I've had a few people anxious to hear an update about my wedding ring, which I'd sent back to the artist for a polish while I was in the States.  I'm happy to report that it finally made it's way to me on the very last day I was there.  I had been out in the morning visiting some old friends and when I got back to my mom's, the wonderful little package was sitting on the kitchen table.  Thank goodness I was booked on a night flight, or I would have had to return home without it!  I couldn't be happier to have it back - the artist did a GREAT job fixing it up for me.  It's even better than when I first got it!  Thank you, Gustav, of Simply Wood Rings!  And a special thanks to Anna, the customer service rep that handled my inquiry - she was so great and a pleasure to work with.  If you're in the market for a unique and interesting ring, hand-crafted by a talented artist, you must definitely check them out.  I couldn't recommend them more! 

What a difference a bit of sunshine can make! Although waking up to a v-e-r-y slow and sleep start, I took the dog out for a walk. The sun is shining. The air is crisp. It gave me a renewed energy. I also saw a couple of dog-walkers that I recognized who stopped to say hello. One of them chatted to me for a little while and it made me feel at home. And you know, that's the crux of it all right there - having people around who recognize you and are happy to see you.
Artwork in need of framing
Right now I'm enjoying a piping cup of coffee to help put me in studio mode. The plan for today: assemble frames!!! I've bought some paint to help get the job done...it's off-white and called "contemporary". Sounds exciting. Can't wait to get started!

This may look like just a box of wood, but they're special hand-crafted strips that will soon become custom-made shadowbox frames!

Also on today's agenda: source a place that will cut custom-sized pieces of plexi or glass and find a new supplier for jewellery findings.  But first, coffee - it's not getting any warmer just sitting there you know! 

I have returned to England after nearly three weeks in America.  The trip was significant in so many ways.  Most importantly, it gave me the wonderful opportunity to reconnect with friends and family.  The trip also helped me to realize how many changes I've gone through over the past couple of years: losing my job, selling my house along with most of my possessions, moving to a new country, getting engaged, getting married, moving to a new part of a country still new to me.  And sometimes it gets really overwhelming.  Since moving to the UK, I've been incredibly insecure.  I've experienced a total lack of confidence that is hard to describe to or explain.  It's a difficult thing for me to figure out and something I'm not used to feeling.  I've moved so many times, have gone through so many changes in life and have done so with relative ease.  When I arrived in America I felt a similar sense of anxiety.  Thankfully it quickly passed.  Before long I was my old confident, outgoing self.  And it made me wonder why I have such a hard time feeling that in England?  I vowed to bring it home with me.  And at first I did.  I felt so happy to back home with my husband.  But then, like a switch, the old anxiety returned - subtle and quiet.  As I sit in my studio writing this entry, everything around me feels foreign.  All of the great ideas I had such gusto to get on with when I was in America suddenly seem very distant.  As I was walking the dog this morning with all of these feelings  tumbling around in my skull, a thought more predominant than the rest came to me.  It was from my meeting a few months ago at the gallery in Oxford.  The gallery owner was telling me how he'd been reading a book on success.  He came to the conclusion that the key to one's success had everything to do with how well they adapted to changes in their environment.  I hold on to that thought as a sliver of hope.  I have always prided myself on adapting to new environments - it's something I've done all my life.  So why now, after so many life changes and successful integrations, am I finding it so difficult to get on with it? 

Immediately after I touched down in England I had a very different and equally perplexing thought.  It's one I've had before right after I'd picked up sticks and moved here in the first place.  What if this is all a dream?  What if my plane crashed and I was actually dead and these were the images that were coming to me in my last moments of life?  Like a dream.  They say dreams only last for a few minutes, even though they feel like they're lasting for days.  What if it's the same when we die?  What if this whole life I've built in England is a dream, manufactured from hopes and fragments of images I've stored in my brain from previous visits and pictures in photo albums?  I know it sounds crazy.  But I just can't seem to shake that funny way international travel makes me feel disconnected from life.  It seriously does feel to me like I would imagine it to feel to travel through time.  You want to travel through time?  Just hope on a jet plane.  Fly to a different country.  Walk around for a little while.  It might transport you to another era, but it can certainly land you in a different time zone and move you back and forth across time.  And the culture shock can serve as a satisfactory stand-in for that just-travelled-through-. 
I love my wedding ring.  It's gorgeous and unique, made of rosewood and quartz.  It's very personal to me and my husband because the band of quartz in the ring comes from a rock that we picked up on the island where we got engaged in Sweden.  It holds a lot of meaning as well as memories.  I just hope I get to see it again! 

