Thursday, August 30, 2012

Busy, busy, busy...

I haven't been getting a whole lot done in the jewelry department (or this blog, for that matter...) because I have been planning and getting ready for an extended cross-country road trip with family. From Seattle to Michigan, with stops at Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, Deadwood, and some random campgrounds in Minnesota, then I go back to the Chicago area to visit a friend, then fly home. I'll be leaving my dear husband on his own for two weeks, and I'm pretty sure he doesn't actually know how to work the clothes washer... so I have been working on making sure he has enough clean underwear to last.
I will probably post a whole bunch of pictures during vacation, because I'm obsessed with technology and photography, so I apologize in advance for the upcoming virtual vacation slideshow.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Historical Inspiration - Roman "S" Earrings

I like to find inspiration for my jewelry creations from historical jewelry. I look at collections from major museums and find beautiful jewelry from Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, Ancient Egypt, and Medieval Europe that would be perfect for people to wear today. Here where I found inspiration to make my green glass beaded "S" shaped earrings, below). (Available for sale here in my Etsy shop.)

MiscellaneaEtcetera Glass Beaded Roman-inspired "S" Shaped Earrings
Ancient Roman - from the British Museum - Sealstone Gold Earrings

Ancient Roman - from the British Museum - Gold Ear Ring

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Travel Tuesday - Mount Rainier National Park

Travel is one of my great loves. I plan dream vacations in my spare time (down to details like finding out bus routes and taxi company prices... but that is probably a touch of OCD along with a love of travel...) Unfortunately, sometimes life gets in the way of being able to jet off to exotic locations, but I have still been lucky enough to visit some amazing locations. I thought I would start sharing some of my past (and current, whenever I get to go visit someplace) destinations and pictures here.

I think it is fitting for my favorite place here in Washington to be featured in my first Travel Tuesday post - Mount Rainier National Park. The national park was established in 1899 as the fifth national park in the country. The park surrounds Mount Rainier, one of the tallest mountains in the lower 48 states.

Mount Rainier, from the road to Paradise

Mount Rainier NP has three major visitor's centers (and tons of wide open backcountry spaces for those who want to get away from people) 
  • Longmire, open all year at a lower elevation. Longmire has the National Park Inn, the only lodging open year round, as well as a general store, restaurant, museums, and gift shop. There are some good low elevation hiking trails that start at Longmire.
Logging exhibit at Longmire
  • Paradise, the most visited area of the park (and very well named!). Paradise is at around 5,000 feet in elevation and has amazing wildflower fields in the summer and up to 55 feet of snow in the winter.  There are tons of trails in the Paradise area, from paved, easy walkways to strenuous, mostly uphill treks. Paradise is also where the majority of mountain climbers start their trek up the mountain. You will often see full equipped climbers trudging uphill alongside the flip-flop clad tourists.Paradise has a brand new visitor center with a gift shop, museum, and food court and also has the historic Paradise Inn, open in the summer, with lodging and a restaurant.
Paradise wildflower fields in summer

  • Sunrise is on the east side of the mountain, and as it's name suggests, is a great place to see the sun rise on the mountain. Sunrise is at a higher elevation and at the end of a very twisty road, so it is only open in the summer time after the park service can plow the roads. No lodging at Sunrise, but there is a nice gift shop and food court as well as great hiking opportunities.
Mount Rainier from the Burrough's Mountain trail in the Sunrise area

We make a trip to Mount Rainier at least once a year, and every time we go there is something different. Winter visits to Paradise are a snow-lover's dream, but weather conditions are highly variable and often the weather is too dangerous to visit any elevations higher than Longmire.

Paradise in January - That's me, and somewhere behind me was Mount Rainier. About 15 minutes after this picture, park rangers suggested that we should go back to the visitor's center because the weather conditions were too dangerous.
When the weather does cooperate, Paradise in winter has miles of snowshoeing trails, opportunities for back country skiing, and a tube sliding hill near the parking lot.

That's more like it! Paradise in January.
Summer is the most crowded season at Mount Rainier, and for good reason! During the short summer temperatures climb, the snowpack melts, and wild flowers bloom like crazy.

Mount Rainier in August, peak wild flower time.
Of course, like winter, summer can also be unpredictable, depending on how the weather has been going... We have visited Mount Rainier in late July and early August a few years in a row, and one year we get beautiful wildflowers, but the next we get 5 feet of slushy snow still on the ground. Every year is different.

