Thursday, 22 September 2016

CiM Testing

Lampwork glass beads made in Creation is Messy 'Aloha'

I'm working my way through a bundle of new Creation is Messy glass colours, writing up my findings and thoughts as I do so. The first four testing posts are over on my Tumblr. The colours I've twiddled with so far are:

Bashful

Lampwork glass beads made in Creation is Messy 'Bashful'

Mockingbird

Lampwork glass beads made in Creation is Messy 'Mockingbird'

Envy

Lampwork glass beads made in Creation is Messy 'Envy'

and Aloha.

Lampwork glass beads made in Creation is Messy 'Aloha'

All of the test findings can be found on my Tumblr blog, which is also where I keep a record of the glasses I use for all my beads.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Taraxacum officinale

Dandelion clock, taken with my iPhone

This past week I've spent my evenings putting dandelion clock seeds into beads in order to make my Wishful necklaces. It's very time consuming. I sit there with the telly on, tray of dandelion clocks and beads 'pon my lap, and with a pair of tweezers I pluck a seed from a clock and then add it to a glass bubble, carefully feeding it through the 3mm hole. I keep on doing this until the glass bubble is full of dandelion fluffs.

Dandelion seed, taken with iPhone 6s and Olloclip macro lens
Dandelion seed, or 'fluff' as I like to call it

Blown lampwork glass hollow beads by Laura Sparling
Blown glass beads, wet from their bath

Blown lampwork glass bead and dandelion seed pendants by Laura Sparling
Beads, filled with seeds and made into pendants

Because I handle every dandelion seed separately, I've noticed how much they vary. Not all dandelions are equal. Obviously they are different sizes which means that the seeds from one clock head can be shorter or longer than the seeds from another. The fluffiness of the fluffs is also determined by when the dandelion was picked and how long it has had to dry out. The colour of the seedy bit of the seeds also seems to be affected by this. The older the seed, the darker the seedy bit is.

Dandelion clock seeds, taken with iPhone 6s and Olloclip macro lens

I've become a bit of a dandelion weirdo. I reckon this could be the thing that gives me 'local character' status. I'll be known as 'Dandelion Woman' or 'Her, You Know, Her, Who Picks Dandelions'. I'm constantly scanning grass verges and patches for dandelion clocks. I never leave the house without my dandelion collecting pot and as soon as I see a fluffy lollipop I dash over and pluck it.

Dandelion flower, taken with iPhone 6s and Olloclip macro lens

In my head I have a map of where the big yellow in-bloom dandelions are because I know that in a week or so they will have transformed into clocks and then I can go back to collect them. I don't pick all of them; I always leave a couple there so their seeds can do the nature thing and float away to create new dandelions.

Now, in the style of a Year 7 science project about dandelions, here are some fun dandelion facts for you:

  • The name 'dandelion' comes from the French 'dent di lion' which means 'lion's tooth' and this refers to the jagged leaves of the plant
  • Dandelion seeds can be carried on the wind for as far as five miles
  • In Victorian times, dandelions were grown by rich people and the plants would be eaten in salads and sandwiches
  • Dandelions are rich in calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C
  • The roots of a dandelion can grow up to half a metre long
  • The leaves of the dandelion plant can be used to make purple dye
  • Dandelion tea can be used as a mild laxative but don't be drinking it if you have gallbladder issues as it can also increase the flow of bile
  • Dandelions are food for the caterpillars of several types of butterfly and moth
  • Dandelions open at about five o'clock in the morning and close at about eight o'clock at night, hence the term 'clock'; they were once used as indicators of time

And of course, as with many flowers there are many myths and meanings and old wives' tales surrounding them:

  • When you blow a dandelion clock the number of seeds left represent how many children you will have
  • Another theory states that the number of seeds remaining post-puff indicate how many years you have left to live
  • Dreaming of dandelions represents happy unions
  • Some people think that the dandelion represents celestial bodies; the yellow flower is the sun, the seed head is the moon and the seeds are the stars
  • Dandelions in a wedding bouquet will bring good luck
  • Burying a dandelion in the north-west corner outside your house is said to bring favour and fortune
  • Dandelion root tea can aid psychic abilities and prophetic dreaming
  • In Victorian flower language, dandelions represent faithfulness, happiness and love's oracle
  • You should make a wish before you blow the seeds off a dandelion clock

A lot of those are probably twaddle and I reckon if you bury a dandelion anywhere you'll just end up with lots more dandelions as opposed to favour and fortune. Actually, I am going to do that. Not the burying-it-to-bring-me-favour-and-fortune thing, but in order to intentionally grow dandelions. Most people try and get rid of them but no, I'm going to grow me some so that I can have a good supply for my necklaces. Right now I have enlisted friends and family for dandelion-picking duties and my necklaces contain Hampshire, Cambridgeshire and Oxfordshire dandelion seeds.

