Wednesday, 29 December 2010

..waiting patiently...

... or not as the case may be.  My mobile phone contract was up for renewal so I phoned my provider a couple of weeks ago to see what was on offer.  I thought I'd go for an iPhone as I'm fed up with The Boy showing me all his fancy (and often useless) iPhone apps.  Turns out I could get either the iPhone 3GS or the iPhone 4 handset for free but with an increase in line rental.  In the end I went for the iPhone 3 as it cost £10 more a month rather than the 4 at £20 more a month!  Admittedly the rental includes a silly amount of inclusive texts and minutes but I never use my current measly allowance so do I really need 5000 texts a month?  Unlikely!

The phone was supposed to arrive on Monday last week (20th December) but it was held in a warehouse due to the weather.  This morning I received a text message from my provider saying that it would be delivered today - between 08:00 and 18:00.  Nice of them to give me a narrow time slot so that I don't have to sit home all day waiting. I have things to do, parcels to post, food to buy.  So, while I'd normally be content enough to sit home and make jewellery to pass the time, I'm getting a tad twitchy.

I've even been into the iTunes store and 'bought' some free apps. I'm ready and raring to go.  Just as soon as my phone arrives.  Can anyone suggest any useful (and preferably free) apps for download when it finally arrives?  Is there anything useful for jewellery making out there?  Or is that too much to hope for?

I would love to say that I've been busy over the last couple of weeks making lots of jewellery in between the festive celebrations but I haven't.  I really have no idea what I've been doing.  I did make a bracelet, earrings and a bag charm for my niece's Christmas but no photos as I didn't have time before I posted them.  I did cut things a bit fine timewise.

I also managed to make my first set of wine glass charms:

One of my friends bought me a lovely spotty wine glass and charm for my birthday a couple of weeks ago so I thought I'd have a go at making some myself.  My daughter (Missbaah) and son-in-law (hereafter known as The SIL) came over to my house for Christmas dinner and I know what The Boy can be like when he's had a couple of glasses of wine and mislays his glass.  Any glass sitting unattended is fair game.  So I thought wine glass charms might solve the problem of misappropriated wine.

I can't say they went down too well with the menfolk.  The Boy was miffed that Missbaah was allocated the fairy while he got the dragonfly.  I was later informed that this was because the fairy is apparently quite a well endowed young lady.  The SIL thought they were all a bit girly.  I had to point out that I made his totally non-gender by giving him a swirl and neutral coloured beads.  :o)  They also complained that the charms were annoying as they tend to slip up & down the stem of the glass and make noises.  You just can't please some folk!  I've now been tasked with making non-annoying wine glass charms so I'll have to get my creative head on.  I'm thinking of macrame possibilities at the moment.  Any non-annoying creations will be posted here once they've been vetted by The Boy and The SIL and may even be offered for sale. :o)

And finally, thank you to Missbaah for cooking Christmas dinner in my kitchen.  She got some stick from the menfolk for taking longer than anticipated but I think she did a sterling job.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

It's been an intense week

So last weekend the blizzard hit and we all thought that was bad enough.  But it didn't stop snowing did it?  It just kept on going like there was no tomorrow.

On Monday we had this much snow:

A few inches, it made my little garden lights look like cute little Mr Whippy ice cream cones with their pointy snow hats.  Then on Tuesday we woke up to more snow.  It had an interesting effect on next door's fence.  Turned it into a chilly work of art:

The garden furniture was under a few more inches of snow and my garden lights have disappeared altogether:

Did it stop there? No.  I won't bore you with the photos in between but by Thursday we were dealing with this:

This would have been all well and good, except I have been selling some of my cherished books on eBay and, typically, over the weekend quite a lot of them were sold.  Being a very conscientious seller I felt compelled to do my utmost to get them all down to the Post Office as soon as the buyers paid for them.  Under normal circumstances the Post Office is a pleasant walk of 200 or 300 metres down a set of steps, through a car park and along part of the pedestrian precinct.  This is the view of the steps on my return from the Post Office:

The weight of the snow had made some of the bushes fall over the steps so I almost had to get down on hands and knees to pass under them.  Why oh why did the council plant shrubs with evil thorns on them at either side of the steps?  They are just not funny when you're trying to get up and down, concetrating on not landing on your behind and they're tearing at you, trying to draw blood or poke your eye out.  Dear council, please rethink your shrubbery strategy in future.  My skiing clothes have been well used this week.

On the plus side, I did get more exercise than usual trying to walk through thigh deep snow to get anywhere. The Boy and I also walked the mile to Tesco when we failed to dig the car out.  I will never forgive Tesco for closing their branch in the centre of town and moving it a mile away.  I will be switching to Morrisons for my shopping when their new store opens in the centre of town.  Spending a couple of hours a day clearing snow was also a fairly good workout.

I also managed to be more productive than I've been for a while.  Look at all the new things I've managed to make:
For sale on

For sale on

For sale on

For sale on

Made for my mum to match a necklace:

Made as a gift: 

It hasn't snowed in a couple of days but it's turned very cold so I'll be staying at home unless I have to trek to the Post Office with more sales.

Friday, 26 November 2010

The blizzard finally hit

Thank goodness The Boy came and picked me up from my friend's jewellery party early tonight.  This is the view from my bedroom window now.  Full blizzard ongoing:

I am SOOOO glad I don't have to go anywhere tomorrow.  Sadly, The Boy has to get himself to an airport tomorrow as he is going to the Motorbike Show In Birmingham.  Hopefully it will have thawed slightly by the time I want to go to Anne Marie's bead shop.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

All my own work!

A while back I bought a whole load of copper wire in different thicknesses.  I am attracted to copper more than gold or silver at the moment for some reason but there doesn't seem to be the same choice in findings, etc. in copper.  My intention when I bought all the wire was to start making my own findings but I've never really got round to it.

