Monday, August 31, 2015

Ballet Flats

**Yes, it's been a long time since I've posted here. A lot has happened, a lot has changed. I'm acknowledging that, but I'm also going to gloss right over it and move straight on to shoes again. :) **

As I've gotten older (and dammit, no magic aging-stopping potion having yet been discovered or invented), I am finding that I can't wear my beloved heels as often as I would like. Earlier this year I was diagnosed with (among other things) degenerative disc disease in my neck and back. And that, unfortunately, means less heels-wearing. *pout*

So. I'm slowly making the transition to flats (and lower heels...because I can't give them all up quite yet). And of course, I don't want to wear just any flats. I want some fun details (especially for my shoe-box-sized feet. Anything to distract!

Here are some of the choices I've made space for in the closet:

Sparklies from Betsy Johnson. Love the low cuts on the sides, the low-key glam, and they're actually quite comfy. Perfection with skinny jeans. 

Jessica Simpson. Just about the simplest, most basic, most comfortable black ballet flats ever. And of course, a wee bit of rhinestone detail at the cap toe. Cute enough to wear with a dress because of their slightly less boxy / ballerina shape. 

Sam Edelman. I've been looking for red flats for a while, and these are a lovely deep red with a subtle, feminine scallop at the vamp. Available in several colors. I may have to order another pair, possibly these:

Anyone want to share their own favorites? 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Souvenirs and DIY, Part III

I've only shared a portion of my (rather massive) beaded jewelry's an addiction of the best kind. I've a few more to show today..

The big turquoise pendant (sadly, I cannot remember exactly which mine, but it's an American turquoise) and the vintage brownish beads are both from Santa Fe. I almost didn't buy either of them; I was visiting Santa Fe just as I was beginning to learn jewelry fabrication, and I knew that learning to set gems would mean that I wouldn't be buying and using beads much. But I wanted a souvenir (or course!) and turquoise is a big weakness of mine. :)

Mixing textures again - the pendant is all smooth summer-sky blue, while the brownish beads are faceted, with just a smidge of blue on the sides. I paired them with some Bali bead squares to break up the curves. I also felt that the brown beads alone were a little un-oomphy. Adding the squares just brought everything together.

Next up: bright, bright green chrysoprase diamonds, counterpointing deeper emerald green vintage glass from a bead store in Asheville, NC. The beads are smaller than I usually use, and don't look so exciting here, but the whole necklace is long enough to be tripled around the neck, and worn like that, all the green packs a punch. It's one of my favorite things to wear with a black and white outfit. :)

Also, both beads have a shiny finish, which I usually don't put together, but the sharp shape and facets on the chrysoprase, and the soft, rounded facets on the glass beads are different enough that it works.

Now it's a bit more wowza! 

The beads above are mot souvenirs, but some fun beads from my very early hobby days, when beads were not overflowing in the aisles of Michael's and any other craft-oriented store you can imagine.

I first began designing jewelry with beads in 1993, and back then, it wasn't something that was widely done. There were very few bead stores. The internet was not chock-full of bead suppliers' web sites - if you were lucky, you got a catalog from some distant supplier and you ordered...and waited...and hoped that the beads were "worth it" once you saw them in when you found something interesting locally, you rejoiced, no matter how unusual or odd it might be. And these happen to be both. :) They were found somewhere in Phoenix...but where I found them is lost to time...

They're colorfully patterned plastic. I've never seen anything like them. And normally I'm a snob about plastic beads, but these are so unusual that I bought all the store had - which wasn't much, maybe 30 beads - and have hoarded them ever since. :)  I've managed to put two sets (they were all slightly different pattern / color combos) into necklaces, but I still have one set tucked away in my stash.

They have a very slight texture, but also a high sheen, very reflective. And the patterning is lovely, like stained glass. They're paired with Bali beads (remember, I made a lot of these necklaces in the nineties, and Bali beads were hugely popular then - also silver was cheap, so you could buy all these silver beads for a song, relatively speaking), partially because *everything* I tried to put them with was just too much - too clashing, or distracting - or conversely, not enough (too bland). So silver beads were the answer.  :)

The above beads are definitely travel souvenirs...with their own story...