Those who know me well know that I can be a bit of an idiot.  And if not, they at least know that I panic about being an idiot and making mistakes.  I'm doing that right now.  See, I recently mailed my ring to the artist who made it to get it re-polished.  Since it's made of wood, it requires a bit more care than a metal ring.  It was starting to lose its varnish in places and I wanted to get it touched up while I'm back in America to avoid having to send the ring through international mail (God knows what could happen on a plane crossing the Atlantic!).  I contacted the ring company in advance to explain my situation and timeframe.  Fine, they say.  Good, I thought.  On my first day here, I posted the ring.  But here's where I screwed up (see, doesn't take me long!): I paid for return postage and Certified Delivery.  The thing is, Certified Delivery only works if it's checked in at the Post Office.  Otherwise, it's just a package sent with a label on it and a useless tracking number. 

The lovely customer service rep at the ring company has been in contact to let me know when the ring was received, putting my mind at ease because I knew it was in good hands.  I emailed yesterday to check up and she told me that she had mailed it back to me just a few hours earlier.  She  gave me the tracking number.  "Yay!" I thought!  I'm going to get my ring back soon!  (Tight squeeze though cuz there's no mail on Thursday and I leave on Saturday, so I'm already a bit nervous about that.)  I log onto the Post Office website to enter my tracking number.  Doesn't work.  That's strange.  Must be because they've not had a chance to log it in yet.  I let it go at that and go to bed, content that I'll soon get my gorgeous little ring back.

I wake up with a panic - not a huge, full-blown panic...just a small, baby panic: I bet the customer service rep from the ring company didn't check the package in at the Post Office.  That's why there's no tracking number.  So now, Certified Delivery is useless - it just hangs on like the stupid, little, meaningless tag that it is.  Which is OK, because  I don't really need for it to be sent certified - it just made me feel better when I mailed it to know I could track it.  But this is what does make me nervous: the United States postal service is not necessarily known for its efficiency, attention to detail or common sense.  So now I'm afraid that my package will get lost because it'll get passed down the pipeline with this tag just asking to be scanned, but can't be because it was never checked in in the first place.  I can just picture the scene: grumpy postal worker scans the tag.  It won't read.  Grumpy postal worker shakes scanner.  Tries again.  Still doesn't read.  Hmph.  Gets mad and tries again.  Damn scanner doesn't work!  Double hmph!  Too much mail, can't allow this little bugger to hold things up.  Grumpy postal worker tosses package into a holding bin to deal with later.  Package sits there.  Twiddling its thumbs.  Humm dee hum.  Waits.  Is anyone going to get me.  Another piece of mail falls on top of it.  Hey! it says.  Watch out!  Continues to wait.  More mail falls on it.  And still more.  Until my lovely little package sits at the bottom of a holding bin, much like a holding cell.  And gets forgotten.  For God knows how long.

So I may very well never see this ring again.  I hope not...I mean I do still have hope.  I just have little faith in humanity.  If only the kind rep at the ring company had checked my package in.  Or took the Certified Delivery label off.   The worst part: I spelled this out in my original directions to her.  So she's the one who messed up.  But it doesn't feel that way - I still feel like the idiot.  The idiot without a ring. 





"Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?"
During my trip home I briefly visited my friend, Lorna, who is from Canada.  We share similar experiences, especially in that we are both aliens living in countries of which we are not citizens.  We both are also making the transition from full-time professionals to stay-at-home housewives.  Issues which have made us re-evaluate some things we thought we knew about ourselves. 