So, today, I decided I'd have a go.  I thought ear wires might be the easiest thing to start with so I cut a couple of lengths of 0.8mm wire, straightened them and then bent them around a mandrel to make hooks.  I filed the ends to make them smooth then shaped the hook to make it more like ready made ear wires. I also got to play with a hammer and my little anvil to flatten and strengthen the hooks.  I threaded on a little, pink glass bicone under the hooks and made loops.

Next, I cut another couple of lengths of 0.8mm wire, hammered one end of them flat and then filed the flattened edges to smooth them off.  Voila!  A pair of home made head pins.  I threaded a biggish glass foiled bead and 2 glass bicones on to each head pin, turned a loop at the non-flattened end and connected them to the ear wires.  And the result is a lovely pair of girly pink earrings that I am currently wearing.

Not bad for a first attempt:

After the last photgraphic fiasco I decided NOT to try and photograph myself wearing them so I'm afraid you will just have to make do with the rather unexciting photo above. 

I think I'll be heading down the home-made route more often in future.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

What a week!

I had intended to update my blog on Sunday evening after I returned from my Cold Enamelling workshop at the Bead Shop Scotland in Edinburgh.  For a number of reasons, good and bad, that never happened.

First of all, last Thurday I received an e-mail inviting me to a job interview on Tuesday afternoon.  I was very happy about that as it's a job that I really like the sound of and the salary would definitely cover the mortgage. :o)  The downside was that I had to create a PowerPoint presentation and submit it by lunch time on Monday.  Now I don't have any issues with creating PowerPoint presentations.  I've done a few in my time.  My concern was due to a combination of the subject of the presentation and the allotted time for presenting it - 5 minutes.  Ordinarily I'd probably say that a 5 minute presentation was a good thing.  On this occasion, when I started looking into it properly I thought "I have far too much to say on the subject to fit it all into 5 miutes and make a decent job of it."  Panic!

So, on Friday, I cleared the decks, cleared my mind (or at least tried to) and knuckled down.  I ended up with 9 slides in total - 3 intro & outro slides and 6 that I needed to talk over.  A lot of reviewing and rehearsing went on during Friday and Saturday and I was starting to feel more confident.

On Sunday I had my Cold Enamelling workshop in Edinburgh.  I don't know what I thought that was going to involve.  Whatever I did think was wrong!  When I walked into the room I saw tools and things reminiscent of my silversmithing workshop.  This wasn't a good start.  The lady running the workshop was the same one who ran the aforementioned silversmithing workshop..... so..... it all started off the same way - with a little rectangular piece of sterling silver sheet.  I was a bit more clever this time though.  Last time I spent almost the whole workshop cutting out, filing and texturing my chosen shapes.  This time I went for the simplest option, triangles!  In the end they were slightly trickier than anticitpated, purely because I seem to be incapable of sawing in a straight line so there was a lot of filing and finishing.  I hadn't decided whether to use a transparent or opaque enamel so I decided not to texture the pieces as texture can't be seen through opaque enamel.

I was open to suggestion regarding colours and by the time I was ready to get to work on colour someone had mixed a lovely transparent blue colour so I decided to use that as my base colour.  I then chose an opaque black to use to make a pattern.  My hand isn't the steadiest but I was quite pleased with the result:

Yes, I know, they're quite plain and totally unadventurous shape-wise.... BUT.. I was there to learn how to use enamel, not spend the whole class sawing, filing and shaping silver. I haven't decided exactly what I will use these pieces for but they definitely have potential.

Can you believe I was the first in the class to finish?  Are you impressed? I was!  So I carefully put my not-yet-set creations in a margarine tub (they take 24 hours to set properly so no touching allowed) and headed to the car.  As I was pulling out of the parking area a pedestrian walking past started frantically pointing at something towards the back of my car.  I opened the door and looked where he was pointing and saw ... one half deflated tyre.  NO!

I drew round the corner and pulled in at a bus stop.  Fortunately the pedestrian reached the bus stop at the same time ... and ...  he offered to change the wheel for me.  Hallellujah!  I would have no idea where to start.  Thankffully he knew how to take off a wheel with a locking wheel nut and knew that the car had side skirts and that he would have to remove a section of the side skirt to attach the jack.  What an absolute star!  I don't know who he was but that young man was my saviour.

On Monday morning I gave my presentation a final review, bit the bullet and sent it off.  Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning were spent rehearsing the words to accompany the slides.  Fortunately The Boy had found a couple of dinner recipes that he liked the look of and was planning on cooking dinner on both Monday (chicken pie) and Tuesday (a leek lasagne with all sorts of interesting tastes in it) so I was able to concentrate.

Tuesday afternoon - interview.  I arrived way too early as I had no idea how close I'd be able to park.  I was so nervous at the start that I could hardly speak but I got through the presentation and statyed within time. Phew! I think I made a reasonable job of answering most of the questions. I can only wait now to see if I answered well enough to be offered a job.  Fingers crossed.

Wednesday I had to take the car to have the tyre fixed first thing, then a hair cut.  Ideally I would have preferred to do the hair cut thing before the interview but I didn't have time.  According to The Boy my hair had exploded and I needed a hair cut.  So it's fixed.  I also managed to list on Folksy 2 new pieces of jewellery I made last week to match my copper, blue and peach tiara:

After I made them I realised I forgot to make a matching neclace.  Doh!  That will be the next item on my creative agenda.

Today The Boy and I spent a good bit of the day trying to clear out the box room and my ex-office to try and give ourselves some space.  My blue recycling bin and my neighbour's one are now full.  There are bin bags at the back door waiting for space in a wheely bin.  The living room floor is covered in piles of DVDs that are being sorted through. I suspect eBay will become acquainted with a few of them soon.  There are other piles for me to sort into 'bin', 'freecycle', 'eBay', 'charity shop' and 'keep' piles.  So more work to do still.

