Category Archives: Inspirations

Beauty Amidst the Thorns

McDowell Mt/Sonoran Desert

This is my first experience of the Sonoran desert in bloom and, wow, am I astonished by the profuse flowering of the prickly plants that dot this arid landscape. It’s amazing that the Cholla cactus pictured below can make room for tender blossoms amidst its dense armament of needles.

Cholla in bloom

In Springtime, the desert’s neutral palette is painted in tender greens, bright yellows, and pinky-reds as the cactus flowers open to sunlight.

Cholla in bloom

My son recently gave me a Moment macro lens to attach to my iPhone. I’ve not quite mastered the focus, especially in strong sunlight, but I did manage to catch a few hyper-close images of a Cholla cactus’s flower in bloom. I’m certain there’s a reason why the cactus flower’s stigma rises to skyscraper heights above bright yellow stamens–undoubtedly a pollinator-appealing structure–but to me this close-up recalls a SciFi creature like Ridley Scott’s Alien.

Cholla in bloom

Cholla in bloom

Don’t ask me to name the cactus variety featured below–I was too entranced by the vibrant magenta flower that crowned its thorny top. Believe me, it’s hazardous enough taking a cactus close-up, but when the macro lens requires mere inches in distance for a focal length, those needles are nearly impossible to avoid as I can attest!Cactus flower

Narrowed signature




Filed under Inspirations, Places

Ticking Off a Bucket List Item: Bead-a-Palooza in Tucson!

Well, I just experienced an ultimate “bright, shiny objects” event: I took a stroll through the gem and mineral shows in Tucson, Arizona last week with my long-time friend Ginny.  This renowned event has been on my radar for years and, now that I’m an Arizona resident, I can indulge! And, I used my trusty smart phone camera to share the abundance of gems, minerals, beads, findings, and other beautiful objects on display. Believe me, just as our tour covered a slice of the whole, these photos capture a mere fragment of that slice. The mind boggles at the possibility of hitting every venue!

Here’s your head’s up: at the end of January and the beginning of February of each year, international and national vendors gather in Tucson, Arizona to sell their sparkling wares. It’s a wholesale event for the most part, but there are vendors who do sell to the public. It’s a combination of sales and exhibitions and the venues are spread throughout the city. The Tucson shows are part of a larger exhibition/sales universe, but they are the Big Kahuna of the gem & mineral events in the U.S.

Tucson Gem & Mineral Shows 2016

So, what do you think about trays filled with sparkling gems? Don’t you just want to pick them up and let them trickle through your fingers? I can’t say that it’s show etiquette, but it’s certainly a temptation. Did I purchase? Nope. I may have a modicum of jewelry-making talents, but setting gems is not one of them.

Tucson Gem & Mineral Shows 2016

There were yards and yards of bead strands in every conceivable type and color spread throughout the two venues I visited. The trend in matte-finished beads surprised me, but waxy, matte-like finishes are a rising trend in kitchen and bath design for natural and manufactured stone counter tops. Well, duh, makes sense then.

Tucson Gem & Mineral Shows 2016

Here I offer you only a portion of the rainbow array of wire-linked bead strands. The greens and blues really spoke to me. I wish I’d had a good reason to buy yardage because the selection was stellar, but alas, I decided to stick to my buying plan/budget–a not fun, yet necessary strategy when visiting a bead mecca or even a quilt show!

Tucson Gem & Mineral Shows 2016

Tucson Gem & Mineral Shows 2016

Here we have a bonanza of gold and silver findings which provide decorative elements to jewelry design. Love, love, love them!

Tucson Gem & Mineral Shows 2016

I’ve got a soft spot for Swarovski crystal beads, especially this latest generation of crystal-bedecked beads. This vendor took those beads in a new direction for me:  multi-colored ones! She said some of her designs are directed specifically for collegiate use and thus the school colors and sports gear (i.e. those baseball/tennis ball beads) models.

