Monday, 28 February 2011

More Cats...

I think from this Blog you'll have noticed how much I love cats, (and horses) so I just about fell around laughing when I saw this - if you've not seen it so far, even if you're not that into cats (and if you're not into cats, what is up with you?) then I still think you'll find this funny.  X

Monday, 14 February 2011

Valentine's Day...

Happy, Happy Valentine's Day one and all - if you didn't get anything in the post (so far), I am sure the postie is on the the meantime, here's my Valentine to everyone - ready to go on the site soon - I've had this porcelain heart decorated with gold and enamel and signed 'Lennox, 1998' since - well, at least 1998; at long last my eyes hit on this red faceted crystal and with some gold-filled wire, chain and fittings, well, the rest as shown...have a lovely day x

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Monday, 7 February 2011


The landscape is so different here from other parts of Arizona, the huge Saguro cactus must reach 30 feet or more into the air and they look like sentries as you drive down from the hills - to my (English) eyes they look like an alien species, dropped here from another planet.  The colours are different to those I've seen so far on this trip, but as ever, lovely; sages, silvers and soft, weathered dusty roses and browns; I hope I can keep all these colours in my head once I get home and start to work again; its always the colours I remember the most, the intense blues and red, red rocks of Sedona; the deep greens and wintry, pure whites of the White Mountains - and here, well, different again - always beautiful.

I was hoping it would be warm but its almost as cold as the mountains here right now - brrrrr....the photo above is of a cactus/fountain outside my hotel room first thing in the morning - you wouldn't imagine they could survive this sort of extreme of temperature but it seems they can.
Its off to the gem shows in Tucson over the next few days, this is what I am here for and I am rested and ready for the buying frenzy that will take place!   Tucson (and Arizona generally) is one of my favourite places in the States and is easily somewhere I could live - I had this image before I travelled here the first time that it would be just one big desert, but its an amazing state, full of contrasts and quirks and interesting stuff - you could spend years exploring.  

Still, once I've done my buying it will be back home to get all my bead and findings catalogued and photographed and ready for the site - and back to the mucking out!   Aaaargh.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

I'll Be Having Nightmares for the Next 10 Years...

We're in Tucson right now for the gem shows, doing some buying for BeadAddict and of course, just a little light browsing and purchasing for lovely things for SLC Designs whilst I'm at it...the shows are great fun and you get to meet all sorts of people and see the kind of stuff you never see anywhere else (but of course by then, all your pennies are spent...) though I have to tell you, the shows are E-X-H-A-U-S-T-I-N-G - now I know you don't believe me, because how hard can it be, browsing beads and buying stuff but I tell you, this stuff seriously, seriously frazzles your brain - I guess its making all the decisions and trying to get them right, negotiating with vendors, and all that walking, walking, walking...I tell you, it feels like I have flippers now, not feet - and we get to do it all again tomorrow - yayyyy!   Every time I am at these shows, I start off with tons of energy and by the end of the day, I tell you, I just could not care less if I never saw another bead or finding ever again; the stuff you walk by at this stage in the day, I tell you, your hair would stand on end. 

What I love particularly about the Tucson shows is the sense of community - you'll be buying something and some random stranger will lean over and have a conversation with you - this doesn't happen often enough in day to day life, and to be honest, when I've tried it in the States in the past (at appropriate times of course), you tend to get blanked - I don't think its something they do much over here. 

In the UK of course, we have the perfect conversation opener of the weather, the state of the roads or some other thing we can have a collective gripe about before exchanging pleasantries with a stranger, often never to see them again - but in the States, they sort of look at you funny when you do that - often when you're in a foreign country, its something you do out of total isolation - you're a long way from home and you just want a normal conversation for a few minutes, however mundane; but hey, I guess that's the way it is here.  The shows though are a great leveller, and I find people are willing to chat about nothing or anything, and even to open conversations themselves on the same lines - that sense of community is what makes these shows so special.

