Saturday, February 28, 2009

Findlay the Frog

So you've met Findlay the frog this week. He is doing fine but wanted me to tell you a little about why he is called Findlay and about James. James is Findlay's new friend - that's James below. He is a very large (paper mache) frog - just amazing! He is about 4 foot square and hangs/sticks on the wall in our office making quite a statement. Everyone remembers James when they've met him. He's called James as he has little ladybirds/ladybugs sat on his back, so he seems like a ladies man...and then we thought of James Bond being a ladies man..... and so he was named James. He's taking good care of Findlay.

Findlay got his name after my brother in law. You may recall last year that I made a "my family and other animals" charm bracelet. It had charms of little animals on it - each with their name. This all started as a discussion over dinner with my nephews and sister and brother in law one night when we tried to come up with names for animals I could make that were clever or a little play on words such as Cliff and Bob the seagulls, Curdle and Cud the cows, Trotter and Truffle the pigs..... and Matt and Ted the sheep - ie mat- ted wool...get it? The family part then came into it as Matt is my nephew - and here is Matt the sheep.

Then there is Peter - he is my other nephew and so came is Pete the penguin - who flaps his wings when you pull on the fish but never manages to quite fly.......

And here is Findlay the frog. Findlay is my brother in law - so Findlay the frog is part of "my family and other animals...."
I have to confess that Findlay really doesn't do well as frog as I don't think he would ever get into one of their choruses!!!! Sorry Fin..... :-D And I think at our dinner discussion we were actually going to do a Fin the fish but Findlay sounds like such a good name for frog - quite sophisticated..... What do you think? Quite a grand and important frog....?

The only missing one from that part of my family is my sister Mary so I better come up with Mary the.......? Any thoughts?

February in movies and books

As it's the end of February, so time to share with you the movies I've watched this month and the books I've read.

February in movies:

Down and out in Beverly Hills
Gran Torino
In Bruges
Music within
Sangre de Mi Sangre
A good woman

My favorite movie of them all was Gran Torino. I hadn't really wanted to go and see it - didn't even know what it was about but my husband wanted to go and then I spoke to my uncle on the phone and he said he loved it - so I went. It was good. Not all about cars!!!! And it made me cry just a little bit at the end. Great ending. I recommend it.

I didn't get to see the Oscars this year as I was listening to Cecilia Bartoli instead at Berkeley. Just amazing - she was incredible - but sorry not see all the winners.

February in books:

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie society - Mary Ann Shafer and Annie Barrows
The Collector - David Balducci

Both of these I listened to, rather than read. Hasn't been any time this month for sitting and reading. The GL&PPPS book was a sweet delight. Sooooooooooooooooo British! The audio book version was amazing with a different person for each character in the book. The whole book is letters back and forth between people. What surprised me the most is that this has two authors. The first author became ill and so asked her neice to finish the book for her. Unfortunately, Mary Ann died just before the book was published so never got to see it. The writing is just seemless - you'd never think there were two writers....

The Collector took absolutely ages to get into. Couldn't figure how anything was connected..... I think I would have given up with it had it not been a book for our book club. Actually quite a page turner in the latter part - if you can have an audio page turner! - but then an awful ending. What a waste of time. Totally neglected ending what most of the first half was about. :-(

So what was the best movie you saw this month and what was the best book you read? Let's share some recommendations......

Friday, February 27, 2009

Merry Go Round - explain how you do your art/craft

It's time for another ride on the merry-go-round! Jump on and join a group of artists/crafts-women as they link around the world and tell you a little about their lives in art and craft.

This month's question that myself and 6 other women will answer is " Explain how you do your craft."

To explain how I make my silver, I decided to make a piece and take photographs of the process along the way - better to see than read all my words. As you may have read in yesterday's post, I decided to make a frog for our little "demo".

1. The first stage is choosing the type of metal clay. For this project I used standard precious metal clay. Metal clay is comprised of microscopic particles of silver suspended in a binder which give it the feel of clay. There are two brands of metal clay and within those, the clays have different firing schedules and different shrinkage rates. I like using the "standard" clay best for sculptural pieces - it has a nice feel and good workability. It shrinks about 30% when it goes it in the kiln.

