Wednesday, September 30, 2009

September in Movies and Books

It's the end of the month so time for a check in on how the month was for me in terms of the movies I watched and the books I read.


American Graffiti
Under suspicion
Goodbye Girl
Singing Revolution
The Butterfly
Smart People

I think my favorite movie this month was 12. It was the 2007 version, in Russian. (I find it funny that when I watch foreign films and am reading the subtitles, I still want the volume loud enough so you can hear what they are saying - even though I can't understand a word of it! ) Anyhow, the movie is about 12 jurors who must decide the fate of a Chechen teenager charged with murdering his stepfather. It's a fascinating look into how often small single events in our lives shape our decisions for the rest of our lives. It was a wonderful examination of people and how the facts in the trial bore no relation to how the jurors made their decision. I just loved it. It's unusual.


The other hand
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

I loved both of these books. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen was the book for my book club. We had a great discussion about it and then I made a Yemen lunch for us all!

"The other hand" is a book my sister gave to me. It's different. They tell you nothing about the plot on the book cover...and it takes about half the book to find out what happened that was the crux of the book. Intriguing, sad, thought provoking.... I recommend it. The title in the US is "Little Bee". Same book, different titles. By Chris Cleave.

So what did you read and see this month? Let me know your recommendations so I can give them a try.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Rest time for Anna's Hummingbird

Look who came and sat by my window this morning when I was on the computer:

It's a male Anna's hummingbird.

Unfortunately I had to take his photo through the window so it's not crisp. He'd go and sip from the flowers, then come back and rest on the very same branch.

It was so lovely to see all that color iridescence on his head. What a handsome fellow.

Interviewed on Scoutie Girl

The lovely Tara interviewed me for her blog Scoutie Girl ( this week on her regular post "Finding Passion"

Scoutie Girl is a great blog with features, along with finding passion, such as "one to watch", "totally digging", "in a word", " then and now"....... She also writes a newsletter "the fetching news". Lots to see and read!

And good interview questions too - so go read about my passion at Birdland!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Dandy the Lion

So here is a new friend for Cindy, that will hang around with Doug the Dog and Cher the Sheep. Meet Dandy the Lion!

What a sweetie! With this wild mane, and tufted little tail!

And yes, there were a few name choices before Dandy came about....I thought of:

and of course, Rory...

but credit goes to my hubby who came up with Dandy as in....Dandelion!

Hope you like him, and hope he doesn't eat Doug and Cher! Cindy will have her work cut out training him I think!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday's spotlight - Forward to the past

By guest blogger Pete.

I read a newspaper article the other day that maintained nostalgia was not only alive but actually thriving in ways that are more than a little surprising. This renewed nostalgia takes the form of not only reminiscing about life in the past but brings the tastes of the past back to life through the introduction of food from past days. I thought that if the food in mind was fat soaked cholesterol ridden chips then our local chip shop is about to make a fortune because that is their specialty. However, the revival of nostalgic food doesn't embrace fat sodden cholesterol ridden chips.

Pam and I first noticed this reverting to food from the 70s a few weeks ago. There in the supermarket freezer was "ARCTIC ROLL"!!!!!! Some friends of ours had been reminiscing (you wait until you're a CRINKLY!!!!) , and this particular product was mentioned. There it was before our eyes. In a sudden rush of blood to the head we brought two - one for them and one for us. I'm sure that in the supposedly "good old days" a firm called Walls made "Arctic Rolls" but these before our eyes were produced by Nestle. For those of tender years or who have been unfortunate enough to spend their lives away from the U.K., an Arctic Roll is a tube of ice cream surrounded by a thin layer of sponge. Why such a concoction should then be called "Arctic Roll" escapes me but then I suppose it had to be called something. Even in the prime of my 3rd decade, though, I always thought the ice cream was spoiled by the layer of sponge and when we tried our sample a few weeks ago I saw no reason to revise my opinion.