"Let Us Go Then, You And I"
I'm not a stranger to being, well, a stranger. I've moved nearly 30 times in my 34 years. So I'm used to adapting to a new way of life. It's pretty much the norm for me. If you're a regular reader of my blog, you'll know that some of my recent works deal explore the idea of "home" and its many definitions.  As I was sitting with Lorna in her kitchen, sharing my recent challenges of once again finding myself in the position of "stranger", she surprised me with this question: "So what is home for you?"  This is the very question I have been posing to myself as of late.  I thought about it a little bit and responded: "I'm still figuring out the answer to that one." 

Photo by Landon Nordeman
I have said before that I believe literature has a way of finding you when you need it or are most open to it.  At least it's always been true for me.  And this literature can be a short story, a novel or a short article in a magazine or newspaper.  This morning - as I was about to sit down to a cup of tea and breakfast at my mother's kitchen table and in search of something to read while I enjoyed my morning feast - words found me.  It was - as it always is - an accident.  I found a Smithsonian Magazine that looked new, so I chose this to bring to the table.  I quickly realized that it was, in fact, over a year old - an issue that I'd forgotten I'd read before.  Often I don't read all of the articles, though, so I flipped through in search of something interesting to read.  And that's when I came across an article titled "Going Home Again" - an article written by Joyce Carol Oates about her return to her "home" in upstate New York.

"And In Short I Was Afraid"
I was immediately riveted.  And mind you, I've read this article before.  But this time I guess it touched me in a new way.  Its meaning new to me as I ponder the question "where is home?"  Part of the article reads: "Our souls must take root - almost literally.  For this reason, "home" isn't a street address or a residence, or, in Robert Frost's cryptic words, the place where, "when you go there, they have to let you in" - but where you may find yourself in your most haunting dreams.  These may be dreams of numinous beauty, or they may be nightmares - but they are the dreams most embedded in memory, thus encoded deep in the brain: the first memories to be retained and the last memories to be surrendered."  Such beautiful and lush words.  It's pretty much inevitable: very soon I will make it my goal to devour everything she's written.   

"Till Human Voices Wake Us And We Drown"
It's only appropriate I should once again pose this question to myself as I sit at my mother's kitchen table in the house I lived for the most consecutive years and in the town I pretty much grew up in.  A place that never felt like home and that I was itching to leave from the moment I arrived.  The very place I vowed never to live in again, only to eat my words last year after I'd sold my house and possessions, left my job to live in England only be refused entry back into that country for the most minor of offenses (if it can even be called an offence).  A place that I hate and love in the same breath.  A place that belongs to me as much as it did when I first arrived and wandered alone through the quiet streets as an 11 year old girl feeling isolated and alone, but somehow hopeful.  And the place that gave me the best night's sleep I've had since arriving back in America.  While I don't know if I'll ever be able to fully define "home", I can say without a doubt that this is a place I will always call home; a place I visit in some of my most haunting of dreams.  

Apologies for my blogging absense as of late.  I've been busy visiting friends and family, what can I say?  It'll be the last time I get to see them in a long time, so I have to absorb as much as I can while I can.  :)

Anyway, you may recall from a past post that during my visit home I was hoping to have my friend, John, help me build frames for  the artwork I plan on submitting to  the Meller Merceux Gallery in Oxford.   Lucky for me, John's a great friend and he gracefully agreed to my request.  After a bit of brainstorming and indecision, followed by decision and then more indecision, and finally a firm decision, we managed to get the wood purchased, cut and assembled in a few hours before having pizza at one of our favourite haunts: The Patio Inn - which is a great neighborhood bar and restaurant where the drinks are cheap the staff is friendly, the great atmosphere  more than makes up for the average food...  and "everyone knows your name".

My practice router cut
I thought I had a pretty good design in mind for my frames, but John quickly set me straight.  I still think my original design would have looked wonderful, but when a guy who builds cars from scratch - and I mean totally from the ground up without the help from a computer program - offers a suggested alteration in plans, you don't really go against it.  I don't anyway. I bow down to John's powers of amazingness.

