29 August 2011

Multi-Tasking is my Middle Name

“A weakness of all human beings is trying to do too many things at once.” ~Henry Ford

I am a multi-tasking momma.

When I have groceries to carry in, I find a way to balance as many things at once and then struggle just to make it into the kitchen in time before it all comes tumbling out of my hands or cuts off the circulation in my fingers.

Why make one trip back and forth when you can plan a trip to hit all the stops you can before making it back home?

And when it comes to designing jewelry, sometimes I find a way to put all my beady eggs in one basket (and make one heckuva omelet!).

For some, I know that they can only focus on one thing at a time. But for me, the most serendipitous things happen when I am trying to keep all the plates spinning. I call that multi-tasking magic.

First up is a review of the book Metalwork Jewlery by Linda Peterson. I picked this up at a rare stop at Barnes & Noble the other day with a gift certificate from my best friend Lynna for my recent birthday (Hi Lynna!). I had been circling this book for months, taking it in and out of my Amazon cart. I am so glad that I got to see this book in person, because otherwise I might have missed a true gem. Sometimes you just have to hold a book in your hands to appreciate it, don't you think?

I love that this book has a wealth of mixed media type projects in it. There are all sorts of things you can do with metal, and especially lesser used metals for jewelry, like aluminum, steel, copper and brass. I am not someone who has relied on sterling silver for my jewelry designs and I am not a materials snob. Anything is fair game for my jewelry designs. I am an equal opportunity metalist (is that even a word? Yes! That's me! Read about it here).

If you have only been using sterling in your designs, I feel for you. The price of sterling is going through the roof. That alone is enough to scare me off. But since I have always sought out mixed metals for my designs, and I am just as fond of using a rusty old washer that I find on a walk as I am with a sterling silver disk, I was happy to find this book to show me some new things to try with metal. This might be the time to try something new. I just picked up some aluminum sheet metal from the scrapbook section of Michaels. I am looking forward to playing with this!

Linda Peterson is not afraid to mess with metal. She torches it, paints it, hammers texture into it. She solders, patinas and resins it. She is fearless with the etching and is just at home with using decopage to add old dictionary pages and wrapping the pieces with fibers and wire. I love it.

Here is where the multi-tasking magic comes in....

I was reading through this book and seeing what bits and pieces I could pull into my own creations. At the same time, I was also gazing at the Art Bead Scene monthly challenge inspiration, an art nouveau bicycle advertising poster, wondering what I could create for this month (did you know I challenged myself to create something each month for this challenge? Often the biggest challenge is just getting it done in time). I was fondling the filigree pieces that Miss Brenda Sue of B'Sue Boutiques had sent me as a test. And I just received the wire that I purchased for the Soft Flex Flex Your Creativity contest (due September 1st!).















And there it was on page 72. The "Dreaming in Flight" necklace.


{Isn't this the greatest use of patinas and metals and found object materials?}
I love the idea of using dainty copper tubes as a frame. A bicycle frame, or maybe handle bars. That is an 'aha' moment!

I had picked up some copper tubing on my last trip to Frank's Hardware along with steel tie wire and a wire pipe clamp (but that is a multi-tasking post for another day!). I used my new pipe cutter (that thing is slick!) to lob off a chunk of the pipe...that I proceeded to hammer a bit too aggressively. Off to cut another chunk.


I pushed and prodded and ultimately shaped the pipe to have a bit of a bend in it (I think my pipe is actually too large for hand forming. Next time: smaller pipe). I hammered the ends flat and rounded them smooth with a file. I punched a large hole and added some copper eyelets I had picked up at a scrapbook store many moons ago (they are not pure copper as they wouldn't patina). Then I rubbed some Novacan black patina on it (way, WAY faster than Liver of Sulfur and nowhere near as stinky!) and then scrubbed it off using some fine sandpaper in a cross hatch pattern.


To enter the Soft Flex contest (still time to enter!), the rules are the you have to use BOTH their soft flex beading wire and craft wire. I have craft wire but none from Soft Flex, so I bought three spools of 20 gauge (what was I thinking? I really needed some 24 or 26 gauge!) in Smoky Quartz (dark brown), Bronze (mid brown) and Brown (coppery rust brown). I liked the contrast of the Brown most of all (which is funny, because I almost didn't order that color!), so that is what I used to wrap randomly around the 'handlebar'. You will have to trust me that I used the Soft Flex beading wire in the one beaded section. Of course you can't see it, but the color is Onyx or black.


I really didn't think that I would have any mustard yellow beads in my prodigious stash. Boy, was I wrong! I found some orphan beads that Julianna of Julsbeads had sent to live at my house. They are finally growing up, Miss Juls! (Note: if you ever have the wherewithal (I just like that word!) to buy the "Own My Skilz Day" that Juls offers, jump at the chance. You won't be disappointed!) That mustard-y bead is wrapped in tiny drops of silver as is that auburn and ivory one and then there is that lovely ribbed bead with the floating russet color. And I used some of my new peanut shaped seed beads (SoftFlex beading wire is under there. Promise!), that give a great texture in this dark olive gunmetal finish. Delish!

{trust me when I say that bead on the left has the perfect sort of auburn waves like the hair in the poster!}

I added some matte faceted glass beads from Bead Trust (Hi Carter!) and some chunky faceted tiger eye beads from who knows where. And at the back is a Vintaj peanut chain that reminded me of getting my pant leg caught in my bike chain as a kid on my trusty banana seat bike with the big U-shaped handlebars. And streamers. I have no doubt there were streamers. ;-)

I wanted to keep the feel of the bicycle and the I love the filigree logo for the Crescent Company. And there were some brass gears from Rings and Things (have you seen the cool new things they have there?!) on my table that I didn't get to patina with my friend Sharon (Hi Sharon!) when we had our Beady Buddy date last Tuesday. For the clasp, I used a Vintaj filigree link and lashed it with the Brown wire. I also embellished the clasp a bit to with some steel spacers and more Brown wire (watch for a tutorial on embellished clasps soon on ABS!). On the other side I layered a brass cog with a Vintaj thingy with a bunch of holes that I scrubbed of most of the black patina and some little random metal thingamabob. It has a tendency to move around a bit, like the gears on my 10-speed that always remained in one gear that I liked. I used a bit of Vintaj filigree to connect that, just folding it over to secure, to reflect the filigree logo.


