Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday's Spotlight - Chaos and a mistake


Downhill Lincoln is in chaos. It has been so for the past three weeks and it is forecast that the chaos will  become worse before it begins to improve in about seven weeks time.

I would guess that suddenly money has become available for road improvements and the targeted area is,  what was once, the old Lincoln bypass. Tritton Road used to be a fast road to use to get around or into the city. Over the years though various businesses -- mainly supermarkets and large international stores -- have come to the city and have built access roads to their premises off of Tritton Road.

Three roads off of Tritton Road had been, temporarily, blocked off with another main road due to be closed on 10 November. This has brought chaos to the main arterial road into the city and chaos also to the only other main access to the city centre. The supermarket we go to -- Sainsbury's -- lies off of Tritton Road and is at present undergoing a major overhaul. I was chatting with someone who works in Sainsbury's and he reckons that when the two floor new building is opened it will be the largest Sainbury's store in the country. I have to take his word for that but it is a little surprising that Lincoln could attract the biggest Sainsbury's in the UK!

In the meantime, despite all the alterations, Sainsbury's remains open. Parking is rather a headache. I get the impression that many of yesterday's customers just about find a parking space for their car in time for today!!! Once in the shop you discover a new set of changes there.  Everything in a different place each week!  Every week we seem to be looking in different places for what you want. Next month they are due to close for a week in order to get everything finalised. Judging from the state they are in I can't help feeling that this is more than a little optimistic. Perhaps I'm being a pessimist but then a pessimist is a realistic optimist! I just hope that everything is completed before the Christmas rush begins!!!!!!!!!!!!

We put our clocks back one hour this weekend. Last night I suddenly woke up and thought, "I haven't put the clocks back an hour ". This is one of the major weekends of the year; the one where we have an extra hour lay in. Pam couldn't sleep last night and had gone downstairs to make a cup of tea so I put the light on and took an hour off the radio alarm clock. Fortunately, about an hour later I woke up and realised that it was Friday night and not Saturday night! Back on went the light and the alarm radio was returned to its former state. With a bit of luck we'll get an undisturbed sleep tonight and also the bonus of an  extra hour as well.

There is no relationship between the photos and the blog this week. Just photos. Until I have a look at my stock I don't even know what they will be.


If you live in the UK then I hope you enjoyed your extra hour's sleep.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Weekly Bird in the hand

Here is my weekly bird in the hand - the things I am grateful for:

Photo by mybulldog
  • Being able to sit with someone in their last few days of life
  • Enjoying memories
  • The love that carers and nurses give to their patient
  • Being able to laugh and cry
  • The calming effect of music

Friday, October 29, 2010

Merry Go Round - Get out of your comfort zone and try something new

It''s time for another ride on the merry-go-round! Jump on and join a group of 8 artists/crafts-women as they link around the world and tell you a little about their lives in art and craft.

This month's topic is : Get out of your comfort zone and try something new

It seems that I could answer this question nearly every week!  With my jewelry this year, I've been out of my comfort zone quite a lot both with learning the colored anodized aluminum techniques and with  the Master Muse challenges.

But I've been COMPLETELY out of my comfort zone starting cartooning classes! At school etc, I always studied the sciences - and was even told I couldn't study art.  That was all very useful when I worked as a scientist for many years - but now it doesn't really help me much!  I've never learned to draw and have absolutely no natural talent for it.  I just can't draw. More recently, this has been a frustration ( and embarrassment ) for me.  But the idea of learning to draw traditionally hasn't really appealed to me, so instead, a few weeks ago I decided to try a cartooning class.

And my conclusion is that cartooning would be a lot easier if I knew how to draw!!!  I have found myself being very uncomfortable.  I had no idea how to start.  So I began by trying to use my jewelry sculpted characters to help me to draw, and thus my first drawings began with Humphrey and Trisha shaped birds.  You can see my attempts here:


Then I needed to give them better expressions....but how do beaks work? how does a bird smile?

My teacher suggested I look at making the wings more feather and fingerlike:

Then I was encouraged to try other bird shapes:

And then other animals:



And then I scanned in one of my drawings into the computer and colored it in:

What I like best about the class is how my drawings have now influenced my  bird sculptured jewelry.  Here is a bronze bird where I added eyebrows and eyelids for more expression:

And here is another bronze bird with more feather and finger-like wings

And here is a much more expressive and animated bird - Jump for Joy!

When I started the class, I didn't have a clear idea of why I wanted to do it.  I don't want to be a cartoonist or illustrator...but I just felt I should explore it.  As you can see, drawing is a real challenge for me and most of my drawings look like a young child did them. 

But I love the way that I used my jewelry to initially help me start drawing and now my "drawing" is helping my jewelry.  What a nice circle.

