Saturday, July 26, 2014


We know it's time for James to leave for work when we hear the sprinklers go on. And every morning when he leaves, I see the droplets of water on the plants outside glistening silvery in the early morning light. (He starts work early.) They look a little bit like pearls, don't you think?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Have a peaceful Thursday

"Nothing can bring you peace but yourself." - Ralph Waldo Emmerson

Just a few little pictures to hopefully set you at peace for your day.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Accidentally Off-roading

On a clear day, we can see the mountains in the east from the end of our street. This being southern California, land of smog and pollution, those "clear days" are more like "haze" and the mountains are sort of obscured by said haze, but whatever. Mountains there are. I got this crazy idea in my head the other day that James and I should drive up to the mountains and go hiking, and that maybe we'd find some shady trails that wasn't just low scrub brush and burned out pine trees from past forest fires. So we jumped in the car and headed east.

What a lovely layer of pollution we all breathe on a daily basis
We decided to go to Big Bear, because I haven't been there since I was a kid, and I don't think James has ever been there. We did some exploring along some fire roads, and got within a mile of the hike that we (or I) really wanted to do, but the roads were just too rough and my poor car's tires just sat and spun in the dust. The road was just wide enough for my car, and as James was executing an 18-point turn, another car came tearing around the corner from the direction we'd been heading. I thought "Oh good, if we get stuck at least these people can help push the car."

Ford Focuses are not made for off-roading, incidentally.

When I was little and in Girl Scouts, we spent a weekend in a cabin in the mountains. I can't remember if it was Big Bear, Crestline, or other, but one of the activities was a hike along a mountain stream under thick pines, surrounded by ferns. This is one of the strongest memories of that trip that I have, besides a fellow Girl Scout staying up all night practicing tying the knots we'd been taught earlier in the day. (She was later recognized for her enthusiastic pursuit of knotting.)

We didn't find this particular trail, but we did pull of the road to find a glen of ferns, lilies and pines with just a trickle of running water. There was also a secluded campsite with a family and a large, scary dog that barked and growled at us, but heeded his little tiny mistress (who was probably about 7) when she commanded him to "Stay!"

Next time, I want to rent a kayak and go out on Big Bear Lake. The water was SO BLUE, I just wanted to dive right in.

Also, next time, I'd love to make it to the hike we'd planned on, but I'll need a bigger car. Any volunteers?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Who knew that photography could feel terrifyingly revealing?

I have a secret.

It's been a long time since I've had the urge to go out with my camera. A long time. Sure, this blog is full of pictures, but those are taken with my phone and somehow don't count in my mind as pursuing photography. I've felt a fair amount of guilt over this lack of interest in taking pictures the way I used to. I've taken my camera out with me because I felt I ought to - after all, I saved up to buy a DSLR, I spent 4 years at college (overseas, no less) to make my photography dreams a reality, I've spent time and money entering exhibitions or putting my own together, printing images, framing, and now...that love has just been...gone.

I've wondered, too many times to count, if I ever had any talent to begin with, or if the decent pictures I've done have been just beginners luck. (Really, who among us hasn't had those kinds of thoughts?) I guess I've just been in a rut with no idea how to get out. What inspired me during college (weekend journeys to the English countryside) is no longer possible (geographically speaking), and I don't have the luxury of just being able to take off on a trip (work and responsibilities really put a kink in that one). So I guess I've been searching for new inspiration.

At long last, I felt the call yesterday to grab my camera and just go. I forced all those little voices saying "not good enough" into a corner and resolved to ignore them. My whole entire goal for today was go get up early and head out to Peters Canyon with my camera and tripod and walk and walk and take pictures - not even a lot of pictures, just a handful. If most of them are awful, who cares, just take them anyway, and hopefully there will be ONE that is sort of okay. ONE that I can be happy with.

I came back with 4 that I like. I don't know if they're any good or not, but it's a start. And it seems like maybe a new style might be trying to emerge, perhaps influenced by all those pictures snapped with my camera these last couple of years.




Maybe, if you're an artist or seeking your creative path, some of this rings true with you. Maybe not. This is all just terrifying revealing.

By the way, a two-hour walk looking at trees, leaves and streams can definitely cure what ails you! 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Don't Build Your Home on the Former Hanging Grounds

James and I went to San Diego last weekend, and my legs still hurt from all the walking we did. We spent most of Saturday around Old Town, eating pretty terrible Mexican food (just trust me, it wasn't good), wandering around the shops, cemetery and Victorian houses, and finally ended up on a ghost tour of the Whaley House, one of the most haunted homes in the US. The land, former hanging grounds for criminals, was purchased by Thomas Whaley, and he built his family home on it, knowing full well that hangings had taken place here. He'd even witnessed a few in his time. It's like he wanted to tempt fate. (Would you ever purposely build a home for your family over the spot where numerous people had died a violent death?? Yeah, neither would I.)

Not surprisingly, there are all sorts of weird and tragic things that happened to the Whaley family and all sorts of strange goings-on today.

