Saturday, August 25, 2012

Goodnight Moon….

Did you wink at the moon tonight?  That’s what the news agencies are asking this evening.  America lost a very special hero today…someone who has done the unthinkable…accomplished a quest that will never be replicated.  Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon, left us today at 82.  An humble man, he shied away from cameras, saying his accomplishment was one of thousands, not just of his own.  
Seriously, think of all you’ve accomplished.  All you could hope to accomplish in your lifetime…
However, where do you go once you’ve walked on the moon?  What do you strive for after that?  What do you aspire to?  Not to mention…where will we go from there.  How to be Neil Armstrong after that moment?  Think about it…

Space exploration is a drive that will always be near and dear to me.  I’ve always been fascinated by the heavens, its constellations, the planets and the orbit of the sun. My father worked for years at NASA, his last mission being the Challenger explosion (granted, he didn’t actually work on that mission as he’d just tendered his resignation…you can’t work on a mission once you’ve resigned), but as kids, we always loved when he’d come home with the shuttle’s flight maps and the official NASA patches for each mission which were sewed to the astronauts uniforms.

My husband went out tonight to run an errand.  When he returned, he said, “I winked at the moon tonight.  Did you?”  It took me a minute, though we watched all of today’s news coverage, then he reminded me that tonight is a night to pay tribute to moon.  So, we went outside, enjoyed an uncharacteristically comfortable evening for an August night in Austin, and just sat to admire the moon.  Of course, I had to bring the camera out.  My hands are terribly shaky…as always…and my tripod is broken.  Nonetheless, I’ve included a somewhat blurry shot of Neil Armstrong’s moon, taken the night of his passing.  It had to be tonight’s moon…any other just wouldn’t be the same.
So, in the realm of space exploration, where do we go from here?   Space station, check…but we can’t get there on our own.  Space shuttle, expired.  Where do we venture next?  Our society has always been fascinated by the heavens.   Some 500 years before our time, Shakespeare wrote, on Juliet’s behalf:
“O, swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon,
That monthly changes in her circled orb,
Lest that thy love prove likewise variable.”

Let’s hope as a nation, our love of space is not variable, as Juliet warned love should not be.  Our fascination with this orbiting mass that eluded us for centuries was realized by Mr. Armstrong in a way none of us could imagine.  But our love of the moon, the inconstant moon, has never changed.  It’s guided sailors, lit night skies and been the inspiration for many a romantic evening.  The moon has, in many ways, been our guiding light.  So how do we pay tribute to the beauty of our nearest celestial neighbor and the man who brought us a little closer to her?  Go outside…take a bottle of wine…think of nothing, but sit and watch the moon in her path.  Realize that aside from all of the amazing feats we’ve performed on earth, through our advancement, men have actually set foot on her surface, planted a flag and swung a golf club (yes...they did...).  Sit and look at the moon.  Imagine how far away it is, yet how close it is as well due to the efforts of our space program.  Only a select few in our lifetime will ever say they set foot on her surface, but never take for granted that we made it that far as a nation…and always look ahead.

R.I.P.  Neil Armstrong…and Godspeed.  I can only hope where you find yourself now is more magnificent than you ever experienced in your lifetime on earth…and on the surface of the moon, from which you gazed afar upon the planet we all call home.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Peridot – August’s Birthstone from the Heavens

If peridot were to have a flavor, I’m sure it would taste like apple Jolly Ranchers!  Granted, I don’t eat candy, but it’s a distinct taste I remember from childhood.  They were my favorite.  

Large gold peridot hoop earrings
Peridot Hoops by Amy Holton Designs
Peridot is unique to the gem world because they are one of the very few gemstones that occur naturally in an olive-green color.  Ranging in color from brownish-green to greenish-yellow, peridot is highly coveted for its range of colors.  The different shades of green are determined by the varying levels of iron present in the stone.  Further increasing the gem’s desirability is its transparency.  Peridot can catch the light even in the dimmest surroundings and has thus been nicknamed “the evening emerald.”

Peridot pairs beautifully with a rainbow of gemstones - Necklace by Amy Holton Designs
Peridot was originally discovered on the island of Zabargad in the Red Sea.  However, peridot production has ceased in this location.  Today, peridot is most commonly found in Myanmar, Pakistan, Norway and the United States, particularly in Arizona.   While most peridot is found in the deposits of lava rock, the very rarest form of this gemstone does indeed, come from the heavens.  Peridot can also be found in meteorites, making it the only matter from outer space that can be used as a gemstone.  Meteorites containing peridot, called pallasites, are iron-rich and the origins of the heavenly stones are completely unknown, adding to the mystery of this unique and vibrant gem.

