Friday, December 21, 2007

A new fleece on life (holiday treats for dogs)

Christmas has special meaning to me because it's when I brought home Ginger, my first dog. Five years ago, the day after Christmas, I was browsing at the Wisconsin Humane Society. Ginger (named Tasha, back then) trotted up to the window, looked at me, and cocked her head. (I found out later that some dogs can't really see people, they're mostly seeing the glare from the windows. Still.) She was ten years old and a bigger dog than I had planned on, but she was compelling — affectionate but not needy, with inquisitive eyes and adorable eyebrows. I went home, thought about whether I was ready to get a dog, and made my sister go with me to see her the next morning. Yukie thought Tasha was cute but "not the dog I would pick." We went in and played with Tasha once more, though, and I was sure she was the dog for me.

One of my favorite things about holiday shopping is picking out gifts for Ginger. Some of her crustiest toys are from Planet Dog, so their site is usually my first stop. Ginger especially loves their fleece buddies and bones. She destroyed her first fleece bone with her enthusiasm.

Because I'm behind on my shopping this year (what with baking mishaps consuming so much of my time), I went to World Market instead, where I picked up a red fleece throw with bones on it. (It's also available in blue.) And since Ginger prefers crunchy, edible gifts over fancy collars or jackets, I also picked up some organic bacon and parsley biscuits. World Market doesn't have many pet products on their site, but the stores always have a well-edited selection.

Another place worth mentioning for pet gifts: Bed Bath and Beyond. Ginger had hours of fun jumping around and playing tug o' war with her Bite Meez puppet. Though she is now mildly annoyed by it, it's an ingenious toy, especially for the low-energy pet owner who wants to do right by their dog.

By the way, if you want a reminder of what Gigi looks like when she's awake, check her out in Planet Dog's photo album. She and I will be trying to catch up on our sleep over the holidays. We hope your holidays are restful, too.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Girl Scouts and their beading personalities

I taught jewelry-making to a Girl Scout troop in Brookfield this weekend. Each girl got a kit with a pendant, beads, and findings, plus a few design tips. Then they pretty much did their own thing. I wish I had taken photos of the girls wearing their finished necklaces: one of the necklaces was pink and summery, one had Swarovski crystals and shell beads in a color-blocked arrangement, another had assorted beads in a careful, symmetrical pattern. Each was unique. I know I've mentioned this before, but I'm still astounded by how different people approach designing. Most of the girls jumped right in, but one took a long time before she started stringing (the other girls pointed this out). I can relate to that: I plan and rearrange beads on a design board, doing a lot of thinking and assessing and reacting before actually stringing. Nothing wrong with a methodical approach.

I also realized how working from a kit can still be creative. Isn't that what creativity is — putting things together in a new way? When I took my first jewelry-making class, I didn't start with a kit. I just dug into a bowl of beads. What about you — how did you learn to make jewelry? And is there an advantage to being given a kit vs. choosing your own beads?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Cupcakes, and then more cupcakes

I am a perfectionist. You’d think this would help me be a good baker.

I wanted to bake cupcakes — not from a mix — and make my own frosting. Michelle gave me Desserts from America’s Top Chefs, so when I found a recipe for Sherry Yard’s buttermilk birthday cupcakes, I decided to try it.

At lunchtime, I made a batch. After triple-sifting the flour — a commitment I rarely make to baked goods — I melted butter in a saucepan. Then, I whisked eggs and sugar over a double-boiler setup until they reached the desired temperature. I then discarded said mixture, suspicious that I had curdled the eggs. (In retrospect, I think they were okay. I was just overanxious.)

I bought lots of extra eggs. Is that good planning, or the anticipation of failure? Repeated the process again. Success!

After whipping the eggs until they achieved the called-for pale-yellow color, I folded the dry ingredients and buttermilk in — gently, so as not to deflate the foam. I scooped the batter into cupcake liners and popped the pan in the oven. I figured, cautiously, that it was better to do one pan at a time.

I started washing the dishes and kept an eye on the timer. About halfway through, I spied the butter on top of the stove. I had forgotten to add it.

No problem: I dumped half of the butter, then added the rest to the remaining half of the batter. Proud of my resourcefulness, I soon found that this batch was even worse than the first. I think I accidentally deflated the foam. Sigh.

After playing tennis and taking a nap, I was ready to try again. The process was laborious but seemed fruitful. Some thoughts about what I’ve learned:

1. It's hard to cook eggs to a desired temperature. I had a problem with this a few weeks ago when I made chocolate mousse (I curdled the eggs).

2. Combining ingredients can also be a challenge. I think I over-beat the eggs or the rest of the batter, because the cupcakes rose perfectly about halfway through the cooking time, then fell, defeated, by the time they came out of the oven.

3. Even though you can fill sunken cupcakes with frosting to build them up, nothing beats a gently domed top.

By the way, they do taste okay. Buttery — even the early ones where I forgot the butter — like little pound cakes. And tasty with the chocolate cream-cheese frosting that I found at the eleventh hour. Literally: I had to Google frosting recipes late last night after my chocolate ganache wouldn’t set. Oh, I had had such big dreams of a fudgy layer under a glossy chocolate glaze.

While I hesitate to say the cupcakes were disappointing, they weren’t nearly as spectacular as I’d hoped. At least I didn't bust out the Betty Crocker devil’s food cake mix — which I bought in case of emergency. And yes, this is reminiscent of what happened Thursday night. I’ve been off my game lately when it comes to baking. That’s one thing I prefer about jewelry: being able to take time to design and re-design, instead of scrapping the whole thing because I forgot part of it.

Wish me luck: I've got more baking to do.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Baking up holiday mishaps and some cookies, too

Yesterday night, Denise brought over her premade green and red spritz doughs (dohs!), and I was trying a new recipe for milk chocolate florentines. Even though there's no shortage of holiday cookie recipes available, it's hard to venture away from the tried and true. Still, the thought is made more palatable by glowing reader reviews, so I decided to risk it. Turns out that the hard part wasn't combining the ingredients but putting the optimal amount of dough (a scant teaspoonful) on the cookie sheets. Once we mastered this, Denise set to work on her spritzes.

A little about Denise: she loves math and sudoku and has impeccable handwriting. She likes precision — having things just so — but she's also a kind girl who looks both ways before crossing the room at a party. Anyway, she meticulously spritzed green dough onto cookie sheets, reusing pieces that didn't conform to the desired tree shape. I should have left her to her own devices, but when the timer went off I thought I'd help out by removing the finished cookies from the oven. I grabbed the bottom sheet and dropped half of the cookies on the floor of the oven, where they started smoking. We watched for a couple minutes, mourning the loss of trees that she had labored to cultivate, then picked up the offenders with tongs. It was sad. Denise reassured me that it was fine and gave me a bunch of undamaged cookies, because that's who she is.