Tomorrow is Friday and the weekend awaits.  It's been a busy but productive week.  It has confirmed to me also that my brain cells are still alive and kicking inside my cranium.  That's a relief.  What on Earth will next week bring?

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

My creative muse has returned

I don't know where she's been lately but my Muse went AWOL round about the time I invested in a whole lot of copper wire.  I keep looking at it, touching it, sitting it beside other shiny, sparkly things but, until now, nothing has inspired me.

Today I decided I was going to have a creative day.  In the end I didn't create very much.  I took The Boy's scuba diver cufflinks apart and put them back together with sterling silver wire in a double wrapped loop instead of the specially bought cuff link chains that were far too long. Humph!

Tiaras were on my mind so I took the reel of 2mm diameter copper wire that's in my 'shiny bits' box and shaped it into an Alice band to use as a base, then I gave it a gentle going over with a chasing hammer to harden it up a little and filed the ends to smooth and shape them.  Then I lost my inspiration again.  Tiaras are what I started with but I stopped liking them so much after a while, probably because my creative Muse had deserted me.

So.... I took the little silver leaves that I made with silver artclay and decided to use The Boy's Dremel to drill holes for jump rings.  Slight problem.  The drill bits were way too small for the chuck in the Dremel.  So... I'd to resort to the maual method., ie, twirl the impossibly thin drill bit with my fingers.  It took a while and I'll probably have RSI as a result, but I did it.  Result!

I suddenly remembered about dinner, or lack of any kind of meal in progress so I chopped onions and braising steak, put them on to cook and ran out to the butcher's to buy puff pastry.  Potatoes are peeled and in the pot and peas are ready to go.  Dinner sorted.

The fresh air must have done the trick because when I went back upstairs to my 'studio' I felt inspired at long last.  I name my Muse 'Irritation' as she irritates the Hell out of me by not being at my beck and call.

I was looking for something to match bright, pure copper wire.  The gold coloured lampwork beads I took out first just didn't go.  Then I came across some heart shaped lampwork beads in pale blue with a dark gold foil and there was no stopping me after that.  Add a few pale blue fresh water pearls, some sort of coppery coloured Swarovski pearls, some pale blue and peach Swarovksi crystals and we're sorted.

I won't show you the naff results of me trying to photograph myself wearing the finished result.  They're just too awful.  I will try to take more photos in the daylight to show up the lovely colours but this is probably the best photo I managed to take using the transparent lid of a tiara box as a prop:

I haven't made a tiara in a while but I'm really pleased with this one. I think it's the prettiest one I've ever made.  This is for the bride who wants to be that little bit different.  Or it would suit someone with vibrant red hair.

Did I do good?  I will be listing it on Etsy, Misi, or Folksy later.  Check my website later to find out where.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

An eventful week

I've had a such a busy week this week that I completely lost the plot and didn't know what day of the week it was by the end of it.

Monday: Spent catching up on housework and trying to put the house back in order after being out all weekend. The dishwasher & washing machine haven't been that busy in a while.  Hung up the diving hoods, masks & gloves to dry, put away the fins and snorkels.  Put the soggy thermals and towels in the washing machine. 

Tuesday: Put the BCDs (Buoyancy Control Devices) away, hung the thermals up to dry, put the dry stuff away.  Then manhandled the drysuits down the stairs to the bathroom one at a time, fought with them to turn them inside out, filled the bath with cold water and rinsed all the salt from Loch Fyne off them then mandandled them back upstairs and hung them up to dry.  Last week The Boy installed a rail just inside the box room door to hang them on.  Honestly, they look like 2 dead bodies hanging in the doorway.  Look:

We need a bigger house.  Looked out some stuff to take down to the Kidzeco shop and went there for a visit. 

Wednesday:  Quick scoot round the shops fopr necessities in the morning then home and made lunch, a nice big bowl of home made Bauernsuppe (beef, potatoes & smoked paprika).  After lunch I wrestled with the drysuits again to turn them the right way out and hung them up again. Went to visit my cousin Geri in her new Curves gym in Broxburn.

Thursday: Wore something slightly more respectable than my scruffy trousers and t-shirt to go out for lunch with The Boy and a friend of his that I'd never met before.  Had a lovely chicken pesto pasta salad. Changed into the scruffier gear after lunch and went to the Kidzeco shop to see if I could help with the preparations for the Christmas Preview Evening that night.  Spent the next couple of hours cutting out price tags and pricing hand knitted and sewn items, helping set up tables, etc.  Then stayed for the preview.  We were all worried that the torrential rain would keep people away but it was really busy.  Sauntered home (no rain) just after 9 and had a slightly late dinner of spaghetti bolognese that I'd cooked before I went out.

Friday:  Ok, by now I'm convinced it's Saturday and go into overdrive as we have a party on Saturday and  I have a birthday present to make.  Eventually I realise it's only Friday (phew!) and move all of my beads and tools upstairs to my former office as The Boy is dozing on the settee (my usual workshop).  I know my friend likes leopard print things and I had 2 big leopard print beads but could not for the life of me think what I could make with them that would make a nice gift.  So I rummaged and eventually found some Picasso glass dagger beads that have a pattern not unlike leopard print.  I added some Swarovski pearls and crystals and here is the final creation:

That done, I got ready for going to friends' for dinner. Woop! No cooking for me tonight.  The Boy said "I'm going mountain biking tomorrow, so I'll take the car, not drink and we can leave at 10:30 so I can have an early night".  Ha!  Not too long after we arrived he was persuaded to drop the car at home so Jack was his friend for the rest of the night and it was after midnight when we got home.