Several years ago, my husband had to travel to Budapest for work. And of course, I joined him (how would I miss that!!). The trip was in March, and Eastern Europe is COLD in March (I mean, cold cold cold). And it was occasionally rainy. BUT it didn't matter...we were in Budapest! It was an amazing trip, though I didn't find myself wanting to travel around alone as much as if we were in someplace like France...the money, the language (English was not widely spoken, and I don't know Hungarian), everything was just a bit more difficult. So on the days while my husband was in conferences, I stayed fairly close to the hotel for my shopping and sightseeing. However, one of Brett's colleagues knew that I made jewelry, and he found out that there was a bead store in Budapest. And he went to the trouble of getting me directions to I sort of felt obligated to figure out the bus, train, and then the walk of several blocks to find the store. So I did. They didn't have a big selection. And there was a language barrier....eventually I just put my money on the counter and the saleswoman picked out the right amount (I assume!) for the purchase. And then I reversed the walking, train-ing, bus-ing process back to the hotel. It was exhausting (and did I mention cold??). But I ended up with a wonderful reminder of the visit. Perhaps no souvenir beads have been worked for harder than these. :)

There are only five of the striped glass beads, so they hang down at the center of the necklace for weight as well as design (this is another necklace that can be doubled or worn as one long necklace) . The small turquoise beads are glass and the wooden donuts are unremarkable...except that they're from Hungary.  :). Shiny, matte, faceted - working my texture mix. And a big thank you to Michael, the colleague who made me do it! Now, of course, I'm so glad I did. :)

Monday, March 31, 2014

Souvenirs and DIY, part II

In almost every area of my life, I am decidedly NOT a DIY girl. But I got into making my own jewelry as a hobby because I wanted original, colorful, fun accessories that I just couldn't find anywhere. It's a love affair that started in the early 1990s and has never let up..

In my prior post, I shared some of my handmade souvenir bead necklaces. While I love to collect travel souvenirs (beads or otherwise), some of the jewelry I've made over the years was simply for the satisfaction of designing, making, and wearing it. And I've worn a lot of these often - I'm a believer in longevity.  :)

Swirly glass beads, apatite nuggets, and aquamarine. I can't even remember where the glass beads are from; I held on to them for many years before the gem nuggets were purchased. They just *look* like a cool drink...or an ocean visit.  :)

I use a lot of blues and greens in my creations. :)

But I use quite a bit of brown, too. These are lampworked beads, with a leopardskin pattern, faceted cat's eye beads (which had a moment in the nineties), and hematite, leading to a central Balinese pendant that my husband bought me. I added another Bali bead as a dangle (Bali beads had an even bigger moment in the nineties and the early aughts).

Closeup of the lampwork to show the leopard spots. :)

Pendant close up - Balinesian artisans are TOPS at this kind of work, and while it's not inexpensive, it's truly beautiful. There's quite a distinction between the *actual* Bali silver work and the reproductions. For the novice it can be hard to tell, but typically a significant price difference will indicate that you're buying the real thing.

These red, multicolored beads, as far as I know, are "end of day" beads. The term refers to glassmakers using up remaining molten glass in their pots at the end of the day, making these beads all somewhat different from each other as the glass was swirled together and made into beads:

Gorgeous patterning. I found these in two shapes, the round and the oblong, and paired them with small red glass squares to contrast all the soft roundness with a harder-edged shape. This strand is long enough to be worn doubled, which is how I usually wear it. I actually found the glass beads in a fabric remnant store - a HUGE warehouse of fabric remnants and remains...they had several big, big cardboard boxes FULL of beads, buttons, snaps, zippers, hooks, and other associated geegaws that have anything to do with fabric. It was all thrown in together, and I dug around for a while until I had enough to make a necklace. :)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Souvenirs and DIY, Part I

Spring is coming, in bits and pieces, and I just changed out my closet to spring/summer (call me hopeful). I know we've still got some cold days ahead, but I'm ready for spring and summer! Though I love fall, it always seems too short, and I really end up so busy during that time of year that I don't really get to enjoy my wardrobe. But spring...that's a whole 'nother deal.

My spring and summer uniform looks something like this:

tank tops and skirts (though I'm not much of a pattern mixer). Or dresses:

I love these kinds of clothing silhouettes because they're EASY - most of my tanks are black or white, though the skirts may be any color of the rainbow (or several at once) - and my dresses are usually day- or sundress style, often in prints. 

The great thing about dressing this way, besides the fact that it never goes "out" of style (which means I can almost always find replacement items when necessary), is that it's a great canvas for accessories...namely, *jewelry*.  :)

Though I make my living fabricating jewelry, I made beaded jewelry as a hobby for nearly a decade before it became my career. And one of the things I nearly always did (and still occasionally do) was buy beads when I traveled, and then I'd come home and make them into jewelry.

Now that spring's almost here, I'm getting excited about bringing out the jewelry again. I try to wear it in winter too, but I am usually in something basic, black, WARM, and layered up for winter, so jewelry is just an annoying extra during those months. So it sits in the jewelry trays (I have far, far too much for a mere jewelry "box")  :)  and waits for the weather to change.

This is one of the first necklaces I made with souvenir beads, from a trip to Prescott (before my parents moved there). The browns and the blues are both vintage glass, and the strand is long enough to wear doubled or as a single.

