Friday, September 30, 2011

Cooking Classes in Beijing

I’m here with a small tour group led by Pat Dalton of Dalton Textile Tours
Our National Guide is Steven - charming, helpful, eternally good-natured and unruffled - he’s awesome. He takes care of everything - carries bags, haggles over prices with the shopkeepers to get us the best deals, herds us here and there, orders our food. I want to bring him home with me.
Steven and Pat
His girlfriend is a huge fan of Swarovski crystals, which are, apparently, crazy expensive in China, and their selection of styles is far less varied than what we have available to us in the States, so I will be sure to send him a generous package of sparkles as a thank-you gift. 

We took the subway to the Pearl Market, rather than take taxis and sit in traffic. Much better way to travel, and it was kinda fun to be more immersed in "real" life in Beijing, rather than traveling like tourists. BUT - that meant a LOT of walking to get to and from the stations, and a LOT of stairs. A LOT of stairs.

Pearl Market was much like the Chinese vendors at bead shows - lots and lots and lots of pearls - but these are the very expensive types, not $3 strands like we see everywhere we go. Some less expensive, but lots of perfect cultured pearls at $3,000 - $10,000 a strand - eeek!
I didn't buy anything there.

Next we went to Silk Street Market  - 5 or 6 stories of stalls, kinda like a merchandise mart. One or two floors of silk scarves, shawls, bags, etc. One or two floors of jewelry, another floor of just clothing, luggage, etc. High pressure sales techniques abound, chasing you down the aisle, trying to get you to buy something. 
"Hey Lady! You need bag? You need Prada bag?"
"Hey Lady! You buy watch!"
"Hey Lady! Just looking!"
"Hey Lady! You want pearl?"

I freaking hated it!  There were stalls I actually *did* want to look at, but because the salespeople were so pushy, I just ran past them.

The next day we took a class at the Hutong Cooking School.
Spent the morning at a 2-story indoor farmer’s market - meats and noodles and spices and nuts and fruits and vegetables. 

Have you ever had a fresh date?  It tastes crisp and fresh like an apple! Who knew?

We made dry-fried green beans and braised pork ribs and garlic prawns and beef with cumin & chili and chicken with ginger and scallions. 
Nom nom.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I Could Get Used To This!

Omelet w/ Chicken & Apple sausage
Fresh fruit
Grilled Shrimp Brochette on Sugarcane skewers
Filet Mignon with herb compound butter
Whole wheat roll with New Zealand Butter
2 White Russians 

Cheese & Grapes
Sandeman Founder's Reserve Port Wine 
Raspberry Sorbet draped in a hard chocolate shell

I could get used to flying like this.

I almost never fly.    
Yes, it seems like we travel all the time, but that’s “on the road” traveling. I was able to transfer my hotel points to miles, and use them for an upgrade to Business class for my flight to China.

Why China?
I’ve been thinking about visiting China since I saw the documentary about the Terra Cotta Warriors of Xi'an. I’ve always been intrigued by the exotic, the far-flung lands rich in history and culture so different from my own. And I love Chinese food!

About 10 years ago, I told myself I would take myself to China for my 50th birthday. OK, my big 5-0 is not until January, but the timing for this tour was right!

I only slept about an hour on the way out here - so much enjoying the comfy Business Class seats, wrapped in my little down blanket, White Russian at my side, watching movies on demand. I beaded a bit, a simple 3-bead picot edging on my Coldwater Creek denim jacket. Played a couple of games on my laptop. It was like a mini vacation.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough to upgrade my flight back home, so I will wedge my fat ass into a seat in economy, whimpering and casting longing glances towards the front of the plane the whole long, long way home. Surely the 14 hour flight will feel like an eternity.

Arrived in Beijing at 4:30 pm the following day.

Met up with our Local and National Guides, and spent the next 4 hours in rush hour traffic. 
Holy Moly! Traffic is miserable here! And Beijing is a HUGE city. 
Massive, with a population of 20 million. That’s about the same population as Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho combined! 
I’ve been up for over 30 hours now, so all I can think about is checking into our hotel and hitting the sack.

More to come tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

My Packing Skills Leave Much To Be Desired

I am a terrible packer.
You'd think that, for someone on the road as often as I,  I'd have it down to an exact science.
Not so!
You see, we always travel by truck - a 15-foot box truck. I'm used to being able to pack anything and everything I might ever possibly conceive of needing. Snacks, beads, books, magazines, 4 different kinds of hand lotion, 9 pair of shoes - how the hell will I know what shoes I feel like wearing next week?! Bring 'em all!