2. So I pull some clay off and start to shape it with my hands. Before starting, I'd looked at some photos online of frogs to get an idea of their anatomy - but as this wasn't an anatomical study, it didn't have to be exact! Other times I will draw a picture of what I'm planning or make a model in polymer clay to try it out. For the frog, I just dived in and started! Here you can see the beginnings of a frog - body, eyes and two front legs with feet.

3. The back legs were actually quite tricky to figure because they fold back on themselves a couple of times a little jiggling with the clay and I gently attach them. At this stage in the photo, everything is still soft clay and very delicate. It starts to dry out quickly so you have to work relatively fast. I think one of the best lessons I ever learned with working with metal clay is that this "wet" shape can be really rough. You just tidy it up when it's dry and firmer. Just get a good outline and don't try to make it perfect right now. For other more standard shape projects I would let each piece dry first and then assemble - for example boxes or houses, but with all the differing angles and shapes on animals and figures, I find assembling it all wet to be the best method.

4. Next, the froggy gets to warm up a little on a coffee mug warmer. This dries him out. Before I work on him again, I want him to be really dry. While a piece like this is drying, I normally start on the "wet" phase of another project - (and drink my coffee as there is no longer room on the warmer for it:-D).

5. Once he is dry, this is now the most time consuming part of the project. As the shape is rough, I then go over the piece and reinforce all the joints and seams and build up the details of the shape where necessary. For this froggie, his knees needed a lot of reinforcement - which is just adding clay and making sure each seam is tight with no holes. He then goes back on the coffee warmer. Once he seems structurally sound, then comes the filing, sanding and perfecting part. I use lots of different things for this, some metal files, some papers, some boards...changing what I use to find things that can fit in the tiny crevices to sand the dry clay down. Whilst the clay is dry, it is still quite delicate. At this stage, I also drilled in his two little pupils for his eyes and set in a bail so that he could hang as a necklace. This photo shows the sanded frog - ready for his next step.

6. Once I make the eyes on a piece, that's when I seem to start talking to my pieces. So now I tell him that he may get a little hot for a while, but it'll all be OK in the end and he'll be a lot stronger. And so little froggie goes into the kiln at 1650 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 hours.....and I keep my fingers crossed. This is the time when the binder part -the clay bit - burns off, and so froggie shrinks and all the tiny silver particles anneal and fuse together.

7. Once out of the kiln, froggie gets a little check over, then a polish, he's dunked in a liver of sulphur solution which adds a black patina to him. The patina is then rubbed off from most parts, but stays in the recessed areas to show the definition, eg his eyes etc. He's polished and at this stage I can leave him shiny or give him a soft brushed finish. As frogs need to stay wet I decided he needed a shiny finish.

8. So he then goes on a chain, and I check that he hangs OK and is comfortable to wear. He then gets a name and in this case, the necklace also got a name. And so Findlay the frog is born. As I was making him, I came up with a name for the necklace as "Stuck on you" - as he will hang with his little 'sticky' feet pads on you! He is also what I would call a "wearer's necklace". Remember those advertisements for BMW's that always said they were "drivers' cars" meaning the real joy is for the driver....??? Well, with this necklace, I think the real joy is for the wearer because as you the wearer look down on the necklace, you see his cute little eyes and smiling face looking up at you!!

Then Findlay gets his photo taken in a few different poses and he starts dreaming of where his new home will be. I think it was at this time that he started his first little frog song - looking for some others to join his chorus........

If you have any questions about the process - do feel free to ask. Happy to tell more or even to ask Findlay any questions.......

More on Findlay and how he got his name and the necklace name tomorrow.

Take a look at how the other artists on the merry go round do their creations.......They will post either today or over the weekend so if you don't see their post - do check back later....

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Creativity sparks - ideas to inspire : Ask someone else!

So yesterday morning I casually said...."hmmm, what shall I make today?". Instantly my husband turned and said "a frog!"....... I wasn't really asking him for inspiration or ideas, more just muttering -but he came back with "frog" and said that I'd never made a frog before - so there you go - I made a frog!!!!