This is where it gets really fun (are you having fun yet?). B'Sue sent me a sampler of her newest things with my last order. If you have never ordered from B'Sue Boutiques, I have to ask... why not? That girl has some of the most amazing pieces, most from old dies no longer in use. Her pieces were some of my first ordered when I started making jewelry. She just opened a new Etsy shop and closed her eBay shop (where I first found her). I expect to be a regular customer. She has some great new finishes, like Gold Russian Ox and Chocolate Ox. I haven't used all of those new ones she sent me yet, but I will and you will hear all about it!

Okay. Back to the multi-tasking.


One of the pieces that I think she may have thrown in for free (B'Sue is like that, she is so nice!) was this strange little bottle cap setting with these prongs around the outside and a hole in the center. What would that be used for? I had no idea what to do with it when...Oops! In fell a little cog... et voila! I started layering cogs with a lily-ish filigree link and a Russian gold cap and an upturned antique silver filigree cap. But wait! I went back to the book and read about using the Rub 'n' Buff patina to age washers. So I added some aging to one of the cogs I had just layered in. Secured all with a head pin and folded over the prongs. Delightful!



I call this "Free Wheelin' Summer Days."
 
So, there you have it. A book review for Metalwork Jewelry, a product review for B'Sues Boutique, an ABS challenge creation, and a Soft Flex contest entry. This is one amazing multi-tasking wonder!


{Free Wheelin' Summer Days}

Hop on over to the Art Bead Scene on Wednesday to see all the other entries for this month's challenge and wish me luck that I make the cut in the Soft Flex contest. ;-)


(And in case you are wondering, I am still without a computer. My darling husband allowed me to borrow his work laptop. I don't think that a Mac is in my future, unless I win the lottery, and since I don't play that is highly unlikely. But hopefully I will be able to recover the machine intact with my IT Guy by Wednesday and nothing will be lost like my friend Barbara. (Hi Barbara!) So sad! So...spotty visits and responses from me are expected to continue...)

Your turn...


What is the best thing that you have done with multi-tasking?
Do you think that you are more focused with multi-tasking or more disjointed?
Do tell!



25 August 2011

Surviving the BSoD

Windows [XP] crashed.
I am the Blue Screen of Death.
No one hears your screams.
~haiku by Peter Rothman

I am having computer issues.

On Monday evening I came home to see this:


Not a happy camper.

I asked Rocket and the Tiny Dancer who was on the computer when it happened. Rocket fessed up that he was. What was he doing? He says he was just playing a game. (But since that time, Tiny Dancer has pinpointed that he was, indeed, watching some sort of crazy videos a la YouTube or some such thing, likely something of which his mother would not approve. I still haven't brought that out of him, but Rocket doesn't know that I can trace the history, assuming there is still a history there.) They both swear that they were not downloading anything.

My computer has been sluggish for sometime. This is not the first BSoD (Note: did you know that the BSoD, Blue Screen of Death, or bluescreen has its own Wikipedia entry? You know you have arrived when there is a Wikipedia entry about you!)

Yesterday it worked
Today it is not working
Windows is like that
~haiku by Margaret Segall
 
So I rebooted the computer. Now you have to understand that I have issues with my Norton anti-virus. Have I mentioned this before? When I upgraded to the newest version, I bought two years worth. I paid extra for the extra tech help (that I coincidentally never used before it timed out) to get it installed right. The update is set to run at midnight. The old version would just do its thing and not require me to do anything with it, like click an Okay button or look at some meaningless dashboard. Now I have to click all these buttons to make it work and it is INFURIATING! And round about March we installed a new printer and had to get out the printer driver CDs. Since that time, right before the Norton will run each night at 12 bells, the computer starts looking for the damned Dell CDs. I have to keep clicking cancel to get rid of those messages so that the Norton will then run. I have tried to fix these problems to no avail. I am not the most tech savvy, I know just enough to be dangerous. And my friend and colleague, the IT Guy, knows all about this and says that he can fix it. But he is damned near as busy as I am so this has been going on for months on end.

I even contacted Norton customer service a few months ago about the automatic updates that I want to be truly automatic or threatened that I was ready to walk away from Norton and find a new security friend. Someone named "Kevin," who is more likely in India than in Indiana, never truly answered my questions, gave me a lot of tech jargon insterspersed with ingratiating niceties, and then decided to add another year to my subscription! So now I have a subscription to Norton that seems as if it will never end. Grrrr.

So after the Norton update at the crack of midnight on Tuesday, I decided that it was time to fully shut the 'puter all the way down. I know. I should do that every day anyway for updates and such. But I don't. And when I woke up on Tuesday, this is what I saw:

Okay. So I exaggerate. That is not exactly what I saw, but I cannot take a screen shot to show you and this is what it felt like. Basically, it appears that my computer has tanked. I have IT Guy willing to come and take a look and see if it is salvageable, but I am not all that hopeful, even though I am a glass is half full sort of gal. (On the bright side, this might be the kick in the tookus that I need to invest in a laptop. ;-)

Ah... this is going to be a very long and expensive month I fear.

I work late, late at night. And that is typically when I blog, surf the 'net, order supplies, correspond to emails, and update my Etsy shop. So without the use of a computer I feel very stuck. You would think that I could use that time to clean the studio, organize my receipts, put away all the beads I bought from Bead & Button (they are STILL in the little baggies!), make more pendants or work on custom orders... but I find myself really stuck by this. I guess I don't realize how connected I am to that computer on the other side of the room.

