Beach-inspired shell, hemp, and bead bracelet.
Every time I end up at the beach I find my attention immediately focused at my feet, scanning the sand for the best bounty of the sea--interesting shells, sea glass, geodes, and bits of coral and pottery.  I am an intent beachcomber and always come home with my pockets full of sandy treasures.  I have jars full of shells and sea glass collected along beaches from Scotland to the Caribbean, and I can pretty much tell you where I found each and every piece.  I'm funny like that.
South Beach, Miami view of Ocean Drive
South Beach was insane last weekend--the 36th annual Art Deco Weekend was on and there was no parking and not much room to move around on the streets, or eve the beach! 

Everyone picked a spot and settled in...
Which was fine for a little while...
But with a view like that, and all that gorgeous turquoise water calling, who could sit still?!
Is there any better feeling than your feet buried in the sand? I doubt it!
I love walking barefoot along the beach, just inside the water line so the waves crash against your legs... it's so refreshing.  This weekend the water was cool and lovely, and the waves were brisk, a wonderful contrast to the sun's healing intensity beating down on my shoulders. 

There were people of every nationality and race all smiling, laughing, and playing like children, and it was a wonderful thing to walk along and drink it all in.  I find that I always feel like a child again when I'm barefoot walking along in the sand--it's okay to splash in the water, collect 'treasures', and chase seashells into the ocean as the tide pulls them back out on the currents.... pure bliss.
There were some wonderful finds...
And as usual I came home with a beach bag full of sand!

It would be so nice to capture that beach feeling and pull it out whenever I feel like it... so I pulled together a few simple materials and made a beach-inspired rustic shell bracelet.
This is so simple--if you have a few shell buttons lying around, you're pretty much set!  These snazzy pink shells are from a Canadian dollar store (my favorite!), the hemp rope is a fine to medium weight for jewelry-making, and the glass beads were from my (excessively vast) bead stash.  Really, this can be made from anything you have in your odds and ends of crafting supplies.
Essentially, the most important thing is to make sure you measure your wrist and figure out how many buttons it will take to create the bracelet (make it a bit loose so it is comfortable on your wrist!).
One strand of the hemp rope is fed through the buttons and beads, and it is knotted with the second strand of hemp rope to create a smooth line with the shell buttons laying nicely side-by-side.
The end loops are slipped over the button at the end of the opposite side of the bracelet, and it's almost unnoticeable when it is on your wrist!
A happy, sunny, colorful homage to a great day out!  And a reminder to be thankful for the joys in life--today in my hometown back in Canada the schools were cancelled due to the -39C temperature outside.  I guess I won't complain about it being a 'cool' 21C here today!
Are ye the ghosts of fallen leaves, O flakes of snow,
For which, through naked  trees, the winds A-mourning go?
~John Banister Tabb~
My Eternal Snowflake
It's a funny thing, winter.  I grew up in eastern Canada, where the winters were long and blisteringly cold.  The month of January seemed to linger on forever, a frigid expanse of snowy white hills rolling toward the horizon in all directions.  With the flurry of the Christmas holidays behind us, spring was the next thing to look forward to, and those months in between stretched endlessly in a sea of snowstorms, toboggans, hot chocolate, and wooly socks. 
Print from Katherine Ivey on Etsy
LL Bean--identical to my childhood sled!
The hot chocolate in my house was always made from a packet with hot water and a splash of milk... and a few mini marshmallows thrown in for good measure!
Dream wooly socks from Grieta at Etsy!
As an adult, obviously my perspective has changed on winter.  Playing outside in the warm air is not high on my list of priorities (although maybe it should be...), so January's childhood connotations are no longer relevant.  

Now I find myself in a place where snow is non-existent.  Southern Florida isn't exactly prone to snowstorms, ergo toboggans and wooly socks are of little use here.  The hot chocolate isn't really de rigeur either, except on the odd visit to Godiva when I feel the need for a bit of decadent indulgence.  (Is anyone else in love with their dark chocolate drink?  Wow.)

The strange thing?  I miss winter.  It is so easy to look back through memory and fantasize about cold winter mornings waking up to a foot of snow blanketing the landscape in a sparkling, tinkling calm.  Days when huge fluffy flakes would fall gently past the big window in the living room of my old house and my kitties would sit in the window for hours, fascinated by the moving white landscape. 

Of course, in all of these amplified memories I omit the fact that in order to be able to leave the house I had to put on three layers of clothing, a huge down-filled coat, double-knitted mittens, a wool hat, heavy boots, wool socks (over my other socks) and a scarf wrapped around my neck enough times to break the cutting wind.  The walkway had to be shovelled in order to get to the garage (luckily my 'winter guy' would have already gotten up at 4am to plough out the main driveway), and then there was the difficult manoeuvering out of the end of the driveway over the mess that the plough had made when it went by and cleared the road in front of the house.  The car had to be started and allowed to run for 15 minutes to warm up the engine because running it cold would destroy it.  At least half an hour extra (sometimes more) had to be allowed in the morning to be able to get to work on time, over roads that were slick with black ice and snow.  The power bills in the winter would be at least $300 more than they were during the other months, and I had to invest in a heated mattress pad and turn it on to maximum power every night before going to bed--old houses are beautiful but not particularly energy-efficient.

But, having said all that, I still miss winter.  All the negative things recede to the back of my memory and I find myself longing for a few days of glorious winter.  And that being the case, I find myself fixating on snowflakes and incorporating them into a variety of projects.
My Christmas cards this year
I learned a beading technique many years ago to make an adorable little snowflake--and I find myself returning to it again and again.  It can be made into such a variety of items that are both beautiful and useful.  I used to sell them as keychains, necklaces, and bracelets both on my Etsy shop and at local craft markets.  They were a huge hit, and I really enjoyed making them. 

They can be done with any color combination, and are very beautiful when there is a color variation to create a unique design within the snowflake.  In the past I have done a few with hearts worked into the center, and I think I may try to do a few again this year with Valentine's Day coming right up!

If anyone is interested in trying the beading pattern, this one is somewhat similar to mine, and there are great step-by-step instructions with diagrams to help you figure out the technique and bead placement.  It may take a few attempts to become familiar with the technique, but once you get the tension right, you will get the hang of it pretty quickly!

My Eternal Snowflake keychain
A midnight web version of the pattern.
I have also crocheted so many snowflakes in my lifetime--they are a great project and also make quick, lovely gifts!
Crocheted snowflake framed--now I can have my winter in Florida!
These hooked snowflakes are so easy to make!
I made a series of three of the above framed snowflakes and they were wonderful Christmas decor.  I used this pattern from Red Heart Yarn and substituted crochet cotton for the thicker yarn. 
A set of these little guys has graced my tree for the past 18 years! They went through the flood, but I salvaged them--I couldn't lose them, we had been through too many Christmases together!
Here we are--ten days into January. 

In Canada my family has experienced two snowstorms in the last ten days.  My Dad was out snowblowing the driveway this morning and Mum was telling me how cold it's been for the past several weeks as she has been trying to recuperate from a persistent winter virus.
Guess what I did this morning?  I put on jeans and a camisole, slid my feet into  sandals, donned a pair of sunglasses, and went on a neighborhood stroll with myfaithful companion  Charlie Rose.  The birds were singing, the sun was hot on my shoulders, and the  wind was flowing around us, rustling the heady fuschia blooms of the  bougainvillea that grows in profusion everywhere in our neighborhood.

The lesson?  Be thankful for the memories of winters past... and enjoy my  current lush, green, vibrant January. 

And keep making those snowflakes :-)

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