I can remember how my mother was addicted to making me mustard sandwiches. It's not that I had unusual taste buds that responded unnaturally to "Arctic Rolls, chips, jelly, trifle, etc. etc.. I think my mother's addiction to filling me up with mustard sandwiches was brought about by the fact that they were cheap to produce. She thought that they were just the thing for a growing teenage lad. When ever I complained about this staple diet I was invariably told, " we can't afford anything else so try imaging you've got a slice of ham in there as well. There are plenty of boys your age who would love to eat them". I wish I could have found those boys; I'd have kept them happy for years.

If you are of a nervous disposition or are medically trained then turn away at this point, look at the pictures but read no more. My mother also thought that another essential for growing teenage boys was slices of pork dripping (on a good day we'd have beef dripping!) with a liberal sprinkling of salt to bring out the flavour. I must confess that, although I preferred them to mustard sandwiches, dripping slices never became the sort of delicacy that I have hankered for since; nor were bacon rashers that were 90% fat hiding 5% lean and boasting 5% rind. Oh, the "good old days"!

I'll remind you of some more nostalgic joys next week so keep on eating the lettuce.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A new sheep is born!

Remember Doug the Dog from a few weeks ago? He went to live with Cindy and now Cindy wants some friends for him.

Here is his first friend - a little sheep.

I've been making sheep for a while and have used the names Mat and Ted for them - as "MatTed" as in wet wool etc....but I wanted a new name for this sheep.......

I thought of a few different ones:

Hugo - as in "Ewe-go girl"! - but as ewe is female and Hugo is male that didn't seem to maybe Eugenia....
Baabaara - need I say more?
Cashew(e)....if the sheep is a money earner!
Lamborghini.....if it runs fast and is expensive to keep!

but in the end I've decided on Cher. Cher the Sheep - as in shear! And when her wool has been shorn off, she'll be dressed like the other Cher we all know!

So there's Doug the Dog, Cher the Sheep and you'll have to wait until Monday to meet the third member of Cindy's new family!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Merry Go Round - What is your next chapter?

It's time for another ride on the merry-go-round! Jump on and join a group of 9 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 other merry-go-rounders are answering is: What is your next chapter?

When selling hand crafted items, people want to know your did you start, why did you start, what did you do before, how do you sell?.....Our "story" is very important - a personal connection to a potential buyer and a significant part of selling. It's what makes a difference between buying from an artist/craftsperson and buying a mass produced item. We are individuals with our own story.

Our merry go round question this month is here to remind us that sometimes we need to update our stories. Are we just telling the same story every time? What about it has changed this year? ....the world has changed this year, have we?...or have we changed direction since we started and "wrote" our story but not updated what we tell people... and what is our next chapter....where are we going?

I know I am guilty of telling the same old story - and it is time for an update. I like where I am now and don't want to go back to that original story - so it's time to tell it. Here are a couple of new chapter headings.....

1. One of the biggest changes is that at least 50% of my business is now commission work. Some of that is just variations on pieces I have made previously but the majority is totally new pieces. And most of the time it starts with "I want something for a friend...dont' know what". Like the bookmarks I just made - that was "I want a small gift for 12 friends for a reunion...what can you do?". I like these sort of commissions the best as we then get to start off the creative process by my asking them what emotion they want to convey and what does that person mean to them. And then I get to hear their story.

2. Another big change is that I spend just about all my time working on my business - either creating or promoting or.... It's more than a full time job. When I started, it was just a small part.... now I feel it is "me".

3. I am happy selling exclusively online. I've done the gallery thing and never liked it, tried a few shows which are fine but you need a lot of stock, but now my online selling is reasonably consistent so I can work steadily throughout the year and regularly add new pieces - but don't need to work in a sweat shop to prepare for a show or deal with the impersonal side of selling through a gallery. And my increase in commissions fits into this schedule well too.

4. I only do jewelry. No more knitting and felting and other things. Jewelry fills my time.

5. In future chapters, I want to be talking about other mediums with the silver. I've been experimenting and trying new things...but I'm not where I want it to be yet. Finding time to experiment is tricky but I do love to learn so there will be color, there will be unusual things you don't always see with silver...but there will still be silver!