Saturday: Woke up convinced it was Sunday. Eventually got to grips with it being Saturday and started getting ready for The Party.  I found a pretty organza bag for Gillian's present, made her a birthday card, cheeky, but not too cheeky.  Then I decided to dye my hair.  Toilets in pubs and such always have lights that show off my white roots much more than is decent in my opinion so L'Oreal belle Colour was my friend. The rain even stayed off while we walked down to the church hall where The Party was taking place.  We didn't know that many people there but we had a really good night.

Sunday: Yes, that's today and I knew it was Sunday when I woke up.  I finally caught up with myself.  No hangovers for either of us.  The Boy tried to freeze me to death by leaving the back door wide open while he jet washed his mountain bike.  We had a late breakfast, quick run to Tesco, leisurely late lunch/early starter for dinner and we're now sitting chilling with a beer while we wait until we're ready for the main course.

I'm hoping next week will be slightly less busy. That way I might manage to keep track of what day I'm on.  No more diving until December so that will help a little.

Monday, 1 November 2010

What a difference a day makes.....

.... or to be more correct, a fortnight.  Regular readers (do I actually have any of those?) will remember that two weeks ago at Loch Long, I had a slight underwater trauma due to a leaky mask and regulator.  Last week we went to Aquatron, our friendly, local(-ish) dive shop to investigate different mask styles along with my hood and I came home with a mask to match my snorkel:

Isn't it pretty?  My last one was blue but I went for pink this time because I thought it would discourage any of the boys from stealing it.  It's not a whole lot different from my last one but it made a big difference to my diving experience this weekend.  Yes, it still leaked a little but I could cope.  It also didn't push my regulator out of my mouth all the time so I wasn't fighting to keep the regulator in my mouth and I don't have sore jaw muscles today.  Result!

Thank goodness the clocks went back on Saturday night.  It made the 5:30 rise on Sunday morning slightly less painful.  We had a 200+ mile round trip to get to Furnace on Loch Fyne and we weren't able to enjoy much scenery on the way as it was a bit grey and misty.  It wasn't too cold though.  We arrived at Furnace, had the safety briefing, got ready, had the dive briefing and went for our first dive.  Skill #1 - fin pivots.  (Basically you use your breathing to control your buoyancy keeping the tips of your fins on the bottom.) That was interesting as we'd to lie on a big, sloping, concrete waffle and wait our turn.  The least movement kicked up silt so the visibility was practically zero at times, very weird feeling.  I did my fin pivot, eventually, though how the instructor could actually see enough of me to decide I'd done it properly was beyond me.  Skill #2 - hover.  Very similar to skill #1 except you have to be suspended in the water, not touching the bottom when you do it.

We had a swim around after the skills then came back to the surface to this:

What a difference!  Look at how calm and smooth the water is.  And the sun was out and giving off enough heat to make our drysuits steam.  We could see seals just off the end of that rocky outcrop but they were clever enough to avoid us when we were under the water.  Shame.  Maybe next time.

How gorgeous is that?  Maybe scuba diving in winter in Scotland won't be too bad after all.

We had lunch and did our second dive.  Only two skills to perform this time as I did my remove and replace BCD & tank at the surface on my last dive.  Skill #3 - remove and replace dry suit inflator hose under water (sorry can't find a video for this one).  It's fiddly enough doing it on the surface with no gloves but underwater, with gloves???.  I surprised myself by being able to disconnect the hose first time.  Yay!  Reconnecting it was a tad trickier but even the instructor had trouble reconnecting his so I don't feel so bad.  We had another wee swim under water then it was time for the final skill.  Skill #4 - safety stop.  When you finally ascend to the surface at the end of a dive it's good practice to make a safety stop for 3 minutes when you are still 5 metres from the surface.  If you've had a deep dive then you must be able to make safety stops for varying lengths of time to avoid the bends so this really is a skill you have to master.  Stopping isn't always something I'm good at once the upward momentum kicks in but I managed it. 

So - yesterday's result - The Boy and I both passed our PADI Drysuit speciality.  Yay!

Thank you to Ally at Aquatron who was able to spot (despite almost concussing himself at the start of the morning when he slipped on the grass)  that I had too much weight on and that it was excess weight rather than dodgy technique that caused me to drop to the bottom like a stone now and then during the dive.

What's up next?  We have PADI EFR (emergency first response) in the classroom at the start of December then 2 dives the following day.  I expect the two dives will be underwater navigation (that will be fun) and underwater naturalist and they will contribute to the PADI Advanced Open Water qualification.

Tune in after 5th December for my latest underwater adventures.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Look what I found...

Ok, so I should really be sitting, focussed, reading my Adventures in Diving tome and answering the Knowledge Review questions on Dry Suits, Underwater Navigation, Naturalist Diver, Deep Dives and Peak Performance Buoyancy before Saturday...... but I was directed to the Kidzeco shop in Bathgate yesterday so I thought I'd share.  I've seen the shop in the passing quite a few times over the last few months but assumed it was only a shop selling children's clothes.  As my 'kids' are now aged 25 and 23 (on Monday) I decided it held nothing to interest me and never actually went in to see what was on offer.

As you can see if you click on the website link, they are a non-profit making organisation that recycles children's clothes, furniture and associated bits and bobs.  As well as selling recycled items they also sell products that have been hand made by local artists, such as quilts, bags, bunting, jewellery and other gifts.  They run workshops for jewellery making, sewing etc and have plans to do much, much more.

I spent an hour or so yesterday talking to Tracy, who runs it all and she is a very friendly, intelligent, enthusiastic person who is determined to make it all work as a community project.  If you live in the West Lothian area you might want to pop in and have a look.  If you have a facebook account you will find the shop Fan page here:

KidzEco fan page

Go and take a look.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

I think my eyes are going to shrivel up and fall out

Ok, this is a short one tonight.  The reason is my eyes are worn out.  It seems like everything I want to do these days requires me to use my laptop to do internet based things or to read books, or do both at the same time.

