Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Hiking the Yucatan :: Ek' Balam

The wild beauty of Ek' Balam is captivating. I had no idea what to expect from this place as it isn't talked about much, and we had a hard time finding it. There are next to no road signs and it was literally 'off the grid.' I had been very diligent about buying the extra GPS maps for Mexico, but it was of no help finding this location. We went by it twice and in circles for another half hour. But it was all worth it once you step through that ancient doorway.

Ek' Balam Sacbe
Somewhere between 700-1,200 BC Ek' Balam was at its height. It always strikes me when I hear how advanced the old world of the Americas was so long ago. And makes me wonder what event caused its downfall. For this site, they believe it was a siege on the city by an enemy based on the how hurried one of the city walls had been constructed and looks to be crushed.

The main pyramid of this site is considered one of the largest ever excavated in the Yucatan. Because of its low profile (and lack of wall-to-wall tourists) you are still able to climb and explore it. In my last post you will see the view from the top down the steps. Somehow I managed to take this picture from the top, but no picture of the full pyramid? Clearly I was distracted by the carvings and secret doorways. It was captivating sitting on top of this pyramid. The Mayan jungle sprawling out across the low lands and the wind cooling us off from the heat. It did have a way of transporting you to another time with only the sound of the wind and nature and no modern architecture anywhere to be seen. Thankfully, both the hubby and my oldest daughter managed to take pictures that I can share. One of the best was of the huge 'monster mouth' mid-way up the main pyramid. This is a portal to the Mayan underworld. It is hard to capture the right angle to represent the size and dominance of this doorway under the thatch roof of the pyramid. 

There is a series of sacbes, or raised 'white way' that connected the ancient Mayan Kingdom from one site to another. At the end of the road you'ld pass through an archway as you entered one of the Mayan sites. You can see the beautifully preserved one of Ek' Balam with the raised stone road that connected this site. We saw these sacbes at all the sites we visited. I could image all the travelers through the ages walking across these stones, traveling between cities, trying to make their way in the world.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Hiking The Yucatan :: Mayan Ruins

Chacmool at Chichen Itza
Exploring the many Mayan Ruins has been on my bucket list for a long time. And I finally visited a few over the holiday break. Actually, quite a few places on my bucket list are up on the header of my blog. Each one represents a place I've been that was on the list, or places I have yet to go. You can see the Chacmool front and center above, and I finally got to see it.

These sculptures appear all over Mexico from as early as the 9th century AD. The original, ancient name used by the Mayan and Aztecs is not known. The name Chacmool was given in 1875 by Augustus Le Plongeon who excavated one of the statues at Chichen Itza. The name translates from the Mayan as 'thundering paw' as he found the statue buried beneath the Platform of the Eagles and Jaguars. The Chacmool is thought to be used as an alter to place offerings to the gods. Typically these reclining figures are holding a bowl on their stomach where offerings of tamales, tortillas, tobacco and in some cases human hearts are placed. Some believed the Chacmool depicted slain warriors, others say they represent a defenseless, passive appearance of a Mayan captive. A full frontal view of a face is rare in Mayan art except among representations of captives.

Ek' Balam
As much as I had dreamed of seeing Chichen Itza, Ek' Balam was unexpectedly my favorite. Don't get me wrong. Chichen Itza was awe inspiring. The main pyramid was stunning. The Ball Court jaw dropping. But Ek' Balam was off the beaten track and more rustic. We were able to really explore and get up close to the ruins. Both Chichen Itza and Tulum are so over crowded with tourists that so many of the structures are roped off. The Chacmool I wanted to see at Chichen Itza is inside the main pyramid, which was not accessible to climb and thus I was unable to see what was inside.

I loved the wild beauty of Ek' Balam, and that it still felt somewhat hidden within the Mayan jungle. We climbed the main pyramid straight up the narrow stone steps giving us an endless view across the tree tops. It was breathtaking. Literally. Once I looked down from the top I nearly panicked at the thought of how I was going to get down. In the end my daughter and I decided the safest route down was on our butts one step at a time. There is no shame in safety!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

In Memoriam :: Carrie Fisher

This is a blog post from 3 years ago that I'm reposting. I think Carrie would have enjoyed this one given her sense of humor. If you want a good laugh check out a recent interview with her and her dog Gary.