I am trying to get into a new rhythm but it is hard. And I miss being connected to all of you as well as putting on a Hulu video or listening to Pandora in the studio. I feel a bit lost and driftless right now.

So. The reason I mention all these troubles is not to solicit advice, but rather to let you know why I have been strangely silent here and also not as present with visiting all of you. I will still be able to check in and you might even see a post or two from me in the meantime, but they may be slim pickings. Bear with me as I battle all things Microsoft and pray that I am the victor.

Chaos reigns within.
Reflect, repent, and reboot.
Order shall return.
~ haiku by Suzie Wagner


Your turn...
What would you do if you had to truly be unplugged?
How should I cope with this forced hiatus? Break out the wine? Invest in fancy chocolates? Take more bubble baths? Throw it out and start over?
Do tell! I could use a little comic relief right about now! ;-)


22 August 2011

RAW:: Perfection is UP2U

A Random Act of Wisdom found on the inside of the new package of gum that I bought because (a) I liked the message that "UP2U" holds, and (b) because my daughter likes variety in her gum and so has swiped all but one piece.



Profound!

Since change is hard, I would guess that could point to the fact that there are so few perf3ct people in the w0rld. But to really live you must have to be as perfect as perfect can be for you to truly live and 3nj0y LiFe!

What do you think?

19 August 2011

Of Talent and Challenges

"Talent is cheaper than table salt. 
What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work."
~Stephen King
 
So yesterday you saw the goodies that I cooked up for my partners Beth & Evie McCord. I feel blessed that I not only get to do this Bead Soup party again, but that I have TWO partners! 

They are talented. They work hard at their art. They work well together. They have a joy in creating. They complement each others' strengths. I am fascinated by their working and family relationship. 

I told Evie I wanted her to adopt me. ;-)

I got the nicest note from Evie that they made these components just for me... plus a little surprise.


Beth makes gorgeous lampwork beads, and her newest trick is to use colorful frit on the molten glass, like confetti. I quite think that these are like an impressionistic garden with a cerulean sky and the colors and light dancing in the heat of the day.

Evie is the whiz with the saw, I am told. The original designs that they come up with are carefully sawed out in metal, like intricate coloring book images outlining every detail. But instead of coloring inside the lines, Miss Evie colors on them with brilliant enamels. 
 
I just received my copy of Barbara Lewis' book Torch Fired Enamels and have devoured that. While I am really looking forward to learning a thing or two about enamels, I am a bit afraid of the flame still and I don't have a proper set up for that. Plus I am a visual and kinetic learner, so I need to see and hear and interact with a teach for it to sink in, so I am a bit nervous to try it myself (pining away for a class with Miss Barbara! She really shouldn't be surprised if I just show up on her doorstep one day and demand to learn! ;-). 
 
So it makes me so glad that Beth and Evie work together so well, because I can satisfy my love of this art without having to make it myself. Will you just look at that hummingbird? This picture doesn't do it justice. It truly shimmers like the real feathers would. 
 
 
Simply....stunning!


To go with it all, there is a pretty sterling silver toggle clasp and some beautiful hand dyed silks from Jamn Glass.


As an added bonus I also received a bouquet of enameled roses. These are really special. I think I will save them for another day...

And they made me a special treat. A beautiful Tiny Dancer ornament. This will be hanging in my studio to remind me of these two special artists. Thank you so much for that!


I am looking forward to getting busy in the studio with these soup ingredients and hope that I can whip up something tasty. This will be my very own "quick fire" challenge because I have several big commitments on the horizon including the Inspired by Nature retreat with Heather Powers that coincides with the Bead Soup Party day on September 17th. Getting the piece made is one thing, but hopping around to well over 300++ blogs will be the trickiest part! So I will have to be planning ahead (that is oh-so-hard for me to do because if you know me.. I am a Last Minute Lucy!).

I will tell you that in addition to my time crunch, I will be challenged by the enamel hummingbird. It is so lovely, and I want to make a design that will show that off best, but it is a larger piece than I am used to. But that is okay... (a) because I love the enamel on it, (b) I love the shape of it, (c) I love the Beth and Evie made it just for me, and (d) I love a challenge. That is why I do these sort of things, to step outside my comfort zone and experience something I have never tried before. 
Thank you Miss Beth and Miss Evie for some absolutely delicious soup ingredients. I can't wait to get cooking!

Your turn!
If you are participating in the Bead Soup blog hop on September 17th, are you excited about the soup ingredients that you have received? Were there any surprises? Any challenges? How will you overcome those challenges and rise above?

If you are not a Bead Soup-er, what sort of things are challenging you right now, making you think, getting you to step outside of your comfort zone and push you off the edge so that you fly?

Do tell!

 

18 August 2011

Quit Messing With Me Blogger!

Dear Blogger, 
Quit messing with me. 
I set up a post to run with the full 30 words and my sneak preview pictures as of midnight last night. 
At 7:00 am on 08/17 it was working just fine. 
I was gone for the entire day and just now found out from a nice blogging buddy
that this post was incomplete and missing half the words and pictures.
GAH!
So what did you do with my other picture collage and the rest of my words, Blogger? Hmmm? 
So I am trying it again, and I apologize if you have seen some of this before.
I have also been having problems leaving comments on some of my blogroll, but not all. (Anyone else having issues?)  It seems that the ones with the comments embedded beneath are problems, as my profile is not recognized no matter how many times I log out and in. So if you see me as 'anonymous' on your comments it is under duress because there is nothing I hate more.
I don't know what is going on with the Blogger gremlins but I need to set a trap for them and have them carted away and beat to within an inch of their lives.
Just quit it, I tell you!
Sincerely,
One pissed off blogger

________________________________________________

 Let's try this again, shall we?


Good fortune 
paired me with
of jewelry design

Excited to see
goodies made just for me

Excited to see
their creation
It is sure to
be wonder-full


{Bead Soup ingredients sent to Beth and Evie McCord including a pendant/toggle clasp that I made inspired by the awesome polymer clay bead from Pam Wynn!}

16 August 2011

Tap Dancing, Backyard Baseball, Sangria....and WINNERS!