6. I enjoy working with other artists.... I can see more collaboration chapters in the future....It makes you look at things in new ways.

7. I think the trickiest next chapter will be about how I keep growing my business.....I can't add more hours to the day, so I need to work smarter, not harder. Not sure of how this chapter will go..but it needs to be written.

I end my little story update today with a big thank you to all of you. One thing that hasn't changed is that I love creating and making whimsy in silver. But if you weren't there, reading what I'm up to, buying what I make, supporting me in what I'm doing, my story would have been a sentence. Thank you for making me multi-chaptered!

What about you? What is your latest and next chapter? Read the other merry go rounders below and see what they have to say and if you write yours on your blog - do link to back here so we can read it.

Fabienne at Easterya
Wendren at Wren
Sara at Sara's Texture Crafts
Marian at Florcita
Agathe at Le Bar du Vent
Charlotte at FancyPicnic
Lily Pang at Lily Pang Art
Jenny at Jenny Karlsson design

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Charm swap goodies

Remember all the 27 little Quentins I made and used in the caption competitions? And my post about them being for a charm swap for the Etsy Metal Clay team?

Well the swap has happened! A wonderful collection of 25 charms just arrived in the mail.

Here they all are - and little Quentin is amongst them, having a good look around at all the beauties.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Secret (Cambridge) Garden

I've finished the bookmarks that I mentioned on Monday in my blog post, so time to tell you the story behind them.

A friend of mine, Fran, in San Francisco is having a reunion of friends she met when her husband was on sabbatical in Cambridge, UK. This group of American women formed a book club and also took a lot of guided walks around Cambridge, especially around the university area. They loved seeing all the gardens and Fran mentioned how much she liked the fact that so many of the gardens were initially hidden behind garden gates. Very English! Fran thought that she would like to give each of them a gift at their reunion, that symbolized something about their connection.

So the idea that came to mind was to make a bookmark for the bookclub part, and then form a garden gate with flowers on the back to suggest you had opened the gate and walked into the garden....and thus The Secret Garden

The group are reuniting in Chicago in October. There were 16 of them in the group and they've kept in touch and supported each other through email over the years. Twelve of them are managing to make it to the reunion, including the blue badge guide from Cambridge.

I chose roses for the flowers as they are very English.....and when I picture a garden gate, I often imagine a climbing rose trailing over the top of it. It's also a very feminine flower too.... I hope the ladies enjoy their roses and memories.

Thanks Fran. It was a nice project to do, and made me think of England too!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Bird Street - birdhouse necklace and earrings set

I was recently asked to make some stud style earrings to match one of my birdhouse necklaces. I've done earrings in this style before - with two different birdhouses in the pair, but they had always been dangly earrings.

I love the look of them as studs however! A little house on your ear! And the three pieces together made me think of a little lane or street - and thus I named them Bird Street.

Houses for different sized birds...

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Secret Garden

I am busy doing a commission of 12 bookmarks. There's a lovely story behind the commission and how we came up with the design, but I'll save that until the pieces are finished...

For now, here's a quick glance at the unfired stage of the garden gates from "the secret garden":

The rest is a secret!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Painting and uncertainty

By guest blogger Pete.

I have finished the painting of Lincoln Cathedral that I used as an illustration two or three blogs ago. I think that I mentioned then that I intended to paint in only the Cathedral and to leave the rest of the painting as an ink outline. This I have managed to do. Comments and/or critiques will be welcome. Please use the "comments" from the blog.

I also spoke about how uncertainty over the outcome governs a painting throughout the stages up to completion. I had prepared an outline for a painting of Lincoln's Castle Square - found in uphill Lincoln between the Cathedral and the Castle. Unfortunately once I had painted in the sky disaster struck. Now I am left with a ugly blotch in the top left hand corner. Drying has lessened the effect but I can't think of a way to repair it. I think I've damaged the surface of the paper whilst attempting to blot in the clouds with a soft tissue. If anyone reading this has ideas on how to repair this then I would be extremely grateful if you would contact me through the "comments".