I always look for opposing shapes and textures, and  I really like contrasting shiny and matte. The blue beads are cube shaped, drilled on the corners, and  they're matte finished with flecks inside. The brown beads are faceted on both the outer edges and on the big band across the middle. The whole necklace has a sort of 1920s look.

Though I prefer to use natural colored gemstones almost exclusively for the jewelry I design and fabricate for my business, I'm much more open to using "whatever" in my personal creations. This is a combination of Russian hand-painted beads, vintage glass, and a big ol' amazonite gem pendant.

There are also a few amazonite "tube" beads spaced in as well. The colors are bold and bright but they make me happy. When I'm not making an endless chain of beads, I like to use specialty clasps like the one above. It's pewter and the two parts come together to form a butterfly. Both the clasp and pendant are souvenirs from a bead store in Raleigh, NC, where I used to teach classes.

I love the detail work on the painted beads. And they co-ordinate amazingly well with the smaller vintage glass beads...they were found several years apart, so the amazonite pendant (which I've had for even longer) had to wait for just the right partners. Patience, grasshopper.  :)

This was a souvenir of a gem-buying trip a few years ago, in Tucson, AZ. I normally buy cabochons, but I saw this strand of rough-hewn, multicolored tourmaline and couldn't resist. They were a bit pricey (tourmaline is priced more like a precious, than a semi-precious, gem) but they are stunning:

look at how those greens are almost lit from within! Usually I will put together necklaces with different types and shapes of beads, but these beauties needed nothing else to show them off. :)

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Too Good to Leave Behind

Maybe it's a leopard year! After I found these, I wasn't really looking for more leopard. And between Christmas and two pairs of shoes I purchased this year (three, if you're counting, but the Ann Taylor pumps actually got returned...after some consideration I just wasn't really feeling 'em), I'm probably good for a bit. But...

But. But. But. I *am* looking for more flats. I wear boots in the winter, but as I am growing older, I find that a good pair of flats is very helpful in the transitional months (which we are approaching! Winter begone!). So while I was returning the five other pairs I purchased for the formal, I happened to stop in at Banana Republic. And well, there were these:

On sale. And an additional 40% off of the sale price. I mean, seriously? Who lets that kind of thing go? Not a girl who calls her blog Shoe Piranha.  :)  The only size the store had was a 9, but the sales associate kindly offered to call around for me, and found a pair in Nashville. They're on their way to me. :) 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Lagniappe, in Shoe Form

Since my most recent post had something to do with Mardi Gras (even though my Mardi Gras celebration was in Mobile and it's of course more commonly associated with New Orleans), I thought it appropriate to share a bit of lagniappe that occurred during my trip to Phoenix earlier this month.

The word has its roots in Spanish Creole, and means something akin to gratis, or bonus. For a Cajun, it's a gesture - maybe a little charm thrown in with your jewelry purchase, maybe an amuse-bouche before dinner.

For me (at least in this instance), the lagniappe is strappy, bejeweled, and very pretty:

A lovely little shoe from Pelle Moda, gifted by my mother when we brunched while I was in Arizona. She was buying them for the formal that I wrote about in my prior post; unforunately, I had to ship them home from Arizona and the package didn't arrive until after we'd left for Mobile. Thus, my frenzied shopping adventure the day before we left...

All's well that ends well, though: I LOVED the Michael Kors that I did purchase, and these will join the happy shoe closet and find their way to a dinner, maybe an anniversary outing...there *will* be opportunities.  :) 

I'm not done with Mardi Gras yet, though! This Saturday we're attending a Mardi Gras party at a friend's house. They've been hosting this event for years, with traditional Cajun food, lotsandlots of beads, a face painter, great music, and just an all-round good time. I thought about wearing the new shoes, but actually I think these will be more appropriate:

I mean, what better occasion? They're green, gold, and purple - Mardi Gras shoes indeed. And they haven't been worn yet. So I think it's time. With skinny jeans and a purple top and lotsandlots of beads. :)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Pulling it All Together for a Formal Ball husband and I know this couple. The wife is from Mobile, Alabama. And she is a member of the Order of Polka Dots (yes, there is such a thing). And Mobile apparently hosts one heck of a Mardi Gras. Though New Orleans' Mardi Gras is better known, the Mobile celebration began in 1703, fifteen years before New Orleans was even founded!

That's the history lesson part. :)  Our friends, being members of an Order, go home to Mobile to ride on floats and throw Mardi Gras beads, and also attend a formal ball. They've kindly been inviting us for years...and we've never gone. Time constraints, money constraints, whatever- we've just never done it. But this is the last year they'll attend the whole shebang; apparently there are younger members of the Order who (and I'm sure, deservedly so) want their time at the festivities.

So we committed. And that's where all the trouble started...

