Saturday, October 31, 2009

Our Pumpkins

We did our pumpkin carving yesterday. I thought one that looked like an owl would be cute, but my son had other ideas and insisted on the cannibal pumpkin below.

Caleb carved the middle one and put a big hole in the back and hooked it up to the fog machine.

The rat pumpkin is my standard. Gotta love it since you don't even have to clean the inside of the pumpkin out. The trick or treaters get a kick out of it.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

My Craft Fair Booth

Yesterday I participated in my first official craft fair so I thought I'd show you my booth set-up.

We were limited to a 6'x6' space, which is pretty small. I used the 6 ft table they provided plus my own aluminum roll-out camping table and put them up on bed risers to raise the display 7" which is great for viewing jewelry closer to eye level. Next time I hope to have table covers that go all the way to the floor, but I do like the neutral grey of my velvet cloths.

Jewelry just doesn't sell if the light is poor so I invested in these "medusa head" lamps and fitted them with high definition Ott light bulbs for true color. I purchased white wire shelf risers to raise the lights and put my mirrors more at face level. These had the added advantage of providing extra well-lit space underneath the lights.

I was able to purchase second-hand, stacking jewelry trays which made set-up and take down much quicker and provided a nice display.

I used a digital photo frame slide show to display photos of my work on models, in other settings and also for displaying text. I have to say that it worked exactly as planned. The men were enthralled and the women ignored it. It gave the husbands something to do while the wives browsed.

The show was a valuable learning experience. Next time I will know to bring a dolly to help cart my items back and forth from my car, to put larger print on signage and to bring a higher stool instead of a low chair to use behind my raised tables.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Come Visit Me

I'll be at the Sun City Aliante Craft Fair next Saturday, October 24. I'll be at indoor booth #63. There will be 100 vendors present so come on out and do some Christmas shopping.

Sun City
7395 Aliante Parkway in North Las Vegas, NV
next to the Aliante Station casino at Aliante Parkway and 215
9am to 5pm

Also, visit my website and print a coupon good for a FREE pair of copper earrings with your purchase of $75 or more.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

New Designs in Copper

The price of gold has hit an all time high this week and silver isn't far behind. Thankfully, copper is a great, affordable alternative. The manufacturers of jewelry components are realizing that designers need more options in copper and brass and are coming out with more gauges of wire, sizes of beads, charms and other findings for us to use.

I'm designing a new line of copper jewelry. Most pieces haven't been photographed yet, but I took a couple of quick snapshots of a few pieces to show you the coming attractions. There are many more.

Because copper wire is fairly inexpensive, I am able to play with and "waste" pieces trying new designs. I think you'll find my new copper designs to be more playful and casual. I've been using copper wire to hand-craft my own jump rings and to try new creative designs in ear wires and teardrop shaped hoops.

Copper is a beautiful metal that looks good on everyone. It has cool rosy undertones and a warm glow that will really spice up your autumn wardrobe and take you right into the winter holidays with its brightness.

And, yes, if you wear a piece for a long time it will oxidize and turn your skin where it touches harmlessly green, but that will wash right off. Copper develops a beautiful patina over time. Copper has been worn for many centuries because of its reputed healing properties especially in the case of arthritis and joint pain. Current studies do show that it has some small effect as an antioxidant, but wear it for it's beauty.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Peru: Machu Picchu Day 1

This is my eleventh Peru blog post. I managed to edit it down to only 30 photos. ☺

After our morning train ride from Cuzco to Aguas Calientes and our twisting bus ride up the mountain, we arrived at the entrance gate to Machu Picchu and met with our guide and three other travelers for a two hour orientation tour.

Machu Picchu was kept a secret from the Spanish invaders and abandoned which saved it from the destruction that other sites were subjected to. Since it's re-discovery in 1911, the site has been mostly cleared of the encroaching jungle vegetation and now about 30% of the standing walls are careful reconstructions.

