Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Eve Visitors?

If you believe in this sort of thing, our Christmas Eve celebration was filled with many many folks other than just the ones we expected.

I have been told that the presence of *orbs* - the round things that are all over this picture - indicates spirits. I'm not really sure how I feel about that, but it is interesting that it seems every time our family gathers for a holiday, orbs are visible in the pictures although not usually in this number! I should also mention that every picture taken last night at this gathering contained many orbs.

We lost our Mother in March and her loss has served to bring us closer together. Some rifts have been healed and a couple of changes she wanted for us have come about. Although we miss her terribly, I believe that she has been working hard to make a lot of things happen that she couldn't manage while she was alive. It has been a very mixed blessing.

The love between all five of us, her children, is an almost palpable thing these days and I believe, if these are truly spirits, she said to all our many relatives who have gone before, "Come on, I want you to see my kids!" It's something she would have done. She was always so proud of us and I suspect she may be even more proud of us now.

We gathered at *her* house, where my brother, Tom, is living now. It's only a few years old, so there wouldn't be any old ghosts hanging around from past inhabitants. My sister and I were looking at these pictures and trying to figure out who on earth all these orbs could be (if that's what they are). Our grandparents were both from very large families, so along with Mom, her brother and our grandparents, there could be any number of great aunts and uncles...

I guess this would be frightening to some, but I find it very comforting. Either way, it was a great gathering, full of love. Can't wait to see the pictures we take today!

By the way, this same camera (same settings) was used earlier to take some other pictures of our dog at our house and no orbs were visible in those pictures.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Shopping & new stuff

Things have finally slowed down around the tree farm enough that I didn't feel guilty doing a little shopping yesterday. I'd post some pictures, but you never know who is checking in here!

The Sizzlers were doing a late bead show in York this weekend and I chose to opt out just because I can only be spread soooo thin, but if it's the same date next year, I may give it a shot. I stopped up to see everyone and wish them a Merry Christmas yesterday. One of the other reasons I wanted to get to the show was that the guy who sells the magnetic clasps I like was there and I wanted to stock up. Also, I've been doing a lot with chain and there is a good source for silver chain that was there too.

Another thing I was anxious to find was some gold vermeil findings and I redid a bracelet that needed some work. The beads have stripes of goldstone around the edges and it just cried out for gold findings. My clasp guy had some nice solid vermeil, magnetic clasps and I found some gold bead caps that just set off the crystals and the whole look - don't you think?

I feel like i've been gathering in so many nifty components and the skills to go with them that I can really sit down and put together just about anything that my imagination comes up with.

This goddess bead has been weighing on my mind. How to put it all together? Yesterday, I sat down and really thought about it... I like the way she came out. Very fetish-like. A sterling bail through her with bead caps finishing off both ends of the beads. And then the danglies... a leaf, a spiral and a crystal point.. Simpler than my original idea, but I like it... to the point.

As I was perusing one of my favorite forums, I found someone who makes pendants with pictures and optical lenses. She had some made with Mucha posters and the wheels began to turn. I contacted her and am in the process of purchasing a pendant made with my current favorite poster - Champenoix. I have an idea of some kind of collage kind of piece with the pendant combined with my beads and some other things that I want to make to go with it... I'm sure I will post it when it is finished.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Jewelry, you say?

Bet you thought I forgot I was supposed to be posting jewelry on here! So many things going on at this time of year, but I did manage to make a few new things.

The first one is called "Spring Thaw" and it has matching crystals on both sides of the hollow bead. The base color is transparent Uranium Yellow and the scrolls and flowers are done with the opaque version of the same color. The main strand of beads is a Czech pearl 10/0 in a beautiful creamy finish. The whole thing is adjustable (large lobster clasp and chain with a matching dangly on the end to help balance the necklace) so it can be worn by those with the lovely swanlike necks who want them short and also by those of us who would rather accentuate a different part of the body! There are a pair of matching earrings as well although the shape is more of a soft tablet rather than a hollow.

The second picture is a floral. I applied silver foil inside so it has a sparkly core and the turquoise and purple flowers just dance around the outside. You can see the beads strung close to the focal.. They match much better than it would appear in the picture. The colors are soft and "glowy". The main strand is again Czech seedbeads in a soft, clear purple strung on jewelry cable. This one is finished the same as the first with the clasp and chain so it is adjustable.

Oh, and I almost forgot. These are the finished beads I was asked to do for another soapmaker. It matches the shape of her soaps and will go with her hair (purple). It's hard to make beads to order - via email - but I think we got on the same wavelength and I can hardly wait to see what she does with them. She explained the design she has planned and it will be gorgeous!

I finally got all my equipment and supplies to work with some metal and play with some of the techniques I learned at Beadfest and since we're expecting snow and (yuck) freezing rain.. I may just get time to do that...

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Christmas Tree Stands

This is not an ad... we sell these at our tree farm, not on the internet.

In my humble opinion, this is one of the best tree stands on the market. It is called a Stand Straight and for the money($20 here) and the ease of use, it is the best.

It has a spike in the bottom of a nice big water bowl and is held solidly in place by a tripod base of rebar.

When we decided to sell these stands, we also had to purchase the "jig" which is used to drill the hole in the bottom of the tree. There is a *v* shaped piece at the very top of the machine where the top of the tree is nestled in and just above the drill is a sort of hollow where the base of the tree is set. The drill (which you really can't see in this picture, but it is on top of the green motor) comes up and drills the hole perfectly so that when the tree is placed on the spike in the stand, it is straight and secure.

We joke that this stand has actually saved marriages, but judging from some of the comments by people who come back year after year, apparently for those for whom setting up the tree each year is a stressful activity, it may have certainly made a difference in their tree experience!

It is so easy, that single women have been thrilled to have found the system as well. My sister used to like to get a fresh tree while her husband was at his National Guard weekend and she found with this stand, she could easily get the tree, take it inside and set it up by herself while he was gone.