Paradise in July - high snow levels in the winter delayed the melt for over a month. We were hiking on over 5 feet of snow here.
Fall colors in the park can often be quite beautiful as well, as long as you time it right (after the wild flowers and before the snow flies).

Fall color at Paradise
Mount Rainier NP is less than a two hour drive from Seattle. The National Park website is a great place to find information about things to see and current conditions in the park. Mount Rainier is a sight everybody should see at least once!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

And this is why I don't bead on the couch...

I should know better! I just got a new desk, specifically for making jewelry. But it's down in the lower level of the house and I wanted to hang out with everybody else in the living room, so I brought a little tray with seed beads, thread and a needle upstairs to work on. 15 minutes later... everybody down on their hands and knees, tearing the couch apart looking for the lost needle. My husband even got his giant shop magnet-on-a-stick out to try to find it. No luck... hopefully I won't be stepping (or sitting!) on it later...

Anybody know of a good way to bead on the couch? I would love some suggestions.

Friday, August 10, 2012

In which I endeavor not to set the house on fire...

I got a lampwork glass bead-making kit as a gift a few years ago at Christmas but until now, haven't had enough room in the garage to be able to set up and try it out. We finally shoved everything to one side of the garage just this month, giving me non-flammable spot to attach a torch to a table.

Along with the kit, I also got an instructional book, which has pictures of gorgeous lampworked beads on the cover - aspirational, more than instructional... Working with molten hot glass is harder than they make it look in the pictures. My attempts at decorative dots were more like blobs, and I managed to create a perfectly round bead only by accident. But still, nothing exploded, nothing got set on fire, and I managed to make a dozen reasonably attractive beads. As with everything, getting good at this will take practice but it's another great hobby to add to the long list of crafty things I like to do!

Here are some pictures of the beadmaking process.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Good one, NASA!

I just can't get enough of NASA's new Mars rover, Curiosity. I follow it on Twitter (@MarsCuriosity - probably the funniest robot you can follow on Twitter...) and get excited every time NASA posts a new photo on Facebook. Just the idea that we managed to land an SUV size robot on a completely different planet, more than 100 million miles away - and it's beaming back pictures (from a different planet!) - it totally blows my mind. 

NASA is now getting the first full resolution images from Curiosity. Here's a photo of the surrounding landscape...

Photo from NASA MSL Mission website

And here's a picture of my latest vacation to Death Valley...

Hmm... I can hear the rustling of conspiracy theorists putting on their tinfoil hats... 

NASA has a sense of humor though, and even mentioned the resemblance at their press conference. Chief Scientist John Grotzinger even said, "You would really be forgiven for thinking that NASA was trying to pull a fast one on you, and we actually put a rover out in the Mojave Desert and took a picture."

Sure NASA, everybody knows you can just re-use the sound-stage from the "moon landing" anyway...

Here's the article on the Mojave/Mars resemblance. And here is NASA's awesome website for the MSL Curiosity.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Historical Inspiration - Bridal Knot Jewelry

I find many inspirations for my creations from historical jewelry. Here is a little bit of the story behind my collection of Tie The Knot jewelry.

Miscellanea Etcetera Tie the Knot Collection - Bracelet available here, Earrings here, and Necklace here

The knot a a symbol for marriage has been around for a very long time. There are many examples of ancient Greek jewelry with examples of square knots (reef knots if you are a sailor), also historically known as Hercules knots.

Hercules knots (most likely named for the strength of the knot) were originally used by the ancient Greeks in medical applications; tying bandages with this knot was thought to aid in healing. But Hercules knots also became popular as a wedding symbol. Belts worn by brides were tied in this knot (a strong knot, hard to untie - representing the chastity of the bride-to-be), to be untied by the groom after the wedding - and eventually the knot itself became a symbol of marriage and fertility that has persisted through history to present day in the common expression referring to marriage as "tying the knot."

Symbolic knots can be found in jewelry from ancient Greece and ancient Rome as well as in medieval jewelry. Here are a few examples that can be found in museum collections:

Ancient Greek - From the British Museum - Gold Diadem with Herakles Knot

Ancient Greek - from the Metropolitan Museum of Art - Gold armband with Herakles knot

Ancient Roman - From the British Museum - Necklace of gold links in the form of Hercules' knot

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

And now a backyard interlude...

We have scores of these guys dive-bombing each other (and sometimes us!) all around the house - both the orange Rufous variety and the green Anna's. I can't get enough of watching hummingbirds!

I can't really leave this little guy out, either. He looks like he is dancing!

And the most graceful of backyard birds...

No? Well, they do make me breakfast*...

*some assembly required