Monday, 31 January 2011

Up Into the Hills, Many Miles Away...

Today's journey almost seems to have been endless - the Sat.Nav. claimed it would take 4 hours, but my SatNav in the UK also tells lies, so I don't know why I'd believe its American cousin any more.   And this SatNav has the most appalling diction. 
Anyway, here we are listening to a book on tape (Sebastian Faulks' Devil May Care), through endless miles of flat grassland sprinkled with snow and the occasional road sign which seems to have fallen victim to a crazed gunman or two.   We wish we'd taken the bullet-proof option now.

I'm ashamed to say there are at least three mega photo opportunities I haven't taken up which will stick in my mind for ever because I was just too darn tired to get out of the car and click the button on the camera.  
This is one example of pure laziness mitigated by complete and utter exhaustion -decided we'd go to the Petrified Forest to see the trees that had turned to stone.  Got to the gates.  Knackered.  Took a photo.  Left.  Shamed.  Sorry.
But its nearly the end of the day, and finally we're at our next hotel where we fall through the gates in complete and utter relief.  I really should try and remember that the States are bigger than the UK. 

Who Put This In The Middle of the Arizona Desert?

Not very nice at all.   No, not at all nice.

Meteorite Crater - Bigger than Big...

We stopped off at the Arizona Meteorite Crater, (yes, a big hole in the ground) - you approach on this winding road through miles of flat desert with nothing much but tumbleweed rolling under the car to break up the desolation of the area until you come to the big hole in the ground, and boy was it big, and oh my goodness it was windy.
When I came down I met a group of Americans (as you do in America) and happened to mention that I thought I was going to lose my trousers whilst I was up there.  It was a weird thing, from the frosty silence, I got the impression I'd committed some sort of faux pas - do Americans not mention trousers flying off on the top of mountains and laugh in a 'oh my god, I know EXACTLY what you mean' sort of way?   I could understand the resounding silence if I'd said I thought I was about to lose my knickers up there, but I didn't actually say that. 

Listen, it was interesting and all but I don't think I'd do it again because really, it was a big hole in the ground.  I did it mostly for my Dad who'd mentioned the place specifically before I left so I felt I needed to do it for him to take him some souvenirs and books and photos and things.  But, what can you say?  Long drive, big hole.  Trousers.
I thought the view on the other side was pretty darn cool though....

Just the Wide Open Road

Twin Arrows near Flagstaff, Arizona

We decided to drive up part of the old Route 66 (part of which we seem to do every time we visit this area) (now the unromantically named I-40) and boy, have we seen some stuff...first was the old Twin Arrows trading post which apparently closed about 20 years ago - this place looked like something out of an old western, and yes, we saw tumbleweed (didn't actually believe that really existed, but trust me, it does...)

Twin Arrows - well - you can see why Twin Arrows was named - these were originally made from old telegraph poles and have been restored recently, though the trading post itself hasn't as yet.  Interesting.

Leaving Sedona

An early start today, in order to drive over to the White Mountains on the other side of Arizona and have enough time to stop and start over and over again and take photos to my hearts content - the first few photos were taken just a few miles out of Sedona, as the colour of the rocks start to change - today it's cooler (and colder by the minute as I leave Sedona and as you can see, clouds in the skies - though still breathtakingly beautiful) - the next hotel is at 8,500 ft. elevation and I know for a fact already that it is perishingly cold up there, so this is time to enjoy the last few rays of sunshine and warmth for a few days.
As we climb upwards, the landscape and colours change dramatically... the red fades and a khaki/sand colour predominates.
The sun filters over the mountain tops and gives a little warmth to the chilly valleys; I've never seen this landscape in the summer, I can only imagine how beautiful it must be.
Cliimbing up through the mountains, these silver coloured trees dominate along the sides of the roads.

Then, we start to see (and feel!) snow... I'm sure it won't be the last - when I was here last time I went up the state as far as the Grand Canyon (actually I travelled further than that) and it was knee deep in snow.
This pic is only about 17 miles outside of Sedona, and I can't believe the difference in temperature and the landscape.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Sedona 3 - Heart of the West

Doing a little light shopping in Sedona, I came across this fine chap and couldn't resist a few snaps... the town is choc full of public art (lots of artists live here) and I'd love to be able to have a full day just to explore it all.

You can read more about this artist and his work here.

Sedona 2

A day of running round in the car and taking a look round Sedona once again - I got  my Dad a t-shirt which had been dyed with Sedona dirt, well, maybe until it is washed anyway!   I had to stop and get a photo of this street, so that I can truly claim I've been in the back of beyond today....
I'm always entraced by the colours in this place, and I always wish I could spend more time here....

The red rocks are mostly what pull people in here, (as well as the good food and fab climate) and below are some photos of the rocks at various times of the day...

This next one is the view from my hotel bedroom...fab, eh?

End of the day, on my way home from a day's photography and soaking up all the red and blue...