I suppose a lot of it is my own fault.  I refuse to write an actual letter and post it unless there is absolutely no alternative.  I do all my correspondence by e-mail or internet.  I have been selling on eBay clothes that don't fit any more and gadgets that have been sitting all sad and lonely and unwanted so, obviously they have to be physically packed and posted but all of the activities leading to the packing and posting involves my laptop and the internet: taking photos, uploading them to my laptop, editing them, creating an eBay listing, writing all the blurb, printing a packing slip, printing a postage label, leaving feedback for buyers, not forgetting paying my eBay fees..... and it all takes time.

I spend the first wee while after I get out of bed drinking coffee while I catch up with e-mail, FaceBook, forums, check my internet banking, read the latest Dilbert comic strip, etc. and attempt to wake up.  During the day if I want to look up any kind of information, like train times, product information, weather, maps, anything, I Google it.

As many of you know, I have my own website which is very basic at the moment and I'd like to learn how to turn it into a well laid out, properly managed site.  Even in it's present form it requires maintenance, so more staring at computer screens.  Yesterday Amazon delivered a new book - PHP 6 and My SQL 5 by Larry Ullman.  This is the reason I have been reading and using my laptop simultaneously.  Someone recommended it to me as a good instructional book for learning web programming.  I've reached page 15 (it's a fast starter) so only 600 more pages to go.  So far the pattern has been -  read a couple of pages, type the commands I've learned into my laptop, test the code to make sure it works, debug it if it doesn't, go on to the next page in the book if it works OK and go round the loop again.

Then there's the scuba diving education.  Who said scuba was all about getting into the water?  To become PADI certified you have to complete the recommended learning and then do the knowledge reviews (tests) for each topic.  I was going to be a really good girl and start doing the studying and  knowledge reviews for my Advanced Open Water tonight but by the time I'd found all the knowledge review pages and photocopied them (so i don't have to rip pages out of my books) my eyes were protesting.  I think I will leave the actual reading and doing tests until tomorrow night.  I have to hand them in on Sunday, plenty of time, maybe....

I do actually enjoy reading books as relaxation but I think my eyes would just shut down altogether if I tried to do any recreational reading.  I have loads I want to do but my eyes are objecting.  I suppose I should listen.  Does anyone out there have a spare pair of eyeballs I could borrow?  Preferably ones that don't need glasses  for seeing with like my own ones do.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

I've been certified...

... as a PADI Open Water Diver.  Woo hoo!

Thank you to my very patient instructor, Martin, from Aquatron in Glasgow.

This was a bit of a trauma for me.  I should have completed my certification 4 weeks ago but for a number of reasons that I won't bore you with, I didn't even though The Boy completed his.

First of all I'm really not that keen on water unless it's warm, in a bath and covered in bubbles.  Secondly, I'm perfectly happy to dive if the water conditions allow me to wear a swimsuit or a shorty wetsuit.  Unfortunately, in Loch Long in October you need to wear a drysuit, fleecy undersuit, hood and gloves to keep warm.  Here's the reason why:

When we arrived there just before 9am it was almost sunny and the water was as smooth as glass.  As the day progressed, the mist rolled in and the rain started.  Thankfully the water stayed fairly calm, for which I am eternally grateful.

Dive number 1 was fine.  I got into the water, used my compass to navigate to the buoy (skill #1) that marks the underwater platform and managed to descend to the platform.  Normally, you kneel on the bottom while everyone takes turns to do their skills.  I found kneeling a problem as I kept tipping forward and had to be held up.  Not a great start.

I did my full mask flood and clear (skill #2) without any issues.  I even did my fin pivot using manual inflation (skill #3), eventually, once I worked out what I was supposed to be doing.  The instructor must have thought I was thick.  Basically you lie on your stomach, breath in through your regulator, remove the regulator from your mouth and use most of the air to breath into your BCD (Buoyancy Control Device - ie, the inflatable waistcoat thingy divers wear) through a tube.  Unfortunately, you have to press a button to open the valve on the tube and my fingers were being feeble and seemed unable to actually press the thing hard enough.  I got there in the end so big tick for skill #3.

Next we went for a swim around the platform and had a look at the wildlife.  There were velvet crabs, tiny little fish, starfish from tiny ones to huge ones and sea urchins.

Say hello to a velvet crab (photo courtesy of Google search):

Last skill for this dive (skill #4) was a CESA - that is Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent.  That means you have to pretend you're out of air, take one final breath and swim to the surface breathing out very slowly as you go.  No more breathing in allowed.  Then you have to inflate your BCD on the surface by breathing into it.  The ascent was easier than I expected as I thought I would run out of air.  On the surface I was able to use my not so feeble right hand to press the button on the tube and inflated my BCD without problems.  Big tick in that box.

We had a break for lunch and then had our second dive.  This is where my trauma started.  We swam out to the buoy and descended.  All the while my mask (which I had borrowed as own one had been leaking a bit) was filling up with water.  On it's own I could have coped with that but my mouth was filling up with water as well and no matter what I did I just couldn't spit the water out.  So, I panicked.  I managed to stay calm long enough to signal to the instructor that I needed to surface and up we went.  Dive time 6 minutes.  I explained my dilema and the instructor very kindly swam to the shore and got me another couple of masks to try.  Eventually I found one that seemed to be airtight(-ish) and we descended again.  Meanwhile The Boy was sitting patiently on the bottom with another Open Water student and a dive master.