I still feel very uncomfortable drawing - and showing you it here - but at least I'm trying.  It's also giving me confidence to try on aluminum too and create a new range of doodled jewelry:

So I don't know if I'll ever feel comfortable drawing - but I do think we all need to stretch ourselves and this is definitely a stretch for me.  And you never know how learning one thing will affect other things in your life!

Go on  - try something new this week! 

If you need more inspiration, click on the links below and see how the other merry go rounders have been uncomfortable!!  We live in all different places around the world, so time differences may impact when we all get our blog post up.

Kim at Vilt a la Kim -
Sara at Crafts of Texture -  
Fabienne at Easterya Jewellery Creations -
Mariana at Florcita -
Agathe at Le Bar du Vent -
Lily at Lily Pang Art and Design -
Mitsy at ArtMind - unable to join in this month -

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Flying off....

We are unexpectedly flying back to England today.  This is earlier than planned. We were due to go in November but John's mum is not doing well and is at the end of her life. It'll be good to get back and say our goodbyes.

Photo by mikebaird
Not sure how long we will be away and I suspect I'll be blogging only occasionally.

Love this photo of the great egret - I hope our Virgin Atlantic flight will feel like this .....

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday's spotlight - London it is!


In my late teens I lived and worked in the East End of London. My work, based in the custom house district of the east end, took me onto the three Royal docks in that area. Very busy docks they were at that time, taking cargo and passengers to various ports throughout the world. I can remember that you had to be very careful walking along the dockside and boarding the various ships. If you fell into any of the royal docks then it automatically meant a minimum of three days in a local hospital. These docks, and the others under the control of the Port of London Authority, were not the cleanest in the world!

I had one day off a week  and most weeks I would walk 2 miles into Canning town and there catch a number 15 bus up to the West End. Once I'd arrived I would spend the day wandering around, mainly people watching, and have a meal in one of the ' Lyons Corner House Cafes" that, in those days, could be found easily in the West End. I deeply mourned the demise of Lyons Corner Houses; they gave a very good meal at a more than reasonable price..

Since those days I have had a soft spot for the city of London. During most trips to our elder daughter, Mary, I manage to get a day in London. Even after all these years I can still find my way around the West End.

On a visit just over a week ago to see our elder daughter and her family I found the time to indulge in another trip to the city. It started off at Covent Garden; I enclosed photos of that in last week's blog. It is a major tourist attraction now. In its former days it was a vegetable and fruit market. A friend of mine from college lived with his parents in a flat overlooking the market. I stayed with him once and although the early morning market noise didn't seem to affect them it certainly woke me up!

I managed to get to Covent Garden early this trip before the crowds arrived. It was great just wandering around the shops and stalls, although those stalls were nowhere near as colourful as they had been when I last visited them.

The weather was really great for this time of the year and I had a sandwich and cake lunch sitting out in a pavement cafe near Trafalgar Square before visiting the many bookshops in Charing Cross Road and the computer/hi-fi shops in Tottenham Court Road. The junction of these two roads with Oxford Street was, however, chaotic with the road and building works being undertaken in that area. The junction, especially, was busy not only with frustrated traffic but also with frustrated pedestrians; not including me!!!

Another coffee at another pavement cafe -- how the coffee industry must depend on the support I give them -- and it was down the Oxford Circus tube station and back to Rickmansworth. The photos enclosed are from this visit.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Weekly bird in the hand

Here's my weekly "bird in the hand" - the things I am grateful for :

Photo by MarieLynn 
As we harvested the grapes this week, that where my gratitude is focused this week:

  • mother nature for providing the sun, rain, and all kinds of weather  and environment  etc that helped the vines grow, produce and ripen grapes
  • the vineyard workers for all their work during the year, and especially for their harvesting on Tuesday - special mention to Chris and Rudi who put in more than a 12 hour day
  • our friends Dennis, Kathrin, and Ken who helped us with the harvest
  • the opportunity to feel at one with mother nature as you work in the field/vineyard
  • the buyer who bought the grapes!
  • the delicious taste of a fresh picked grape
  • and of course, the delicious taste of a bottle of Birdland Merlot

Harvest day is definitely one of the best days of the year.  It is truly a wonderful experience.  I have a little of the "empty nest" feeling now however, as I look out and see no more bunches.... all our babies have gone...but they are on their way to making something even better!


Friday, October 22, 2010


I've been having fun with dyeing and coloring my aluminum.  It seems the pinks, mauves and purples are shouting out to me more than the usual lime green...not sure how long that will last, but they are fun colors!

I made a bangle with rivets to hold it closed with my little drawings on it:

Very feminine, don't you think? And then there needed to be a simple pair of earrings to match.

I will be going back to England shortly, so I must make sure I make some for myself to keep up with the purple scene over there!

Hope your weekend is mauvellicious!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Jive like a jellyfish - Master Muse latest challenge

My latest challenge for the Master Muses is up on Tonya Davidson's blog  from Whole Lotta Whimsy this week.  The challenge was to use dry media with silver clay.  The dry media I used was Prismacolor pencils.

