Saturday, April 30, 2011

Weekly bird in the hand

Here is this weeks list of things that I am grateful for - my weekly bird in the hand:

Photo by The Jordan Collective
  • Nature. We took a hike today. We had a great time with no one else on the trail and a lovely little picnic by the pond.   It was wonderful to see:
  1. the black swallowtail butterflies
  2. large patches of forget-me knots
  3. all the different shades of green in the trees
  4. trillium flowers in bloom
  5. cascading water in the creeks
Photo by J. Michael Tracy
  • New restaurants.  This week we tried a new restaurant - Spoonbar in Healdsburg. We had a perfect evening out with delicious food.  Tonight we are going to another new restaurant in our village. Hope that is good too.  It's called Olive and Vine and it was previously a catering company.
  • Sales of my new aluminum bangles with silver animals/insects on them!  I need to get making some more!!!
  • The joy that the Royal Wedding brought to so many people - with fascinating fashion, traditions, and ceremony.
I hope you enjoyed your week.  What was the highlight for you?

Friday, April 29, 2011

Merry go round - Time management

It's the last Friday of the month, so join us on our merry go round for a quick spin.  The merry go round is where a group of 11 artists/craftwomen link together around the world and tell you a little about their art and craft, through blogging on the same topic.

This month's topic is "Time management: How do we organize our working time"

So what exactly is time management?  Wikipedia defines it as "the act or process of exercising conscious control over the amount of time spent on specific activities, especially to increase efficiency or productivity".

One of my favorite sayings that helps me with time management is "work smarter, not harder". And so I look for ways to not waste time.  I am a very focused person. My husband says " you are the most focused person I know". When I make a plan and want to achieve it, that is what my mind concentrates on.  I definitely don't prevaricate and put off until tomorrow what I can do today.
Photo by John-Morgan
I have a lot of flexibility in my schedule so this focus really helps with that. Some weeks, for example when my family are visiting, I don't do any work, apart from blogging. Other weeks, I spend every day in my studio or doing computer work for my business. But at the beginning of each week, I know roughly how that week will look and I rarely change that.

There are few hints that help me with my time management:

  1. Blogging.One important thing that has changed my productivity significantly is blogging. At the beginning of 2010 I decided to blog every day and I did that all last year and am continuing this year too.  This really encourages me to create new things. I want to have something to share with my blog readers each day and thus, I work at finishing off new pieces.  Some weeks when I know I will be out of the studio for a few days, I make sure that first day is a day when I finish lots of things so I have something to share each day on the blog.  I like it. It really keeps me going and gives me a push to continually create something new.
  2. Lists.  Something that does help in my productivity- especially in encouraging me to do tasks that I am not keen on, is writing lists.  I don't do it all the time, but when I realize I have a few things that should have been done and I am reluctant to do them - I write a list and sure enough - it gets done and checked off the list in no time!  It's a great prompter for those unwanted tasks.
  3. Get sales packaged first thing. Whatever my week or day looks like, one thing that I always strive for is that I try to get my orders ready to be mailed or shipped first thing in the morning.  Many days of the week I have to leave the house by 9am so my goal is always to get my sales for that day all ready and packaged up before 9am so that while I am out, I can call into the post office and send then off.  This is especially important as most of my sales are to Europe so I need to visit the post office rather than just put them in a mail box.  Not only does this get me organized, but it is also encouraging because by the time I have had breakfast, I have already achieved something.  As an aside, I recently read that for people suffering from depression, one of the best things you can do is try to achieve something before breakfast.  It doesn't have to be big, or difficult - just something. Then at the end of the day, if everything else went badly, at least you can look back and see that you got something done!  That wasn't what prompted me - but it does have the same effect.  
Photo from
I wonder what you use to help in your time management? Do leave a comment with any suggestions.  And I hope you'll take the time to read how the other members of the merry go round manage their time by clicking on the links below.  We all live in different places around the world, so time differences may impact when we all get our blog post up.

Samantha at Vintage is for lovers -
Jen at Painted Fish Studio -
Bethany at Dirksen Dabbles -
Laura at Blue Terracotta -
Monika at Red2White -
Mitsy at ArtMind -
Kim at Vilt a la Kim -
Sara at Crafts of Texture -
Mariana at Florcita -
Agathe at Le Bar du Vent -
Ruth at Birdland Creations -

Or else you can click on the blog hop below.  If you are a merry go round participant, please add your link if it's not already included. You can then copy the code and put it on your blog post too.

PS. Happy Royal Wedding day!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

There is a garden......

I'm working on a lovely song at the moment entitled "My lady's garden".  The original words are in French and translated into English by Roger Bennett and the music is by Roger Quilter.

Here are the opening lyrics:

There is a garden that all sweets encloses,
Where my love is wont to stray;
There blow the fairest flowers of May
And, lovelier yet, soft damask roses.

There by her side among the flow'rs
Would I might pass the days of June,
Fleeting the careless summer hours,
Whether by night or by noon.

