Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wednesday is Library Day!-

Okay, this is a weird book review day, 'cuz I have two books to share that I couldn't finish- VERY rare for me.

The Soprano Sorceress by L.E. Modesit, Jr.
From Modesit's website: When Anna Marshall is transported from her boring and frustrating life in Ames, Iowa, to the very different world of Erde, she’s angry and confused, but soon finds out that for the first time in her life she’s uniquely powerful. In Iowa Anna was a music instructor and small-time opera singer, but on Erde her musical ability makes her a big-time sorceress—potentially.
First she must figure out how to use her ability before the big-time rulers who’ve noticed her arrival kill her just because she’s an unpredictable new power….Those rulers may wish they hadn’t waited as long as they did.

I LOVE this book. This was my second read-through, and I enjoyed it quite a bit more this time around. I think I related more to Anna this time. I understood her home-sickness and missing her daughter. Last time I wasn't a mom, and I thought she just needed to get over it, and deal with what was going on around her.
This time I could imagine what it would feel like to never see my girls again. I liked the fact that Anna was someone who had lived a little more life and had more experience. I think I first read this about 8 years ago, at the age of 30. I'm closer to Anna's age now, and could understand where she was coming from better.
Good characterizations. A fun new world. Fully realized magical phenomenon with end results and consequences. Good plot and story-telling. Good pacing.

The Complete Jewelry Making Course by Jenks McGrath
From the cover: This is a complete course in designing and making jewelry. Carefully structured tutorials guide you through every stage of the process, revealing how to translate inspired ideas into workable, wearable designs.

An excellent, easy to understand book. Mcgrath is a teacher and uses very clear pictures and descriptions. Her advice is interesting and sometimes different than my professor's, but always fully explained. I love her clear step-by-step photos. In particular her first two chapters give excellent explanations of how to turn your inspiration into wearable pieces. Also, I appreciated the focus on WEARABLE pieces vs. art jewelry.

The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First Superhero by William Kalush and Larry Sloman

From the cover: Handcuff King. Escape Artist. International Superstar. Since his death eighty years ago, Harry Houdini's life has been chronicled in books, in film, and on television. Now, in this ground breaking biography, renowned magic expert William Kalush and best-selling writer Larry Sloman team up to find the man behind the myth. Drawing from millions of pages of research, they describe in vivid detail the passions that drove Houdini to perform ever-more-dangerous feats, his secret life as a spy, and a pernicious plot to subvert his legacy.

I have been interested in Houdini since the fourth grade, when my best friend LOVED him, and could tell me story upon story about him. I wrote a research paper on him in high school, and know quite a bit about his life, and his magic.
This is an amazing book. I truly cannot believe the amount of research and detail invested into a deep exploration of his life. I am persuaded that the authors know what they are talking about and have the proof to their claims.
In fact, much as I hate to admit it, it was too much detail for me... I'm sorry! I should be willing to commit to more time with this book, but I'm just not. I'd much rather read a book about half the size of this tome that gave me some of the same info, just with less detail.
Sum up: Houdini was a spy. And he may well have been murdered. He lived a really interesting life, and was haunted by some pretty freaky nightmares.

The Pretender's Crown by C.E. Murphy
From the website: It has been ten days since the events of The Queen's Bastard; since Belinda Primrose was exposed to the Gallin court, escaped a Gallin prison and laid a trap to kill a Gallin queen. She is home now, back in Aulun, in her mother's kingdom. That is no surety of safety. Her father, the Queen's beloved Robert, is still missing, Belinda has been undone -- frayed if not entirely unravelled -- by her time as Beatrice Irvine and Sandalia's death has riled Echonia to war.
The fragile web of power and allegiance that kept the peace has been shattered. Led by Javier de Castille, tormented by the witchpower he fears is evil and the memory of the woman he loved, the Ecumenic Princes amass their armies to bring their full might down on apostate Aulun. To the east the Imperatrix Irina waits to see which side to offer the support of vast Khazar and behind the thrones men who wield the witchpower watch with satisfaction.
Dragged into the light after years spent serving in the shadows Belinda must find a way to reconcile loyalties that have never before come into conflict: to Lorraine, to her father and his strange masters, to Aulun and to the world.

I love C.E. Murphy! I have loved her other series- Walker papers and Negotiator series.
But I haven't enjoyed this series. This is the second book in her Queen's Bastard books. I read the first one, but I won't read the rest of them.
Too much political intrigue, and HEAVY thick regency-style writing. Too much sex and anger. Too much bashing the church and too much evil in the church. Slow paced.
I got about a third of the way in, and realized I didn't want to spend any more time reading the book. I read the last 5 or so pages and I am letting it go. I know what happens. (I won't tell you! You might want to read it on your own.)
C.E. Murphy is an excellent author who creates wonderful believable characters- flawed yet lovable. I just couldn't get into these two...

I love to read!

Mark Twain said, "The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them."

I just read an excellent article about teaching kids to LOVE reading at Parenting Magazine. Here's the address: (I wish I knew how to embed addresses rather than just pasting them in...)

The authors focused on how to encourage their interest in the stories and sounds of words, rather than focusing on teaching them how to read.
That's my goal! I don't want my kids to be able to read, but hate to sit down with a book. I want them to LOVE books, and the pleasure they can find in exploring a new world through words.

When I was teaching english at Chrysalis, my goal was to encourage kids to enjoy reading, rather than seeing it as a chore- I worked with several kids who HATED reading. Hating the work, hated the words. I felt so sad for them. Man, they miss out on so much!