"Don't do anything embarrassing on your birthday this year. You don't have as much time to live it down as you used to." ~ Anonymous

Sorry for that blog silence. I bet you were just starting to get used to me blogging every day of the week, weren't you? Well, that is just something I cannot commit to. I admire those who can, but I think I would rather keep you guessing. ;-)

This weekend was jam packed!

{Tiny Dancer and friend, the youngest in the classes, with tap greats
Robert Audy, Josh Hilberman and Jeannie Hill}
Tiny Dancer participated in the Point Tap Festival. A three day intensive workshop devoted to tap dancing, Tiny Dancer had the distinction of being the youngest in the class. There were high school students, college students, professional dancers and student of life dancers. Some have been dancing far longer than her 10 years and some were 6x her age!

Tiny Dancer and her good friend took the morning classes only which was plenty.  She had the amazing experience of learning tap methods from some of the country's best instructors, from New York City and Boston. Tiny Dancer loved Josh with his fun, quirky vaudeville style and his larger than life personality. A veteran tap instructor, Robert Audy, is credited with teaching Shirley MacLaine, Ben Vereen, Mandy Patinkin, Cybill Shepherd, and John Travolta how to tap dance. He has choreographed shows like Oklahoma and wrote the books on Jazz Dancing and Teach Yourself How To Tap. Such an honor to study with these teachers! She is already making plans to come back next year.

Then on Saturday I joined in the fun learning the Shim Sham Shimmy taught by assistant professor of dance at UW-SP and the director for all this fun, Jeannie Hill. If you are a tapper, you will know what I am talking about! Ms. Hill had such amazing creative energy! She really made it enjoyable for my very first dance class ever (and no, there are no pictures of me flopping around!).  I did it in my bare feet but I can tell that it would be even better with tap shoes on! (For the record, Tiny Dance told me that I was 'getting it' and that she could help me learn it even better with a bit more time ;-) And then on Saturday night we were treated to an incredible performance of the staff, including live jazz music. I walked out with a lilt in my step and a song on my heart!

If you want to see a really fun Shim Sham Shimmy, check out this flash mob on the streets of London! I sooooo want to be up and dancing with them.



Sunday we had the last hurrah of the baseball season with a party to celebrate the dream season. The weather was perfect, and all but one family was able to attend. The Brewers game was on, the beer and sangrias were flowing, the food was delish (thank you Arby's for your roast beef!) and the boys had a blast. So on Sunday night I was pooped (or maybe it was the sangria?), and here it is 10:19pm on Monday and I am just getting around to returning emails and finding out what I missed from all my blog peeps.

Here is the yummy sangria recipe. I made it in a big jug with a spigot so it was virtually mess free! And I made a non-alcoholic punch for the wee ones running around (lest you think there were no other options!).

Simple White Wine Sangria Recipe


Simple White Wine Sangria Recipe
The beauty of the simple White Wine Sangria recipe is that it is as delicious as it is easy, and it only gets better as you add your favorite fruits! (I doubled the recipe below for the party, but should have quadrupled it! ;-)

Ingredients:

  • 1 Bottle of white wine (Riesling, Albarino, Chablis, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc) 
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup of orange juice
  • 2 oranges (sliced)
  • 1 lemon (sliced)
  • 1 lime (sliced)
  • 2 oz. brandy (optional - but seriously, why not?)
  • 2 oz. triple sec or cointreau (optional - and I don't measure, so I would assume I used more of everything ;-)
  • 1/2 liter of ginger ale or club soda or Squirt

Preparation:

Pour wine in the pitcher and squeeze the juice wedges from the orange,lemon and lime into the wine, add brandy if desired. Toss in the fruit slices and add sugar Mix well. Chill overnight. Add soda just before serving. If you'd like to serve right away, use chilled white wine and serve over lots of ice.  

Addition ideas: I made a double batch and mixed one Riesling and one Moscato - the less expensive the better! Add any fresh fruit you have on hand... sliced strawberries, peaches, handful of fresh blueberries, raspberries, kiwi. And why not a shot or two of gin, brandy or rum... yum!

We bought this house in 2009 and the back yard was a big selling point. It is quite large and fenced in. There is a nice deck and patio. The boys set up a make shift baseball diamond in the backyard and had themselves a 4 hour non-stop baseball game with whiffle balls and plastic bats (even with those, these balls are coming like a shot!). They have their own rules, (like the ball has to be in the pitchers hand before the runner hits first base and that's an out, over the fence is a home run, and on the deck or patio is foul unless a parent catches it, then it is an automatic out) and they ran around having a ton of fun, until one boy FINALLY decided he was hungry and then they all descended on the food like locusts leaving a few crumbs and empty chip bags. I just love these boys and their families. I miss them terribly until we meet up again next spring.

Speaking of the Boys of Summer... I just received the Blurb book that I made of them. Would you like to see? (You can check out this link if the preview isn't working below.)


Pretty cool, eh? It is a bit of work to get it to be how you like it, but that is the sort of futzing that I like to do. With the software that Blurb.com provides, you can start with their templates and edit them to your heart's content. And even though there are a few spots that are rough (couldn't see the bloops from the preview) I am overall very pleased with the outcome.

I see other options for these Blurb.com books in the future... what about one of Tiny Dancer and her friends on stage? Such a quick and easy way to scrapbook all those pictures I have taken. I love the idea of scrapbooking but not the execution. I could totally get behind this and it would be something that could be in a personal library. But I am totally going to put this into play for a book about my jewelry designs each year. It will be fun to have as a 'published' portfolio, but also to see how my design sense has changed over time.

But I KNOW what you are waiting for... and I am just torturing you by dragging it out until the end.... the winners of last week's birthday giveaway bash! All winners were chosen at random. Each winner needs to email me at enjoytheday{at}tesoritrovati{dot}com to arrange for your prize!