My husband always finds a tree with a twisted trunk that would usually wreak havoc with a normal tree stand and puts it in one of the Stand Straight Stands to demonstrate just how well it works. You can see that he cuts off some of the bottom limbs to make it quite evident that this is not the *perfect tree*. It still stands straight and tall.

Our tree farm is choose and cut, so we're helping people make memories with their kids... Just trudging up the hill to the field of tree and (especially this year in the snow) finding a tree, cutting it and hauling it down are adventure enough for most families. This is supposed to be a happy time. No one needs to deal with more challenges when they get home!

Friday, December 09, 2005


We had a snow last night that left our woods a winter wonderland. It was even more beautiful earlier, but by the time I got out to take pictures, the sun had come out and a lot had melted.... The little building on the right is a cabin my husband and son built years ago as a play house. It is built over a little creek that flows along the side of the woods. The flat area in the front is our frozen pond.

This is our gazebo... It's at the closer side of the pond. Just thought it looked really picturesque..

In the summer, it's a pleasant place to sit and read or sketch .. a nice breeze blowing through it, a little shade and a beautiful view of the pond and the woods...

The vines growing up around it are trumpet vines that cover it pretty completely in the summer, but in the winter, they make an interesting tracery.

Our little Rudy just about lost his mind this morning when he went outside. He was the first one out in the 6" snow and it came to his shoulders. At first, he seemed bewildered. I guess he had forgotten about this stuff since last year. He gingerly walked out and then he fell in a lump.. like he thought this was just a special cushiony surface for his enjoyment. From that position, he started poking around with his nose and seemed to be trying to make little puppy snow angels.

When Bob went out with him to start cleaning up... shoveling, etc., Rudy thought it was a new game. I don't believe I've ever seen him so excited... leaping about and running in zig zag patterns across the walk.... So exhilarated - and so much fun to watch.

Friday, December 02, 2005


Again, something that is more or less uniquely "Lancaster County". Actually, this is unusual even here. I was a bit taken aback to see this one in a snall local strip mall parking lot. More common, is a hitching post especially for "The Carriage Trade" to make it convenient for our Amish neighbors to shop.

Recently, since the days are shorter and we have more night driving and icy windshields, there have been a number of accidents involving buggies. They are lit according to law, and even sport decidedly "worldly" (certainly not Amish) orange slow-moving vehicle triangles on the back, but every year there are terrible accidents.

The surprise of coming up on a slow moving buggy on a twisting back country road can test the best reflexes and often the accidents involve alcohol on the part of the car driver.

I wish we could all take a page out of their book and slow down enough to watch the world go by, but our fast paced society has lost that ability and seems to be taking it away from theirs.

Now the buggies have been relegated to the same status as roller blades and skateboards in our parking lots.... yep there was a sign about them, too.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Christmas Trees & Old Friends

This is a bad picture of a road through one of the fields where our trees grow. I should have taken pictures yesterday of the activity here at our Christmas tree farm, Frog Hollow Hollow Evergreens. Since Friday, people have begun cutting and taking their trees home for the holidays. Lots of people still tagging for later, too and we have lots of nice trees for them to select from. After a few *lean* years following some nasty drought conditions, it's really nice to be able to send folks up without holding our breath and crossing our fingers that they will be able to find something they like.

Our *Welcoming Committee*, Rudy (our Sheltie), is in heaven since he is constantly surrounded by large groups of adoring children, many who are just his size! He is totally exhausted by the end of the day - crashing somewhere out of the way, usually under a table or behind the sofa. At other times, he's begging us to play, but not on the days when he has so much *work* to do!

My sister, Tina, and I have been busy making goodies for in a little shop we have carved out of my studio space. We are selling the things both of us normally make & do like my soaps and beads and her books and magazines, but we also have made a number of things especially for Christmas: Gift baskets, Holiday Potpourri, Whipped Shea Butter, Lip Balms, Sugar & Salt Scrubs - too many to mention...

It is interesting seeing so many people come through and fun seeing old friends from years past. We still see folks from the Herb Basket - the shop we started many years ago in Landisville. Yesterday morning, one of our favorite customers, June, stopped in for a tree and some goodies from the shop. It was just so nice to see her again! June was there for many of our classes at the herb shop and I remember her bringing a camera and a shower cap to our very first *Kitchen Cosmetics* class... someday I'd like to see the pictures she took that night!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Fluorescent Spider

Look what I saw crawling across the driveway as I was walking out to the shop! Fluorescent Spiders! Jeesh! First, the birds and now this...

I assume that the coloring means it's poisonous or is just a mutation that protects it from its predators. Works for me!

Sorry the picture is so fuzzy, but I was a bit excited. Anyone know what this is???

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Llamas (Alpacas)!

I pass these guys everytime I take an order of soap and stuff over to Cloverleaf Herb Farm in Mt Joy. Today was one of those days and I decided I had to take a picture!

They are Alpacas and there's a store nearby that sells alpaca socks, hats, gloves, etc., etc. I haven't yet visited the store, but I've seen the gorgeous creatures out grazing all the time. They even have a horse thrown into the pack although I don't think he/she is on the picture.

It's kind of a jarring sight when you're accustomed to seeing cows and horses and suddenly, here is a pasture full of something that looks possibly like a long necked sheep, or maybe one of those sleek Afghan Hounds.

Now, when I see this pasture full of Alpacas, even though I know they aren't Llamas, I think of this Llama Song and try (poorly, I'll admit) to sing the song! The song still cracks me up and if you have a decent connection, it may entertain you, too!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Back to the Torch

Back to the torch! I was afraid that I was away too long and would forget what I knew about making beads.

Someone asked me if I could make beads to match her round soaps and the tablet press is perfect for the job. The beads came out pretty well and I'm thinking they would make a gorgeous necklace or charm bracelet.

The soap bead inspiration got me started and I kept going, inspired by colors and some of the angel beads I've seen online recently.