I will never forget the first time I read a Nancy Drew story, or Skippy Jon Jones, or The Wizard of Oz, or The Forgotten Key... so many wonderful stories. I LOVE to read! Books have been my doorway to understanding other people, other times in history, other races, other beliefs... I am a better person because of my love of books.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Movies for Little Princesses- The Little Mermaid

Another movie for parents of girls who love princesses.
The Little Mermaid by Disney
I am probably going to shock you. (Maybe not, if you watch movies with your daughters.)
As a parent, I don't really like this movie. I can still enjoy it for the music and fun and beautiful drawings. In my opinion, the music in Little Mermaid is some of the best Disney music out there- think "Under the Sea" and "Kiss the Girl". The mermaid world is stunningly lovely. Ariel is delightful. The relationships with Scuttle, Sebastian, and Flouder are delightful.

However, the movie portrays a girl who disobeys her father and a father who is unreasonably angry at a people group. Until you see the more recent movie, Ariel's New Beginning there is no context for her father's hatred of humans.

He destroys some of her most prized possessions with little or no reason and no apology. He is violently angry, and then completely wishy-washy when he sees her so happy... Weird. I'd much rather he be a little more consistent and a lot more reasonable. Not someone I want the girls to see as a father figure. I hate the idea of them connecting Poseidon with Jake or God.

She disobeys him, plays with evil and nearly destroys her entire family. Yet, in the end, it all works out. She gets her way. Evil is destroyed and her relationship with her dad is restored... Not someone I want the girls to see as an appropriate role model.

Sebastian, Ariel's teacher and music leader, is portrayed as a helpless victim to Ariel's schemes and dreams. Not someone she can trust. Someone who will lie to her father because it makes her happy.

Not really a movie I want my kids to take to heart! Disobey your dad on something really big and you'll get your wish. Elders will lie so you can be happy. Play with the dark side and get your wish.

One Good Thing- I can encourage the girls to look at the relationship between Flounder and Ariel as a positive role model for friendships.

Sum up: I like the movie as long as I don't think about my girls watching it and loving it.

Melatonin for little sleeping angels

My girls don't sleep. At all. I swear. Sometimes the two of them play or read in their beds until one or two in the morning. And it happens A LOT. It doesn't matter what we do- My mom goes in to their room and talks to them. I go in to their room and give them a mild swat. Jake goes into their room and yells. We'll run through this crazy routine over and over and over. Every night. INCREDIBLY wearing.

And then they are tired and cranky and miserable the next day. Falling apart over the least little thing- choosing clothes, having their hair combed, eating food... Mornings can be horrible.

I've had 4 different people tell me to try Melatonin on them. I was INCREDIBLY leary until one of the moms at Building Blocks (Abigail's Ocupational Therapist) talked about it and then Abigail's OT said she used it with her boys. So I geared myself up, and tried it over the weekend.

I LOVE IT! They slept almost 12 hours straight for two nights in a row!!! Happy girls. Happy Mama! =)

Jake is leary about the long term effects of Melatonin, so he is going to do some research. (My husband hates & distrusts all medication, and won't take it for his migraines until he is practically blind from pain.) Until he learns something bad though, I get to be thrilled!!!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday is My Fun Day- Labradorite Ring

Here's some of what I'm working on- A double layered ring with a Labradorite cabachon.

I love Labradorite! (Think 'Labrador retriever', then add 'ite' to the end.) Such a pretty stone- I love the fire within it. Rather like an opal or Tiger's Eye. Like Tiger's Eye, Labradorite's fire is caused by natural Asbestos within the stone. Isn't that cool?

I wish I had a picture that truly showed the magnificent fire within the stone- None of these shots come close.

The first thing I did was make the inner layer of the ring. I cut it, filed it, and soldered it together.

Then I made the outer layer. Same process- I cut it, filed it, and soldered it. Then I decided to forge (or hammer) it. I love hammering! I love how it gives the silver a faceted surface that shines and shines. I got to just pound away at that layer. I left the surface where I planned to attach the stone un-forged and flat so that it would solder together more easily (learned that trick from my hoop butterflies!)

Here's where the first problem happened- I had made the outer layer a bit bigger than I thought. When I hammered it, it stretched the metal and made the ring about half a size bigger.
So to get them together, I had to stretch the inner ring a bit and squash the outer layer. And I'm so glad that happened!
I LOVE the domed affect it gave the two rings.
I had to keep the inner ring level while I squashed the outer ring so that they would fit together. But then, the way they fit together, I didn't even have to solder them together. The two layers fit perfectly together, with the inner one actually cupped by the outer one.

The domed surface of the ring band looks really cool, and gives the ring a heavier look. So I'm actually very happy about my mistake!
Then I started working on the bezel for the cabachon- (the 'cabachon' is the stone that's been cut and prepared to use in metal-smithing. The bezel is the metal that holds the stone snug.)
And this is where my second problem occurred. I had originally intended to use a Tiger's Eye cab from my dad's metal-smithing stash. And either somebody brushed it off my desk, or took it, or it magically went abracadabra...

However it happened, my Tiger's Eye cab went missing after I had already started working on the bezel.
In fact, I had measured and created the bezel specifically for that Tiger's Eye cab, and it was gone. Which made me just about cry- I didn't realize how much I wanted to use my Daddy's cab until it was gone.
Beth graciously offered the Labradorite, but the bezel was a little too small. We worked with it, stretched it, and shoved the Labradorite cab into the bezel. So it doesn't quite fit, but it works.
After preparing the bezel, I soldered it onto the ring. Not perfectly. But solidly.