Christine's Rolling Blog Hop is, well... hopp'n! I posted two of my spools 2 weeks ago, and I was waiting for a lull to post my third spool reveal. But looks like I'm going to need to squeeze back in.

The posts are just roll'n in, and we've seen some fantastic designs! I have all the links to everyone's reveals so far at the end of this post so you can check them all out.    

For my third design, I was working with this large, more irregular shaped spool. I did struggle just a bit with it trying to figure out what direction I wanted the design of the spool to be until I remembered an image I saw of a young Native American girl. She had beautiful dark hair tied up on either side in what is called a "Squash Blossom" style. The hairstyle is a Hopi custom which represents the sign of a girl's marriageability. The young girl will twist her hair in the shape of squash blossoms, which is the sign of fertility for an unmarried girl in the tribe. 

I wanted natural colors and fibers in this piece, so I used a linen colored silk from Darn Good Yarn, a mix of seed beads, Czech beads and howlite. I am loving this howlite stone with native designs. It has subtle tan-cream veining throughout the stone, which gives it a natural look. I also stained the spool so it had a deep color. The focal is long (6 inches!) and has a good weight to it. I envision it being worn waist length.

Ok, I know this is an irreverent move on my part, but once I started putting this blog post together I simply could not get an image out of my head. Is it just me? or do those squash blossom twists remind you of Princess Leia in Star Wars... I always thought of her hair as more of a Danish pastry swirl, but maybe that is just the recollection from the Ross and Rachel scene in Friends. Once I started googling images, both the Native American girl and Princess Leia kept coming up together. It was all over for me; the image stuck. The one I can't get out of my head is Nicolas Cage dressed like Princess Leia ... that is one that cannot be unseen... Gah!

We're almost through the rolling blog hop! Check out all the links and projects already revealed. Our host: Christine (Christine's post), and all the rest of the rolling bloggers: 
Janet (Janet's post), Hope (Hope's post), Bobbie (Bobbie's post), Tanya (Tanya's post), Maryanne (Maryanne's post), Cynthia (my first post), Liz (Liz's post), Lisa (Lisa's post), Kim (Kim's post), and the bloggers still to post: Therese (Therese's post), Karin (Karin's post) and Erin (Erin's post)

Sunday, December 11, 2016


A few weekends back I was able to get off the grid and just be. I 'unplugged' for the most part, from my devices. And had a few days of complete, and necessary relaxation. 

I didn't think about the office, what needed to be done at the house, if one of the kids needed something from me, or for that matter if my husband did either. It is a rare event, and so blissful when it occurs.

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by all the things on my 'to do' list. I wonder how I will ever get through it all. I have a list on my desk in the office, another running tally I send myself from the train as I commute into work for the things I realize I forgot. I have another more permanent list of items in my notebook of tasks that take much more time as these are large, multi-month projects. And those are just the lists I have at the office. There is a whole other set of them for the house, the kids and when I get time ... my hobbies. The things that help me relax. Yes, I have a list of things for relaxation. 

I find that sometimes I lose my balance in life. While it is important to know where you are going, you can't see your footing without looking down --- that momentary glance to see where you stand. It is a shift in perspective from seeing the world as you move through it, to focusing on your next move. Not the move for tomorrow, next Tuesday or next month. But within the next few minutes, perhaps the next hour. Truly just living in the moment. No lists. I nearly missed this amazing sidewalk sculpture as I was walking the eclectic streets of Woodstock. Someone had installed a short little path of cement leaves, but I was busy looking at the store windows trying to decide if I would go inside. 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

One Man's Trash

Anne at Summer Camp
One man (or woman)'s trash can be another man's treasure. And so it goes with this necklace. Last summer Anne was away at camp and one of her cabin mates was about to throw out a string of wooden beads claiming "what will I do with these? no one wants these do they?" Anne jumped into action "I bet my mom could do something with those." 

