December 15, 2014

Thanksgiving across the deserts

Over Thanksgiving break, we traveled to Borrego Springs, CA. (Some relatives live there, and others also traveled to gather there.) On our travels we saw a lot of different land, much of which none of us had seen before. We dropped down into the lower land of Arizona (part of the Sonoran Desert), crossed the Colorado River, drove past rough rocky hills and sand dunes (so many people at the dunes for off-road recreation!), through the Imperial Valley (which with it's heavily-irrigated agriculture, smelled like moldy wet dirt), and finally arrived in the Anza-Borrego Desert. On our way back home, we went by the Salton Sea and made a quick stop at the General Patton Museum. The Anza-Borrego Desert, which is a low desert east of San Diego, holds various interesting things to visit such as Palm Canyon (a true natural desert oasis), The Slot (a deep and narrow wash), and we spent the better part of one day just driving on unpaved roads to see the impressive quantity of metal sculptures by Ricardo Breceda that are installed all over the desert. My favorites of course were the horses, the kids liked the dinosaurs, and there were also elephants, huge eagles, and more.

This was the longest trip (in duration and distance) we had been on since moving to Prescott, AZ. While the trip was good and I enjoyed the company of relatives, I have to say there really is no place like home. By the time we drove around Granite Mountain (which we can see from our neighborhood), it felt like we had been gone forever and I was so happy to be back home.

Arizona - I like these small mountain ranges in the lowlands

Imperial (AKA Algodones) Sand Dunes, California

assorted cactus - Anza-Borrego Desert, California

afternoon in Anza-Borrego Desert (haze is stirred-up dust in the valley)

Breceda metal horse sculptures

back home in time to see our willow turn glowing gold

November 10, 2014

books: reading to my boys

My boys still like to have me read to them in the evening, and I still enjoy it. I'm sure someday they will decide they are "too old" for that, but recent studies support reading to even these older kids (they are 11 and 13), so I'm going to make the most of it! Here is an update of the books we have enjoyed since my last post on books. (yes, it has been a while, so the list is long!)

Through Forest and Stream by Duane Yarnell: Outdoor adventures of young men at a camp in the mountains competing in a contest. Another great vintage book. Two thumbs up, and it has a fun ending!

The Island Stallion by Walter Farley: I got the kids to let me try this book from the Black Stallion series (I still have the entire series in paperback from my childhood). Told them they'd like it, with all the adventure/exploration of the island. They did. Then we read The Island Stallion's Fury, which takes place back on the island, but was more violent than I remembered and honestly we could have stopped at the first Island Stallion book.

The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene Du Bois: Andrew had read this in fifth grade. He said we'd like it, and we did. The journey and all the quirky things he discovered on the island were fun to read about. Since then, Steven read it in school for sixth grade this fall.

Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare: Steven read this in fourth grade. He said we'd like it, and we did. Great outdoor adventure/survival story about a boy who is left to fend for himself at the cabin he built with his dad, while his dad travels to bring the rest of their family to their new home. He is helped by a native American boy and his family. Another two thumbs up.

Dive trilogy by Gordon Korman: Got the middle book so we could complete this (we had read #1 a while back). Overall okay story (especially liked the historical connection the teens discovered for a man they had met). I have to admit by the end of the trilogy, more than one of us had nightmares about being underwater.

Everest trilogy by Gordon Korman: Definitely our favorite of the three Gordon Korman trilogies we've read. Follows a group of teens (and all their drama) through a contest to be on an Everest team, and their eventual climb on Everest. Everest is brutal, and this is a great way to experience the adventure without the risk.

Fury Stallion of Broken Wheel Ranch by Albert G. Miller: A classic horse book I hadn't read as a kid. I was glad to read it now, it was a good story about a boy, a wild horse, and a good-hearted rancher. A great read. I discovered there are sequels, I might try to hunt those down.

Cryptid Hunters and Tentacles by Roland Smith: I had picked these up at a garage sale before we moved to Arizona, but we were a bit intimidated by their length (300+ pages each). Good modern youth adventure/action/mystery books that didn't feel as long as they were, they actually read at a good pace. I plan to eventually get the other sequels, trying to decide if we want to also pursue the other series by this author that will tie into the last book.

Life Behind the Wall trilogy by Robert Elmer: Picked this up at a Christian bookstore this summer, just read it this fall (finished last week). I like that this trilogy is published in one huge paperback. Historical fiction about teens living in Berlin at different times in history; starting just before the Berlin Wall went up, and finishing with it coming down. I admit at times it was a bit depressing to read how the people were so deprived and oppressed, knowing this stuff really happened, but it was overall a good read. The teens' determination to act against the wrongs is inspiring, and it is very satisfying how the early stories all come together in the final one.