I'm actually really happy with the ring. It's an excellent ring for a first time, and the beautiful Labradorite covers up most of my mistakes.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Kindergarten Registration

Today I registered Abigail for Kindergarten next year!

It's shocking!

Feels like only yesterday I was sleeping with her on my tummy...

Feeding her strained carrots...

I cannot believe she is old enough to start kindergarten!

My little baby.

Wednesday is Library Day!

Ooh! I read some GOOD books this week. I'm gonna have trouble choosing which ones to talk about!


North by Northanger (Or the Shades of Pemberly) by Carrie Bebris
From the jacket: First, a letter from Lady Anne Fitzwilliam Darcy, long deceased, is discovered. The contents are both mysterious and prescient for the new Mrs. Darcy. Then, a summons to Northanger Abbey involves the young couple in intrigues that threaten not just the Darcy legacy and good name, but Darcy's freedom as well And to make matters even worse and more uncomfortable for the expectant mother, Darcy's overbearing aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, arrives on the scene to further bedevil Elizabeth.
Add to this rumors of treasure and past scandals, and it becomes obvious that peacefulness is not at home in Pemberley but secrets and spirits of the past are, and their revelations can have a most chilling effect on both the Darcys and their family to come.

If you enjoy Jane Austen, you will enjoy this book. Although it is the third in the Darcy Mysteries, I haven't read any of the others so I can't say how it compares- I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery. Bebris captures Austen's characters so well, and although her writing is not as brilliant as Austen's it sparkles with wit and charm.

Monday Mourning by Kathy Reichs
From Publishers Weekly: Forensic scientist Tempe Brennan isn't happy: it's freezing in Montreal, her detective boyfriend is giving her the cold shoulder and her macho colleagues won't take her seriously. When Reichs's heroine is called in to examine three skeletons discovered in the basement of a pizza parlor at the start of the seventh installment in this popular series, her instincts tell her a crime was recently committed. Chauvinistic homicide detective Luc Claudel doesn't agree, but Tempe forges ahead and soon discovers that the victims are young women, probably teenagers killed sometime in the 1980s. Already feeling vulnerable because she's left her beloved daughter, Katy, back home in North Carolina, Tempe is further troubled by the indifference of formerly avid lover Andrew Ryan (another Montreal detective). Meanwhile, new developments lead Tempe and her reluctant colleagues to suspect a creepy former pawn store owner of serial kidnappings, torture and grisly murder.
What's best about Reichs, and often unappreciated in reviews, is not the informative detail that she brings to Tempe's forensic sleuthing, though that's certainly engrossing. It's the same well-observed detail and incisive analysis applied to other aspects of the story. Tempe deconstructs Ryan's every evasive gesture and casual comment and describes an ominously darkened room, the glow from a UV light and an armada of snow plows with vivid precision. Here, as previously, readers will be as invested in Tempe's life as in her case.

Kathy Reichs characters inspired the TV series 'Bones', and although the shows reflect her characters it is NOT exactly the same. When I ignore most of what I know from the TV series, I thorough enjoy these books. Don't go into them thinking they are the same- they're not. However, they are excellent mysteries, and well worth the time. I enjoy her characters and attention to detail. I care about the people in the story, even the dead ones. I love seeing Tempe figure out what's going on.
My only annoyance is the fact that in almost every book Tempe figures something out and then she has to convince the same police crew what she knows. Come on! You'd think that by seven books into the series they would give a little more credence to her intelligence and ability to figure things out!

The Mermaid's Madness by Jim C Hines
From Publishers Weekly: In this fast-paced second installment of the Princess Novels, author Hines tells the story of the Little Mermaid through the eyes of Danielle (the Cinderella character), Snow (Snow White), and Talia (Sleeping Beauty). In this version, the undine princess Lirea (the Little Mermaid), who takes on a new name-and personae, has gone on a rampage against undines and humans alike. Her insanity has led her to capturing the Queen of Lorindar's soul inside of a magic knife. The fairy tale framework provides a hook for the reader into this trio of engaging, effective adventurers taking to the high seas-without any dainty pretensions-to save their kingdom and the people they love. Although Hines attempts to incorporate the true stories about the princesses' early lives, these details fail to add much psychological depth to the characters and often come off as pasted-in distractions. Fortunately, the smooth flow of dialogue and action compensate, making this a nearly effortless read. This novel will appeal to anyone who yearns for the heroines of their childhood-or just a witty, well-constructed adventure tale about powerful women stepping up with skill and cleverness.

Magic, Mayhem, Fairy Tales, Humor, Adventure, Strong female characters...
What more could a girl ask for? I loved both of these books. Hines deconstructs fairy tales, and re-tells them with a modern twist. I disagree with the review when it states that the details seem forced or pasted-in. I didn't find them distracting or un-important. I wish I knew the characters a little better, in particular, Talia; however, I believe the details he throws in about her past.
He definitely chose the correct character to tell the story- Cinderella or Danielle, as Hines names her- is the most sympathetic one, the one you relate to the most.
I love the mermaid/undine world he creates, and felt their conflict in attempting to save the princess while still removing her from her position.

500 Necklaces: Contemporary Interpretations of a Timeless Form edited by Lark Books
From the product review: More artists make necklaces than any other form of jewelry—and these pieces are among the most exquisite ever created. Selected from over 5,000 entries, they range from unique chokers to artful collars. Some showcase precious metals and gems, while others use more unusual materials, including plastic, wood, paper, and glass. They’re forged, cast, and woven, and have surface embellishments that run the gamut from inlay to enameling. And the variety is simply astonishing: Classic bejeweled chains appear next to avant-garde felted wool constructions. Some of the eye-catching, full-color images feature enlightening quotes from the creators themselves. Jewelers, students, collectors, and anyone who loves beautiful objects will treasure this extensive collection—the largest of its kind.

