December 30, 2014

Finishing the Year in Living Color

This month's beading challenge was fairly open-ended… use one of the color palettes at

Sounds easy enough, but I struggled with it.  I wanted to use these purplish fire-polished beads I bought recently. And of course it has to be made with only existing "stash." So I pulled a lot of beads and went back-and-forth a lot between these similar palettes:

It came to the point where I couldn't see straight, so I set it all aside for awhile. 
Eventually I came back and chose this old favorite:

After that, the beads pretty much took over, and this is what emerged:
It's a flat-spiral necklace, with a matching bracelet that doubles as an extender. This concludes December 2014 for me.
Happy New Year to all!

November 26, 2014

Cheesecake Memories

Cheesecakes ready to go into the oven. God, the memories of my Mom and her famous cheesecake! As small children, David and I eagerly waited to lick the beaters. When we got older, there was the tedium of crushing the crackers, and the back-breaking task of filling and tamping down hundreds of those mini-tarts, and as a newlywed learning the tricks to bake the pie myself. Now my own kids are grown and still love this dish more than anything. Love you and miss you, Mom.

Aid for the Kitchen

In 40 years of marriage, 40 years of running my own kitchen, I have never spent the money for a KitchenAid mixer. But last week Gershon convinced me to take advantage of the deal at Costco. Today I opened the box to bake for Thanksgiving. Don't ask me why, but I find myself teary-eyed. Shehechiyanu….

October 29, 2014

Black is Black

Sorry, couldn't resist the title. Los Bravos, you know?

Anyway, the October beading challenge is to make something all black. Yikes! No silver or gold accents, no grey or white, just black. Whew! But then again, I'm in mourning, so it actually feels right.

Well, there's this pattern I've been wanting to try, using superduo beads, so I decided to give it a go. Again, not too hard to do the beading, but photographing it was the real challenge!

'Terracotta Dawn' (pattern by Cheri Carlson

September 2, 2014

Obituary for Mom

Penina Bergman was born Finy Horowitz in Chernowitz, Rumania on March 13, 1926. It was the beginning of an amazing journey.

After a happy childhood, Penina and her family moved to Bucharest during WWII to evade the Nazis. Youthful dreams of a career in medicine were abandoned. Life became difficult, and many of their family members were lost during the Holocaust. But her father's intuition to leave Chernovitz had been very wise, and their lttle family survived.

At the end of WWII, she and her parents made their way to Palestine, which was about to become the Jewish state of Israel.  There she met an American rabbinical student, Robert Bergman, and on July 18, 1951 they were married in Jerusalem. She returned with him to America. He was ordained in 1955, and took his first congregation in Pennsylvania. During the next 6 years, the young couple had 4 children, served several small congregations, and Penina's parents followed her to America in 1960.  In 1961 the family moved to Colorado, and in 1963 they came to Southern California, where Bob became the Rabbi of Temple Beth Sholom in Santa Ana.

Raising 4 children, she taught religious school classes and tutored Hebrew students in congregations in Pennsylvania, Colorado, and California. She and her husband founded Israel Academy in Irvine, and were involved with several congregations in Southern California, as well as Union of Reform Judaism's Camp Swig in Saratoga, CA.

As her children were going to college in the 1970's and 80's, Penina decided to go back to school, and earned a Bachelor's Degree in Counseling from Cal State University Fullerton. She also revisited her dream of working in the medical field, as a medical assistant specializing in infertility. She loved this work, helping couples to create families.

Her husband and life's love passed away in 1989. Shortly after his passing, Penina was invited to tutor Bar/Bat Mitzvah students at Temple Beth Sholom. She loved working with the children, and soon it became a full-time job, inevitably adding the students of Temple Bat Yahm as well. For over 15 years, Penina was the 'Coach' to hundreds of Bar/Bat Mitzvah students, many of whose parents she had taught decades before. She truly shone in this role, and became a most beloved influence on Jewish families throughout Orange County. The Israel Bonds foundation honored her at a testimonial dinner in 1998.

Penina's journey took her from Rumania to Israel, to Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado, and California. She spoke fluent Rumanian, Hebrew, Yiddish, & English. She was also familiar with French, German, & Russian. She loved opera & Israeli folkdance. She had a brilliant singing voice, was a perceptive photographer, and was famous for her Cherry Cheesecake. She belonged to Sisterhood, ORT, and Hadassah. She was a force to be reckoned with.

In her later years, Penina lived at Heritage Point Jewish retirement home in Mission Viejo. She passed away there on Monday, Sept. 1, 2014.

