Friday, April 19, 2013


Yep, last weekend, I did it. I went to an AcroYoga class and learned how to do a headstand! Of course, I giggled through the whole thing, but when I went to class on Monday night, Robin said to me, "You looked pretty good doing that headstand! We've GOT to work on that together!" Made me giggle even more.

I don't think anyone got a picture of me standing upside down on my head, but this is a great picture of our instructors demonstrating Bird pose:

Yes, we really did that. Yes, I really balanced someone on my legs and arms like that. And yes, I even got to balance myself on someone's legs, sitting upright, hands to heart center for a short Ohm.

So, I'm more than halfway through this yoga challenge during the month of April, and while I haven't been able to do yoga every single day, I'm learning a lot.

First thing that I've learned is that doing yoga well is all about finding your limits, and accepting them. So what if I can't do a forward bend with straight legs? I can do the forward bend well enough to get most of the benefits of the pose.

I'm also learning about gently pushing your limitations, while still being accepting of them. Any new yoga pose that comes my way during class immediately sets off my little warning bells in the back of my brain, but I'm finding that if I'm calm and focused, I can usually pull it off, even if it's a modified version.

For me, yoga is all about learning to feel strong again, to be okay with pushing myself again, and with eradicating my fear of fear.

It's also hugely about getting my butt out of the house and back into the world at large, something that I have missed dreadfully these last few months.

And with that, it's time for me to get my butt out of my chair and out into the world at large.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


I love movies. Ever since I took a film making class in high school, and then again in college, I've loved the whole magic of how movies are written, shot, and edited. An old favorite of mine, Erik the Viking, reminds me of the days when I lived with my best artist friend forever, L.A.-based artist Susan Tompkins, and we would pull all-nighters in front of old episodes of Monty Python or Terry Gilliam films like this one:

In the opening scene, Erik, our hero,  is participating in a raid on a neighboring village. While attacking a woman in her hut, the two enter into a philosophical conversation about plundering and pillaging, which in turn sends our hero on a journey of wild adventures and self-discovery.

But what really caught my attention in that opening scene was the necklace worn by the woman. It was a fabulous metal work piece, full of ancient motifs and designs, and I took a few seconds to make a quick sketch of it so that I could recreate it with beads.

Last weekend, while recovering from a wonderful AcroYoga class that left my poor little core muscles sore and ouchy, I managed to sit still long enough to finish it.

It actually worked up much faster than I had originally thought it would.

Creating the little bead embroidered drops using dyed gemstone rondelles was a process of trial and error. I was worried that I wouldn't be precise enough to make them look good, but in the end, I found that the process I used for creating them was quick, easy, and perfect.

I connected them all using a simple spiral rope - after playing with so many variations like double and triple spiral, doing a simple single spiral rope felt almost like cheating!

I need to take some better photos of this piece, but truthfully, I haven't the time to do it this week. But I was excited to share another finished UFO.

The name of this piece is Asgard, after the mythological Norse realm that is the home to the Gods, ruled by Odin and his wife Frigg.

You might remember that I began this piece back in October, while recovering from a bout of power vomiting, and I think part of the reason why it took so long to finish was that every time I looked at the focal piece, I thought of how sick I was! Nothing like aversion therapy, eh?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Road to Shambhala

Yes, I love Three Dog Night. And I love this song, used to great effect at the beginning of the film, Drowning Mona:

So, it only makes sense that as I'm continuing on my beading spiritual journey that I whip up a few of these wonderful beaded mandalas, and then turn them into a necklace... Right?

 I decided to add a little pop of texture into the center of each mandala with a yummy gumdrop bead. And I chose the colors (pink and yellow) to symbolize both hope and love.

While the overall design of this piece is quite dramatic in shape and form, because each of these is backed with a lightweight and flexible piece of plastic milk jug (ha ha ha!), the necklace is most definitely comfortable and wearable.

Stitching these little mandalas was how I took my breaks during the last few weeks. Any time I felt overwhelmed with worry, I just sat down to my little stack of pink squares, cut out from a large sheet of Nicole's Beadbacking, stitched down a gumdrop, and went on my merry way.

