Studio Musings

Monday, January 15, 2018

Two Down, Two to Go

This is a totally non-bead related, non-artsy post, fair warning.

Health-wise, the past few years have been a bit of a roller coaster as I've dealt with a series of auto-immune issues.  Things flared up again big time this past fall, to the point that I could barely breath during the day and only slept in 10-15 minute increments before waking up choking.  Really not good!

This fall I got to visit with a whole slew of specialists, including an otolaryngologist who sent me to another specialist to verify that my hearing hadn't actually been damaged (it hadn't thank goodness!), and gave me referrals for environmental allergy testing as well as a sleep study.  But he discouraged me from being tested for food allergies.  I believe his concern was that in the state I was then, the results would say I was sensitive to everything.

Instead, he suggested that I cut out specific foods to see if my symptoms would improve, and suggested that I do an elimination diet, what he called the "Gold Standard" to let my system heal, and then slowly reintroduce 'suspect' foods while keeping a food journal to track sensitivities and reactions.

With the holidays fast approaching, I decided to put it off until the day after New Year's.  January 2nd, I jumped in with both feet - cutting out everything that I seemed to cause problems, and a few extras that I was told to cut, just to be thorough.  Check out my "No Fun" list of all the foods I'm currently avoiding - isn't it fun?  (Not!)  This is supposed to go on for a full four weeks before I start the reintroduction process.  Weeee!

Here's what I've learned so far.

Week One: Cutting caffeine, sugar and wheat out of one's diet all at once is truly no fun.  In fact, it was pretty darned awful.  Crushing headaches, joint pain, fevers, nausea, other things best not to mention; if my energy levels hadn't been pretty good, I would have thought I'd caught the flu.  But the good news, is if you do it all at once, then when it's done it's done.  I don't think I could have gone through that multiple times.

Week Two was more of a mental challenge.  I don't love to cook, and this diet pretty much insures that I have to cook every meal at home because it seems that almost everything prepackaged includes something I'm avoiding.  Even luncheon meats - if it's not added sugars, it's garlic powder (my one cheat is a little bit of bacon).  Figuring out how to make large batches of food that still taste good as leftovers with my limited ingredient list when I'm sick of cooking - yep, that was my challenge.  Mostly, I was grumpy at all the things I can't eat right now. 

Early in the week I also dealt with some energy issues.  I'd head out to walk to the bus and find myself extremely light-headed, and my legs wobbly.  Finally figured out that I needed more starchy carbs in my diet - I'd better not develop a sensitivity to sweet potatoes, because they are currently my best friend.   Once I figured that out, I was even able to make it through a light work out at the gym on Sunday for the first time in months.  Baby steps - I keep reminding myself. 

Otherwise, I am seeing a definite improvement in many of my ongoing symptoms.  Yippee!

from Practical Paleo by Dianne Sanfilippo
Now, I'm heading into Week Three.  

Week One I put together a meal plan. Week Two, I kept telling myself to put one together, but never actually did because I was too busy being grumpy.  Week Three, I'm determined to make a real meal plan and try out at least three new recipes.  I'm debating a recipe for Broc-Cauli Chowder from Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo.  Would it really taste good? Especially without the garlic?  Maybe I'd be safer with the Butternut Sage soup on the next page?  Hmmm...

Either way, I need a new blender, so I've been researching options.  Hoping not to spend too much, and I want something really, really easy to clean.  I hated our old blender (dead now for ten plus years); the glass container was too big and heavy, and soooo difficult to clean.  This time around I think I'm looking at a personal blender.  Lighter weight, and easier to clean.  Hopefully it will also work reasonably well.  Keeping my fingers crossed.  I'm also thinking about buying a hand-crank spiralizer.  Zucchini noodles may be in my future.

I fear that's where all of my extra bandwidth has gone, these first two weeks of 2018.  I am wide open to recipe suggestions; if you have a favorite recipe that fits (or can be made to fit) my limitations, I'd love to see it.  I'd also love to hear your experiences if you've done a similar elimination diet in the past (or are doing one right now).  Even with my nutritionist's recommendations, I really feel like I'm making this up as I go.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

A White Christmas & a Boxing Day Surprise

Had to take a 'housie' - it looked so cute all decorated in snow
Who says wishes never come true? 