She is survived by her 4 children: Esther Liberman, David Bergman, Gabriel Bergman, and Ben Bergman, and 4 grandchildren: Joel Liberman, Micah Liberman, Trevor Bergman, and Robert Lloyd Bergman.

September 1, 2014

Pink and Purple: really???

August's beading challenge was a set of four colors: pink, purple, silver, and grey. Not my usual color playground, but that's the way it goes.

This was a crazy busy month for me, so fulfilling this challenge had to be quick and easy.  It was easy to pull out some beads and do a quick free-form pendant. Photographing it was not so simple!
But in the end (and I do mean the very end of the month), I like it.

April 25, 2014

Shades of Green

This month's beading challenge was easy, once I realized I had already done it!

Karie Popp Hieb taught this very cool project at the Bead Retreat, but I wasn't in that class. Eventually I got around to reading the directions that had been generously included in everyone's packet. I knew it was great-looking, having seen the ones people from the class were working on. And I had two different shades of green tila beads on hand, so let's do this thing!

I finished the bracelet pretty quickly, before my trip to OC, and set it aside. Already planning my next one, maybe in black and white.  Today I pondered this month's challenge, which is multiple shades of one color. What could I possibly do in just the few days I have left?  Wait a minute… I've already done it!

Multiple shades of one color? Check. Done within this month? Check. All made from existing "stash"? Check!!

Sometimes life takes care of me.

"Reversa-tila Bracelet" (design by Karie Popp Hieb)

April 22, 2014


Just got back from OC. Spent a few days visiting with Mom, Gabe, and David.  It's really hard to  watch Mom existing in this limbo. Most days she really can't have a conversation anymore. But yesterday she was more lucid than usual, and was able to tell me how unhappy she is! It was hard to know what to say. But I was touched that when I told her about Nacho's death, she said "I'm sorry. You really loved him, didn't you?" Truly I didn't know if she would even remember him, let alone care.

I told Mom about my upcoming surgery. I would have liked to have a deeper conversation about it, but that's not possible anymore. So I put it really simply, and she wished me good luck.

I go home feeling frustrated and powerless. I have no idea how much longer Mom will survive. It's been a year since she basically stopped eating. And with my surgery coming up, I'm not sure how long it will be until I can travel again. I don't know if that was our final goodbye or not. My feeling of limbo and uncertainty sort of mirrors her condition. Neither of us is happy.

April 1, 2014

Beading on Auto Pilot

March was a tough month for me. Grieving for Nacho, and fighting yet another bad cold, it was hard to think constructively or inventively. Fortunately I already had a significant beading project in progress, so I didn't need to think up anything. And it's always good to have work for my hands when my head and heart are wounded.

At last month's Bead Retreat, I took a wonderful class with the legendary Virginia Blakelock. She was preparing a new class for the Bead & Button show, and we got to be her guinea pigs… for free!!  It was an awesome project, entitled Etruscan Bracelet.

My online beading group issues a challenge each month, and this month's challenge was…. ready for this?…. Ancient Civilizations!! And since the class was held on March 1st, it qualified. This was really great because, as I mentioned I couldn't possibly think up something original myself.

So I spent a few weeks completing the bracelet we began in class, and submitted it on time for the online challenge. Mission accomplished, and some degree of comfort taken.

March 9, 2014


I worked for many hours last night on a photo album of Nacho's life, for our memorial today. I'm a little teary-eyed, but this is really therapeutic. So many wonderful memories, I can't help but smile. The kids came over today, and we all reminisced and ate pizza together. 
(Photo copyright 2013 Gary Martel)

March 3, 2014

A Very Good Dog

It all happened so fast. I can't believe he's gone. Our beloved Nacho has been the apple of our family's eye for 11 years, and in a sudden half-hour, he's gone. What a wonderful dog he was, what an incredible character. What will life be like without him? Our loss is staggering.

I keep seeing him dead on that table, but in time I trust that image will recede, and I will remember all the wonderful moments with him, and all the laughter and joy and pride he brought us.

At least he didn't suffer for long. At least we could be with him in his last moments. Goodbye, my sweet baby. We loved you so much.


February 24, 2014

Good vs Evil: it's not always black and white.

Sometimes I am conflicted: should I read or should I bead? I love them both, but often one seems like a distraction from the other. Balance has never been my strong suit.  This is why I love the "Read & Bead" challenges presented by my online beading group. We get to do both, with purpose!

