Good day good people, and thanks for joining me today. I write to you on a rainy summer's day, having been on a long weekend break in Amsterdam. It was raining when we left the UK and raining when we got back, and has done so steadily ever since. Oh, well, at least we got some Vitamin D, albeit for only a few days in Holland.
Amsterdam is built around a number of canals and although not the most beautiful place to visit like Paris or Vienna with their grand buildings, boulevards and parks, has a unique charm of it's own. I found the canal boats on which people had made their permanent homes extremely quaint and interesting. The city has become so overcrowded that people living on these permanently moored boats have built extensions, connected them to the mains for electricity, gas and more recently, the sewers, and have settled down to a life on water. They have built little gardens with pot plants and garden ornaments, and sit on deckchairs in their gardens seemingly oblivious of the tourists who gawp at them as they walk past.
The bicycle is ubiquitous in Amsterdam and one has to skip nimbly out of the way to escape the ignominy of being run over by one, and to avoid being sworn at in Double Dutch. Worn out bicycles are apparently recovered from the canals at a rate of fifty a day.
This is a combination of a bicycle, shopping trolley and stroller - I thought it was a joke contraption until I saw a woman riding one with a child strapped into the seat!
As the sun's warmth got stronger, people came out of the woodwork like roaches, shedding their clothes and lying on the banks of the canals and in the green spaces of the city.
We found ourselves in Amsterdam just as the Red Light District had put on a free Jazz Festival. The girls remained behind their glass windows, and the rest of us jived to the sounds of the trumpets and saxophones played on every street corner. We went from one street party to another, having a grand old time till the wee hours of the morning. This is a little video clip I shot using my new phone, I uploaded it to YouTube so that I could share it with you. I feel rather grand now that I have my own YouTube channel!!
The famous Bulldog Cafe, named after the owners dog, now deceased
We walked and walked until our little legs wouldn't carry us any further, stopped at kerbside cafes, and took taxis on to the next point we wanted to visit. We managed to cover a fair bit of ground in that way, spending as little as possible on taxis and had time to pursue our favourite activity - people watching, eavesdropping on snatches of conversation and making up stories about them. I bet the stories we made up were much more interesting than reality.
I hope you have enjoyed my little glimpse into Amsterdam - I'm sure you are wondering where the pictures of the Rembrandt museum and the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh museum are among others that are glaringly absent from this album - well, we got so carried away by the jazz that we spent a lot of time in the Red Light District, walking along the canals, and cafe hopping that we had no time to go to the museums on a three day visit. Perhaps we will go again, Amsterdam is only 55 minutes away from Birmingham airport. This is my fifth visit to Amsterdam over the years and each time I have discovered different delights - Mike however has never been and was simply entranced by the relaxed way of life along the waterways. Wilfred, our cat was certainly pleased to see us back so soon from our Adventure in Waterworld.
That's me for this week, folks. Take care of yourselves, and I'll catch you next week, same time, same place.
Hello readers, I hope you are well and looking forward to the onset of spring. Having spent the whole of February in warmer climes, my winter has been foreshortened and it is with delight that I find that the days are getting longer and it is no longer dark when I leave the hospital to drive back home.
When I got back home, the first thing I saw in the mountain of mail waiting for me was a copy of Bead and Jewellery magazine with a tutorial written by me in it. To my eternal surprise and possibly secret shame, I've turned into someone who loves flowers and makes them at every opportunity. I always associated a love of flowers with being rather girly and a bit soppy, neither adjective really being applicable to my persona. Who knew??
I took a short break from jewellery this week. Most of my time has been spent working at the day job and sleeping off the jet lag. However, since I've now come clean that I am a soppy girl at heart, I thought I'd show you some pictures I took in a wholesale flower market in Mysore, India.
This is the Dufferin Clock Tower, built in honour of the British Viceroy to India, Lord Dufferin who visited Mysore in 1886 at the invitation of the Maharaja. The clock tower stands in an open courtyard in front of the Devaraja market, which is a covered wholesale market for flowers and fruit.