Blown lampwork glass bead and dandelion seed necklace by Laura Sparling

There you go. More than you ever wanted or needed to know about Taraxacum officinale - the common dandelion. I've come to love these flowers. They're absolutely fascinating and I refuse to call them weeds. Hurrah for the dandelions!

Dandelion clock, taken with iPhone 6s and Olloclip macro lens

Oh, and if you'd like to order you very own Wishful necklace, please head right this way.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Flower power

Poppy, taken with iPhone 6s and Olloclip macro lens

*Monty Don face*

Welcome to the blog post where I bore you with news of my uninteresting garden. Don't worry, there are some beads too, but first, let me show you my munchkin pumpkin. (Oooh, Jeremy.)

Baby munchkin pumpkin

I grew munchkin pumpkins for two reasons:
  1. The name 'munchkin pumpkin' which I sing to the Oompa Loompa song as "Munchkin pumpkin, pump-a-di-doo"... obviously.
  2. Because who can resist the idea of growing an actual tiny pumpkin?
The plant itself is like a triffid; massive leaves and curly-wurly tendrils aplenty. I was starting to think I would never get any pumpkins because it's done loads of flowers but those just wither, leaving no offspring behind (which I can totally identify with because that's how I'm living my life) but then I read about it and they have male and female flowers. Nature.

My sunflowers are an embarrassment. I couldn't get the same seeds that gave me the amazing ones I grew last year so I have eighteen weak and wimpy sunflowers that are no more than three feet high. I did intentionally grow micro sunflowers, though, (I'm clearly all about the miniature garden stuff this year) and they've turned out really well.

Micro sun sunflower, taken with iPhone 6s and Olloclip macro lens

My favourite plants this summer have been my poppies. There's one at the top of this post and look, here are some more:

Poppies against the fence
Poppies making the grotty fence look nice

Poppies

Poppy refractions, taken with iPhone 6s and Olloclip macro lens
Poppies refracted in raindrops

Poppy, taken with iPhone 6s and Olloclip macro lens

Poppy wit raindrops, taken with iPhone 6s and Olloclip macro lens
Raindroppy poppy

I've also grown chillies and tomatoes and wild strawberries and mint. All the mint. Mint-mint, peppermint, spearmint and watermelon mint. So. Much. Mint. Oh, and catnip, which I'm having to grow in hanging baskets out of Nigel's reach as he goes totally Renton for catnip.

Anyway, beads. These are flowery too.

Lampwork glass encased floral beads by Laura Sparling

I made these beads ages ago. I rescued them from a jam jar of odd beads I found in the cupboard under the sink. I don't know why I 'rejected' them. (See? That's how annoying my pernickety faff brain is; I can't even remember what I thought was wrong with them.) The only reason I can see is that a couple of them have small, harmless bubbles in the encasing but that's pretty normal for encased florals so I'm fine with that. For today, anyway. They're in the shop as I type.

I don't want to be a premature idiot, but I'm pretty sure I can smell a slight whiff of autumn. Something about the weather's mood has shifted and I like it. Don't get me wrong, I think there are some summery days left to come but there's something different about the morning light and the coolness of the breeze this week.

Now I must away to the shed where I will spend the day blowing glass bubbles and chair dancing and singing along to Lucius.

Have a great Friday! (Of course you will. It's Friday.)

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Necklace full of wish

Lampwork glass bead and sterling silver necklace filled with dandelion clock seeds

I'm well aware that I'm not the first person to put dandelion seeds in a glass bead/globe/bottle, but it's such a lovely idea I wanted to turn some of my blown glass beads into dandelion pendants.

Lampwork glass bead and sterling silver necklace filled with dandelion clock seeds

Hang on, I've not mentioned my blown hollow glass beads, have I? Long story short, I make them on a 3mm hollow mandrel that has an air hole in it. By building a bead up either side of the air hole I can then inflate the bead by blowing air down the mandrel. This allows me to create a nice thin, even wall and I can deflate and re-inflate until I am happy with the shape. It's a bit like blowing a glass bubble. I'll go into it in more detail some day soon.

Blowing a hollow soft glass lampwork bead
Me, blowing a hollow glass bead

Anyway, the 'Wishful' pendant is made from a blown hollow bead which I have filled with seeds from a dandelion clock. There are many myths and legends that surround dandelions but I think we're all familiar with the one that tells you to make a wish before blowing the seeds off a dandelion clock.