All facilities at Machu Picchu are located at the entrance gate. There aren't even trash cans located inside which helps to preserve it as a photographer's paradise. The facilities they do have at the entrance are spare. You should bring all the drinking water and snacks you will want for the day because food is expensive at the one snack bar and the lines can be long. The only bottled water available was an 8 oz glass bottle. Large bags and food are not allowed in and most bags are searched. You can take a day pack, but since it's high altitude and steep, it's best to just have a camera and water and a few essentials. You can buy water bottle holders with a long strap to sling over your shoulder all over Peru. Most people also had a granola bar or some trail mix stashed in a pocket. You definitely want sunscreen, a wide brim hat and possibly bug repellent. You can check a bag at the entrance for about a dollar, but it's only semi-secure so don't leave valuables. I checked a backpack with food and extra water and jackets for all of us. Since you are generally rushed from the train right up to Machu Picchu, you have to plan ahead for this.

Machu Picchu is located in a "saddle" of land high on a mountain in the jungle. At one end is Machu Picchu mountain and at the other end is Wayna Picchu mountain. Wayna Picchu is that stunning mountain you see in most photos of the site like in the one above. You can't see in these photos, but at the top of Wayna Picchu are buildings and terraces. Only 400 people a day are allowed to hike the steep trail up Wayna Picchu. We didn't do it and by looking at the mountain I honestly cannot fathom how anyone can get up there.

Machu Picchu mountain is larger and broader than Wayna Picchu. You can see it in the background in the photo below. The sides of the mountain drop steeply down to the Urubamba river which wraps around Machu Picchu mountain below and eventually makes it's way into the Amazon river. The Sun Gate which is a tambo or waystation and checkpoint on the Inca trail system leading into Machu Picchu is located in the notch of the mountain in the photo below. On another Inca trail that runs around the back side of Machu Picchu mountain, you can hike to the Inca drawbridge.

Above: some of the farming terraces and houses of commoners. The terraces are extensive and ingenious. They were built in a effort to make Machu Picchu more self-sufficient. Each terrace is layered with rocks, then gravel, then sand and then top soil for drainage and to purify the water as it filters through. The sand and topsoil were carried far up the mountain from the river and farmland below.

view of the ceremonial plaza and noble men's houses

One of the first places our guide took us was to the Temple of the Moon (photo above). The interior is now closed to tourist, but it is distinctive on the site due to it's curved walls. From the Temple of the Moon a series of fountains and baths cascade down the mountainside (one pictured below). The topmost was reserved for the Inca (king), the next for the queen, and on down through the ranks of priest and noblemen to commoners and slaves at the lower baths.

There is also a Temple of the Sun, but more on that in my next post.

taking a break

on the edge of the plaza below the Temple of the Sun

I forgot the name of the temple pictured above. For us it will always be the "Temple of the Llamas." Our guide was showing us the unusual rimmed basins which are carved into the natural rock floor of this temple and postulating on whether they are meant to be water mirrors, bases for sculptures, etc, when the llamas showed up for a drink. It was one of the highlights of our trip. By the way, the llamas that roam around at Machu Picchu are the best groomed in Peru.

The Incas admired natural rock formations and considered them sacred. They saw the rocks in the photo above as the wings of the sacred condor and carved the condor's neck and head into the floor of the Temple of the Condor. Caleb is demonstrating how the wings go. The photo below shows the carving of the condor's head. Animal sacrifices would have been made here and the blood would have drained into the carved grooves. To the left of Caleb in the photo is the entrance to a natural cave where there is an altar carved in the rock where offerings are still left and where mummified remains were found.

After our guided tour, we decided to hike the Inca drawbridge trail along the back side of Machu Picchu mountain. The trail itself is not that long, but it's a very steep drop far down to the river below.

Inca drawbridge trail

I have to confess that I don't care for heights and this trail was scary. I stopped just before the end and took photos of my guys going the last few yards (above). You can see how narrow the trail is. The drop is sheer and a long, long way down. There are ropes the guys are hanging onto for a rail. You can just see the edge of the drawbridge to the left. It's just some poles laid over a gap in the trail that the Incas could quickly remove if the enemy was approaching.

