Thursday, 29 October 2009

Introducing "Mia" - Positive Vibes Please!

So ...... I arrived home from the theatre about quarter-to-eleven to find we had a new little creature in the house, not entirely unexpected but still a surprise/shock.  Background is that several weeks ago our son, Max, and his girlfriend had begun to wear us down about having a kitten - a litter of kittens was available (we hadn't been able to view any of them though) but it was one in particular (the smallest) that they had fallen for.  I wasn't too keen at the time because of our old cat, Baxter - he was never fond of other male cats and I wanted him to enjoy the remaining time he had being the "one and only", not sharing attention.  However, Baxter had been fond of the little female we'd also had, they'd both come to us within a fortnight of each other ...... so then Max found out that the kitten was a female and we began to wonder if Baxter would like a little female company after all, maybe he'd enjoy it, but I still wasn't totally convinced.

Of course, then fate stepped in and we lost our Baxter last week; and then the kittens were ready to go and Max brought this little one home whilst I was at the theatre.  It seemed it was meant to be - we miss all our animals, not least Baxter, but at the same time we couldn't say "no" to a little animal that needs a new loving home.  Well, yes, we knew she was the "runt" of the litter (all the others were spoken for), smaller than the rest, but oh my goodness ...... she is tiny!  10 weeks old and only half the weight she should be!  Part-Siamese, big blue eyes, big "bat" ears.  Took her to the vets the next day for a check-up - ointment for a spot of conjunctivitis, no obvious signs of ill-health, except for the growth thing - seems like all the other kittens had pushed her out the way at feeding times so she didn't get as much nourishment.  Vet said could be some underlying problem, but we'll have to wait and see - have to go back again in a week to see if she's gaining any weight - they can do further tests if necessary, but well, it's fingers crossed right now that she does start to improve!

So we are all doing everything we can to help her grow - she is such a sweetie though, very alert and bright, hears every sound, curious about everything around her, doesn't miss a trick, now climbing everything she can (or can't!) and determined to get places she isn't supposed to (like behind the TV - she pretends she's going to eat her food then makes a mad dash to get behind it before we can get hold of her!).  She is eating - little and often - and using her litter tray perfectly (she announces her intention every time with a series of "mew, mew" noises).  She is also very very affectionate, wants to be cuddled, loves sleeping in your lap, having her tummy tickled, and playing at chasing bits of string and little balls.  So .... in every respect, apart from the weight/growth, she is fine and we are just hoping that she pulls through this and grows into a feisty little cat ........ "Mia" is her new name.  We're having to give her 24/7 attention - I stayed up with her all through that first night, dozing in and out of a light sleep, while she curled up contentedly on my dressing gown - well, she is just too tiny yet to be left alone, couldn't leave her in a strange house on her own while we all went to bed, could we?  Ever since Graham (DH), Max and I have been taking it in turns to do shifts overnight, so you can imagine that we're all a bit like walking zombies at the moment, trying to catch up on enough sleep, and I'm afraid I've hardly been able to think straight the last day or so!  We know this may still not turn out to have a happy ending, but we're going to give Mia the best chance we can and give her a proper loving home, whatever happens.

And here are some photos of little Mia that I took the day after her arrival, whilst she was sat on Graham's lap.

Here she is curled up cosily on my cardi !

I'll post more pics of little Mia again soon - hopefully they'll help to show her progress.  Please send your most positive vibes little Mia's way - she needs all the help we can give her to bring her through this.  Thank you.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Hocus Pocus!

Life has been pretty hectic one way or another the past few days so I've not had chance to get anywhere near the computer until now.  The deadline for my Witchy ATC swap has now passed and I must say thank you to all of you who joined in and sent cards - a few people had to drop out along the way due to other commitments, but I hope they might get the chance to join in some of my future swaps.

I've swapped all the cards out now and had intended getting them into the post on Monday, but unfortunately I've just not been able to get anywhere near the post office (see the rest of this blog and beyond to find out why) ..... so the plan is to get everything posted out in the morning (and keep my fingers crossed that the impending postal strikes here in the UK don't cause too many delays)!