Lampwork glass bead and sterling silver necklace filled with dandelion clock seeds

I'm not saying that this necklace will make all your wishes come true, but its delicate prettiness is sure to intrigue people.

Lampwork glass bead and sterling silver necklace filled with dandelion clock seeds

If you'd like to order a 'Wishful' necklace, they're £15.00 and available on my website.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Stressed

Nigel in his carrier, ready to go to the vet

I've got a stye coming on my left eyelid. I know this because my eye feels bruised and tender to touch. I've suffered with styes for as long as I can remember but I only get them when I'm run down, stressed out or worried, really really tired, or a combination of all of those things.

This one I've got now is probably a combination-of-all-those-things stye.

The last few weeks have been stressful. I came home from teaching in Barnstaple to find that Nigel had an abscess on his face, caused by a fighty cat bite, and he ended up having to have an operation to sort it out. After more medication and pampering Nigel decided to develop some kind of skin allergy. The vet thinks it's probably caused by some plant that he's brushing past when he's out and about. A steroid injection last week kind of helped him but the effects of the injection only lasted for five days and now he's all irritated and a bit scabby again so I'm going to have to take him back to the vet. On Monday Nigel decided to eat pretty much a whole baby dove (the crime scene showed that he didn't fancy eating a couple of internal dove organs and one wing) and he's made himself quite ill as a result of it. He's done this a couple of times before and I just have to keep a close eye on him and wait for him to get it out of his system. Literally.

In between all that cat unwellness, I happened upon a lady having a heart attack in the street. I'd popped to the shop to get some milk and on my way there I saw a lady lying on the pavement and another very distressed lady on the phone to the emergency services. A few other people were sort of stood there, just looking. I immediately went full Charlie Fairhead and checked for a pulse and all that and told the lady on the phone to tell the operator what I was finding. And not finding. I put her into the recovery position.

I won't lie, the situation was horrible.

I'm not first aid trained.

It's something I told myself that I'd do, after my mum died of a heart attack. I kept telling myself that I'd do a course. Watching Holby City and being a lifelong Casualty fan can only get you so far in an emergency situation. I've been told by two doctors and three paramedics that there was nothing anyone could have done to save my mum, even if she'd been in a hospital hooked up to all the right machines at the time of her heart attack. But not a day goes by where I don't think about it and go through all the "What if I'd...?" and "Why didn't I...?" questions in my head. I can't allow myself to dwell on those questions for too long or I end up having a panic attack.

So here I was again, in a similar situation. The lady was a local character. She has a very odd way of walking; she does tiny tiny footsteps and teeters from side to side with a shopping bag in each hand as she does so. I'd always said hello to her, even though I didn't know her name. And here she was, on the floor unconscious, with a faint pulse that was becoming fainter. She was making noises that a human being shouldn't make. I knew immediately that it was a heart attack. Nobody else was doing anything. Time seemed to be going so very slowly. Then all of a sudden the paramedics arrived and I stepped away and they swung into action. I looked through the lady's handbag and found her bus pass with her name on, a packet of cigarettes, a lighter, a debit card and about thirteen pence in coins. That was all that was in her bag.

The paramedics were doing what amazing paramedic people do. It began to rain and a lovely lady appeared with a huge umbrella and she stood over them all with it as they worked, while I redirected rubber-necking passers-by.

The heart monitor with its constant flat tone suddenly beeped itself into a rhythm. The lady was alive.

An ambulance and a couple of police officers arrived. I had to give them my details and a brief statement. They eventually put the lady into the ambulance and the police officer confirmed to me that the lady was unconscious but alive.

People gradually left the scene. All that was left was a cardigan draped over a fence post. I'd asked one of the onlookers if they had anything we could use as a blanket because the lady was cold. One of them had handed me their cardigan.

I walked over to the shop in a bit of a daze. I got my milk and a packet of Caramel Logs and then I walked home. And then I went to pieces. I drank tea and ate Caramel Log after Caramel Log. I'm OK in an emergency situation while it's happening (adrenalin is a wonderful thing) but I always end up in a state afterwards.

Maybe I should have done CPR on the lady, but she was sort of breathing, and I was sure I'd read somewhere that you only do CPR if the person isn't breathing. Maybe I should have done chest compressions at the very least. I DON'T KNOW. Because I never did that sodding course. Of course, looking back I could have Googled. I had my phone on me. I mean, I spend a large proportion of every single day with it glued to my hand but no, I seemed to temporarily forget that the internet existed.