The fringe was fun, and a challenge. I decided that the mandalas needed a little something extra to enhance their shape. I used a super-long piece of beading thread - probably about twenty feet - and did them all in one continuous loop, weaving back and forth between mandalas. Because, you know, I HATE weaving in thread ends more than I hate removing knots from my beading thread.

I designed the fringe with the necklace on a bust so that I could get an idea of what it would look like in "real time". Lately, I find that designing fringe is much easier for me if I can see what it will look like when worn, so my necklace bust has become my new best friend for designing.

The connections were fun to figure out, too. Now that I've completed this piece, I want to move on to the other colors of gumdrops that I have and see how else they can be connected, embellished, etc.

Can you tell I'm having fun with these beads? Throwing myself back into my beads, and into my yoga, have been the two things that have saved me these last few months. Slowly, slowly, I'm starting to feel like myself again. I have good days and bad days, yes, but it's starting to feel like the good days are outnumbering the bad days.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Love - And Turning Off the T.V.

"For small creatures such as we the vastness is only bearable through love." ~Carl Sagan

I had started out this morning thinking that I was going to write about my amazing weekend at yoga and the two pieces I finished. But that was before I heard about the Boston marathon, and the bombs that went off.

Within minutes, Facebook was lit up like a freaking Christmas tree with all this insane speculation, misinformation, and crazy conspiracy theories. People vowing revenge, promising justice, etc.

And I just packed up my yoga mat and drove to class.

No one was talking about the bombings. No one was saying things like, "Oh, how horrible!", or, "Did you hear..."

It was just five of us students, and Robin, our teacher, focusing on our breath and our bodies and trying to create stillness in our minds.

I didn't listen to the radio on the way home from class. I plugged in my iPod and listened to whatever music I had on there.

When I got home, I decided that I was not going to look at Yahoo news, or CNN or any of those kinds of places. And it's not because I don't care, but it's because I don't want to add one tiny little bit of energy to the hype that's created over this kind of tragedy.

The event itself is bad enough - the bombs, the injuries, the deaths, the terror. Why do the news media insist on dramatizing it even further?

I think that there are some people who, deep down on some primal level, crave this kind of tragedy. They feed off the negative energy. I feel that, too, sometimes, but that's when I pop "2012" or "Dante's Peak" into the DVD player. Disaster porn, imaginary drama, is all I have a taste for these days, I'm afraid.

What if we all did that? What if in the face of a tragedy, we decided to ignore all the rabid speculation and the milking-it-for-ratings coverage on the t.v. news?

I probably won't listen to the radio while I'm working today. I will go to Yoga class tonight and set my intention for the class and my meditation, wishing peace for all sentient beings.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Bead Soup Blog Party - My Big Reveal!

I'm so excited I'm so excited I'm so excited!

Can you tell I'm excited?

Okay, without further ado, here is what I created with those fabulous beads from Tina Holden, which I've decided to call, "Be Love":

Isn't it a doozy? I don't know why I was drawn to this set from the two that Tina sent me, but I think it was a combination of the colors and the heart pendant. I don't often work with hearts, and that was a challenge for me. I enjoy a good challenge lately, and this one was so inspiring!

Picking the colors for the triple spiral rope (thank you, Nancy Dale, for the amazing tutorial!) was something else. I had this assortment of beads on my bead mat that looked totally awful in the tubes - blues, greys, golds, brown, orange... I thought, there's no way those colors are going to work. Ugly!

But, I picked up my needle and thread and started stitching. And stitching, and stitching, because triple spiral rope takes three times as long to make as a regular spiral rope, doncha know!

The colors just blended together beautifully, just as they did in Tina's gorgeous set. I was absolutely thrilled to see how the spiral turned out, and it made me feel much better about trusting my own innate sense of color.

I learned a couple of things about triple spiral rope, too. The first is that thread choice is EVERYTHING.

I started out using a piece of moss green Spiderwire fishing line, thinking that it's a little thinner than Fireline and probably wouldn't clog up the bead holes so fast. What I didn't realize is that Spiderwire tangles like crazy - and when you're using 15 feet of beading thread, yeah, a few tangles can definitely slow you down.

After I finished the first 3-inch section of triple spiral, I switched over to Fireline and was absolutely amazed at how much easier it is to use when working a triple spiral! The beads just slipped together nicely, even if they did get a bit unruly at the end. Which led me to discovery number 2...