When I received the challenge topic, we'd recently been to the Monterey aquarium and I always love seeing the jellyfish there, so they inspired this piece - "Jive like a jellyfish".  The jellies seem to be dancing all the time, so this necklace is a brightly colored jelly with wiggly dancing tentacles that move as the wearer moves! 
A full step by step project for this will be available Whole Lotta Whimsy soon.

Hope you like him.  Hope he makes you want to dance too!  He'd love to join you.....

A friend for Max the dog

I've just finished a commission for a lovely customer.  I think she found my work from the New York Times article - I should check that!

Anyhow she saw my bird jack-in-the-box necklace that I made quite a while ago now - and asked if I could make her a similar one with a dog inside.

She has a "goofy" golden retriever and sent me this lovely photo for inspiration of her Max with his girlfriend on the right hand side!

For my jack in the box pieces, I collaborate with Kim from JujuBeadz.  She makes lovely whimsical beads from glass and I like the contrast the colored glass makes with the silver.  She has closed her store for now, but I emailed her and asked her if she could possibly make a glass golden retriever bead for me, and also three red "balls" - Max's favorite toy - one for the box and two for earrings.  She kindly did and they turned out perfect - even with a little tongue hanging out like in the photo!!!

And so I made the little silver box, put Max on a spring - and now, when you pull on the red ball,  he enjoys surprising you by jumping out of the box to see you!!!!


Kim also made two extra beads - one bone shaped one and one paw print one in red, so they were added to the clip on earrings!!

Doesn't he look a happy doggie!!!  What a happy jewelry set!!!  Thanks so much Nancy. I hope you love and get a lot of laughs from Max's new friend.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Grape Harvest Day - Birdland Merlot

Yesterday was our harvest day - and it seemed a long day!  The harvest began at 5am - with the vineyard crew working with lights on their heads to see what they were doing before sun rise!


I began a little later - there was at least some daylight by the time I started....and the mist was rising off the pond....

As they had started in the dark, my friend Kathrin and I wandered around doing a "second pick" to find the bunches they had missed.  It was nice and quite leisurely strolling through the vineyard, picking the grapes and tasting a few.  As the rows go in different directions, Kathrin and I would split up and then I'd hear her soft singing as we were coming back closer....she seemed to sing all day :=D  And Bella, her little dog followed alongside her - with a few rest stops too!!!

My leisurely picking job was substituted after a while however, to a much more exciting task!  Another friend, Ken, and I became leaf pickers!  We had to go on the back of the tractor on the trailers  - on little running boards - and pick out all the leaves as the guys were throwing in the grapes into the half ton bins - all while the tractor was moving along the rows.  It was quite the fairground ride at times, and also quite back-tiring work, leaning into the bins and stretching to pull out the leaves.  Sometimes the grapes would be thrown in by a couple of pickers at at time so that was fine  - but then suddenly you'd get 5 or 6 loads all at once and be scrambling in hundreds of bunches of grapes to pull out leaves - all the while trying to keep your balance without holding on and hoping not to get a face full of grapes!  No photos of this phase I'm afraid as I couldn't deal with balancing, leaf picking and having a camera.

In general the grapes looked great.  The only sad part of the day however was when we were picking the grapes in the area where the turkeys had frequently been - despite our daily chasing efforts.  If you look online about wild turkeys and vineyards, it often says that turkey's don't eat many grapes.  If you saw our harvest yesterday, you would know that is not true.  Whole bunches would be left with only 1 or 2 grapes on them.  The turkeys had eaten loads.  I think they'd eaten easily more than a ton.....  It just looked so sad to see nearly empty stalks.  Again - sorry there were no photos - but the full bunches look much better!!

A total of 16.5 tons of Merlot grapes were picked. But the job didn't stop then!  The grapes had been bought for crushing and wine making in Houston, TX so they had to be put in a refrigerated truck, ready to be shipped to TX. Everything was therefore taken down to a field at the end of the lane - where a 48 foot truck awaited us.

Now all 33 white bins - which each contained approximately 1/2 ton of grapes, had to be weighed and then put on the truck with a fork lift - along with some barrels too, that were on their way to Houston.

As the bins were weighed, I had to write the weight of each bin on a piece of paper, fold it up and then put it in the corner of the bin.  After a while, it seemed a little boring to just write numbers so I started adding a few little drawings and happy messages to these notes.... I'm not sure who will find them and read them - but I'm hoping they will brighten their day :=D

Finally, everything was loaded and the truck headed on it's way.  Phew!  It was tiring.  John and a couple of the vineyard crew had worked for 12 hours - but they were still smiling at the end of it.

I ended my day with a little stomping - well, you just have to - and then a soak in the tub!

What a great day!  Harvest day is always one of the very best days of the year.