Generally, we have several books to choose from, and this time I had no idea what any of them were about. So I chose the one that was apparently humorous.  The book is called "Witches Abroad" by Terry Pratchett. Never heard of him before, but he's written a LOT of books.  He's a British writer, in the vein of Douglas Adams and Monty Python. So the reading part was rollicking good fun. But then came the beading part. I can't believe how hard it was to decide what to do!  I guess I should go easy on myself: my brain is still terribly distracted. But it surprised me anyway.

Eventually I distilled the crazy story down to the concept of Good vs Evil, and the twisting winding way in which each of the Fairy Godmothers thought SHE was the good one. Black and white beads presented themselves, a double-spiral stitch seemed to fit the bill, and I sprinkled in a few gold beads to represent the royalty in the story and brighten up the piece.

They don't all have to be epic creations. This one worked for this particular moment in time, and I'm happy with it.


February 10, 2014

You Never Know….

We've all heard or experienced those stories about tiny insignificant events or decisions that lead in new and incredible directions. Like turning left or right when exploring your new city, which can lead to a neighborhood that determines so much about your future life, and that of your children.

One of these unforeseeable chains happened to me last year. Remember last January when I wrote about going to Boston for our nephew's Bar Mitzvah?  I wrote this:
Jan 19, 2013    Lexington, MA       Tonight was one of those unplanned delights. Three of us went down to hang out in the hotel lobby. As other guests who attended today's Bar Mitzvah came and went, they saw us and joined. Then Gershon's sister brought over some leftover food from the party, and someone ordered out pizza. The group got bigger and louder, several of us broke out the beads, while others played chess, and we all played Jewish Geography. We stayed till after midnight - talking, laughing, eating, drinking, sharing FB pages... what a blast!
Well, I met a fellow beader that night who led me to a beading group on Facebook. I never dreamed that going to a Bar Mitzvah in Boston would revive my beading life, but it did!  The beading group is a large, diverse group of beaders who live all over the world. They are a very active group, with several beading challenges going at all times. Everyone posts pictures of things they're working on, learning, teaching, or have completed. There is an incredible wealth of information there, encouraging each other to learn new techniques, discover new materials, and expand the limits of our creative comfort zones. It has also led to several other groups, and even got me to learn a totally new (to me) beading genre.

I've done more beading this past year than I have in a long time. Or at least it feels like it, because a lot of what I've done is new and inspired, rather than just aiming for sales.  The most recent piece I completed was for a challenge to create something based on a famous painting. I chose Monet's Water Lilies series  This bracelet was my opportunity to try the Shibori ribbon which is such a hot-happening trend right now, and also the first time I've ever used sequins!  Without this challenge, I never would have thought of doing this.

I've been posting some of the other challenges as the year progressed. Here are more projects this online world has inspired me to do.

"My Heart of Hearts" necklace.
I made the two beaded hearts from Nancy Dale's Sweetheart Solitaire pattern. The resin heart on the left I purchased from an online charity fundraiser, and was made by artist Shai Williams. The little bronze heart has been in my stash forever, and finally found a home.  

 I've been learning Kumihimo, an ancient Japanese braiding art form. It's fascinating to be a newbie again. But I had some success with this 4-color braid and bead-bezeled stone pendant.

Kumihimo rope with two kinds of cord on each strand. Fused glass pendant is by Portland glass artist Eddy Shuldman.

This was my first attempt to add beads to Kumihimo. They have very big holes, so I could fit the thicker satin cord through them. I only had 16 beads on hand, so that's all I used!

"Jungle Love" freeform peyote necklace.  
This is what I was starting to work on during our trip to Boston. It's the most ambitious freeform piece I've done to-date.

I've been doing Spiral Rope for many years, but this year I learned how to do Double Spiral
and Triple Spiral.

Experimentations with Herringbone stitch, inspired by the "I Can Herringbone" challenge.

After learning Cubic Right-Angle-Weave (CRAW), this idea popped into my head:

Tutorials from Nancy Dale: "Runway" bracelet and
"Sweetheart Solitaire" pendants.

"Verticals" bracelet pattern by Sabine Lippert is an incredible creation of Right Angle Weave. Her color scheme (below) is perfect, and someone suggested that I try another palette using silver (left). I love them both.

 Two color palettes for the "Catherine Bangle" from Jane Lock's book "The Art of Beadweaving." Instead of a closed bangle, I added a hidden magnet clasp. Also I modified the structure of the CRAW so it wouldn't stand up so high. Size 8/o and 11/o seed beads, with 3mm crystals. I love this bracelet, and have already chosen colors for my next one.