If she gives you some spritzes, make sure you tell her how tasty and perfectly formed they are. By the way, we did not get to the red dough. The late hour and smoke-filled kitchen dampened our holiday spirits. She'll be making the red spritzes from the safety of her own home.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

My snow day

Yesterday should have been a day of finalizing stories for a BeadStyle deadline and starting work on the May issue. Instead, I stayed home from work: we had a snow day! I know exclamation points are gratuitous, but if you've ever been granted a reprieve from school or work, you know that the joy of a snow day can't be overstated.

After shoveling in my pajamas, I ate scrambled eggs, toast, and coffee. I did laundry and called my friend Heather, who lives in Omaha. I rarely get to chat on the phone on a weekday, so it was a luxury to spend an hour and a half catching up. Then it was time for lunch and a nap during soap operas. (My day could have been better if I'd had a nap sans soap operas.) After shoveling again, I tromped to the grocery store and said hello to my neighbors as we shook our heads at the shin-deep snow. Everyone was in a good mood — why get upset at the weather? — and it made me happy that I live in the Midwest.

It's rewarding to have a day filled with small pleasures. Even though it would've been nice to also bake, wrap gifts, and watch the episode of Everwood where there's a snowstorm and everyone stays inside, there are only so many hours in the day. I'm back at work today, trying to meet tomorrow's magazine deadline. I should probably be frantic about it, but I'm not.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Miss O and Friends

Visit Miss O and Friends by December 27th for a chance to win a signed copy of Cool Jewels: Beading Projects for Teens. This website for girls also has stories, recipes, and celebrity interviews. One of my favorite features: a razzle dazzle page where budding designers can click on beads and charms to make colorful jewelry. Check it out.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Buying handmade

I sold jewelry and ornaments as part of the Bay View holiday event this weekend. Unfortunately, a combination of snow, sleet, and icy roads kept most people at home. Even so, the event was fun: I sold a few pieces, got my eye makeup done, and entertained myself with string cheese and cream puffs for a few hours. I also bartered with Anita Reed to get hand-painted light-switch covers. That's one of the best things about selling handmade goods: you can use them to procure other handmade goods. Bartering is a handy system.

This Saturday, I'll be shopping at Art vs. Craft. I'm hoping to pick up notecards and blank journals, as well as more of Anita's light-switch covers. If you're in Milwaukee, you should stop by. It's a great array of handmade stuff, all in one place. Better than braving the mall.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Lions and cookies and ornaments, oh my!

Last week at World Market, I spotted this little paper lion ornament who had only one eye. I brought him home (well, to the office) and made him a beaded eye patch. I'm not a person who thinks "The more, the better" when it comes to beads, but I wanted Leo to have some holiday spirit. I may leave him to hang out with my lucky bamboo; otherwise, I'll give him a place of honor on the tree.

I love Christmas. Not for the gifts, though I'm not opposed to gifts. I love ornaments, especially candy canes, lollipops, cupcakes, and fruit — especially in retro colors like purple, hot pink, and teal. I love decorating my tree and greeting the ornaments like old friends: "Crocheted Oreo, I've missed you!" or "Angry Gingerbread Girl, why do you keep turning your back?" I love watching Ginger try to squeeze behind the tree, even though it's in the corner and she's not a small dog.

The holidays are a time I reflect on the abundance in my life. Sometimes that means overeating cookies and picking out the odd ones, to be overeaten at a later time. Or, sending handmade Christmas cards (not handmade by me but by talented artisans). I've been absent from my blog for a couple weeks — busier living than writing, I suppose — but it's good to be back. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving and are easing into the holiday season, one ornament at a time.

Friday, November 16, 2007

My favorite restaurants in San Francisco

The experience of dining at a restaurant isn't just about the food, service, or ambiance. For me, it's also about the intangibles — about whether I feel relaxed or energetic, how the conversation flows, what relationship gets built (or broken) over a shared table. Also, trying a new place requires trusting someone else's opinion, whether that of a food critic or a friend. That said, here is my purely subjective list of the best places to eat in San Francisco, with old and new favorites. (If it makes you feel any better, I've been both a resident and a tourist in the city.)

Farmer Brown: On a busy Tuesday night, I came here with sorority sisters Linda and Yvonne. All of us ordered fried chicken with mac and cheese and southern greens. And we shared a baked apple pastry for dessert. The chef uses organic meats and produce from local African American farmers, and the food is tasty and unfussy. I didn't love the drinks served out of jars (unwieldy), but did love the chairs upholstered in fabric with the Declaration of Independence written on it.

Kate O' Brien's: We were tempted to order shepherd's pie, but instead Linda and I opted for a blackened chicken quesadilla, thick-cut garlic parsley fries, house-made potato chips with malt vinegar, and a spinach salad with goat cheese and apples. And how can you not love a place where your server greets regulars by name? Hearty food and friendly service — the quintissential Irish pub.

Mifune (1737 Post St., 415.922.0337): In 1993, I worked at Benihana in Japantown; that's how I discovered Mifune (its neighbor in the Kintetsu Mall). The clientele is primarily Asian — always a good sign at a Japanese restaurant. You can get a huge bowl of udon, soba, or ramen for $10. On the Sunday night we were there, the line was out the door, so we entertained ourselves by checking out the displays of plastic food (just like being in Japan).

Yank Sing: I've been going to dim sum since I was a kid. It made me feel grown-up, accepting and rejecting dishes as they were wheeled by. Here, I could've filled up on the dumplings alone, particularly the house special — a steamed ginger pork number that was delicate, translucent, and slightly chewy. I ate it with a spoon to keep the broth from escaping. Rejected: sea bass, chicken skewers, deep-fried crab claws. For dessert: sesame balls and a big pot of jasmine chrysanthemum tea. If you still need convincing, check out their photo gallery.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tuesdays with Lizzie

Yesterday I had lunch with Liz, my college roommate. Fifteen years ago, we lived in the Gamma Phi Beta sorority house. Those were heady times: we'd spend every Tuesday night at Raleigh's, collecting glasses etched with beer logos and eating cheese fries. I still have indestructible pint glasses that've survived cross-country moves.

Even though we lost touch in the post- grad-school and law-school years, Liz is one of those old friends who welcomes you back after a hiatus. This Tuesday, we reconnected at Rose's Cafe in Cow Hollow. Instead of cheese fries, we ordered a turkey, avocado, and cranberry sandwich and polenta with gorgonzola. We graduated (regressed?) from microbrews to raspberry soda and chamomile tea. It was a very grownup lunch: we talked about careers instead of classes, family as well as friends, and men rather than boys. But we still had time to cover the old standby: dumb college antics. Who knew that those Tuesday nights would provide fodder for lasting friendship? Cheers, Liz, and I'll see you in a year or two.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Cool Jewels at The Bead Shop

On Saturday, I signed copies of Cool Jewels at The Bead Shop in Palo Alto. Big thanks to Janice, Ally, Denise, Susan, and Jenny, who promoted the event and made it fun. I also loved the cookies and sparkling water; snacks always make a place feel like home.