Now the reason he said "frog" and it got my attention was that the frogs have just started singing here. Oh, I love a frog chorus and we hear plenty from our little pond. 'They' say that the first frog chorus of the year heralds bud break in the vineyard. Now I'm sure the frogs know best - but our vineyard is always late in budding - so maybe the frogs are singing about general bud break - not just here at Birdland! No buds here yet....

Well, I have lots to say about frogs and this piece...but that will wait for another day. Today is meant to be about sources of inspiration. So yes - yesterday my husband's idea worked and it inspired me - but generally I don't find other people's ideas excite me! Not quite sure why - but often they just don't do it...

But the lesson for today is, whilst it may be infrequent, maybe we shouldn't always just dismiss ideas from others. One day, you may find one that works!!

See Friday's post about how I made this frog and Saturday's post for his name and more on the stories of frogs at Birdland.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Business Matters - Part 5 - Building a website

I've just spent part of the last week or so building a website for a non-profit organization I am involved with. I've built a few before - but they were all on mac using iweb. However this time, we needed a website that other members of the non-profit organization could use and update and change and so is not restricted to only mac users or only pc users, nor is a program like rapidweaver that has a huge learning curve.

After a little searching, I came across these three free website builders - Google sites, Weebly and Synthasite. In the end, we chose Synthasite and our website is just about ready to publish.

I mention it here because it is a great illustration of just how simple putting together a website can be nowadays. Synthasite lets you choose from one of 30 or so styles and then you don't need to know any html - you just type what you want, where you want.

We put a blog on the site, we've got photos, you can link to flickr or picnik, pdf's of the newsletters are linked through........It gives you a choice of web-friendly fonts, colors of fonts, you can upload your own banner or this one I made for it:

Yes, it has a few little foibles that you have to fiddle with to get things how you want - but really, it's a great way to get your own web presence.

It's a great way to get a site up and running in just a few hours. So you could start off with a simple site created on Synthasite and see what happens..... Then change and develop it as you want and need to. Maybe you'll end up wanting a professionally designed site in the end - but this is just a great way to start. I find having built my own site so advantageous because then I can update as often as I need, without having to get someone else to do it for me (and paying someone else!). Sorry I can't show you the new site now but we can't publish it until the Board have seen it. Maybe in a couple of week's time.

Anyhow - for now - here is my (mac built) website ,

and also a website I built for my sister for her vacation home (Sorry her place is only available for family and friends......). Get building!!!!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


So here are the little things I was working on yesterday that I mentioned in my blog - three little birdhouses. A round one with a shingled roof-top, a square one, and a rectangular one - each with a little post for alighting on before you pop inside!

My idea is that I will combine them with birds and make a birdie charm bracelet - three birds with three houses. But there again, I might make earrings as I never seem to make earring anymore...or else .........

But there they are unassembled and I'll show you the final piece(s) when I decide on it.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Background stuff

Well, it seems like I haven't made many new things lately. Just the hands last week.... Nothing to show and tell! :-(

So I thought I better explain that I haven't been sat around doing nothing. I've actually been doing lots of background stuff - such as:
  • some research at the library on a few ideas for bracelets
  • ditto the above but searching online
  • spending lots of time on photopolymer plates and thermal negative films - I'm trying to work up some plates with really fine lines and details but haven't quite got there yet. Keep testing and not finding success.....yet......
  • tried a new bracelet design on photopolymer plates, but it ended up looking too indistinct so scraped it
  • trying copper clay again but not feeling inspired by it
Stuff like that! While I feel like I've achieved nothing, it's interesting to write about it here and recognize how much time is taken up in preparation of designs before I actually touch the clay. Some pieces need no prep time but others need lots. And then when a piece is finally made, there is all that time on photography and computer uploads and putting on different websites etc.........

As I was feeling like I'd done nothing, this afternoon I put all that to one side and just made a couple of things - nothing earth shattering but ........They are drying now and I may finish them hopefully I will be able to show and tell later in the week.

Friday it is time for our merry go round post and we are all writing a little about the process of our art - so I need to take some photos of the different stages involved in making a piece of jewelry so you can see the "transformation" from clay to silver. I guess I'll have to make something new for that tomorrow - and even worse - tidy my studio if I'm taking photos up there!!!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sunday's spotlight - Gondoliers

By guest blogger Pete.