The Lincoln Cathedral painting is to be my wife's Christmas card so don't tell her about it!!!!!!!!!!!!

Happy whatever-it-is-that-you-enjoy-and-gives-you-pleasure.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

What do Lemon Meringue, Prince Valiant and Magic Moment have in common?

Lemon Meringue.... Prince Valiant...Magic Moment......They are the names of some of the new dahlias we just bought today!

We went to this lovely dahlia nursery a few miles away with a really big field full of so many different colors and shapes of dahlias. It was stunning.

Just wandering along the lines and lines seeing all the different variations... Some of the plants were taller than me...some had flowers 12 inch wide...some were spiky... or curly..others were petite and looked like they were made of china...

We bought four plants today and then noted down the names of some of our other favourites so that we can buy the tubers for them later ready for planting in the spring. They'll add lots of lovely color to our garden....

It was like a big feast......yummy! Such a delight for the eyes.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Birdies breakfast - silver bird feeder necklace

I made another bird feeder necklace a while ago. I like making them - and this is my third of this design. One of them only had two birds on it - maybe that seed wasn't as tasty! It's a fun challenge making the birds so small and individual and having them all sitting in a slightly different position.

I just sold this one to the lovely Gail.

The original inspiration for the design came from having breakfast at my parents home and watching all the birds have their breakfast too on the feeder. My parents spoil their garden birds! Here at Birdland, we keep ours tough! They have flowers and fruit trees and grapes here but no feeders!

But I rarely make things more than three times so maybe I need to come up with a new birdfeeder's a nice subject matter... I do have my glass one with the seeds in.....but I'll be thinking on this space.......

Thursday, September 17, 2009

YOU are my sunshine

Every morning around breakfast time, I sing the first verse of "you are my sunshine". I sing it to (actually WITH) Harold, my pet parrot. It's his favorite song and he loves to join in. And he is my sunshine. Whatever day it is, whatever has happened, he is always my sunshine and can brighten my day.

A few years ago I made a brooch of the song for myself. It's a similar design to this new necklace but not sculpted. Then the other day I thought that my little "anyone" figures would incorporate nicely into the design and voila! A necklace to warm your heart!

Two little figures are huddling together under an umbrella....rain is pouring down, but they have all the sunshine they need in each other! YOU are my sunshine. I made a tag of the title that hangs down at the clasp.

Hope you have your own sunshine. Who is it? Who always brightens your day??? Go on...tell us!

If you are curious about all the lyrics to the song - here they are

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Anyone can change direction

Are you feeling a little lost and don't know what direction to go in? Or been doing the same thing for ages and ages and now wondering about having a change and doing something different? Just remember - "anyone can change direction" as this little necklace shows!

My little figure"Anyone" is holding a directional arrow and it can move around in what ever direction you feel like! The arrow is held on with a super strength magnet and "anyone" hangs down on a 20 inch chain so you can see the arrow and move it around!

So if you are feeling like a change - be inspired by "anyone"! Change direction in life!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Two new cocktail ring designs

Here are a couple of new cocktail rings that I've made.

What is a cocktail ring I hear some of you ask? A cocktail ring: is meant to be a dramatic large ring, worn at cocktail parties. The cocktail ring was especially popular to wear during US prohibition at illegal cocktail parties. Such a ring flaunted not only the fact that one was drinking illegally, but also that one was doing it with style.

The first ring is good old Quentin Quail! I can tell you, he is soooooo happy to be a cocktail ring! He's always loved cocktail hour and now he is a cocktail ring, he can have cocktail hour every day and go to all the best parties!

The second ring is "On the Street where you live" - as home is such a great place to have cocktails! Remember the song from My Fair Lady? " I have often walked down this street before, but the pavement always stayed beneath my feet before..." What great lyrics!

So where is your favorite cocktail place and who is you favorite cocktail companion?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Life's a Hoot - owl necklace

I've been working on a new owl. Yes, still calling him "Life's a hoot". More definition, and details than the previous ones. Hope you like him.