October 6, 2014

feels like fall

fall leaves in silver and crystal
Suddenly it feels like fall. The sunlight is different. Last week, for the first time in many months, we had a few days that were actually cooler outside than inside. We still have some hot days left, and maybe a few more thunderstorms, but for the most part summer and monsoon season are giving way to autumn. Ah, my favorite time of year! But here, almost any time of year could be my favorite.

Speaking of fall, I have some fall leaves jewelry in my Etsy shop. I love working with the images of real leaves I collected when we lived in Oregon. I often pair the silver with fall-color crystals or natural stone beads, as seen in the examples here.

fall leaves earrings handmade in .999 Fine Silver, with Amber beads

fall leaf pendant with Swarovski crystal (matches earrings at top)

September 15, 2014

monsoon season

thunderhead forming
This is my second monsoon season in Arizona, and I think this one has been much wetter than last year (which around here is a good thing). It raised one of our local lakes by many feet, completely covering all the old water lines we have been able to see ever since we moved here. It is a superior alternative to the long, dark, rainy Northwest winters I was used to. I like the rain, and the thunderstorms are fantastic (something I never thought I'd say, I was scared terrified of the few little thunderstorms we had when I was growing up). And as a bonus, I get to look forward to a cool but sunny winter. A win-win!

During monsoon season, the clouds don't move in from somewhere else, they form here, before your very eyes if you're outside long enough. They create skies that may be gray, but are beautiful in their own way. But don't think the whole season is cloudy; it alternates between this and hot sunny days, which makes for a good variety.

first day of real monsoon clouds this year

monsoon season sky at sunset

another monsoon season sky at sunset

Steven playing in the rain (I joined him after this photo)

August 25, 2014

painting sneak peek

First, I just had to share the photo at left, which captures the temporary green we do get here in Prescott after monsoon season is well underway! The trees leaf out green in the spring of course, but the grass doesn't turn green until August. So different from what I'm used to, but I love it.

Early this summer, I took an inventory of my (very old) paint and such, and placed an order so I could finally get back to painting. It has been far too long since I did an actual painting on canvas, and I didn't want to wait any longer! I have done other types of painting projects in recent years, but painting pictures on canvas is entirely different and probably my favorite art form. You may recall I did some mini watercolor paintings a few summers ago, which you can see here, here, and here, which was a great way to stay connected to painting that year.

I picked out some photos I have taken of scenery around Arizona, and the first I chose to paint is a view from Route 66 in some open land between Seligman and Peach Springs from our road trip last fall (it's not based on the photos I shared in the blog post, it will be something new for you to see). I am working my way down on the canvas, here is a sneak peek at it, showing the sky and distant ridges. The full canvas is 18 x 24 inches. You'll have to wait for a future post to see the rest as it progresses!

work in progress: partial painting by Jennifer Kistler

It is slow going, and now I am waiting for another order that includes a special palette that should keep my paints wet a lot better. I love working in acrylics, but even when sprayed with water daily, my paints (including mixed colors I want to continue using in more painting sessions) just don't stay wet in my old butcher tray palette under plastic wrap. Even in monsoon season it is just too dry here! (maybe it's the altitude?) So I'm looking forward to less frustration with that. I am really enjoying painting again, and can't wait to share the finished piece!

August 20, 2014

the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon, Arizona
Welcome back! After taking a break from my blog this summer, I am looking forward to sharing some photos and art in the coming weeks. My boys are back in school and I am returning to the school year routine around here.

The last Friday before school started, we decided to drive up to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. It was stunning, vast, and everything I expected it to be. It is so big it's hard to even comprehend what you're looking at. The layers of rock were intriguing. While we spent far more time on the buses than I would have preferred (we did the long route to the west), we were able to get out and see the Canyon from several viewpoints. We visited in the middle of a gorgeous sunny day (with some scattered clouds that occasionally created interesting shadows), which was pleasant but did wash out the view some. So I know these aren't the most spectacular photos of the Grand Canyon, but they are mine! (all but the small one and the elk photo were taken with my DSLR camera, no editing except to crop and resize.)

On our way back, we ate dinner in the historic Route 66 town of Williams, so I can add that to my list of Route 66 places visited, cool! We ate in a vintage car-themed diner, and then browsed the gift shop next door where I found a Grand Canyon photo plate for the front of my truck (now that we live in Arizona where cars only have rear plates, it was an empty spot, and I finally found something I wanted to put there).