My parents went to medical school in Mysore in the 50's. Whenever we visited Mysore as a young family, dad used to stop the car outside this market and nip out to buy my mother a jasmine flower garland to wear in her hair. I didn't really think anything of it then, but much later on realised that they were reliving the romance of their medical school years, when they were young and in love. Apparently dad used to buy her a foot long string of fragrant jasmine wrapped in a leaf to wear in her long black hair when he came a-courting. Not one to put her emotions on display, my mother used to unwrap the flowers and put them in her hair and say nothing, but I'll bet there was a lot said later on when we weren't around.
Devaraja Market was built over 100 years ago and is a wholesale market with rows of shops radiating from a central courtyard. The flowers there are sold by the bushel to make garlands for religious rituals, adornments for idols, and garlands at weddings for the bride and groom, who exchange them when they have tied the knot.
As I walked around the market, I realised that it services the 'religious industry', selling flower garlands and fruits and other items essential to the rituals practised in India.
When it is festival/ritual time, people buy flowers, fruit, joss sticks, camphor, dried coconut halves, banana leaves, coconuts, mango leaves, betel leaves and nuts as offerings to the Gods amongst other things (most of which are snaffled by the Brahmin priests who are brought in to intone the prayers deemed necessary for that particular festival - a kerching! bonanza time for them). The ladies buy new clothes, glass bangles to match, and flowers to wear in their hair.
All of these, apart from clothing are sold wholesale here. There isn't a long stemmed bloom in sight!
Here are some pictures for you to enjoy.
The main business takes place early in the morning - a siesta is essential by midday.
I hope you enjoyed my little wander around Devaraja Market. There was so much colour, and the flowers so fragrant, that I was overawed by the experience, and so were my friends Rekha and Arvind who only came along to humour me to begin with.
That's me for this week, folks. Have a fabulous week and I'll catch you next week, same time, same place.
Hello folks, it is lovely to catch up with you again. I feel as if I've been away from home forever, and there's yet another week to go before I get back to reality.
In the meantime, I scored a free holiday in Malaysia, the land of beautiful islands! I was meant to be spending a quiet week in my mothers house, minding my own business and relaxing after a hectic couple of weeks attending a wedding and my little show. All of a sudden, my sister in law offered me a holiday in Malaysia as her friend (who was meant to be travelling with her) had to drop out. The gift horse opened it's mouth, but I didn't look in. I clambered on and rode off into the sunset to Sepang! I can tell you, Mike was green with envy - not only had he stayed back in the UK in the cold of winter, he'd missed a trip into extreme sunshine as well. Them's the breaks, I'm afraid!
Our resort, The Avani was a short journey away from the airport and Kuala Lumpur. Villas built on stilts over the sea in a palm shaped formation were accessible by bicycle and electrically operated buggies. The Malaysian International Formula One Race track is in Sepang, but I wasn't too keen on visiting it, not being into motor sports. All I was looking for was a recharge of the old batteries, and a bit of sightseeing. Sepang was once all palm oil plantation, with the odd mangrove swamp thrown in. To me, mangrove swamp = mosquitoes and I was well prepared with my trusty tubes of insect repellent, bought in India. I never go anywhere without a tube in my handbag as I hate being bitten by the little critters.
The resort had a beautiful infinity pool and views of the sunset, and the best spa ever - I fell asleep during a rose salt scrub and oil massage that lasted an hour and a half and wanted to demand my money back as I felt that I had missed most of it!
We hit Kuala Lumpur the next day, wandered around the malls, took a purple bus to China Town and got dreadfully lost, but managed to find our way back, went looking for a supposedly fabulous Chinese temple, found that one closed, but an Indian one was open across the road so we went into it instead to soak up some colour.
We kept asking people for the way to the Chinese temple, but they took one look at us and directed us to the Hindu temple instead. Coming from India, we reckoned we could find ourselves an Indian temple any old time and were keen to see something outside our culture, but fell victims to stereotyping and ended up missing Guan Ti which closed it's doors just as we finally got the locals to understand that we did not want a Hindu temple, thank you very much!