It's come. It's gone. It's come. It's finished.

At long last the white stuff, which came about 2 weeks ago, has gone. The World War II liberation of Paris could not have attracted greater press and TV coverage than the last two weeks and the glorious "Monday February 16th 2009". The prophets of doom are now saying that this was nothing like the winter of 1963/4, which lasted three months. Pretty useless remark, really, for I thought that all winters lasted three months! A bit like saying, "I love the countryside, it is so rural."! Yesterday we basked in the heat of 10 degrees Celsius - not quite warm enough for shorts and t shirt but still an improvement. I ventured forth to my art group and promptly froze in a church hall where the temperature was 5 degrees Celsius!

Anyway, as I sat 'sweltering' in the Church Hall I managed to finish the Las Vegas version of Venice. To be perfectly honest with you I wasn't sorry to see the back of the quarrelsome gondoliers. The strike still hasn't been settled. The knobbly kneed shorts wearers refuse to give in to the boss's demands that they wear long trousers to hide those unsightly appendages. If you can think of a solution to this strike then, for the sake of restoration of peace in Las Vegas, please let me know. In the meantime, here is the finished finished picture showing the wrangling still in progress. By the way, the water really IS that colour in Las Vegas' canals!

Help! Last spring my wife and I joined up with Ruth and John for a week's touring of Washington and Oregon States. One of the places we visited was Whidby Island. On that island there is an experimental Azalea centre (or center, depending on whether or not you were properly educated!!!)(Editors note : Meerkerk Rhododendron Gardens - must see!). With digital camera at the ready I took a few photographs - but I cannot lie; it must have been something in the region of a hundred or so. Despite all the beauty of the massed Azaleas I captured the attached photograph. I eventually got around to "Photoshop"ing it and then the quest began. It doesn't look too rare but what is it called? Cosmos has been suggested but I though cosmos was a member of the daisy family and this chap isn't a daisy. How about "Aquilegia" (Granny Bonnet)? Somehow it doesn't quite look like it. Any help with identification would be appreciated.

Bye for now.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A bird in the hand....

In addition to the "take my hand" piece (which is on its way to Southern CA, where I hope it will provide great comfort), I also made a "bird in the hand" necklace. I like the sentiment - that we should be grateful and appreciate what we have - rather than always be looking for more i.e. two in a bush.

I think the brushed soft look of the silver goes well with this piece. And the hand is gently cupped, cradling the bird rather than holding it....... I had made a similar piece before with a slightly different bird. It's interesting to see how subtle changes can be quite significant. Here is looks like the bird is free to fly away but chooses to stay.....

There seems to be so much emotion in cupped hands... I feel it as a create them and then seeing them as jewelry - they speak volumes I think. So nurturing and comforting and gentle....holding something precious and delicate.....

Hope you like the necklace.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Creativity sparks - ideas to inspire : Music

If you look at my jewelry, you'll notice that several of my pieces are entitled with music lyrics or song titles. Music is a big part of my life - I sing a lot and listen a lot. A whilst listening to an old Beatles song or some CD may spark works like "driving along in my automobile" and "fly me to the moon" can do so much more.

Take for example just sitting back and listening to Ralph Vaughan Williams' "The Lark Ascending".....

Here is a link to it - just play it as you continue to read..

or else just stop for a while and close your eyes and listen. I first heard this piece live at the Three Choirs Festival in Gloucester cathedral. It was just so breathtaking......

Or another piece is Barber's Agnus Dei........I find it takes me on a journey that is difficult at times but at the end, I am so uplifted through going through the difficulties......

Here's a link to it:

Just getting lost in music is a wonderful thing. To help you get into it, as the piece starts, imagine yourself starting to walk on a path and then see where the path takes you and what colors appear and......expect nothing, just observe....

Take the time. Sit comfortably and do nothing but close your eyes and listen.

Is there a piece of music that you get totally absorbed in? Something that shifts your tell us. Please add it in the comments section so we can listen too......... Let's share our experiences...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Business Matters - Part 4b - Practice the Rule of 5

So I tried practicing my Rule of 5 this week( see last week's post for info). Thanks also to Fabienne from Easterya and Nikki from the Beaded Zen for joining me. Anyone else give it a try?? It really did help to have someone to email regularly about my experiences and successes and those not-quite-successes! It made me do more and try harder.