Not like Mark - he's a packing genius. Loading our truck to get to and from a show is like Truck Tetris - every single thing fits *exactly* in it's place - by the time he's done, you could scarcely slip a piece of paper into the truck - it's that tight.
is the truck half-full or half-empty?
Tomorrow, however, I am traveling by plane.

I carefully laid out everything I thought I'd need. Clothes that don't wrinkle. Dark colors and prints, so as to not show dirt and coffee spills. 1 pair of walking shoes, 1 pair of sandals. 
Laptop, Kindle, Camera, Beads. Just a few - 2 tubes of 11/0s, Fireline, Tulip needles, some mini scissors, and a small bead mat.
Plenty of extra space in my suitcase for purchases & souvenirs. 

I can do this!

Then it took me 4 hours to pack my jewelry and toiletries. 

4 hours.

To pack a quart-sized baggie with toothpaste and mascara and conditioner and Olay Night Resurfacing Elixir. 
4 hours to pack some casual jewelry.

I picked and chose. I changed my mind. Will I wear these earrings? Is this necklace too fancy for rural China? Yes, I DO need all the new Crystal Clay jewelry I made the other day! Do I need 5 cuff bracelets?
I put it in a smallish case. Took it out and put it in another jewelry pouch. Took it out again and put it in yet another jewelry case. 
Again. And again. And yet again.

GAH! I suck at this!

So last night I finished packing. 
Then I took it all out and did it again.

This morning, I unpacked it all and repacked it in a difference suitcase.

Tonight, I'm heading down to Denver to take a hotel close to the airport - our flight leaves at 6 am tomorrow morning.

China, here I come!

Peace out!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Crystal Clay Sparkle Fun!

I spent all day yesterday playing with Crystal Clay. It's my new favorite obsession!
 Talk about your Instant Gratification - you mix the 2 parts together, poke a bunch of crystals (or what-have-you) into it, and let it dry.
That's it!
No baking, no curing. Beautiful, sparkly, professional-looking jewelry in no time!


But wait, it gets better!
Sparkle Dust!
After mixing and poking, sprinkle a little fairy dust over the whole shebang. Once dry, take a damp paper towel or a Q-Tip dipped in water, and wash the dust off the crystals - the Crystal Clay will remain lustrous and shimmering.
This is Copper Crystal Clay with a dusting of Super Copper Sparkle Dust
This is White Crystal Clay with a dusting of  Micropearl Sparkle Dust
Kinda looks like an Easter egg, doesn't it?
This one's my favorite - Olivine Glacier, with a bunch of vintage stones - Cardinal  & Jet Scarabee  Navettes, Peridot Squares - mmmmmm. 
White Crystal Clay with Interference Gold

 More deliciousness!

This is Latte Crystal Clay with Bronze Sparkle Dust
Check out that psychedelic Iris crystal!
Vintage Swarovski "Partieware".  Groovy!
"Ahh", I hear you say to yourself, "Self, I MUST have this magical Crystal Clay for my very own!"
Well, my pretties, I am truly an evil temptress, because alas - we are CLOSED for the entire month of September. 
Sorry my timing is so poor, but I just had to share the fruits of my days' labor. 
You can place your order, and I will send it out as soon as we are back open. And by then, we should have an assortment of Sparkle Dusts as well.

Next up . . . the reason for our exceedingly long closure . . . 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Where to Begin?

Beyond Beadery is smack dab in the middle of a 2-month closure - yowsa! That's a long time!

Mid-August found us at BeadFest in King of Prussia, PA. Thanks to the new show location, we had an awesomely HUGE booth this year - what a treat! It was wonderful to finally have enough room to display everything, and even nicer for the shoppers to have plenty of room to move around.

 We also had an all-new staff of Beyond Beadettes, although you'd never know they were all first-timers - what a bunch of pros! Ashley, Gretchen, Vicki, & Jake - thanks - you make US look good!
The Queens (and King) of Prussia - Ashley, Vicki, Mark, me, & Gretchen

Jake, Prince of Prussia

"Pull my finger" - Mark, Vicki, & Ashley
Thanks, everyone, for a real good time!