Day 1 - Reading free books is the best!
I decided to have two winners. Because it was my birthday week, so I can do that! ;-)
Queen of the Palace - who requested The Help and Shanghai Girls
MoonRae - who said she would be happy with any of them, so she can pick two from the remaining books

Day 2 - 15% off coupon at my Etsy Shop with code: ITSMYPARTY
Okay. That was sort of a gyp. Because I never got around to posting any more of the pendants and such that I promised I have hanging around. So I will leave that coupon code up until the end of August, so keep checking back for more things to appear. But wait! I decided to reward one lucky reader with a special treat... 50% off any one item in my shop... and the winner is....Janet of Singingwoods! Janet has a new Etsy shop called SingingGlass with awesome lampwork. Go check it out!  Janet, email me and I will tell you how to claim this prize!

Day 3 - FOCUS on what really matters
This month for the 'simple truths' sampler I was FOCUSing on what really matters, and I want to share that with someone special. And because it was my party, I decided that one was not enough, so I am giving away two! Congrats to KayzKreationz and Designs by DawnMarie! Woot! I will make your pendants up special just for you, like a 'simple truths' fortune, but you need to email me your contact info to send it!

Day 4 - Things with Wings!
Such sweet reminders of who is important in our lives. I hope you all take the time to tell those people how special they are to you! Grand Prize goes to Cynthia of Cynth's Blog! Woohoo! You get that fabulous prize package of winged things worth over $90. Just send me an email and I will send it winging its way to you!

Day 5 - Just add movies
For a little more fun, I shared everything but the movie in a fun pack! These goodies are going to Shannon of For My Sweet Daughter (who, coincidentally,  is a birthday buddy as we share the same date. But I am sure I am the older and wiser sister! ;-) Maybe you can enjoy a fun movie with your lovely daughter!

Check back at the Art Bead Scene this coming Saturday to find out who the winner of the tiger lily pendant is.

And thank you so much for all your awesome reading, music and movie recommendations, the brilliant Etsy tips, the bouquets of sweet thoughts and the overwhelmingly flattering words. I feel so very blessed to be a part of this happy community and so delighted to share the things that make me happy and inspired with you!

12 August 2011

It's My Party: The Aftermath Day 5

"Don't listen to those who would give you reasons why you can't succeed. You're a child of God and with credentials like that, you can do anything!" ~ Linda Lee Elrod

(Words found on my favorite mug given to me by a wise man on my 20th birthday who told me you should never work on your birthday. So I didn't!)




I guess I have acted a bit like the Birthday Queen this week. Thank you to all for allowing me to be this self-indulgent. This is more posts than I ever do in one week (and fair warning that I won't be able to keep up daily posts after this!).

Wow.

Who knew that you all had that much to say?

And just when I was about ready to chuck Facebook out the door, they threw a virtual party over there. I think that everyone deserves a standing ovation, and that Facebook love comes pretty close.

Remember this post? I know that you were all dying to see me in the dress from the reunion (can you believe that there really is not one photo of me with my husband from this shindig? We were having a good time but on opposite sides of the room!) Thought you would like to see how that all panned out. And since it is all about the things I love this week {;-) I have to say that I LOVE everything about this dress and those shoes. And the foundation garment underneath it all! The way they made me feel was priceless! But more than that, to have the most popular guy in high school, the guy who teased you mercilessly for 4++ years, to have him compliment you on how good you looked? Well, that was enough for me.

There has to be another occasion to wear this ensemble. I need to go to the grocery store on Saturday... ;-)


I can't believe that I forgot some people in my love fest from yesterday. I think that after midnight my mind wanders. (Fair warning: it is well after midnight now, peeps!)

Who did I forget? My sweet sister, of course!

Easter 1976 with my little sister Kelly in all her cuteness! I am STYLIN' in that ensemble, don't you think? Of course she is adorable! And that gap toothed grin goes so well with the doily on my head. AWEsome!

Tailgating at the Iowa-Wisconsin game in 1994 with my sister Kelly, mom Gail and me.
Kelly is all kinds of supportive to me. She is a beautiful soul. She encourages me to be a dreamer and then blows a gentle breeze at my back to encourage me to fly. I love her so! (I think we need a more up to date photo!)

And the other is really the entire community that is being built with each post, each comment, each email. It is YOU dear reader, that give me the most awesome strength! I always say that I would continue to write even without comments, but let's face it. Comments are like crack to a blogger. If you are a lurker (and thanks for some of you for picking this week to surface! Such a great gift!), whether here, there or anywhere, try the commenting on for size. I agree that it is fun to sit back and watch all the great inspiration that is written and photographed and created each day on the blogosphere, but to truly optimize your experience, to really LIVE this community, you have to be a good citizen. And the best way I know how is to be a good neighbor. Start small if you like, but soon you will find that you are having whole conversations with someone halfway around the world (hi Stefanie! hi Rebecca!) and you will wonder not only where your time went, but it is a bit like having a bit of your heart walking around with that friend from far away. Try it. It is a great gift you give the blogger, but your heart will swell with this connection as well. I guarantee it.

Since you all asked, it was a most blessed and lovely day. For my birthday I... made the biggest pot of coffee... did NOT go to work... got sun on my face and watched the clouds drift by... left my Tiny Dancer at the Point Tap Festival where she started a three day intensive with world renowned tap instructors from Broadway... enjoyed a Revive shake at my favorite wellness shop... stopped into the Gallery Q to chat and see the new displays... school shopped for what seemed like hours...and then Lynna and I went to see the movie The Help with my mom and sister for a girls night out. I saw most of it (long story, that one) but I can tell you that it was awesome! I would pay to go see it again, or to rent it. I took Tiny Dancer with even though she is only 10 (PG-13) but I knew that it was such a great story, and a way to experience that time in history in a way that would be most accessible. She loved it as well. Especially the "terrible awful" part (and if you don't know what that means you will have to see the movie or read the book to find out!). There are some parts that are not as true to the book, but I felt that what they did actually made the story better.