I thought about doing a Christmas angel/fairy and came up with this little one (on the right) dressed in green with gold tipped wings and halo.

She isn't one of my best beads, but then I started to think about some of the stuffed, primitive angels we used to make years ago, and progressed to some really basic angels, but I like them too. I was so impatient to get pictures of these and didn't really do a good job so I hope you can see that the turquoise angel has a bit of holly on her skirt.

The pink angel is more *just a country angel*, no specific season for her! She has a little green vine twined around her and a stylized daisy.

At least they are somewhat original. I was hoping to come up with something a little different from what everyone else is doing.

Finally, I was about to turn off the torch, but had been so happy with the look of the turquoise angel, that I picked up one more mandrel and started a fairy. I love this little gal, there is a depth to her that isn't easily visible in the photo - very etherial. No name yet. I'm thinking some kind of water nymph fairy... is there such a thing?

That thrill of watching the glass swirling around the mandrel never leaves. I'm still not technically perfect by a long shot, but I feel I get better all the time. I must constantly remind myself that I don't have to rush to get the piece finished. I can keep it warm and continue working... I can add and subtract. Glass is much more forgiving now than it was a couple of years ago.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Trolls, Buffoons and Queens

This going to be one of those thoughtful posts... no pictures, but something has been occupying my time and I have to write about it because it just clicked for me.

In two of the online *worlds* which I frequent, there has been a bit of trolling going on. One is innocuous and probably short lived. The other has caused major rifts in the community and friendships are being irretrievably broken.

Someone posted a long description of this type of behavior and the sub-groups along with do's and don'ts in handling trolls. I should probably copy it here or post a link, but maybe another day.

The only comparison I have is that when we were flying balloons.... well, my husband was flying - I was chasing... a similar thing happened in *real life*.

We had a small pocket of balloonists in our area. One pioneer of the sport had brought it back home with him and had trained a few pilots. We were a close, fun group. Flying in Amish Country, we had made certain self-governing rules. Among them was an agreement to do no *champagne flights* in deference to the religious beliefs of the people in whose fields we often landed. We were also careful to avoid landing near animals, on planted fields and to be extremely polite to the landowners.

It's hard to keep a low profile when you are flying a 6 story balloon around the county, but since it was a group of peole who had a common interest and shared their knowledge and love of the sport freely, we were happy to basically do our thing and only needed to seek publicity when there was a special public event coming up. As I said before, it was a close knit group and we had a lot of fun and friends within it.

As time went on, the technology of the sport improved and it became an easier (but still rather expensive) sport to enter. Still it demanded knowledge and self-control. Flying a balloon (and landing safely) is more complicated than it may seem.

Someone entered that relatively exciting arena. This person learned from the real pioneers of the sport (or craft) and then decided to become the expert, spokesman, *source of all knowledge and adventure* in that field. He was loud, crass and decided, "The hell with the rules... I make my own rules!". "I can afford this.. don't tell me what to do." He brought in his own *Varsity* team and basically acted as if he had invented the sport and brought it to our area... never mind that one of the first hot air balloon pilots in our area and the US had been flying for many years before he came along.

This guy was often featured in our newspaper with tales of the wild exploits he was *planning*. He sought out high-profile sponsors and his name became synonymous with ballooning in our area. The champagne flights began and tales of his misadventures were circulated among the old-timers who shook their heads and watched as the red areas on the map (places where land-owners had forbidden landing) grew.

Most of his grandiose schemes came to naught. The reports of the events were never published, only the plans. Many of the older balloonists just stopped flying because the connection to this buffoon was made one time too often. Supporters and critics argued about his influence and many good friendships were broken over this fellow.

He had destroyed a wonderful sport in our area through his grandstanding... I haven't heard about him in years and all the great events we used to have here have died out.

I'm sure there are other reasons why this has happened, but I see his entry into the sport as the catalyst....

Now, I'm seeing this in other areas. One person should never be permitted to destroy a group. I've seen terrible fighting on forums about herbs & soaps, because one person decided to become the be all and end all of the topic.

Now I'm seeing it in the glass forums as well.. I didn't understand why I was not impressed with some of the *stars* in the glass sommunity. I even took a couple of classes from some of them - which left me even more unimpressed with the personalities of those upon all praise is showered.

I love the free exchange of information that is available on the web these days, but now I know why, when someone sets themselves up as *the* expert, I want to run in the other direction.

Sorry - this probably doesn't even make sense to most people reading it, but just think about it when you are humbled by someone's knowledge in your field.

We are all here to learn - from each other. EVERYONE has something to contribute. Especially in the arts.. and anyone who divides a group is a serious threat to the community as a whole.... IGNORE THEM! Do not feed their ego.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Moonlight Fairy....

Two posts in two days... I knew I could get back to blogging again!

This is the Moonlight Fairy I wrote about in a previous post. I wish you could see the detail, but her colors demand a blue background,and Photoshop is a wonderful thing. It gave her a fabulous background and just the right mood. The large bead above her with the moon on it is actually a sliding bead that acts as the adjuster/fastener for the necklace. Both sides of the necklace slide through it so the length can be adjusted easily.

We went down to Amish country again today to make some deliveries and I wish I could have taken pictures of the wash hanging out in the breeze! Monday is still the traditional wash day and all the wash is hung outside to dry. The Amish have large families and all the black pants and coats are lined up in graduating sizes! The women's brightly colored dresses are an interesting contrast flapping alongside. The washlines are often strung between the barn and the house on pulleys so *Mom* can just stand on the porch clipping wash on the line and push it out. Same thing in reverse when it's time to bring it in.

I'm not sure what it is the men do on washdays, but apparently it isn't field work. All the work horses were lounging about in the fields enjoying the rest and pleasant fall breezes! They seemed to be deep in conversation... What do you suppose they talk about out there?

"Well, what do you think the old man is up to today? We got the dang field cleared for him last week and all the corn is in."

