Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Ah! My blog! It changed!

Yes, I finally gave in and did it. I upgraded to the new Blogger. You see, I tend to have a fear of change when it comes to internet stuff. Way back when, I had a website with GeoCities. Then Yahoo! purchased them, and you had to use a Yahoo! account to log on to your GeoCities account. Well, I tried to merge my Yahoo! account with my GeoCities account, and I could never get in to edit my website again! I was afraid that the same thing would happen with my blog when I had to make a Google account. Yeah, yeah, you can laugh at me now.

Anyway, I decided to test the new template editting capabilities, and I have to say that I'm very happy with the results. No longer does my blog look exactly like one of the default templates! Now it looks like something far more "me." And in fact, editting it was kind of fun. I could get addicted to switching the colors around...

This is what happens when you give an artist technology, by the way. They just go "Weeeee, pretty colors!"

Ok, on to business stuff! I finished putting together the choker-in-progress. Now I just need to rummage through my stash o' buttons and find the perfect one to serve as a clasp. I'm very happy with this choker, it's just as classy as I expected it to be. Actually, it kind of has a vintage look, maybe a little Haskellesque.

I've heard that Hancock Fabrics has the suedecloth like I use for bead embroidery on sale, so I'm hoping to mosey down there, maybe Thursday night. I was going to go there tonight, but my husband's getting stuck late at work and he's all cranky about it, so I won't make him drive halfway across the town to satisfy my desire for fabric. But once I do get my hands on a massive amount of lovely suedecloth, you can bet that there will be more jewelry like Lady Ghost for sale!

I'm really hoping that the new site will be up soon, that way we have time to iron out all the kinks before I start shipping again on the 26th.

Today's Cool Thing is Noodle Son, an entire website dedicated to Ramen noodles. They have a review section, which I find to be pretty cool. It also helps to figure out just what flavor the mysterious ramen from the Asian market in NY is.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Two weeks and counting!

For most of you out there, either your holiday has already started (and a Happy Chanukkah to you!) or is only a week away. I, on the other hand, have to wait another two weeks until I celebrate the New Year with my folks. Two more weeks of staring at the wrapped presents in my bead room and trying not to slip up and tell my husband what he's getting. Ahhhh, the anticipation!

Of course, since my friends and in-laws celebrate Christmas and Chanukkah, this is the week when all the presents start arriving in the mail. Hopefully by now my MIL and her family will have their box o' holiday goodies in hand, and a couple of boxes showed up for me today. Weee! The only problem is that I realized this afternoon that I haven't mailed out my cards yet. Shame shame! I need to go start writing them out after I post this.

It's feeling a little more like December here in Tucson. I woke up and it was grey and a little chill. I'm hoping for a bit of rain, we haven't had any in months.

The in-progress choker gave me a bit of trouble on Saturday, and I was out most of the day yesterday, so it's still not quite done. Almost, though! I think it's going to look really awesome, and the trick will be photographing it properly. I should be finishing it tonight, and then I'm going to start on a couple of top-secret holiday presents!

Today's Cool Thing is Dylon White's Etsy shop. Mr. White is the co-author of Lark's Chain Mail Jewelry book, so you know his maille work is awesome. He has a very nice selection of earrings and bracelets in his shop, definitely worth a browse!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Cookies and stuff.

Today I baked some cookies using those new limited edition swirled chocolate chips from Nestle. I picked up the dark chocolate/raspberry ones, because Chris loves all things raspberry. I decided to use the recipe on the back of the package and whip up a batch for my Friday night L5R game. Well, the chips are good but I'm not too keen on the recipe. The cookies aren't nearly sweet enough. In fact, if they were any less sweet, they'd be crackers! To top it off, I burnt myself on a fresh-from-the-oven cookie sheet. BAH! Luckily, my friends all love cookies, so it will be worth it when they enjoy them.

Geez, when did I become so domestic?

In today's mail, I received a booklet from G&LW, which is apparently supposed to convince me to go to their shows by tempting me with lots of ads. Of course I was already planning on going to their shows because so many of my favorite vendors are at Gem Mall. It will take more than glossy full-color advertisements to ever get me to return to Holidome or brave the Rodeway, though! The book did serve to remind me that I need to pre-register and start thinking about what I'm going to buy at which shows.

I spent the late part of the afternoon and early part of the evening making little beaded leaves from Barbara Grainger's book, to be used to accent my choker. I have a little over half an hour left before I have to leave for my game, so I'm going to try to make a couple more.