Tucson Gem & Mineral Shows 2016

Ah, my favorite photo. I could dive into this pile of colored-glass beads. I have a recurring fantasy of wearing all of them at one time stacked on my neck, running up my arms, and wrapping my ankles. Ludicrous and heavy, but fun! Thanks for the fun day Ginny!

Narrowed signature


Filed under About, Crafts, Inspirations

Back in the Saddle: BSOz Rides Again!

Hello? Anyone out there? (Should I pipe in Adele’s Hello for appropriate thematic music?!?) I know it’s been many months since I last sat at my computer to compose a blog post. Many things have happened in that interval. My husband and I packed up and sold our home in Northern California. Our new outpost is the Phoenix area of Arizona. Why not? Change is good, albeit temporarily disorienting.

Desert Botanical Gardens: Saguaros

I’ve had many mini moments to share, but never quite got to the composition phase. Today, Monday, is a writing day. I’d like to share a beautiful spot I’ve come to enjoy here in Arizona, the Desert Botanical Garden. The collection of desert flora and fauna completely blows away the idea that a desert environment is lifeless. Sure at summer’s peak, it’s a tough place to survive, but the adaptations to the arid climate are surprisingly lush, green, and vibrant. I’m always amazed by the desert’s greenness–no, it’s not the intense emerald of the British Isles, but it’s its own shade of wonderful.

Desert Botanical Garden: a relaxing vignette

Here’s the photogenic Queen Victoria Agave. I’m not sure why it’s got a royal title, but does grow like a crown.

Desert Botanical Gardens: Queen Victorian Agave

While strolling through the gardens I came across a gallery opening for Dyana Hesson’s paintings. Wow! She’s a master of catching sunlight and her brushstrokes are so clean and precise. Dazzling, dazzling paintings!

Desert Botanical Garden: Dyana Hesson exhibit

Here’s her show biography–I admit I got a little lazy here with the documentation and photographed it for you.

Desert Botanical Gardens: Bio of Dyana Hesson

Now tell me, does painting called That Way call to mind the work of a renowned quilt maker? I see Jane Sassaman’s jagged edges and lovely curves.

Desert Botanical Gardens: Dyana Hesson's That Way

Now this painting is one of my favorites for capturing the grayed green common to desert plants. Plus Hesson focuses on the juxtaposition of vegetation with dangerous jagged edges and a tender colorful blossom. The painting is called Beauty and the Beast.

Desert Botanical Gardens: Dyana Hesson's Beauty and the Beast

This series of photos builds to a spectacular painting called Sakes Alive, There’s Five!, a depiction of freshly bloomed cactus flowers. This may be a bucket list item for me:  find/buy the cactus plant that blooms with these beauty-queen-worthy blossoms. In the first photo I wanted to show you Hesson’s precision painting.

Desert Botanical Gardens: Dyana Hesson's Sake's Alive There's Five

Look at the way the light falls on the petals. Wow!

Desert Botanical Gardens: Dyana Hesson's Sake's Alive There's Five

Are you ready for the whole image? Here she is, Sakes Alive, There’s Five! I could handle installing such a lovely painting in my home. Could I afford it? Nah. (The painting is very large, but here in WordPress, it’s coming up smaller than the detail shots. Oh well . . . )

Desert Botanical Gardens: Dyana Hesson's Sake's Alive There's Five

Dyana Hesson’s paintings typically start with photographs. With smart phones at the ready, we are indeed one step closer to creating our own artwork in paint or fabric.

Desert Botanical Gardens: Purple prickly pear cactus

Here are a couple of cacti that have purple and reddish varieties. The one above is a prickly pear (another future purchase for my cactus-garden-in-the-making), but I’m not sure of the name of the variety embedded below–it’s a tall one though at 8 to 10 feet.

Desert Botanical Gardens: Cactus

Now here’s something fun. I’ve been to the garden 3 times now and have seen a roadrunner twice. Beep-beep! Road runners are wonderful to watch as they really do call to mind the the coyote’s famous foe in Looney Toons cartoons, but they are much prettier with striking plumage patterns and head comb. I am a fan!