Sedona 1

Sedona, Arizona, is where I find myself today, writing from one of the most beautiful places on earth where today there is warmth and lovely blue, blue skies without a cloud anywhere - quite a change from the cold and rain I've left behind in the UK - though I know this won't last long as my travels progress! 
If you've never visited Arizona, and if you'e never had the pleasure of the town of Sedona, you've missed something special - this is a town I pass through whenever I can, not only for its beautiful views, lovely people but also its sense of serenity and peace.   I am staying in the Best Western Arroyo Roble Hotel - it's a great hotel at a fab price - lovely and clean, amazing views, great breakfast included - a pool and gym, the hotel exceeded expectations.   (I always book my hotels on the recommendation of the Trip Advisor website).

After the trauma of getting here, the peace and rest were truly needed.  Sedona is amazing in many ways, but the colour of the skies and the red of the rocks (caused by iron ore) are two of its particular attractions - the previous times I had been here I hadn't been able to visit this interesting church with a fabulous view, seemingly constructed right out of the rocks but I took the walk up to the top of the mountain huffing and puffing and arriving almost as red as the rocks. 
I didn't feel I could take pictures inside, but it is an amazing building, the walls inside are just sheer sheets of smooth stone which must rise up maybe 60 feet or so, and the roof slopes backwards; inside there are simple benches and a clear glass window intersected by the structural cross at the front of the building - its simplicity is beautiful, and although I don't consider myself religious, it would be hard not to be moved by something so simple yet impressive. 

Towards the evening, I passed the same place (though decided not to climb that hill again!) and was fascinated by the change in the light and the sky...

Saturday, 29 January 2011

You Just Wouldn't Believe It.....

I write currently from Arizona, where I landed this morning after a harrowing journey from Manchester through Philadelphia and on to Phoenix, where I picked up a car and drove to Sedona.  The flights should have taken around 13 hours, instead it took over 28 hours.  You can imagine.  Firstly flights were delayed due to poor weather on the east coast of the States, so the plane was late in taking off.  Very late. But fair enough. 
So we missed our connecting flight and were put on a later one.  

Then when we got into Philadelphia after a flight from hell with an indifferent aircrew who basically gave the impression it was their last week in the job (we can only hope) we had the always lovely experience of standing in line waiting to be admitted to the US.  This became somewhat tedious when the immigration computers crashed and we waited around an hour and a half for it to be fixed.  At the two hour point we'd missed another flight.   When at long last the immigration computer problem was resolved by letting people in manually, the old fashioned way, we'd missed another flight. 

We went to reschedule to be told the next flight was in six hours at which point I burst into tears and had a tantrum which was made a lot better by a US Airways "Customer Service" person shouting at me which made me cry more - I hope it made her day, because it sure made mine. 

I had another flight of over seven hours ahead to cross the States.   Eventually I arrived in Phoenix and was faced with a three hour drive up to Sedona in pitch blackness in an unfamiliar car.  I nearly left the road a number of times due to complete exhaustion.  At no point did I ever hear the word 'sorry' or anything approaching it from anyone responsible for this.  And I'll never fly US Air again once I get home (and I am hoping I will), who really made the whole experience really special. If I ran my business this way I'd be out of work in a week. 

Thursday, 27 January 2011

My Baby, Harry...

Time for a little 'ahhhhhhhhh' moment; here we have Harry in one of the brief moments he is not actually being naughty or doing something he shouldn't.   I think you can see why it was love at first sight...I'm just that a smile on his face?

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Currently Reading...