Remember! If you want to order anything for the holidays and you do NOT live in Tucson, place your order tonight! Poor Chris had to go to the PO today and he said he really doesn't want to go again, so I guess it's good I'm not staying open until sometime next week.

Today's Cool Thing is Squidfire Designs. I saw one of their shirts over on Rare Bird Finds today, and I liked it so I went to their site. I kept finding more shirts that I liked, and basically I discovered that I liked more of their stuff than I was neutral towards. Very cool designs; I will have to get some for Chris and myself.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

What I am up to.

First, a reminder! Tomorrow (Friday) is the last day to place an order if you want it shipped in time for the holidays! And also, any orders placed tomorrow that total $25 or more will receive an upgrade to Priority shipping at no additional cost to you! Oh yes, and I won't be writing a Fashionable Friday column tomorrow, as many other e-stores will be closing up for the holidays this weekend, so you wouldn't be able to shop much anyway.

I'm looking forward to my little holiday break. Oh sure, I'll make some things to list on the website, but I'm also going to make presents for family and presents for me. I have this lampworked bead that's shaped like a belly dancer dressed all in shades of amber with hints of green. I'm hoping to finally make a necklace for her over the holidays, or at least get started on it. I'm also going to finish my beaded belt, by golly!

As far as business-related beading goes, well, my spiral bracelet stock is getting a little low, so I need to make a couple more of those, and a few pairs of earrings to replace what has sold recently. On Tuesday I pulled out an old choker base which I had woven a while ago, and I'm working on adding the proper accents. It should look pretty smashing. And ideally, I'll make more anklets and strung bracelets, since I only have one item each in those sections right now.

The colder weather had deterred me from dancing for a while, so I'm trying to get back into that, too. Let me tell you, it is hard to feel sensuous and exotic when you're dancing in a sweater! :P I just danced a bit tonight, I'm finally getting better at this one challenging song. Now, bear in mind that I am a dancer, not a musician, so I have no grasp of musical terms. Basically this song has a lot of similar, repeating motifs, and sometimes those motifs have a flare or accent at the end, and sometimes they don't. Dancing looks awesome when your moves echo the accents of the song. It looks lame when you misguess where the accent is and do a sudden bold arm movement when there's no equally bold music. But ha ha! The song will thwart me no longer, I almost have its timing down :)

But the major thing I've been doing is editting the heck out of my book. How did that heck get in there? Well, you see, I was writing at 4am and not paying much attention... No, seriously. What I'm really doing is tightening up some phrasing, removing inconsistencies, adding a subplot with a character who got neglected, tying up more loose ends, and adding some extra character development. There are three people who are greatly deserving of shout-outs for reading the messy first draft and helping me with edits, and they are my awesome Dad Rick, my incredible husband Chris, and my dear friend Helen. Without them I never would have gotten this far!

I've told myself that after I finish editting the first book, I can start writing the third book. Of course, I also need to edit the second book, but my muse would really like to work on some new material for a bit. In the meantime, I have lots of ideas that I need to jot down for books 3-5, because I've been thinking ahead a lot.

Today's Cool Thing is the jewelry of Alex Sepkus. Usually I see gold and gem stones and I go "meh" but his work makes me go "WOW!" If I'm ever rich, I will own something of his. I especially like his earrings, and since they're gold, I could probably even wear them for a short time.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Well, today was a pretty big deal, because they did lay-offs in my husband's department. Actually, in his entire building. He and most of his friends survived the cuts. This is a huge weight off of our shoulders! To celebrate, we went out for a delicious teppenyaki dinner. We also got to talk about some plans for the future, now that he doesn't have to worry about possibly finding a new job and changing his schedule and stuff. It's nice to no longer have that uncertainty and to be able to think about things more than a couple of weeks in advance.

Oh yes, before I forget, I'd like to point out that Friday the 15th is the last day to order presents for the holidays! After that I will not be shipping anything out until the 26th. To help ensure that your items will reach you in time, orders of $25 or more will receive an upgrade to Priority shipping at no additional cost until Friday. Also, if you are in Tucson and would like to arrange for delivery or pick up of your jewelry, well, I can do that pretty much right up until Christmas.

Hopefully we'll get the new website up and running while I am "closed" for the holidays. I also plan to get some interesting new jewelry prepared during my break, and maybe work on better pictures for some of my existing jewelry. I have a couple more presents to make, too, and it's tradition for me to make something for myself. Not sure what that will be this year.

