and Yang enjoying each other's company in the sunny spot on top of the dresser. Having six cats (and having had eight at once for a long time too) provides overwhelming evidence of the unique personalities of feline individuals. The whole world of who gets along, who fights over a chair or a bowl of food, who likes to groom another cat ... it's mind-boggling how complex is all is to us poor humans!

In the Garden: More on Salvia

To continue the discussion of annuals that are still blooming their hearts out, I have to add the salvias that are not usually grouped with annuals. In particular, there is the Pineapple Sage, which may be found among herb plants more often than with annuals at a garden center. I put one in a large container this year and it took a while to bloom, but it has become huge and full of bright red blossoms that attract hummingbirds. As a plus, the foliage smells like pineapple when you rub the leaves.
   Another favorite of mine is the Black and Blue Salvia from Brazil. I don't have a good picture of one right now, but this plant is also slow to start going in the spring, but then easy to grow big. The flowers are a bright clear blue with black on the stem. Hummers love it too. My friend Frank has a large plant that survives the Illinois winter in a protected space next to the foundation of a shed, so he generously gives me a start each spring.
     Of course, there are lots of great perennials salvias, such as the pretty purple May Night and some choice tiny alpine ones as well, but, for now, we'll just tip our hats to the ones still in bloom on this rainy chilly October day.

Copyeditor's Lament

     It has taken me a while to sort out the mechanics of composing, editing, saving, and publishing posts on my blog. As a result, some errors have occurred in published posts. In Feline Tails, it was 37, not 27, years ago that I got my first generation of cats. In Armchair Philosophy, it is your lives, not their lives, dear readers, about which you would be adding comments.
     These errors are distressing to a copyeditor. After all, a copyeditor is a person who reads and proofs everything in his or her path. For example, I read menus in restaurants all the way through (before ordering, but I read fast, fortunately) and often spot errors. The waiters don't seem that interested for some reason. Because of my training in French, I'm especially sensitive to items such as "with au jus" -- which translates to "with with juice."
     Actually, I'm sorry to say that I am finding at least a half dozen typos per book in published novels that I read for pleasure and in online articles from the New York Times. It's a sad state of affairs to which I do not wish to add. (This is a clever take on Winston Churchill's "situation up with which I will not put," as a comment on putting the preposition at the end of the sentence.) I will try in the future to use the editing function correctly and avoid such problems.
     Dear readers, please comment and let me know if you'd like posts from time to time that discuss specific problems of punctuation (I do not fear semi-colons), style, or usage. Thank you.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Armchair Philosophy: Thinking about Gratitude

   I've been thinking about gratitude lately. The word showed up in a book title and I just finished reading a post-biological-holocaust dystopia. That is guaranteed to make you grateful for all the bad things that haven't happened (yet?)! Seriously, though, gratitude is, in my opinion, a very important part of a healthy balanced worldview -- but one that isn't very popular these days. Actually, it's gotten something of a bad name, I think. Many folks hear "gratitude" and remember being kids that were poked by adults with phoney smiles urging them to "Say 'thank you' to so-and-so." As adults, we've been subjected to corporate-assigned expressions of gratitude: "Thank you for shopping at XYZ." It's the lack of sincerity, spontaneity, and individual initiative that makes these grateful gestures so unsatisfying.
   Of course, there's no use trying to express what you don't feel. Feeling gratitude must be the first step: gratitude toward yourself-your life, your health, your talents, loves, and interests--your friends and family, your job, your country, even your planet.
   But, hey, it's all so darned relative, isn't it? And it's so easy to take everything we have for granted. My mom grew up during the Great Depression and she said one time that, as a result, a good meal and a hot bath could seem like heaven on earth to her, even so many years later at the age of 83. I remember seeing a cover of National Geographic magazine, when I was a teenager, after a huge flood on the Indian subcontinent. It showed an obviously very old and very poor man up to his neck in water, holding up an ancient sewing machine: he had an enormous smile on his face -- he was so grateful that the instrument of his livelihood had survived the disaster.
   Despite the admittedly hard times many are undergoing now during the recession and future uncertainties of all kinds, here we are in the Western world, with so much ease, safety, comfort, and affluence in material terms: central heating, electricity, clean water and air, indoor plumbing, and on and on. And then there are all the intangible wonders in our lives: love, health, freedom, education, companionship, knowledge, passion, and on and on as well.
   But it's a problem to feel that gratitude, to recognize the combinations of luck and hard work that end up as we would wish, to count our blessings -- without that feeling being spoiled by negativity. There may be guilt, because of our own good fortune. There may be greed, always looking for more. There may be blame, asking why not and who's responsible. There may be fear of losing what is ours.
   I'm not really sure what this is all leading up to, but I do feel a great deal of gratitude and I know that it can be a good feeling. I haven't had any comments thus far on this young blog of mine, so maybe some of you readers will respond and tell us, out of a genuine desire to feel that good feeling, what you are grateful for in their lives.