That's my girl! She stuck them in her duffel and handed them to me a few weeks later. Only to sit in my stash for awhile, but then I remembered I had this amazing wooden bib piece with a hand painted henna pattern on it from Summer Wind. When I bought it I had absolutely no idea what I might do with it, but when I put the string of beads up next to it, it was as if they were made for each other. I love when that happens.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Relaxing the Soul

Sometimes you just need to sit and weave. It relaxes the soul. 

I started this pattern with a pile of blue iridescent seed beads sitting in front of me. My hands just went to work in a methodical RAW pattern. After several rows, I decided to add a band of gold, but then went back to that deep blue. Honestly I had no final piece in mind, and just let my hands work quietly.

Once I had enough for a bracelet, it sat off to the side of my bead table. It was there for several weeks before I realized ... oh this really should sit on top of a worn-in denim cuff. Then it all fell into place. 

Funny how sometimes you can get lost in the moment of life and only after letting things sit for awhile can you see from a broader perspective. From an angle that helps you see what it was meant to be. 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Stone Cabochon Series :: #8

The one thing about blogging that I always find so interesting is that it keeps me curious, and pushes me to learn something new. And so it goes with this stone. This is a banded calcite stone that I purchased from Hampton Rock Shop. I love the stripes in this piece; it reminds me of the rock formations in Monument Valley. 

When I did a little background on calcite I found out that this type of stone forms in a globular shape from a precipice where calcium-rich water is flowing. Such as inside a cavern or off a limestone cliff. Some people classify these as just 'rocks' because of the impurities that tend to get trapped in the stone such as leaves, twigs and moss. Just rocks. Well I find the impurities the most interesting part of the 'rock' design. Impurities are what make life more interesting.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Finding Beauty in Life's Mosaic

Freedom, equality, tolerance. Words that so many of us take for granted because we've never known a world without it. It was the genesis for our forefathers to set sail for a new country, it was what they fought (and died) for and it is what is written into our constitution. More than 200 years ago.

So why is it we continue to struggle with its meaning? We struggle with its interpretation. Instead of opening our arms to the diversity that built our country, we judge, define and threaten to build walls. 

Sometimes it takes an adjustment to our lens on life to see it. I was up in Canada this week, visiting Toronto. A city known for its diversity. And not a small city given its population of 5.5 million within the greater Toronto area. Here is a city with over 140 languages spoken, and a city taking in 30% of Canada's recent immigrants. I suppose you could say that it is just one city in an oasis. But it is not. Have a look at Canada's parliament. Go ahead - click on the picture and look. Look at the diversity embraced by this country. 

Canada calls it 'visible minorities,' and the statistics speak for themselves. Nearly half of the population in this country are a visible minority, which is a four-fold increase in their population since the 1980s. An important part of diversity is tolerance. To live, and let live. Not to pressure others to live as you do. But let's put some real numbers to this belief. In Canada the Catholic faith has dropped from 47% to 39% (1971 v 2011), driven by the rise in immigration and acceptance to let other faiths practice their own beliefs. Conversely, the US population of Catholics has held steady. I use this example only to show the meaningful shift in population - not to call out any specific faith. But to show how Canada does not only speak of diversity; they live it. It seems that our neighbor to the North has quietly taken up the mantle of Lady Liberty.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Pretty Palettes

Erin Prais-Hintz of Tesori Trovati asked if I'd like to partner with her this month for her Pretty Palettes series she hosts over on the Halcraft site. I always get so inspired by both Erin's designs and her creative challenges. So, she pretty much had me at 'hello' before I even knew what I was signing up for. 

She mentioned that for September she was thinking about a challenge to design using school colors. She let me choose between my alma mater, University of Oregon (go ducks!) or my daughter's current school, Simmons College

As much as I loved my college, I'm just not wild about designing jewelry using kelly green and road-crew yellow. Nope, just couldn't do it. So it took about half a second to decide I'd rather go with Simmons colors of blue and grey. Go Sharks!