Today's Cool Thing is a comic strip called Sheldon. It's generally funny, insightful, and 100% safe-for-work, unlike most of the other comics I read. There's something like 5 years worth of archives to read through if you have a lot of time to kill.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

It's beginning to look a lot like... September.

The weather has returned to being beautiful here in Tucson. It makes me feel almost guilty for spending so much time here at my computer. I should get out and enjoy these nice days before it gets cold and nasty again. With all of this pleasant sunshine, I can't believe that it's less than two weeks until Christmas! It feels more like early Autumn.

My immediate family celebrates the winter holiday season on New Year's Day. It's just more convenient and less stressful that way, and being able to buy wrapping paper and last-minute gifts at the post-Christmas clearance sales is an added benefit. My in-laws and friends, however, all do Christmas and Chanukkah, so I've been trying to get presents together. And of course, I have a small selection of cards which have already arrived in the mail. So there's a bit of holiday cheer to be had!

One thing that helps me get into the holiday mood is listening to the great holiday music from the HP Lovecraft Historical Society. Yes, that's right, I get all bright and cheery listening to songs about the Great Old Ones ruling over mankind, and all of the madness that goes with it. I never claimed to be normal. I recently picked up their second CD, An Even Scarier Solstice. This has some wonderfully put-together songs with wickedly clever lyrics. I simply love it! I think that the first CD was a little easier to sing along to, but this one just sounds great and still has a few songs that demand that you add your voice to the mad chorus coming out of your speakers. Although these CDs are primarily for Lovecraft geeks, a few of the songs have proven pretty popular with my generically geeky friends as well.

And while I'm touting recent purchases, I'd also like to tell you about the delicious teas from Herb and Ginger. These are some of the most beautiful and tasty teas I've ever had! I highly recommend the Bollywood Star and Candytopia flavors, and I look forward to trying more in the future.

I need to wander off and wrap some presents, since my Official Present Hiding Drawer (tm) is overflowing, but before I go, I will leave you with today's Cool Thing, which is this awesome article on treasures that were rescued from the destruction in Afghanistan and kept hidden by some very brave people. This is like adventure movie stuff, but in real life. You've got to read it!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Holiday Glitz

This is the column which should have been posted on Friday -- please enjoy!

The holidays are upon us, even if it may not feel like it in some parts of the world. And the holidays of course bring with them those fancy parties where one naturally wants to dress to impress. I'm actually a bit disappointed that my husband's building doesn't seem to be having their usual holiday soiree this year. I bought a beautiful velvet and lace ankle-length jacket all the way back in May and I've been dying for an excuse to wear it!

I'll assume that you've already got the perfect dress to wear to your winter festivities, and now all you need are a few smashing accessories. And I am here to help!

If you're going to be wearing black or red, this beautiful scarf from Kimono Momo would make a stunning accent to your outfit! She also has some great clutches and other scarves.

For a classy pair of heels, look no farther than Mohop! I own a pair of her shoes and I have to say, they are far more elegant than my feet are used to!

And of course, you'll need a handbag as well. I like this sparkly Tulip bag from Bake Sale Designs, and the red and gold make it particularly festive! One thing I don't like about evening bags is that they don't have room for anything, but this one looks big enough to hold all the neccessities without being bulky and obtrusive.

But really, this is a jewelry blog, so let's get down to that! From my own site, there's the delectable Frost Elf's Bauble (pictured at the top of this column), which is oh-so-decadent. Lady Ghost is still one of my favorites, and is really meant to be worn to an upscale formal occasion. Gothic Romance earrings would make a wonderful accessory as well, what with their sparkle and motion. And of course, any of my ever-popular Crystal Bracelets would serve to complete your outfit!

For a necklace that is both elegant and unusual, try Paper Jewels' Kanji Love necklace. The pearls and crystals do an incredible job of dressing this piece up, and I love how balanced the whole thing is.

In my mind, a nice collection of rings is neccessary to be properly dressed up. Only the most casual of occasions will find me wearing just my wedding ring! If you feel the same way, you may want to see see Manic Trout's ZsaZsa ring, which is made from an awesome chandalier crystal. And Ex-Boyfriend has a super-sparkly bead and sequin ring that reminds me of all the lights and ornaments from a tree, all condensed to fit on your finger!