The other night I was whizzing up some black peppercorns in my blender, ready to rub over some meat, when poof ! - hocus pocus! - like some magic spell, I was surrounded by a cloud of white smoke - it took me a few seconds to realise that my blender's motor had finally given up the ghost (well, I can't blame it really - I've had it for 33 years so it doesn't owe me anything does it)?  *LOL*

Monday morning I had to go pick up our long-awaited new car (you may recall our old car got smashed up by joyriders in a black jag) - as it turned out, we were still able to use the wrecked Mondeo in the Government's scrappage scheme which meant, for the first time ever, we could afford to buy a new car - something much smaller this time, more economical and eco-friendly, ideal for the sort of local journeys I tend to make - so we chose a Fiat Panda Active Eco in Samba Orange (it's actually a kind of metallic burnt orange, quite coppery) - orange is one of my favourite colours right now - we didn't want a dark colour this time, wanted something a little bit different and more visible (well, here's a picture of it and as you can see, it definitely IS visible!).  I was quite nervous about driving a new car again after a couple of months off the roads, but I'm gradually getting used to it and it's actually got a very easy user-friendly feel to it.  And with car tax at only a quarter of what we paid for the Mondeo and an economical petrol consumption, it can't be bad!

A few days before I'd filled out an online survey from the Grand Theatre here in Blackpool and as a thank you for doing so, received two free theatre tickets to a show of my choice - well, come Monday night my friend and I went into town and enjoyed a lively show "Dreamboats and Petticoats" at the Grand (a beautiful old music-hall theatre, marvellously decorated, one of very few listed theatres in the UK, built in 1894 by the architect Frank Matcham) - it's always a pleasure to go there, we're very lucky to have this theatre, and I really should go more regularly than I do - productions range from opera to ballet, comedy to mystery, musicals, one-man shows, pantomimes and concerts, something for everyone!  Anyway, Dreamboats and Petticoats was a rock 'n roll musical, lots of songs from wayback in the late 50s/early 60s, a real chance to wallow in nostalgia, and by the end of the evening most people were clapping and singing along, whilst a few more extrovert souls re-lived their youth by dancing in the aisles!  A great night out!

Then I came home to discover .......... but ah, I'll leave it there for now - it's been a very long day one way or another and I'm really tired ..... I need my bed.  I'll post tomorrow about the rest of my night, so come back then .........

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Beads, Witches and a Pussycat

Sorry it's been a few days since I posted anything ..... a combination of "real life" stuff, dental appointment, a bit of creative block and, very sadly, we had to take our very elderly (18 years old) cat, Baxter, on the one-way trip to the vets.  We knew his days were numbered, but making the decision (though the right one) was still so difficult.  He was the last of our cats (and was also the oldest), we've said goodbye to four others in the past few years, and it now feels very strange about the place.  No food bowls, no buying any cat food today, no little person hustling for a bit of ham out of the fridge or sitting on my lap, purring ...... yes, it's strange, it's the first time for almost two decades that we've been without any cat at all and the house seems so empty right now.

But onto other things ..... the Witchy ATC Swap.  Thank you, everyone who has sent in their cards for this swap, I've had a great response, and am just waiting on some arriving from the US ..... they're on their way, but unfortunately of course we have a national postal strike here for the next two days, which means there will unavoidably be a bit of a delay with swapping the cards out.  I promise I will be doing this as soon as I possibly can next week, barring anything else unforeseen happening!  What I would like to do is take pictures of all the cards and turn them into a slide show here on the blog, so everyone will get to see all the wonderful cards that have come in ...... I "think" I've figured out how to set up the slide show, just might not be able to add any tag line to say who sent what ..... so bear with me!  I'm still learning about what I can and can't do with all this blog stuff!

Finally, here are more images of my beaded jewellery, a bit of a mixture ...... some of the pieces I post are available for purchase. but if you would like something made up to a particular colour theme or using a certain stone or pearls, for instance, then I'd always be happy to discuss this with you and create a piece of jewellery to suit your needs.