I admit it... As much as I loved the last one- Earrings, I think- this one just wasn't that good... I was hoping for more practical designs- beautiful, but sellable. And most of the pieces in this book are "art pieces". They were not meant to be worn.
Here's 2 examples: one necklace made of matches with before and after pictures of it being burned, another made from rocks as large as my head.
So, while I was hoping for inspiration, I mostly looked at stuff I couldn't even imagine working with- floating circles of feathers, huge metal contraptions for you to 'hang' your hands from, another made from human hair, another made into the shape of a rubber penis and hung right in front of the crotch...
I did see some stuff that made me think of other things, though. And that's good...
Not a book I'll purchase, though.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My Adventure Girls

Jake takes the girls on adventures most weekends. He packs his backpack with snacks, tang and extra clothes, and heads out.

I know where he is going and he always takes his cell phone, so I'm not worried about them.
They have FUN.
It amazes me how far they get! He's exploring different areas around Fairbanks, and letting the girls be 'Adventure Girls'. It's wonderful!
I'm delighted with the memories they are making.
Right now, my ankle still won't let me do all the traipsing and hiking they are doing. I HOPE I can join them some this summer... We'll see.
Isn't my husband awesome? =) He is a good daddy.

Movies For Princesses- Nutcracker

Does anyone else out there have little girls who love all things princess?
We are in need of honest reactions to some of the princess stuff out there. My daughters really and truly don't like anything unless it has a beautiful princess in it.

They watch with some pleasure the Little Einstein movies, but really, all they want is a princess.
When they first got sucked into the princess craze I got really UPSET. To say the least.
Some of the people I knew who'd been raised with the 'princess' mentality had the expectation that all people should treat them like a princess, like they deserved anything they wanted, and shouldn't have to deal with consequences.

I was very unhappy with their love, until I found a specific princess book. I don't remember the title, but it was about how a princess should behave- respectfully, kindly, politely... It was great! The girls and I read it, and talked about it, and I decided that if that was how I could encourage my daughters to look at being a princess then I would go with it.

Now, I've found some Bible stories about Queens and heroines (Queen Esther, Deborah, Miriam), and I've been able to talk to them about being a 'daughter of the king'.

So, I'm gonna share one of the movies the girls like, the conversation it started between me and the girls, and what I don't like about the movie.

Barbie in The Nutcracker

Mattel has taken the Nutcracker story, and turned it into a tale about determination and endurance.

The story is a story within a story- opening with Barbie and her little sister, Kelly, practicing for their parts in the Nutcracker ballet. Kelly is having a lot of trouble with her part, and decides to just give up. Barbie tells her she knows she can do it, just like Clara. Then she tells a story which circles around the traditional ballet based on Tchaikovsky's music.

Barbie and her escort, The Nutcracker, must defeat the evil Mouse King, and restore the Nutcracker's magical kingdom to it's rightful glory and order. Along the way there are more creatures and derring-do than in the original. The animated dancing is gracefully adapted from New York City Ballet choreography. New York City Ballet's Peter Martins choreographed the animated film, and The London Symphony Orchestra provides the music. Tim Curry does a surprisingly fun and chilling Mouse King.

The movie is a little frightening with the Mouse King suitably scarey and overwhelming; however, since Barbie is telling the story the girls were not horribly frightened. The Mouse King and all his henchmen are presented as fantasy and they did not inspire nightmares, at least for my girls.

I like the fact that Clara and the Nutcracker must endure some pretty difficult things to defeat evil. I've talked to the girls about their determination to keep going even when all hope is lost. Oh, yeah, and Clara is the heroine. She's the one that rescues the kingdom. She needs the help of her friends, but it is still her that does it.

Also, the Nutcracker was formerly the prince, and he was known for being rude, selfish and thoughtless. During the course of the movie we see him demonstrate how he has changed, and his efforts to take care of those around him. At the end he apologises to all his kingdom's people, and is restored to himself.

So here's the Princess Points (points the girls and I can agree on):

Barbie +
Dancing +
Good story +
Good moral +
Character change +
Heroine +
Fantasy +

What I don't like- the ending of the Mouse King is a little fuzzy. He's not destroyed or killed, he just kind of disappears and is never heard from again.

Barbie is a little un-real. Ya know? She doesn't look like a real girl, more like the doll. The story is good, but I would have liked it better if she looked a little more like a real teenager. They do a pretty good job making Kelly look like a little girl, though.

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Godly Man

"A godly man is never threatened by the gifts of a godly woman." Rick Warren on Twitter.

Maybe that's why my sweet husband generally doesn't feel threatened by me? He gets annoyed at me. He gets mad at me. He gets irritated by me. But I don't think he feels threatened by what I can do.

God, Thank you for the gift of my husband.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Friday is My Fun Day!

That's what I'm going to call it. It may not be the best or most creative name, but in honor of Sheryl Crow I'm going with it. ;)

Here's my creative endeavor for the day: My first ring.
I'm actually pretty happy with it.

Since this is a two-layer ring, my first step was to create the inner ring. I cut it, filed it, and soldered it together.

Next, I created the outer layer- I cut it filed it, and then before I soldered it together, I pierced it and added the vines and leaves. Which was a pain, 'cuz I used very fine gauge silver. I thought it would be easier to cut, but it made it harder in the long run. The whole piece kept bending, swaying and buckling with ever cut. Argh. But I was determined! And I got what I wanted.