Erin sent me a gorgeous stash of blue and grey with druzy in both colors (LOVE druzy) and hematite in both silver and a green-blue hue. I started with the druzy, of course. And used them to bring out the colors in a glass cab I've been hoarding for years. I picked this up in a little hand blown glass studio on the Oregon Coast called Fernhill Studios. I kinda love the weight of this necklace. It is simple with substance. 

I kept thinking I needed to try designing with a shark, but I don't have a shark bead, nor have I ever seen one. But, I do have lots of fish. And so I decided to use a whole school of them for this next design. Plenty of fish fringe in this piece and a bit of shimmer in the silver sequence and hematite. I kept thinking about the story I used to read to Kate when she was little called Rainbow Fish. She loved that one.

So one last design as I really wanted to try out those square heshi spacers in the green-blue hue. I went for an accent color in a pair of earrings. And yes Erin, you're right! They do kind of look like a wild version of a shark's tooth!

Don't forget to hop over to see some of the other designs over at the reveal on Pretty Palettes. And check out Erin's designs! A stunning necklace with coral reds and creamy pearl white. Love the feel of this piece! Go Badgers!

Erin Strother also joined our challenge with with her school colors of purple and white. She created a beautiful piece of amethyst and pearls. Elegant and spirited all in one. So much fun to join these guys in a fun challenge. Thanks for letting me play along this month Erin!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Words to Live by :: African Proverb

Move In Day
I recently received a beautiful gift from my friend Susan over at Windrock Studio. She surprised me with this thoughtful piece that has an African Proverb on it:

Give without remembering and take without forgetting

Truly words to live by, as a friend, a mother or a partner. Recently my daughter went off to college. I took the week off to help her pack up for the big move. Nothing like 17 years flashing before your eyes on a non-stop movie screen. It has been such a pleasure to watch her grow over the years, and to blossom into the amazing person that she is today. And after all you hope for your child, it happens in a flash and you are left standing in the empty room. I am so proud and happy for her, but it will take some time for me to get used to her no longer living at home.

I've had my lovely gift from Susan sitting next to me (right by my beading chair) for the last 2 months as a daily reminder. And now I need to find a permanent home for this perfect gift. How did she know I'd need this one?

Friday, August 19, 2016

Camping :: Adirondack Style

When I think of camping, I think of the Adirondacks. We go up every year to our little house on the lake. It is not what they call 'winterized' which means that there is no insulation. 

Anyone been in Northern NY State in the dead of winter? Believe me when I say you need insulation. So each year we 'open camp' in the spring once the snow has melted and we 'close camp' in the Fall once the leaves turn.

What makes the place special is that it is quiet. Just you, the birds and the water. Well and in our case a few dozen families with cousins, extended cousins, long-time friends through the generations. It is the kind of place where families hand down the camp to the next generation, which is what happened with our camp. 

Originally my husband's grandfather (Alfred) and his brothers discovered this remote location. They bought the camp we own, and built several more along the lake. Our camp is full of the memories that Alfred brought back from his decades of living in India. Nothing of great value, just the memories and stories of another place and time. But I have told you all this in a previous post, or on Instagram where I have lots of pictures from the lake.

This post is actually in response to a challenge Erin has going over on Earrings Everyday asking for our designs inspired by camping and the deep colors you see in the campfire. She wanted to know what images or memories it brings. For me it will always be this place. There are many gatherings around the dock campfires (it is safer to have an open pit fire near the water), or on cold days we will sit in front of the fireplace (in the camp) to roast marshmallows with the girls with the same long camp forks my husband used as a child. 

My design uses sea urchins in an orange-brown color and gold-orange beads with an Indian flare. And of course one of my two favorite models is showing us how they look. Thanks Kate. I will miss you more than words when we take you off to college in September. You can see everyone else's designs at the reveal over on Earrings Everyday.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

A Weekend In Vienna

Rathaus at night
Ah Vienna. What a beautiful, beautiful city. Last year at this time Dave and I were traveling through central Europe and spent a weekend in Vienna. We absolutely fell in love with its old world charm, touches of Bohemia, coffee houses, architecture, glorious statues everywhere (previous post) and endless gardens. One weekend was not enough and I am sure we'll be back to visit.