In the Garden: The End of the Season

Although we haven't had a hard frost in our east central Illinois garden yet, there have been some chilly nights down in the thirties that prompted us to bring in the houseplants last week. Starting in May, the houseplants enjoy living outdoors on the plant table in light shade in the north yard, where they can have a hosing down from time to time to supplement the real thing--RAIN--of which there was plenty this year! But they don't like it too cold and usually are pretty agreable about coming in for the next six months and putting up with low humidity and watering can showers in exchange for central heating.

And so we come to the end of another season. I complain a lot about chilly rainy autumn and dreary freezing winters, but it's the miracle of the change of seasons that makes it all bearable. Winter's kind of worth it because Spring is so great. (Dear readers, remind me of these words in February when I'm griping.) The last things in bloom are mostly annuals -- bless their hearts, they require some expense and effort to put into the containers every spring and regular watering, of course, but what a payback: six months of color!

     It's always interesting in a given year to see which annuals have lasted to the end, survived the drought or flood, the muggy weather or the balmy days, depending on the moodiness of Midwestern weather. This year the salvias have been big champions. I always have to have some of the annual reds, and this year I tried a sort of Indian red one and mixed it in with the tall blue Victorias that take longer to bloom well but last long. And there are some old standbys as well, such as marigolds and lantana, dianthus and angelonias.

Some red angel wing begonias are still blooming nicely in pots in the shadier west garden, along with impatiens that will probably be the ones to let us know first when the hard freeze comes.
     Fall is always a bit melancholy for me, the dying of the season, the end of another time of beauty, the harbinger of colder days, and so on. But I do love the changing leaf color, especially on our Japanese maples and the big sugar maples and sweet gums in our tree-lined twin towns.
     I don't know if we'll have another good weather day when our friend Bryan can continue the "garden rehabilitation" work he started this fall, but I'll update you on his progress when he does. Warning to fellow gardeners: it's so easy for tree seedlings, weeds, volunteers, and vines to get OUT OF CONTROL in a very short time. Of course, this is especially true when the gardeners in question are enthusiastic about planting and expanding but ho-hum about maintenance in all its aspects . . . add in aging and health issues . . . and then you need a young friend to jump-start garden rehabilition.

Beaded Jewelry by Susan: New Listings in the Offing

I've got three photos each of 78 pairs of earrings on my hard drive now, ready for listing on the etsy website. It will take some time to compose each description, add pricing, shipping information, and search tags, and upload the images. I've been busy with my "day job," editing an engineering textbook (sigh), but I will list items as I can over the next week or so. Meanwhile, there are 220 pieces of great jewelry for sale there already, so check it out, and see if you can find the perfect something for yourself or for holiday gifts coming up soon. Here's a preview, just for you blog readers, of an item not yet listed:

Monday, October 12, 2009

Etsy Community

I've had my jewelry shop on Etsy for about four months now, and I have learned so much! Of course, that includes lots of Web-related information: as a result, I'm on Facebook, I tweet on Twitter, I started Susan's Blog, etc. But I've also learned how generous, kind, and community-minded some of my fellow crafters can be. AudreysCountryCrafts did a wonderful job of featuring my shop on her blog today. Weeks ago she sent me some interview-type questions and I sent back answers and some images. I hardly knew what a "blog" was at the time, but she sounded friendly and I figured I needed exposure for me shop. When I saw the feature just now, I was proud and pleased and really touched. Thanks Audrey!