It's such a joy to sing, even if the lyrics are sad at the end......and I can't get it out of my head.  I've been doodling flower gardens, thinking of damask roses......and from all these thoughts, these "there is a garden" earrings appeared!  It's like having a little garden shining brightly from your ears.

The leaves are aluminium and the flowers are silver.

And now I've written this blog post, you can be sure the song will be in my head for the rest of the day!!! :-D

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

17/52 Bird a week challenge - Rustling through the leaves

Doesn't "rustling through the leaves" conjure up a lovely picture.... and while it's normally associated with autumn in our minds,  as that is the time of year when we rustle,  for birds, it is a year round occupation as they look for grubs and little tasty bites to eat.

We see them all the time out in the wooded area - towhees, robins, quails, jays etc....kicking their little feet through the leaf litter looking for insects. This is why it is important to not clear all the fallen leaves away around your property. It is an vital habitat for birds (and of course insects!!).

And that is what my bird this week is doing...he's wandering around, in between the leaves on this bangle, looking for some tasty treats!

I wonder what he'll find?

Week 17 of the year long challenge and I can tell you - it's impressive how many of us who started this challenge are keeping up with creating a different bird each week. Even those who had never created birds before! Take a look at what the others who joined my challenged have created this week:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Happily Hopping through Life

2011 is the year of the rabbit.  People born in the year of the rabbit ( 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999 and 2011) are said to be calm, gentle and persistent.

They are admired for their tactful and considerate dealings with all who know them, and therefore often depended upon for their wise counsel.

Romantically, people born in the year of the rabbit are not quick to commit to any one person right away, but once they do settle down, they are a true and sweet spouse.

Artistically they have an impeccable eye for color and line which is often evident in their fashion sense.

They are also quick to bolt from any perceived danger and intuitively know when to run!

We have several large jack rabbits who live in our vineyard and we love watching them nibble away on the weeds between the vines, their noses twitching and their ears ever alert...and then they'll start running and chase each other and play.........

But they weren't the inspiration for this, my latest bangle - "Happily hopping through life".  Instead it was a wonderful repeat customer, Gail, who always offers me lots of suggestions and ideas. She was born in the year of the rabbit and as this year is also the year of the rabbit, she decided that she wanted a rabbit bangle.  So do you fit into the above description of people born in the year of the rabbit Gail? Tell us all!!!

Doesn't he look happy hopping through life?  A big smile on his face! What a lovely bunny!!

Monday, April 25, 2011

The bees knees!

Do you know the origin of the expression "The bees knees"?

The phrase was apparently first recorded in the late 18th century, when it was used to mean something very small and insignificant.  However, in the 1920's the phrase began to be used in the US meaning "an outstanding person or thing".....along with the "cats whiskers".

Some think this meaning came from the fact that bees carry pollen back to the hive in sacs on their legs and thus, just around the bees knees is all this great concentration of something good!!!  But others think this has nothing to do with it....and it is still a topic for debate. What do you think? Have you ever even see a bee's knees?

So here is my "bees knees" bangle with little bees printed on the bangle and then a silver bee perched on top!

Unfortunately you can't see his knees as he's sat on them - but if you could, I'm sure you'd be impressed :-D

Next time you see a bee - check out his knees!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Spring is here in the Vineyard

By guest blogger John

Happy Easter!

It's mid April and spring has, with a doubt -  sprung. 

The willow tree has new leaves and the pond is being enjoyed by a mallard duck who is sitting on the aerator/fountain just before it starts so I hope he doesn't get startled when it does, although he has done this many times before.

The vineyard is also showing signs of life with fresh young leaves appearing on the vines.

Following on from my report last month I can now show you the difference between cane pruning for the  Godello vines where on each vine 3 canes grow up and are secured to the wires, and cordon pruning, for the Merlot vines where there are shoots coming up off one long branch of the vine.

Godello cane pruning
Merlot cordon pruning
The Godello is a little ahead of the Merlot which is normal for white varieties which tend to be harvested several weeks before most reds. One exception is Pinot Noir which is harvested fairly early but as you know that makes a much lighter wine than Merlot.

Now is the start of work in the vineyard and already we have mowed between the vines to allow for better air circulation in case of late season frosts which can damage the tender young shoots.
Soon it will be dusting with sulfur to prevent mildew and then there is general monitoring of the vineyard.

We had lots of rain in March and early April so the ground will be wet enough to avoid any irrigation for some time.

Until next month.....

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Weekly Bird in the hand

The things I am grateful for this week:

  • Crafthaus, a social community for craft and art practitioners, named me as one of their featured artists this week!  I am delighted.  And they selected one of my new aluminum bangles - the one shown above.  While I have been creating with metal clay for a while, my aluminum work is relatively new and thus it is especially exciting to be recognised for that work too.  Here are the links: Crafthaus home page and here is my Crafthaus page.  They have also put this photo on their front page slot too!  
  • Singing - it's been a busy week for singing with Easter week.  I have so enjoyed it and head back to the cathedral in an hour for a long service this evening
  • Bella.  Our friend's dog, Bella who we looked after for 4 weeks, went home on Thursday. She has been a lovely companion - and especially loved running around the vineyard!  She was delight and fun friend.