While I was there, I designed a clustered pearl ring, gold hoop earrings, and drop earrings with diamond-shaped vermeil components. All of these share one technique in common: wrapped loops, which can be challenging for beginners. Janice (the owner) and I have different approaches to how we teach loops, both in how we make the loop and in completing the wraps. At the end of the day, I'm happy if the loops are round and the wraps parallel. But I liked seeing a different way of doing things, especially because she's been making jewelry for 48 years. Yes, almost a half decade.

Anyway, I really enjoy working with beginners because they're so focused on learning. In less than an hour, Sandi (one of the customers) made a gemstone-and-crystal ring (instructions in Cool Jewels, p. 87). And Emily, who's 10, got an ambitious start on her Bubbly Baubles necklace (p. 36). Let me know if you've found inspiration in the book. I'd be happy to post photos, too.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

My vacation in San Francisco, Day One

Friday was a whirlwind. I woke up at 4 a.m., flew to Kansas City, got delayed on the SF flight, and waited an hour in the BART line. I finally arrived at my friend Linda's condo south of Market, then had time for a quick nap before coffee with Steven James. Maybe you know him: he has lots of jewelry and home decor projects in BeadStyle. He also designs gorgeous Christmas ornaments. (My favorite: a metal frame encasing a note that reads, "To have love, you must give yours away.") Steven and I talk only a couple of times a year, but our conversations always come back to the theme of creativity and how to find an outlet for it. Deep stuff. On my next visit, I hope to see him for longer than 40 minutes.

I went to Craft Gym for my Cool Jewels book signing. Jackie, Leah, and Kay were incredibly welcoming and had a spread of appetizers from Leland Tea. It was a quiet night, so we made earrings and noshed on tomato and fresh mozzarella salad, veggie hummus, edamame, and bread with Brie and figs. We chatted about the craft scene in general and their studio in particular. Sewing and knitting are especially popular, but Craft Gym also offers workshops in soap making, graphic tees, and glass etching.

To cap off the world's longest day, Linda and I grabbed Mexican food in the Mission. Now we're heading out to get breakfast and do a little shopping before my signing this afternoon.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Cool Jewels book signings in the Bay Area

If you're in the Bay Area this weekend, stop by and say hi. On Friday, November 9, I'll be doing a demo of mismatched chain earrings at Craft Gym in San Francisco, 6–8 p.m.

And on Saturday, November 10, I'll be at The Bead Shop in Palo Alto, 3–5 p.m. I haven't yet decided what I'll be demo-ing, but The Bead Shop has so many findings, I might put together some chandelier earrings. Pop in to get your book signed or to work on your wrapped loops. See you there!

Monday, November 5, 2007

MEAT LOAF or FOAM TALE or ME, AFLOAT

My mom is in Japan for her annual trip home, so I invited my dad over for dinner. After meat loaf and mashed potatoes, we played Scrabble. I like the deluxe board that rotates and has grooves for the letters, but it's at Kalmbach. (A couple of years ago, four of us had a Friday lunchtime league. I keep the game there hoping for a revival.) Dad and I played with the old-school version in the burgundy box.

Scrabble is an awesome game. As in, it truly evokes awe. It's not really a game about creativity or spelling, but about seeing possibilities and taking risks. Not hoarding letters, but playing smart to maximize your shot at a bingo (using all seven tiles). Making words that your opponent wouldn't think of. Building multiple words by adding an "s" or a "d" or making "liver" into "livery." I tried to play a few questionable words, but Dad challenged me. (Incidentally, according to my traditional dictionary, "flim" and "yi" are not words, but "flam" and "li" are.) It was thrilling and exhausting to play a competitive, I'm-in-it-to-win-it game with Dad. Two games, actually. When Yukie comes home for Thanksgiving, she and my parents and I will probably play something like Apples to Apples — one of those fun, family-friendly games where we laugh a lot and everyone wins. It's just not the same.

If you are crazy about Scrabble or like to read about people who are crazy about Scrabble, pick up Stefan Fatsis' Word Freak, about the subculture of competitive players. It's almost as interesting as actually playing the game. And, if you get a chance, check out Wordplay, an Independent Lens documentary about people who create and solve crossword puzzles. The highlight is hearing Bill Clinton talk about how his approach to solving crossword puzzles mirrors his approach to solving other problems.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Jake and Ginger: My attempt to adopt a second dog

This weekend I went to the Wisconsin Humane Society twice. First to check out a dog named Jake, then to have him meet Ginger. I had high hopes: Jake is a 9½-year-old shepherd husky mix. He’s black with brown paws and a bushy tail. He’s peppy but doesn’t need a lot of exercise. His paperwork described him as “shy and lacking confidence” and “needing his own quiet space,” but he was so sweet — I love dogs who lean into you when you pet them — I thought maybe he’d defer to Ginger and we could be a party of three.

Jake and Ginger are very different dogs. He has a smooth blocky head that doesn’t quite match his wavy fur. And he’s bear-like: round and stocky. Chubby with good teeth, someone took good care of him. (He doesn't really look like his photo. Also, his ears are floppier in person.) Ginger, on the other hand, has an Everydog quality about her. Even though she has super-expressive eyes and a pink-flecked gumdrop nose and can flip her ears inside out, what you’d first notice about her is that she looks like a prototypical dog. Personality-wise, they are also different. Jake is not motivated by food, toys, or exercise — and only mildly by praise. A nice laid-back guy. Ginger, on the other hand, vacuums up food and makes eye contact when she ignores commands. Very alpha.

The adoption counselor brought Jake outside and Ginger barked at him. They sniffed each other and he licked her mouth (a sign of submission, apparently). Then Ginger stood next to Jake, barking nonstop while he kept his back turned. This was actually okay until she tried to show her dominance by climbing on top of him. He snarled at her — not a good match. All of this transpired over maybe ten minutes. For most of that time, though, things were going okay, not horribly. Which makes me wonder: could they have worked it out? Isn't that what dogs do? They may pace and growl, but eventually, they fall into a comfortable relationship.