Then I soldered it together at the ends. Then I fit the two rings together and soldered them together. I'm not thrilled with the seam on the outer ring, but it's my first attempt at ring soldering and it's not too terribly bad really.

To get the lovely dark lines and patinaed effect I soaked it in Liver of Sulphur. Then I sanded & polished it. I'm really happy with what the Liver of Sulphur did to it- a chemical dark patina.

It's a very sturdy and attractive silver ring. One of a kind, since I will never be able to exactly match the vine pattern again.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Wednesday is Library Day!

I've been reading! Bet you didn't know that, huh?

Kindred in Death by J.D. Robb
From the cover: When the newly promoted captain of the NYPSD and his wife return a day early from their vacation, they were looking forward to spending time with their bright and vivacious sixteen-year-old daughter who had stayed behind. Not even their worst nightmares could have prepared them for the crime scene that awaited them instead. Brutally murdered in her bedroom, Deena's body showed signs of trauma that horrified even the toughest of cops; including our own Lieutenant Eve Dallas, who was specifically requested by the captain to investigate. When the evidence starts to pile up, Dallas and her team think they are about to arrest their perpetrator; little do they know yet that someone has gone to great lengths to tease and taunt them by using a variety of identities. Overconfidence can lead to careless mistakes. But for Dallas, one mistake might be all she needs to bring justice.

Over the last 2 months, I have gone back and re-read this entire series. I like Robb's writing- She is incredibly gifted at creating characters- painting a vivid portrait in one or two lines, but then she is also pretty amazing at filling in those lines with details. Her mysteries are often not 'true mysteries', in that she does not give the reader everything they need to figure out who-dun-it. Instead, much like a cop show, she follows the police as they investigate the murders and figure out who and why.
She's good, and reading them again reminded me of why- yup, she tells an excellent story, but with her it's all about these characters that you come to know, love and understand. In this series, I particularly enjoy seeing the married couples- they are what we want married couples to be- together. They argue, disagree, and drive each other crazy, and have a great bed-room life; however, they stick it out... Robb also adds in other characters you come to know and love- the partner, the medical examiner, the reporter, the wacky friend...

500 Earrings; New Directions in Contemporary Jewelry Compiled by Lark Books

From the cover: These exquisite earrings, chosen especially for this collection by award-winning artist Alan Revere, capture the most prevalent concepts in contemporary jewelry: exploration of materials, innovative methods, and contemplative solutions alongside a traditional search for beauty.

Fantastic book. Very useful. Wish I owned it, and hadn't borrowed it from the library! The Lark book 500 series is a great idea- they've got a wide variety of them, from jewelry to chairs, from hand-made books to art quilts, from baskets to knives...
I got a lot of ideas out of this one- not that I'm going to copy anything! I'm going to reflect the ideas I see, and make them mine, and I hope, better. ;)
Now that I'm doing metal-smithing so many avenues have opened up, and the book lets me know some of the things that are possible.
A lot of the pieces in this book are purely for the sake of art- not wearable at all- and I want to do wearable art. A whole philosophical difference... Maybe if I were back in school, and could make jewelry just for the process itself and not to learn my craft I would be making different pieces. I don't know. Right now, my goal is to gain a solid knowledge of the craft, to have fun, and to decide which tools I want to invest in for my own shop. I hope that in this process I can create pieces to sell. However, most of these first pieces wouldn't be worth much to anybody except me. That's okay. It's a process. And I'm enjoying the process...

WereHunter by Mercedes Lackey

From the Cover: Lope through the night with a young woman who has been given the power to transform herself into a leopard, but who now finds herself pursued by a hunter who is more than human. Follow the adventures of Skitty, ship's cat extraordinaire, and telepathic problem-solver. Ride with a late night drive on a solitary road who learns that what appears to be a piece of cardboard blowing across the road is actually something very sinister in disguise. Join Lackey's celebrated occult detective Diana Tregarde as she attends a gathering of romance writers and encounters a visitor who passionate desire is for fresh, warm blood. Return to the world of the Heralds of Valdemar. And there's much more.
Lackey's many fans will know what to expect: unforgettable characters in spellbinding stories from a grand master of fantasy and science fiction. And readers just discovering her have a treat in store.

I love short story books- I get a taste of the worlds an author has envisioned. I love Mercedes Lackey- her books appeal to me in many ways- from the characters to the worlds and the story lines. I think my favorite stories in this anthology were the Skitty ones- There's four of 'em and each of them was fun.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Two Movies- Wild Things and A Frog

I've recently seen two movies- Where the Wild Things Are, and The Princess and the Frog- and I feel compelled to say something about them..

The Princess and The Frog

I saw this movie with my girls, and I loved it. The more I've thought about it, the more I have loved it. I've got problems with it (yup, that's me, the trouble-maker), but they aren't huge and overwhelming... More pesky and troublesome than enormous.

I loved the characters and the world they set the story in... Right after the war in jazz-era New Orleans... Tiana is not your typical Disney princess. She's a hard-worker who wants to make her dreams come true by doing what it takes- working two jobs and saving. She's likable and you root for her to win. You want her to have her dream- a restaurant- and to have love, too.

I enjoyed the story, the music, the Cajun fireflies, the frog hunters, the trumpet-blowing 'gator. I wasn't sure about Prince Naveen- as nice as he is, he's a bit of a lay-about- however, I was pleased to see how he changed through the course of the movie. And yup, I also LOVE the fact that Tiana is black, beautiful, and a hard worker. We needed an African-American princess. I'm pleased to see that finally happening.

