Sunday, September 26, 2010

New Article Published

I've just had a new article published on Handmade Spark all about bead buying tips. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Few Recommendations

These cooler autumnal evenings (now that the equinox is past) are perfect for enjoying books and movies, so here are a few recommendations based on my recent experiences.

Two books: a book of short stories called Something Is Out There by Richard Bausch. They are separate stories about a range of characters, but each and every one pulls you in from the very beginning and they seem more like novels in terms of engagement with the characters and their situation. These are contemporary tales of interpersonal nuance, told with the keenest of psychological insights. I've read many stories and novels by Bausch and always admired his style, his directness, and his intelligence. He and his brother Robert (also an excellent novelist) are twins, perhaps the only twin novelists??

Also: a historical novel (not my usual) by Melissa Jones, sister of Sadie Jones, whose two novels I enjoyed thoroughly and discussed in an earlier post here. This one is called Emily Hudson. It's based somewhat on the life of Mary "Minnie" Temple, the cousin of Henry James. The book is partially told in letters and the rest in third-person narrative and is very well done and engrossing. Emily is a thoroughly admirable young woman of her time and very brave. The cousin character that presumably is Henry James is a cruel, despicable, and arrogant individual indeed.

Movies: two DVDs this weekend of a very different nature but both good and worthwhile. Crazy Heart, with Jeff Bridges (I still remember his dad, Lloyd, from Sea Hunt), Maggie Gyllenhall, Robert Duvall, and Colin Farrell. It's the perfectly hearbreaking story of a worn-down hard-drinking country singer-songwriter and his attempt to save his own life. The music is fun as well, of course, even though country music isn't my top choice most of the time.

Second film is Adoration by the Armenian-Canadian director Atom Egoyan. This was probably one of the best movies I've seen in a while in terms of serious cinema. It's a deep and complex exploration of a family's issues and their extension into global issues of terrorism and fear, the role of new technology in self-expression, self-discovery, and the pursuit of truth ... and many more serious and fascinating themes, beautifully filmed and wonderfully acted.

I rarely get comments on these blogs posts (too bad ... I would enjoy them), but if you have read or seen something good lately, please share that here. Thanks.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bead Buying Trip

What fun! We went on a one-day bead buying trip on Friday. Our good friend Bob drove us down to Collinsville Gateway Center for the International Gem and Jewelry Show exhibition and sale. The day started earlier than I'm used to and I was excited about the prospect of great new beads, so I overenthused on my morning stretches and managed to somehow pull that muscle in my lower back and buttocks that I hadn't pulled for a long time. Eek! I had a hard time just getting from the house to the car and getting out at Perkins for a quick omelet to get us started. But my back was resting on the trip down in the car of course.

It is about a 2 1/2 hour trip with a short rest area stop. It was beautiful weather, with blue sky and sunshine all the way. The traffic was pretty heavy and we went via interstate, but it was still great to get out in the country a bit. Many of the corn and soybean fields were already harvested (early this year?) and some were being taken down as we drove past. Once we got down past Effingham, our familiar flat landscape developed into a rolling terrain as we moved toward the Mississippi River valley. It was more wooded too, and you could see the beginnings of autumn adding a yellowish cast to the deciduous leaves. The quality of the light is different too in the fall, falling at a lower angle and with more yellow in the light itself.

We got to the show about 1 o'clock and Bob dropped us off until 5. I had my four-wheel rollator so that my back was supported and I had a seat to sit in, which helped immensely. David was pulling our handy two-wheeled tapestry tote bag for the bead purchases, so we were ready to roll.

The show was really crowded this time! We headed for the wholesale room first and one particular vendor at the back end who had terrific bargains. The tables were so mobbed with people that I had to wait to get my rollator into a small spot where I could see and look over the goods! But I found great deals on bags of plated pewter trim elements, strands of sparkling crystal, tiny glass pearls, and interestingly patterned stone. It was even a long wait in line to pay.

I found some neat striped stone in thin discs and ovals with matching small rounds at a booth in the retail section while David rested at one of the tables filled with bored husbands reading newspapers or dozing off while their overexcited wives had a blast looking at beads. Probably the opposite of a hardware or power tool show, as Bob remarked later.

To my delight, a vendor I had bought from at prior shows was there, with lots of new and intricate lampwork beads sold by the strand. It's hard work choosing and a great deal of fun as well! It's a big show, and there are lots of booths that I can skip, thank goodness, or I'd be totally exhausted within an hour! The whole center of the main room is booths with finished commercial jewelry like diamond rings, watches, etc. There are some booths with non-jewelry and non-bead items such as handbags, scarves, sheets, curios, etc. as well.

I also located some very nice twisted swirl glass discs in several colors that had been faceted so that they sparkled like crystal. This was the first time I had come across this particular bead and, of course, I had to get a number of strands, one in each color.