Jake is the third dog I’ve taken Ginger to meet and the one she best tolerated. But since she’s an older lady, I think she prefers to be the only dog. Around other dogs, she seems to demand both attention and submission, and who could keep up with that? I don't know how to find her a companion, but pairing a lover and a fighter isn't in the cards.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Halloween 2007

Halloween is a holiday best celebrated by children, who look adorable dressed as little ghosts or cats. That’s cute. But most adults in costume don’t look cute — just creepy or skanky. Personally, I struggle with being misunderstood on Halloween: my renaissance princess somehow got interpreted as Crouching-Tiger-Hidden-Dragon and my orange sweater and jeans once annoyed a guy who happened to greet me at the door. But since a couple of work friends were having parties, I decided to give it the old college try.

I lucked upon a Cleopatra outfit at Jo-ann's half-price sale. Then, to make my costume more recognizable (more historical figure, less generic goddess), I ordered a gold headpiece. I chickened out because the beaded bangs emphasized my short forehead. An aside: I will never wear anything unflattering. So don’t plan on seeing me dressed as a clown or a pirate. But kudos to my sister’s friend Molly, who works an eye patch into her costume every year. This year, she was Little Orphan Annie. With an eye patch. Back to Cleopatra: does anyone know how to make a headpiece? I suppose I have the skills to do that. I had to make my gold armband, too, because the snake one I bought didn’t wrap well. I strung gold glass beads on memory wire. Toward the end of the night, it cut off my circulation. And I probably could have used bigger beads.

Joel, who does events marketing for Kalmbach, went Hawaiian in a grass skirt, leis, and bronzing oil. Our first stop: a party at Alison’s (she’s an art director for Art Jewelry and Make It Mine). She and her fiancĂ© gave guests mixed CDs with a map to their house. They were really creative with their lighting and decorations, too. Here I am with pals from the jewelry titles: Serene is a graphic designer for BeadStyle, and Jill and Addie are editors at Art Jewelry. I like that we look neither creepy nor skanky.

After Alison’s, we went to Boncher’s and stayed way too long. But it was a blast, challenging my view that Halloween is a miserable holiday that brings out the worst in people. Sometimes it's good to do stuff that's against your nature.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Cool Jewels on FOX 6 WakeUp

Okay, maybe it wasn't so bad. Check out my Cool Jewels TV appearance.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Kanye West and me

Kanye West is my hero. Not because he makes a jillion dollars a year or knows how to rock a pink polo shirt, but because he can make a mistake and handle it with style. Case in point: his performance on Saturday Night Live. He flubbed some words in "Everything I Am" and then regrouped: "I just messed up on my rap — live TV" and kept going, "But hey, here we go again." It was an inspired, inspiring performance. Crowd goes crazy.

This morning I did an appearance on live TV, demo-ing a necklace from Cool Jewels on a local news show. I had a hard time getting my nerves under control and wasn't as dynamic as I'd have liked. (Note to self: try not to demo a technique like crimping that requires fine motor skills.) The two people who saw the show noticed my hands were shaking when I tried to finish the necklace. And I don't have the freestyling skills that Kanye does, so I ended up not really having a solution and giving more importance to the parts where I struggled.

I had a good talk with our publisher afterward and she gave me helpful advice: "Try to get past the idea that things have to be perfect." This is challenging for a perfectionist. But, it's a worthwhile goal. And while I'm not a professional entertainer, I'm hoping to get more experience so I don't fixate on my mistakes. Also, the producer wants me to come back again next month, so it couldn't have been as bad as I remember it.

But hey, here we go again.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

My bedroom redesign, still

Here's a view of my newly painted bedroom: I love it! And check out the merlot-colored duvet cover, didn't that work out perfectly? I rearranged the furniture (the bed is in a different place), and it's helping me sleep better. Now I wake up to a more expansive view of my room.

My dog, Ginger, is still adjusting to the new arrangement. Usually, she sleeps in my room, but occasionally she likes to get settled in her crate and then come upstairs in the wee hours. Since I shut the door when I go to bed, she now has to bang her way in. She is smart enough to do this, but it never fails to scare me. We'll need to work on that. This is a new thing, sleeping with the door closed. It's all about the feng shui. I could probably say something about the metaphor of open vs. closed doors, but the insight eludes me. By the way, I'm still in the process of decorating. My friends Denise and Jeremy are going to help me assemble my new bed (which is now strewn about in the adjacent attic room) and Nameless is bugging me about gold accents, but this is all a work in progress.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Going back to Cali

On a happier note: On Saturday, November 10, I'll be doing a Cool Jewels book signing at The Bead Shop in Palo Alto. It'll be great to be back in No Cal. Also, how cool is it that Cal's football team is ranked #2 right now? Go Bears!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Rejection

This summer, I pitched my idea for a second jewelry book to a publisher. I sent my proposal and a few jewelry samples. Got a rejection last week. The editor was really professional and told me that they're not acquiring basic jewelry books right now because the market is saturated and they want something more distinctive. That's a pretty good reason, actually.

I was disappointed: I had already envisioned a gorgeous book with my byline in an adorable font on the cover. Thick paper with photos of my gemstone jewelry on the pages. Sigh. But, even though I was bummed, I felt like I got a reprieve. I was having a hard time getting into the flow of designing (burnout from making so many earrings for our special issue? higher stakes with a second book? the unknown of working with a new publisher?). The thought of coming up with 40 new designs was intimidating.

If you never get rejected, it means you haven't aimed high enough. (This is another one of those platitudes that's true.) I'm not sure right now whether a second jewelry book is in the works — I need to spend some time thinking about the process of writing the book, and not just about the excitement of its publication. On a related note, check out Satisfaction: The Science of Finding True Fulfillment. One of my favorite points: that we find satisfaction not in the attainment of goals, but in the striving. So, aim high.

Monday, October 1, 2007

What I learned about painting

It takes a long, long time to prep before painting. Moving furniture out of the room was a chore. Then, applying blue tape to the ceiling took longer than I expected (window sashes, doors, and the odd angles of my attic added extra time). Plus, I had to clean the walls, spackle, sand, and cover the floor with plastic. Even though I've painted a lot of rooms, I'm always surprised by how long it takes.

I skipped the primer and crossed my fingers.

Yesterday, Bonch and I put the first coat of paint on the walls as we debated which of Prince's songs was his best ever. Him: "Let's Go Crazy"; me: "Purple Rain," though I might also argue "Erotic City" or "I Would Die 4 U" or even "I Wanna Be Your Lover." Luckily all of these are on the Hits and B-Sides album, which I'll listen to again tonight when I put on the second coat/touchups.

By the way, I went with Sherwin Williams' Verve Violet. I was planning on a more purple (less red) shade, but changed my mind once the duvet cover arrived. One thing I love about SW paints: they're very true to the color on the card. I'm happy with the results.