I hated the 'Shadow Man' and his 'friends from the other side'. I've now had a couple of conversations with my girls about those 'friends' and I'd rather not have to continue with those... It was hard enough to talk about 'bad people' with them, and how you can't tell if someone is bad just by looking at them. They couldn't sleep for a week after those talks. Now they are scared of something more intangible. And the truth is that evil is real. And the character they presented was evil- not funny. Which is good, (I haven't let them see Hercules yet 'cuz the good guy is not too bright, and the bad guy is hysterically funny- bad move to lift up the bad and put down the good...); however, I've got a 6 year old and a 4 year old. I'd really rather not have demon conversations yet. Soon, I know...

The most confusing part was the character of 'Mama Odie'. She was a voodoo practitioner, just like the shadow man... However, she is presented as not evil. (She'd be the fairy godmother in a different version of this fairy-tale.) I'm not sure if I think the grey area was a good idea; however, I don't think this will be an issue with them for a while. And we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.
I'm sure there are people questioning their use of New Orleans in light of recent events. As someone not from there, I want to say I thought it was cool to see some of what it was... A place with unique cuisine, music and culture. Maybe the movie isn't accurate, but it makes you want to know more, and it keeps the past alive.

Where The Wild Things Are
First thing, Wild Things was BEAUTIFUL- staggeringly so. They created this amazing world, and I believed it. I fell in and followed Max's adventures. I loved the art and the appearance of the monsters. It was exactly right. I was delighted to see Maurice Sendak in the credits and hope that he was pleased to see his book come to life so clearly.

But the story- oh, it was painful... I related to the chaos of Max's world, perhaps too much. I remember when my life felt completely out of control. I remember when I felt alone and friendless. I remember when my imagination was more real than the world around me...
I just can't look at this movie very lightly or casually because of those memories.

If you haven't watched it- the sum up is that Max is dealing with the divorce of his parents, and he's not handling it well... Anger, and loneliness... In the middle of the night, after an altercation with his mom, he runs away. He escapes on a boat to the island of the wild things. He tells them he is a king and they accept him, and they play together- the wild rumpus! But then they expect him to make all their problems disappear. And their problems are way too big for a little boy to clear up- just like his own problems. So he ends up leaving them, and going home. There's no answer at the end... no peace... just a mom thankful to hold him and watch him eating.

Maybe that's good enough for some of the audience. That he goes home and faces his problems- that he realizes he needs his family- that we, the audience, relate to how overwhelming his situation was, and recognize our own loneliness and anger. It just wasn't enough for me.

My problem with the movie was the sheer chaos and the wildness of it... The fact that there was no answer... Maybe there shouldn't have been. The problem itself is huge... I don't know how to explain this clearly.
I relate to the wildness and chaos, and the overwhelming nature of his loneliness. I know it. I have been there, and I remember how it felt to live on the edge of chaos and darkness.

What's different for me is this- God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit inside me.... I felt like I was watching a movie that said the only hope we have on this ocean of life is to cling to each other on a tiny little life raft. I wanted to say, "It's not true! There is more! Jesus is God with us, inside us... He is peace amidst a chaotic and painful world. He is the calm in the storm. He is the answer."

Art Friday

Some more thoughts on what to call Art Fridays...

Fun Friday?
Festive Friday?
Fulfilling Friday?

Friday, April 09, 2010

Friday is Art Day!

Still don't have a fancy name for Art day... Fridays with Flair? Fancy Fridays?

Anyway, here's what I've been working on- Butterfly Earrings!
The coolest thing is that I made every part. =)

The process:
First, I soldered the wire together to make the big hoops.

Then, I cut out the butterflies. Before soldering the butterflies to the hoops, I hammered or 'forged' them. Which I love! I discovered my favorite part so far is hammering away. I love the texture it creates, and the sparkle it gives the work as the light bounces off each of the forge marks.

Next, I soldered the butterflies to the hoops. Which is where I had problems... I'm getting better at soldering, but at this point in my learning curve everything I soldered had problems... The butterflies wouldn't lay flat enough on the hoops to solder them securely, even though I had left a flat space for them. So, I decided to hammer the butterflies onto the hoops so they would have the shape of the hoop in their back... a good place to solder them together. Which worked... However, the copper is so soft that they ended up looking funny, so I had to forge the butterflies all over. I got annoyed. They still look fine, but not how I had imagined them. Anyway, I got it done- and attached the butterflies securely.

Then, I made the ear hooks! Which is exciting, 'cuz I use a LOT of ear hooks. And I got to make my very own! I heated the wire enough to cause it to ball up at the end, then I forged them to 'work-harden' them. If I didn't forge them they would be too soft to maintain their shape.

Anyway, I have some lovely silver hoop earrings, with copper butterflies. Plus, more practice in soldering!


The truth: I'm sick. Bleckity sick.

The girls have been sick all week, and I finally got it today. Only I did it a little different...

They've had a cough with a VERY high fever.

I have the dizzies. Just sitting down, I have the dizzies. Laying down, I have the dizzies.... Makes me a little sick to my stomach, that's how dizzy I am.

When I got out of bed this morning, I almost fell down. I had to grab the wall and stand there a bit. I kept expecting the dizzies to go. But no. I got to keep them all day. However, I did not fall down!!! And I am feeling a little bit better now. We'll see if I wake up all dizzy...

Wednesday, April 07, 2010


My girls have been sick for the last two days- a high fever and a nasty cough. Blech.

Poor Abigail fell asleep on the couch around 4, so I just let her sleep. But when she woke up, she had a crazy HIGH fever. We couldn't get her to keep the thermometer in her mouth long enough to be sure, but what we could get was at least 103.4, which is pretty bad. ER trip bad...

