Saturday, September 3, 2011

Gardening in the Summer

Wild flowers I seeded in the fall when I added the bulbs out front.

Wayne and I have spent an awful lot of weekend mornings this summer planting more and more plants in our yard.  We are turning more of it into gardens and not grass.

Lambs ear and lily right after they were planted (before the deer got to the lily).
Almost all of the trees from Maryland DNR that we planted in the spring are still alive and some are thriving and over 6 ft tall already.  They were definitely a good buy and we are planning on ordering more for next spring.
Another import from Iowa.
 We have focused our gardening efforts mostly on the front and side yards where they are more visible to the neighbors and in case of the long ditch on the west side of the house where it is a pain to mow.
One of the hostas I planted last year.

Some of our newer additions, all clearance plants from Lowes.
 We have been working to take areas in the ditch and join them together so that now more than half of the side ditch has been started with plants.  We have also dug up areas in between where we planted some of the baby trees making them into larger garden area.  The plan is to continue joining areas between the trees so that it is easier to mow and less to mow.

Ditch along the side largely planted.

Red Sedum, we'd almost given up on them.

Side yard by ditch, more and more plants slowly filling it in.
I didn't originally plan to plant as much as we have or to plant all through the summer but as we discovered if you visit on a regular basis and are patient Lowes has wonderful clearances on plants as they get past their prime or are done blooming.  Buying plants at 50-75% off sure lets us plant more than we could have otherwise and has also let us try different plants to see which ones do well for us.  We have lost a few but we also have some that are thriving for us.

Many of the plants have been clearance plants from Lowes.

Gardenia for only $5.  What a deal!

Front ditch with periwinkle getting going.

Another view of the side ditch, it keeps changing.
I also ordered  a bunch of plants in the late spring that were very small and slow to get started but seem to finally be getting established.
Some of our 50+ baby trees.

One of our very happy black locust trees.

Another new area, this one with a ground rose, and daylilies.

Another picture of the side dich.

Beside the driveway, a challenging area that gets wet and hot.
With a lot of the plants I have been buying at $1-$3 we have been able to get much further than I expected to this year.  I have bought almost exclusively perennials so as they get more established they will get bigger and fill in the areas more.  We have slowly been adding plants here and there so we have a nice biodiversity.  We haven't gone with much of a plan other than we want a lot less grass but this has allowed us to make really good use of the clearance plants as we can get whatever looks good that is on sale.

It has almost become like a sickness for me and I even bought clearance plant the day before Hurricane Irene came barreling in.  I am getting ready to order Iris, daylilies and more bulbs to plant this fall and we will continue to add Lowes clearance plants.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Out of the Dirt Grow Iris

Those Iris need some dirt to grow in.
With as much time as I have been working on other projects including planting lots of real plants in our garden the mosaic has been taking a while to finish but that was expected.  I need to quit adding new thing to my to-do list, but as I write this I am getting ready to order Iris and bulbs to plant in the yard this fall.  A day before Hurricane Irene visited I was at Lowes getting a few things and ended up buying more clearance plants for the garden (they still need to be planted).
A bit of a closer look at the dirt.
Beading the dirt took 9 1/2 hours.  I was pretty impressed as it seemed to go fairly quickly.  When I was at Wire Fest in the spring I found some copper beads that are a bit bigger than 6/0 seed beads but they were wonderfully copper and copper seed beads were hard to find when I was ordering.  They are very irregular in shape and size which I like especially in the dirt since it gives the dirt more visual texture.
The other side of the dirt, shades of browns and blacks to coppers.
I like how the green leaves pop against the browns, blacks and coppers of the dirt.  The little copper leaves that are sprinkled amongst the dirt are not very tall so I will have to be careful when removing the excess grout to make sure that they show up.  

Blues and purple beads for the Iris.
 In the photo above you can see the piles of the different blues and purples that I chose to make the Iris with.  With the greens and the browns I was able to get all of the colors onto one tray but not so with the Iris colors.
My first Iris completed
 When doing the Iris I started all of them by doing the yellow throats first  and then did a few of the lighter colors that surround that.  After that I did each petal of each Iris one at a time.  I tried to use edges and values to separate the petals visually and think some worked out slightly better than others but think that I got the general look I was after.
Another Iris complete and a butterfly comes for a visit.
 Here you can see a closer look at the second Iris I beaded and a butterfly pendant I cut the loop of so that he could join the Iris in the garden.