Yesterday morning, we woke to a Winter Wonderland; the world outside our door decorated with a liberal coating of snow.  And it hadn't stopped snowing; there was more softly drifting through the chilly air like party confetti.  Snow Day!!!!

This being Seattle - we weren’t sure how long it would last.  By some accounts this was Seattle's eighth White Christmas since 1909!  Which is how we found ourselves wandering the neighborhood in the early morning light, drinking in the sights.  Pre-coffee, pre-presents, predawn, just us and the snow.

wandering the neighborhood in the half-light before dawn

Cherry trees limned with snow

It was a wet, heavy snow and I love how it highlighted all the little tree branches. 

These are photos of some cherry trees.  The snow made it easy to see the variations in branching patterns between different tree species.  Even the littlest branches of the cherry trees provided nice stark, dark lines of contrast.   That’s likely the reason they were also my most successful tree photos.

What an amazing way to start Christmas morning!  And sure enough, by late afternoon, the snow had begun to melt.  Today, there's still snow on the ground, but it's gone from all of the trees.

Snow equals Snowflakes!

In celebration of our first Snow Day in forever, our first White Christmas in even longer, and as a little gift for Boxing Day, I'm putting together a free bonus snowflake tutorial for anyone who has ever purchased my Snowflakes and Stars tutorial, or one of my snowflake kits.  This includes people who have taken one of my Snowflake workshops. 

How do you receive your copy?  Simply let me know where and when you purchased the tutorial (to the best of your memory).  On New Year's day, I'll send you instructions for the snowflake pictured in my earlier post, Hoping for Snow, (and below).  It's a 'decorated' version of my basic snowflake.  Make sure you include an email address, or some way to contact you!  If you send me a picture of one of the snowflakes you made, I may include a little extra bonus.  Yep, a little bribery because I'd love to see your work.  :)

Don't have the original pattern?  Purchase it between now and New Years, and I'll send you the bonus instructions, too. 

I'll send out instructions for this beaded snowflake on New Years

(Speaking of snowflakes, if there are friends who have a Cricut cutter and would like me to share how I made the paper ornaments, let me know.  They were really easy; the snowflakes are stock images that I combined with a circle frame).

 Happy Boxing Day! 

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Hoping for Snow

There’s potential for snow in the forecast, both today and tomorrow.  Like always, it’s still uncertain; everything has to go just right (or just wrong depending upon your perspective) for it to snow in Seattle. Today, there’s a chance that by mid-afternoon, the fluffy white stuff might grace our skies and leave a light dusting all around.  The original inspiration for glitter!  If it doesn’t snow this afternoon, there’s a renewed chance of snow tomorrow.  In either case, no real accumulation is expected.

If it does snow, it will be our first white Christmas since 2008. That year was definitely a case of too much of a good thing.  It started snowing mid-December and didn’t stop until December 24th. Over a week straight of snow!  Pretty much unheard of here.  I only want an inch or two; a little extra decoration for the holidays, that disappears in time for the Tuesday commute.

And so I’m dreaming of a White Christmas, while sitting at my local coffee shop in front of the (gas) fireplace enjoying the quiet magic of Christmas Eve.

Merry Christmas to all of my friends who celebrate the holiday.  In the immortal words of Irving Berlin:

May your Christmas be merry and bright, 
and may all your Christmases be white. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Girls Rule, Especially at Geek Girl Con

This weekend I took a side trip out of the regular world into the wonderful, amazing, zany world of Geek Girl Con.  A world of games, science, imagination and fun where women took center stage for a change. 

Panels ran the gamut from sneak peaks and hosted play for upcoming games, to in-depth looks at the demographics of various genres fan bases and their actual representation therein, to DIY science and art projects, to a panel on building realistic fake languages and hardcore STEM panels such as Droid Building 101: Build Your Own Astromech and Build Your Own 2G Phone With that last one, the first 20 participants participated in the workshop, everyone else was welcome to simply listen in. 

For myself, I ended up skipping most of the hardcore panels this time and settled into a schedule of make-and-takes and games, including a group story building workshop. 

Saturday opened with a little Betrayal at Baldur's Gate
Betrayal at Baldur's Gate starts as a territory exploration game.  You and your fellow explorers build the board a tile at a time, gathering loot, battling monsters and uncovering periodic mysteries as you go.  Until the game suddenly turns into a pitched battle or adventure game, where your party must learn to work together to defeat the threat.  Worse, it may turn out that one of your party members is a betrayer, in which case you must defeat them to win the game. 

