Sunday, March 29, 2009

What I love about March . . .

. . . is the very same thing so many people hate. Maybe it's because St. Patrick's Day is in March. Maybe because I was born in March. No, what I love the most about March is that moods improve with the first taste of spring, hardy spring bulbs begin to send up their leaves, and then . . . we get one more opportunity to experience winter and SNOW, BEAUTIFUL SNOW. Happy March Sunday Morning!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The big day is finally here!

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Here's what I woke up to out in front of our house this morning:
I had no idea when we rented this house that we would be in the middle of "Parade Central." I later found out that all the parades here start out RIGHT IN FRONT OF OUR HOUSE! I awoke expecting my sister's arrival and spending the better part of my day preparing for same. But when I realized there was going to be a parade and I weighed it against house cleaning, guess what won? As you can see by the way people are dressed, this is a most unusual St. Patrick's Day in the midwest since there is no blizzard going on!

There were many antique and classic vehicles in the parade, floats with Irish dancers, motorcycles, the Knights of Columbus float and several high school marching bands. Apparently St. Patrick's Day is a school holiday here as well. There were local companies represented as well as some of the larger local "clans" and of course, the politicians. The most unusual participants were the group of folks pulling simple wagons with coolers on them -- and handing out BAKED POTATOES! Awesome!

I was amazed at the size of this small-town-America gathering. Not sure when or why I fell in love with this particular holiday; it is second only to Halloween in my list of favorites. I know it had nothing to do with the original meaning of Patrick driving the snakes (pagans) out of Ireland. Probably had something to do with green beer, great food and fun.

Speaking of good food, now that the parade's over it's time for me to get busy -- corned beef and cabbage, new potatoes in lemon butter, Irish soda bread (NO RAISINS!) and Harp beer. Oh yeah, and bread pudding (WITH RAISINS!) for dessert. Enjoy!

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Star is Born

This past weekend Jim and I traveled to Crystal Lake, Illinois to see grandson Cade make his stage debut in “Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” presented at Crystal Lake's Central High School. The cast was made up of high school students with a chorus chosen from the district's various middle schools. The show was extremely entertaining and all of the participants did a wonderful job. Kudos! It is wonderful to see what a group of teens and younger children can do when they come together in a commitment of this nature. I encourage everyone to look to their local schools and park districts to find programs like this both to become involved in and to be uplifted.

Here is Cade himself relaxing after a performance with two of his greatest (if not biggest) fans:

And I was lucky enough to snag his autograph on my copy of the program. I'll be able to say "I knew him when . . ."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Getaway

Last weekend I felt the need to get out of town. Heading for nowhere specific the spousal unit and I found ourselves in the town of Metropolis, Illinois located on the Illinois/Kentucky border. Yep, you guessed it, the home of the number one superhero of all time. And here he is posing with my personal superhero outside the local courthouse.
As we all know, Superman is ALWAYS ready to take off at a moment's notice to fight crime. On this day I believe he may have been called to remove arch-villain Milorad "Rod" R. Blagojevich from the State of Illinois Governor's office.

The town itself was both quiet and quaint with little shops lining the main street. Check out this custom computer!

And special vehicles for smaller superheroes:

The Metropolis Chamber of Commerce displays the commemorative Illinois license plates issued each year in honor of Superman.

After seeing the sights of Metropolis it was a short ride across the mighty Ohio River to the town of Paducah, Kentucky. All I knew about Paducah on our arrival was that it is the venue of one of the country's largest annual quilt shows.

Little did I realize that not only was it a port of importance to commerce, but also that the town had been occupied by General Grant during the civil war . . .

. . . and was even involved in the Revolutionary War!

You can learn something new every day. Sometimes more than one thing.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Here's the latest . . .

. . . from the very talented Heather.

Sorry about the photo quality, it's from my phone. I think Heather should have an Etsy shop, don't you?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Practice, practice, practice . . .

. . . makes perfect, or so "they" say. What with my fixation on fire and my love of colored glass, I've wanted to learn lampworking for many years. Lampworking is the process of making glass beads (mainly) with a torch. I bought my first torch in the early '90s. It attached to a small can of MAPP gas which one could purchase at Home Depot for around $8 and it might last a couple of hours if one was lucky. After a few feeble attempts I pretty much gave it up.

Moved to Atlanta. Spent the next several years creating with stained glass, started doing a little fusing, made and sold LOTS of wind chimes on eBay back when there were only four of us doing them. They have evolved into "kinetic glass sculptures" which is my way of saying 'if you want to hang them outside in the wind, do so at your own risk.' Want to see them? Go here:

I sure do digress, don't I? Anyway, the closest I got to hot glass during those years was when I fused it in the kiln as in the little Candy Corn "chimes" and a few others that can be seen at the link above. Next, we moved to Florida and I lost my mojo for making the "sculptures." Around this time my lovely niece Heather, a fabulous jewelry designer, piqued my interest in making jewelry by wrapping a bead show and PMC class in a trip to my favorite place, Boston. How could I refuse? I was hooked on PMC and since I already had the kiln, my adventures in jewelry making began.

The trip to Boston was a great success, save for my (lack of) automobile navigation skills. Some time later we partnered up for another trip, this time to the Bead & Button show in Milwaukee, WI. I registered for a lampwork class which really did nothing for my skills or confidence. That isn't meant to be a critique of the class or instructor, it just didn't work for me. We had a great time on the trip, though, and decided on a repeat a couple of years ago. This time I registered for a class with the outstanding lampwork artist, Leah Fairbanks. If you aren't familiar with her art, go here:
and prepare to be amazed at what a woman can do with a few glass rods and a torch.

I came away from the experience with Leah amazed at her talents and my lack thereof. To be fair to myself there was a certain lack of logic in registering for a class with Leah when I had yet to be able to make one ... round ... bead. This time, though, the desire to learn stuck with me a little better and I finally convinced my long-suffering husband that I needed a real torch and a real oxygen tank to go along with the propane tank pilfered from the BBQ grille.

Too late to make this long story short. I am now determined to find more time for the hours of practice that I evidently will need. Not to postpone using lampwork beads in my jewelry, I recently purchased some focal beads from a fellow Etsy seller, blue seraphim. I then decided to spend a couple of hours trying to make simple, small, preferably round beads that I could use in my jewelry as accents to the focals I had purchased. Here are my results:

Yes, for the more observant among you, that IS a diaper the beads are drying on. And yes, I am that old but that is a story for another time (Tom).

Here's a photo of my beads alongside the purchased focals. Not too bad, eh? You'll see them listed in my Etsy shop soon. And while you're visiting Etsy, please take time to browse the best collection of handmade goods under one virtual roof!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Ya win some, ya lose some.

I started working on some bottle cap bezels last week. Cuted them up with stuff and filled 'em up with resin. Now, a week later, the resin has yet to cure. Laying awake last night, as is my habit, I realized that perhaps I should have measured the resin and hardener by volume rather than weight. Duh!

They look pretty cute anyway, eh? Too bad when I touch them my finger comes away attached by a trail of goop to the uncured resin. These bottle caps were going to hang on chains for a few young friends who I wanted to send something to. (Wow, that is some real good grammar there, eh?) I was disappointed, to say the least, but my mind kept going back to the little wire bird nests I've been wanting to make for over a year. It's sometimes odd what inspires a true procrastinator to finally get down to business. So here are the little copper nests on their little copper chains all ready to get on their way to Wheaton, Illinois.
Thanks to the gods and goddesses of project failure for without their help I still wouldn't know how to make the little nests.