Guests on the tour were encouraged to take flash photography to try to capture ghosts on the tours. While dim lighting, reflection and  flash bombardment can explain some of the creepy photos that have been taken in the past, it can't explain everything...

It kind of a little bit looks like there's something to the right of the window.

This is the courtroom. There is apparently a vortex in that corner over where the jury would have sat.

Something in the window?

Nothing much happened to us on the ghost tour. We were warned that we could feel short of breath, begin coughing for a few minutes, feel the itch of rough rope around our necks, have our bare legs and feet licked by a ghost dog, and be groped by a pervy theater ghost (seriously) - James did feel a little itchy on his throat, and my ankles felt a slight chill, but that's about it. Our guide was great, he did things to purposely make you jump, and a few of the women screamed and yelled because they'd been scared. I'd totally go back and do the ghost tour again, but I'd wait until after dark - really up the creep factor. And then I wouldn't be able to sleep for a month.

The Rose and Crown, London 2007
PS. This is the only ghost picture I have, taken 7 years ago at The Rose and Crown pub in Stoke Newington, London. All those light trails? Ghosts.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Custom-Made Creative Vision

I occasionally get asked to create a custom piece of jewelry, which is equally exhilarating and terrifying. Exhilarating  because it's a challenge to combine my creative vision with that of my customer's, and terrifying because...what if they don't like it?

Luckily, I've always been able to breathe a sigh of relief upon delivery - so far, happy customers all around!

Here are a few special pieces I've done recently...

Wedding Lace Necklace...
Wedding Lace
Amanda asked me to create a necklace using lace from her mother's wedding dress on a background of mint green / sea green. She never came right out and said so, but I could tell that this was being made for a special day, either her own wedding or as a thoughtful gift for her mom. She sent me a swatch of ivory lace in a flower and leaf design to work with. Since the background color was to be in a sea green and the whole necklace set in antiqued brass, I felt that the leaves in the lace would work better than the flowers. To me, the flowers would be the obvious choice, and might seem overly sweet and trite. The leaves were a little more earthy. Again, this all comes back to combining my creative vision with the customers - would Amanda like this direction?

My nail-biting came to an end when I received her email - she loved it!

Family Photo Necklace...
Family Photo Birthday Present
I met with Sharon recently to discuss a special gift for her niece's upcoming birthday. She brought in a photograph of her older sister, the mother of the recipient, as a young girl holding a puppy. Sharon was thinking about either having a ring or a necklace made, but there were some additional considerations. Her niece is actually older than Sharon, so we had to think about what would be easiest for her to manage. We settled on a necklace with a slightly larger pendant on a longer chain that she can slip over her head. I also added a large lobster claw clasp, just in case. Sharon's niece favors pink, so I clustered two shades of pink crystals and one champagne faux pearl together to offset the pendant. It was important to Sharon to include the dog in the pendant, so I re-sized the image a few different ways to see what would look best. There was also a tear in the original photograph, easily repairable in Photoshop. The end result is completely custom-made with some slight modifications to accomodate the birthday girl.

Frodo the Dog Ring...
Frodo Ring
Mark has many women in his life (his mother, his wife, 3 daughters, 1 daughter-in-law and  granddaughter), and they are all the lucky recipients of some amazing jewelry finds. I always enjoy seeing his choices, and when he asked me to make him a ring for one of his lovely ladies, I was thrilled. They have a beloved family dog named Frodo, and he sent me an image from his phone* to use. Frodo was a little challenging, because his fur is so dark that he just looks like a mass with eyes and a tongue. The oval shape of the ring was perfect, however, because it echoed the shape of the dog. I reeeeally wanted to put a tiny heart in the ring as well, but knowing how Mark cringes at anything too "cute", I figured this was one time I had to put my personal vision on the back burner.

Family Tree Charms...
Family Tree Charms
This last project was something really special. Lisa contacted me in the hopes that I could help her with a meaningful anniversary gift for her parents. She wanted to present then with an entire family tree, complete with a charm for every family member. This project involved help from everyone in Lisa's large family - 13 in total! (To me, that's large, but then again, my local family is pretty small.)

The whole family
Lisa and her family very generously sent me copies of their family photos, with each one labeled with who the family members were and which face they wanted me to use from which photograph. I used a slightly larger charm for her parents' wedding picture (they look so glamorous, don't they?), which was to remain in black and white, and the smaller charms for individual people (remaining in color). Once scanned, I focused on the individual faces, printed my test sheets and final sheets, and began work. Finally, I wrapped each charm, double and triple checked that I wasn't forgetting any of them and that I had all of the Lisa's photos packed, and sent the package off.

The finished tree
And here is the finished family tree - doesn't it look great? Lisa found the wire tree on Etsy, and there are plenty of empty branches for future grandchildren! I felt so honored to be asked to help create such a meaningful, unique gift for this family

*I usually prefer to scan hard copies of photographs instead of using a digital image, especially one from a phone, although I can use those as well. I've found that your image is MUCH clearer with a scan, because I can use a very high resolution - not so with phone images!