July 30, 2017

Gentlemen, and Ladies, Start Your Needles!

Okay, I'm ready.

Jean Powers' Secret Beadalong started yesterday, but I've been busy getting ready for today's bridal shower, so I haven't actually started yet.  However, I have my beads ready, and I've printed out the first two days of instructions, so I'll get started tonight.  Stay tuned....

P.S. If you would like to join in, I think you can still subscribe. Follow this link:

P.P.S. I know what you're going to ask: is it really a secret? Well, the main secret is that you don't know what the finished product will be. You simply follow each day's instructions. Also, people are asked not to share their progress online if they are a day or two ahead. (No risk of that here!)

P.P.S. This year's beadalong project requires familiarity with Right-Angle-Weave and Peyote stitch.

June 19, 2017

A Class with Class

I finished!  This is possibly the fastest I've every finished a project after a beading class.  This is from the workshop last month with instructor Kinga Nichols, hosted by the Portland Bead Society.
It's a bead-embroidered bracelet called "Cathedral Windows, Broken."  I love it!

The main reason I took the class was to work with Kinga. I've known her online for a number of years, and it was great to finally meet her in person!

Kinga is a fun person, and a wonderful teacher. Everyone enjoyed the class.

I will confess that I didn't expect to actually learn anything new in this class. 
However, I was happy to be wrong about that! 

The class was time well-spent, and now I have this super cool nouveau-funk bracelet to wear!! 
Thank you to PBS for making this class happen!

June 16, 2017

What is a Father?

As Fathers' Day approaches, some are uncomfortable because they had no father, or didn't have a loving relationship with one. But there is still much to be said about fathering. On this day we honor WHOMEVER nurtured us, even if it was our mom, and we explore our own desire to nurture and care for others. Or maybe we've had to nurture ourselves... we can celebrate that strength!  
We step outside the box, and find a way to appreciate all those who love, feed, protect, foster, rescue, teach, enhance, or encourage other living beings -- human or animal. On this day we celebrate the highest human virtue: LOVE.


June 10, 2017

In the Early Morning Rain

I am not a morning person.

But for the right motivation, I will get up early, have Gershon drop me off downtown, and stand in the rain to watch dragon boats racing.

Lexi has been getting really into this sport, and I have wanted to go see it, but circumstances keep conspiring against me.  But today I was going to do it, no matter what.  And it was well worth my while.

We figured out a plan for me to attend the race and still get to a Bar Mitzvah later in the morning.  Well, SOME of the plan worked out....

Since I've never seen any part of this sport before, it was all new and fascinating to me. My first job was to find Lexi's team, the Valkyries.  Many teams have official-looking names printed on their tents... many with Viking elements, or river-puns. The Valkyries sign wasn't up yet, so I wandered around a little. Eventually I found them, and THEN they put up their sign.

In Portland, most teams are all-women, with a few mixed teams sprinkled in. I have no idea why; I'm sure somebody knows. But the result is an amazing female-dominated sport. I watched hundreds of incredibly powerful athletes prepare for their races... by putting on makeup (war-paint) and special jewelry, and braiding each other's hair!  Lexi wasn't thrilled when I said it was "cute." That was the wrong word, but it was truly very touching. Women give each other moral support in a special way.

Of course, it's a whole world I know nothing about. It's a Viking thing, so there are Viking elements everywhere. Also references to water, like those incredible fish-scale leggings. Some of the teams are cancer survivors, which is very inspiring. 

Like any sport, there's a lifetime of practice involved. Often this is made possible through the loving support of family members. I loved seeing husbands, children, and parents of the athletes cheering them on. It's hard to see, but the hands in the lower left of this photo are family members cheering madly as our team grabs that flag.

It's also interesting to watch a team sport which is entirely about the team. There are not any stars; there can't be. Since my own (spectator) experience with sports has mainly focused on basketball and track, this is a new concept to me. I can see why she loves it. While you do explore your own capability, you are very much part of a spiritual whole.

The races ran later than planned, and I completely missed the Bar Mitzvah. I felt bad about that, but it was a memorable experience which I won't soon forget.

May 31, 2017

Tassle Lariat

I FINALLY finished this amazing project from Helena Tang-Lim's class last summer. Working on it on-and-off between other things, it took nine months. Sort of like having twins !! 

Helena's projects are always stunning, and most of them take a REALLY long time to complete. I am wrestling with this, because I sometimes feel it takes too much time away from my own creations, and yet I always learn from the process. 

But for this moment, I will just allow myself to enjoy the feeling of accomplishment. 

If you're a beader, you may want to explore Helena's website... she has some beautiful kits and workshops.   http://www.manek-manek.com

May 29, 2017

This is What They Died For

This weekend our nation observes Memorial Day, when we honor the memory of soldiers who gave their lives in battle to protect our country and our freedoms.  It is a long weekend, granting many people extra time off from work, ostensibly to turn some attention to our national memory, and also to celebrate and practice those freedoms we hold dear.

So, how do we observe this weekend?  Some people go to cemeteries to honor their own loved ones who made the ultimate sacrifice. Others gather with family and friends to spend precious quality time together. Some go to houses of worship. Many go shopping.

Personally, I go to Seattle. 

Each year Gershon and I attend the annual Northwest FolkLife Festival in Seattle, which runs for 4 full days every Memorial Day Weekend. It is the most amazing celebration of life, of heritage, of diversity that I know of.  Over 5,000 people perform, and a quarter-million people attend. In attendance and onstage are every imaginable ethnicity, age, skill level, gender, and body type in the world. There is music and dance and poetry from almost every nation on earth, and food vendors offering sustenance and treats from across the globe.