John's Indy car
Let me take a bit of a detour in my story for a bit of description and back story.  As I mentioned, John builds cars.  In order to build a car one must bend metal.  And in order to bend metal in such a way as to be fit for making a car, one must use a machine to bend the metal.  And in John's case, this means building metal-bending machine.  Yeah.  I know.  And get this - he recently built a 30s-style Indy-inspired race car.  From the ground up, of course (which is, incidentally how I first met John; he took this metal enameling course I was teaching so he could make his own hubcap covers.  Over-achiever.), which means he carved the steering wheel, designed and created his own dashboard knobs and sewed his own upholstery to fit on the seats he made by hand.  But that's not the most incredible part of it.  I stopped by his shop one day while he was trying to sort out the steering mechanism for the car.  To solve the problem he used a piece of paper, some matte board and a pushpin to simulate the steering radius.  So basically what I'm saying is that this guy is some kind of genius.  And he's MY friend.  Which means that I must also be pretty incredible.  You know, by association and all. 

So proud of my efforts!
And such a good friend is John that he helps me re-think my frame design, drives me to the store to pick up the wood and then rips the wood, cuts it to size, and mitres it.  I hate to see someone working really hard on a project of my initation (honestly!), but found myself with little to do but watch in awe as John carefully passed his hands over a rotating blade, protected by about a quarter of an inch of raw material. Because John - ever the gentleman - wouldn't allow me to cut the wood so that I might keep all of my digits intact.  But, I did get to fit the frames together using a 90 degree clamping system so that I could then drill holes in order that I can assemble them later back in the studio.  And I used a counter-sinking bit on the drill.  So basically, by proxy, I'm pretty awesome too.  Rather than stuff 36 pieces of wooden strips into my suitcase, John helped me pack it up and we took it to the post office so I could send it home.  It was kind of expensive.  But totally worth it!  I'm so excited to get home to get these frames sanded, painted and assembled.  Watch out Oxford, here I come!

This weekend I got to do several things I love: visit friends, family and eat great food. The last time I was in America, I was a vegetarian. And I was a veggie for 8 years. So I haven't wrapped my lips around an Iowan Pork Tenderloin in ages. And I loooooove tenderloins. Oh how I have missed them. My cousin arranged for the Waterloo Martini Club to get together at Newton's Paradise Cafe because the word on the street is that they have the BEST tenderloins. Newton's holds a special place in my heart - it's an iconic building in Waterloo and used to be a jewellery store. When I was 22 I moved to Waterloo and with little to do, I would bumble around town looking for cool things to take B&W pics of. The Newton's building was one of my favourite subjects. I can't tell you how exciting it was to step into the doors of what is now Waterloo's funkiest and coolest cafes - it's remained faithful to the architecture and signage. They did an amazing job. And guess what? Their tenderloins ARE the best. My cousin and I shared one and we were both stuffed for the rest of the day and into the night. It was huge. I'm not kidding. Huge.

We also went to another of my favourite places: the Lava Lounge.  Ah, the Lava Lounge.  There are so many great things about this place: funky Formica tables, great hula girl lamps, cool cocktails and the best jukebox in the state and get this: it's free!  The jukebox that is.  This lounge is like something out of 60s Hollywood.  I love it.  They've just opened a new section since I was last there and it has it's own bar, different decor and jukebox.  I had a craving for a vodka and ginger beer - so the bartended recommended The Mule.  It's a vodka ginger with a hint of lime.  Served in a copper cup.  With a cool plastic monkey that hangs on by his tail.  Who can beat that?  Oh my god - amazing.  When I go there I feel like I've died and gone to heaven.  I need to transport this place back to England.  And it's a great place for pics cuz they've got these fantastic vintage beer signs. 

All of this funky has brought on a new level of inspiration, which is perfect timing because I'm about to visit my friend, John, in Peoria.  He's an incredible engineer - builds cars from the ground up.  I'm talking bending the metal, making the steering wheel, sewing the upholstery that goes on the seats which he has built.  Incredible.  Anyway, if you recall, I've been invited to submit 5 pieces of artwork to the Meller Merceux Gallery in Oxford.  Thing is I have to frame then and that's not cheap.  So I had a great idea: why not have John help me?  Cuz he's brilliant.  So today we're going to buy the wood and get started.  I can't wait!!!!  Not to worry - I'll be sure to take pics so you can see the process.  It promises to be exciting!  (At least for me, anyway!).  So, until next time: ummm...not sure what to say.  So, see ya later!
I've decided one of the greatest flaws at the airport: the lack of big clocks.  For idiots like me I find it essential.  OK, so they've got the time posted on the arrivals/departures board.  But why they don't post the time on the announcement board the gate is beyond me. 