While the others hit the shops, I people watched and took these photographs of a lady in a burkha receiving make up lessons without taking her headgear off. If I hadn't actually watched it, I wouldn't have believed it!
We spent a night in Kuala Lumpur taking in the sights after dark, eating at Atmosphere 360, a revolving restaurant at the top of KL Towers. The main sight was the Petronas building, comprising two identical towers with 93 floors each and a skybridge on the 41st and 42nd foor.
I thought it was too warm and humid to wear jewellery, but as you can see, my sister in law had no such qualms, and wore Caprilicious.
Another day resting by the seaside and it was time to end the beautiful reverie. Back home we flew, squeezed into a tin can like over sized sardines - please remind me, never AirAsia again. To be comfortable on that flight we'd have had to be about three feet tall.
I have another whirlwind of a week left before me. It is always this way - everyone waits till the very last minute to invite me round for a meal and then I end up eating for England and have to wear leggings on the flight back as I am usually too fat to be comfortable in my jeans. Anyway, Slimming World and the rigours of the working week await me, so I shall no doubt get back into those jeans pretty quickly.
That's me for this week folks, I ought to be back in the UK next Friday so will catch up with you some time over the weekend. Have a wonderful week
Hello readers, happy 2017 to you in this my first post in January. I hope you are all ready for what promises to be a challenging year. New Year's Eve for Mike and I was a long weekend in Rome, eating lentils at the stroke of midnight to bring us good luck and loadsa money while watching the fireworks. Seeing a country through the eyes of the locals is a completely different experience from being a tourist and is so much more fun. We went to the supermarket, coffee shops and trattorias, a garden centre and wandered around the shops in EUR. We went to a few places which are off the beaten track in Rome and bombed around in a white knuckle ride with our friend driving with a manic cackle, shaking her fist, papping her horn and cheerfully swearing at the truck drivers in colourful Italian.
Fifteen minutes away from the centre of Rome is the Quartiere Coppede - I'd seen pictures of it and asked if we could go there. Gino Coppede, a Florentian architect built extensively there - his motto certainly must have been 'more is more'. This area is also known as the Art Nouveau district and it begins where a massive arch connects two apartment buildings with an iron chandelier hanging from the middle of it.
Other unusual ornaments on the apartment buildings were giant bees, lions' heads and standing figures perched above windows and under balconies. Fading frescoes and Latin inscriptions added to the abundant decoration in a combination of Byzantine, medieval and classical styles, with a dash of Art Deco and a flourish of the ornamental Floreale style, from the 19th-century Liberty period. Mosaic-tiled archways, intricate brickwork, turrets, towers and loggias were juxtaposed on buildings three to six stories high. Even the chimneys were decorated and embellished to within an inch of their lives and I went berserk with my camera, clicking away happily.
And then on to Trastevere for a cappucino and a bite to eat.
Of course we did the Centro Storica and Mike had the obligatory photograph on the Spanish Steps and by the Fontana Trevi. I went to Beny, a shoe shop I discovered during my last trip and checked out all their fabulous shoes.
Shoes, glorious shoes!
It would be rude not to, wouldn't it?
It was soon time to pack up and come back home - Monarch lost our suitcase and I'm still waiting for news of it four days down the line!
I got home and went straight to my kiln where there was a little flower I made before I left home, waiting patiently for me to dig it out of the carbon I had fired it in. I cleaned it up and as I had no bags to unpack or clothes to sort out or put away, I had the time to make a little necklace with my flower which resembled a hollyhock while I caught up with the TV programmes recorded on the TIVO box.
Aren't the vapour coated druzy beads beautiful? I made the copper clasp using a design by Nicole Hanna, and the little butterfly wing dangle from polymer clay and resin. I do love making as many of my components as possible.
When I got back home, I found an email telling me that I had a tutorial published in Artisan Jewellery Times, an online digital magazine based in the USA. That was such a nice beginning to my year!