"Aw, he'll find something for us to do. You know, no rest for the weary."

"Yeah, just once, I'd like to see him do some work around here!"

Ya think it's like that?

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Wandering and wondering

Listening to the thunder of a storm outside right now, it's hard to believe we had such a beautiful day today.

It was sunny and just a bit on the warm side of crisp. The fairyland setting of the woods was filled with more colors of yellow than I ever knew existed! Tina urged me out for a woodland wander. It isn't full of new things springing up every day as it is in the spring, but it is lovely in a fall sort of way. The leaves fell in cascades and the wind was just strong enough to make an amazing swooshing sound through the trees.

At one time, I didn't like fall because it meant winter was on the way. Now, I have learned to enjoy the season, whatever it is and love each one for what it has to offer.

It was a nice break in the day. We're trying to make up for lost time, getting the shop and products ready to go. A couple of families stopped in to tag their Christmas trees on this balmy fall day. Last year, I believe it was so warm on this weekend that we had taggers out in shorts!

I made shower sprays and packed oils. Tina made soap stones, I printed labels and made a display for her books. Tina wrapped soaps for an order which Bob and I will deliver tomorrow.

In between, we were busy watching the escapades of a fellow on a forum we frequent. It never ceases to amaze me how some people on the internet believe they can bull their way into a group and attempt to take over. Oddly, it seems if it is a man on a forum mostly populated by women, he is given respect and consideration in the face of arrogance, condescension and downright insult. A woman would never be afforded this courtesy. I guess women just expect more of each other and yet often we trust each other less. I wonder why that is...

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


I promise I'll actually post something current soon, but I was working on a new website that we are going to be putting up shortly (you're gonna love it) and was looking for old photos of Tina & me when we had our shop at the Renaissance faire. This was probably taken at least 12 years ago, probably more! Oh, I see that was the year of the huge hyacinth bean vine which climbed up to the top of the second floor. That would have been our second year, so 1993.. yep, I was right.

I'm the one on the left. Tina is on the right. Look at her long hair! I loved those clothes. We are standing in front of our shop, looking quite pleased with ourselves. We were solidly in love with the Faire that year. Everything was fun and none of the sleazy management stuff that made us decide to leave had started yet.

Well, just popping in to post something... Sure brings back some fun memories.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Birds

Since we have been *enjoying* our share of the tail end of Wilma today, obviously this picture was taken a couple of days ago.

I was inside and started hearing quite a commotion outside, looked out the window and thought I was watching a remake of "The Birds".

From time to time in this area, we have infestations of crows. So far we've escaped them, but this day, we were the target! They roosted all over the trees - covering them completely. A dogwood tree was completely black. I haven't checked yet, but I bet a good portion of the wealth of berries it held is gone. When I decided to go outside and get a picture of the blackened trees, they, with one mind, took to the air in a swirling black cloud.

I imagine this happens in a number of communities, but crows were a huge problem a year or so ago in a couple of local areas. In particular, the birds were damaging the covering in the center of our large local mall.

There were a number of methods tried to get rid of them. The one I liked best was cannon fire!

Our local mayor is a cannon collector. Give him a chance and he will fire a his cannons. He brought fireworks to downtown Lancaster for various celebrations and other than a few stray burning pieces landing on the tops of parking garages... it was a good idea. It got people into the center of town. He brought them in for the 4th of July celebration and also, we now have a non-alcoholic "First Night" (New Year's Eve) celebration, complete with fireworks, for folks to attend.

Anyhow, the mayor, of course brought out his cannons and they were used as one of the attempts at deterring the crows. I forget the other methods that were tried. None of them really worked. They all probably annoyed the crows, but basically, one day, the crows just decided it was time to pull up stakes and leave.

Luckily, our visitors just stuck around for an hour or so and decided this wasn't *home*. It was interesting - and a little frightening - but, at least it was temporary.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Food/Soap.... some thoughts

Although the past few days I have dedicated to making all the old stand-bys and building up soap inventory, a couple of weeks ago, we decided to try another seemingly hare-brained idea that we read about on a forum.... Whipped Soap.

On our first attempt, we followed the directions to the letter, but part of the pastry tube was missing, so we had to "make do" with just plopping the soap lightly into mounds. A bit of gold mica and *I* think they look like meringue kisses. The soap itself is nice enough. It's our usual recipe, but just made in a different way. An interesting novelty, but nothing that sends me into spasms of enthusiasm. I haven't tried to do this yet, but understand that it floats, so I guess that is something...

Our second attempt, we were a bit more organized and had all the parts of the pastry bag together in one place. They look somewhat *Martha* and they are scented with vanilla, something that usually turns soap brown. As you can see, they are just a bit off-white. I'm thinking they look like white chocolate and would be great packaged in a candy box with hot pink tissue for Valentine's Day...

Everyday is a chance to try something new... some of them are winners, some are just a new experience. I'm not sure quite yet what these are! Food/soap, is this a good thing?

Sunday, October 16, 2005

A glimpse of the past... mostly our own

Well, after receiving passes from a good friend at the Ren Faire, we decided to pay it a visit this afternoon. Now, you have to remember that we haven't attended for about 10 years - after having been vendors for 5 years and selling our herb shop there. I guess it's necessary to visit from time to time to remind ourselves of what we left and why....

It was wonderful seeing the old friends that are still there .. and kinda sad realizing just how few we still know. Laura, who sent us the passes, and Val, both at the Nature's Heirlooms Shop. Across the street was Judy whose head wreaths were always a big part of the faire day. Mark the potter, who we knew first as a patron and then, as a fellow vendor. The Marquis, who we thank effusively on the rare occcasion that we see him for steering us in the right direction for an amazing night out many years ago.. long story, but it involved a group of almost naked men! We enjoyed surprising "our" queen who is again the queen in honor of the 25th anniversary. She dragged us aside for a few brief moments to catch up and take a good look at Molly, Tina's daughter who followed her around for a few years when she played a gypsy and Molly aspired to be her child, I think!