So we had to start on the skills again.  Mask removal and replacement, then clear (skill #5 and the one I was dreading due to my leaky mask problems). Tick. Next up was reciprocal navigation (skill #6) - basically use your compass to navigate to a point on the sea bed then navigate back to where you started.   Tick. :o)

We had another swim around the bottom.  This time The Boy had borrowed a flashlight so he was able to point it at some of the wildlife on the sea bed so that we could get a better look at them. There was a huge hermit crab running around the sea bed and loads more velvet crabs, star fish, sea urchins and tiny fish.  Where have all the big fish gone?

Most of the star fish seemed to be this variety, I think (photo courtesy of Google search):

After our swim, it was back to the surface and on to the last 2 skills.  Remove / replace weights (skill #7).  You need to be able to remove weights in an emergency to ascend.  As I was wearing a harness rather than a weight belt I only had to do the remove part.  What a faff that was!  One of the weights was determined to stay exactly where it was but I won in the end and dropped it to the bottom.  Tick! Then it was remove / replace BCD on the surface (skill #8).  This skill would have been completed a whole lot quicker if my gloves hadn't kept getting stuck to the Velcro on the cummerbund thingy that's part of the BCD.  Boy that's strong Velcro!  Tickety-tick-tick.

All skills successfully completed it was time to get out of the water.  Sounds easy doesn't it?  Try trudging up a rocky shore, trying to avoid tripping over rocks, carrying a metal cylinder on your back and 42 pounds of weights.  You suddenly get a clue what Atlas must have felt like carrying the world on his shoulders.

So.... now I am a certified PADI Open Water Diver.  Look:

We have our first Advanced Open Water dive in two weeks so new skills to learn.  Martin assures me I won't need to take my mask off under water again, which is good.  We might even manage to see a different dive site this time, maybe Loch Fyne, famous for it's great seafood :o)

Here are a couple of photos I took of The Boy at Loch Long in September:

Waiting to go in .....

You can see there isn't much room for masks and regulators when you're wearing a diving hood.....

Saturday, 9 October 2010

How hard is it to take your own photo?

I will admit I'm not at my best today. My cousin Geri had her pre-opening do for friends and family at her shiny new Curves gym in Broxburn last night and the alcohol was flowing at a speed that has left me feeling slightly less than bright today even though I must have eaten half of the lavish buffet all by myself. The official, presumably alcohol-free, opening is on Monday.

I've tried to have a gentle day today. Unfortunately, The Boy went off into Edinburgh this morning to have a day out with the other boys and his parting request was for me to return wonky a Guitar Hero guitar that he ordered from the Game website to the Game store in Livingston and see if I could get a replacement. Stupidly (probably because I killed too many brain cells with Jack Daniels last night) I said yes.

WHAT WAS I THINKING ABOUT???? I avoid Livingston shopping centre like the plague, especially on a Saturday and even more especially when people are starting to get excited about Chrstmas shopping, like now.

At my third attempt I managed to find a car park with a space. It was probably the furthest car park from Game but it was still (just) in Livingston. My unhappy feet trudged through one and a half phases of shopping centre to find Game and then stood in an almighty queue. On finally managing to speak to an assistant to explain the reason for my visit I discovered the receipt had escaped somewhere between the car park and the shop. I was devasted. The shop assistant very kindly gave me the customer services phone number so that I could request proof of purchase and I headed back out the door, eyes to the ground, hoping to spy the receipt. It was right outside the door! Result! Did a little dance. YAY!

So, to cut a long story short, I got the guitar changed and then fled back to the car park and home. And I've been trying to take it easy since then. I have a few clothes that don't fit me any longer so I spent a couple of hours listing them on eBay, along with a couple of pairs of trousers that The Boy hasn't been able to squeeze into for a while. My body has been craving sweet stuff so dinner was a Snickers bar followed by a tiramisu. After that I felt fit enough to start thinking about making some jewellery. I made an illusion necklace for myself a while back and have been meaning to make matching earrings. I finally did it this evening and tried to take photos of myself wearing necklace and earrings to post on here. Here is the only photo that shows both, doesn't show the camera and also doesn't make me look like a complete retard. :o)

Did I do good?  Please say yes, I couldn't cope with starting over.

Friday, 10 September 2010

An unusually productive afternoon

I'm still not sure how I managed it but I have had a productive afternoon despite the fact that The Boy was working from home today.  I managed to make a necklace (which I am currently wearing to make sure it's robust), a pair of earrings and two phone / handbag charms.

Earrings first.  I have a pile of beads that I made from Fimo clay and they have been calling my name, so first up was a pair of earrings featuring 2 of my clay creations.  They're big enough to catch the eye but lightweight because of the clay so they won't drag on the ear lobes:

Next up, two phone / handbag charms / zipper pulls, whatever people prefer to use them for.  I was kind of designing both of them simultaneously, as I do, because I had two slightly different thoughts running through my mind at the same time.  There was a bit of swapping about of components but the end result was one girly pink number featuring another of my hand made clay beads....

... and also a green and silver charm inspired by the lily pad in the dragonfly charm, eventually made using an irregular shaped lampworkk bead and some tiny semi-precious chips....

Last but not least, a necklace that I've been wanting to make for ages because the foiled beads have been taunting me from inside their box.  In the end I didn't use many of them.  I used more of the amber coloured glass beads and I finally found a project to use some of the lovely little round garnets that I bought ages ago.  The theme here is kind of autumnal:

I'm spreading my wares around a bit at the moment so some are on, some on and some on (a new venture for me).

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

An educational weekend

As my last employer recently decided they could live without me and gave me a little cash to soften our parting of company, I decided to use some of that cash to learn some new jewellery making skills.  I've always enjoyed technical things so I signed up for Beginners Silver Jewellery Techniques and Comprehensive introduction to Precious Metal Clay workshops, both of which took place over the weekend.