One last thing: my favorite painting tools are a 9-inch roller, a 6½-inch roller, and a foam brush. And 3M tape, 2 inches wide. I have mixed feelings about regular brushes and the edger, but maybe this is because I don't know how to use them. I could learn for my next project.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Deciding on a paint color

I've been mulling over paint colors and I'm almost ready to commit… I just need to see how the duvet cover looks (according to UPS, it got delivered to my house today). Even though the paint color is a bigger deal, the color of the duvet cover is harder to customize. So, I'll be working around that.

I got some second opinions from Serene, who's a graphic designer for BeadStyle and has adorable style herself, and A Guy Who Shall Remain Nameless, a co-worker who'd undoubtedly be mocked for his creative side. His first suggestion wasn't a paint color but a recommendation to get a headboard. Actually, it was to make my own — out of three wooden pieces, painted to match my room — and bolt it to the wall. Great idea, but, unless we're talking about jewelry, I'm more buy-it-yourself than do-it-yourself. Plus, that would mean three more paint decisions in addition to the wall color, and I don't think Jane, Serene, or Nameless has that kind of time.

Anyway, Serene and Nameless both picked the same color. I've misplaced the color that Jane liked, but it was more mauve-y than purple. Right now, the frontrunners are similar plummy shades from Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams (Passion Plum and Kimono Violet, respectively). I prefer Kimono Violet — it's a great purple, not too red and not too blue.

Aside from waiting to see how the berry or merlot bedspread looks, I'm attached to three other colors. The dark horses: Mulberry, Gentian, and Seduction. Mulberry (which is more berry-ish than in the chip — it's the center color in the left-hand chip) is probably too intense, but it's so gorgeous I can't quite let it go. Gentian (on the middle card, second from the bottom) is a darker shade of what's already on the walls, so I'm partial to it even though it's not Moroccan. Nor is it much of a change. And Seduction has amethyst tones that I love. Anyway, I'll be buying paint on Friday, so at least there's a deadline.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

My bedroom redesign, Part I

My newest creative endeavor: I'm redesigning my upstairs bedroom according to feng shui principles. To get motivated, I googled the topic. It might seem a little cultish to adhere to the strict principles, but I think feng shui makes a lot of sense. For example: position the bed so you can see the door — and what's coming in and out of your life. Pretty basic, right? I found a lot of info in this CNN article.

Here's a "before" photo of my bedroom: the paint is a light periwinkle, and I don't have any art on the walls. Also, this is a finished attic room, so the ceilings are sloped. And there's a ceiling fan smack in the middle of the room, which makes bed placement more challenging. But that's a concern for another day. By the way, I will be keeping the (new) gold brocade curtains. And no, I didn't think they looked good with the current paint color.

My first task: repainting. In the past, I've favored pale, neutral shades. Flat paint. No stenciling. No unusual finishes. Just pure, serene colors. I'm a huge fan of Sherwin Williams paint: the color's pretty true to the cards, and I can usually get away with one coat plus touchups. I've heard Benjamin Moore is good but I've never used it (anyone have a recommendation?).

Next weekend, I'll do the edging and my friend Bonch will use his brawn and the rollers to do the walls. So now I'm looking at colors and considering the same ones I like in jewelry: fuchsia, purple, blue violet, and turquoise. Gemstone colors — sort of Moroccan, that will look good with gold room accents. But here's the twist: I don't always gravitate to the ornate details in Moroccan design, so I'm modifying it to keep the lines simple.

Jane, my co-worker, is helping me narrow down the palette. Eggplant and midnight blue? Too intense. Plum? Maybe too brown. Deep periwinkle? Gorgeous but not very Moroccan. Sigh. What to do? We've consulted the color wheel and stacks of paint chips, but I'm still undecided. Also, I just ordered a merlot duvet cover (or is it berry?). It will arrive in a few days and I'll have to decide 1) if I like it and 2) whether it will work in my bedroom. So many decisions.

Thank you, gentle reader, for following along on my meandering, micromanaging journey through color and texture. It appears that my designer's block is cracking, but I'd still love to hear your thoughts on paint and feng shui.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Win a vintage bracelet kit!

Hey beaders, here's your chance to let everyone know your jewelry thoughts: Post a review of Cool Jewels: Beading Projects for Teens on Amazon and enter to win a vintage bracelet kit. The kit has all the supplies you'll need to make a bracelet like the one on the cover — including hand-picked charms (hearts, hearts, hearts!) and beads in my favorite retro colors. (If you want, I’ll even put the bracelet together for you.) Please post your review by November 1, 2007, and email me at cooljewelsnaomiATgmailDOTcom to enter. Thanks!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Jewelry and Living the Life

I just got back from sunny Virginia Beach, taping a jewelry segment about Cool Jewels for Living the Life. The trip was a whirlwind, but everyone in Virginia is kind and friendly and professional, which really helped put me at ease. When my phone rang to alert me that the car had arrived, I heard, “It’s Buddy from the front desk. Bring your smile!” How could I not be enthusiastic? The trip was filled with many signs like that: Angela, who picked me up from the airport, told me how nice the hosts were. Eddie, a pilot for Southwest, encouraged me to be myself. And Emily, the server at breakfast, also reassured me: “I promise it will go well.” Yes, I shared my fears with virtually everyone I encountered.

By the way, if you ever get a chance to stay at the Founders Inn, do. The staff is cheerful, the restaurant serves a yummy Kobe beef burger (mine had American cheese and caramelized onions), and the inn is set on a beautiful campus that also houses the CBN studio, a fitness area, tennis courts, a swing set, a spa, and plenty of terrace seating. I didn’t partake of all of those, but I did walk a few laps to calm my nerves.

The taping went so fast — one take. I’m hypercritical when it comes to my own performance, so I’m already thinking about what I could’ve done differently — but I won’t spoil it by running through my list. Carolyn and Louise, the hosts for the segment, have so much energy that they just propelled everything forward. They are total pros! The segment didn’t go exactly how I expected (as I am not a total pro when it comes to TV), but what in life does?

Afterward, I went to dinner with Heather, a fellow Scorpio who taped a segment on timeshares. Over sushi, we talked TV and life and laughed at our need to try to control stuff — even stuff that can’t be controlled.

All in all, the trip was a great experience: I met interesting people and faced a professional challenge. Not so bad for just three days.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Cool Jewels necklace in blue and green Lucite

On Monday, I'll be in Virginia Beach taping a TV demo for Living the Life.

I'm demo-ing the Pretty in Pink necklace from Cool Jewels — but this will be a blue and green version with a Lucite mix from The Beadin' Path. So stay tuned, and I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Ruby rondelle earrings

I'm not a huge fan of red. If you've ever been to a Cal football game and heard fans chant "Take off that RED shirt" as they rolled the hapless offender through the crowd, you'd develop an aversion, too.