This incredible festival of music, dance, poetry, and theatre is a microcosm of America. I sat and watched a Philippine fiddler perform Scandinavian music, saw Hawaiian dances performed by every possible ethnic group, and sat with a recent immigrant from Vietnam who proudly watched her daughter play violin with a Balkan street-band. We saw white people playing African music, and black people singing Croatian ballads. Many music and dance schools come to perform, and the pride of parents watching their children and students learn the arts of their own heritage can't help but move your heart. This is what they fought for.

There is also ample opportunity for attendants to participate. At every turn, there are huge crowds on their feet, shaking to Brazilian music, learning Polynesian steps, enjoying Zydeco dance with live musicians. There are American sing-alongs and African drum circles. Pregnant women dance, while new fathers feed their babies. There is life, and movement, and song and joy. This is what they defended.

America's best self is what our martyred soldiers fought to defend. Our loving country, which welcomes the tired, poor, and tempest-tossed to join our society. Our diverse country, where you do NOT have to lose your heritage in order to become a proud American. Our vibrant country, whose national mosaic becomes more beautiful with each new immigrant who takes the oath of citizenship. This is what they died for.

There are places in the world where you could never see something like this event. Diversity is not celebrated, not permitted at all. Religious freedom isn't allowed, expressing your true identity is harshly punished. Wearing shorts in public? No.  In some countries, even their own native music is forbidden.... it is only being preserved by people far away, at events like this. Freedom of self and expression is what our soldiers fought and died for.

We live in troubling times. Sometimes we feel that our way of life is under attack, from within and from without. There is much talk of deploying our military to "defend our freedom."  But we need to be very clear about what that means. For what reason do we send our troops into harm's way? For what purpose have they volunteered? What have our brave soldiers fought and died for?

All those noble men and women weren't fighting to defend hatred, bigotry, or xenophobia, even though some of them may have felt those things. They also didn't lay down their lives to enrich banks or oil companies.  They were fighting to defend our national ideal of true freedom for all, to give us more time to try to achieve it. We haven't accomplished it yet, but we're still trying. It is a difficult goal, one that has never been truly realized anywhere. America is the last, best hope for that ideal. With gratitude to all who fought and died during this struggle toward our goal, let us honor their memory and work hard to make their sacrifice count.

I go to Seattle to remember. Where do you go?

May 23, 2017

Beading With Kinga

On Sunday I got to take a beading class with Kinga Nichols!  I have known her online for several years, but it was a treat to finally meet her in person!  She is a free-spirit, and many of you are familiar with her fantastical beadwork creations. Well, it turns out, she is a lovely teacher as well.

Kinga taught three workshops for the Portland Bead Society this weekend. I took one of them, entitled Cathedral Windows, Broken.  Kinga's emphasis is always on doing what feels right to YOU, and getting outside the traditional "box."  So we have a pattern to follow as a starting point, but are given the freedom to use it however we want. Here is the sample of this project. All kits were the same, but they won't all look the same when they're finished.


The other two workshops were a pendant and her famous Fish bracelet.

Kinga also gave a lovely presentation to the Bead Society at our monthly meeting tonight. She talked about the development of her approach to beadwork, including the evolution of her iconic fishes, and ended with the same message about the importance of being true to yourself. It was wonderful!
Once again, thank you to the Portland Bead Society for helping us to expand our horizons and grow as artists!

May 14, 2017

Happy Mothers' Day, Owl-Style

The owl games in Portland are finished, but today was Mothers' Day, so there was a little more fun to be had before I mail them off tomorrow.

The owls came with us to Mothers' Day breakfast at the Multnomah Falls Lodge.  It wasn't their kind of food, so they just hung out and watched politely.

After the festive meal, Gershon and his mom walked up to the falls, and I stepped inside the visitor center to get out of the rain. Guess who was there?!? A big, life-size owl up near the ceiling, just ready for the perfect photo-op!

Later in the afternoon we went to a performance of the Bach Cantata Choir, and the Owls were very well-behaved. Not a single hoot (maybe because they were zipped up inside my bag?). 

Finally we went home, packed up the tiles, and said a fond farewell. Tomorrow they travel to the far-off land of Louisiana.  
It's been an awesome experience!

May 13, 2017

Two By Two

Day 3 of the Portland Owl Odyssey: Couples' Mah Jongg

My last group with the Owl set played Saturday night. This is a group of 6 couples who play monthly. We've been playing together for 11 years, and have become a tight group of friends. Once or twice a year we go to the beach for a Mah Jongg weekend. Each of the couples attending added to the theme by bringing owl stuff... a solar-powered owl toy, a framed owl picture, owl masks, and owl earrings. 

Owl mask guarding the TV.

I issued the same one-bam challenge to this group, but it was really hard to achieve. Finally one of the husbands won, and went over to choose a prize from the basket. He didn't hesitate, chose a pair of owl earrings, and presented them to his wife!  OMG, so sweet! (I urged him to take a second prize for himself, but he declined.) Later his wife made the BIG HAND, picked it herself, and of course it included a one-bam. So she got $1.20 from each player, plus a prize from the basket. Did she choose a prize for hubby?  Ummm... no.

 Sheryl wins the BIG hand.

It was a lovely, comfortable evening with old friends. Everyone enjoyed the Owl set, the prizes, and the owl snacks. It's one more sweet memory that we share.