What I do know for sure is that she arrested after the paramedics arrived.

I called the police to see if they knew what happened to the lady. They don't know as the the case was deemed not suspicious and was subsequently closed and the situation handed over the hospital. I called the hospital but, understandably, they wouldn't tell me anything as I'm not related to the lady. It's been three weeks since this happened and I've not seen the lady. Nobody has. I keep checking the local papers and every time I go into the shop I ask one of the assistants if they've seen her or heard anything about her, but nope, nothing. The not knowing what happened to her is really quite distressing.

As you can imagine, the whole heart attack thing has been playing on my mind. I'm not sleeping very well. It's given me a short attention span and an even shorter temper. It's brought a whole load of bad Mum thoughts bubbling back to the surface of my brain, which in turn have brought panic attacks, anxiety and tears with them. I feel sad for the lady, and angry, guilty and annoyed at myself for not knowing stuff. But I'm not a doctor or a nurse, and at least I didn't just stand there staring at the situation like a gormless person.

I apologise for such a miserable, unhappy and morose blog post but I needed to get all of this out of my head. Maybe now I've done so this bloody eye stye can do one because it flipping hurts.

Thanks for reading.

Change of name

Due to a very long-winded and boring reason, all to do with Google accounts and domain names and yawwwn, I've ditched my custom domain name (beadsbylaurablog.com) for this blog. Every year, renewing it is such a pain in the neck. This is because when I first registered it six years ago it was done through Blogger, which is part of Google but then I changed my email address and then Google changed stuff and logging into the account I needed to in order to sort it all out was a nightmare. The only way Google will let me access the dashboard I need to access now is to pay for a Google 'work' account and just no. I'm not paying for a Google account just to get access to a domain name that I already pay for, so sod it. I've reverted back to the original domain name which is http://www.laurasparling.blogspot.com. Please update any bookmarks accordingly. If you subscribe via email you shouldn't need to change anything; you'll still receive updates whenever I post.

I don't think many people read my blog anyway so I'm probably just waffling on into a void here but still, now you know.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Tapeley

Me taking a photo of Manda (with Max) who was also taking a photo
While I was in Devon, Manda took me to Tapeley. This is a beautiful estate with Grade II listed gardens, and oh my, those are some gardens. Manda's lovely mum, Penny, came along too. Both Manda and Penny are brilliant proper camera photographers, whereas I'm an iPhoneographer, and the three of us had a lovely time wandering around the gardens taking pictures.

Agapanthus, taken with iPhone 6s and Olloclip macro lens
Agapanthus

Daises
Daisies and brick steps

Flower detail on a gate in the gardens at Tapeley
Flower detail on a gate

Succulent flowers, taken with iPhone 6s and Olloclip macro lens
Succulent flowers (flowers of succulents)

After a delicious lunch of smoked trout at the tea rooms, we wandered up to visit the pigs and chickens and then Penny suggested we take a look around the kitchen garden.

As we approached the garden, a sign told me it was a walled garden. My heart did an actual skippity-leap on learning this because I'm a massive fan of the old BBC Victorian Kitchen Garden series that starred Harry Dodson and Peter Thoday, so I found the idea of being in an actual factual old walled garden pretty thrilling, I can tell you.

Door in the walled garden at Tapeley
Door in the wall of the walled garden

The garden was beautiful, and it's a working one so it was full of fruit and vegetables. There was a massive greenhouse along one of the walls and inside it grapes were growing. Back in the day, the greenhouse would have been heated by a system of cast iron pipes filled with hot water, warmed by a coal-fired furnace.

Victorian cloche

I loved the old things in the garden, like this Victorian glass cloche and the pretty cast iron grates.

Fancy cast iron grate

There were also old varieties of apple and pear trees, as well as a patch of glorious purple-haired artichokes.

Artichokes

Moth on an artichoke flower
Moth on an artichoke flower

Artichoke flower, taken with iPhone 6s and Olloclip macro lens
Artichoke flower macro

After lots more photography we left the garden and wandered back down, past the old Victorian ice house.

Victorian ice house at Tapeley

During the winter months, the ice house would have been packed with ice and snow and the building would have acted as a fridge and freezer.

Daisies growing on the Victorian ice house at Tapeley
Daisies on the ice house

Even the car park provided a final photo opportunity as it is next to a field of highland cattle.

Moooo!

Big thanks to Manda and Penny for a lovely day out at Tapeley. It was wonderful and I thoroughly enjoyed it.