Here you can see I started all of my Iris with the yellow of the stamens. 
Here you can see the first two Iris beaded together.  It has been really interesting for me to see this piece slowly emerge from sketches to a piece that will one day adorn our kitchen.  I know that adding grout will further change how the piece looks and I can't wait to see how this continues to evolve.

Three leftmost Iris beaded.
It is interesting that as I work on the piece how I approach the different sections slightly differently in how I add the different values and colors.  I have just been going with what feels right for each area hoping that my approach will get the feel I am after.
All 5 Iris beaded.
The Iris took 36 hours of work to get them completely beaded.  Most of the time I can only work on them an hour or two since my hand gets tired with the tweezers but I have had a few sessions that were longer when I was in the groove. As shown above the piece is at 64 1/2 hours of seed bead work.

Next time more leaves and some background.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What a Week It Has Been

Pile of tree trunk usable for firewood
 After the east coast all shook from the strongest earthquake to hit the area in over 100 years, life felt a bit shaky.  In ways I was glad that I had lived in multiple places that had earthquakes so that I was not nearly as shaken as many people seemed to be.  It was still one of the stronger quakes I had experienced but we were lucky that we didn't have any damage, not even any photos knocked off the walls.  It is nice to say it would have been better to have Wayne home rather than off in Florida for work but he would have been at work anyway so it wouldn't have made much difference.

When I went out to check on the outside of the house the neighbors had a tree guy at their house giving them an estimate on how much it would cost to take down their 3 dead trees.  I went across and talked to the man and since they were going to be in the area they could take our dead Tulip popular the same day.  Seemed like a good idea especially with a hurricane predicted to come up the east coast.
Light colored chips from our Tulip Popular as well as the neighbors.
They came on Thursday and took down our tree and the neighbors' three.  It was really cool to watch since I had never seen anything like it.  We ended up with a bunch of logs that can be used for firewood and a large pile of chips that we will use for mulch since with all of the gardening we have done we need lots and lots of mulch.

One of the 5 trees our next door neighbors lost,  this is one way to get a pond in your back yard.
 As if an earthquake and getting a tree taken down wouldn't have made an interesting enough week we got 2 1/2 inches of rain on Thursday night and had hurricane Irene headed our way.  I spent time trying to get ready for the storm.  We started getting rain very early on Saturday and by early afternoon had 2 1/2 inches and the brunt of the storm had yet to hit.  At 6:30 pm I lost power so I spent the evening listening to the storm.  Candles came in handy but even better were the LED lamps that I had that were battery operated and worked good for reading by.  Watching the wind come down and the wind whipping the trees around was amazing.  I was so glad we were not getting the worse of it and even more glad that I was in my nice snug house.
Here you can see 2 of the big oaks our neighbors lost (photo from our back yard.)
 The rain ended by morning (the rain gauge was completely full with another 7 inches) and then it was time to see what damage had been done and then to help people get trees off of driveways and make sure everyone was OK.  Our next door neighbors lost 5 trees and have at least a couple more that are seriously listing.  Luckily they did not fall on anyones house but it did take a crew of us to get all of the branches etc that had fallen onto the driveways of the neighbors behind them.
One of our baby trees that need to be propped back up.
 I was really lucky that we did not loose any trees although several of the baby trees we planted in the spring will need to be propped back up and probably staked until they can get their footing back.  Some of them are damaged with some splitting and damaged bark but hopefully we won't lose any of them.
Just some of the wood our neighbor Scott is adding to his wood pile.  He is going to have plenty.
 With all of the damage, it is amazing we came out as well as we did.  Some of the immediate neighbors had damaged fences, decks and even roofs and water damage.  Even then we didn't get hit near as hard as other areas of Southern Maryland.
More of the fallen trees.
 I had to do without power until Monday afternoon but I could still text Wayne to keep him updated by how I was.  We had water the whole time which was good even though had to be careful not to overflow the septic catchment since the pump to get rid of it is electric.
Still have trunks that will eventually need to be cut up and moved.
 I still have friends both locally and in New England that don't have power yet.  The bead store I teach at just got it today.  I think Trish is open partially because she doesn't have power at home yet.
Now the driveways will be passable.
I can't believe Wayne has missed the most exciting week we have had here in Southern Maryland in a long time.  I think if we would have had lots of damage I would have been more unhappy about him being gone but as a Nay Wife I learned that if something is going to go wrong or happen it will probably be when he is gone.
After the tree was removed from the edge of the deck.
 Overall I feel amazingly blessed that we came out of all of this in such good shape.  My thoughts and prayers go out to all of those who were not near so lucky.  My thanks go to all of those who checked in on me and offered their assistance if I needed it.
Another view of the cleared driveways and trunks of the fallen trees.
 What do you do when you have no electricity for almost 2 days.  When it was really dark I mostly read but during the day besides helping out lugging branches off of driveways and into the woods, I organized my studio some and worked on my backsplash mosaic.  So my time wasn't a total loss.
Fallen branches and trees took out and damaged sections of their new fence.
 The good news is that behind the storm came some glorious weather with highs in the low 80's and lows in the low 60's so the house didn't become a sweat box.  A couple of the neighbors had generators before the storm hit and by the time we got electricity back quite a few more got them as Lowes got a shipment in at some point.
Hard to see but the tree leaning against the right side of the roof damaged the roof and caused water damage inside.
I am hoping that September will be a much quieter month, Wayne will come home on Friday night (for Labor Day weekend and then be home for a week or so before he makes another trip and in the middle of the month I will have a trip to get together with several other wives that we were stationed with in Hawaii.  Still sounds much quieter than the last week.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Victorian Suite: Poem