When working a triple spiral, always bead much looser than you normally do! Really. Like I said in my blog earlier this week, once I loosened up, those core beads and accent loops just lined themselves up perfectly, with very little cajoling from me.

Attaching the segments of triple spiral was a learning experience, too. It's one thing to be able to join sections of spiral rope, or even double spiral, when you can at least see the core beads pretty easily, but trying to join the sections of triple spiral, where you have to try to peek under nine or twelve little outer spirals is definitely not for the faint of heart. I lost count of how many times I stuck the needle into the core beads where it came out the other side and directly into my fingertip. Ouch!

 I'm so in love with this piece... I briefly thought about selling it, but, nah, I think this one is a keeper. Wearing it will be a good reminder to me that I need to be love, to give and receive love, and to trust myself and the Universe that it will all work out okay in the end.

If you're totally in love with the handmade polymer clay beads, button, and focal in this piece, I suggest you check out Tina Holden's Etsy Shop and see all of the other amazing goodies she has in there. You'll find beautiful polymer clay cabochons and beads, as well as lots and lots of fabulous tutorials and supplies for making your own polymer clay pieces. And, of course, don't forget to check out Tina's blog to see what she made with the sparkly dichroic cab soup I sent her!

And, of course, make sure that you spend some time checking out all of the other amazing reveals today in the 2nd Reveal of the 7th Bead Soup Blog Party! Cheers!

Friday, April 12, 2013

WTFriday: What's Up With the Weather Today?

Today is April 12. We're nearly two weeks into April. And this morning, we woke up to roads covered in ice, freezing rain, and our onion gardens covered in snow...

The ice pellets have been smacking and cracking against the windows all morning. The fire is roaring in the wood stove, because it's freezing cold outside. The snow is starting to pile up on the road in front of the house...

And I just have to wonder...WTF is up with the weather today?

Don't get me wrong: I love winter. I love the snow, and those days when it's so nice and cozy in front of the fire, slipping into warm pajamas...

But I'm ready for some warmer weather. I'm ready for some sunshine. I'm even ready for some warm summer thunderstorms.

Alas, this morning, we have one more storm to deal with before we can get to those things.

I've also got to deal with this crushing headache, no doubt from the low atmospheric pressure of the storm.

The forecast is calling for temperatures in the high 50s and low 60s in the coming week... Dare I hope?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Gumdrop Mandala

So, here's a quick clip of a piece that I CAN show you.

A couple of years ago, I fell in love with Wendy Ellsworth's fabulous book, Beading the Creative Spirit. I followed her instructions for creating simple beaded mandalas, and I found that stitching those little beauties is a wonderful beading meditation for me. I pick the patterns for the beads, pick the colors based on what kind of energy I want to bring to the piece...

Then last fall, I thought of an idea for a necklace (which is also still in progress, yikes) that was a series of simple bead embroidered components strung together with bits of spiral rope.

But then after I finished my Hoarder of Beauty necklace, and I started to think about other ways to use those sweet little gumdrop beads, I thought about making a series of beaded mandalas with gumdrop centers. Why not, right?

These little beauties were so much fun to make. Whenever I felt the need to take a break, I would work on one. The soothing repetition of each little mandala worked its magic on me and my anxious thoughts, and pretty soon, I had more than enough for the collar.

This is just a potential layout, with gumdrop spacers between each mandala. I made a copy of a collar template from Heidi Kummli's book, The Spirit of Bead Embroidery. After I enlarged it, I traced it onto a piece of clear plastic from a milk jug, and now I use it whenever I need to trace a template for a collar.

I love the idea of creating a large-scale, intricate piece of bead embroidery from a set of smaller pieces. It makes it seem less intimidating - instead of working on a huge piece, I can break it down into smaller sections.

So, now my next step will be to start attaching these mandalas, and then to figure out if I want to fringe the piece or not. I'm thinking about adding long swags under the bottom of each mandala, or possibly long, thin loops between each mandala.

The colors I chose were for healing and hope and peace. And speaking of which, it's almost time for yoga class tonight, where I am very much looking forward to getting a good workout, both spiritually and physically.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Bead Soup

This is how Bead Soup gets made:

Before: My beads start out in nice little piles, all neat and organized.