That's me for this week folks, have a fabulous week, and I'll catch you next Friday, same time, same place.
Hello good people, thanks for looking out for this weeks blog - a couple of people have already written in to me asking me why this post is delayed. I did say last week that I'd be a bit late. I apologise for this but I only got back home late last night from Florence.
We had a really great time there walking around the historic centre, and took a couple of trips to Sienna and San Gimignano, Pisa and the Cinque Terre. We tried out Italian public transport and took trains, and even a bus up to Fiesole which sits high up in the hills above Florence, just to get a view of the city and a look at the famous Roman ruins there. I took loads and loads of pictures and here are a few of them, just for you.
We stayed at the Helvetia Bristol which is a stones throw from the Piazza Della Republica - everyone goes to this Piazza at some time during their stay in Florence. It was once a fish market, but is now a delightful square, with cafes surrounding it where one can while away an hour or two watching all the stylish people go by, nursing a beer or a Coke Zero. The Via Tornabuoni with a whole load of posh shops is just behind the hotel, but I didn't waste any time shopping there as I am not that way inclined. I prefer to spend my money on artisan made one off clothes and jewellery, in an attempt to be a bit more individualistic.
As I said, we walked everywhere as taxis in this city cannot be flagged down ( one needs to phone for them) and most of the centre is pedestrianised anyway. I didn't really mind, as it gave me an excuse to eat all the gelato I could manage, without putting on any weight. Italian food is fabulous, but I am always anxious about the calorie intake with all those carbohydrates in the pasta, olive oil and cheese.
One of the typical Tuscan dishes I was served up by some Italian friends was pate made from spleen and fried wild boar lard.
Hmm! at this point I gave up and went straight for a gelato at every meal. If I was going to get a squilion calories down my neck, I preferred to eat them in a form I fancied!
Our Italian friends took us to Sienna and San Gimignano for the day and a wonderful detour along the way taking in little Italian villages in the hills and Chianti Classico vineyards.
We walked around the city and everywhere we went we could see the Duomo of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. The Piazza on which the Duomo stands is huge with many tiny streets running off it like spokes of a wheel. Consequently, if we took two left turns from anywhere we went, the Duomo loomed up at us in the distance almost like a malevolent presence - we just couldn't get away from it!
Much is made of the beauty of the cathedral - it was begun in the twelfth century and finished in the 19th - the final architect appeared to be someone who liked wedding cake decoration and to my eyes, it seemed like someone had vomited marzipan and fondant icing crenellations all over the front of the cathedral. I much preferred the simpler sides and back of the building.
We went to Pisa to see the leaning tower - I can't see why it leans so much when every tourist seems to try and push it upright a bit. It does lean rather a lot, though - I refused to go inside it in case it came tumbling down.
And then on another train to the Cinque Terre or 'Five Lands' - beautiful coastal villages that have no roads - one needs to walk/ take a train or go there by boat. Hordes of tourists descend on these supposedly 'unspoilt' villages every summer. The Adriatic sea was a clear blue (although we could clearly see the sewage pipe that took effluent far out into the sea - can you tell that I didn't swim from the tone of this parenthesis?) and loads of people were deep sea diving and swimming.
While I was in Florence, I saw loads of jewellery and picked up a few ideas - for the first time I actually wrote them down in a book and am keen to get to work to put my inspirations into action. I went into a lot of artisan studios in the Oltrarno district, and I would imagine that in the coming weeks I will be making a few bits and bobs inspired by my holiday in Florence.
That's me for this week folks. Apologies once again for being a bit late with this post, I'll be back on Friday, usual time, same place.
Hello readers, I'm back home in the UK after an eighteen hour journey from India, including a four hour stopover in Dubai. A stinking head cold, a sore throat, and jet lag have turned my brain into mush. Yet, I feel this strange compulsion to talk to you - I've got this blog is well and truly under my skin.
So, what shall I tell you about? I've already talked about the show and the pre show viewing at mum's place. Here are a few more pictures.