The designers at Avalon Hill have written 50 different scenarios for the second half of the game - circumstances within the game determine which one you will face.  As far as I could tell, every table in the room was faced with a different scenario, which makes for great replay value. 

I was the only one at our table who hadn't played the earlier version, Betrayal at House on the Hill (totally non-D&D). We encountered a pve (player vs environment) scenario.  We lost spectacularly, but it was still a lot of fun.   If you're a long-time D&D fan, the game has the right feel.  If you've never played D&D before, it's a fun adventure game (according to tablemates who fell into this category).

D&D Dinosaur Races with the Adventurers' League
My appetite whetted for some real D&D, I stuck around to play a new adventure from Wizard's of the CoastsTombs of Annihilation.  Wizard's hosted a hands-on game.  Totally unexpected, they gave each of us participating a dice bag with dice.  At the end of the game, they surprised us again with free minies - we each received a random 4pack!   

Sunday, I joined the local branch of the Adventurer's League for another scenario.  My fellow players were a mom who'd never played before and a passel of tween girls who'd played for the first time the day before.  This time we got to go to the Dinosaur Races!  Complete with cool maps and minis perched on dinosaurs. 

I've also learned there are sort of two different organized, drop-in D&D groups around here - the Adventurers' League and Pathfinders.  I'm such a geek!

But enough gaming, I did attend a few panels, too.

The Force is Female panel speakers
My favorite thing, hands down, about all of the panels I attended?  The speakers were predominantly women, unlike most other cons I've attended where at best there's a token female panelist.

a photo from a PAX 2017 panel for comparison
Back to the GeekGirl panel, I fear that I didn't stay through the full talk.  I discovered I was no where near a hard-core enough fan.  I hadn't watched any of the auxiliary series they referenced and couldn't begin to match their level of analysis of the source base as they referred to characters and scenarios with which I am wholly unfamiliar.   

Even still, much of what they said resonated with me.  One of the panelists also happened to be an engineer.  She noted that in one scene (I think from Rogue One), there's a call for engineers and a bunch of guys come running.  Her question, 'Where are the women engineers?'  I had noticed this too; that while the new movies were getting better about female leads, they still had a long way to go including women in bit roles outside of female stereotypes. 

Speaking of Star Wars, I happened upon these wandering the halls:

Daleks and Droids wandering the halls
And I learned a few new crafting techniques, including a great one for making quick, inexpensive masks.

My mask is lower left, but other participants let me photograph theirs

My mask, at the lower left, is unpainted.  The woman who made the black one in the upper left corner designed hers to fit over her glasses!  How cool is that?  These were all made using tinfoil and masking tape, that's all except for the paint.  

Moro and San from Princess Mononoke
I'd say at least half of the attendees showed up in costume.  Many were of their favorite characters, like this fantastic duo from Princess Mononoke, but just as many were their own original designs.  I  wish I'd taken a photo of the member of the Women's Badminton Protection League, dressed in slightly steampunk, but very proper Victorian attire complete with a spiked badmitton racket and shuttlecock 'grenade'.  Instead, I was focused on taking a photo of the band playing just outside the windows.

Band busking just outside the conference center
Equally cool were the men who attended the con.  Men of all ages; fathers, brothers, sons, boyfriends and friends of women.  Having a blast.  I'd say the male to female ratio was the opposite of other cons I've attended such as PAX.  A refreshing change.  The con also seemed much more relaxed.   I kept finding myself wishing my sister and her boys were in Seattle - there were so many panels and workshops that seemed perfect for one or another of them. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Then End of An Era - Saying Goodbye to Fusion Bead's Seattle Store

After hours at Fusion Beads
Times, they are a'changing; last month I learned that Fusion Beads would be closing their Seattle store.   The end is almost here now; their final day will be this Saturday, September 30th. 

Talking with Mari, the founder and owner of Fusion Beads, it sounds like more and more customers, including locals, are simply shopping online, rather than visiting the store.  (The online store is going strong).

I remember discovering Fusion Beads soon after moving to Seattle in 2001.  I was simply a hobbyist beader at that point, and I'd never seen anything like it.  The colors, the beads, the possibilities.  I took my first ever 'beading' class there, on beginner wire wrapping.  I still have the bracelet I made in that class. 