After: The result of numerous instances of tearing out beadwork and playing with colors results in little piles of not-so-neat-and-organized beads that get put into little plastic baggies and tossed into my cabinets until I need them for something in a few years.

That's about all I can show you of my Bead Soup Blog Party piece until Saturday - I know, right? I really stink at keeping secrets, and this one is KILLING me. It's so totally unlike anything I would have ever thought about making, and the colors were a challenge, and the construction was a challenge...

But you'll just have to wait to read all about that one.

And while we're on the subject of challenges and waiting...

My friend Suzanne Branca of A Grain of Sand discovered these fabulous mercury glass beads while digging through the famous Bead Hoard, and she wondered if I'd like to create something with them for Beading Daily! Well, yeah!

And as much as I'd love to, I really can't show you what I'm doing with these beads, either. But I can tell you that it involves purple seed beads and cubic right-angle weave.

The silver strand next to them are antique Ethiopian tribal silver that I won in an eBay auction last week. (Thanks, Perry, for bringing those to my attention. Not.)

Tomorrow is a day for quality time with the camera, and beading... And snow. Yeah. A winter storm heading our way, threatening to dump a few inches of snow, sleet, and freezing rain on us. Nice winter we're having this spring, eh?

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Loosen Up

Once upon a time, back when I owned a bead shop, I was talking with some of my business partners and fellow beaders about tension in beadwork. We talked about how getting just the right tension was important for pretty much any beading project. A few of us joked about how tension in beading was related to personality, at which I quipped, "Well, I always bead really, really tightly - so what does that make me?"

Working through this project for the Bead Soup Blog Party on Saturday (yikes!), I realized that working with a tight tension is not conducive to a good triple spiral rope. Really. I've been trying so hard to control where the core beads line up, and how the spirals lay against each other... The first few sections of this rope were so frustrating, I almost wanted to give up.

Then, lo and behold, for some reason this morning, I decided to back off on my tension.

I could feel the difference in the beadwork instantly! Instead of fighting with each new core bead, they just sort of stacked up on top of each other neatly. The little set of spirals around the core stopped fighting each other, too.

And, sort of miraculously, the headache I had been fighting all day disappeared, too.

So, yes, maybe I'm reading too much into this, but with all the life lessons that I'm learning lately, maybe the next one that my beads are trying to teach me is to back off and loosen up a little. Stop trying to control everything (control freak that I am) and just sort of go with the flow...

Those little beads of mine are so smart, sometimes.

Sunday, April 07, 2013


So, I *should* be working on my Battle of the Beadsmith entry right now. I should...

But, I'm not.

Instead, I'm trying to finish this gumdrop mandala necklace that I started a couple of weeks ago.

Why am I playing with these bead embroidered mandalas instead of working on my Battle piece?

Well, for starters, while I have a design in mind and sketched out and have the first big part of it ready to go, I'm just sort of letting the idea ferment for a bit more.

I'm also still trying to work out a design issue, and while I can't tell you exactly what it is or what the final design will be, I can tell you that this is something brand-new to me that I've never tried before.

Am I a little nervous about attempting this? Well, yeah. But then again, last year when I created my Battle of the Beadsmith piece, I tried something completely different for me. I had absolutely no idea if it would work out, but after a little time spent playing with my idea, well, it worked out pretty well, I think...

I can't tell you what my final design will be, or the theme, or anything about it, really. But I can tell you this: the idea came to me, as so many great ideas do, while I was relaxing in a hot lavender bath. I had my sketchbook, my iPad, and a few of my favorite jewelry design books handy. The idea just sort of popped in there, and after I did a little research about it, it clicked. I just sort of KNEW that it was the right design for this year's competition. 

Hey, I may not make it past the first round again this year, but one thing about this competition is for sure: it's pushing me to design and create pieces that test my limits, and banish my fears about beading!

Friday, April 05, 2013

WTFriday: Getting Old Already?

So, the other day, I was in the natural foods store, looking down at the label on a bottle of essential oil, and I realized that I was having a hard time reading the tiny print on the side of the bottle.


I had to squint a bit, move it into the light, before I could make out what was written on the label.

Sure, I've gotten used to wearing my amazing CraftOptics when I bead. And, as I had to remind myself, I'm turning 39 in a few weeks. That's almost 40.

