Friday, February 23, 2018

Blog Challenges and New Earrings

Just saw a post on the Blogging from A-Z FB page and experienced a pang of regret that I didn't participate last year!   I have participated in 6 of the previous A-Z challenges but was a little too swamped last year to give it a go.  For that matter, I barely blogged at all last year.

This year in my quest to blog more, I have already decided to do this challenge in April.  The theme reveal will be on March 19, and this year I definitely plan to keep it topical of the name of my blog, "Amybeads and birds!"

If you are interested in Blogging from A-Z, the hosts are currently conducting a survey here:
Survey link:

In bead news, I stumbled upon Bead Infinitum's "Beaded Ginkgo Leaf Earrings", by Gwen Fisher. Gwen had posted a photo of these some years ago and I had often revisited her site looking and drooling at these earrings, so I was pretty excited to see the tutorial on her Etsy site!

The instructions are great, though I imagine a basic understanding of right angle weave and cubic right angle weave is a huge help.  I whipped through the first two pairs and am already dreaming of new color-ways.  Perhaps this ladybug will inspire my next pair!

And in birding news, winter birding is as wonderful as always here in New England. Raptors are the main event, as they are very active and starting their courtships.  Some have already began nesting.

One of my biggest thrills this year/season so far though, was when I in Western Massachusetts and got a text from my best friend, who had just received a text from her co-worker, saying there was a bald eagle eating its prey on the side of the road on Rt. 5.  We both hightailed it over to the location and were treated to quite a display! Here is one of the eagles on the ground.  There was also another observing from a tree!

This was such a perfect example of being at the right place, at the right time, with the right equipment (although I pretty much take my camera, noted in the side bar, with me every where I go!)

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Hearts in Nature (and in beads!)

There's just something super charming about seeing a heart where you least expect it! Over the last year, I've been compiling a few photos of hearts that I came across in nature.

I was taking a photo of some wild blueberries, mostly because I adore and wanted to capture that pink hue in the non-ripe berries, and was delighted when I creeped down low to see this cute beetle, and even more delighted when I saw it looked like it had a heart on its back!

Was on an early spring hike when I saw this depression on the trail, near a swamp.

The red on the back of this northern flicker's head is common, but sometimes it looks more heart-like than other times!

This dog was hanging around the local coffee shop in Belize. 

And finally, don't forget to look up!

Every year I try to fit in some Valentine's beading in and worked on this piece that I saw from a Bead&Button a couple years back.  Works up pretty quickly!


Sunday, February 11, 2018

Book Review: Ready, Set, Bead!

Like it or not, Amazon does a great job 'suggesting' things I might like!  Recently, due to my frequent perusing and purchasing of bead related products, I received a suggestion to check out Jane Danley Cruz's new book, Ready, Set, Bead!: 25+ quick & easy stitching projects.

I was hooked by the segment of the title that says "quick & easy".  I love having a few go-to projects to whip up something fast (for gifts or a new outfit!) and the projects in this book do not disappoint! I also love how the book is divided into sections of approximately how long each project might take to complete.

I usually read through an entire book or magazine and bookmark the projects I want to try, but I usually only book mark them if I think I have the supplies on hand.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that already had nearly all the supplies needed to make most of the projects in this book, so I bookmarked like crazy.

So far I have whipped up some earrings from the 1 hour section and the 2 hour section and these projects live up to their claim of how long they take to complete.

Here is a sample of the "Flying Saucer" earrings.  So fast, and so easy.  Instructions are well stated.

I also made a pair of the "Arabesque" earrings, but gifted them before I had a chance to photograph them!

In spite of all the bookmarks, I got stopped up with the "Darling Dangle" earrings.  Okay, actually....I am completely obsessed.  These are from the 2 hour section, though Jane mentions they may whip up faster if you are an experienced beader. The following pairs were all made in the time it took me to watch 1 Greys Anatomy, 1 Scandal, and 1 This is Us.  Add about 10 minutes before I started the Greys episode to make the first component.  After that it was ridiculously smooth sailing.  There are every bit as darling as their moniker implies.