Another bright spot in the day was the group, Corvus Corax. They are from Germany and are described as a Medievel Rock Star band... Yep, that's about right. If you like drums and bagpipes... lots of drums and bagpipes... kinda oboey bagpipes... and men jumping around in long robes, but scantily clad underneath... very interesting group. We loved them so much we needed to purchase a CD.

The grounds have grown hugely, booze is now sold, and apparently there is next to no "street play" or interaction of the characters of the Shire with the patrons. The street play was always the highlight of the day there for us... and the side conversations of all the villagers in their Olde English accents.

Even the vendors were given lessons on proper speech way back when. We were even encouraged to develop back stories for our own characters so that we all came together as a community... and you know, we did.

Nowadays, anachronisms abound and apparently it isn't important for even some of the actors to speak with an accent.... sad. We even overheard one of the actors on stage discussing the sports scores for the football game that day with the audience... unheard of back in "our day".

Well, we know that we miss a bit of it all, but the changes and growth certainly don't make us miss it all.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Beadfest, Soap and Road Apples!

I know, I know... It's been a long time. It's been a busy week, but lots of fun.

The piece at left was the result of a class I took on Thursday at Beadfest in Ft Washington, PA. The instructor, Susan Lenart Kazmer, is someone whose work I have always admired and found fascinating. When I had the chance to take a class with her, I was thrilled.

We learned to rivet and create dimensional layers of metal along with different surface treatments. There's a picture in the center which is sandwiched under mica between the "frame" and the copper backing.

Susan seems to spew positive energy all over the place and her enthusiasm for what she does is quite inspiring. I'd jump at the chance to take another class with her in a minute.

Other than the class, Beadfest seemed to be even bigger and better than ever before. Lots of variety in the vendors - at least the ones I saw. I felt I hardly had time for shopping, or the energy for it, but I still managed to make a few purchases. Friday night, I met up with some friends, Nolly & Laura "The Bead Ladies", for what I hope will become an annual event... Margarita Night!

The trip home on Saturday morning was a real nightmare since we were experiencing the dregs of Hurricane Tammy. I can't complain about the rain, we needed it desperately, but it did nothing for driving on the Turnpike!

Earlier in the week, we delivered the finished cookbook we've been editing for Nancy Reppert at Sweet Remebrances Tea Room in Mechanicsburg. It's going to be a winner. I think I may have gained 5# just typing some of those great recipes!

We've also been packing soap, making soap, cutting soap, trimming soap...... Lots of orders have come in and we are also planning to open the soap & jewelry studio to our Christmas tree customers this year here at Frog Hollow along with participating in a consignment craft shop in Lititz, PA.

Today, we seem to have managed to finally reach a point where we can breathe in the soap/orders department and finished up a new product we've been working on for quite some time.... Soap balls, but we're calling them "Road Apples". It'll be a special item at first for the Amish roadside stand that sells our soap. We'll see how it goes, but, you know around here, there is a chocolate candy called "Cow Patty" that looks like.... well, you know. And they sell that stuff....

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Sit down for a minute and....

So, I hauled everything into the house on Saturday and decided to just sit and make jewelry. I haven't put any bracelets together lately and want to have things to sell over the holidays here at the little shop we're planning to have open at Frog Hollow, our Christmas tree farm. I actually put 6 bracelets together, but in the interest of brevity (for now) I'll only post three.

Purple FloralI had a number of sets lying around that I haven't posted on my website for sale. This---> one was my first floral experiments with the Kalera press. I love the shape of these beads and the flowers just float there on the surface. I used three different colors of purple for the petals and there's some silver inside to shoot a bit of light through the smoky base. I used my favorite - a magnetic clasp. These things are really strong. I've been known to raise my hand at a restaurant with a fork attached to my bracelet! The spacers were from a large string of purple beads I had left over from trying to match up with some spacers I made earlier. I was having trouble with "striking" the color. As it turns out. I'm grateful now to have the lovely selection of purple beads.

Denim & KhakiActually, this bracelet "Denim & Khaki" was made a couple of weeks ago. The colors are my favorites to wear, jeans and a cream colored shirt or khaki colored pants and blue top. I was looking for something to wear with it and decided to just sit down and make myself something. I think it turned out pretty well and it certainly matches jeans and anything neutral... The cream colored spacers are ceramic discs I picked up at Beadfest a couple of years ago and they come in handy so often.

Victorian CranberriesFinally (for today!) I call this one "Victorian Cranberries". It would be perfect for Christmas, but the colors are not the usual garish red and green, but more cranberry and greenish aqua (copper green). It just looked so formal that it needed a bit of extra goodies... some bead caps and a fancy bali magnetic closure. I was thinking of adding some matching round beads in the main bracelet like the one on the "dangly", but it just didn't make it... The silver bead spacers worked better with the more "formal" feel I was going for.

It's amazing how easily they go together after you've been thinking about them for a while. The Purple bracelet as well as the Denim one were in my head before I even began. The Victorian one was the hardest to finally pin down... I bet I tried 5 or 6 arrangements before I was satisfied.

Believe it or not.... we've actually been making soap like crazy the past few days. Somehow, the shelves had gotten depleted beyond the norm and, of course, the fax started cranking out orders!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Long-short day

Well, it's been a long day... or a short day, depending how you look at it. It was a long day because it was pretty frustrating. It seemed everything I did had to be done over again - a couple of times. It was a short day because it seemed I accomplished next to nothing!

I did manage to get some new labels finished for the salt-spa bars we've been working on. We're really pulling out the stops in the packaging department. It makes a bar of soap look like something more than a bar of soap. It IS the spa bars we're talking about here however, and they really ARE more than a plain bar of soap... even handmade soap.