I got tylenol in her, got her to drink water and eat a popsicle, then I ran to the Museum to pick up Jake from work. (My mom watches the girls every day, while I go get him.) By the time I got back, her temp was down to 101.4. Much better.

So, she's been pretty pathetic this evening, but finally got calmed down and went to sleep...

I hate REALLY high fevers. Abigail seems to do this at least once a year. We made an ER visit for her last year around February... She was pathetic until right before the doctor saw her... We got a popsicle and Tylenol in her and then she started dancing and wiggling around the room at the ER. We felt so silly for bringing her, but the nurses and doctors all assured us they'd rather we just bring her in and have no problem than keep her at home and it get worse.

However, I'm glad we didn't have to do an ER trip this time! Especially since we just did the Urgent Care visit for the rock up her nose!

Having it All

"Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; but remember that what you now have was once among the things only hoped for. "

~Epicurus ~

Have I been wishing for more??? Yes.
Have I been satisfied with what I have??? No.
Is everything I have actually MINE??? No.

Everything I own or think I own is NOT mine.
My home, my car, my money, my books, my computer, my blog, my jewelry, my voice, my body, my mind, my girls, my cat, my husband... NOT mine.

It is all a gift, from the one one who only gives good things... The Father of Lights, who is not shifting like sand... Who stands firm for all eternity...

God's home, God's car, God's money, God's books, God's computer, God's blog, God's jewelry, God's voice, God's body, God's mind, God's girls, God's cat, God's husband. NOT mine.

I want to be satisfied with what I have, where I am, who I am... Knowing that I will grow & change, and that only two things are constant-
1.) God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
2.) And that everything will change...

Sovereignty and Choice

Charles Spurgeon said this about the tension between divine sovereignty and human choice:

If .. I find taught in one part of the Bible that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find, in another Scripture, that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is only my folly that leads me to imagine that these two truths can ever contradict each other. I do not believe they can ever be welded into one upon any earthly anvil, but they certainly shall be one in eternity. They are two lines that are so nearly parallel, that the human mind which pursues them farthest will never discover that they converge, but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring.

Wednesday is Library Day!!

I have read way more than I will mention here, but these are the few that have stuck with me.

Twelve Ordinary Men by John MacArthur
From the cover: Contrary to popular belief, we do not have to be perfect to do God's work. Look no further than the twelve disciples whose many weaknesses are forever preserved throughout the pages of the New Testament. Jesus chose ordinary men - fisherman, tax collectors, political zealots - and turned their weakness into strength, producing greatness from utter uselessness. MacArthur draws principles from Christ's careful, hands-on training of the original twelve disciples for today's modern disciple - you.
I have been working on this book for a while, slowly going through it, re-reading some sections, skimming others... This book goes over the history, both Biblical and historically accepted, of each of the disciples. MacArthur devotes a chapter to each disciple and works through every little reference to them.
Honestly, a fascinating book. Not only does he talk about their relationship to Jesus and how they grew, he also points out their weaknesses and strengths, how knowing Jesus changed them...
Contrary to most preacher's preferences (Peter, always Peter), my favorite disciples, the one I relate to the most, have always been Andrew and John. And again, I was reminded why I admire these men, and how my weaknesses are actually places Jesus' love shines through.
Well worth the time and effort to read.

The Enchanted Emporium by Tanya Huff
From the cover: Alysha Gale is a member of a family capable of changing the world with the charms they cast. Then she receives word that she's inherited her grandmother's junk shop in Calgary, only to discover upon arriving that she'll be serving the fey community. And when Alysha learns just how much trouble is brewing in Calgary, even calling in the family to help may not be enough to save the day.
I LOVE Tanya Huff! I've read most of her books, and have enjoyed them all- from Fankenstein's monsters to assassins and magic, from cats and wizards to space battle.
I really can't say I loved this one, though... I have read LOTS of fantasy and mythology, and my least favorite mythological character is probably the Horned God, (perhaps Morrigan, too). The Horned god represents the male side of divinity in the Wiccan religion and he embodies nature, wildness, sexuality, hunting and the life cycle- And I'm often uncomfortable with the way he is portrayed, especially since I honestly believe he's demonic. And that's the platform Huff has chosen for this new series...
I spent the first couple chapters trying to decide whether I was going to finish it or not, and I ended up choosing to go ahead.
The story itself is a little spotty- (she starts in the middle and kind of drags us along for the ride without much explanation). It is good. Let me repeat that- the story itself is good. It's interesting and fun. But it's not something I'd recommend to just anyone.

Blood Ties by Kay Hooper
From the Cover: The elite Special Crimes Unit, the FBI’s most controversial and effective team, is a group of mavericks and misfits trained to use their unique psychic abilities to hunt the worst monsters imaginable – human ones. Led by the enigmatic Noah Bishop, the SCU team has earned a reputation for pitting their skills and cunning against killers that other cops fear.
But this time Bishop and his agents face an enemy who has them in his sights, a trained sniper with a deadly plan — and more than one ace up his sleeve.
It starts with an unspeakable series of grisly murders across three states, a trail of blood leading, finally, to the small Tennessee town of Serenade. There, two more brutal murders lure the SCU into what may be the ultimate trap.
One of the first investigators on the scene, Special Agent Hollis Templeton is willing to push herself as hard and as far as necessary. Risking more than her life to help and protect her fellow SCU members, Hollis is coping with psychic abilities that are evolving in unprecedented ways, an attraction to the most complex man she’s ever known, and a serial murder investigation that has just turned very, very personal. In her time with the SCU, Hollis has shown an uncanny ability to survive even the most deadly attacks. But what she doesn’t count on is that this killer intends to destroy the team from within.