The silver techniques workshop on Saturday lasted two hours.  That sounded like a reasonable length of time but when we actually got down to it, a little longer would have been good.  We were given a tiny piece of silver sheet, and a load of tools including saws, texturing hammers, files, drills, etc.  First we drew around our piece of silver on a sheet of paper a few times.  Then we had a go at drawing shapes to use as templates inside the little rectangles.  That was the easy bit.  Next we had to cut out our templates and draw around them on the silver sheet.  Here's mine:

Then it was time to do the scary part and actually cut out the pattern from the silver sheet using a very fine saw.  That got harder as I went along because my big clumsy fingers wre rubbing off the pencil marks as I tried to hold the piece of silver steady.  I got slower with each shape instead of quicker.

With all of the pieces cut out, the next step was to carefully file the ragged edges around each shape.  Remarkably, I had managed to make all four pieces more or less the same.  Result!  I decided to use a texturing hammer on my pieces so for the next couple of minutes there was a bit of therapeutic hammering until all of my shapes had a similiar covering of aesthetically pleasing dents.  The next challenge was to pierce all four in the same place with a hole for a jump ring and give the whole lot a polish.  Someone has suggested my finished creations look like fishing lures.  I'm inclined to agree but they are PRETTY fishing lures that will be transformed into earrings or a necklace:

The precious metal clay workshop on Sunday was an all day event with several projects to complete throughout the day.  First up was the silver leaf.  The tutor had very kindly collected some suitable leaves off a bush and we all chose one.  For this we needed a pot of art clay silver paste and a paint brush.

We started off by carefully painting the  back of the leaf with paste then setting it aside to dry.  As the day went on we built up the layers of paste until it was about 1mm thick and let it dry before putting it in the kiln to fire.

For the next project we were given a 10 gram pack of silver clay, which doesn't look nearly big enough to do anything useful with.  There were lots of pieces of jewellery in the middle of the table so we all had a look through them and decided what we wanted to make.  There were tiny cookie cutters & texture mats as well to help us make our pieces unique.  I decided to make an end cone.  I know, that doesn't sound very exciting but there were some gorgeous pieces of jewellery on the table made with very pretty end cones.  So we massaged our clay to condition it then rolled it out, textured it, cut it and, in most cases, balled it up and started again.  It took me 4 attempts to get my end cone right.  I had a little piece of clay left so I used it to make a couple of tiny textured hearts.  If I had remembered to punch the holes on opposite sides I could have used them to make earrings.  :)  Never mind, I can use them as charms on a bracelet or something.

The last project of the day was a ring.  Remarkably, a 10 gram pack of clay was enough to make a fairly chunky ring.  This time we had to tackle ring mandrels.  First we had to use a ring guage to size our chosen finger, then roll the clay, texture it, cut it and hope it fitted around the ring mandrel at the appropriate part for the size of ring we wanted.  It did. Phew!  The joining of the two ends was slightly tricky.  Despite having bigger fingers than most of the other participants I had enough clay left over to make a ring topper, so I did.  I carefully added the topper then left the ring to dry before firing.  We were running over our allotted time by then but we were all enjoying ourselves and noone was desperate to leave so we stayed until our creations were fired.  Look at the pretty things I made.  I'm particularly pleased with the end cone so I will take care making it into a pendant:

I still need to drill a hole for a jump ring in my leaf.  The ring is very slightly off-centre but I'll work on that and see if I can straighten it up a little without cracking the silver.  It's perfectly wearable though and very comfortable.  I will have to save up my pennies to buy some art clay and have a go at home.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Mum's birthday present

Yesterday was my mum's official birthday.  Today is her real birthday.  The Queen isn't the only person with 2 birthdays.  In case you're confused, the family has been confused for the last 85 years because my grandad got a little distracted when he went to register her birth and, as a result, her official birthday according to her birth certificate is a day before her actual birth date.

My mum is now 85 and it's getting harder and harder to find something for her birthday.  I would NEVER buy her clothes as I just wouldn't trust myself to get it right so I'd have to keep the receipt so she could change whatever I bought.  She doesn't want ornaments as that would be "just something else for her to dust".  She doens't want the responsibility of plants because she would feel bad if she killed them.  She doesn't drive.  She doesn't really have hobbies.  She does have a very active social life.  She's always out and about with her friends.  They go shopping, go for coffee, go for lunch, go to the theatre.

I was really struggling to think of something to give her for her birthday.  A couple of weeks ago I booked some workshops to learn new jewellery making techniques and it just so happened that I had a workshop on Sunday.  I had already been to the shop that was running the workshop and saw the necklace we'd be making on display and I knew what mum would be getting for her birthday. :o)

There was a shopping list of ingredients for the necklace so I chose colours that I knew my mum tended to wear.  I already had some gold chain so I bought knitted wire mesh in pale gold, copper and green.  I bought Swarovski pearls in green, copper and pale gold as well.  When I started to put it all together I was really pleased with the way it looked.  I tried it on but because my hair is long, it hid most of the necklace but Mum's hair is short, so ideal.  I wore it home to make sure it wouldn't fall apart.

When I got home I changed the clasp.  The original one was fiddly little lobster claw so I replaced it with a lovely gold toggle clasp with a lily decoration on it.

The 'model' is quite small so you can't see it all properly in the photo above.  This one shows the rest of it properly, including the clasp:

Mum seemed to be really happy with it when I gave it to her and went off to put it on.  She was still wearing it when I left.  Shortly after getting home she phoned to say that it went perfectly with the outfit she plans to wear tomorrow to go to lunch with her friends.  Fantastic!  I wasn't 100% sure how she would react to it but it looks like I got it right. :D

Friday, 27 August 2010

The mystery revealed at last

If you've read my previous posts you'll know that a couple of weeks ago I decided to investigate some jewellery making workshops to try and learn some new technicques.  I saw a basic necklace making workshop advertised at The Bead Shop Scotland and, although I've been making all sorts of necklaces for a while, I thought it would do no harm to go along and see if there was a better way to do things as I've learned everything from books.