Anyway, the thing that will cause me to have nightmares for the next ten years - well, its not to do with beads or people, its this piece of cake (and the hand isn't there because I can't stop myself, its so you can see how big the cake is)!  It might not seem so in the photo, but this was at least 4 inches high and 8 inches long.

Can you believe this piece of cake is meant for ONE person?   I tell you, I took this photo the first night I was here, then over the next few nights I got six portions out of it, and even then had half of it left over when I left the hotel.  
I just don't know anywhere in the UK you'd get a portion like this - interestingly, I heard a few days ago that there is this big hoo-ha in the news because the US health department has just come out and said that people should try to control their portion sizes - apparently they've never considered this advice worth giving out, because the food lobbies here are so powerful that they were terrified of them.  I love visiting the US, but I tell you, if I lived here I would so be reaching for those fat pants within a couple of months... no offence intended to anyone.  

I felt so guilty as I left the hotel, leaving half of this tiramisu behind...but at least its not actually ON my behind...

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Hidden Meadow Ranch, Arizona

I was lucky enough found Hidden Meadow Ranch by chance via TripAdvisor, and had looked forward to it for weeks before travelling there up into the White Mountains (itself an adventure through the snow). In every way our expectations have been exceeded by the lovely place, the lovely people, the lovely cabins and the WONDERFUL food (thanks Kurt!!!) - even my being a vegetarian was no trouble at all to these lovely people and I have had the best food I have ever had at this place.

It snowed and snowed whilst we were there and Mark went ski-ing in a blizzard at the ski-ing resort next door, taken by bus provided by Hidden Meadow, whilst I attempted to go riding, also in a blizzard, with a very patient chap who was endlessly sweet and kind to me despite it obviously being the kind of weather where no sane person would ever want to get on a horse. I lasted about 3 minutes swallowing tons of snow but I got to sit on a western saddle and I went away happy.

We did a leatherworking class with Logan (I don't think Harry the kitten will never grow into that tiger size collar) and mostly we stayed by the fire and snoozed in the ultra luxe cabins. I nearly died and went to heaven when I saw the bath but in the end, it was so big I just never could fill it with water and in fact, had I done so I probaby would have drowned. Beds were so comfortable it was bliss and have I mentioned the food??? OK, we were actually the only customers there at the time but I daresay everyone feels that way regardless of whether there are other guests there at the time. It was wonderful, and nothing was ever too much trouble for anyone. We were truly astonished to find our car had been cleared from the snow every morning before we went to breakfast (though we didn't move it until the day we had to prise ourselves out of the gate).
We left HMR feeling refreshed and like we'd had a proper holiday. There was no TV in the cabin which initially we thought 'uh-oh' but instead of spending hours in front of meaningless rubbish, instead we read, slept and listened to audio books - and did a lot of staring into the lovely real fire in the cabin.
I highly recommend this lovely place; we felt we made friends there and would not hesitate to return; I hope it won't be 5 years before we get to visit Arizona again, but however long it is, HMR will always be on our 'to do' list - hopefully next time in the Spring or Summer. 
(Review written for TripAdvisor.)

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Currently Reading

Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon: Gripping Accounts of All Known Fatal Mishaps in the Most Famous of the World's Seven Natural Wonders by Michael Patrick Ghiglieri and Thomas M. Myers - If you were planning to visit the Grand Canyon before reading this book, you'd change your plans PDQ.  This could also be titled 'Seven Hundred Different Ways to Die in the Grand Canyon' and it starts with a compelling (recent) story of a woman who got drunk and fell over the side.  Having visited the GC, I can tell you that you look at it, think 'Bloody Hell' and then you look down and in that instant you can imagine falling down there, and you inevitably wonder how many people have actually done that - in fact, the book says that its one of the most frequently asked questions of park rangers - 'do many people fall over?' - well, falling over is only one way to die or injure yourself in the GC, and this book plumbs the depths (literally) of recorded deaths, misadventures, murders and suicides over the past hundred or so years.   Some of the stories are a bit too meandering, but others are harrowing and there is occasionally the funny one, though I am sure the victims did not think so at the time.  This book does not just deal with death - it also features miraculous escapes and amazing rescues, and this really brings home to you just how vulnerable the human being is.  An interesting read.  Just do it after visiting.

Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett - I wasn't so keen on the last Ken Follett I read which was actually his first work - Pillars of the Earth (which was a very early work and meandered on for several hundred pages, about three hundred and fifty of which could have been cut out) - but this book is of a different order; well written, great characters and a fab story.
Set during WW2, this is a tale of the first order of a German Spy and British Secret Agencies and a remarkable woman - at least two stories go on at the same time and until the last few chapters you aren't very sure why they are relevant to the each other, but they aren't - from 'Amazon' the synopsis is as follows:

"His weapon is the stiletto, his codename: The Needle. He is Hitler’s prize undercover agent - a cold and professional killer.
It is 1944 and weeks before D-Day. The Allies are disguising their invasion plans with a phoney armada of ships and planes. Their plan would be ruined if an enemy agent found out... and then The Needle does just that. Hunted by MI5, he leads a murderous trail across Britain to a waiting U-Boat. But he hasn't planned for a storm-battered island, and the remarkable young woman who lives there . . ."
Highly recommended.
The Royal Governor and The Duchess - The Duke and Duchess of Windsor in the Bahamas 1940-1945 by Owen Platt - take a spoiled American adventuress who broke the heart of a nation, a weak and good for nothing man who once was king and a nation who decided to send them far far away to an (at the time) unimportant outpost of the Commonwealth, and you have the core of the story.  Machinations of the Germans (once again) who are suspected of wanting to take control of the now semi-royal couple, suspicions of their Nazi sympathies and the pressure cooker environment of a small island and you have the crux of this short but interesting book.  I couldn't help but want to slap the ex-king and his new wife for their condescension, snobbery and spoilt behaviour, but this in the end is a book about how England had a lucky escape from these two thoroughly not very nice characters who really should have been sent to Siberia rather than the Bahamas.
Garden of Beasts by Jeffrey Deaver - yet another book based in WW2, I really did not expect to enjoy this story as much as I did, despite it being written by Deaver, who rarely disappoints.
Assassin Paul Schumann is offered a chance to avoid the electric chair or prison. All he needs to do is travel to Berlin for the Olympics and take out Ernst, chief of the bureaucrats who is building German's military might for Hitler with a sideline on a particularly nasty scheme to impress Hitler.
In Berlin an honest police officer Willi Kohl finds himself on Schumann's trail without any idea of what he is up to; his forensic work, given the limitations of the time is well deduced and intelligent, and the research that Deaver has obviously underaken shines through; the Nazis are as bad as you might imagine them, but Schumann, himself a hitman, has flaws and complications of his own and as a reader you might find your sympathies misplaced - until the end. 
Roadside Crosses by Jeffrey Deaver - Deaver is one of my favourite authors for a good, gripping thriller/adventure and this one certainly did not disappoint.  A police officer notices a memorial cross at the side of a road but stranglely the date on it is the following day - the day the police find a kidnapped teenage girl, left for dead in the trunk of a dumped car.
Special Agent Kathryn Dance, the kinesics expert with the California Bureau of Investigation, is on the case. The girl points her to an online community where accusations against a boy at her school turn vicious; it seems the bullying went too far, and he has snapped.
More crosses appear for future victims, linked to a names of users on a website where classmates have been busy attacking the boy; Kathryn Dance has to race against the clock using all her knowledge of kinesics and human behaviour to find the attacker before he can carry out any more attacks.   This is a book closely linked to the internet and Deaver throughout has links to actual web pages (which I confess I did not read) - an interesting idea, though for me the best part of this work was the suspense and the characters - a fab book, had me guessing (wrongly!) until the very end.