That said, I do love the way rubies and gold go together. So I made this pair of hammered gold hoop earrings. (The rubies are from Bead Palace, by the way.) I strung individual rondelles on 26-gauge head pins and made wrapped loops. I was so proud of my simple idea until I realized that the rubies clustered together rather than fanning out in an orderly fashion. (I like order.) Fifty wrapped loops later, it occurred to me that premade hoops with loops would have been less time-consuming. Or, wiring the rondelles to the perimeter of the hoops also would've been easier. Or, I could have made the gold hoops smaller to lessen my loop-making load. But as Alanis Morissette says, you learn. And I do like the results.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Stick pearl earrings

I'm laboring through my designer's block. So many options: How many pearls should I use? Should I add a crystal drop at the bottom? And, what color beads at the top? String them on flexible beading wire or 26-gauge sterling silver wire? Decorative or plain earring wires?

Not surprisingly, almost every decision ended at the simplest point: 15 pearls — enough to splay out dramatically. No crystal drop — too fancy for the organic look I was going for. Just two amethyst chips up top, to set the stage for the irregular pearls. Strung on 26-gauge wire (wire wraps good, crimped beading wire not so good, even with a crimp cover). Handmade earring wires with a 4mm amethyst bicone crystal to highlight the color of the pearls.

Yes, it took me several hours to design earrings that you can make in under 15 minutes. Such is the ugly underbelly of the jewelry design process, that creativity takes work. But, I'm happy with the results. The earrings look awesome when I put them on!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

How one writer gets through writer's block

There's a Media Bistro interview with Gabe Rotter about the writing process and what he went through to get his first novel published. He's hilarious, and if you've ever felt pressured to deliver something creative, this is worth reading. My favorite quote: "That's the hardest part of writing, I think -- Sitting down and writing. It's where most people screw up." Check it out.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Designer's block and making lists

I've been having designer's block — like writer's block, but with designing. I've been designing more stuff than usual and feeling creatively tapped. So maybe this isn't the best time to submit jewelry to accompany a book proposal. (Ah, if only I could set my own deadlines.) Designing feels like work — I can't wait for inspiration, I just have to move on without it. I've been fixating on how to create jewelry that's stylish and impressive and representative of my work and that uses a range of materials and techniques. And and and: the list of criteria grows.

I resolved to work through my block. Today. But first, I watched my friend Kerry play in a tennis tournament, then we analyzed the tournament, then we ate a big lunch, then I went to Knot Just Beads, then I talked to Denise, then I mowed the lawn, then it was time to make dinner. I tell you this not because you'll be fascinated by my day, but because making the list made me see how I avoided facing my designing demons. I was busy, right?

I finally sat down to work. And then a funny thing happened. Hearing Jackson Browne's "Doctor My Eyes" for the jillionth time, I remembered how I was in a zone last summer listening to this CD, when I designed Cool Jewels projects and didn't obsess over what everyone's reaction would be. By the time the disc was over, I had finished my necklace and felt proud of it. Maybe getting over my anxieties wasn't quite that simple — I did need to hear some Hall and Oates, too — but, by remembering (re-experiencing?) what it felt like to trust my own judgment, I actually was able to focus and concentrate.

Now that Necklace Number One is done, I'm ready for some sleep. It's been a long day.

Let me know if you have advice for getting over designer's block. Really. What's on your soundtrack?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Thinking green

This was a weekend of green.

When Denise and I got to Irish Fest on Friday night for our shift, the marketplace was crowded with people buying sweatshirts, caps, ornaments, and other souvenirs. Although everything sold like hotcakes, the green t-shirts and classic hoodies were especially popular. (I picked up a green shamrock ornament, no surprise there.) Irish Fest is my favorite summer festival because we get to volunteer with kids and retirees and everyone’s in a good mood, including the customers. After our retail stint, we usually wander the fairgrounds and eat some shepherd's pie. This year, though, we decided to try something new: reuben rolls and a baked potato with cheddar, sour cream, and bacon bits. I’m not a fan of corned beef, but I can appreciate it when it’s deep-fried in an egg-roll wrapper. There's nothing like sharing fried food and good conversation with a friend.

On Saturday, I went to Planet Bead to buy gemstones. My no-brainer buy: a $40 strand of gumball-sized round turquoise. The colors in the photo look murky, but the actual strand is mostly green, with a lone blue nugget and three brownish pieces — can’t wait to combine the beads with tiny Swarovski crystals in smoked topaz, chrysolite, olivine, and maybe even jonquil or indicolite. I try to avoid metaphors about beads speaking to me, but this strand seemed like an obvious choice, even surrounded by the store's huge selection: round is one of my favorite shapes, and the colors don’t require much embellishment. Green is good.

My third brush with greenness: the avocado. It's huge, about the size of Ginger's head. Ginger is a 50-pound dog. That's a tennis ball next to said avocado. (By the way, I think tennis balls should be used to gauge size in photos. Everyone has an intuitive sense of how big a tennis ball is.) This avocado reached me via my neighbors, who went to Florida and procured it from their friend’s tree. To make a story out of this, I'll conclude by saying that I used half of the avocado to make guacamole and gave the other half to my parents, who then asked me to make guacamole.

Hope you had a colorful weekend, too.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Two things about turquoise hoops

One of my earring designs in 365 Earrings is a turquoise hoop with huge nuggets. These babies are 2.5 inches in diameter, and I learned two key things. First, basic geometry helped me calculate how much 20-gauge wire I'd need. Circumference equals pi times diameter, remember? For each hoop, I used 7.85 inches plus 2 inches for the wraps and the loop. Ten inches per hoop, that's more than I'd have guessed. Another way to do this: you could use a string to outline the hoop and then measure the string. Also good, but you're missing a chance to exercise your mathletic skills.

The other thing: Wear these for short periods of time. They're heavy. Even after I used a thicker earring wire and pushed a rubber ear nut close to my ear so the earring wouldn't swing, my ears were slightly numb. Just slightly. Luckily, Cathy (BeadStyle's editor) found Ear Lifts, adhesive discs that keep your lobes from getting weighed down. I just ordered some. I'll let you know how they work.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

About.com interview

I just did an interview with Tammy Powley, who writes about jewelry making on About.com. She gave me lots of interesting questions, so check it out if you want to learn more about how I became a jewelry designer, my approach to designing, or my ideas for getting into a career in crafts.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Ways to finish snowflake ornaments

I was making some snowflake ornaments and realized that my hands hurt from making all the loops to finish them. The spokes are so stiff (like memory wire) that I had to use roundnose pliers to start each loop and chainnose pliers to close it. Loops are fine if I’m making one or two ornaments, but in November I’ll be teaching a class, so I needed to figure out a less painful way to finish the ends. Options:

• Attach a crimp bead on the end of each spoke. And possibly a crimp cover over it, to make it look pretty. This is a good solution, but still requires me to do most of it — as opposed to being something that kids can do themselves.