This is a rather large netted amulet bag, with a "sea" theme - I got carried away with all the fringing and embellishing, it's full of little shells, stones and charms like the metallic seahorse and stone turtle.  Although it's quite heavy, it's balanced out by the beaded tube with fringed stones which sits at the back of the neck, so it's not uncomfortable to wear.

This "autumnal leaf" necklace is a lot more subdued both in colour and style.  Here is a close up of the leafy section, the leaves are attached slightly off-centre on the necklace and as they are each stitched on separately, you can arrange them how you like once you are wearing the piece.

The "bead soup" cuff with felted flower and the "lei" style flower garland above were both created as magazine projects.  The cuff fits snuggly around a 7" wrist and is created in peyote stitch using a mixture of coloured seed beads.  The "lei" consists of several strings of assorted beads, shells and pearls, all entwined together.

I've made a lot of amulet purses over the years, but this one was a little bit different.  I loved the cobalt blue which I used for the body and fringing of the purse; I then added a silver netted "skirt" over the top with a daisy chain strap, 24" long.    

The lime green and orange spiral necklace (above) was created for a Beadworkers Guild display with the colour theme "Citric".  This exhibition of beadwork travelled around the UK for a year at many of the craft and bead shows - it was one of the most stunning looking displays the Guild had ever put on and drew many positive comments from visitors to the shows, both beaders and non-beaders alike.

This amulet bag again has a netted skirt, this time working rock crystal stones into the netting, with a 24" long spiral strap ...... I can't claim the design is my own, it was taken from a pattern in a stitch magazine I had several years ago. 

This is my "Sweet Pea" necklace - the strap has beaded tendrils twining round it with flowers and leaves hanging from each end.  There is a toggle fastener hidden amongst the flowers, once you've fastened it you can arrange the flowers over the top to hide the toggle.  Here is a closeup of the flower section.

My final picture for tonight is of "Bagpuss" (how many of you remember - and love - the old children's programme about saggy, baggy Bagpuss and all his friends in the toy shop window?) - I designed Bagpuss as one of the pieces for my City & Guilds Beadwork course some years ago.  I first drew him out on bead graph paper and coloured in the squares with pencils (no high tech computer programs for me)!  As I stitched I would alter the shape slightly or change the colour of a bead here and there, until I was happy with the result.  I also made a pair of earrings with a mouse charm dangling from the end of each, using the same coloured beads.

Dear old Bagpuss - a little tribute and remembrance of our own sadly-missed Baxter, whose nickname was also "Bagpuss". 

Saturday, 17 October 2009

More Lucky Dip ATCs

Finally got enough free time to finish making the remaining two ATCs for the (Potpourri) Lucky Dip swap I'm in, so here they are. 

The first one is entitled (Whimsical) Caged Bird - I found a colourful tin parrot brooch in one of my jewellery chest drawers.  I snipped off the back pin with my pliers so it would sit flat and adhered it (with glue dots) over a colourful inked card and gauzy fabric.  I stuck the fabric to a double-sided adhesive sheet before carefully cutting around the glitzy leafy pattern, which I then laid over the background.  I created a cage for the parrot out of lengths of wire which I twisted together in a rather crooked, haphazard manner (hence the "whimsical" description) - the wire ends were threaded through to the back of the card and secured with tape.  I finished the ATC by adding some little dots, patterns and words.

The other ATC was titled "Weathered" - I made a background by sticking three sheets of assorted papers together, then scratching through the layers in places with a pair of scissors to create the look of a worn, pulled down billboard.  I sandpapered all round the card and used some black distress ink along the edges.  I then stamped the lady image over some old, aged bookprint and adhered to the front of the ATC, as well as crow, cat and spider web embellishments.  I roughed up the webs as they were peel-offs and I wanted to reduce the blackness of them for a more cobwebby effect.  An old fabric-covered button, ribbon, charm and handwritten words completed the card.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Witchy ATC Swap

Just a quick heads-up to remind everyone that the deadline for this swap is only 10 days away now (23rd October).  Barring postal strikes here in the UK, there's still plenty of time to join in this swap if you fancy having a go - some fabulous "witches" have been dropping through my letterbox on a regular basis for the past week or so now and I'm really thrilled that so many of you have had a go at making them.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Vintage Birthday Image

Thought I would post this vintage postcard image of a young girl with flowers for you tonight.  It may appeal to some of you to add to any cards you're making. 