The Grand Canyon (south rim)

we saw several young elk along the road south of the Grand Canyon

March 18, 2014

goodbye winter, welcome spring

early spring blossoms
Here in Prescott, Arizona we seem to have had an unusually mild and short winter. Which really was disappointing, though I wouldn't trade it for what much of the country has suffered (my sympathies to you all!). When it snowed in early December, we spent a mind-numbing amount of time in the CAL Ranch store for the boys to pick out good snow boots. No cold uninsulated rain boots for them this winter, they were going to play in the multiple snows we expected in comfort! And then... They never came. All I can say is, I hope we bought the boots big enough that they will fit next winter.

Since my last post, I have been busy with stuff like taking care of sick kiddos (for a total of two weeks between them, ugh), then guiding them through multiple large school projects, attending their science fair and then heritage day, and trying to wind down over Spring Break. Never have we needed Spring Break so badly as we did this year!

dramatic sky just before our only real spring rain so far

same time as photo above, looking another direction

on Aspen Creek Trail, love the tall trees up there!

February 18, 2014

now open: minimalist gemstone jewelry shop

Kingman Turquoise Earrings
My new Etsy shop is now open! I have a bunch more items partly finished, awaiting more chain and other supplies. I would like to build up a good inventory in this shop, but don't let that stop you from checking it out now! There is a variety of stones featured already. Included are some pieces made from Kingman Arizona Turquoise, along with Ocean Jasper, Kyanite, and rare Larimar.

My new shop is called Granite Mountain Gems. When I opened another Etsy shop, I wanted it to have a name that related to where we live now. Granite Mountain is a prominent mountain near Prescott, like a rugged yet majestic sentinel standing watch over the area. We can see it from our neighborhood (from our neighbor's driveway, in fact, just not from our own house). I think the name relates well to the stone-centric nature of this line of jewelry.

As you browse, please note that chain necklaces and chain dangle earrings can be shortened if you wish, the descriptions have more information. Necklaces are made to hang about nine inches (on each side) from the clasp in back, around to the front where the stone (or multiple-stone bar) are attached. The set length of chain and differing lengths of wire that the stone(s) are on lead to the varying total lengths of the necklaces listed. They can be shortened to hang closer to, or at, your collarbone. Swingy chain dangle earrings can also be shortened, I have chosen a second length (listed in the description) that would shorten them significantly but still be a pleasing design. Necklace length choices are given as size options when buying. If you wish chain dangle earrings to be shortened, just let me know in "note to seller" when buying and they will be shortened to the alternate length given in the description (I thought it would be weird to offer different earring lengths as size options, but maybe not?).

Here's a screen shot of my shop from last week as I was setting it up:

February 14, 2014

treasury on etsy: thank you for the promises

My latest treasury on Etsy. The inspiration piece was the Guitar Song image, which made me think of Gordon Lightfoot's music (I was a fan growing up, and still like his songs that I liked then). Check out this collection of great items from Etsy sellers!

Thank You For The Promises:

February 3, 2014

sneak preview of new minimalist gemstone jewelry

Kingman Arizona Turquoise chain dangle simple minimalist earrings by Jennifer Kistler
Kingman Turquoise dangle earrings
Exciting news! In addition to jewelry featuring my designs handmade in silver, I am developing a line of minimalist jewelry that showcases beautiful gemstones, from the earthy to the elegant. Items include earrings and necklaces, and price range will be about $30-45.

The main focus is Kingman Arizona Turquoise (which I have purchased in-person directly from the cutter/processor in Kingman) in all its gorgeous variations, but I adore so many stones, I couldn't stop there! So far, all pieces are created with Sterling Silver, but I may expand into Gold-Fill (higher quality than Gold Plate, but still affordable).

I am working on a brand new Etsy shop for this collection, and I have lots of photographs to take before I can open it, but stay tuned... I will post the new shop here and on Facebook as soon as it is open!

new minimalist gemstone jewelry by Jennifer Kistler earrings and necklaces in sterling silver
sneak peek at some of my new minimalist gemstone jewelry

minimalist jewerly gemstones shown in photo: Arizona Turquoise, Lapis Lazuli, Ocean Jasper, Fancy Jasper, Aquamarine, Larimar
stones shown: Kingman Turquoise, Lapis Lazuli, Ocean Jasper, Larimar, more

January 31, 2014

heart jewelry 2014

woodgrain heart on natural leather
It's that time of year... Hearts! I have a selection of heart necklaces and earrings in my Etsy shop, in several different styles, for you to browse. This post features a couple of newer necklaces that have been added. Both are my hand-textured woodgrain style, one is even more unique in that it has been hammered on top of the woodgrain texture so it sparkles in the light, and oxidized to bring out the texture. These two hang sideways from leather cords (available in a selection of neutral colors). Click images to see the listing details.