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 9.41.16 AM

Regards from Arizona! I do have it in mind to be a more regular correspondent, stop by!

Narrowed signature




Filed under About, Inspirations, Places

Third Time’s the Charm? Another Flower-Themed Post

Dale's roses

I do have it in mind to share a quilt project I’ve been incubating for about eighteen months, but not yet . . . I got distracted by a visit to a very special garden located nearby. A quilter’s garden as a matter of fact! This particular quilter, Dale Fleming, is an incredible textile artist and a rather gifted gardener as well. With our California drought continuing unabated, the thirsty European-style garden is become a scarce commodity, as it should, and Dale is about to transform her plot of dirt into a water-wise landscape. This visit was her last hurrah before she overhauls her plants. (And, wouldn’t you know, we experienced a rare rainy day while we were there.)

Dale's roses 2

Dale's rose 3

Dale's rose 4

Clematis is an usual flower for a California garden, but here various purple varieties glow.

Dale's clematis

Dale's clematis 2

Dale's clematis 4

Dale's clematis 3

The roadside view of the garden is a delight: it is a little wild, meandering, and with a typical Dale touch, inventive with its plant choice and placement. I could see myself whiling away a few hours with a good book and tasty refreshments in her garden retreat.

Dale's garden

Dale's garden 2

These are Nigella–Dale says the seeds are edible, like poppy seeds.


Dale's garden 3

Here’s a before/after series of a Knautia blossom. The seeds are tasty fare for chickadees.


Dale's garden 4

The after: the flower in full bloom.


Dale's garden 5

I will mourn the passing of Dale’s Euro-style garden, but I suspect her water-wise interpretation will be just as wonderful. It’s no surprise that, for many quilters, their creative lives balance textile love with green thumbs. Dale is clearly one shining example of that sorority. Thanks for the tour!



Filed under About, Artists, Inspirations

Sunday Afternoon with Flowers . . . More Springtime Blossoms, New Color Array

Okay, I couldn’t resist. Here’s what I spotted at a flower stand that runs alongside the Market Hall in Rockridge, a Oakland, CA neighborhood. Is this a fabulous color palette or what? This particular tiny flower shop excels with its flowery vignettes.

Flower Walk

Now tell me, who could possibly walk by without stopping? A feast for the eyes!

Flower Walk 3

Peach and tangerine with accents of multi-toned green.

Flower Walk 4

Focus:  the Gerbera.

Flower Walk 5

Even closer, just the merest touch of pink on this gerber daisy.

Flower Walk 6

Now this is a treat:  a blossoming stem of a variety of magnolia–a distant cousin.  I’ve never seen this flower before.

Flower Walk 2

Parting shot with narcissus. Hope you liked it!

Narrowed signature


Filed under Inspirations

Other People’s Flowers: A Springtime Photo Essay

It’s been a while since I’ve added to my posts and I thought I’d give you a visual essay today just because it’s a beautiful day and I want to share it with you.

News sources are replete with stories about our drought issue here in California. It’s indeed challenging and requires long-term solutions, but when we do get rainfall as we did yesterday, it’s so easy to forget how much water we need when we are gifted with a shower of water.

There’s no late afternoon adventure I love more than chasing flower photo ops in my neighbors’ yards after the clouds have lifted and the raindrops catch the light of a brightening sky. Just before sunset is the perfect moment.

Other People's Flowers

Droplets gather on an unfurling petal of a rosebud. We need to catch and save every drop!

Other People's Flowers

Love, love, love the many wonderful colors found in roses.

Other People's Flowers

My favorite neighborhood rose bush–if only my neighbor knew how many of my floral photos include her exquisite blossoms.  Don’t you just love the first blooms of the season?

Other People's Flowers

It’s difficult to mess up a straightforward rose portrait, I think the challenge is finding a new perspective on a blooming flower.