After the Inca drawbridge trail we explored the ruins some more:

you can see how the edges of the site just seem to fall away

The rocks used to build Machu Picchu were quarried right from the site. Caleb searches for chinchillas at one of the quarry sites above. He found one, but we didn't get a good photo.

this shows how the second storey floor would have been built in this building

Machu Picchu closes for the day promptly at 5 PM and the last bus leaves at 5:30 PM. If you miss it you have a very long hike back to Aguas Calientes.

NOTE: The Peruvian government is considering limiting the number of people allowed to visit the site to 2500 per day. Currently they get 3000-4000 per day. If they implement this it could be much more difficult and expensive to visit.

Above: The Urubamba river from the riverwalk in Aguas Calientes just outside our hotel room. It's a beautiful view, but turned out not to be such a great thing to have a room along the river. Hotels are expensive so a lot of people just hang out all night and the river walk is a favorite spot. They were somewhat noisy, but really, we were too tired to care much.

Next time I'll be writing about day two of exploring Machu Picchu. Check back soon.

Copyright 2009 text and photos. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Peru: The road to Machu Picchu

This is post number ten on our Peru trip.

The only reasonable ways to get to Machu Picchu are to either hike the famed Inca Trail or to take the train. We took the train. The Inca Trail system is vast and covers most of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, etc. But the trail modern day tourists take is the one from the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu (33 km and four days of backpacking, climbing and camping at high altitude) or any number of shorter treks starting at several points along the way. A guide is required to hike the trail and most of the time you will also get porters, gear and have your meals prepared for you. I understand that you'll need them because the trail is tough.

We took the "backpacker train" which is basic, but has a snack cart and bathrooms. The photo above is of the "vistadome" train which has the curved windows you can see on top and somewhat better seats and service. I think the price difference was $65 per person.

Any way you decide to get to Machu Picchu will cost quite a bit. The train company has a monopoly and the support required to hike the trail costs money. Furthermore, all trails lead you through the town of Aguas Calientes which sits at the base of Machu Picchu mountain. It exist purely to serve the tourist trade (and I use the term "serve" loosely as the service is awful) and hotels there will cost you twice as much as in Cuzco and will be half as nice. After spending two nights there we decided there is really nothing in Aguas Calientes that anyone needs to see. Spending one night there and taking a late train back to Cuzco would have been better.

If you'd like to hike the Inca Trail for a little way you can get off at the last stop before Aguas Calientes and hike the last rugged six hours or so of the trail.

Caleb on the train

On the train

The train trip from Cuzco takes approximately four hours and generally leaves early in the morning. The tracks descend from 10500 ft elevation in Cuzco to 8500 at Machu Picchu and they actually stop the train and back it up a zig zag track at one point. The tracks travel along the Urubamba river, past farmland and ancient terraces, mountains, glaciers and into the jungle. For some reason I had it in my mind that Machu Picchu must be at a higher elevation than Cuzco since it is called a "citadel," but it's not. The train company will only let you take one small carry-on bag per person. We left the rest of our luggage in the luggage lock-up room at our Cuzco hotel.

Urubamba river

The trip takes you into the jungle the nearer you get to Machu Picchu--take bug repellent

We got off the train in Aguas Calientes, which is the end of the line. We were met by a representative from our travel agency and porters from our hotel. The porters took our bags and the rep walked us a short distance to the bus station. Aguas Calientes is a small town and you can walk anywhere there.

View from the bus road near Aguas Calientes up at Inca farming terraces above the river and below Machu Picchu.

From Aguas Calientes you either have a long hike or you take the bus for a 25 minute ride up 14 steep switchbacks to Machu Picchu. The bus is also expensive, but they are convenient and save you a lot of time and energy. They were nice Mercedes Benz buses and made trips constantly back and forth all day. The photo above shows a view out of the bus window.

The bus road to Machu Picchu--taken on day two from the Sun Gate above Machu Picchu--it sure seems steeper than it looks in this photo when you are actually on the bus.

My next post will be about our first afternoon in Machu Picchu!

Copyright 2009 text and photos. All rights reserved.