• Attach a rubber ear nut on each end. Not quite as pretty, but it works well. Also, it’s handy to string the ear nuts to hold the beads in place while you decide on a pattern (then you don’t need tape).

I like the ear nut idea, but I wanted to make the finish extra-secure by gluing each one. So, which glue? I visited This to That, a web site that helps you figure out what glue you need. But then I remembered that Michaels has a brochure that lists their different glues. So I bought some Amazing Goop, a stinky glue that requires time to set before you put the pieces together.

When I finished the snowflake design, I slid the ear nuts out, applied glue to the spoke, waited a few minutes, and then slid the ear nut back down, on top of the glue. Then I trimmed one of the spokes to 3/8 in. (1cm) and made a loop. I trimmed the rest of the spokes flush with the ear nuts and attached a wire hanger to the loop.

One last thing: make sure the holes in the ear nuts are small. I buy mine from Fire Mountain. Just type in "rubber ear nut" and you'll get lots of options.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Creativity and the Umali Awards

In the photo, that's Renato Umali (wearing glasses) with John Myers, his friend from high school. John tied for seventh-place in DIWITTYs. DIWITTYs, you ask? They're Days in Which I Talked to You. On Saturday, at the 6th Annual Umali Awards, Renato presented DIWITTY awards based on his calculations from 2006. Not surprisingly, his best friend had the most DIWITTYs, but the second-place finisher posed proudly with his trophy, pleased to have earned a top spot despite his lower total than the previous year.

Renato uses Excel spreadsheets to track, among other things, DIWITTYs, most frequented eatery and the average tab, and his mood (on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being "shitty"). My grad-school friend Michelle — not to be confused with my high-school friend Michelle, misty-eyed Michelle, or her sister-in-law Michelle — invited me because she was in the running for an award. Though she didn’t win for Best Meal, she declared that it was an honor just to be nominated. Indeed. The gallery was packed with men in suits and women in fancy dresses who showed up to present and possibly collect awards. What I loved was that these awards honored Renato's friends and also documented his appreciation and gratitude for the people in his life. If you awarded DIWITTYs, who'd be on your list? And what else would you find worth documenting? In the quantification of human experience, do you think about how many eggs you ate last year, much less track egg consumption from year to year?

I've been thinking about creativity lately, and how it can be a challenge to develop it. It takes work, for sure. But doing the work is satisfying; I find that I'm happiest when I'm doing something creative, especially when it's part of a long-term goal. I've been inspired by both Renato and by this neat book, 52 Projects: Random Acts of Everyday Creativity. Both have shown me ways to be creative (many of the book's projects include writing letters and taking photos, two things I love to do). The way I see it, life is about priorities. And if I'm prioritizing creativity and the people I care about, I'm definitely on the right track. So, thanks, Renato (and Jeff Yamaguchi, even though I don't know you). I'll look forward to the 7th Annual Umali Awards.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Berry-cherry crisp

When it comes to pleasing the palate vs. pleasing the eye, I can't necessarily choose — cooking and making jewelry are both satisfying creative pursuits. So, today's post is my unofficial ode to the fruit crisp. I have a limited repertoire, but I do love my crisps: berry in the summer, apple in the fall. Smooth and crunchy, tart and sweet, hot and cold, the fruit crisp is everything I could ask for in a dessert. Plus, it bears repeating that there's fruit in it. And ice cream. So, you're getting vitamins and calcium, the double whammy (or, two whammies, as a friend calls them) of nutrition.

First of all, forgive my photo. It would have benefited from a dollop of ice cream. Here's the "before" picture. Not being a food stylist, I plopped a huge scoop of Haagen Dazs vanilla on the crisp, and the poor thing imploded under the weight of it. You'll have to use your imagination to garnish the piece and trust me that the dessert tastes better than it looks.

Blackberries, strawberries, and cherries were on sale, so I bought some and decided to try my dessert in 90-degree weather. I found this recipe a few years ago in a cookbook I gave as a gift (if I can find the original, I'll add a comment to the post). Anyway, I modified the filling part of the recipe because I prefer my crisps very tart — tasting of fruit rather than sugar — with sweetness coming from ice cream or fresh whipped cream. Since I've been asked for this recipe, I thought I'd post it here. That way, I'll have it handy forever. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject, especially if you have a secret ingredient or know a quick way to pit cherries.

Here's some stuff I learned along the way:

1. Raspberries don't work well — too delicate and juicy.
2. Blackberries and strawberries work great. They're yummy, pretty, and their texture holds up to baking.
3. If you forget to mix the nuts into the topping, you can still sprinkle them on top just before putting the crisp in the oven. (I just discovered that this weekend. See photo for errant nuts.) Just make sure you don't overbake.
4. Not sure how I feel about the cherries. The Bings taste awesome, but they're kind of chewy.
5. I love topping, which is why I prefer only 4 cups of fruit. The original recipe called for 6 cups.
6. Try serving the crisp in mugs or ramekins. If you use plates, it's hard to scoop up the melty ice cream and leftover fruit syrup.

Fruit Crisp
Topping:
1/3 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (toast in a skillet for about 6 minutes)
2/3 cup old-fashioned oats
2/3 cup flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
4 Tbsp. ice-cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Filling:
4–5 cups fruit
1/4 cup sugar
1 generous Tbsp. flour
2 Tbsp. orange juice

Combine the oats, flour, sugar, and spices. Scatter the butter over the top. Use your fingers to blend the butter into the mixture. Add nuts.

Combine the fruit. In a small bowl, blend sugar, flour, and orange juice till dissolved. Blend with the fruit. Spoon the fruit mixture into an 8-inch baking dish. Sprinkle the topping on and press lightly.

Bake in a 375-degree oven until the top is browned and the fruit is tender, 30-40 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes before serving.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Cool Jewels party

To celebrate the release of Cool Jewels, I threw a bash at The Social, one of my all-time favorite restaurants. My friends Ann and Michelle arrived early, and it was nice to have company while I ate a Kobe beef burger with Stilton cheese sauce and crispy French fries. Mary and Stacy also came early, decked out in cute summer dresses. Cathy, Jane, Kristin, and Addie all showed up — people I see every day at work, who still wanted to take time to help me celebrate. Keith, Jay, and Deb mingled with my parents, talking about golf tips and cats that paint. Brenda, who's busy working on her second book, brought champagne. And Michelle (not to be confused with Michelle, her sister-in-law) brought the Veuve and got a little misty-eyed at the toast, 'cause that's just the kind of person she is. Dale, who tends to mock those of us who get misty-eyed, gave me a beautiful card. And Matt, my stylist, lightened the mood as we laughed at how my Lucy-Liu-in-Charlie's-Angels-look drooped in the humidity. Dave, Pat, and Andy aren't into jewelry or elaborate hairstyles, but they were good sports and stayed for a while. That's what people you've known for 20 years will do. Tom, Alison, Mark, Anna, and I nursed drinks after everyone else left, then we finally called it a night.