We spent our first evening in the old city center at an outside film festival in the Rathaus Square. We slid in to the audience with the locals and enjoyed the city through their eyes. Something that I just love to do. 

The following day we got up early to explore the city and returned to find a jazz festival back at the gardens that surround the Rathaus. There was a light rain, but no one cared. We grabbed a late lunch and a table under an umbrella and sat back to listen and enjoy the music. We were there all afternoon and into the evening just listening to great music, sampling local food, wine and beer. One of things about the places we visited last summer was that at the heart of so many of the cities it wasn't an endless tourist trap full of souvenir shops. It was a place that the locals still enjoyed themselves. As much as I love to travel, I absolutely hate feeling like a tourist. 

Each morning we found another one of the coffee houses of Vienna to try with my favorite being Cafe Mozart. We tried the more famous Cafe Central, but it was absolutely over run with tourists. Cafe Mozart was the right blend of tradition, amazing food, perfectly steeped tea and a current newspaper in English. Exactly how I wanted to spend Sunday morning. After breakfast we took off for more walking through the side streets of Vienna. Anyone who follows me on Pinterest knows I'm slightly obsessed with doors. The older the better for me. I love how they capture history and architectural beauty. 

We ended our weekend with a walk through the gardens of Schonbrunn Park and a tour of the palace. Hard to believe anyone lived this way, but leave it to the Habsburgs. The grounds were originally created as a fenced hunting grounds, and a little hunting lodge Palace was built as an addition to the original mansion. Seriously, click the link and check out how expansive this place is. The shaded walking gardens were beautiful and a welcomed relief in the heat of summer. We spent quite a bit of time strolling through them as we waited our turn to tour the palace. It was redecorated in the 1740s in a Neoclassical style with plenty of ornate gilding. Not really my style, and I would have been happy to just keep wandering the park for the afternoon. 

We loved our time in Vienna and have since talked about returning and spending more like a month to explore the city as there is just so much to see and do in this beautiful place. For the rest of photos from the weekend you can see them over on my Pinterest.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Summer Design Series :: RAW Crystals

RAW. A stitch I don't use very often. but sometimes it can be just the right texture and rhythm for the beads. 

These are a gun metal color of crystals that I got from ZnetShows and I absolutely love them. I used a variation on the stitch to include two smaller beads (size 16) to each crystal and it created a beautiful, simple bracelet band. 

I added a slide clasp and silver charm with the tree of life. Which I think looks quite nice as the focal to the bracelet. This piece was the last one I made. And so it was just a tad late, and isn't shown in the recent Spark Magazine. But I thought you all might like to see just one more design as I finish out my Summer Design Series.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Summer Design Series :: Rustic Boho

I love this dress that Kate's wearing in this second photo session. But then I did pick it out on a recent shopping trip into NYC. She slipped it on, and It fit her perfectly. So there you go.

We were a good hour into our session, and Kate starting to wonder if I was ever going to stop asking her to put yet another pair of earrings into her ears. You'd be surprised how sore your ear can get after a few 20 times or so of this. So can't say I blame her for wanting to switch to bracelets.

After I made the multi-strand necklace I posted a few weeks back, I had just two yellow sea glass nuggets left sitting there on the bead table. I always hate to leave bead orphans in a bowl just waiting to be used in some other piece. So I went on the hunt through my stash. I've been trying very hard to use up my beads vs. running out to buy more beads. I found these sweet lotus charms and decided to pair them with more crystals and a touch of leather. The look gave me a nice, light weight rustic boho pair of earrings.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Summer Design Series :: Oranges of Summer

I love this carnelian orange color. It reminds me of those deep colors of late summer and fall. I guess some would call this 'burnt' orange, or even tangerine which is what ZnetShows calls these tube beads of sea glass.