I lost a load of my usual friends and clients to coughs and colds and travels, but new ones soon took their place. Sheela, Rachel and Aishwarya came to help and stayed as long as they could to help show the jewellery off. And then, all of a sudden, it was done and the rest of the holiday loomed before me.
After a few days of resting up, I flew to Jaipur. I've always wanted to visit the land where semi precious stones are cut and polished, and silver wholesalers supply the rest of India. Having been let down by my sister who was meant to be accompanying me but had other fish to fry (or is that other cakes to bake??) I went on my own, armed with gen from my friend Rashanta. My mother was terrified, but didn't dare say a word - she must have kept her fingers crossed all the time I was away.
I stayed at the comfortable family run Umaid Mahal, and tramped around the wholesale jewellery bazaar for a couple of days until I found what I was looking for and even made some new friends to go sightseeing with.
I met the lovely Mark Hampshire, an energy therapist from Drumkeeghan, Donegal Town, who helped while away the time during the long evenings and dinners in the hotel terrace restaurant.
That's me for this week folks. I'm off to get my head down and hopefully will be fit to go to work on Monday. I have yet to unpack all the stuff I bought in Jaipur. While we were sat in the airport waiting for our flights, I said to Mark, my energy therapist friend, 'let me show you my booty from the jewellery stores' and he looked at me quizzically. 'Booty has another meaning these days', he said - I hope he didn't think I was about to show him my bottom - that would certainly have been a shock to his system!
I will show you my booty next week when I've had time to take some pictures- and I absolutely do not mean my bottom! Have a great week and I'll catch you next week, same time, same place
Bonjour Mesdames et messieurs, thank you for joining me today. Mike and I have just got back from our end-of-summer holiday in the South of France, stocking up on some Vitamin D before winter hits us in the face like a wet kipper.
We stayed at the weirdest and most wonderful place - Le Negresco in Nice. The Negresco is one of the last singly owned luxury hotels in the world - it is owned by a nonagenarian, Madame Augier, now confined to her room through ill health.
She has treated it like her home and the decor reflects this - she has filled it with eclectic objects which at times have no connection with one another - extremely modern sculptures such as a 'Nana' by Niki Saint Phalle coexisting peacefully under a Baccarat chandelier made originally for Tsar Nicholas, in a cupola designed by Gustave Eiffel.
Here's another Saint Phalle statue, this time of jazz trumpeter Miles Davis at the entrance to Le Negresco.
I was right at home there, as I like mixing things up without a thought or care for their origins or provenance - at the Negresco, everything is a work of art and one can find a sculpture made from metal parts from a car, living cheek by jowl with a painting by Salvador Dali.
The look was a bit difficult to get used to to start with - it felt a bit like someone had hired an interior designer to do up their house, and then, when the last painter/decorator/designer had left, scattered their own belongings about the place to make it feel like home.
The cupola of the ball room from inside and out, designed by Gustave Eiffel.
Just outside the hotel was the Promenade Des Anglais, where we spent time people watching, eating gelatos and drinking in the sea air. The beach looked mighty uncomfortable and we didn't bother with it - the pebbles were just a bit more than we wished to contend with.
We travelled out, taking trains and coaches into Villefranche Sur Mer, St Paul De Vence, Gourdon, Tourette which were within easy reach of Nice and of course we had to visit Monte Carlo, Cannes, Juan les Pins, Antibes and Cap Ferrat, just to see how the other half live, for a tiny millisecond.
As you can see, my camera was working overtime - and this is as far as I managed to get with the post production editing. Once this is all done, I can quite easily post a link here to the rest of the pictures on Facebook, for those of you who feel like a browse. In the meantime, have a fabulous weekend, and I will find you next Friday, at the usual time, same place
I'm Neena Shilvock, and I'm crazily addicted to jewellery. I've been designing and making quirky and interesting statement necklaces for the last five years and my passion hasn't cooled off one little bit - in fact it has got worse, such that I'm even dreaming jewellery.
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I would love to hear from you - please leave a comment on the blog or send an email to jewellerybycaprilicious(at)gmail.com
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