My Shop Featured in Audrey's Blog Today!

A colleague from the etsy online shops has been kind enough to feature Beaded Jewelry by Susan in her blog post for today. Check it out!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Beaded Jewelry by Susan

The latest news about my etsy jewelry website is that I am color coding the jewelry. I've finished rearranging the $12 earrings and am starting to color code the necklaces next. This way, you can shop for jewelry by clicking on the Section you want that groups the earrings by category according to the material of the beads(stone, enamel, lampglass, foil glass, etc.) or by flipping through the shop's pages, from blue to red to green, etc. Or you can ask to show the most recently listed items first.

The other news is that Monday, October 12, there will be a little feature about my shop on a fellow Etsian's blog:

And I've just listed Susan's Blog in the Blog Directory at Technorati. I'm on Facebook and Twitter as well: and looking for people to follow me.

Here's the most recent listing in the shop, Sea Green Lampglass Eye Bead Earrings:

Feline Tails: Background

Here's a quick glimpse of the present generation of six cats. But let me give a little background. I've always loved cats and we had cats, dogs, birds, hamsters, etc. when I was growing up. My first generation of two cats, Cognition and Shrew, joined my life about 27 years ago. They were wonderful friends who shared my days for nearly 20 years and are still missed daily. The second generation included six and then was upgraded to eight: Amber, Ginger, GreyFox, Minou, Midnite, Snowshoe, Dickens, and Angel. My memories are filled with wonderful stories about each one of them and, again, I think of them every day. Angel is the "older lady," at ten years old, who is the grumpy aunt of the present third generation: Angel, Sylvan, Yang, Toffee, Angus, and Panther. More to come about them all in future posts
(Are you interested?)

Music: Flamenco News

Played a library CD, Camino Latino by Juan Martin, flamenco guitarist extraordinaire. Great album! He's right up there in my list of favorites with Jesse Cook, Armik, and Govi. If you like terrific guitar work, give this one a listen.

Fiction Corner

Recent reads: Joyce Carol Oates's The Gravedigger's Daughter. Very engaging novel, essential JCO, in other words, emotionally wrenching and intense. A bit of an autographical aspect too (loosely based on her grandmother's life).

Also, Dan Chaon's Await Your Reply. This was my second novel by Chaon: You Remind Me of Me was also excellent. This one's about identity: understanding what it is, stealing it, losing it, regaining it. Read another book about this a while back, also fascinating, T.C. Boyle's Talk Talk.

Now I'm about half way through Margaret Atwood's latest: The Year of the Flood. Like the earlier Handmaid's Tale and Oryx and Crake, this one is a futuristic dystopia. It's interesting and I am drawn into the main characters, but I suspect that dystopias are getting harder to pull off. The current state of affairs, in terms of human society and the future of the planet, is such that dystopias often wind up using either wild exaggerations or thinly veiled references to present-day situations. More on this later when I finish the book.

In our reading group, we're in the middle of The Lost Art of Gratitude by Alexander McCall Smith. It's the most recent addition to the series about Isabel Dalhousie, Edinburgh philosopher and kind-hearted meddler. We've also read all the Botswana series (starting with The Ladies' No. 1 Detective Agency), personal favorites, and the serialized sketches from the Scotsman newspaper, first collected in 44 Scotland Street.

We are also reading Malcom Gladwell's Blink in group, an interesting nonfiction book about human intuition. We read aloud and then discuss. This has been going on for many years, usually including some biography, history, psychology, and whatnot.