So...what to do for this final giveaway (are you sick of them yet, peeps? ;-)?

One of my favorite things is to lose myself in a good movie (that is all that Paul and I ever did for the first five years we were dating, since there wasn't a lot to do in this town before you turn 21!). I don't get to do it often enough. And for me to go to the theater it has to be good.

I have yet to see Harry Potter 7 part 2 (still have to watch part 1).  But there are some awesome ones on the way! Sherlock Holmes 2, A Dolphin's Tale, The Odd Life of Timothy Green, Hugo (one of the BEST books ever, The Invention of Hugo Cabret) and even a new Muppet movie! I think that this winter will be spent in the cool dark comfort of a movie theater!

For this giveaway I have an assortment of movie-time goodies: popcorn containers, microwave popcorn, movie candy like Sour Jacks, chewy Lemonheads (oh so good!), sour strings, Air Heads and M&Ms. All you need to do is add your favorite movie!

Ready to win? All you need to do to enter is answer one of the following questions. Winner will be chosen at random from all comments on this post through Saturday, August 13th.You MUST have your email turned on in your profile to win, or provide your email in your comment. (A good way to know if you are entered is if I reply to you by email. I make a point of answering every comment ;-)Winner will be announced next week.

What is your favorite movie of all time and why? 
What movie are you most looking forward to seeing this year?  


Thank you for playing! All the giveaways this week will be open through Saturday, August 13th at midnight EST. And for one extra day to play, come on over to the Art Bead Scene for my Studio Saturday on August 13th for one more giveaway!

11 August 2011

TODAY is the day. Hooroo, hooray!

"You are born with two things: existence and opportunity, and these are the raw materials out of which you can make a succcessful life." ~ Charles Templeton

This week I wanted to share with you those things that move me the most. So perhaps today it is fitting that I share with you the people that give me wings, help me trust that I can soar and sometimes even kick me out of the nest with a hearty 'huzzah!' and a blind faith that I will spread those wings and fly!

 
My parents, John and Gail Prais. They taught me to be generous and kind, to treat everyone as a friend, to give of my talents freely, to appreciate music and food and laughter.They likely kicked me out of the nest as fast as they could, but I knew that I had a safe place to land and the confidence that I could do whatever I wanted.

My family gives me the space and time to chase my dreams. They know what is important to me and support me making my way. Tiny Dancer, Rocket and my husband Paul at my Gallery Q exhibit that opened one year ago today. I know there is nothing finer than their love and that spurs me to do that best that I can.

My best friend, Paul Hintz. This is a picture before our first big date, the Homecoming dance, October 12, 1985. And I can tell you that if I knew at the moment that this picture was taken how that night would change my life, I couldn't have been smiling more. This was the start of something wonderful. That is the day that I had the first inkling that I might spend my life with someone. He is my rock, my guidance, my cheerleader, my lover and my very best friend. I am proud of who he is and to have the honor to be called his wife. He believes in me and that makes me want to do more to show him that I can. I love you, babe!

My Tiny Dancer. She has laugh that I love and a smile that makes me giggle. I love to watch her doing what she does best and has fun with and that encourages me to find those things that bring me joy. And to dance even when it seems that all around me is falling apart. To trust in the beauty of my body and my mind and to be genuine and true.
My son, Rocket. He is a model of perseverance and determination to me. I admire his tenacity and strength of purpose. He is able to dig his heels in and get the job done when it needs to get done. He shows me that with practice I will achieve the skills needed to be successful. I want to learn that sort of focus like he has on the ball field and his easy way with making friends with everyone.
   
My sister-in-law, Mary. She is the best shopper in the world! She is great at finding deals and seeing the possibilities. She is a generous soul and someone that I have really become so fond of. I love the way she is always putting special touches on everything for everyone (everyone needs an Aunt Mary!) and I hope that I can learn from her example.
Graduation, May 1986
Lynn(a) has been my very best friend since I moved here when I was 10. She has been a constant companion through all of my life's ups and downs and curves and bend. Even when we don't see each other for a long stretch I know she is always there. Now that we are in the same city with kids of a similar age, we have the chance to be together again like we were back then, even if it is not enough for my tastes. She is like the other half of me. She balances me out (analytical to my creative) and spurs me on. It is good to have a best friend from the past still in your present, and I recognize that as very rare.

Lynn(a) and me 2010 at Pacelli Homecoming

And my newest bestie and birthday buddy, Heather Powers. The fates were aligned when we first met and it has been a wonderful ride ever since. Heather gets me in a way that other friends and family just don't. She is a mentor and role model to me but also the best kick in the pants that I have ever had. I feel very blessed that I took a chance and emailed her after seeing her gorgeous design in a beading magazine. This teaches me that you never know where your next friend will come from and to treat every relationship as special.
"Birthdays are good for you. Statistics show that the people who have the most live the longest." ~Larry Lorenzoni

Things with Wings
Vintaj brass bird
Vintaj brass butterfly
brass bird charms
silver plated dragonfly
tiny golden bee
Green Girl Studios pewter dragon
Earthenwood Studios ceramic wing
Chinook Jewelry ceramic bee pendant
resin butterfly button
MoreSkyeJewels decoupaged butterfly wood tile
Humblebeads green resin wing
vintage reverse painted cabochon
'simple truths' butterfly 'grace' charm
VALUE: $80

 



For today's birthday giveaway, I will share this entire package of Things with Wings in honor of the people who mean the most to me and give me wings to fly. Ready to win? All you need to do to enter is answer one of the following questions. Winner will be chosen at random from all comments on this post through Saturday, August 13th.You MUST have your email turned on in your profile to win, or provide your email in your comment. (A good way to know if you are entered is if I reply to you by email. I make a point of answering every comment ;-)Winner will be announced next week.

Who gives you wings to fly? Who kicks you out of the nest? Who nurtures your soul, encourages you, makes you want to keep going? Do tell!