The last two white pairs are slightly modified, but is still very darling!  I may even attempt to modify these earrings into a necklace.

Having enjoyed these three projects so much, I cannot wait to try the other projects I have bookmarked.

I highly recommend Ready, Set, Bead!: 25+ quick & easy stitching projects. In my humble opinion, it is great for newbies and experienced leaders alike.  Also - please note, I was not solicited to review this book, I just simply love it!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

501 Posts!

Well hello there! So much has been going on since my last post, that I didn't even notice that my last post was my 500th post.  I truly find that hard to believe.  Thanks to each and every visitor and commentor who inspired me to continue blogging year after year.

In the meanwhile, Happy New Year!  I have been longing to post about an amazingly awesome trip I took back in November over the Thanksgiving holiday to the island of Caye Caulker in Belize.  I think perhaps the only thing that was making me stall is that I have SO many pictures and SO many anecdotes that I kept feeling like it was going to be a beast of a post to attempt and just kept avoiding it thinking I wouldn't have enough time to properly share.  Not even sure I have enough time today, but here it goes....

Why Caye Caulker?  Well, my cousin, Harry, who I hadn't actually seen since I was about five years old, lives on the island.  We've been Facebook friends for many years, and I've always enjoyed seeing his posts of life on the island. Two years ago I joked with my dad that we should "have a family reunion, with my dad's side of the family, on Caye Caulker and visit with cousin Harry.  Wouldn't that be fun?"  So the next thing you know, my dad and his girlfriend arranged lodging and all we had to do was get there!

The journey to Caye Caulker was long and filled with many stops and many modes of transportation. We drove our car from our house to the airport.  Got a bus from the long-term parking to the terminal.  Flew to Atlanta, and then to Belize City.  Took a taxi from Belize City to the water taxi terminal.  Took a boat from Belize City to Caye Caulker. And finally took a golf cart taxi from the dock to our condo!  All in, our journey took about 12 hours.  But it was worth every minute once we arrived at Caye Caulker.  Also want to give big props to eBag's great backpack (eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible Junior (Blue Yonder)) I used for the journey.  It was comfy and sturdy and roomy enough to hold everything I needed for my week in Belize.  My husband had the standard version and also loved it.

The island of Caye Caulker is truly a little piece of paradise and has a very relaxed vibe.  It is not a fancy place by any means, but charming and quite beautiful in so many ways.  Their motto is "Go Slow" and they mean it.  The days there consisted of relaxing on our balcony or rooftop, leisurely strolls, and slow-paced exploration.  There was lotos of good meals, reading, beading, and wonderful time spent with family.

In area, the island is only one mile wide at it's widest (east to west), and five miles long (north to south).  There are only about 1500 residents.

We stayed at the Caye Caulker Condos, located near 'The Split' (and area the island was cut in half by a hurricane in the 60's).  The room was perfectly appointed, and had a balcony overlooking the ocean.  Honestly. The sunrises were EPIC.  Here are a couple of those sunrises I had the privilege to view while sipping my morning coffee:

My trip is probably best told by some of the photos I took, so the following is a rather long slideshow with captions to finish the story of the photos!

Our first night in Caye Caulker, and seeing my cousin for the first time in 40+ years!

Hammock on the rooftop, under the palapa. 
Sunset view from the rooftop of our condo! 

My fish tacos from the Lazy Lizard.  These were so fresh and delicious I went back twice to enjoy them a couple more times!

This was the restaurant I ate my favorite meal of the week, Shrimp Curry.  Again, super fresh and the flavor profile was out of this world! 

Morning walks often yielded many fun looks at great egrets fishing for breakfast.  
Morning vibes on the island. 

More morning vibes, and a random dog, of which there were SO many on the island! 
Lunch with my hubs and son at the Barrier Reef.  Probably the most 'American' restaurant on the island. 
My son, my dad, and me at The Barrier Reef.
My son playing a game to get a ring on a hook.

My cousin's boat! 

My cousin's son, so my first cousin once removed, is the boy with the bandana.

Junior and his friends helped get us all on the boat. Are they cuties, or what!?