My conclusion after trying to work by the Rule of 5 (you commit to accomplishing five specific things each and every day that move you towards your goal) is that trying to do 5 things each day to reach toward a new goal is too much!!! It was most useful to write out goals in steps - but adding 5 new things each day to my normal daily activities didn't work out. I think I'm a 5 steps a week kind of person.

It would seem that Fabienne and the Nikki had similar experiences. Here's what Fabs said:

"Well, setting targets each day to work towards a goal is great, makes total sense... But 5??? Woohoo! That's a bit steep! I guess if you are to succeed, you have to be able to dissect all the steps you need to take to achieve that goal, and I agree with you: 5 targets a week instead of a day, to start off with, feels much more manageable... This week, out of my five, I've managed only 2, so I'll keep on going..."

I know Fabs made great strides with techie things this week - like making banners and avatars so I think she gets extra points for her techie-ness - her 2 goals really equal 5 as getting to know a program for image manipulation etc is, at least for me, very slow going. Good for you Fabs!

Overall, I found the approach useful. I did use the week to get together my Songbird suite of jewelry items and I have, so far, approached one store to ask if they would be interested. They are a birding store and have just a little bit of jewelry and I think my items would be a good fit. I only emailed them today, so I'll wait and see. But now I'm ready to approach others too.

It was a good way to implement something new in my business - a specific goal and I think I'll use it again.

Care to share any "get it done" strategies you have used successfully?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Take my hand.....

A new "hand" piece. Just a gently cupped hand - offering.....

There are lots of songs with "take my hand" in it - and I see the phrase as offering comfort, offering support, being there for someone...or else it can be seen in a religious context (Precious Lord, take my hand.....)

I'm thinking this would be a lovely gift for someone who needs support right now...they can take the hand in their hand as they wear it.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Special Delivery

My latest necklace - your very own (American) mailbox!

The flag is up - suggesting there is mail inside so open it up and sure enough, the lid is hinged and there is a special message inside just for you.

Here, I have a message that says “miss you”.....but you can chose your own message, for example “will you marry me?” (what a great way to propose!!!), “love you”, best friends”, “all my love”.....or anything you can think up ( as long as it's not too many words!!!). The little message is attached to a chain on the inside so you don’t lose it.

An unusual necklace with lovely customizable message. What message would you send?

I've made a piece before that was called "Special delivery" and that was a bird carrying a big red heart. This time the message is hidden inside so not quite as obvious - or maybe it's a secret message that only the wearer know how I love secrets and surprises!

I remember when we first moved to the US and had our own mailbox like this. It seemed fun to have the little flag that you could raise if you put mail in for posting and the postman could also raise if they delivered mail to you. Just different for us I guess, but now we only have a box as part of a larger box with our neighbors, so no flag raising :-(

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sunday's spotlight - More snow

By guest blogger Pete.

"The snow that cameth last week cometh again this week as well." On Sunday last we were all hoping that we had seen the last of it but by evening if had returned with a vengeance. My mother in law had sayings for most things and she used to reckon that whilst there was the faintest amount of snow left we would get some more to clear it away. She was partly right! The newspapers and the radio were in their respective elements as harbingers of bad tidings and informed us that whereas last week was the worse weather we had had for 18 year this week's was the worse we had had for 20 years. I don't know if such information is supposed to be a comfort -- if it is then it certainly failed dismally. Once again I did without the mediocre hall temperature and conga dancing priest of the past few weeks and painted at home rather than go to the art group.
You were right with your 2nd guess, Florcita. This version of Venice has its origins in Las Vegas. I purposedly refrained from beginning to paint the water until this week. You could get that colour only in Las Vegas and certainly NOT in Venice. I MAY get the painting finished by next week - only reflections, etc, on the water and the gondolas to complete.