For this suite of jewelry I decided to write a poem following the technique that Robin Atkins, an amazingly talented beader and friend teaches in her One Bead at a Time book (which you can download for free from her website).

You write a list of words and phrases that pop into your mind as you look at your beading and workspace.  You pick the words that are most compelling to you and then start with the phrase "I am __________," filling in your chosen word or phrase.  This is the first line of your poem, you continue using as many of the words or phrases as you wish.

It can be really interesting to see what comes from this especially if you don't try to over think it.  Here is my poem for my Victorian Suite set of jewelry.

I am Victorian Suite.
I am all things feminine,
Peaches and Cream, Laces and Hearts,
And yet I have a backbone of metal;
Covering hardness with softness.

With thread, memories are stitched into me;
linking the old with the new.
The fabric of my past links
Grandmother, Mother, Sister and Friend.

Flowers and spirals,
Pearls and opals,
The pieces I am made of,
Bring together all that I am.

With the cameo of a woman:
I mirror the woman who layered my parts;
So that I am so much more than I would seem.
How can wire and beads, doilies and filigree,
Make me into that which has infinite possibilities?

If you would like to read about the making of the pieces that make up Victorian Suite go here.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Victorian Suite

The last month and a half have been interesting. I have been sick most of the time getting back to back colds. Finally I am feeling healthier and trying to catch up on all of the things that I have fallen behind on. One of those was blogging and I have several things I need to blog about to catch everyone up on what I have been up to including traveling, gardening and some new creative projects.
Some of the pieces that were considered for the Victorian Suite
This blog is very overdue, once again contacted me to review more of their huge selection of beads and other products.  This time they wanted us to combine something new and something old.  This was perfect, when my Grandmother died at a mere 106 years of age a year and a half ago one of the things I got was any of her costume jewelry that no one else wanted.  Many of the pieces were broken or tarnished and I felt that I should include them in a new piece.  I also had pieces that I had gotten from other friends and family so I went through my collection of pieces to see if I could come with a cohesive idea for something that combined these reclaimed treasures with some new additions.

And then it happened,  I had a dream,  I don't often dream about my jewelry or a new art piece but when I do I know that it is meant to be and many things get figured out in this dream world.  The most interesting thing that came out of the dream is that this would not be just your typical piece of jewelry it would be a series of pieces that would fit together and would allow the wearer to choose which pieces to combine together.

Cameos, filigrees, pearls and beads from

I always find the biggest challenge figuring out what cool stuff I should try each time.  What will work with my idea best?  What sizes of beads, findings or other goodies will help flesh out my vision?  What colors and how many do I need?  With this piece I had a starting place of using the old jewelry pieces and except for the new items I got from I wanted to use stuff that I already had as much as possible.  The cameo earrings I already had helped set the color scheme.  I was thrilled when I saw that I could get additional cameos that although newer looking were somewhat similar to the ones in the earrings.  I also wanted to go with some filigree pieces since they would help with the more victorian lacy look I was after.

Pieces that can be used for the front of a chocker or as bracelets.
The first pieces I started working on for this Suite of jewelry was the cuff bracelets.  I made 3 of them which could be worn as a bracelet or combine together (2 of them) to be worn as a chocker.  I eventually made another one with no focal or beads for the back piece so that my hair didn't get caught when wearing the chocker.  I have had the piece of fabric, laces, and ribbons that I used for these for lots and lots of years so it was nice to finally use some of them.  

The top bracelet uses a filigree and cameo look face that I have had almost as long as the other pieces.  I used colored permanent markers to add a bit more age to them.  The small doily in the middle is one that I made years ago and then had never done anything with.

The middle cuff uses one of the filigrees and cameos that I got from  From the moment that I saw that filigree I knew that I HAD to have it for this suite of jewelry.  I glued the cameo onto it and also glued a opal heart earring that had lost it's mate that I got for being a bride's maid at a wedding.  I attached it using some of the beads that I had ordered. I also added a beaded picot border with beautiful Silver-lined Rosaline beads.

The bottom cuff has more layers of ribbon and a picot border with another doily that I had in my stash (not one I had made however.)   The center piece is a pin that my Grandmother had and I kept it as a pin in case I ever want to take it off and wear it alone.  One of the things I did end up having to buy was snaps,  for the life of me I couldn't find my snaps for these cuffs.

Single Spiral Rope piece to use as a bracelet or an accent in the necklace.
I found a strand of pearls that were perfect for suite of jewelry I was making.  These pearls are gorgeous and have a wonderful creamy peach color.  I used them with the 11/0 and 15/0 seed beads to make a single spiral rope piece that could be worn as either a bracelet or used with other pieces of the suite in the necklace.

3 pieces of the jewelry suite combined.
Above you can see 3 of the pieces combine to make a necklace.  I used lengths of the necklace from my grandmother that had a strand of links of fake pearls and a strand of gold colored chain for both of the top and the bottom pieces.  On the top piece I added a strand made with 3 lengths of ribbon.  The bottom piece I made links of 2 colors of imitation pearls from my stash as well as some tear drop shaped pearl links and added them to the chain strand.  The middle piece is the piece from above with the pearls.
Cuff chocker and necklace length put together.
Here the bottom necklace length is worn with the cuff chocker for a simple yet feminine look.
First of 2 wrapped wire focal pieces.
One of the things that was strongly in my dream for this piece were 2 focal pieces made with wire.  The two cameos here were also glued to their filigree back grounds before being wired to the wire shape.  The heart on the right was the necklace focal that goes with the opal earring used with the filigree on the cuff bracelet above.  I used both brass wire and silver craft wire for this since I was working with mixed metals and wanted to keep with that feel.  I used 11/0 Transparent Rosaline TOHO seed beads as well as 3 mm Rosaline Luster Fire Polished beads in the wire wrapping.
The other focal piece.
As you can probably already tell there are many ways to combine this suite of jewelry.  This one shows the other wrapped wire focal piece.  The center piece is a pin I had made many years ago and it seemed to be a good way to repurpose it since I no longer wear it.  In this piece I used all three colors/sizes of seed beads as well as the  3 mm fire polished beads and some more of the imitation pearls from my stash.
Here you can see one of the earrings that were an important inspiration for the suite of jewelry.  The earrings had nothing wrong with them except they were missing their backs so I quickly fixed that but wanted to make them a bit more interesting and in line with the other pieces so I made more pearl links and added them.
Which pieces should I wear?
More pieces make a more complex necklace.
One of my favorite combinations.
The three photos above show some of the more complex combinations that the suite can be used for.  I have always like jewelry that has versatility in how it can be worn so in a way this Victorian Suite of jewelry is an ultimate expression of that.  From pieces that can be worn together to wearing all of the pieces together the options are too numerous to count.  I am thinking I may have to make more suites in the future using more pieces from my collection of broken and forlorn jewelry and more of my seemingly endless stash of fabrics, ribbons, trims, jewelry goodies etc.

Disclosure...As a reviewer of products at, I receive the Pearls, Cameos, Filigrees and Seed Beads above free of charge. I have been asked to review these products and give my honest opinion of the products...positive or negative. I am not being compensated by for my endorsement as it pertains to the products received and reviewed.