This is the Mocha Java Spa Bar. It is scented with the most delicious fragrance and colored a light cafe au lait tan with specks of white salt all through it. The lather from these bars is something really special and they last forever. As they wear down and are polished with use, they look like river rocks.

We also have made a "Cowpoke Bar", "Good Morning Starshine" and "Mermaid's Treasure". They each have their own over-the-top packaging, but at the moment, the Mocha Java is my favorite.

Brother John came over to try to help me with my website woes and we may have figured part of it out... We'll see. I have so many changes to make - old stuff to take down, new stuff to go up... And meanwhile, the header keeps changing along with the cells in the tables having minds of their own. I know, I know... that shouldn't happen, but it does.

Maybe it will all make sense tomorrow.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Robot Dreams

I had such a hard time naming these beads. I really love them... the shape and the colors. The colors are just perfect for fall and for jeans... my usual uniform! There's also enough khaki color in them to make them work with my favorite combo.

So often, I feel like I'm only able to poorly attempt to duplicate something I've seen sommeone else do, but these are the result of an actual original idea! I made the first one like this for a charm swap. It was inspired by a piece of architecture, oddly enough. I thought of them as tiles, but the name just didn't quite fit... Robots... little robots.

On another note, we started wrapping some of our extravagant salt soaps today.. The soap is great and we enjoy really doing it up. I can see them as stocking stuffers come Christmas time. They have names like "Good Morning Starshine", a pretty peachy soap wrapped in "denim" with Rickie Tickie Stickies from the 60's. "Cowpoke" denim blue soap with cranberry gingham ribbon threaded through a concho. "Mermaid's Treasure", all seafoam green wired with "jewels". Oh, and "Java Chip" , a pebbly brown in a woven "coffee sack".

I'll be posting pictures tomorrow... Really.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Pods & things

So... all the things I was planning to do this weekend.. I did.

And what do I post? Pictures of the Womens' Expo in Edison? No. A cute shot of my niece (who accompanied us to the Expo)? No. Pictures of the Sizzlers gathered here? No. Not even a one of those heart melting pix of our shedding Shelty, Rudy. Instead today, I give you ... Pods.

The lush, beautiful flowers of the spring Wisteria become these strange velvety pods that hang from the "pergola" that leads to our back door.

I believe that last year, probably 6 years after planting this amazing vine, we had our first truly amazing bloom. It took some time to see my first pod. They weren't very obvious and in fact when I first saw them, I thought some very odd, very large butterflies were creating some frighteningly odd crysalises. At least that was my first thought.

It soon dawned on me that these alien-looking things were actually the seed pods of the wisteria. There weren't THAT many of them and they were kinda interesting, but mostly high above the foilage and so out of sight until the leaves fell from the vines in the fall.

Sometime, during the winter, the pods "sprung", creating some quite interesting, springy looking twirls, and a shower of the shiny, flat seeds. I started picking them up in the early spring thinking I would make them into an unusual piece of jewelry.

Well, I haven't done anything with them yet, but, as you can see from the picture, this year, the pergola is full of the bizarre things and we'll have an amazing crop of the shiny seeds - not to mention the swirly sprung pods.

I will just have to do something soon with the seeds I saved from last year. Stay tuned!

Friday, September 16, 2005

Here we gooooo......

Another crazy weekend coming up. Women's Expo in Edison, NJ tomorrow. My DH, Bob, says it should be a two-hour drive, so I guess we'll give it three - we need to check out those rest stops along the way! Tina's daughter, Molly, will be going with us (Tina & me) this time which should be fun. Nothing like a little youth to perk things up.

On Sunday, I'll be hosting the Sizzlers here for a meeting to eat, pass beads around, eat, yak, pass some more beads around, eat and maybe light a torch... Oh, I forgot to say eat and laugh... lots of that. So far, I know there are 4 coming... I'm sure there will be more come Sunday. It's such a great group of people - so encouraging and accepting. Everyone is only too happy to show the others any techniques they have learned or share a piece of equipment they have acquired so that everyone can try it out.

I keep planning to clean and make soap... making lists and ignoring them... well it doesn't look THAT bad around here. And I can finish the soap on Monday.

I hope to have pictures of both the events of the weekend to post on Monday.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

New Fantasy Jewelry

I really need to get these up on my website. I'm planning a new page called "Fantasy Beads", but my website software is driving me crazy - not to mention that I'm apparently challenged in focusing my digicam properly, or at least in transferring well focused pictures to the web! Still need to learn a bit more about html so I can just do it myself instead using of the dang template thing I started with. It keeps corrupting itself. Probably has to do with the fact that I keep switching back and forth on web page editing programs, but it still shouldn't do my opinion.

This little gal is "Serena" and was so fun to make... well, they all are, but I layered silver in her body and you can see it shining through. Gives her a really nice look and shows all the different green and turquoise colors I used.

I had so many ideas about making her into a necklace. Lots of beads and shells would look great with her, but I guess this needed to be kept simple since she's so intricate herself. She's strung on Waxed linen with a few embellishments on the necklace itself.

The hole on this bead runs vertically through her body which made it easy to add a tassel of bubbly beads which sort of add to the lushness of her tail.

The necklace is long, but it is made to be easily adjusted in the back. Both ends of the necklace slip through a largish bead in the back and end in small tassels (see picture to the right). Because the thread is waxed, it holds pretty well, but can be loosely tied to keep it in place.

The purple fairy, "Violet", seems characteristically shy as she turns her face slightly to the side and her hair falls over her face. There are garlands of vines and flowers flowing through her hair and held in her hands.

"Violet" is built on a bead and the hole runs horizontally so that she is strung simply on a triple strand of waxed linen and matching beads are worked into the design near the focal, using a knotted pattern.

This necklace is finished the same way as "Serena", with both strands running through a large bead and fringed at the ends.