You may have guessed from reading this blog that I do not lead, in any way, a formal life. I certainly like to glam up, but most of my days are in clothes that decidedly not glam, as I work on my jewelry designs. I do have a formal dress, and one I LOVE, but I haven't worn it in....oh, about fifteen years. That's right, fifteen years!! I think the last time I wore it was in 2000, for our honeymoon (we took a cruise and they had formal nights where everyone dressed for dinner). And then later that year to my little brother's 30th party. But that's it. It hasn't seen the light of day since. And. you know, a lot of things can change in fifteen years. Stuff kind of shifts. 

I dragged my dress out of the closet and tried it on. Surprise! It fit! Well...mostly. It fit me everywhere except in the chest. I could get it on, but it was BURSTING in the bust area. Over the last fifteen years, I've managed to gain (and then fortunately lose) about fifteen pounds. That, plus gravity (I'm no youthful lass of twenty-five), meant that the "girls" have sort of...expanded. Short of surgery, there's no good way to shrink 'em back.

When we first decided to attend the ball, in January, I debated shopping for a new dress, but I decided instead to take my dress to my tailor (who is a wonder). I hated the idea of spending money on a new dress that I was unlikely to wear often. And the thing is, I LOVE this dress. My husband bought it for me when we were dating. We were on a trip to Chicago, at a Marshall Fields, and I needed something for an evening wedding. He splurged for me. Other than my wedding dress, I think it's the most expensive dress I own. And it's freakin' GORGEOUS.

I have no photos of it to share; back in 1999 when it was purchased, I didn't even think to try and get any from a web site. Could you even do that then...? And our cameras weren't digital; whatever personal photos I might have are tucked away in a large, chaotic box. So I'll show you this, instead:

It's sort of  like the dress above: it has spaghetti straps and a fitted bodice like this one, and then from the bottom of the bodice, which ends high on the thigh, it's all chiffon and floaty (no feathers like the one shown). The skirt is ankle-length and doesn't drape on the floor. It has tiny black beads sewn all over it in random patterns, and a thick band of beads which transitions the fitted bodice and the floaty skirt. My description makes it sound terrible, but I promise, it is a thing of beauty.

So. It's beautiful. And it has sentimental meaning to me. And it does. not. fit. in the bust. Off to the  tailor, who thinks she can make it work, and even for a reasonable price. I picked it up a week later, and voila! It fits wonderfully. Except...that now there's room for the "girls", but they need a bit of support. Fortunately I still have my strapless, low-back bra from my wedding dress, and that does the trick. 

The back straps are plain black, not jeweled like these, but that's the back of the dress (though mine doesn't come down quite so low). No way to wear a regular bra. Thank goodness I kept the one from the wedding! I thought several times about getting rid of it, but for some reason, never did. 

So I'm gowned, undergarmented, and of course I have accessories to wear. However, I do *not* have shoes. Really? Moi? No shoes?? Well, yes. I have lots of fun, funky shoes. Wedges. Classic pointy-toe pumps. Platforms. Metallics. Richly colored suedes. I've shown you most of them.  :)  But what I don't have, and haven't had in years, is a pair of evening shoes. I simply haven't needed any. The shoes I originally wore with the dress, way back at the start of the Millennium, are long gone.

That's right, now I'm required to shop for fancy / satin / sexy / rhinestone / glorious evening heels! Now the fun starts! Or so I thought. I first headed to DSW, which is typically a go-to for evening shoes.Not this time...too high, too sexpot, too dowdy. Normally I wouldn't worry about the heel height, or the overt sexiness...but this is a formal event (my husband will be in a tuxedo), there is likely to be quite a bit of standing and/or dancing, and I figured it was best to err on the conservative side. So I checked out Dillard's and Macys, hoping for a sale - not that I wouldn't mind spending, but again - this is probably not a pair of shoes that I will wear often, so why go all out? I'm looking for a deal. :)

And at the very last place I visited - the second Macy's (I went to two DSWs, two Dillard's, and two Macy's, plus a Belk - I am nothing if not persistent) - had, of all things, these:

for half off. I posted about these here, last August. And I loved them then, but there was no reason to purchase...but now there was a GREAT reason. :)

Except I wasn't really sure that silver shoes would work with the's black, and it's quiet, but it also has a lot going on - low back, spaghetti straps, beading, chiffon skirt - so I didn't want anything that would compete with it. I took them home and tried them together, and actually, they're just right. I have some faux-but-sparkly chandelier earrings, a bling-y ring, and a tiny black clutch, and that's really all I need.

So for $162.50, I managed to get Cinderella ready for the ball. It's actually less than what my husband is paying for his tux rental! I think I should get points for being a very frugal wife. :) 

We leave tomorrow morning, and the ball is Thursday night...I can't wait. February has been a crazy month for me and I am ready for this trip. The weather should be in the mid-seventies most of the time, and I'm going to enjoy every single minute of it.  :)