Earrings are a must, especially if you have short hair or an up-do! Jeweled Elegance has this stunning pair. I love how the metal stations look like either snowflakes or flowers, depending on your mood! Designed by RJ has these feminine earrings, and best of all they're on sale! Last but not least, Casto Creations has some great Disco Ball earrings!

Ready for those holiday parties yet? I sure hope so!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Column Delays

I had all of these things I was going to do today... Make some jewelry, finish the dragon, take some pictures, update my site, post the Fashionable Friday column, bake cookies, do laundry... But then my husband came home from work really early and I said "Hey! Let's beat the crowds and go to the Street Fair!"

And so we did.

Although I should feel guilty for shirking all of my responsibilities, I don't. I had a great time. The weather was beautiful, comfortable temperatures with just a little wind. The Fair was crowded, but not in that "wall of humanity" sort of way. I got presents for my parents and I saw local lampworker Margaret Zinser from whom I purchased a beautiful ring/bead (we're calling it a ring because it's ring shaped and then I didn't break my vow to not buy any beads until Gem Show), and I also got a cute little dragon ear cuff. I saw many beautiful and clever things, successfully resisted the urge to buy sparkly clothes, and generally had a great time. Afterwards Chris and I went out to dinner at a Chinese restaurant we've been meaning to try, and we had delicious crispy fried pumpkin and jasmine tea. Oh yes, and entrees, too. They were also good.

Chris and I get so caught up in our gaming and work and whatnot that we don't often just go out and spend the day together having fun, so it was a very nice change.

Fashionable Friday will be published Sunday or Monday, and I'll hopefully post some new jewelry around then, too. I have a busy weekend planned, so I might not post before then. I hope you all have a great, happy weekend and that if you're in Tucson, you head out to the Street Fair and support some artists and small businesses!

Today's cool thing is Dirty Car Art! I love this site, and will never look at a dusty windshield the same way again.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Technical Difficulties

Well, I didn't mean to be so quiet, but I got caught up in working on holiday presents... and then without warning, my desk chair broke yesterday! I had to steal my husband's chair to do my e-mail and stuff today. I guess I'll have to go buy a new chair this weekend. I'd had the same chair for probably a good 5 years now, and with how much time I spend at the computer, that's a lot of sitting hours.

Anyway, I've been doing some clay work... a secret present and then a dragon that I can talk about because its a present for someone who doesn't read my blog! Ha ha! Plus I'll probably give it to the recipient this weekend, if I can finish it (I usually sit in my desk chair for clay work...). It's a pretty awesome looking black, gold and crimson dragon with huge wings.

Over the last couple of days, I also did a lot of writing.... filling out the end of my second book, and then writing a silly short story which takes place between the second book and the as-of-yet unstarted third book. I've been thinking about the 3rd, 4th, and possibly even 5th books lately, so I really need to sit down and start making some notes and really get to work on editting the first and second books.

It looks like I'll be joining another D&D game this weekend, further cementing my position as a nerd. Since I'll now be spending every Friday night and Saturday afternoon-night at gaming, I really need to come up with more portable projects to work on at games. Lately I've been doing more complicated work which doesn't travel well. My beaded belt, for instance, uses 10 colors of seed beads and 3 types of accent beads. I'll be working on that at home, thanks.

My other plan for this weekend is to finish my holiday shopping, which will be accomplished by going to the 4th Avenue Street Fair. This is a HUGE outdoor arts, crafts and entertainment fair which happens twice a year in Tucson. I always spend too much money there, but I get the greatest stuff. Last year I got a wicked sterling silver fish pin for my button bag.

Today's cool thing is this news article!
As an unabashed bibliophile, I love the idea of free books on the web, especially old books from far-away libraries.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Monday again!

Well, I had a decent enough weekend -- nothing really spectacular happened. I played a few games, worked on my beaded belt, and ran errands.

Today I went out with my Mom to do a little holiday shopping. Well, actually, I only bought one present because I'm all done shopping for everyone except my Mom, and I can't very well shop for her while I'm out with her! But I got the last thing that I needed for my husband, and I also hit the used bookstore, where I got some fresh reading material, and JoAnn's, where I picked up the latest issue of Beadwork. There are a couple of things in there that I might try, and some pretty cool articles.

One of the things that I nabbed at the used bookstore was one of those fancy Australian cross stitch and beading magazines. This one was totally Asian themed and there are some really cool Geisha graphs which I'd like to make use of. I'm just nerdy enough to adapt them to try to look like my L5R characters. Hey, how many other geeks have beaded character portraits?