I'm so glad I went.  Calottes have always been a bit of a trial for me.  Everything I knew about them I'd learned from books and they never quite went into enough detail.  As a result I developed a deep mistrust of calottes as a way of finishing off a piece of jewellery.  They looked pretty but I never quite trusted them to stay put without filling them with superglue.  All that changed last night.  Louise, the lady taking the workshop, gave us our calottes and our round nose pliers and showed us the correct way to use them.  She added some details the books didn't mention, like the fact that you should crimp the hinges and turn the loop into a full circle so that it can't unravel.

So here were are, my creation from last night, complete with secure calottes:
I won't be selling this as I'm not happy with the crimps.  I haven't decided whether to dismantle it and start again with tubes crimps (which have a nicer finish) or whether to just keep it for myself in it's current state.


I dismantled my 'class' effort and started again. Admittedly the only bits from the original are the calottes (yay!) and fasteners but I think it's improved slightly:

The beads that look grey in the photo are actually almost silver.  Silly camera! Reflect reality why don't you?

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

By special request - for missbaah

You wanted silver and green so here is silver and green.  Is it what you had in mind?

The square coils are made from 1.5mm aluminium wire as I didn't have any decent 0.8mm silver plated wire left so these are slightly chunkier than the copper / gold / red ones.

Did I do good? Huh?

Monday, 23 August 2010

Inspiration is a peculiar animal

I've probably touched on this before in previous posts but it never ceases to amaze me.  If you've read my posts from the last few days you'll know that I have new toys. If  you haven't, then go read for goodness sake.  Keep up.  Anyway, I wanted to play with my new toys so I started browsing through old magasines looking for something easy that I could make to try out the Thing-a-ma-jig and the anvil.

I saw this:

No obvious opportunity for anvil work here but definite potential for playing with the Thing-a-ma-jig.  Being me, I didn't particulary read the instructions.  I looked at the picture.  Then I looked at my copper wire collection.  I've recently decided I like copper much more than gold or silver so it has to be copper.  I fiddled with the pegs on the Thing-a-ma-jig and experimented with a couple of pieces of wire.  Then I put my creations on the anvil and did a bit of gentle tapping with a chase hammer to see what happened.  I looked at the picture again, rummaged through my wire... and ended up making these:

Apologies for the quality of the photo.  They do actually look much better in the flesh but the weather has been far too wet to think about venturing outdoors to my photographic studio (the back garden) so I had to make do with an organza wrap laid over the seat of one of the livingroom chairs.  You can see the similarities between my inspriation and the finished article though can't you?  No?  Oh well, back to the drawing board.  BTW, I didn't use the Thing-a-ma-jig at all for these earrings but I did get to use the anvil.

One of these days the jewellery I make will actually bear more than a passing resemblance to my original concept.

UPDATE:  I manged to take slightly better photos so these are now listed on Etsy:

Copper and gold square coiled earrings

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Adventures with Fimo

OK, so I've seen all of these lovely things on the internet that have been made with Fimo clay.  It looks like it's very versatile and comes in all sorts of colours these days.  Some colours even have added sparkles. :)  When I saw that TheBeadShopScotland was running a workshop showing how to make a Mokume Gane style Fimo clay pendant I had to try it.

I bought the raw materials, 12 block of different coloured clay, on eBay.  So I really only needed 3 but I was indecisive, OK?  On arriving at the workshop I discovered that a half block of black and white were being provided.  2 of my 12 down, 10 more to choose 3 from.  Decisions, decisions!  In the end I went for metallic copper, raspberry and glitter purple (cos I'm a glitter kind of girl).

Tools supplied included a pasta machine, some seriously sharp blades (count your digits before and after) a big, shiny, ceramic tile to roll things out on and a hollow plastic tube as a roller.  We were asked to bring a potato peeler along.  Typically I chose the wrong kind.  I took this one:

Note the clay still stuck to it.  It wasn't very good!  The lady sitting next to me had brought one like this:

This type was SO much better.  It shaved off slices of clay much more effieciently and without the blade getting clogged.

It got a bit interesting with 8 of us plus an instructor sitting around a table trying to use pasta machines and weilding blades and rollers but there was only one minor casualty and it wasn't me (surprise surprise).  Naturally, being me, when it came to the time to choose what shape to make the pendant and what cutter(s) to use, I had to be different.  As I have just bought some square copper frames, I decided I'd make a patching pendant, square with a hole in the middle. :o)

We were shown some other techniques so I have a variety of creations currently cooking in the oven.  Here is the pre-cooked version:

The instructions say cook them in the oven at 110 degrees celsius / 230 degrees fahrenheit.  My oven only seems to go down as low as 250 F so my fingers are crossed.  I may keep the jewelery I make from these for myself so that I can stress test it :o) and make sure it's fit for selling on .

I also have all these bits of clay left over to play with at home:

Sausages-R-Us, LOL.  I will think of something pretty to make with these once I've had dinner.

So, my verdict on Fimo clay?  Yes, it's fun.  Yes, it's messy.  Yes, it also has the potential to get complicated when you have no idea what you're doing.  I guess it comes with practice.  It does seem that you need to have a lot of space to work while you're being creative and space isn't something readily available in my house.  Not when I'm competing with my husband's collection of indoor mountain bikes, wake boards, tool kits and the like.  He collects tools like some women collect shoes (Imelda Marcos springs to mind).  I think I will probably use up the Fimo clay I already have and leave it at that until I can afford a bigger house.

My oven timer has just beeped and I've taken my creations out of the oven.  They don't look a whole lot different to when they went in so that sets my mind at ease about possible shrinkage.  I still need a bigger house though.  I have high hopes for the National Lottery. :o)