On my recommendation, husband David is on the third in the Simon Serailler mysteries, The Risk of Darkness by British writer Susan Hill.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Special announcement for today:

Just for today, a fellow "Etsian" has chosen to include a brief feature about my shop as part of a "Glimpse into Creativity" special on her blog. Check it out: You'll need to scroll down a few to catch mine.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Baby steps entering the 21st century

I'm not very computer savvy. My entry into the 21st-century work of social networking comes late in life, but it has mostly all happened in the past few months since I set up my etsy jewelry website at the end of April. Just recently (well, yesterday), I started this blog. A few days before, I started tweeting. A little before that I got a Facebook page (still haven't figured out how to set up a "fan" page). And a couple of weeks ago, I joined two groups on Flickr and uploaded photos. Egad! My head is spinning from the speed of social networking!

Anyway, tonight I wanted to add an "etsy mini" (small showcase of items from my shop) to this blog and I was stumped. Then social networking came to my rescue! A nice guy named Tim Adams, who is an etsy artist too, has a blog: where he gives people advice about promoting their shop. He had done a short video (his first one, he said) about just what I needed.

Now you can see for yourself -- on the right-hand side of this posting -- my very own ETSY MINI! Hurray for me! Hurray for etsy! Hurray for Tim Adams! Hurray for social networking! This must be what the 21st century will be like if we don't destroy the planet first!  . . . nuff for now, folks.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Some future topics on Susan's Blog

Beaded Jewelry by Susan:  This is the shameless promotion of my etsy jewelry website that is the main motivation behind starting this blog. I'll show photos of recent creations, discuss the evolution of my bead addiction, ponder questions of organization and storage, talk about design principles, and generally update all who may be interested in the wonderful world of beaded jewelry on my various activities.

Fiction Corner:  This is a cozy spot near a fireplace with a bookshelf close at hand, a very comfy chair, and a small table. There are usually cats wandering in and out. I don't plan to bore anyone with lengthy book reviews (whew!). But I may well mention what I'm reading or just recently finished that I think is worth a brief comment. In addition of my own literary fiction reading, I read nonfiction from time to time with a small group of friends, so these books may come up in the Fiction Corner as well.

Feline Tales:  This section will, no doubt, include cute cat stories and photos of my six beauties: Sylvan, Yang, Panther, Toffee, Angel, and Angus. Felines belonging to friends and acquaintances may be praised here too, and odds and ends of cat health, nutrition, and general advice may be offered.

In the Garden:   I've been gardening (flower gardening) for more than 30 years. Although I can't really do much of the physical aspect of it anymore, I know a bit about flowering perennials, annuals, shrubs, alpines vines, and nonflowering plants like ferns. I might give some tips on growing in the Midwest, tell the history of my various gardens, include some digital photos of the present garden's rehabilitation, and discuss the pitfalls of being a soft-hearted gardener who has learned that it doesn't work to ignore garden maintenance. 

Films and Music:  No sound effects planned for this section, but mention of films worth viewing (DVDs in my case) and CDs that I like.

Armchair Philosopy:  Okay, I admit it. I'm an intellectual, I guess. I love to talk, read, write. I actually loved going to school ... for many many years. I'm not interested in a bunch of arguments about politics, religion, etc., however. I want to do armchair philosophy on the "big picture" issues. It remains to be seen what will be included. I'm most likely to hold forth if readers send me questions to ponder ...

If these potential topics sound like maybe your cup of tea (or coffee), let me know. If not, make suggestions. There may well be areas that I'm interested in without realizing it!

Susan's First Blog!

This is my very first blog ever! I feel as though I have entered the 21st century at last, even though I'm basically a 20th-century person.

Although I created this blog for the purpose of shameless promotion of my etsy website for selling my beautiful, affordable, unique beaded jewelry, I plan to include some other topics of interest to me and, hopefully, to you, the readers of this blog.

Here are some potential areas within Susan's Blog: