Monday, December 17, 2012

Lace Beads or Tentacle Beads

My tentacle/lace beads are available in my etsy shop--teal and purple versions at this point.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Nature's Doughnuts and Organic Nuggets Glass Beads

New lampwork beads, in natural shapes and colors.
A set of matte-finished nuggets and rounds, with stone-like veins of silvered glass.
And two little sets of doughnut beads -- the loveliest little ring-beads -- in jade greens, fossil browns, golden wheat, terra cottas, tiger eye, and coral reds.
Someone needs to make some beautifully organic jewelry with these.  Available right now, in my etsy shop.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Caprock

If we drive north towards Tucumcari, NM, we are crossing the relatively level High Plains region, or Llano Estacado.  In December the fields are golden and uniform and dotted with cholla cacti and a few black cattle.  And then suddenly there is a narrow band of pines and junipers, and a steep drop of about 1000 feet in elevation.  And then the plains continue on again, flat and monotonous, for as far as the eye can see.  This is the Caprock Escarpment.

We spent this past Saturday walking around amongst the trees, rocks, and arroyos of the Caprock.  The escarpment is composed of caliche (hardened deposit of calcium carbonate) and the exposed rock cracks and fractures in blocks or sheets.  About halfway down the escarpment at our location there were big oyster fossils.  It is always fun to find evidence of sea creatures on mountains and in the deserts.

Nice photo of dry seeds lying in the little cup of an open prickly pear fruit, back-lit by the low winter sun.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Latest Custom Beads

Since these beads, made by Special Order, won't be leaving a pictorial record in my etsy shop, i would like to show them here, as eye candy for the bead enthusiast. :-)

First a big batch of colorful band o silver beads (of which half were etched before shipping).
A well-fed squirrel.
A skull with flowers and a lady bug (a real beetle happened by while i was photographing the bead so i couldn't resist putting him in the pic).
And a pair of personalized pendant beads.

As usual, if you would like something similar for yourself, plz contact me through my shop and we'll set something up.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sandy Stiltball

I got really excited earlier this month when one of my boys and i found ourselves surrounded by tall, shaggy-stemmed mushrooms in a rocky desert landscape.  When you walk the hinterland a fair bit and suddenly find something completely new to your experience, it is such a thrill.

Battarrea phalloides, with the cool common name of "sandy stiltball", can be over 15 inches tall, and the specimens we found ranged from barely emerging above the surface, to 11-12 inches tall.  There were about 30 sandy stiltball specimens around a small field between the golf course and Portales soccer fields.

Sandy stiltball is a stalked puffball.  Once mature, the skin on the mushroom cap sloughs off, exposing a rusty colored surface of spores.  (Pardon me for any errors in correct mycological terminology.)  It is recorded from California, Arizona, New Mexico, and northern Mexico.  And Brazil and Australia and Russia.  And Europe and the British Isles.  Interesting to imagine that the same species i found pushing its way up through my hard, barren, drought-stressed, New Mexico caliche soil is the same species that pops up in the Cotswolds and Hawaii.

On the surface of it, records of sandy stiltball's occurrence all over the world implies that it is a common species, but in fact it is really quite rare, with documented sightings being few and far between.  My websearch turned up only three other sightings for New Mexico.  We were extremely fortunate to have seen them. :-)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Fine Handmade Brass Nut Picks and Favorite Pecan Pie Recipe

One of my teen aged son's is making these beautiful little brass nut picks.  They are available for purchase through my etsy shop.  A shiny, handmade nut pick would make a lovely hostess gift, or unique gift for the gourmand on your shopping list this Christmas season.  Each pick is gift boxed and comes with a little Maker Card to show your gift recipient what good taste you have in artful handmade collectibles--aren't you thoughtful! :-)

Victor takes our extra pecans down to Mexico every year and sells them to a candy manufacturer.  Stray nuts we crush under our heals on the stoop for the winter birds to enjoy all winter.  (Photo: female dark-eyed junco.)

I highly recommend the Reed's Rocket Pecan Cracker, a nutcracker extraordinaire.

We have two large old pecan trees on our property, and despite the drought, they have yielded well.  The nuts of one tree are oblong and the meat breaks easily: perfect pecan pieces for quick breads and brownies.  The other pecan tree produces round nuts that crack releasing the halves intact:  perfect for baking Turtles and pies.

You are wondering if i know a good pecan pie recipe?  I sure do!

(from Texas Pecan Growers Assoc. website)

1 cup white corn syrup
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons margarine
3 eggs
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup or more chopped pecans (or place pecan halves on pie)
1 unbaked pie crust
Boil for one minute the sugar, corn syrup and margarine. Beat eggs slightly, add hot syrup. Beating until well mixed, add vanilla. Mix flour and one tablespoon sugar together; put in bottom of unbaked pie crust. Pour in filling; top with pecans. Bake in preheated oven at 425 degrees for 10 minutes; reduce heat to 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until firm in center.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Black Friday on a White Lake

We avoided the stores this Black Friday by heading to the hinterland for some fresh air and exercise.  We walked around a dry salt lake bed near Muleshoe, Texas, and i took photos of the terrain.  Honey yellow crystals (gypsum, i think?) are very plentiful in some areas about this lake, and i tried to capture them with some ground level shots.

In years when the lake has water in it, thousands of sandhill cranes can be seen here.  The surface of the lake bed was white as snow with the salts that have leached out of the ground.  Gasses that had formed just under the soil surface while it was still moist had buckled up the top centimeter or so of the bed into intricate folds.

Maybe one of these years it will rain again and this will all be under water and cranes.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Exploding Pyrex

It is Sunday night and hubby was taking his roast beef out of the oven when the hot Pyrex 9x13 pan exploded sending shards across the kitchen.  He had just placed it on the stove top (on an element that had not been on since my morning coffee) and taken his oven mitts off the handles.  Fortunately, there was only a little greasy juice in the pan, and there were no little children in the area.  But the fact that a glass dish can do this is pretty horrifying.

Wanting to know if this was more than just a freak occurrence i googled it, and found out that Consumer Affairs has a page with 1,230 Complaints and Reviews of Pyrex, 72% of which are very negative.

It is quite something to read the reports of consumers on the above site, as one after another they relate their exploding Pyrex experiences, often with injury from big flying shards of hot glass and spattering hot liquids, sometimes with burned floors and damaged ovens.

It appears that exploding Pyrex has been a problem here in the U.S. for the past two or three years and the mother company has denied all responsibility for resulting damages.  The company, World Kitchen, says people aren't heeding the small print on the labels and that burns and cuts caused by the shattering pans are the consumers' own faults.

Consumer Affairs provides an article that explains the findings of test results on the glass composing the Pyrex dishes in the U.S. vs the Pyrex pans manufactured in the EU (where Pyrex pans don't seem to explode).  Basically the EU cookware is still made using borosilicate glass (which is very forgiving of temperature shock), and the U.S. Pyrex is made using the cheaper soda lime glass (like i make my beads with), but they claim it is tempered, so that if it breaks from a temperature shock it will break in little cubes like automobile windows do.  Tests showed that this tempering is often absent in a dish or unevenly done.  In our own case, and in all of the incidents i read about, the glass broke explosively, in shards.

We only have one other Pyrex dish, and you better believe it has been retired.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Beads Thank You

Back in mid-September i participated in the Bead Challenge put on by the Beads of Courage organization.  This is a really neat organization that uses beads as part of a healing program for children coping with serious illness.  For example, they will get a bead to mark a radiation treatment, a transfusion, etc.

For the Bead Challenge, lampworkers from all over the world committed several hours of September 15 to making colorful beads for these children.  As a "thank you" for our participation, the organization sent us these really neat corded name beads.  I was a bit surprised at how proud i was to wear them, and it really brought home to me the power of this concept of marking significant life events with a bead.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

DIY Project: Recycled T Shirts Rag Rug, aka Cat Mat

My hubby and three teenaged boys wear out a lot of t-shirts and jeans, and i can't bring myself to throw them away.  The jeans turn into car blanket sort of quilts, but the i never knew what was in store for the t-shirts until i realized a person could make braided rag rugs with them.  This is a quick step-by-step of my process, but please do additional web research in order to get additional options.

old t-shirts (22 were used in this project)
fabric scissors
heavy thread (eg. quilting thread)
large needle
backing fabric (about 1.5 yd, depending on your finished rug size)

1.  I picked all of the red, grey, black and khaki green t-shirts out of my mountain of old cotton.  Using my sharp fabric scissors i cut off the bottom hem of the shirt (discard it), and then cut in a single, continuous, upwards spiral around the t-shirt, eyeballing a strip width of 2-2 1/2 inches.  Terminate your strip when you run into the armhole seam.

2.  If you pull gently lengthwise on each strip, the fabric edges tend to curl in on itself from the sides.  I put the ends of three long strips together, inner side of the fabric facing up (the edges thereby curl away from you and you don't see the raw edges), and pinned them to a heavy window curtain.  You use the natural curl to make the strips more rope-like, which makes them easy to braid neatly.  You may be able to think of something else to pin the braid to, but i found it comfortable to work standing, the braid pinned at about eye level, and then i could braid quickly for 3 feet or so, before unpinning and raising the braid up and re-pinning at about eye level again to continue braiding.  You want the braid to be fairly tight.

3.  To coil the rug, you want one super long length of braid.  When you come to the end of one t-shirt strip while you are braiding, you add another strip to it.  Here is a really handy method, which avoids the hard bump a knot would make:

 *Adding strips end-to-end:  a.) Cut a 1/2" slit in end of the old strip and end of the new strip.  b.)  Insert a few inches of the end of new strip through the slit of old strip, and stick the far end of the new strip through the slit of the new strip and pull the tail all the way through.  Give it a bit of a tug, helping with your fingers, and the join kind of melds with itself without a bulky knot.

4.   Braid all the material you have into one very big pile. You can finish the ends off by taking several stitches, in place, through all three layers of material and making a knot.  This tacks the three ends together without making a bulky knob.

5.  Starting with one end of the long braid, begin coiling.  As you were braiding, you always try to keep the side of the braid facing you nice and neat.  So when you are coiling and stitching now, keep the "untidy" side of your braid facing "up".  I opted to make an oblong-shaped rug by keeping the first about 1 foot of the braid straight, and coiling the rest of the braid around it.
Stitch the adjacent braid together as you coil the braid.  In the photo you can see the relative placement of my ladder stitches, using heavy thread (quilting thread in this case).  I would take about 20 stitches and then pull the thread taught.
6.  I used a heavy cloth that i had on hand, as the backing.  I know most rag rugs don't need a backing, but my rug seems a little loose, and it can't be handled roughly without becoming deformed, so it needs the support of a backing.  In case the rug you make also ends up needing a little extra support, i include my directions for backing it here.  I basted (heavy black thread in the photo) the backing fabric to the rug, taking a small stitch completely through the braid, and a longer stitch on the back.  I found that on the front side of the rug, this small stitch usually disappeared into the many little crevasses of the braid and were almost unnoticeable from the front side.  (But it would be wise to more or less match your thread color to your rug color.)  The stitching pattern is unimportant, but i started by making a cross, then did a star pattern, and then filled in the big gaps with squiggles.
7.  I turned the edge of the backing fabric under in a double fold hem and stitched it down to the rug, securing it only to the back surface of the braids (not taking the stitch straight through to the front).
I didn't measure the length of the braid it took to make this 3 1/2 foot rug, but 22 old t-shirts are still being used daily, and have the appreciation of a happy kitty.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Bitter Lake Nature Walk

It was an overcast day, although hardly cool in temperature.  The morning had brought a little rain and all of the plants seemed to be reveling in the moisture: leaves softer, petals perkier, berries brighter.  Here are some photos of yesterday's visit to Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Small Cement Patio Pots DIY

My most recent DIY project was making some of those sturdy cement planters that look so good on a patio.  I have no experience with this material, so i thought best to start small.

I did some research on the web, and learned that some fine and light medium like vermiculite is often mixed into the cement to keep the finished container from being too heavy.  Not liking to spend money on anything i can find for free, i gathered up the dried husk of pecan nuts (very light, and brittle, pulpy stuff) from under my trees, and hammered them to bits, mostly smaller than about 1cm.  I selected plastic containers like pop bottles and the thin black containers you have left after transplanting nursery plants, and paired them up so that i could imagine about 1 inch of cement between the two.

Working outdoors, I poured about half the 40 lb bag of cement into a pail, and added my pecan husk bits (~4 cups). I decided to add water to the cement based on consistency, rather than actually measuring out the dry mixture and the water, and this seemed to work out alright--i just added enough water, mixing between additions, to reach a consistency that would settle without air pockets when i jiggled the pail.

I scooped the cement mixture into the bottom of one container, filling it about half way, and then bounced it gently on the ground to settle out any bubbles.  Then i put the inner container into this container and wiggled it slowly down to about an inch from the bottom of the outer container, trying to keep it centered for evenness of wall thickness.  I usually had to spoon a little additional cement in to top up the walls, i tapped the sides a bit to settle the new cement, and then leveled the top of the cement a bit, if required.

I filled four containers using this pail of cement mixture.  I let the containers sit outside for 24 hrs, and then pealed the plastic containers away from the cement.  In places you could see a dark mahogany colored stain where the pecan bits leached a little.  Only one of the four pots was soft enough for me to drill drainage holes in the bottom--i'm thinking that if i had taken the forms off a little sooner and drilled, i would have had more success making holes.

A week later, i got around to painting a couple of my new containers with house paint, and filling them all with little plants.  They range in size from about 6-9 inches tall, and I think they look pretty nice.  I will keep my eyes out for suitable forms because i would really like to try a much bigger container next.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Skull Bead Ring

I found this cheap "add a bead" ring band at Hobby Lobby yesterday.  Since i'm making skull beads these days, i naturally made a skull bead for it.  [See my skull beads at The Bead You Need shop on etsy.]

The pin is fairly low profile, and it just unscrews with a screwdriver.  The bead i made has a flat back, so it fits nice and flat and comfy on the finger.  The band is one-size-fits-all, and it is almost too loose for my biggest finger, but if i made a thicker bead, that would take up the looseness.

I just need to get me some black leather boots and a Harley now, and i'm set.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Skull Beads-- Lampwork with Day of the Dead Appeal

One look at my etsy shop and you will know that i like to make bone-shaped glass beads.  The bones are good for either dog lover's jewelry, or Halloween jewelry.  Oh and i suppose paleontologist might choose wear bones.   And Day of the Dead aficionados.  And now i am finally rolling out my skull beads.

It seems like every year or so, i would try to sculpt a few skull shaped beads, and my results were terrible, and then, eventually, not quite so terrible.  But this year i seem to have finally figured it out and i am having a good old time making little skulls and decorating them with flowers, ferns and tendrils.

Please visit my etsy shop: The Bead You Need, for purchases or queries.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

It's a Boy! ... or Girl! baby sock monkey beads

If you know anyone who is having, or has just a had a baby, you must have one of my super cute little "It's a Boy!" or "It's a Girl!" sock monkey baby beads.  I am making these pink and blue sweeties for my etsy shop now.  They would make unique gifts for a baby shower, or for new mom and grandma.

I realize that not all of my customers are jewelry makers, and for those folks i offer to make you a bead pendant on a chain, at a unit price of $15 each, for base metal findings and chains. Sterling silver prices available upon request.  For more information, please contact me through my etsy shop:

[Keep out of reach of children.]

Monday, July 23, 2012

Personalized Lampwork Glass Beads

Have a special person, pet, school, town, place, or date that you would like to memorialize with a custom bead?  I now take orders to make personalized handmade lampwork glass beads for you.  Contact me here telling me your email address, or visit my etsy shop The Bead You Need to order/contact me there.

Here is a sampling of the personalized beads i have made for people.  I make them up as zipper pulls or as pendants, as you please.  Choose your own colors, choose your own words (i am usually limited to about six letter words), choose your preferred fillers (flowers, ladybugs, hearts).  You have both sides of a lentil bead, heart bead, or bone bead, to have me decorate at your direction.  Bead size will be about 18mm.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Earrings With Inner and Outer Beauty

My most recent beads are my idea of the perfect earring bead:  combining transparent glass with ivory and fine silver.

I had a really strong desire to see these beads made up in that natural, aged metal look that is so romantic and popular.  So i got out my sterling silver wire stash, and zapped off some rustic headpins by using my torch to melt the end of the 22 gauge wire into a ball of silver, then measuring 1.5 inches and snipping it off.

The round dot of color on my beads called for a round ear wire, i decided, so i wrapped 20 gauge sterling wire around one of my son's drum sticks, and snipped off the coils at a point just past the end of each wrap. I carefully filed each end to smooth and round them, and then i used rounded needle nose pliers to loop up one end.

I hard boiled two eggs and while it was still quite hot, i peeled and cut one egg into fourths and put it in a jar.  I then placed all of my silver findings into an open area of the jar and sealed it up.

I then ate the second egg in a salad with red lettuce, avocado, and tomato, cracked black pepper and ranch dressing...  but this is not a necessary step in making the earrings.  :-)

After about 45 minutes the sulfur from the hard boiled egg in the jar had darkened the silver findings to a nice dark patina, so rinsed them off and wiped them down.

When the light catches the domed face of my one of my beads, it positively glows, like moonstone, or like there is a light source within it.  Very fetching little earrings.  Available for purchase in my The Bead You Need etsy shop.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Newest Biz Card

Business cards are fun little pieces of paper advertising.  I enjoy designing them, but the tech stuff always frustrates me since i only know the most basic aspects of Word.  I wanted to make a new card for The Bead You Need, whose purpose is to be free for the picking up at a fundraiser that a customer of mine is involved in.  They will be auctioning (or something) a couple of my "Sock It To Cancer" sock monkey beads.  Good luck!!

So here is my new biz card, but i also want to show one of the neatest cards i have collected: the old tinted photo of the bathing beauties of Neal' Lodges.