I'm going to be making a number of beads and necklaces like this. The blue and pink faireies I showed a couple of weeks ago are already gone and I have a fall fairy ready to be strung with some glass acorns and oak leaves I have made. Another "coming attraction" is a midnight fairy in shades of creamy, opalescent white and lapis.. silver star spattered spacers and a large moon bead go with her... better get busy.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Rudy in PurpleOur sweet pup, Rudy, is having one heck of a shedding season. This is the first time it has been an issue. He was only a little guy last year at this time. Now, he's a big boy. He's been through a winter and a hot summer and his fur is coming out in huge bunches!

Here's the culprit. Doesn't he look like a perfect little gentleman? What an innocent face, huh?

He's normally a very mild mannered fellow, but what a whirling, snarling dervish he becomes when the brush comes out! For some reason, he really hates it.

We've been attempting to brush him as often as possible even though it means tying an old handkerchief around his "snoot" which seems to calm him so that he lies peacefully while giving off quiet little growls.

It's pretty obvious he holds no grudge because, afterward, he's full of fun and ready to play - oh, and expecting a treat!

Rudy HairWhat do you suppose this is? Is it a cotton boll gone unpicked? No. Have a herd of sheep passed by recently? No.

This is an echinacea seed head that had fallen across Rudy's pathway. It seems it caught on a clump of his fur and it just pulled right out...

On another note, you can see in this picture how dry it is, too... We've reached the typical brown ground stage of summer when much of the grass has become crunchy underfoot.

Usually our summer drought is ended when the tail end of a hurricane sweeps up our way and soaks the thirsty earth. Maybe the seemingly drunken path of Ophelia will lurch it's way up here and end it for us this year.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Back to the Woods

So, Tina was over and we decided to venture into the woods once again. With the weather as dry as it has been here, the lush summer undergrowth seems to have thinned a bit and we were able to actually venture in a bit.

I didn't get far before I started thinking about all the mosquitoes and "snakey" things and the fact that I was wearing my sandals, so I just kept track of Tina's shadow as she dove into the heavier growth searching for the bayberry bushes we planted this spring....

While I was waiting, I played with some of the prematurely colored and fallen leaves along with some other odds and ends I had found to make a temporary collage. I guess it's sort of "found art".

The colors on the leaves were oddly mottled. The black walnut still in its hull (up in the top left corner) reminds me of walks around the pond with "Bobby" (now Rob and apparently even more recently, Harry!) who always insisted on picking them up and sticking his little thumbs in the mushy ends to turn them black. The feather is a gift of one of the birds who has lived this beautiful summer here among the trees. Wonder if he (or she) will be sticking around for the winter?

Speaking of winter... one of the supposed predictors of a hard winter is lots of berries on the dogwood trees.... what do you think? This looks pretty thick to me...

I guess I should hope for a mild winter this year with the predictions of high costs for heating oil, etc.... and I guess I do, realistically, but a good storm or two (no more than that) is always nice if you are stuck and have nothing to do but sit by the fireplace watching the winterscape outside while a pot of soup simmers on the stove.

BUT, it's barely autumn and certainly not time to wish for a snowy day! Despite the horrible weather catastrophe recently on the Gulf coast ... and Ophelia lurking off the east coast, we have been blessed with absolutely perfect weather - although awfully dry - and I'd hate to go wishing it away.

Well, the lye's ready for tomorrow... it'll be a soaping day. Lot's of varieties to get up to speed and a couple special ones I'd like to make for the holidays. And of course, the torch is always waiting...

(Edited today because it's a collAge not a collEge - and I'm an idiot!)

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Where's my camera?

You know, we live in the country.

We aren't that far out, but we get used to watching for farm tractors and even Amish buggies on our roads... they're just a fact of life. On Sundays, the "courtin' buggies" go past the house and the kids are out playing on their scooters and riding their wagons down the hill.

This evening, though, I saw something that even surprised me.

I was pulling out of the grocery store and something caught the corner of my eye at the bank. There in the drive-up lane was a car, waiting patiently for the Amish buggy in front of him to finish their transaction! I'm sure I did a double take to be sure I was really seeing what was there. It is just something unexpected... looked absolutely out of place. The only thing worse would have been that the buggy was at the ATM!

I guess that's progress.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Some enchanted beading....

Woodland FairySome new beads - all in one torching session. One of those magical moments when it all comes together and everythingin the kiln is a wonderful surprise.

Something inspired me to work with silver and green and along came... The Woodland Fairy. She reminds me of the painting, "Midsummer's Night". It's all shades of greens and sparkling golds.... She's built on a bead so that she can easily hang on a cord or string(s) of beads.

After I finished the fairy, I was in an enchanted mood and decided to make a mermaid as well with the deep colors of the seas and the woodlands... That produced the "Mermaid of the Deep".

Mermaid of the DeepThe mermaid is built on a mandrel so the hole goes through her vertically. I can see her as a focal with a fringe of greens, pearls, and little silver beads spilling out above and below her.

The silver foil deep inside each one shows through in flashes of all the colors used including dark & light greens along with transparent teals - just luscious and they matched perfectly with some of the beads I just purchased at the Lebanon show.

Koi PondAlong with the "ladies", I was inspired to make a few foiled florals, one resembles a deep Koi pond, with the orange Koi flashing through the sparkling water as seaweed and flowers drift among them.

These colors really call to me. They are deep and mysterious.. I may be working with them for some time.

It is so exciting to hit on something that works... I guess that's what it's all about.

Friday, August 26, 2005

The next step...

Packed & Ready to goSo, here's our boy, car loaded and ready to take the next step in his life. He didn't want to pose for this shot, but I told him it really was a momentous occasion and he finally agreed.

I've been tempted to dig out the old pix of him "graduating" from pre-school for comparison, but I'm not sure I could handle reminiscing about that little guy today!

We've been through this before when he left for RIT last fall, and even though this is much closer, I think (and hope) he will find a true home at Ursinus. We may actually lose parts of him as he finds his own niche. Wonderful and awful....