10 August 2011

It's My Party: Birthday Week Giveaway Day 3

"The first sign of maturity is the discovery that the volume knob also turns to the left." ~Jerry M. Wright

Continuing my theme of things that Erin likes for her self-indulgent birthday week, I turn to music.

I have always liked music. And I have eclectic tastes. From Mozart to Def Leppard. From Taio Cruz to Katie Perry. From Carrie Underwood to Kenny Loggins. My mother liked to listen to Peter, Paul and Mary and had every Beatles album. My dad liked big band and swing and crooners. I like to mix things up and I like variety.

When I am in my studio it can get sort of lonely. I spend a lot of time down here. And that is great if you are in the throes of creating, but bad if you don't pay attention to time. Up until earlier this year I never had a clock in my studio so I never knew how late I was up. That's not true. I had a clock. But it was one of those artsy-fartsy home store clocks where there are no numbers, only hash marks at 3-, 6-, 9- and 12-. Needless to say, I wasn't very good at knowing what time it was.

One way that I can keep track of time is by listening to something. I discovered the joys of Hulu and Pandora over the past year. I love it! It is entertaining, soothing, inspiring and helps me know how much time has passed.

For instance, I know that I have been sitting here too long when Pandora stops playing (as they did just now) and puts up a message that says "Are you still listening?" Yep. I think it is time to step away.

And I love putting on some favorite episodes on Hulu. I am particularly enamored of Glee and Raising Hope. But I have also watched Project Runway and all the episodes of the short lived Dilbert cartoon. (Kathy Griffin plays Alice. Hysterical!)

I have different playlists on Pandora. There are ones for when I am in a peppy mood, or a Glee mood, or a 80s mix. But more often than not I need to have music that is less abrasive, contemplative, melodic and soothing. Or, in the words of Pandora

"Based on what you've told us so far, we're playing this track because it features mellow rock instrumentation, a subtle use of vocal harmony, mild rhythmic syncopation, acoustic rhythm piano, and a vocal-centric aesthetic."

Wow. Pandora really knows me.

Here is a sampling of the music that is playing tonight:

Missy Higgins - Where I Stood
John Mayer - I'm Gonna Find Another You
Beyonce - Best Thing I Never Had
Journey - Separate Ways
Dinah Washington - Is You or Is You Ain't My Baby?
Adele - That's It, I Quit, I'm Moving On
Jack Johnson - Breakdown
Rascall Flatts - I Won't Let Go

I love it particularly when Pandora suggests songs that I might like. And even more that I have the ability to cut them off. When I am listening to music I find that I am am focused. And the music that I chose sets the tone for what I am making as well.

Since it is also Bead Table Wednesday, I thought I would share with you some shots of the inks that I am using in the studio for my latest 'simple truths'. The center pictures shows the assortment of this month's 'simple truth' sampler club that should be reaching them about now. They each received a random charm. I pray that I chose wisely for each of them.

August 'simple truths' sampler club
Here is what I told the participants this month:

Lately I have been thinking about my word for the year: FOCUS. I seem to have lost a little bit of that along the way. Do you ever feel like that? As if your life is out of whack? I need to redouble my efforts if I am going to get back on this FOCUS train. And I started thinking about what it is that I need to FOCUS most on. So here you have the charm for August 2011, FOCUS on what really matters.

Instead of an image decided to go with a very homey feeling and was channeling quilt squares. At the center of each is a word: JOY - PEACE - LOVE - LIFE - HOPE. The pendants are randomly assigned and I truly hope that like a fortune cookie, you receive the exact one that is meant for you. These soft colors are the new finish that I have been delighted to use. The inks that I am using (as opposed to the paint from the June) give the pieces a very light watercolor feel, almost translucent yet something timeworn and well loved. 


I feel very blessed that I can share my love of making these special charms with those who have signed up for the club. When I started this back in May I had no idea how many spaces would be filled. I offered different options to encourage participation at whatever felt most comfortable. The choice is 3-, 6-, 9- or 12- months subscription. I have a few at 6- or even 12- months, but most were at the 3-month level. I hope that they feel that they received a value for what they paid, and maybe even sign up for another three or more months.

I have a limit of 20 participants per month. I just picked up the 10th participant. But after this month there will be several that are done with their subscription, which means there is a potential for more spaces open.

Why cap it at 20? I wanted it to be special. I also find it incredibly challenging to make the same exact thing over and over. Those who do production work on their beads, I applaud you. I just can't make it work.

I will be keeping the introductory prices the same for a few months longer. After that time, the price will increase. If you are sitting on the fence, I encourage you to come and play. And check out the Flickr group to see what people have done with them (wowzer! There are some great designs there!). I hope that the entries there will keep adding up, and I have a random giveaway each quarter. It gives me great pleasure to see what people do with my components.

It's My Party: Birthday Week Giveaway Day 1
It's My Party: Birthday Week Giveaway Day 2


For today's birthday giveaway, I will share one of the pendants from August with a random winner. (It will be a random word and color - don't worry! It will be lovely!) Ready to win? All you need to do to enter is answer one of the following questions. Winner will be chosen at random from all comments on this post through Saturday, August 13th.You MUST have your email turned on in your profile to win, or provide your email in your comment. (A good way to know if you are entered is if I reply to you by email. I make a point of answering every comment ;-)Winner will be announced next week.

What music is on the soundtrack of your life? What are you listening to right now in your car, on your iPod or on your clock radio to wake up to? I am always looking for some new great music. 
Or what do you feel that you need to FOCUS on that really matters right now?
Do share!

09 August 2011

It's My Party: Birthday Week Giveaway Day 2

"Thanks to modern medical advances such as antibiotics, nasal spray, and Diet Coke, it has become routine for people in the civilized world to pass the age of 40, sometimes more than once." ~Dave Barry, "Your Disintegrating Body," Dave Barry Turns 40, 1990

I think I forgot to tell you yesterday that I am sharing what I love with you this week.

One of the things that I love is Etsy.

Okay. Maybe I am a bit addicted.