Somewhere along the way, I began teaching for them - freeform peyote, my random right angle weave lacework cuffs, snowflakes, and every sort of fish design I came up with - in their fabulous classrooms.  I'm not even sure quite when I started, maybe 2011, maybe a little earlier?  I know that it's been at least five years, and that it's been a huge part of my life and my social community during that time.  As well as an amazing source for inspiration, and beads (did I mention beads?)

I stopped by Saturday and snapped a bunch of pictures, after the store closed for the day, which is why there are no people in my photos.   Because it's busy when it's open; everything in the store is half off, with deeper discounts for some items.  The walls are looking a little bare, but there's still so many amazing things, so much inspiration.  So many amazing, talented women working there.

Clearance items (last ofs) for 75% in these cardboard bins

still lots of beads hiding in their little white cubbies

Need any size 15s?  Still plenty of those left as of Saturday night!
I have to say that from my perspective, Mari has really been handling the closing process with class.  A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from Trish, the store manager, offering all of their instructors first crack at the classroom tools and supplies before they went on sale for the general public.  I don't do a lot of metal working, but when I do I kind of make do in terms of tools.  I couldn't pass up the opportunity -  I now have a real set of metal working tools. 

My new-to-me tools!
But one of the coolest things Mari did was move their anniversary party up a little bit so that the store staff could participate, and included all of the instructors in the invitation list for a sunset cruise along Lake Union and Lake Washington.  Once last chance to glam up and hang out with the gang.

Sunset over the arboretum
A peak-a-boo view of Mt. Rainier from Lake Washington
Downtown Seattle from Lake Union - my camera had a little trouble with this night shot

a photo with our 'captain' while waiting to set sail
 Thank you Mari, for creating the go-to place in Seattle for beads, for encouraging me to experiment and grow as an artist in the medium, for so many wonderful memories.  I will definitely be visiting you online!

Do you have favorite memories of the Seattle store, or a class there?  If yes, please share below - I'd love to hear! 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Beading Again - Itty Bitty Little Fish

freeform bead embroidered fishes, stitched from left to right
This week I pulled out the beads for the first time in what seems like forever.  My goal was and is to make little fish pendants for some friends.  I pulled out a bunch of beads in blues, blacks and silvers, but from there I really didn't know where I wanted to go.  Instead, I simply started stitching. 

Which meant that each little fish was a complete surprise.  It was such fun watching them emerge, almost like it wasn't me holding the needle and taking the stitches.  It's interesting that even with these little guys - each one is less than three inches long - they all went through an ugly duckling stage where I really wondered if they would 'turn out'. 

I still need to trim the interfacing, sew on the backing and decide how exactly I want to hang them as pendants.  Need to figure that out quickly, too, as at least two of them are supposed to go to their new homes tomorrow evening.  But I thought I'd share them where they are right now, in this little in-between stage, with my slightly-less-than-stellar photos, because hey,  I'm beading! 

Fish collage  (just noticed - the middle fish on the right is upside down!)

Monday, September 18, 2017

A Magical Time visiting the Wizarding World

Our grand adventure started out with a flight to Orlando, really.  We hung out there for a couple of days recovering from the push to get ready for almost three months of travel.  While there, we decided to spend a day at Universal.  Neither of us had ever been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and everyone we knew who'd visited raved about it.  Checking Undercover Tourist's crowd planner calendars for the following day, the predicted crowds were about as low as low could be.  So, I grabbed a couple of print-at-home, one-day, park-hopper tickets for the next day. 

Walking through the turnstiles, Universal was empty.  Making our way to the back of the park towards the Wizarding World, we stopped to ride a few rides, because there were no lines.  Unfortunately, this turned out to be a bit of a bad idea because one of the 3D rides made Joe decide he didn't want to ride any more 3D rides.  If you have troubles with motion sickness - be warned!

Continuing towards the back of the park, we finally spied the triple-decker Knight Bus - our first indication that we were almost there.  This was confirmed by the shrunken head hanging in the window that berated us for peaking in the windows.  Kind of cool - the entrance to Diagon Alley is sort of  hidden around a corner and up a little alleyway.  We walked through the break in a brick wall and then we were in! 