Other People's Flowers

This is actually from my yard: raindrops on a Purple Smoke Bush. The leaves looked like they were bedecked with crystals.

Other People's Flowers

May the sun shine on you today!

Narrowed signature


Filed under Inspirations

Setting Off on a New Blogging Adventure–Join Me!

Screen shot 2015-01-13 at 8.39.12 PM

Cherries: bright + shiny + colorful = suitable fare for a blog about chasing BSOz

Hello! Welcome to Chasing Bright Shiny Objects, a spot in the blogging universe where I can write about things that attract my attention be they animal, mineral, vegetable, or possibly edible. BTW: Chances are I’m not going to blog about astronomical matters as you might think by the title, although I may indulge if I fulfill my Milky-Way-gazing fantasy.

Baccarat Squirrel

A true BSO (bright shiny object)–a Baccarat crystal squirrel, sadly not mine, rather from a friend’s collection.

My blogging provenance is thus: I am a co-founder of the collaborative blog See How We Sew. After four years of writing about crafting and sewing matters, it is time for me to explore a wider of world of wonderful things, which is really a saner, and more affordable, way to satisfy my love for bright shiny objects.

I give you a head’s up, though; my sense of bright and shiny is broad. Colorful could easily slide in as well as interesting or absorbing, as in a compelling read. As for objects . . . there are infinite possibilities.

An easy way to keep track of new posts at Chasing Bright Shiny Objects is to click the Follow button in the sidebar. The posting frequency is yet to be determined, but it won’t be daily–after all, I’ve got cool things to track down!

My Twist on Shopping for BSOz

Just for today, cuz it’s an inaugural day at Chasing BSOz and I’m celebrating with frothy blogging fare, take a look at a recent “Wish List” I collected on my smartphone. I was out shopping for Christmas gifts and, so I would not distract myself, I collected photo reminders for later perusal. Mind you, my strategy is kind of like a tortuous diet plan which involves photographing delicious food without eating any of it.

From Anthropologie in Scottsdale, Arizona–and why did my local store not stock these wonders, I ask? Rather than succumb to the lure of the pillow, I confess I bought a pair of plates with the deer motif–not quite as satisfying, but perfect for gift giving. There are some lovely ideas here to be harvested like the scattered embroidery details and the “big stitch” quilting in the chair upholstery.

Screen shot 2015-01-21 at 8.54.35 PMAs it turns out, I already own a clear version of this rather fabulous pitcher purchased years ago at Crate & Barrel, but this gorgeous teal pitcher called to me with its bubbly glass, plus I’m fond of inky blue-greens right now.

Screen shot 2015-01-21 at 8.55.01 PMFrom Maison d’Etre in Oakland, California:  Ah, hand-hewn kitchenware and ceramics . . . these serving pieces exemplify a NorCal approach to dining aesthetics:  natural materials and artisan made. Gotta love the aqua-azure glaze on the bowls.

Screen shot 2015-01-21 at 8.56.07 PMThe store also stocks stellar table linens. This line of napkins and table cloths called to another aesthetic touch point for me: prismatic patterns. Mind you, I’d need a small bank loan in order acquire sufficient quantities of these items for easy entertaining, but I’m not averse to owning one bowl + one napkin just because they are so pretty. Breathe Jennifer, you photograph, you don’t succumb! Or better, you make something like a quilt with these appealing colors.

Screen shot 2015-01-21 at 8.55.54 PMWhat takes you from admiring something pretty to acquisition? Are you using new technologies and online resources like Pinterest and Houzz to stockpile your BSOz? Isn’t amazing how we can warehouse an abundance of ideas and inspiration, kind of like misers with hoards of treasure? What do we actually do with the wealth of ideas? Lots of rhetorical questions there; share your thoughts in Comments.

Until next time, I’d just like to say thank you for stopping by Chasing Bright Shiny Objects on launch day!

Narrowed signature






Filed under About, Inspirations