I love the way that you can search for items by color or pounce on things that have been just listed or discover shops that need that first sale. I love looking at the Front Page (and dream of being there one day) and the Treasuries I have made and been a part of. I love that there are real people on the other end of that convo and they have all been a dream to work with.


I have been a buyer on Etsy for years. If I can't find it there, I have to say that I am a bit reticent to look for it elsewhere since I love the comparison aspect. I love all the hand crafted art that is out there on Etsy and have made friends with some sellers. I wasn't sure that I had what it took to sell on Etsy and wondered that allowed to my good friend. It was not until my friend gave me an ultimatum last year that I actually took the plunge and set up shop on Etsy. She told me that I had to have a shop open by April 1st. So on March 30th, 2010, I officially opened the shop...with a header and some shop policies, but no items! (I found a loophole in her ultimatum ;-) It wasn't until September that I actually listed something!


I don't know what I was waiting for. Except I can tell you that I have this desire to make sure things are just right before I do them. I am a research fanatic. I need to know how things work, and why, and I spend a lot of time reading and absorbing and making sure that things are just so. That is when my friend told me to just get over myself. If I were waiting until everything was just perfect, there would never be a time to start. She said that Etsy is like an ocean... there is plenty of room for all of us to swim. She was right.

I started by listing things that had been returned to me from publications, figuring that I already had pictures of each of them. I wanted to have my listings a certain way. And while it is a work in progress to get things just right, I had to start somewhere. 

And then... nothing happened. I recall checking stats out on CraftCult. Occasionally there would be a heart. Too cool! But no sales.

I remember vividly the moment of my first sale.

I got an email that I had never seen before that ended up in my Spam folder. It was something to the effect of there were uncollected funds of $150.00 in my PayPal account. I was actually getting ready to email PayPal this "spoof" email and have them look into it, when a second email from Etsy arrived showing that I did indeed have a sale! The first sale was to someone in California. I come to find out that this person picked up her first BeadStyle magazine in which I happened to be the featured designer. Then she saw that I am from Stevens Point, and she was excited because she is originally from a town just 40 minutes away. So she got online and found my Etsy shop and was delighted to find that all three pieces from that feature were in the shop. And she bought two. (It is a good thing that I didn't actually send that supposed spoof to PayPal. I can just imagine that I would be the talk around the water cooler about that naive bumpkin from Wisconsin asking for the money to be removed from her account!)


Shortly after that I got another email, this time my first convo, from a patron in France. She wanted to know if I shipped internationally, and that she loved a piece that she also saw on my website, and was that one for sale too? So I had to explore the possibility of shipping internationally. And now there are two of my favorite pieces walking around in France somewhere (that gives me goose bumps!).


And the fourth sale was coincidentally from someone who lives down the road just a bit from me. Did I know her? No. But she had been to my gallery exhibit earlier that summer and remembered me and bought a pair of earrings. (I refunded her the shipping since I delivered it personally!).

That was just a few months ago, and now I am closing in on 100 sales.


I don't have the most smokin' Etsy shop and I probably never will. I don't have the time to play the relisting games to push myself to the top or spend hours marketing it and making Treasuries and joining teams. I would love to do that, but I have a day job. I look at Etsy as just one more tool in the toolbox for getting my name out there and selling the things that I make. I know that people have complained about the fees but they really are not that bad. If you feel that they are, then you should take that into account when you are pricing things. If you sell on commission in a gallery they can typically take from 20-50% of the sale. I once calculated what the Etsy fees, the PayPal fees and the actual shipping costs were and it hovered around 10%. That seems more than reasonable to me.

If you are considering opening a shop, there are plenty of awesome articles out there that will help you, but here are some of my observations:

  • DO your homework. Spend some time just browsing to get a sense for what is out there, what sells, at what price and then plan how you can get a piece of that action.
  • DON'T think that you have to have it perfect before you begin. It is a work in progress, so treat it as such.
  • DO decide on some key policies before you begin. How will you handle international orders? What about returns? Will you take custom orders? How will that work?
  • DON'T neglect your pictures. They are everything to a good shop. Look at the shops you admire and take note of their picture taking. 
  • DO develop your own style. From the header (there are plenty of Etsians who make headers and some will even make yours unique to you - or make your own. That is what I do!) to the pictures to the text in the listings. How you do it says a lot about you.
  • DON'T skimp on the tags. Do some generic ones but also think outside the box and come up with some that might bring searchers your way, as long as it is true.
  • DO add items as frequently as you can. This is something that I am not good at. I am trying to get better. I will never be listing and re-listing to have things come to the top. That is not where I want to be. Every heart I have received and every item I have sold is because someone came looking for ME. That is the way I like it ;-)
  • DON'T forget that you are a real human and that the person on the other end of the keyboard is real. Treating customers right is the sure way to keep them coming back and maybe even becoming friends.
  • DO research what others are selling similar items for but...
  • DON'T undersell yourself. You will only do yourself a disservice and your fellow Etsians as well. Your time and talent are worth money, sometimes more than the cost of the materials used to make it.
  • DO be realistic in what you can do to make your shop a success and what sort of sales you might get out of it.
  • DON'T be discouraged if you are not a top tier seller. I am sure that those people work exceedingly hard. Look at this as one more layer in your overall plan to do what you love and make a little money at it.

I am working this week on an update to the shop (right now my camera will not talk to my computer so I am a tad bit frustrated!). Each day I will list some new charms and pendants and components from the 'simple truths' line as well as more finished jewelry. To celebrate my birthday week, I am offering a discount of 15% off anything in my Etsy shop (or click the slide show on the right) from now through Sunday, August 14th. All orders placed this week will go out next week.

To get the discount, be sure to enter the code: ITSMYPARTY

Your turn...
Do you have an Etsy shop? If so, what is the best thing about your experience on Etsy? What tips do you have to share?
If you do not have an Etsy shop, is it something that you are considering? What is holding you back?
Or if you are not a seller, are you a buyer on Etsy? What

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