The snow painting shown below was completed in 2002. It's taken from the corner of Lincoln Cathedral grounds and just outside one of the old Roman entrances to the city, Eastgate. The folk who live there regard the district as Lincoln's "Nob Hill". I don't live in that area so think they are talking rubbish. I think the age of the house depicted does match its appearance. It's so easy to get weathered plastic beams and a pot of glue these days that you need to examine to be anything like sure. It's obvious that this was one of my earlier watercolour efforts. I was once told to keep earlier efforts so that you could see if I was making progress. Sometimes that maxim is all right but at other times it can be embarrassing!

Have a good week. Perhaps this coming seven days will see the beginning of that heat wave. Who was it that reckoned I was a pessimist?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Gift from the cat

I was recently approached by a cat to do a commission piece for her owner! She wanted me to make her "mum" some cuff-links with her paw prints on them. So we discussed the idea.....found that she also wanted her name on them - and so I came up with some birthday cuff-links for her mum! Hope mummy likes them. Here they are:

How lovely to have cufflinks for women. I think I need to pursue this more...... Let's get those shirts out ladies and get some cool cuff-links in them! If a cat can start this trend - anyone can do it!

PS No cat was injured in the manufacture of these cuff links - and she didn't even get clay in her pads!!!! :0D

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Creativity sparks - ideas to inspire : The unusual

On the metal clay yahoo group this week, someone posted about an unusual thing that inspired them. That someone was Sue McNenly who lives in Canada and makes lovely boxes, amongst other things, that you can see here.

I asked her if it was OK to share her cute inspiration tale and she agreed, so here it is:

"Last year I went to Scottsdale and fell in love with a wall I saw in the
changing room of a store! I loved the wall so much that I took a picture
of it...I often do things like that. Anyway, I knew I would use it one
day, and last weekend I made a box using the wall as inspiration."

Here's a photo of the wall:

and here is her box inspired by the wall:

It's just beautiful Sue. I love it.

It's a great example of how the most unusual things can inspire us in life! Thanks for letting me share it. Anyone else have an odd inspiration that they've followed up on??

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Business Matters - Part 4 - Practice the Rule of 5

This week in my reading there was reference to Jack Canfield's motivational book "The Success Principles". In this book, his 23rd principle is "practice the rule of 5". This principle is that you commit to accomplishing five specific things each and every day that move you towards your goal.

So I'm going to give it a go - maybe you'll join me and we can see, in a week, what progress we make.

My specific goal is to establish a couple of wholesale accounts where I sell select piece of my jewelry, namely my songbird pieces.

Today, my list of 5 consisted of:

~ finishing and polishing my bird items for wholesale
~ started working on the rewrite of my artist statement (rewrite is a bit generous as I don't really have one at all!!!)
~ searched for possible "bird" related galleries/stores that I can approach
~ figure my price points
~ work on not being scared to try wholesale - thinking positive thoughts - by rereading a friend's email about her success with her metal clay wholesale business.

So I'll try this for a week and maybe I'll make some progress. It would be lovely to have friend or two who would also commit to their own goal and try the "5 rule" for a week...... Anyone out there game? Your goal can be anything - doesn't have to be art/work related......Do join me and see what we can achieve together ..... It would be much more fun to do it together......

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Comforting in Kenya

Last summer I made a bronze necklace called "comfort me" which a friend bought before she went on a trip to Kenya. The necklace has the words of the 23rd psalm on it and hanging in front, the tag says "comfort me". She was planning on taking it with her on her trip. This week she emailed me her story about the necklace:

"Since returning from an other worldly trip to Kenya in October, I have wanted to let you know how very special the "Comfort me" pendant became. As much as I treasured it for myself, when I became of aware of the ever present stresses in the life of my hostess, Mary Hinga, it seemed only right that she have the pendant. (Our church is partnering with the Kihumo Parish, and Mary, as a longstanding member of session and head of the women's guild, is constantly reaching out to serve those less fortunate. She hasn't seen her husband in a couple of years as he's been under medical care in the states. ) Point being - Mary was thrilled with the gift. In taking photos the day we visited a refugee camp, I was lucky to get one shot which shows off the pendant beautifully. As you create your jewelry, do you ever wonder where it will find a home? This piece traveled far!"

Thanks so much for letting me know Judy. Glad that comfort is being spread around the world.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Anyone can grow flowers....

Here's my latest "anyone can" necklace - Anyone can grow flowers.