Princess joined us on our jaunt to the north side of the island. 
My cousin Harry owns some land on the north portion of Caye Caulker and has a nature park there called The Estuary at Caye Caulker

Cool looking fungi on the nature path rails. 

More cool fungi! 
Meet Scarface!  He is a saltwater crocodile living in the estuary.  Very big and scary, and actually comes when my cousin calls for him!
One of the days on the island my son and I decided to try to walk the length of the island.  When we got to the end, we were on  path in a very jungly area of the island and the skies opened up.  We got soaked and finally started using some palm fronds as umbrellas. 
My Dad and my son, twinning with Lure-fish shirts!  (This would be a nod to another cousin of mine who is an artist on Martha's Vineyard and creates the most beautiful art.  Check it out here if you want to see! 

This building in the middle is the condo where we stayed.

Cousin Harry took us out to the barrier reef. It was stunning. 
However, there were SO many sharks and stingrays I almost didn't get out of the boat to snorkel! 
Post-snorkeling, hubs and me!  
My son fishing out on the ocean!
He caught a barracuda and was pretty happy about it! 
There is a spot on the west side of the island where tarpon are plentiful and HUGE! 
Breakfast, seaside.
My hat! 
We took an amazing kayaking trip around the edges of the island and saw so many birds, starfish, fish, and crustaceans. 
This starfish was almost a foot wide!

This one too! 

View from the second floor of the Lazy Lizard. 

This vendor was polishing coconut pieces at his vendors space on the street. 

Some micro macrame earrings at the coconut polisher's table. 
My son thought carefully about what he wanted to bring home as a souvenir and eventually settled on a custom made t-shirt from a street vendor/artist called Rootsman.  Here is his t-shirt in progress. 
Jackson and Rootsman with his t-shirt of a barracuda and nurse shark.
A nod to one of Jackson's favorite jaunts that week. 
There were several vendors offering to cut fresh coconuts so one could enjoy fresh coconut water and coconut meat. 

All the men on our trip!  
Cheers! (There may have been a splash of rum in these coconuts!) 
This is the view from our balcony in the evening.  It quieted down like this at about 8pm every night. 
Reptiles (of which there were plenty!)
I also snuck in a lot of beading while I was there!
WARNING - the remaining photos of this slide show, are all BIRDS!  So now is the time to navigate away if birds are not your thing!  I was really excited to see a LOT of 'life birds' while I was in Caye Caulker.   Some of them however, were birds I have seen in Massachusetts during the spring or summer, that had simply migrated south. LOL!  But all in all I was pretty happy with the birding experience in Caye Caulker.  

Great tailed grackle.  These were plentiful on the island and were very entertaining to watch. 

Pelicans were also plentiful. 
Magnificent frigate bird. 

Black hawk 
Neotropic cormorant 

American redstart 

Northern waterthrush

Mangrove warbler.  This was one of my favorite birds to see while in Belize. However I only one on the one rainy day while we were there!  

Female hooded oriole

Yellow warbler

Ruddy turnstone

Black bellied plover

Yellow crowned night heron.  These were also plentiful and I super enjoyed watching these gorgeous heron!

Tropical king bird

Wilson's plover

A yellow crowned night heron on that rainy day! 

Belted kingfisher (of which I see a bazillion here in New England!)

Saw so many little blue herons, but I really loved this one with its pale green legs (an indicator of it's young age)

Great blue heron.  Also seen frequently in Massachusetts.  

Yellow throated warbler. 

This was a frequent scene viewed from our balcony.  If you zoom in on this one you can see the fish jumping out of the water in the middle! 

Last but not least, this cinnamon hummingbird.  I viewed this bird all week visiting a bush outside our condo.  It fluttered about so quickly I could not get a shot.  

Finally on the last day, about 30 minutes before we were supposed to leave, I told my family, let me go see if I can get a snap of that humming bird.  I went outside and it was just sitting so calmly and I was able to get lots of snaps! 
Well, if you've made it this far, thank you so much for joining me on this photo walk of my trip to Caye Caulker, Belize.  I ca't wait to go back!