No official programs to help *us* let go, but it sounds like there are lots of opportunities for the kids to get to know each other and to help *them* adjust, which is the most important thing.

We really are here to give him roots and wings. I remember that as my mantra last year and it looks like it'll be a big help again this year.

I'm about to turn on the kiln, light the torch and attempt to get things back to our regularly scheduled program....

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

A Sizzlers' Event

Well, I had almost regained my bearings after the ill-fated Chicago trip when it was time to get ready for the local Gem Miners' Jubilee in Lebanon, PA. What a fun time!

SizzlersFour of the "Sizzlers" teamed up to man a table at this rock & gem show. Rachel took care of setting us up with the promoter and brought her gorgeous "Kissing Fishies". Ann (and her many, many beautiful and technically perfect beads) came up with a unique table dresing in purples and "grizzly green" that made us stand out. Faith brought a good selection of her goodies all the way in from Chambersburg. For a first time out, it was quite successful!

Here's a shot of my display. First thing on Saturday,My display my "Ursula's Sister" mermaid bead and my "Pink Fairy" bead were purchased. I'll have to make some more sculptural beads - I love to create them and apparently they are in some demand.

My "Blue Fairy" necklace was also purchased. Click here to see a close up of the Blue & Pink Fairies.

A few bracelets, sets and earrings rounded out the weekend.

We were in a new room added to the show just this year, but doing demos constantly seemed to bring people to our table. The promoter seemed to get a kick out of us - the lampworking and demo added something a little different to the many rock, gem and bead vendors there.

I felt like the guy on the boardwalk at the Jersey Shore who used to keep me spellbound making his little lacy pyrex creatures, or the guy who made the blown swan barometers - remember them? Since I tend to be something of a ham, I enjoyed the attention and loved answering questions about every facet of lampworking.

It was interesting for me since it was my first time using a "Hothead" torch. The Hothead was the perfect, easily transported and easily set up, tool for a demonstration. Conditions were not ideal and I kept trying to find the sweet spot in the flame. Although wonky, the beads we created were just perfect for their purpose.

Since there were four of us manning the table, we had plenty of time to shop as well. Good time, good company, pretty good sales....and Rachel, great Guacamole! We'll be back next year!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Chicago and Back!

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Here's a picture of Tina behind the table we shared at the Chicago Area Soap and Candlemakers' Conference. You can see my jewelry display on the left and her magazine and book display on the right. Tina isn't really a mouth breather! I think she's talking to our neighbor, Art, the shrinkwrap guy while holding coffee to stay warm.

Well, we made it there and back. What a trip! The universe seemed to conspire to make sure we got our fill of driving and turnpikes this trip. We may not be straying too far from home for a while.

The trip was going pretty well until we got about 2/3 of the way through Ohio. The turnpike was shut down because of a serious accident and Tina had brillliantly decided to turn into a rest stop just before everything stopped. We were stuck there three hours which meant by the time we left, it was close to sun down.

By the time we hit Indiana, it was dark and we were punchy. Road work loomed.. maze like contortions of roads which seemed to end periodically, no they didn't really, but it was getting late.
Then the signs began.... We really didn't understand this one. Here you see it in the daytime - snapped on the way home. But, a sign like this, saying, "Animal present when flashing", looming out of the night is rather disconcerting, especially when it is flashing!

And when it is followed by another sign saying,"Vehicles entering exiting area", confusion is complete.

At least they gave us something to talk about and eventually babble about on the way. The area the IN turnpike crosses is pretty desolate, so...

We looked so forward to getting into Illinois, thinking that, besides the fact that we would be closer to our goal, probably the roads would be in more populated areas... maybe even lighted.

Oh, the road was lighted all right.. And completely under construction... Orange barrels and cones everywhere... At one point, I had to veer around a bridge abutment, but by that time, we were running totally on adrenaline anyway.

It was nearing 12 midnight - our time - and we knew we were getting closer... a sudden exit appeared - and it was the right number (the order of exit numbers had not made sense for some time). We took it, and to our surprise, the gas station we saw ahead (where we planned to ask directions) was a toll booth. We escaped to the correct street and turned almost immediately into our hotel... Whew!

Gee, and almost 5 hours left to sleep before we had to get up for the Convention - great!

The convention itself was great and we made some good sales and even managed to pull off our presentation about adding herbs to soaps and other bath products. If the trip itself hadn't been so bizarre, I'd probably have a lot more to say about this!

Unfortunately, we still had to drive home... The trip home was very similar, even included an extra night we took to hide out from a nasty rain storm and pull ourselves together after a bit too much stimulation from said storm...

We're still recovering from the trip and grateful to have made the final leg of the trip from Pittsburgh to Lancaster without mishap... Maybe next time we'll go East - or north - or.. just stay home!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

New favorites

Champenois August This is another set of the Champenois beads I had on my site. I just love the color combination and had an inquiry about another set after the first was sold. This one is different enough that I don't feel I'm making a copy of the original. This one even has a Pa Dutch look about it... Truthfully, I'm going to have a hard time selling it, because it's one of my favorites of all time. What am I saying? They're all my favorites! Even if I do sell this one, I'll have to make yet another set for myself. I need to make a bracelet from this combo for me!

Pink blue fairiesThese are two "Fairy" beads I've been working on. They are ready to be strung and I've been itching to get started on making something wonderful with them. The colors on both just glow and I LOVE the iceberg/galaxy color on the blue.

As you can see, I've already begun stringing the blue one, and I have a lot of ideas for the pink one too.... Both are perfect for a pendant length that will add a bit of whimsey to winter clothes, I think.

Well, we're getting closer and closer to the Chicago Conference. I'm actually looking forward to the trip and the drive, even with Mercury still in retrograde! If my next post is from Canada or somewhere to the west though, don't be surprised.

I'm about to update my website with a number of new vessels (unless I screw it up again!) and maybe a couple of new sets to replace what has been sold.