Peridot clasp from necklace shown below
Peridot has been used throughout history.  It has been found in priests’ jewelry dating back to the second century BC.  Later it was used to adorn medieval Europe’s chalices and churches.  Mythical lore indicates that peridot was thought to offer protection to its owner, shielding the possessor from evil spirits and “terrors of the night.”  It has also been important to the Apaches as a revenue source due to the high quantities available in Arizona.
Custom order amethyst and peridot flower necklace

Peridot has a hardness rating of 6.5-7 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, indicating it is not a very hard gemstone and can’t take a beating.  Therefore, it is not recommended for rings that will be worn on a daily basis.  Acids and long-term exposure to perspiration can also damage peridot.  A steam or ultrasonic cleaner should never be used to clean peridot as it is vulnerable to thermal shock.  Warm, soapy water is your best bet when cleaning your peridot.  Proper care will ensure your peridot jewelry will continue to ward off evil spirits for generations to come!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Dear London, Thank You for a Golden Olympics! Love, The World

OK, so I know I can't speak for the world as a whole, but the spirit of the Olympics should.  What a wonderful two weeks, hosted by my home-away-from-home, England.  For those of you who don't know, my husband is a Brit...and I love England and everything about it (though Texas beef is better), so I can't help but be filled with pride for the amazing show London put on for the world over the past 17 days.  Even the English weather cooperated!
The Olympics are all about global togetherness and truly bring meaning to the phrase, "It's a small world."  Yes, the world is small, even in my own tiny realm.  You could throw a dart at a map and be hard-pressed to hit a country my husband or I haven't set foot on.  As a child, my passport was full because of my dad's occupation.  I've lived in the Philippines, been on the island of Guam and visited Hong Kong all before the ripe old age of five.  I learned to eat with chopstick as a little kid in a floating Hong Kong restaurant and greeting the Vietnam vets as they arrived back on a U.S. Air Force base overseas. 

My youngest stepchildren's mother is American, but born in Zaire (now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo)...the child of missionary parents.  My oldest stepchildren and in-laws are in England and the youngest stepchildren, who now live in the U.S.,  were born on the island of Gurnsey and in Leicester, respectively.  They lived with their mother and went to school at the international school in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 2004-2008 and have friends from around the world.  Just inside our personal walls, the world seems to shrink immensely.

My mom's parents' first language was Polish...I can't even pronounce one word.  My husband works for a Japanese company.  My Japanese is better than my Polish (and that's not saying much).  I studied Spanish in school and taught myself French before a two week solo trip to Paris.  You get the idea.  Point is, the world really isn't as big as we's only as big as we allow it to be and I think that's only the beginning of what the Olympics represent.  In the past two weeks, I’ve cheered for my home country, the good old USA.  I’ve cheered for the UK, obviously.  I’m an Anglophile, I’m a Francophile, I’ve cheered for Russia, Italy, Jamaica, Brazil, Ethiopia, South Africa, Belarus, Norway and Malaysia.  I’m American by birth, half Polish due to my mom’s heritage and mostly German on my dad’s side.  I’m married to a Brit, who is now an American who further claims “Texan” as a nationality (as he should!).  Some of our closest friends are from Iran, France and Brazil...add to that Cuba, Australia and Denmark...and that's just my household. is a very small world every day, not just once every four years.  Stop and think about it.  Who do you know?  How small is your world?

As I watched the closing ceremonies tonight, my heart swelled (as it always does).  Why can't this be our daily way of interacting country to country?  Friendly competition and a global party.  Maybe we need to have a few judges on the sidelines keeping us in check and making sure we follow the internationally accepted rules of competition (reserving political commentary here).  It's a beautiful thing to see competitors consoling those of opposing countries who have fallen short of their goals, as we saw in the men's diving arena, rather than building bombs to threaten them or take them out and at the end of the day.  Rather than killing citizens for stating they're unhappy with the way a country is run, we should, as a worldwide community, work to celebrate our global accomplishments by walking onto a field of glory and celebrating together; music blaring, confetti falling and fireworks ablaze in triumph as a world united.  Nearly the very definition of utopia.
Ahhh...the London may not have stood as tall as some, but was among one of the most meaningful and beautiful. The world carried in and placed their individual copper petals on the sculpture, which joined in a universal flame as the games commenced. The cauldron was not lit by one, but many...the future of the Olympic games.  Before it was extinguished, which always melts me in tears, it again separated into its individual flames representing the participating teams' journey home, each returning to their country with their unique inscribed petal, a part of that universal fire and a lasting symbol of global togetherness. Once again...well done UK. If only the world were that simple in coming together.  The Brits did the opening and closing ceremonies just right and couldn't have represented their history and culture any better.  Further, I can't say many can rival them in the music world.  No one does music like the Brits. Sorry, my American musicians...I love you too, but don't lie and say you weren't influenced from across the pond!!  To prove my point, my most favorite song and one of the most poignant in the world, was written by a Brit and played (rightfully so) in the closing ceremonies.  Tell me...can any words define the moment, what the Olympics represent and what we should be as a global entity better than those John Lennon wrote? 

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

I rest my case....
Thank you, London!!
Congrats to all!!

Friday, August 10, 2012

August Trunk Show - Barton Creek Resort and Spa, Open to the Public

Come out and browse all of the new pieces in Amy Holton Designs' collection this Saturday, August 11th, at the gorgeous Barton Creek Resort and Spa in Austin, Texas.

We will be set up in the resort hotel on the ground floor between Eliza's and Bella's boutiques.

In addition to resort guests, the show is open to the public.  Amy will be there from  2:00-6:00 p.m. (or even 7:00).

Eliza's and Bella's boutiques, as well as the Spa Shop offer great shopping, featuring designers such as Michael Kors, Trina Turk, Hale Bob, Lilly Pulitzer and more.  For the athletic types, there's the gorgeous new Golf and Activewear Shop as well as the tennis and golf pro shops.

Hope to see you there!