It really does feel like you've there - Universal's attention to detail is fantastic, with lots of props from the movies.  We spent the first half hour simply looking around.  Trying to play it cool, but really pointing and squealing like little kids (or in Joe's place, simply grinning like he couldn't stop because of course he doesn't squeal - that's all me).  One of the things I'd heard about were the spells you could 'cast' if you had an appropriate wand.  After watching a nearby family casting a set of spells, I decided that I just couldn't resist; I had to have a wand so we could play, too.  After all, that's the reason we were there, right? 

a busy day at Olivander's Wand Shop
Turns out Diagon Alley has a couple of different wand shops.  There's Gregorovitch's, an open-faced storefront with a small selection of wands (and smaller crowds), and then there's Olivanders!  Olivander's is literally packed floor to ceiling with wand boxes!  It's also packed with people - but that kind of made it fun.  The upper level is tilted and sagging from the 'weight' of all of those wands.  So much potential for fun and mischief! 

There were quite a few wands to choose from - Ivy, Holly, Oak, Ash - lots of different 'woods'.  Plaques on the wall depicted each of the wands and described their 'unique' properties.  Oh, and of course there were also the 'famous' wands - replicas of all the major characters' wands from the books (and movies).  We ended up going with Ivy - associated with tenacity, stamina and endless patience.  I figured those were all good qualities for a bead artist, and heh, I liked the design.  Joe and I then took turns casting spells for the rest of the day. 

wands, wands and more wands
Ivy wand and map in hand, we're ready to explore!

Each wand comes with a handy map of the magical hot spots in both Diagon Alley and the nearby Hogsmeade.   Universal has done a frightfully good job with merchandising - helped along by the fact that JK Rowling created Diagon Alley as the place where the wizarding world goes to shop.  You can buy wizarding robes and muggle tshirts at Madam Malkins or Quality Quiditch Supplies, fantastic stuffed animals at Magical Menagerie, visit Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes, and far more.  I was quite proud that we made it out with only our wand and a stuffed Crookshanks that we were able to have shipped to our youngest niece for her birthday.  But I think the coolest theming was Borgin and Burkes in Knockturn Alley.  Perfectly dark and creepy!   The spells you could cast in Knockturn alley were some of the coolest, too.  Here's a fun link to an article with lots of little 'insider' tips to enhance your visit. 

After spending the morning exploring, we stopped for lunch at the Leaky Cauldron.  Hands down, the Leaky Cauldron had some of the best counter-service amusement park food I've ever had.  All of the entries were traditional 'English pub' food, while the drinks were definitely Harry Potter.  Joe had a Fisherman's Pie with pumpkin beer, while I ordered bangers and mash, along with a fizzing orange drink with a cinnamon and brown sugar encrusted rim.  Yum!  We ate a little early, which was a good thing as we had no wait.  By noon, there was a line with a 45-minute wait (at least according to the sign)!

Inside the Three Broomsticks
Our only ride during our exploration of the Wizarding World was the Hogwarts' Express, between the two parks.  (Something to note about the Hogwarts Express - it's a different ride in each direction, so make sure to take it both ways between the parks).  They've done a great job with the line, too - it twists and turns around corners, with interesting things to see along the way.  We pretty much walked straight through, but it was fun to stop and gawk at things like Harry and Ron's tipped luggage cart with luggage spilled all around and other such sights. 

Hogsmeade, in Islands of Adventure, was fun, but not as fully-fleshed as Diagon Alley.  It's always winter in Hogsmeade, which can seem a little strange in the 90+ degree heat of May in Orlando.  Many of the 'shops' here were simply window fronts that you could peer into.   I wanted more room to explore.   I did manage to poke my head into the Three Broomsticks to take a peek.  The line here was even longer than the one at the Leaky Cauldron, but I was able to convince people I just wanted to take a picture, so they let me through far enough to snap this shot. 

As you can tell, we had a great time.  Not sure if I'd go back if it were just the two of us - the park tickets are a bit pricey, especially if all you're doing is the Wizarding world.  Joe's not really into roller coasters and right now it's best that I avoid them as well, and I think I already mentioned that 3D rides turned out to be not our thing; so there were very few rides we could or wanted to actually ride.  That said, we had a thoroughly delightful time, and I wouldn't mind going again with friends or family who wanted to check it out.   

And that was our little adventure in Orlando, while we waited for our larger adventure to begin...