If you are looking for an elegant, simple crystal adornment to wear on that special Valentine's Date, take a look at the Romance section of my shop.

oxidized woodgrain/hammered texture heart pendant necklace

woodgrain/hammered texture heart pendant necklace in different light

woodgrain bright silver heart pendant necklace

a necklace from the Romance collection (other colors available)

heart earrings with Swarovski crystal dangles (other colors available)

treasuries on etsy: two adventures

I recently put together two treasuries on Etsy, both with an outdoor adventure theme (quite by accident!). Check out these collections of great items from Etsy sellers!

An Artful Adventure:

A Northern Adventure:

A Northern Adventure, treasury by Jennifer Kistler on Etsy

January 10, 2014

treasury on etsy: earthy love

Earthy Love, my latest treasury on Etsy. I enjoy putting together treasuries (a curated collection of items available on Etsy), but haven't made any in a long time. Check it out!

Earthy Love a treasury by Jennifer Kistler on

January 6, 2014

route 66 & local turquoise

Kingman Turquoise
During the kids' Fall Break last October, we had originally planned to visit the Grand Canyon. Due to the government shut-down affecting national parks, we had a change of plans. My parents took the boys and I on a short road trip to see some of Route 66. Since we live in that part of the country now, it sounded interesting. We headed up from Prescott, and our first stop was Ash Fork. We continued on I-40 to Seligman, and took Route 66 from there.

We stopped the first day in Kingman. Suddenly I realized I hadn't thought ahead of time to find out if there were any stores selling the local Kingman Turquoise. (how could I have missed that?!) I had just gotten a smart phone for an early birthday present, so I put it to use with the motel's free wi-fi. We ended up at the showroom of Colbaugh Processing, which makes cabochons and beads from the local Turquoise. I was awed by the variety of material that comes from the local mine, and had a hard time picking just a few strands to bring home. (my favorites were "New Boulder" which has vibrant turquoise color with lots of earthy brown matrix, and "High Blue" which is very intense blue with some brown matrix, both shown in first photo, above left.) Their Kingman Turquoise is stabilized only (as all Turquoise needs to be for durability), not dyed. I decided right then that once I use up all the Turquoise I have, I will probably only buy directly from them. (a return trip is expected, whenever I have more funds to seriously stock up!)

a wall of Arizona Turquoise! (Colbaugh Processing)

Their gravel parking lot is littered with scraps from the processing, and they gladly hand out bags to kids of customers to gather some up. My boys love rocks and had a great time doing that while I shopped. After that, we drove farther out and went by Mineral Park mine which is where the Kingman Turquoise comes from, and visited the little old mining town of Chloride.

rock hunting for Turquoise scraps in the parking lot

The next day, we left Kingman on Route 66 to Oatman, a little old mining town with burros that roam freely. Then it was out toward the Colorado River and onto I-40 again for a bit. We stopped to see the London Bridge at Lake Havasu City. Then we drove through some very drab land, and then some stereotypical Arizona desert with lots of Saguaro cactus, to get to Wickenburg where we spent the second night. The next day we went to a small plane and car show at their airport, where the boys got to sit in one of the flight training planes from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (which happens to be right next to our neighborhood). We also visited the western museums, lots of cowboy stuff there. Then we headed back home through Yarnell (and saw the damage from the fire earlier this year), and up through the area where the Doce Fire started below Granite Mountain on our way into Prescott.

It is fascinating to see more of the region where we live now. In addition to enjoying the historical sights, I was also continually amazed by how many mountains there are in Arizona. Lots of flat valley land between, but so many hills and mountains (in this part, anyway). It was a beautiful time to tour Arizona, everything was about as green as it would be because it was not long after monsoon season (except the grasses had already turned golden again).

Watch for new jewelry pieces featuring the Turquoise I bought in Kingman! (those pieces will be clearly described as such.)

old cars in Ash Fork

Route 66 outside Seligman

Route 66 between Kingman and Oatman

Route 66 almost to Oatman

burros roaming the main street of Oatman