I hate to say it and upset anyone - but it has been so spring like here with warm days and sunshine and all the flowers coming out - so this little piece just popped into my head.

It's created to be like a shadow box so has it's own type of "frame" and inside shows "anyone" tending to his/her pretty flowers.

It has been a few weeks since "anyone" made an appearance and this piece actually took no thinking about it all. I sat down, wasn't even trying to think and the image came to me, I drew a quick sketch and then put it together.

Even if you are still in the cold or even snow - maybe this will make you think of more spring and summer days with the flowers opening up and blooming. Soon it will be green fingers time and you can help create all that colour and scent in your garden.......because "anyone can grow flowers".......

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sunday's spotlight - Let it snow!

By guest blogger Pete.

"Let it snow!"

Last Sunday I told you about the cold weather we have been SUFFERING (aaaaaahhhhhhhh!) here in the UK. Yesterday we had the heaviest snow fall for 18 years (more aaaahhhhhs). Normally we don't get much snow in the midlands and south of England but we sure made up for it yesterday.

My elder daughter and her family couldn't get to work or school (the boys were absolutely distraught about missing school!!) and they went sledging. The boys built a ramp, which made them airborne. They must take after their father!

People panic here when it snows and yesterday was no exception. For 18 years we've had little or now snow. Because of that we have a good percentage of drivers who have never driven in snow. Some of them seem to have thought that the faster you drive the quicker you get home and out of the snow. There was an additional stop in that order for some - a lift to the local hospital.

When we had the last bad snowfall it was on a Friday. When the forecast came through (more than a little later than usual) thoughtful employers sent their workforces home rather than have them stuck in the office or factory for the weekend. They all poured onto the motorways - some slid, lorries jack-knifed, some crashed and pretty soon the motorways were gridlocked. The gritting lorries were slower than the workers in getting out and so couldn't get onto the motorways. Chaos is a wonderful human invention!

The painting is from a photo I took of my wife, Pam, in our local park, about 2 minutes from where we live. There was a dusting of snow on the ground that day. It's a great place and has a very attractive lake in the middle of it. The dog on Pam's lap is a Bichon and her name was Lucy, We've had quite a few dogs in our time but Lucy was, by far, the biggest character amongst them all.

As if the present "credit crunch " - UK speak for the global economic situation - wasn't bad enough we've now got unofficial strikes going on in the UK. The pickets must have frozen to the spot yesterday. I didn't want to venture forth to my art group so I stayed at painted in the warmth of our home. I didn't facing sitting for 2 hours in a temperature at its best described as moderate - plus face the prospect of the conga dancing priest and his people setting off the alarm (see last Sunday's blog). As I painted I decided that the gondoliers in the image were deciding whether or not to strike. The bosses had decided that their employees had knees that were too nobbly for their delicate customers and so everyone must wear long trousers! Some of them decided that they wanted to go on wearing short and didn't want to be dictated to. Thus a strike was forthcoming.

Thanks Hamish and Florcita for your comments. Yes, you can see gondolas in the sketch but the setting isn't Venice. Get away from Italy and where else would you find a Venice? Thanks also, Florcita, for the info on "Baby, it's cold outside". I thought it was a duet but couldn't remember that it was sung by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.

Have a good week. Perhaps we'll have the hottest week for 18 years. Then, perhaps not........"

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Mum's the word - or Mom's the word!

Yes, I often feel like I have become bilingual - speaking English and American! What with mum and mom, and laugh lines and laughter lines and - way too many examples to mention!!!!

Then last night we were going out and were told there was a "no host bar". What on earth does that mean? Nothing to us!!! Luckily our electrician friend was here working on the kitchen and so we asked for a translation! A bit like when you buy tickets and they say "Will Call". Even though we know what that means now, we still don't get it!!!!

Then when we went for a walk to collect the news paper the headline on the front was "Furlough Friday...." Again - we are stumped!!! No idea what a Furlough is - but now we do!!!!

But all that has nothing to do with my new necklace - just waffling! Sorry.

Anyhow - here is a lariat style necklace I created for all those moms and mums out there. It shows three silver charms of children's toys - a train, a rocking horse and a bunny.

To bring back memories of your kids or possibly dreams during expectancy!