I like the dreamy faraway look in the little girl's eyes and the subtle colour tinting.

I finally got round to doing a little bit of embossing today for a swap I'm in.  We had to create a 6" x 6" square tile and 12 inchies, all from matboard, using a particular colour range from turquoise through green to terracotta.  The only techniques allowed are inking, stamping and embossing - no embellishments!!! (which is tricky for me as I'm a great one for adding a few "twiddly bits")!  Anyway, I inked and stamped the "tile", lightly embossed a flourish around each corner, and then used clear UTEE to triple-emboss (well, it was double-emboss really, it didn't need a third coat) to cover the entire tile.  For the inchies I used a rubber stamp that Lindsay had given me - it was ideal because it has 12 cat images on it, each one 1" square.  The stamp is called "Kitty Tiles" (4578) from Hampton Art Stamps.  I made 24 inchies in total so that I could keep extras to use on some future ATCs.  Again, I "double"-embossed each little inchie.  So these will probably get posted out tomorrow and then Ali (our hostess) is going to mix up everyone's tiles and inchies so we'll each get back a tile complete with a pattern of assorted inchies on it.  I just love these colours!

I've also made a couple of ATCs for a Lucky Dip swap, we each choose from a list of titles - my choice was "Midnight", "Botanical", "Caged Bird" and "Weathered".  Here are pics of "Midnight" and "Botanical".  Two down, two to go!  I also made another botanical-themed ATC and have another two part made, as I had enough vintage bits of paper left over from the first one.  I used distress inks over the rather shiny plant paper and on the torn strips of paper from an old encyclopedia.  I used gel medium to adhere the paper strips to the background and as a coating over the whole card, which got rid of the shininess.  The card on the "Botanical" ATC is one of those old picture cards that came free in our tea boxes, the equivalent of cigarette cards, do you remember them?  I've added a flower shaped button, threaded with gauzy green ribbon, a skeleton leaf and a rub-on word.

Of course, I had to use Lindsay's "owl" stamp on my Midnight card - I've been using it a lot lately, plus her technique for blowing ink with a straw to create the stark tree branches the owl is sitting on.  I do like those techniques that turn out so random, you just never know what they're going to end up like!

I had the final set of instructions for completing the zetti pages I've been working on too - having added outlines and extra patterns to the pages with crayons or pastels, we now have to spend the next few weeks/months adding journalling to our pages, whatever we want, whenever the mood takes, and on which ever page fits the words (or vice-versa).  I've no idea how my pages are going to turn out, I'm not sure that what I've done so far looks "zetti", but .... we'll just have to see.  Apparently, there's no right or wrong way to do this, I guess I'll know when I've done enough on each page, then I send one out to each of the other participants.  Check out Elena's blog (My Name is Elena) in my bloglist to see what she has done - Elena has really got the hang of this zetti art and is turning out some wonderful looking work - well, I think so anyway, I know it won't appeal to everyone!

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

A Little Bit of "Eye Candy" !

Okay, so as requested, here are some of my beaded jewellery pieces.  As you can see, I have a particular love of using semi-precious stone cabochons, agates, crystals and pearls in my work.

This necklace has a piece of nephrite jade for the centrepiece, with a spiral ladder strap and a few "dangles".  I added rows of beads across the front of the stone for both decoration and added security. 

Turquoise is one of my favourite colours so I really loved the way this piece turned out.  I surrounded an agate slice with rows of peyote stitched beadwork, added lots of branched fringing (to give the effect of seaweed) and a soapstone dolphin across the front of the agate piece.  The strap is a double spiral ladder, with a mermaid shaped fastener, and the agate pendant can be slid off the necklace giving you two alternative looks.