The thing about color (at least for me) is all in how you pair it. Sometimes you need to give a vibrant color a little breathing room. So when I paired it with some hematite and gun metal colored crystals I noticed that it seemed to deepen the orange color and create a very rich combination. Where black might have been striking, the grey was rich. It does really pop paired with Kate's pale blue boho dress.

This is the last multi-strand necklace that I created for this summer design series. All of these necklaces were the same pattern, but I changed up the colors and textures between ribbon, leather and beaded accents. Funny how just a small adjustment can seemingly create a whole new look.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Summer Design Series :: Water Dance

Of all the pieces I made for this series I believe these earrings are my favorite. I have had these silver twist connectors for years, but have never been able to find the right use for them. But for some reason when I saw these gorgeous little crystals in a color called 'lake blue' I knew exactly what I was going to do! I could just see them set as cluster drops for these earrings. 

They are perfect, long and dangling earrings for summer that are feather-light to wear. They like to twist in the wind. And when the light catches them they sparkle like the sun dancing across the water. 

I made two pair of these which are both featured in the recent version of Spark Magazine. The other pair have single crystal drops vs. these that are in clusters. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Along the Saugatuck

Saugatuck River at Westport, CT
Kate and I have been working our way through photographing my growing pile of jewelry. We took a stroll down by the Saugatuck River near the downtown area of our little New England town. There is a wonderful wooden walk way that runs out into the tall grass that grows in the upper marshes of the river. 

It was a gorgeous day, and perfect to get our photography started. I still have quite a lot to photograph, but at least we're putting a dent in it!

This photo of Kate features a piece I've already shown on the blog back in April. It's a simple long, boho necklace with a bit of leather fringe. I do so love fringe in jewelry.

Through the winter I was trying to get my mojo back and started out slowly with some classic beading stitches that just felt good in my hands. I had swatches of beaded patterns all over the place with no clasps or closure. Yes, you can read closure anyway you like here. But sometime in the late spring my mojo sheepishly arrived and I started completing one piece after another. The simplicity of the patterns and closure to the project felt good. 

But my blogging muse was still on vacation somewhere North of the border. As you can see I've got posts stacked up and rolling out at this point. Perhaps my blogging partner has also decided to arrive; even if a bit late to the party.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Summer Design Series :: Matching Earrings

Sometimes you just need to do the matching set. Although I am a believer in not wearing it all at once. It can seem like over kill, and as one of my friends likes to say it is too 'matchy-matchy.' I tend to agree.

That said, this pair is a matching set. It is that same yellow sea glass and sand colored Chinese crystals I used in the previous post. These are hoops with some serious fringe ---that swings. Not sure why exactly, but I have been in to fringe earrings lately. Can you ever get too much fringe? I think not.

Another set of photos with Kate, but this time lounging in the yard in my husband's favorite Adirondack chair. He walked out in the middle of this session grumbling that we'd stolen his chair. 

.... that would be the look on Kate's face wondering if she was about to be kicked out. And the smile when she heard me say you'll have to find another chair since we were in the middle of the photo shoot and I had earrings, bracelets, scarves, necklaces, camera lenses ... strung out carefully placed all over the yard. Last thing I needed was him to step in the middle of my work! 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Summer Design Series :: Beach Boho

So, this is the second in a series of multi-strand necklaces I've created with Sea Glass from ZnetShows. This one uses some beautiful silk to tie at the neck by Marsha Neal. I love the combo of necklace and Kate's cute baby-doll dress. Hard to believe just how grown up she is these days.

My daughter Kate has been doing quite a bit of modeling for me lately. And I have to admit that I am so enjoying spending the time with her. I don't have a lot of time left as she'll be off to college come August. I am feeling so nostalgic about her leaving, and it probably doesn't help that we've been cleaning out her bedroom and we're finding all kinds of things from when she was younger. It seems like yesterday that she was still small enough to crawl up in my lap and snuggle. So many sweet memories.

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