You probably don't know my friends and family, but I wanted to mention them because they really made the night — and the book — worth it. I've always valued achievement, but having loved ones to share it with is just as important to me. The sentiment may be trite, but that doesn't make it any less true. So, in appreciation of the people in my life: Cheers.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Breaking stuff

This weekend, I broke my digital camera. Dropped it, lens open, on the hardwood floor in my dining room. The lens is askew and won't focus or close. Last week, I gently placed a Shiny Brite ornament (hot pink with green and white stripes, my favorite) in a lunch box, closed the lid, and broke the ornament. You see where this is going.

I hope bad things don't happen in threes. Maybe I should just break something to get it over with? I've actually been thinking about broken jewelry lately. Wondering if it's better to just re-string something? It's frustrating to do the same work twice, but I worry that a piece is likely to break again, even after it's been repaired. Do you have any thoughts about repairing vs. restringing?

Friday, July 20, 2007

This week's Cool Jewels posts

If you read my MySpace blog, you'll see that I've got the week's postings on this blog, too. I just wanted to get this thing started! But next week, I promise you'll see new content. I'm also not sure if I can blog from home (outdated operating system and Internet Explorer on my old-school Mac), so I may be relegated to weekday posting. Thanks for your patience, and happy weekend!

Favorite Cool Jewels projects: No. 1

My favorite Cool Jewels project: "Playing Hoops" (page 81). I wear a pair just about every day. This gold pair is almost bangle-sized and has the heart-and-key motif I love. By the way, those are scrapbooking charms, so they're flat and lightweight. Occasionally they get caught in my sweater, but I can live with that. I just try to avoid bobbing my head from side to side.

A tip: if you hammer wire, use a bench block. I made the mistake, in my zeal to finish the earrings, of hammering on my basement floor. That created a very unpretty texture. If you need a stainless steel bench block, you can get one from Rio Grande or Rings & Things. Also, make sure that you make the hanging loop big enough. Mine are a little small, so sometimes the hoop isn't as swingy as I'd like.

I've noticed that hoops are flattering on everyone; you just need to find the right size and gauge to flatter you. Tiny or huge hoops work best for me; classic mid-sized hoops that are about an inch in diameter look horrible (very matronly) on me. My favorite styles have just one metal bead or crystal dangling on them, but you can also string multiple beads or cover the entire wire.

Favorite Cool Jewels projects: No. 2

July isn't typically a time to think about holiday ornaments, but "Fabulous Flakes" (page 88) has always been a favorite. I first came up with this idea for the January 2004 issue of BeadStyle. When I showed Mindy (the editor) my prototype — a pink, purple, and orange number — she said to just make sure that the colors were ugly. Really, I'm not making this up. She'd say blunt stuff like that all the time. Hilarious!

Snowflakes take just a few minutes. For me, they're far less labor-intensive than necklaces and way more fun and relaxing. I like to make ornaments as gifts, too — last year, I gave a set in different shades of white and ivory. I'm always on the lookout for cheap beads (in groups of six, for each of the spokes). My brainstorming with vintage strands almost always starts with "Can I make an ornament out of this." By the way, Fusion Beads carries metal snowflake forms year-round and has free shipping. And World Market sells cute holiday tins and paper takeout boxes for pretty packaging. At the magazine, we also do a pizza-and-ornament lunch in December, which I'm already looking forward to.

A minor change I make when I'm putting together ornaments for myself: I prefer the cheap wire hooks (you can get huge packs on sale at Walgreens for 79 cents). The ribbon hanger looks pretty for gift giving but can be a little distracting when the snowflake is actually on the tree.

Happy holidays!

Favorite Cool Jewels projects: No. 3

"Tokens of Your Affection" (page 20) is one of the easiest projects in the book. Technique-wise, these necklaces require just opening and closing jump rings or making a couple of wrapped loops. Materials-wise, they don't require much effort or expense, either. You can attach almost anything to your chain!

Vintage chain works well. It's affordable, has a nice patina, and often has the perfect heft — not too heavy, but strong enough to support a few charms. The subway token necklace took me only a few minutes to design and put together, but I wore it almost every day last summer. Every day. I sometimes built my outfits around that necklace, shying away from busy prints. I finally broke the habit at the end of September, when I had to deliver the manuscript and all of the finished jewelry. Now that I've got it back, I wear it layered with the heart-and-key necklace. I'm enjoying the mixed-metals look.

Favorite Cool Jewels projects: No. 4

My "Pretty in Pink" necklace (page 34) wasn't a favorite when I made it, but I've been wearing it a lot lately. It's light and colorful — in summer, a welcome change from all my chain jewelry.

I bought the pink beads from The Beadin' Path, whose website offers an amazing selection of Lucite. You can search by color, or buy bead mixes. They have beads in fruit, shell, and flower shapes, but of course I prefer the oval-shaped fuchsia jelly beans. Smooth and candy-like: yum. They also possess a shimmer that makes them look especially luminous.

To keep the necklace from looking too cutesy, I strung the beads with gunmetal spacers from Vintaj. Jane, who's a BeadStyle editor, suggested that I add chain, which gives you different ways to wear the necklace. Also, that makes the piece less bulky at the back of your neck. By the way, I spend lots of time in Jane's office. Not only does she give fabulous design advice, she's also a sympathetic listener about matters of the heart.

Favorite Cool Jewels projects: No. 5

Every day this week, I'll post a photo of my favorite projects from Cool Jewels. Today's pick: "Charmed," the bracelet that appears on the cover. Maybe it's no surprise that I love the cover, but I didn't have much influence on the choice — that's left to the art director, editor, publisher, and circulation people. Like any author, I wanted something truly representative of my work, and this was it: gold and fun but not too flashy. Pink and green are my favorite colors (actually, blue is, too — but not in jewelry), so I'm happy we used a piece that included both. Incidentally, the Bingo Nut charm came from an Ebay bag of stuff. Bingo is like Lionel Richie: even if you don't play it, you're glad it doesn't ever go away.

Also, I have a sentimental attachment to this bracelet, maybe because I labored over it, rearranging to find just the right spot for each metal, enamel, and plastic piece. True story. Charm bracelets require time and thought to give the appearance of casual style.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Welcome to my blog!

Hey everybody, I'm trying to expand my blogosphere beyond MySpace, so here I am. I'll be blogging about jewelry and stuff related to Cool Jewels: Beading Projects for Teens. In the meantime, please visit me at myspace.com/naomifuj. Thanks!