I hope you have had a lot to be grateful for this week too.  A couple of people contacted me last week and said they were thinking of starting a "weekly gratitude" blog post too.  Maybe we should make this a movement and get a big group of us all showing our gratitude...we could link through to each if you have something that you are grateful for this week, why not blog about it and share it!

Happy Easter to you all!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Animal tracks bangle

My animal tracks and bird tracks silver bracelets have always been popular so I thought I'd try using tracks on an aluminum bangle.

I dyed the background a new color - it is called olive - but actually came out grey - but I quite like the smoky color effect. It's not very different from the aluminum color itself but does add a little something.  I know, I've been using a lot of color in my aluminum, so this one is a little different as it's just greys and black, but I like the subtle grey with the strong black. What do you think?  

And can you identify the animal tracks?  Go on, give it a go......

The perfect bangle for a hike in the woods.....

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Playtime with friends

My two new bangles today are adorned with orange flowers.  The symbolism of orange flowers comes from the fact that orange is the closest match to the color of the sun, so it suggests expansion, growth, warmth and happiness.  It is also the color of friendship and community.

So the overall feeling of orange flowers is that it beckons us to go out and play with friends, remember good times, enjoy the company of like-minds, and share big smiles all round!

I think I need to put on a "playtime with friends" bangle and get out in the sunshine and play!!  What about you? Wanna come out and play?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

16/52 Bird a week challenge - Under our wing

This week's birdie is from a commission I just finished entitled "under our wing".  The buyer wanted something for her daughter in law. She told me a lovely story about why she chose this piece.

Her son and daughter in law have been married for 15 years and had struggled to have any children with many heartbreaks.  For several years, a pair of doves nested on the roof of their house, and they too struggled with nests collapsing, blowing apart, or the eggs falling and breaking. Then one year the doves made a nest on the windowsill of the couples' bedroom and the couple watched as the eggs were laid and this time hatched successfully.  And sure enough, this was the year when the couple also had a child.  They now have 2 children.

Isn't it a lovely story....and "under our wing" seems such a touching gift.

Take a look at what other birds have been created in our "bird a week" challenge, by clicking on the links below:

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Nosegay Class - Part 2

If you know me, you'll know that I love bright colors!  So in Saturday's nosegay class, the four flowers the instructor taught us were all rather pale in color for my liking! Yes, I like pale and white, but also like bold and bright!!

The instructor had brought in a few books so that we could try some other flowers. Looking at the doublet crepe paper that was available, I was really attracted to the purples, oranges and pinks and so I decided to  try a few crocuses and some anemones.


Dipping the crepe flowers in the wax really does bring their colors out.  They are much more vibrant after dipping and also it gives them a translucency.

I loved the leaves of the crocuses too and the brightness of the saffron stamens.

I've put the anemones in a vase in the guest house, and the crocuses on the bed stand.  Flowers ready for our guests without me having to remember!!!

Doesn't it look like a fun class!   It's made me want to create some clay flowers now too!  I loved making all the stamens and everyone seemed to enjoy dipping the flowers in the wax!!  A slow cooker with candle wax and you just dunk them in!  Apparently you  can wax real dried flowers too which makes them a little stronger. My mum uses a lot of dried flowers...maybe she'll give that a go.

Have you tried a new class lately?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Nosegay Class - Part 1

As I mentioned on Friday, I went to a class on making nosegays this weekend.  The class was a gift from my sweetie friends Angie and Marly and it was held at Castle in the air in Berkeley. It was my first time taking a class there.  They have a lovely set up and were very well organized.  They also have an online store if you aren't in the Berkerley vicinity - and some very unusual items for sale that I've never seen anywhere else before.

I so enjoyed my day making flowers. A whole day doing something new with a quick lunch hour to do some shopping too!

The idea of the class was to make small crepe paper flowers which you then dip in melted wax to create a more translucent effect.  The "nosegay" part was a little bit of a misnomer however, as our little posies weren't scented.  Maybe we should rename them "eyegays"!!! I asked the instructor if she had ever scented any - but she hadn't. I think maybe adding a little essential oil would make the posey gently scent the room..... or make your nose gay.... Maybe I'll try that.

Wild rose and orange blossom
The instructor - Ulla - showed us how to make four different flower:  cornflower, orange blossom, apple blossom and a wild rose.

Cornflower, handpainted wild rose, and apple blossom bud

Cornflower, daisy and wild rose
We then spent sometime making these and then could also look in her books and try and few other flower shapes.  Here is a daisy that I made myself from one of the books :- it is similar in design to the cornflower.

Today's photos are all the flowers she taught us directly (with the addition of the daisy).  Tomorrow I'll post the other flowers I tried on my own that are lot brighter in color!!!! 

I've decided that I'm going to 'scatter" these around the room in the guest house as decorations. As you can see in these last two photos, here are the whites on the bed.

Don't you wish you'd come with me? More tomorrow - hope you'll come by and take a look.