As I hovered over a booth, carefully deciding and inspecting each strand I chose, David sat nearby patiently waiting for me and taking care of the bag with our purchases already in it. Unfortunately, near the end of the time we were supposed to be out front waiting for Bob's car, we got our signals crossed a bit, and I returned to find that David wasn't in the chair I left him in. I panicked a bit and wound up walking all over the place while he was walking all over looking for me and Bob was waiting in the drop-off spot wondering what was going on!

We all found each other at last, although by then I had really messed up that back muscle (ouch!). We ate quickly at the nearby barbeque place and took off on the return trip. We had about one-third of the trip before dark, so another chance to enjoy scenery, and then dark the rest of the way.

Once we got home, we immediately fed the cats, who were ravenous. They had missed their 5 o'clock meal by about 4 hours, so they got two cans instead of one (they had two cans in the morning early) for the four of them and the rest of his one can to our boy who has prescription food. That calmed things down enough that I could sit with a microwave hot pad on my back while we looked over our purchases briefly before falling into bed.

Then last night I took the photos and we started the process of cutting apart the strands and figuring out which compartments to put which beads in -- always a fun thing to do. Today I will need to "reorganize" some bead trays, combining some beads, to make room for the rest of the new beads! It's an addiction, for sure, but at least it's not one that harms anybody. Now I'm looking forward to designing earrings with the new beads and putting them up on the website. I am thinking about writing any article for Handmade Spark about some tips for buying beads based on my own experiences over the years.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

From May to September

Remember the line from that old song . . . "it's a long long way, from May to September"? Well, now it's officially September, and despite blasting days of seemingly endless heat and humidity, we had to shut the windows tonight (and not because the air-conditioning is on). Yup, down to 45 F it is predicted. Of course, it will warm up again before the summer's totally over, but, hey, this is Labor Day weekend after all -- end of the park district pools, the summer camps, the festivals and outdoor activities for the most part.

So it's also a time when the garden is slowing down. Hopefully, the weeds are slowing down too. And the gardeners are starting to take stock. It's been a tough year for a lot of plants: heavy spring rains, amazing heat stress, continuing bouts of high humidity. Some plants like to be treated like that, but many do not.

So what do we still have in bloom? Well, some of the die-hard annuals in pots are going strong: red vinca, red salvia, petunias, blue salvia, lantanas, and impatiens in enough shade. The front row of pots looks a bit overgrown and exhausted, but there are these bright spots of continuing color!

Some of the petunias in the front containers in full sun have given up the ship by now, so to speak, but those planted later in a less sunny location seem to be coming into their own on both sides of the garden statue that I still have from my grandmother's garden long ago.

The barrels behind the glider with the double impatiens and dwarf hostas survived the heat too, thanks to my husband's faithful watering.

Although I would have thought that this would be a bad year for impatiens of any kind, it turned out not to be true. They can and do take the heat as long as they are in shade and kept watered. I had the doubles and singles in containers, a single in a basket, and a couple of new guineas in barrels, and they all look pretty good. I wasn't sure about putting bright red and yellow-orange ones together in the pots alongside the old metal glider sofa, but the brightness is certainly welcome now when everything else around it has turned to  green -- and the green is starting to have that exhausted yellow tinge :)

Back in the shady shady north yard, there isn't much color and the overgrown elderberries I didn't plant are busy fruiting while they smother the viburnum, hydrangea, and dwarf lilac. We've got to get them out of there! But the white impatiens in pots near the north seating area did very well and are so clear and cool looking.

The white picks up again behind them in the lacy panicles of the Hydrangea paniculata "Tardiva" (meaning late-blooming, like "tardy"), whose blooms have lasted a long time this year!

Not many perennials are in bloom right now, although the fall-blooming anemones are in bud I noticed. But a new planting of a dwarf buddleia is doing nicely.

Of course, there are always surprises in a garden, even late in the season. I had gotten a start of bright red annual begonia from supergardener Frank Cooper, who had kept it over the winter in his greenhouse. But it just didn't want to start growing ... all summer long it just sat there looking forlorn -- all stem and no leaves or blooms! But on my garden rounds this afternoon I re-discovered it. It's not huge and it won't withstand a frost (in October?), but it is blooming and it's a lovely color.

As for the project to "rehabilitate" the garden and make big changes for easier maintenance in the future, well, you know what they say about the best-laid plans of mice, men, and gardeners . . . We did make some progress despite all the rain and all the heat advisory days, however. And three of the four raised beds on the east side were cleared of weeds (although some have already grown back!) and mulched and we got the paths cleared (a big step!) and mulched. That will make it easier to get around and see what else can and can't be accomplished before the season is completely over. More on that later ... Enjoy your late-summer/early-fall gardens while you can!