Like my father always says, getting old sure beats the alternative. My therapist had to remind me the other day that I can't get up at 5, hike 7 miles, then put in an 8-hour shift because, well, I'm not 24 anymore.

But, GEEZ! So, here, for my WTFriday post, I'm giving it up and making an appointment with the optometrist to get my vision checked. It's been a while since I had new glasses, anyway, and it looks like things have changed since my last prescription...

Wednesday, April 03, 2013


Well, I did it. Went to two yoga classes yesterday: the morning class was a mixed levels Vinyasa class, and it was wonderful. I left class feeling energized and happy. Went through my day, but as the day went on, I started to feel tired. Like I could have gone to bed an hour early kind of tired.

But my goal was to do two yoga classes in one day. So I drove back to Keene, and made a quick trip into the bakery/deli next to the studio for something to eat for dinner.

As I walked through the deli, I noticed that my thoughts were racing: What if I can't find something to eat? What if I eat something and it makes me sick? I'm so tired, I can't skip dinner, but what if there's nothing to eat?

Over, and over, and over...

I went to class, but about ten minutes in, I felt that old sensation: nausea, stomach pain. My thoughts were still racing. I couldn't find that stillness.

Robin came up to me when she noticed that I wasn't keeping up with the flow, and told me it was okay to lie down. So I did. Scooted my little pillow under my head, put my knees up with my feet on the floor, and just focused on my breathing.

I was overcome with the urge to run away. I wanted to just pick up my stuff and RUN.

But I stayed.

I finally felt good enough to sit up and continue with the practice, and then sat through a meditation at the end.

I was STARVING on the ride home. Tired and hungry, the whole way.

But I did it. Made it through two yoga classes, even if part of one was spent on my back. I didn't run away.

Of course, I had the same old fears running through me on the way home: What if this happens when I go to Burlington? What if it happens when I go to Colorado in the fall? What if it happens when I go to Bead Fest in August? What if it happens when I go to NYC this month?

But this morning, when I thought of those things, none of them felt real. None of them felt like they were going to happen, and if they did, at least I know how to handle them now. So, no worries, really.

And now, I have to go finish up some beading for next week's blogs, and hit the bag sale at the thrift shop to see if I can find some more pants for my son, who is capable of tearing holes in the knees of his pants faster than I can blink.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Battle of the Beadsmith 2013: It's On Like Donkeykong!

April 1 - the first day that we are allowed to work on our pieces for the Battle of the Beadsmith 2013! It's on, baby! It's on like Donkeykong!

I can't give any hints or clues about what I'm making. All I can say is that over the last few weeks, I've placed orders for many different glass beads and beading supplies in order to make this year's masterpiece.

The idea is something that came to me after my first few weeks of really intense yoga - just this strange thought that popped into my head. After doing a little bit of research online, I found that I was really on to something, and I just ran with it.

I've already stitched up a couple of experiments to see if this design is going to work out. So far, so good. One step at a time!

Sadly, I can't give it too much attention today, because there are deadlines for work, and two other beading projects that need to be off my table before Friday.

The other big thing starting today is my 30-day immersion into twice-daily yoga, with Tara Stiles. But this morning, my plans to begin my day with a yoga workout were derailed when I woke up to discover that my hormones were, once again, trying to kill me. It's like my reproductive system is playing a huge April Fool's day prank on me, only I'm really not laughing.

I've got to get serious about making time in the mornings. Mornings are just not a good time for me - there's always so much to do, breakfasts to be made and eaten, Colden to take care of, and I think it sets the stage for a lot of my anxiety throughout the day. If allowed, my body would sleep straight through until about 7 a.m., but Colden is almost always awake before 6. (Which is, ironically, when Tom is always out the door for work.) So, something has to change. I need to find some kind of a new routine for myself and for Colden to diminish some of the stress and anxiety of our crazy mornings.

That said, I'm very much looking forward to an evening of a warm fire, leftover "meat"loaf from last night, some cozy time with my boys, Moose's birthday party (yes, he turns 10 today), and a half hour of uninterrupted yoga/meditation time by myself.

Don't forget - this Saturday is the second reveal for the 2013 Bead Soup Blog Party, and you'll get to see what myself and my partner, Tina Holden, did with the goodies that we swapped! Stay tuned!