All my others have sold so obviously they are popular birds!

Featured on "Something just to start" blog

The lovely Colleen features no less than 10 of my pieces today in her blog "something just to start".

She shows birds, animals, flowers, buildings......Great exposure! Many thanks Colleen. Good to see you back.

Her blog shows lots of work by different artists, with many gift ideas. It's definitely worth checking out on a regular basis. It's a happy place.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday's spotlight - Abnormality

By guest blogger Pete.

Things are settling down again and the normality of everyday living has returned. It's September. The children have returned to school so it's possible to visit the city and not have to walk sideways through the crowds. First timers at their new schools, shaking in their shoes (and this refers to new teachers as well!) have taken the step over the threshold that might well be the start of something great - i.e. becoming Prime Minister or a position of some similar ilk. Poor little devils! Clubs of various sorts are reopening again all over the city and Adult Education class are in full swing. (For "adult" read someone who needs an academic qualification. At one time you could learn French for fun but our city fathers have decreed that you cannot enjoy education because you must take an exam at the end of the course).

But if September marks a return to normality what does it say about August? Is August an abnormal month? My father died during the war and my childhood Augusts were spent with my brother (15 years my senior) and his wife in the smallish Yorkshire market town of Stokesley. If you're in that area keep on the bypass! During those August months I managed to purloin his father-in-law's bike and cycled for miles around the district. One of my favourite places was 2 or 3 miles from Stokesley, a village called Great Ayton. This place has a very attractive village green with a "beck" running through the middle of it. The ideal place to go to avoid having to run errands in Stokesley and, on a hot summer's day, a great location to lay in the grass and read a "Biggles" adventure of the "Just William" book borrowed from the Stokesley library on my brother's ticket.

Tuesday evening's were special during those Augusts. Then my brother and I would make the 12 mile or so journey into Middlesborough and visit the local speedway. I used to be enthralled by the noise of those bikes and the general atmosphere around the track. I was impressed by the bravery of the riders as they went into skidding turns around the bends, sometimes secretly enjoying the odd accident especially if it involved one of the visiting riders. If WE'D beaten the opposition I'd go back to Stokesley "on top of the moon".

Back in Southampton, where I lived, my sister, 10 years older than me, arranged for a friend of hers to take me to the Southampton Speedway on a Thursday evening. Here I found the same magic that I had first encountered at Middlesborough. I can picture that track now but can remember the name of only one of those dare devil riders. That name is Jim Bason. Why I should remember it I don't know. He wasn't anywhere near an idol of mine and his skills never did impress me.

Speedway as a sport was copied my many of my teenage peers in the Southampton area. Any waste piece of ground was quickly adapted into a cycle speedway track, complete with dusty bends so that the riders, with the help of brakes, could go into breath taking slides (even though such skidding slowed them down considerably). Cycle speedway teams grew up all around the city. 'Silly girls' weren't allowed to ride but on occasions when a match had been arranged with another team they could come and cheer us on. If they wanted any of us to speak to them during the following week then it was imperative for them to come and support us. Intense rivalry grew up between the teams but I can recall no occasion when fisticuffs resulted. That intense rivalry was all part of the sport and everyone enjoyed it. It could give you "boasting" rights until the return match had been arranged. If you lost a match then there was always a more than plausible excuse; your best rider's parents had decided, at short notice, to emigrate to Siberia and he had had to go with them.

August an abnormal month? Not really! It was just a different month.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Last Night of the Proms

We went to see the Last Night of the Proms live broadcast today, in Santa Rosa. What a great event! All those people brought together for music. This year there was the full house in the Royal Albert Hall, plus thousands of people at the "Proms in the Park" in County Down, Swansea, Hyde Park, Glasgow and Salford, and then people like us, all over the world watching it live on television or at theaters! I can't imagine how many people that is - united by music.

Just earlier in the week I watched the movie "The Singing Revolution" which is all about how music played such a vital role in Estonia when the people there sought to free themselves from occupation. During the years of occupation, thousands of Estonians gathered in public to sing forbidden patriotic songs - and who can stop 300,000 people singing together?