Hopefully tomorrow I'll have time to do a little clay work. I've got to get it done soon if I want to give it as holiday gifties! Too many things to do and far little time.

Today's Cool Thing is my friend Ellen's charity auction! This miniature Christmas tree is adorned with many of Ellen's beautiful lampwork beads. I own some of her beads, and let me tell you, they are quite nice and she's only improved since I purchased them. If you can afford to bid, you'll be getting great beads and helping kitties in need. What could be better than that?

Friday, December 01, 2006

Fashionable Friday -- Jewelry Gift Guide

Ahhh yes, here it is, December. Truth be told, I don't like December very much. It has a bad habit of being cold, the mail gets slow because of the holidays, the stores are all crowded, and everywhere I go, bad Christmas music. Now, don't get me wrong, I enjoy the holidays. I just don't like some of the trappings that go with them.

What I do like is the giving, receiving, and selling of holiday gifts! I love holiday shopping, as there are few things more satisfying than buying something that you know is just perfect for your loved one. Making presents is fun, too, when you know that the receiver actually appreciates the work that goes into it. And hearing that my jewelry is being purchased as a gift always gives me a warm fuzzy feeling -- and believe me, in this weather, I need all the warm fuzzies I can get!

(Yes, I know all of you who are in genuinely cold climates are going "Oh, boo-hoo AJ, it got down to 33 degrees, you poor baby!" Yes, I am a weather wimp)

Where was I? Ah yes. Jewelry makes a great present for many people: mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, girlfriends, ME ;) You'd think that by now I might say "Oh no, no more jewelry for me, I've got enough!" but I just keep looking for and making more.

My crystal bracelets are very popular as gifts. Everyone seems to love them, and I have them in a wide variety of colors. There's still time to make a custom order before the holidays if you don't see a combination that grabs you. I can even make these as anklets.

Spiral Bracelets are also very popular. The spiral is a motif which has almost universal appeal, and it's very attractive when rendered in beads. My stock on hand is currently a little limited, but this is another item when I can easily make custom versions of. Spirals also make for very nice necklaces!

If you need a smaller gift, earrings are a great choice. My selection has grown by leaps and bounds this year, and I try to add new ones every week. Starting at $10, they easily fit into tight budgets, and there's a dizzying amount of options if you'd like a custom pair. Don't forget that I can make earrings to match most necklaces and bracelets in my inventory!

If you're in search of something even more unique, I have a huge selection of Strung Necklaces currently available. Although weaving is my speciality, I do enjoy the occasional strung project, and they often feature unusual focals, such as lampworked beads or carved stones.

While I would of course love it if you'd shop at my site for all of your holiday jewelry needs, I understand that my style might not be for everyone. So I'd be almost as happy if you shopped at any of these fellow jewelry designers, who do beautiful work!

Bead Indulgences is the perfect place to find chainmaille and wire-work jewelry. If you want a gift with a real "WOW" factor, be sure to check out her necklaces!

VChoy's beadwork also has a high "WOW" factor! You will probably not believe how awesome her beadwork is until you see it!

As you probably already know, I love Elle B's earrings. They blow mine out of the water. What they were doing in the water in the first place, I really don't know.

Dreams and Jewelry
does some very awesome work, cool metal and resin and other materials. I like the vintage key necklace that she has up right now!

If you don't mind dealing with International shipping, Hana Jewels from Japan has some absolutely adorable jewelry, much of it with floral patterns. And her prices are unbelievable!

I really like JewelLace's work, too, and will probably buy myself some someday.

Ossabelle has some very cool glass slide pendants, including Lovecraftian ones! Excuse me while I squeel like a fangirl: EEEEEEE!

I could go on all day about awesome places to buy jewelry, but I'm starting to get hungry for dinner, so I think now I'll move on to great ways to store jewelry, in case you're shopping for someone who already has more than they know what to do with!

has a couple of beautiful handmade wooden jewelry boxes. I love the lid on the top one, such pretty wood grain... mmm.

Shevon Grant Ceramics
makes some lovely jewelry trays, for keeping jewelry by your bedside. I need something like this for my desk, except that with how much jewelry I deposit here, it would have to be the size of a turkey platter!

has some very cool "Jewelry Guardians" which are sculptures designed to hold your jewelry. I especially like the one that I linked you to, but there are a couple more in her store.

Hopefully between all of these links and the vastness of the Internet you'll be able to find the perfect gift for the jewelry lover in your life!