The next two pieces of jewellery were created around one of my absolute favourite stones, Ocean Jasper, which is mostly if not solely found in the waters off the coast of Madagascar.  It has a wonderful dreamy quality to it. 

The first of the pics shows an ocean jasper cabochon enclosed in beads with chunky peyote spiral straps.  I used matte metallic bronze, olive and cream beads in a variety of shapes and sizes, as well as some bronze potato pearls, to create this piece.  It's very comfortable to wear.

The second piece is called "Sea Breeze" and I created this piece a few years ago for one of the themed display boards that accompany The Beadworkers Guild stand at various craft and bead fairs around the country.  I chose a gorgeous slightly irregular-shaped piece of ocean jasper for the centrepiece - it has an almost hypnotic quality about it and it made me think of lapping ocean waves against a shell-strewn shoreline, very peaceful, it's quite a meditative piece and one of my personal favourites.  I've used mother-of-pearl chips and a couple of jade beads as well as seed beads in a range of sizes, creating an assymetrical look by the use of a variety of spirals.

The last necklace I'm posting a pic of tonight is this purple-maroon agate stone.  I made the strap for this first, using a string of glass pearl beads, which were completely netted over with Delica beads, when I was away on a "beady" weekend at Alston Hall, Longridge.  When I returned home I had a root through my stash and came across this agate which perfectly matched the colours I'd used to make the netted strap, so of course it had to form the centre of the pendant.  I added a fringe of dagger drops and embellished the top of the pendant with lots of glass flowers.

Well, I hope you liked this glimpse of "eye candy" and I'll post more another time. 

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Woke up to a very blustery, windy and on-and-off wet day.  I'd planned to go over to Oswaldtwistle (in deepest Lancashire) to meet up with Lindsay as she was demonstrating some of her stamping techniques, card making, etc, at Dawn Bibby's Design Studio, but I was having second thoughts after I saw what the weather was up to.  However, I felt a bit stir-crazy as I've been cooped up in the house all week with a cold, so decided it was about time I got some fresh air!

I hadn't been over to Oswaldtwistle before, not realising that I could catch a train directly from here (still no transport since our car got wrecked - new car not due for another few weeks) by travelling from one of the smaller local stations - it was a pleasant enough journey, just over an hour, plenty of time for me to sit back and daydream as fields of cows, trees, streams and houses passed by my window. 

Dawn Bibby's Studio is directly opposite the station, so thankfully very easy for me to find!  Lindsay was in full demo-mode so I spent an hour or so there, picking up fresh ideas for using my distress inks and also making a few crafty purchases - the new Distress Stickles, which I'd not been able to find locally, and a couple of Halloween-themed sheets for use in my ATC making.  As you can see from the photo, the Halloween theme was very much in evidence at the Studio/Topaz Crafts shop!

I then popped over to the Oswaldtwistle Mills for a mooch around and a bit of lunch - picked up some candles, sweets, crumbly Lancashire cheese and "firecracker" olives (chilli and garlic) for my other half! 

I also picked up the Witchy ATCs that Lindsay has made, she's done a really good job on them and it's great to see them in "real life" as you can examine them closely and see all the detail that has gone into making them.  I've already had a few sets of witchy ATCs arrive this week and they are all looking good, it's wonderful to see how differently everyone has interpreted the witch theme.  I'm the lucky one because I get to see all the cards! 

I thought I'd post pics of some cabinet cards I altered some time ago - they've all been swapped out now - including one that I turned into a Witch.  The larger size of a cabinet card (it's about 4" x 6") allows for a lot more "altering" and embellishing.  If you come across any of these cards when you are out shopping or car boot rummaging, it's worth buying one to have a play around with - you can really let your imagination loose on them, whatever style of art or technique appeals to you.

(lots of acrylic paints, inks, stamping, embellishments and a beaded wire hanger)

(The name Clara was written on the back of this card.  Again, I used acrylics and stamps plus embossing powders and stamping onto torn vellum)

These two cab cards were altered for a "Crazy Carol" swap where we had to imagine they were eccentric or odd relatives