You know what I hate about flying?  So many people being pushed together in a closed space.  Aggrevating.  I had to sit next to a very large and restless woman on the seven hour flight from London to Philadelphia.  The man at the end of our three-seater row moved to allow the woman in the middle a bit of room.  So nice of him.  But for some amazing reason the woman stayed firmly planted into the seat next to me.  Are you kidding me? 

What I love about being in America is driving on the open road - it's truly one of the most fabulous experiences in the world.  I just love it.  And I had three and a half hourse driving through Illinois and Iowa totally on my own.  Listening to NPR and Classic Rock.  Awesome.

Last night my cousin, Karyn, demonstrated a bit of Zumba - it was great!  She's taking me to a class on Monday.  Kick-ass!

Tonight, I get to reconnect with some friends - I'm just so excited I can't even stand it!!!  Rudy's Tacos.  Lava Lounge.  Free Jukebox.  Who could ask for more?

That's it for now - some pictures to come soon!!!!  Now, I need to go pour myself another cou
Good afternoon, readers (or morning, depending on which side of the Greenwich Mean Line you reside).  I went to my neighbors for coffee this morning.  She has a proper espresso machine coffee maker thing so her coffee is double the strength of mine to be sure.  As I type this I'm suffering (or benefitting, depending on your view) from a caffeine buzz.  My brain is working about a billion times faster than my hands can work.  Still, I soldier on!

The agenda for today?  Choosing work to take to West Ox Gallery for their Christmas exhibition.  Old jewellery or new?  Painted wall hangings or vintage style?  I might be stuck on that issue for a little while, but I know one thing: I'm definitely packing a new necklace to take with me on my holiday to America: the Hattie in sage green.  It's a great colour that goes with practically everything and looks especially nice with my new kaftan from White Stuff!  Oh yea, that's agenda number 2: packing for my trip!  Gosh, that's likely to take ages.  So I'll do what I do best: leave it for the last minute since I work best under pressure!  :)

I'm also working on putting together an order for a friend of mine back home.  She is inspired by the "shop local" mantra for Christmas, so she's purchased quite a few items: the Audrey in pale pink and mustard, two medium crocheted necklaces in mottled brown and pale blue, and a War Girls painted wall hanging - "Keep 'Em Firing" design.  Just adding the final touches before wrapping and packing it away.

And because I'm going to be away from home for so long I've had to make sure that my jewellery and crocheted necklaces are as clearly labeled as possible because my husband will be in charge of packaging sales and shipping them out to customers.  And I realized that I needed some new labels anyway, so it's been good motivation to get those done.  One more thing ticked off the list!

With so much to do, the best thing to keep me going (aside from the coffee, that is) is the music of Benny Goodman.  So I'm listening to The Best of the Big Dance Bands featuring the music of Benny Goodman, Woody Herman and Harry James.  Love it!

And with that I will leave you for today.  The next time you hear from me it will be from U.S. Central Standard Time.  Wish me safe travels!!
It's been a manic day in the studio today.  I've been busy trying to fill a couple of orders while trying to juggle several household issues: taking the dog to the vet, meeting a dog walker, doing a bit of laundry and receiving a grocery order.  Plus, I was waiting for the postman to arrive with my delivery of printer inks (cuz I'm a bit stunted in certain aspects without it).  So it's been a day of doing little jobs: a bit of painting here, making some new labels there.  Then cutting the labels.  More painting.  Make new pendants while waiting for paint to dry.  It's been a bit of a vicious cycle.  And it's all been at a manic pace because I leave on Wednesday for America!  Eeeek!  I wouldn't feel so manic except that one of my orders is for the West Ox Gallery who has asked if I'd like to exhibit with them during their Christmas exhibition.  Of course I do!  But the work needs to be there two days before I return from America which means I basically need to get it done by Tuesday night.  Double Eeeek!  So it's just a short post from me today  - sorry!  Hope to have more time for chat tomorrow!