The Proms was doing the same sort of thing.... showing us the power of music. It was wonderful to watch and hear. Brilliant soloists in Alison Balsam (trumpet) and Sarah Connolly (mezzo), great conducting and speech by American, David Robertson...... Alison and Sarah performed such contrasting styles - all of them astounding - with Sarah singing Purcell's Dido's lament to Gershwin. Loved it all and sang along to Rule Britannia, Jerusalem and Land of Hope and Glory!

We went with friends and two of them had no idea what to expect! They were surprised - and loved it! If you've never seen it - check out the website and you can see the broadcast there. The second half is very different from the first half....think vacuum cleaners as instruments, lots of balloons and streamers, people bobbing up and down...... It's a great example of a British Tradition!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Quentin Conclusion

What a great four weeks of caption competitions! The four winners are shown below.

But now I've had to say goodbye to all my little quails :-(

Psst. Help, I've forgotten the steps! by Catherine.

The story behind me making so many is that I am participating in a charm swap with the Etsy Metal Clay Team. We decided to each make a charm for each other, so we get to have a little bit of each others work to wear. There were 26 of us in the charm swap, so we each agreed to make 27 charms. The 27th charm from everyone will be used to make a charm bracelet that we are then donating to the Andruzzi Foundation.

Simon says: Play Dead by Deb

The mission of the Andruzzi Foundation is: The Joe Andruzzi Foundation is leading the fight to tackle cancer by funding cancer research; assisting cancer institutes in achieving the highest level of patient care possible and by providing financial assistance to cancer patients and their caregivers-helping to ease the burden treatment places on their lives.

Quentin eyed the odd egg with deep suspicion by Bob

So lots of little quails will be taking up home in lots of different places. If you adopt a quail, I hope that you'll provide us with occasional updates of his adventures in his new home. It would be lovely to see and hear what they get up to in their pastures new....

This one's merlot. This one's merlot. This one's merlot..... by Peter

Thanks again everyone for joining in with the quails' adventures!

And the winner is.....

Yes, time to announce the winner of the final week of the caption competition...

Drum roll please..dddddddddddrrrrrrrr - this week's winner is Peter! Congratulations! His caption was:

"This one's merlot. This one's merlot. This one's merlot....!"

Little Quails doing quality control! How perfect!!!

As usual, there were so many wonderful entries this week which you can read below. Thanks so much for entering both this week and previous weeks. The quails loved it and are happy to go to their new homes. Thanks also to the judges.

Here are this week's entries:

1. Did we have fun or what?

2. Everyone say merlot!!

3. Back to quail school!

4. Under the Tuscan Sun

5. Toil in the Soil

6. C'mon! Stomp harder!

7. I heard it through the grapevine

8. This one's merlot. This one's merlot. This one's merlot!

9. Quentin and his mates were drunk with excitement at the new harvest

10. Quentin proves that Birdland grapes are naturally potent by seeing double, triple, quadruple and more...

11. Like Birdland Grapes, Quentin and his pals are true to their roots!

12. Quails are a lot like grapes....Great results take time!

13. Quails confused by giant grapes.

14. Better than a McDonald's playscape.

15. Quentin the quail queries his queer name....

16. Work faster! We have 20 tons of Birdland Merlot to stomp today!!!

17. Stop whining about sour grapes!

18. The special on the menu this evening is California Quail stuffed with merlot grapes!

19. Quentin who???

20. The grape crushing by foot was not going well. Quentin yells "I'm gonna need a bigger bird!"

21. "How long does it take for this stuff to ferment????"

22. Hey, did anyone see where my round lapis bead went?"

23. Quentin tries desperately to convince the chef that despite the catchy rhyme of "Quentin au Vin," the "Coq au Vin" is really a much better meal choice.

24. Do you think if we stomp long enough, we can make wine?!

25. Waiting for "Cheers!"

26. Quentin's Dream: Family Stomped Quail Merlot!