Over the last few weeks, I've reread the entire Bisshop/SCU series so that I could dive into the new one. Blood Ties is a good finish to Hooper's latest trilogy (She now has published 12 books, divided into 4 trilogies). My favorite is still "Out of the Shadows", but Blood Ties is good.
The best description I've got for these mysteries is 'Criminal Minds' meets 'Medium'. A team of FBI agents defeats serial killers by using their paranormal giftings. They are fun, spooky and twisty mysteries. Hooper generally includes a touch of romance in her books, which I enjoy, but her focus is ALWAYS on the mystery and defeating the "bad guy".
This time we've got a master 'bad guy' guiding & supplying the lesser 'bad guys', plus a mystery I couldn't figure out. I knew who was pulling the strings (the master 'bad guy'), but I didn't know who's strings he was pulling. And I enjoy being surprised. =)

Monday, April 05, 2010

Abigail's Nose

I got a call from Abigail's pre-school about an hour before it was time to pick her up...

She had stuck a rock up her nose, and they couldn't find it. She was fine, happy and eating her snack. But they wanted to know if I wanted to come get her early.

I started laughing. I'm sure this makes me a terrible mother, but honestly, up her nose? What on earth was she thinking?

When I went to get her I asked her why she put the rock in her nose. She told me, "I wanted to keep it." And I'm thinking, "A nose isn't a pocket!" But she was happy as can be- she went with me to Deborah's dance class, and waited for her happily. She danced and sang and colored.

After dinner, we took her to the 1st Care in town, and they looked up there. The doctor couldn't find anything, and said her breathing was fine. She either blew it out, or she poked it back so far she ended up swallowing it.

So, they recommended we take her home, and watch out for the possibility of a cold. If she ends up with a runny nose, we'll probably need to take her to an Ear, Nose, Throat doctor to have her checked out again.

Friday, April 02, 2010

My First Friday

My first post about the art I'm working on! =)

This is the first metal-smithing project I have ever created. It's got some major problems- I'll be able to fix a couple of the problems, but the rest I'm going to have to let go...

However, I like the end result- it's just not exactly how I envisioned it.

First, I cut out the copper flower- It was the first time I EVER had used a jeweler's saw, and it wasn't easy. I'm a lot more comfortable with it now after working with it since January. Now I feel pretty confident of my ability to do what I want with the tool.

Next, I cut out the silver flower, which was much easier than the copper flower with the cut-outs in the petals.

Here's where it starts getting tricky- Because this is actually the second reincarnation of this pendant.... I almost totally destroyed the original piece., but I was able to save it. I am still in the process of becoming completely happy with it.

After cutting out the flowers I soldered the copper flower onto the silver flower- my first soldering attempt! And it was very successful and easy. I haven't had such an easy time soldering since that first time.

After soldering, I carefully hammered just the edges of the silver flower. It was beautiful! I was so thrilled with the way it looked.

However, my next step was to attach the bail (the little metal thing attached to the back so that I can use the pendant as part of a necklace.)

Arrgh!!! Here's where things went awry! I could NOT get it on there, and by the time I got it attached firmly, I had gotten the pendant too hot. The copper flower had melted into the silver til it had almost disappeared. (You can still see shadows of the original copper flower underneath the second one.) Plus the silver had started to slump and stick to the heating block. It was not pretty! I could have just thrown the whole mess away, but I wanted to save my FIRST metal-smithing project.

So I took it back to the anvil room and hammered the whole silver flower and got rid of most of the weird buckling from the slumping. It wasn't the smooth shiny surface from before, but it was attractive. I tried to save the shape of the silver flower, even if I couldn't save the surface. It had deformed on the right side and looked really weird. Not pretty, not ugly. Just weird.

Then I went back and cut out another copper flower, and attempted to solder it back on to the front. And I couldn't get it to solder on there! Probably because I was terrified of destroying the whole thing again...

So, in my mind I see the beautiful pendant I had before I tried to attach the bail and caused the whole thing to self-destruct... While I like the finished product I have now and will keep it just to remind myself of my first project. I'm not thrilled with the project now, because I keep comparing it to what it was originally. However, I think I did a pretty good job of saving the piece.

Art on Friday

I have a problem!!!
I have decided to post on Fridays about whatever art I am currently working on, but I have no idea what to call this regular post.

Friday Art Day?
Fancy Fridays?
Creativity Day?
Arts and Crafts?

Have you got any good ideas? I'd love to hear them!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

On Writing- by Max Lucado

I read this from a speech Max Lucado gave to a group of writers. Powerful words, and I want to remember them.

A framed quote greets me each time I sit at my desk. “You wanna write? Put your butt in that chair and sit there a long, long time.” Writing is not glamorous work.
But it is a noble work.
There is a single mother who, tonight, is utterly exhausted. Three kids and long hours have taken their toll. She keeps a book on her bedside. She has only a few moments to read. She just needs a word, a phrase, a refined sentence to lift her heart. Would you write it?
Tomorrow a businessman will follow his daily routine. He will turn from the numbers on his screen to the words on a blog. He doesn’t need much, just an anchor-point, a reminder. Would you write it?
A teenager is looking for a book. Her friends fill their minds with stories of vampires, magicians, and goblins, but she wants more. She wants truth, creative truth. She wants hope. Hope on a page. Will you give it to her?
We need you to do this. We need your best work and it is work. But it is a valued work. A worthwhile work. A holy work. May you do such a work.