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin.   I adored this book; beautifully written by a talented author, this is the story of Alice Liddell who was the real Alice in Wonderland - its not a biography, its fiction with a lot of facts and because of that, the story of this child who was the muse of Lewis Carroll is very readable.   I had heard (I think) several years ago that there was some minor scandal involving the author and his possibly inappropriate attachment to young girls but this story fleshes it out.  Alice Liddell at the age of seven believed herself an adult whilst Lewis Carroll (the name was a nom de plume, his real name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) appeared to believe himself still a child.   Alice's life was in many ways affected by the story of Alice in Wonderland, in many ways that were not happy or positive and she only came to capitalise on her fame as the Alice in the story when she was an old lady - at which point her audience was suprised and somewhat disappointed to find that Alice had grown old.   Her life was sad, surprising and in the end, uplifting, as was the authors and this book has inspired me to read more about the real-life stories of Alice and Lewis Carroll. 
Weave, Wrap, Coil - Creating Artisan Wire Jewelry by Jodi Bombardier - I have shelves full of jewellery making books - I can't tell you quite why I love to hoard this genre of book so much, but my studio floor positively groans under the weight.   In fact, I had a good reason to purchase this particular one as most of my jewellery is wire-work - I love to work with wire and I love to look at the work of other people who work with wire.  When I see a piece by someone else, I enjoy mentally deconstructing it and learning from their technique - I've wanted to begin making rings for some time, bought ring mandrels late last year but still haven't managed to find the time to make anything.   This is another fab book published by Interweave Press which, like all my other jewellery-making books, I know I will never use to replicate any of the projects, but the deconstruction and information on how to create the 25 projects are invaluable to me in the learning process - and if you were looking to work the projects, the photos are fab, the instruction excellent and this is well worth the money. 
The Forest by Edward Rutherfurd - I read Rutherfurd's 'New York' some time ago and adored it, and this work is equally as amazing.   The central character is the New Forest in England, told through the stories of the human and animal inhabitants over centuries; from the the founding of the Forest during William the Conquerors's time up to the present day; the historical research the author must put in to each of his works is astonishing.   The story does hop around from century to century which can be a little distracting and as with some books read on my Sony E-Reader this can be difficult to keep hold of when you can't just flip back through the (paper) pages of a book to refresh your memory on a particular character.    I visited the New Forest as a child and it is every bit as magical as Rutherfurd's depiction and I cannot wait to get hold of more of this author's work. 
Heartstone (Matthew Shardlake Series 5) by C. J. Sansom - the 'Shardlake' series is one of my absolute favourites; it is historical fiction at its absolute best - as with the previous author (Rutherfurd), Sansom's hard work and research shines through the writing and the sense of being in the time and place (Tudor England) is absolute.   In this installment of the series, Henry VIII's disastrous invasion of France mounted by Henry VIII has been answered with a vast imposing French fleet making preparations to cross the Channel.    At Portsmouth, the English navy is readying itself for the battle of its life; England, reeling under the debasing of its currency to pay for the war, is suffering crippling inflation and economic meltdown. (If the thought of Britain's involvement in controversial foreign wars while suffering an economic crisis remind the reader of contemporary parallels, there is little doubt that is what  Sansom intends.)  
I especially found the portions of the book featuring the sinking of the royal ship the 'Mary Rose' fascinating because as a child, I remember vividly the raising of the same ship from her resting place of hundreds of years, in fact my parents thought it was important enough that we missed a whole morning's school to watch the event on TV.  Mary Rose Official Website (no wonder I love English history these days!)
Against this tumultuous backdrop, the lawyer Matthew Shardlake is presented with a difficult case via an elderly servant of Queen Catherine Parr which will plunge him into the labyrinthine toils of the King's Court of Wards. Shardlake’s job is to look into wrongs which have been done to the young ward Hugh Curteys by a Hampshire landowner, and (as is customary with most cases involving Shardlake) murder is soon on the agenda.
If this is the sort of fiction you enjoy, I haven't yet found better than C J Sansom - at over 600 pages long it does require some dedication, but the sense of atmosphere, of living the events is amazing and as always with Sansom's writing, it leaves me wanting more of the same, and very soon.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Recent Work...

Some of my latest creations.....

Swarovski crystal pearls, fabulous crystal encrusted clasp, Swarovski crystal beads, gold plated findings.  Available in lots of colours...

Swarovski crystal, sterling silver, lots of patience!


Hematine, Coral, Freshwater Pearls, Goldfilled chain and wire.

 I originally did this bracelet as a free with purchase kit for my other website, BeadAddict but liked it enough to offer it as a completed item on SLC Designs - it features Czech glass, Agate pebbles, Swarovski crystal, Magatama beads, seed beads and gold plated findings.

'Wheat Ear' freshwater pearls and sterling silver.  One of those pieces you can wear anywhere.  I am waiting for this same pearl to arrive from the manufacturers in various other colours.

Sapphire (which occurs in various colours) with sterling silver.   I bought these stones in my first trip to Tucson five years ago.

Fine London Blue Topaz with gold-filled wire; I just love this colour of blue - I bought these beautiful faceted briolettes in London (fittingly) several years ago - I also have some gorgeous Swiss Blue Topaz, which is a lighter blue, but every bit as fab.Carved coral flowers.
Dainty faceted multi-coloured Tourmaline 'hearts' wrapped with gold-filled wire on gold-filled leverback (pierced) earring fittings; the colours go with everything! 

Faceted freshwater pearls, sterling silver, Swarovski crystal.

Aquamarine (in various colours), handmade fairtrade Karen tribe silver (purer than sterling silver), Rose Quartz, faceted Peridot, sterling silver.

Keishi pearls and sterling silver; this was originally a commission by a regular customer for his daughter, again a lovely pearl necklace with a contemporary twist - I used to offer this necklace in gold before the price of precious metals made it impossible to do so.

A woven freshwater pearl beaded bead, Swarovski crystal and sterling silver - I made this necklace originally for some of my friends at the stable-yard and then was asked to make it for the website.

Rubies, London Blue Topaz, a sterling silver heart wrapped with gold-filled wire on a gold-filled chain and clasp.

Mother of pearl, freshwater pearls, coral, gold filled wire and fittings.

Multi coloured Tourmaline, a matte gold plated bird charm and gold filled wire, chain and findings.  I love this because its so dainty and delicate.

Deep red Garnet with silvery freshwater pearls and sterling silver; the original piece was made for a friend with a January birthday. Swarovski crystal and sterling silver.

Ametrine - a combination of Amethyst and Citrine with Amethyst ellipse shapes and sterling silver with a a sterling hook-style clasp.
Coral, freshwater pearls, Swarovski crystal, Rose Quartz, sterling silver.